So this just happened. For real.

My colleague mentioned an article that came out on Slate.com today that harkened back to my post of yesterday about the state of political discourse dialog general abuse rampant in the US at the moment. 

I chose to post the article as a comment, without any added commentary, to the thread that had inspired my original post. This is the article.


The following immediately ensued.









Interestingly predictably the only thing that got “B” to stop was an insult. 

Not that this kind thing needs any further explanation, but I think it is worth pointing out that the original article I posted was not about Sanders v. Clinton and was not calling for “B”‘s ‘education’ and we were told that he would only stop posting if we did because he is “stubborn.” I don’t think I need to point out too much else, I did wish there was a shovel emoji to help him dig his own hole…

This is what my (girl)friends and I are having to deal with -regardless of the candidate we support- every single day. 

This is a post about politics. But I wanted it to be about Prince.

When Prince died on April 21 of this year I was devastated. I was totally unprepared for how deeply and personally I felt the loss. I did something akin to sitting Shivah for nearly a month – all I did was listen to his music and think and reminisce and wonder. I wanted to write about how meaningful or profound or important Prince was to me, but I couldn’t do it. What had been so easy to explain about Bowie was lost on me when it came to explaining my feelings about Prince. I just sat there with his music and thought about all the ways he touched my life. It was a loss that defied any explanation for me. I loved him and I feel like he personally spoke to and for me in spite of the fact that there were things about him that I did not understand (his faith) or made me uncomfortable (consistent vague misogyny) or simply did not jive with other beliefs (LGBTQ rights to name one) to which I fiercely adhere.

Then I realized: I did not have to explain this to anyone. These are my own sentiments and opinions. They are not a result of being brainwashed, or a acting as a lemming, but a response to my own experiences and understandings of the complex world in which I exist. I can love Prince for whatever reasons I want to.

And no one considered for even a moment that they needed to explain to me how what I felt and thought and believed was wrong, and that if I could just be effectively enlightened I would understand what I thought and felt was incorrect.

Because we are talking about music.


I used to have a very dear English friend who told exceptional jokes – most of the time. On the occasion that he told a joke that I did not think was very good, I would not laugh. And every time this happened he would say to me, “Oh, you didn’t get it…” and tell me the joke again. I would say to him, “No, I got it, I just didn’t think it was funny.” And we would go around and around.

I have another friend who used to wind herself up to the point of insanity when someone would do something that she saw to be so ridiculous, infantile, or plain stupid, she could barely stand it. She was convinced that if she could just explain to them their lack of understanding (or stupidity in simpler terms) that they would change their behavior: that they would “understand.” I spent years as her sounding board and reminding her that she was the one suffering… that her need to “help” them fell on deaf ears and made her feel like a crazy person, no matter how valid her logic.

My recent experience discussing politics falls somewhere amidst these vignettes.

Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I am deeply conflicted about the state of American politics. While this is not new, it somehow seems more urgent. I wish, like many people, that there was a perfect candidate for president, but there is not. And frankly, what kind of person would want that job? Any examination of that question certainly makes me take a second look at the person wishes to take up such an endeavor. That being said someone’s got to step up and do the job.

As a registered Democrat I will be voting in the Democratic primaries for the nominee to be the successor to the Obama administration. I am intentionally a member of a political party and as such voting in the primaries for my party is a privilege I rightly get for being in the party. Allowing non-party members to influence the outcome of our primary is inappropriate; if you want to vote in a primary, do so for your party, or join a party – or flip flop parties – I don’t care, just don’t bitch and moan about not being able to assert influence on a group you do not want to be a part of.

I’m under no illusion that any of my choices for the nomination are devoid of faults. But I also firmly believe that it is my fundamental right to choose who I want to vote for based on what matters most deeply, internally, and inexplicably to me without owing an explanation anyone, especially strangers on the Internet.

Since this campaign kicked off on the Democratic side, I’ve been really interested in who I consider to be the two viable candidates: Clinton and Sanders. And since the Sanders campaign has gotten some legs under it I have been on the receiving end of incessant and unsolicited, patronizing behavior from his supporters. This ridiculous over-explaining has largely come from young, white, men of privilege. Don’t misunderstand, I know lots of people of color, of all ages, and gender orientations who also support Sanders, but it has been the white privileged Sanders supporters who have come at me aggressively time and again to tell me that I am: ignorant, brainwashed, confused, hypocritical, not checking my privilege, emotional, small minded, uneducated, uninformed, etc., etc.

