postcards from the bay


Day 8, San Francisco. I am writing this in a café called sweet inspiration. As cheesy as its name though, this place is anything but sweet or inspiring, its only redeeming feature is a little fountain near the display counter, with water sloshing from a cogwheel. I know I should be annoyed at being unknowingly deceived by its name or that their coffee costs so much more than Starbucks (where I have a prepaid card, thanks to one of my kids’ parents), but I’m not. In fact, I think there’s nothing in this city that displeases me, not even those long queues that you have to endure for an overpriced cable car ride. I’m in San Francisco and that alone is enough to make my heart sing!

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At the risk of sounding like a guide book, here is a glimpse of my San Francisco, those little things that I’ve ‘discovered’ (and loved) during the times that I’ve been here:
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Victorian townhouses with red doors.
I’ve noticed them only last Monday night, but I love them so much that I think someday, when I’m cured of my wanderlust and I’ll have a family and a house of my own (which will make Tia and Mayee very happy because I won’t have to drag my kids around in the bushes :D), I will definitely paint its door red. Like this:

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Serendipitous surprises. Last summer, I got really lost while walking around Haight Street. But the good thing about getting lost in this city is that you will also find unexpected treasures along the way. And that hot September day, I found this tiny shop called PlaNetweavers, a unique collection of artifacts and music from all over the world – silk paintings from Japan, African masks and drums, UNICEF cards, Mexican hatboxes and crafts, handmade journals from India, books on Zen and Buddhism, and all those exquisite little gifts from places as faraway as Bhutan. I was so engrossed in them that I forgot that I had originally planned on going somewhere else. Now every time I get lost, I always remind myself of that day and how I should be more open to whatever surprises that will come my way.
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Adventures in eating. The gastronomic delights in this city are endless, be it in a swanky café in The Castro or a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Little Italy. As a seafood-lover, I can only recommend Tarantino’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf, home to the most delicious clam chowder, not to mention an excellent view of the pier. If you’re a fan of dim sum (just like my friend Dae), there’s Gold Mountain in Chinatown, where picking out something from its long menu requires some serious decision-making skills (which I obviously don’t have that’s why I prefer to choose from their dim sum carts).

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Indie and foreign-language films. I’m a little biased and this shouldn’t be included in my list, but when I think of San Francisco, I always think of independent and foreign films. Perhaps because it’s so diverse and multicultural, or perhaps because of the S.F. International Film Festival (which I really want to see in late April), I think that this city is the perfect setting for watching unconventional, out-of-the-box films. This week alone, I persuaded my cousin to watch so many of these movies with me (Born into Brothels, Il Postino, Malena, El Crimen del Padre Amarro, Dot the I, Like Water for Chocolate) that I must have made a convert out of him, no matter how much he says otherwise or how he hates reading those subtitles!

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Museums and quiet, open spaces. I must admit, I love museums for reasons other than what’s inside them (although I can stare at a Van Gogh or Rembrandt painting for hours). What I really like about museums is the opportunity for solitude, to get lost in your own thoughts, and to step back and be quiet. And because San Francisco is such a compact and walkable city, I can go to different museums in one day without having to worry about finding a ride or getting stuck in traffic. My faves: The Legion of Honor and the HM de Young Museum, Yerba Buena Gardens, Asian Art Museum, and the Palace of Fine Arts:

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Its not a museum I know, but I love these ruins!

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Coffee and cafés everywhere. I’ve never drank so much caffeine in my entire life than in this city. Cafés are all over the place here and not only that, you can also have your coffee in whatever combination and whichever way you like it. At first I was a little intimidated, when someone asked me what type of milk I wanted to add for my latte (skimmed, non-fat, low-fat, organic, condensed, etc.) or if I wanted to add some spices (gee, I’ve never even thought about this before!), but pretty soon I got used to it – ordering my lattes, espressos or cappuccinos according to how I feel at the moment… very fancy, don’t you think?

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Bargain books and rare finds. Just like cafés, bookstores are everywhere here and because I am such a bookaholic, I started researching (what a geek!) about their second-hand and specialty bookshops. My favorite is City Lights Bookstore in North Beach, birthplace of Beat literature and the first paperback bookstore in the U.S. Being there and walking straight towards Vesuvio Café where Jack Kerouac was said to have spent most of his days here in San Francisco, I felt somehow connected to my roots. It was odd, to feel that way about a little bookshop and its cramped shelves, but I felt more at home there than in most places I’ve been to in this country. It must have been the wandering, bohemian side of me waiting to break free, haha.

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A Heaven of Books

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Walking in the rain. I don’t know why, but there is something very poetic about walking in the rain along the hilly streets of San Francisco, the humidity and the wind throwing my hair into riotous curls that I can’t tame, not even with my trusty Sedu (a ceramic hair straightener that costs a fortune!). Yesterday, while I was window-shopping at Union Square, it was so windy that I had to hold on to a lamppost to stop myself from being knocked over. I looked at my flipped black umbrella, the people rushing past while trying to avoid some water puddles, the homeless guy asking pedestrians for a spare change, and some drunken youth telling everyone about a genocide in Sudan, and it dawned on me that somehow, I am not an wide-eyed tourist anymore, and that I am seeing this city for what it really is – beautiful beyond words and also dark, mysterious and treacherous, just like any other big city in the world. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, I must say that I love this place more and more.


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So now that I’ve demonstrated why I should have been a Lonely Planet writer instead of an underpaid therapist (heck, it’s never too late to switch careers right?), I think it’s only fair to ask myself this question: am I moving to San Francisco?

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