Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
There are moments that never fade with time. You can call them up in an instant over years, over decades, and their colors remain as brilliant as ever.
It has been ten years now since our big yellow moving truck lumbered out of the Waldo Tunnel and I caught my breath as the bright towers of the Golden Gate Bridge shot into view. That was the moment I came home for the first time.
I grew up in one of those wholesome towns in the Midwest, surrounded by a vast green ocean of cornfields. Despite a storybook childhood replete with fuzzy puppies and devoted parents, I hit puberty feeling like there might be something profoundly wrong with me.
I almost fit in, but not quite. Something was always off. I was never on the same page, the same boat, the same planet as the rest of my classmates, my friends or my fellow 4-H’ers.
By the time I reached my early twenties, I was living near Chicago, writing copy for an ad agency, spending my weekends as a black-clad club kid and penning maudlin poetry about my inability to find happiness.
Happiness isn’t a place, according to conventional wisdom. But I never was one for conventions.
I don’t know why I didn’t think of leaving Illinois sooner. Perhaps I was waiting for some kind of permission, some indisputable sign. It came in 1998 in the form of a guy named Bruce. We weren’t yet married when he pulled out a map of the United States, spread it open on the table and said, “If you could move anywhere in the country, where would you go?”
It took me about two seconds to say, “San Francisco.”
I had never been to the city, but I had heard the stories. I read the books. And as soon as I said it, I knew it was right.
Two years later, I sat weeping and astonished in the front seat of a moving truck as we rolled across the bridge, the fog reaching out to welcome us.
I can’t imagine myself anyplace else. This is where I belong, here in this beautiful city of misfits.
This city is more than famous landmarks and steep hills. It’s more than eclectic architecture and summer fog. It’s more than hippies and beatniks and liberals and homeless. It’s more than a muse, more than a melting pot. There is something inexpressible about this city, something virtually magical.
In San Francisco, you are allowed to be whoever you really are. This city will give you the chance to find yourself and the inspiration to make that self a better person.
From that very first day to this, I am constantly overcome with miniature love epiphanies as I wander around San Francisco streets. Topping Twin Peaks to see the whole bay stretched out before me like a promise. Watching the fog creep up Judah Street like a damp, benevolent cat. Running through Golden Gate Park in the early morning as the light begins to glimmer through the green. Feeling the salt coat my face as the waves throw themselves again and again onto the sand at Ocean Beach.
Every time it happens is new. No matter how many times I’ve seen it before, I fall in love all over again.
And so I’ve built a life here, at land’s end. I’ve discovered who I am. I’ve learned to be happy. I’ve come home.
LaDonna's website (poetry, cinčpoetry, blog): http://www.ladonnawitmer.com/
Cinčpoem Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/
Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Everyone always says, "There's SOMEthing about San Francisco." And then they proceed to try to nail it down by making lists of the things that make this city what it is... But you can't do that and actually capture that something. Maybe because it's different for everyone. Maybe it's not actually something and people just need to justify why they live in a loud, crowded, dirty city with a bunch of loud, crazy people.
For me, it's the pulse. This city is a living breathing thing that feeds creative energy into the lives of the people who live here. There's a constant need to produce, to do things, to make art, to make science, to marry the two to each other and to make things Interesting. There are places in this city that you'd never could have dreamed existed. There are people in this city that defy the laws of common social nature. And they're all proud to be who they are and excited about what they do. It's a city of life filled with alcoves of hidden art, cultures from all over the world, and people with zillions (yes, zillions) of stories. It's a colossal panoply of universes all laying one on top of the other and we are here in the middle of it all, eyes rolling, mouth stretched taught with glee and in awe of everyday life.
I fall in love with someone or something in this city at least once a day. I've never experienced that before I moved here. And I wouldn't give that experience up for anything.
I'm a menswear designer. Something, had you asked me 5 years ago, I would have never considered doing. This city found this passion in me.
I dance and perform. Something I would have never had the courage to do if it weren't for the people in this city who drew it out of me.
I make art for people to play in and to change perspectives on the possibilities at hand. And if it weren't for the other artists defying logic and pushing possibilities, I would have never thought to try.
For the first time in my 27 years, I found a place that feels like home. A place that I can always come back to and feel comfortable with friends who are excited to see me. This is why I live here.
