Monday, April 27, 2009


Orange Alley, the Mission
Sunday morning


As a child, when people asked me what I wanted to be, I said a writer. If they pressed further I'd say I want to write in a big city. Didn't matter which one at the time--Chicago, New York, Los Angeles--I just wanted to be near the pulse that comes from an urban environment.

Then I went on vacation to San Francisco, and decided right then and there that if I could live anywhere I'd been, that would be the place. I wrote letters to friends promising that one day I would move to San Francisco. I put the dream on the about page of my personal blog.

Then it happened. I was offered a job, writing, in San Francisco just a few months shy of my 30th birthday. Just when I thought I might never leave the Tennessee town I grew up in, I got the call of a lifetime. It was finally on.

This crazy parrot-having place I landed in could not be more different than where I lived for the entirety of three decades. When I think of trying to put down into words how it makes me feel to to see a palm tree in my peripheral vision, I go numb. Which is crazy, it’s just a palm tree. What could be so fabulous and compelling about a palm tree that I cannot manage to convey its impact in writing? The issue isn’t the tree itself, it’s the unexpectedness of it. It’s purely foreign to me. A palm tree, to a girl who always lived in Tennessee, is an exotic thing. It is a large, looming figure of otherness; an iconic beast that exists in postcards and at the movies and on vacation. Never when you are walking the dog. So, when I see it out of the corner of one eye my chest brims with the thrill of not just something new, but a regular something new. Something different from what always was, and I can see it whenever I want. I just walk outside.

I am still experiencing culture shock a year and a half later. I am often stopped where I walk. I am struck still by a brand new experience almost every day, some as tiny as a speck of glitter. But, oh, do they shine. They are made up of elements I've seen before, but each behaves in a way that I am completely unfamiliar with. It's kind of been like being on vacation for a long time (and just as expensive!), save for all the working and chores and washing your own towels stuff.

I have skills now I never would have gotten had I not moved. I don't have as much street smarts as I'd like, but I've learned how to walk through sketchy neighborhoods at night without too much fear of harassment. I can almost always hail a cab, provided they are available, and after some time I'm finally able to tell the driver which route I prefer. "Mission or the freeway?" Now I know, depending on what time it is, whether or not it's Critical Mass and if there are any protests planned, which way to tell the cabbie. After some time, I know when riding in the back of a speeding cab when to brace myself. Sitting in back, the taxi taking jutting hills at break-neck speeds, I find my breath trapped in my lungs. Sailing over the crest of the hilltop, all my air is tight in my chest. Sometimes I swear the tires leave the pavement. But sometimes after topping one of San Francisco's notorious summits the bay waters will spill into sight. Then I exhale.

All the thrills, the sights, the people, the bay air: It all feels like what I thought home would feel like.


DieLaughing said...

That is an awesome post. That is all.

shabby girl said...

A cab ride in San Francisco is truly an experience, isn't it???
And if you don't know your way around, it can be an expensive one!

chez bez said...

You live the dream. Very nice.

Char said...

wow - I see how you make your living as a writer - this is beautifully written. as an Alabama girl I so get the palm tree thing.

and, I can remember visiting there and having to cross the Bay Bridge during rush hour. I swear this taxi was going to sideswipe me going 80 and weaving in and out of traffic. Had to be late to the Oakland Airport.

dutchbaby said...

You are living proof that dreams do come true. Speaking of dreams, your post was a dream. I sat right next to you in that cab and we gasped at the same time when we saw the bay.

Relyn said...

Your post makes me very excited for the day I will have the same experience and see that famous bay for myself, alive and in person.

PippyandCJsmom said...

Brittney, I am glad things are working out so well for you. After visiting out there, I can see why you have fallen in love with the area.I still enjoy following you and your adventures, even though circumstances are different from when I first met you and was introduced to your writing.Keep following your dreams and don't let anyone tell you dreams never come true because you are proof they do.