I appreciate many of Bernie Sanders’ policies. I’m not very impressed with his position on guns or immigration, I’m not entirely convinced about his economic policy, and I am wholly unconvinced in his ability to be effective and nuanced in foreign policy, which leaves me very uncomfortable as we move further into an era of intense global interconnectedness. But this doesn’t mean I can’t see the good ideas he has, and recognize core beliefs he holds that that I also hold. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is a politician who also has ideas that I hold dear. She also has a record that I find impressive, and I believe she is a deep thinker who understands that it is actually a sign of intelligence to change one’s mind if new information informs the choice, knows how to get things accomplished, and sees the importance of compromise. These are all things that have become ever more important to me as I’ve gotten older.

Still, none of these circumstances prevent me from voting for any other candidate if I choose. One of the fundamental aspects of American culture is that I am allowed to vote for who I want to and I do not owe anyone any explanation about this beyond what I am comfortable with.

I find the constant attacks on Clinton’s policy changes as flip-flopping, or catering to victory, simpleminded and defensive. The idea that she is somehow a career politician while Bernie Sanders, who has been in the senate for nearly three decades is not, is laughable. And while Sanders has voted on many things I agree with, so has Clinton. And to be honest, Sanders is the ultimate flip-flopper: he has not even been able to commit to a political party. [Interestingly this could be his undoing because by encouraging people not to join a political party he is now crying that people can’t vote for him in a political party primary. Again, at what point does it seem reasonable that nonparty member should be allowed outcome influence the outcome of party politics? I understand there’s a lot of problems a party politics but this is what were working with.]

Further, the risible idea that somehow Sanders can create a political revolution is shortsighted, un-researched and shallow. The fact of the matter is Obama was supposed to inspire such a revolution. But the reality is he was not able to initiate even the seeds of a revolution for two very real reasons: 1) it wasn’t his agenda; and 2) none of the would-be-revolutionaries did the job of meeting their responsibility to vote in the midterms, and so he got screwed and was unable to push anything through the resulting obstructionist Congress.

What will be different about a Sanders administration (on the outside chance that he gets into the White House)? What on earth makes anybody think that a Republican Congress that was defiantly obstructionist to Barack Obama – middle of the road by anyone’s standards – is going to accept Bernie Sanders policies? Ultimately, it must be acknowledged that I do not trust that the Sanders revolutionaries have the fortitude to stick with it and vote in the more mundane midterm and elections that are necessary and will follow. These are things I think about, deeply and seriously. Which does not mean I am asking for you to tell me how I am wrong, just that I am considering all of it.

Perhaps I have a new or overreaching respect for Machiavelli, but I’m a firm believer that you cannot affect change if you can’t get a seat at the table.

Still, in the end – these are just my beliefs. I’m interested in why people think/feel/believe the way they do, especially when it is counter to my natural inclinations, but my interest is not an invitation for a semantic deluge extolling the rights and wrongs of bloody opinions.  I fundamentally believe people are entitled to their beliefs and it’s entirely possible I won’t always understand why they think the way they do… There is not one singular truth in this complex universe.

[And as a preemptive response to criticism about not sourcing or providing evidentiary material to this post, let me reiterate that I am speaking (venting) about my right to choose, not trying to provide rationale for my choice.]

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.

That I disagree with you (or whoever) doesn’t make me uninformed or ignorant: I GET THE JOKE. It makes me a unique human being with my own ability to formulate rational thought- although being a woman I do keep hearing that I am not rational, I’m emotional and voting only for Clinton because of some apparent vagina coalition. STILL, FOR ALL OF OUR BENEFIT, YOU CAN STOP EXPLAINING THINGS TO ME.


Prince understood all this. He understood that he could be straight, gay, not a man, not a woman, something that you never understand, fundamentally faithful, viscerally sinful, that no one could tell him what was right or wrong, or what he should think, or believe, or act upon.

Maybe that is what I loved the most about him.