You can see the rest of Calli's photo shoot here.
Her design website is callibugdesigns.com
Calli's blog is callibug.wordpress.com
Or find her on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/
Monday, November 16, 2009
You call it what you want. It’s just as simple as that, period. I been here for 27 years; born at General Hospital and been raised here ever since. I told a friend one time “I’m going to buy a house here in the city and I don’t care if I have to use candles to light my house and be the poorest home owner on that block. I will own in SF.” It’s still my goal after all these debts disappear...
Ever since I was younger, I have never been one for school books. School books in my opinion seem cold; impersonal, lots of writing, and no pictures. Granted though, their job was to give us information that we may use at some point in our lives. But I guess I’m a person that needs pictures. I need imagery to let me understand or relate to something that is read or something that is described to me. That is why San Francisco cannot be put into words. It is a place that can’t be explained on paper and if you try to, you risk missing something about this city that may be dear to someone else. Also, on the flip side of that if I were to put what San Francisco is famous for on paper, the next person could say “I have a bridge in my city,” or “ I have a pier/wharf/(insert similar item common between cities here)What’s the big deal?” Well…it is a big deal. San Francisco has to be experienced firsthand. This place is DIFFERENT than anywhere else. You may walk down one block and see a guy and a girl kissing and on the next block two girls (or guys) are doing the same thing. You could be on one side of town and it could be foggy as hell but about 3 miles down, it’s clear and sunny. You could see the rich on one side of town with the million dollar mansions and on the other you got the homeless sitting on a bench asking for money when you pass by. Every moment in this city is an experience – a mental picture that the person was able to capture.
Now some people may argue that things are changing in the city for the better and others will say it’s for the worse. A friend of mine gets mad when he walks by Pops bar on 24th because it used to be neighborhood regulars and drunks and now its fixies and more fixies. Some things are for the better though – years back the Mission used to be VERY heavily gang populated and I remember when the park near my house had initiations that had huge crowds that rivaled something like Dia De Los Muertos crowds. Police would come around and they would scatter like ants from under a rock. Now the same park has a soccer field and a basketball court and the same area has a ton of coffee shops next to the taquerias and liquor stores. Change is inevitable I guess but change also brings out new things and better things that make this city stand out from the others.
San Francisco is magical. It is mysterious. It is grimy. It is beautiful. It is just there like an old friend or it is like that new opportunity that is placed in front of you. It is something that is planned or something that is at a moment's notice. It emits an aura that brings people from all around the world to come see and experience it. Just drive back into the city on one of the bridges and you can just feel San Francisco radiate just because it is one of a kind.
People want to come to San Francisco and I think you should too.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Today it’s been 9 years since I moved from Paris to Pacifica, and then San Francisco. I left Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport on November 09 and arrived one day later, after 2 planes broke and the last one missed our last connection in Pittsburg, on November 10th. Since then, for nine years, every single day I walk outside and meet somebody new, wherever it is, whoever they are, no matter how short our interaction, they systematically ask me the same question: “what brought you here?” This is why I decided to write this, and to participate to Julie’s project. To tell you my story about why “I Live here: San Francisco…”
I came here for love.
In 1998 I fell for an American man in Paris, he was on vacation, extremely long karmic story short: I commuted two years from Paris to Redwood City, “Deadwood City”, before deciding to leave everything I had built and adored to live with him in California. We bought a house in Pacifica, I got married in this red silk dress, and here I was, the Parisian girl on a coastal retreat. None of my French friends could believe it! Me neither.
At first I thought I will not survive. I could not even look though the windows: all these small houses and the big ocean were so scary too me. I was looking desperately for high energy, crowds, and tall buildings! Despite my job in San Francisco, I felt so isolated, dying inside. Then step by step, I met incredible people, developed new true friendships. I began yoga, enrolled in a 3-year Feng Shui program which I graduated from and uncovered my spiritual path. I founded Your French Accent, my “Decorator Extraordinaire and Beyond” consulting company. I learned so much during these Pacifican years…
When we divorced in very good terms in January 2008, I decided to stay in California against all odds, and moved to “The City.” I picked or actually I got picked by a studio on Potrero Hill, the place where I always wanted to live since I discovered San Francisco. I saw this apartment waiting for me in a dream before it got even posted on Craigslist! I got it despite the other 13 applicants. I moved close to the railroad, close to 280, and the noise and the pollution welcomed me as a longtime lost friend. I was back to my own life of a joyful city girl: I was back to Moi, better!
Here I learned more. The gentleman on the pictures is a close friend who I very rarely see but who opened up my heart on a new world of possibilities, revealing a part of my soul that I never acknowledged before. This is why I asked him to be part of this photo shoot. When I met him, he told me: “Catherine, you are free, nobody can claim you as his own, and nor can you claim anybody either. Now live your own life, and enjoy, fully.”
After more new beautiful heart filling karmic encounters on the hill and… a lot more meditation and introspection, I finally integrated that no love has to be possessive and exclusive to be real and durable. I understood that the biggest act of love is to set the person you want for yourself totally free. I realized that watching the seeds you planted grow on their own is more important than to gate a dry garden. It feels so good! My love and my respect for every person in my life, past/present/future, is sincere and intact, for ever.
Voilà. Now you know my story. I came here for Love. I came here for me… I have absolutely no clue where I will be in a month, a year. Times are shaking and with this boots I bought in 2000, I am walking through ruins and miracles. But you know what? Today, I live here: San Francisco. I mean: I LIVE here, and I am thankful for every second of it!
Namaste. Be good and never behave!
Catherine's website is http://www.yourfrenchaccent.com/
Her vlog is http://www.frenchshuicafe.com/
I hate this place. It stinks and it's dirty and there's piss everywhere and needles and garbage and yesterday when I went for a run in the park I had to traverse a trail that had been completely covered in used toilet paper. I've been robbed at gunpoint here, just down the street from my apartment. San Francisco is expensive, and I'll never be able to afford to buy a home. The city government is corrupt, there's nowhere to park, the people are all fucking crazy, and don't even get me started about MUNI.
I'm never leaving, motherfuckers.
I moved here about a dozen years ago. My plan was to stick around for a year and then head for the brighter lights of New York, and a glamorous career in publishing. Instead I've been here ever since. Because as much as I hate this place--and I do, I really, really do--I love it even more. I'm originally from Alabama. I spent my late teens and early 20s in Georgia. I've also lived in Colorado, Virginia, South Carolina, Iran and Kuwait. But if you ask, I'll tell you I'm a San Franciscan.
I adore this never-ending freakshow of a city. It's a place that taught me to be comfortable and confident with who I am. I love moving between its various scenes, from hipsters to hippies to house kids to old school punk rockers, political activists, futurists, artists, scientists, students, burners, bohemians, surfers, cyclists, and tech-addled transplants who dream of changing the world. (Or at least: making a lot of money.) I love its Victorian charm, the grit of its industrial zones, the beauty of its Bay and ocean. The hills and the way the fog comes tumbling across the sides of Sutro, gliding across the valleys into the heart of the city.
I love going to parties and striking up conversations with people who've come from other places--Arizona and Nebraska and Oklahoma and Mississippi and Massachusetts and Paris and Peru and Senegal and points beyond--to make a new life here next to the ocean, on the farthest edge of the American experiment. And I love that experimentation. I love the gay boys and the butch dykes and those with many myriad variations of self-defined gender roles that illustrate so well why it's a plane, and not a polar construct. We're not afraid of something new. Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me. We'll take it, we'll try it, we'll embrace that which you fear and show you that it's not so bad. That it's good. That it's better, even.
I love running through Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, and across coastal trails that look down on the crashing Pacific. Riding my bike across the brilliant red bridge into sunny Marin county, and looking back on the city hidden below fog, like cake beneath a layer of perfect white frosting. I love watching the sun crash into the Pacific to die another day, and the moon rise big and yellow over the hills of the East Bay, floating softly above our low slung skyline.
And I love that it's the city where I fell in love. Where I met my beautiful, kind, and caring wife, whose heart is as big as California itself. Who took me in not despite but because of eccentricities. It was in this landscape where we first looked deeply into each others eyes and saw the future spread out fifty years before us. And it was always here. Right here.
I'm never leaving. I just want to make it better. My dear friend and sometimes mentor Patrick Hughes, the Baron of Haight Street, told me that this is a city that rewards those who give to it. "Give to San Francisco, and San Francisco will give back to you." And I wouldn't change it. I wouldn't change it. I'll live with that I hate, because it's worth it all for that I love.
Friday, November 6, 2009
In 1996 I arrived as a young European tourist to stay indefinitely, to see how things go out there in California. And they did go. Everything from there on is now part of my history and created in this town. I am realizing more and more why I live here.
San Francisco is the town that has allowed me to flow through all my live changes, providing me with endless opportunities to try new things, grow and emerge out of my shell at every stage in my live. It is the town that catches me when I fall and just when I lose sight of direction waves me into consciousness with its absolute beauty and from there offers the next opportunity, the next chapter.
This is the city in which I moved through several stages in my personal life with relationships beginning and ending, picking up my tears on the local park bench or letting my hair get brushed with a stroke of wind during a long embrace at the beach. This is the city in which I was once arrived as an illegal alien and I felt for the first time what it meant to fight for something that you truly want and become a legal resident to claim and hold my entitlement to be one with this town.
This is the city who honored me with titles such as a nanny, a bar tender, a student, an artist, a dancer, a single individual, a woman, a foreigner, a manager, a divorcee and a unique individual. This is the city in which I learned what it meant to say good bye over and over again when friends move away, leaving you behind in the arms of the city to find myself at a local bar and the next story sitting near you on the bar stool if you just listen closely enough. This is the city in which I was a poi spinner for one moment and a burlesque dancer for another, a pottery maker for about second and an acting student forever. This is the city in which I got a piercing and danced to break beats into Burning Man and back.
This is the city in which I went from poor to rich and back down into current unemployment while all along feeling a never changing level of wealth due to calming strokes of happiness by the endless buzzing town corners. This is the city in which I discovered my first grey hair and found myself looking at strollers wondering what the motherly hands of the city would offer to me. This is the city that keeps me just scared enough to move and evolve up and out into the unknown.
This is the city that asks me to recommit my relationship daily when forcing me into a mind battle between the reasons for staying or following my home sick heart to be with my family who lives far away - the city always wins.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
I can tell you the exact place and moment when I first said I was going to move to San Francisco.
My friend's and I had taken the trip from Sacramento to San Francisco, and (as tourists) of course our first stop had to be Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. After getting clam chowder in a bread bowl from Guardino's, we snagged some empty tables outside of Castagnolia's. Looking up Jones St. toward Russian Hill, that was my moment.
That was the infatuation. The love of San Francisco came from seeing the people who inhabit it. The idealist's and the dreamers. The artists and the musicians and the writers, and even the waiters like me. The people who envisioned a better world, a world that was possible within our little city.
I went to Africa on a mission trip the summer after my freshman year of college, and after that eye-opener I could no longer accept the cookie-cutter lifestyle of the Sacramento suburb I was living in at the time. It was fake. I needed authentic.
San Francisco was authentic.
Growing up as a Christian, you find lots of people who are anything but authentic. I didn't want to be a fake Christian, and after going to Africa, I knew I had to do something that mattered with my life.
One amazing thing about San Francisco is that it has more non-profits than any other city in the nation. It has people who care. Who dream. I wanted to be like the people in San Francisco. I wanted to dream, to do things that mattered.
One thing that separated San Francisco from other places that I've lived is that in other places, if you share an idea with someone, they'll give you all the reasons why it won't work. They'll shoot you down more often than not.
In San Francisco, when you share an idea with someone, more often then not they are excited. People comment on how unique or original an idea may be. They ask what they can do to help.
I'm at a point where I'm asking you to help me. You see I'm committed to being one of those dreamers who do things that matter. I've been accepted to an internship in Belize, which will give me the chance to learn and grow, not only as a Christian, but as someone who cares about our world and our city. I know there are others out there with these same cares. I've seen you and I've met you, and you're what makes this city what it is.
I don't want to ask for your money, but I need to. So I want to give something back. My 1hundredproject gives me the chance to give something back to you. I'm going to ask for $100, but I want to make your trouble worthwhile. I want to make your life easier, and hopefully you can get to know me a little bit along the way. Allow me to help you with something. I'll paint your garage, babysit your dog, even take your daughter to homecoming. I might be asking for your money, I'm desperate to show why I hope you find me worth it.
1hundredproject is my idea to help make my dream of going to Belize a reality. I'd love for you to check out my idea, and maybe tell me some of yours, and maybe together all of us dreamers can make a better city and a better world.