Prince would have voted for whoever the hell he wanted to and he would have waved away your patronizing, didactic, dogmatic insistence that you know better with a graceful wave of the hand and an incomparable smokin’ guitar solo.

 

From Uzes to Marseille and why Frenchie hates whales

The day we left central Provence for Marseille was hot. Literally and figuratively. Frenchie and I would be traveling as a twosome from here on out and in some ways it was a big relief. I had grown weary of feeling misunderstood by both the French and the English speakers among us. The subtleties of friendship are complex, and I believe that good friendships will endure the oversights and misunderstandings that can arise, but feelings can still be hurt. And under the blistering sun of the south of France there were some hurt feelings. On our own Frenchie and I got to explore these feelings. No blood, but some sweat and tears transpired before we boarded the train. [For a moment our timing suited us both not too early or too rushed and things appeared to be running on time.]

Up and on board, we moved on out of Nimes and began the two hour journey to Marseille.

And then we stopped.

For a really long time.

Apparently, there was some mishap with the tracks and we would be waiting until it got sorted out. It was incredibly warm and there was little shelter outside, and the electrical system had been shut down so there was no air con on the train either. Things were getting sticky. Really, really sticky.

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We ended up sitting there for nearly two hours. The train employees were as hot and frustrated as anyone trying to explain what was happening. I am pretty sure no one really knew. There was a tour group from Japan who were losing their shit about the heat and kept telling everyone how hot it was and that someone must do something about the heat. That communication with the French train employees was particularly interesting. At one point hand trucks of warm bottled water were wheeled out to at least try to calm the increasingly agitated crowd. Frenchie never got out of the train, which was really impressive in some sort of medieval torture challenge sort of way. She must have been really enjoying those magazines she was reading.

When the train finally started moving again there was still no air con and we were not at speed. Ah, the perils of travel.

When we arrived in Marseille we sort of forgot all this.

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After dropping our things at our hotel, Mama Shelter (more on the hotel later), we headed out for a walk. Frenchie and I have competing senses of direction, which I always thought had to do with our totally divergent (though generally -strangely – compatible) world views. It turns out that our senses of direction are diametrically opposed because of the things we orient to: in this case, Frenchie to the tourist office; me unabashedly to the Intercontinental. In my bougie defense, it had been a long day and I was not interested in hunting down the tourist office which I suspected would be closed because France. I was very interested in cocktails.

As another vignette that will be added to my upcoming compendium How You Know You Have Become Middle Aged, the young lady at the front desk of our hotel recommended several places to us to try out for dinner and drinks in town. We enthusiastically noted them and headed out. With each place we looked at that she had suggested it became clear that they were the most expensive places in town. As a cute young thing would do when speaking to middle aged women traveling together in a way you’re not entirely sure you understand. Frenchie was not amused by this, and I get it, because the five-star life is not a very accurate way to see the world, and Fenchie does not want to be seen as that kind of traveler. And in general, I don’t either.

But after a hundred degree day and a train ride that took three times as long as it should have without ventilation, I was down to be that middle aged lady of means (or not) at the five star hotel.

Still, I was patient (ish) as we walked around checking out the marina and looking for the tourist office (it was closed). We did find out about a boat trip Frenchie wanted to take the next day, so when I subsequently insisted that we go to the highly recommended Hotel Dieu, she acquiesced. As we walked into the hotel, she looked at me and said, “This is why you always dress how you do, isn’t it?” I guess I never really thought about it, but yes, I believe being ready for anything is a good strategy, pls  you can always take it down a notch if you look too fancy. And, hey, what better place to be ready than the French Riviera?

The Hotel Dieu was originally a hospital built in 1188. The last patients left the hospital in 1993. It opened as a hotel in 2013.

How lucky for us.

In spite of her initial dismay with the reality that we would end up at the Hotel Dieu rather than somewhere more quaint (authentic?), I noticed Frenchie got over it pretty darn quick. And really, how could you not?

We would only be in Marseille for three days and two nights… and JM’s partner had given us a bunch of tips so this was really Frenchie’s show. We made plans over a glass of rosé. And then reassessed them over another glass. By the third glass we were really getting ambitious. Our plans included a boat tour of the Clanques, the MUCEM, a sunset swim, checking out the church we were staring at from the Hotel Dieu, eating bouillabaisse, and buying soap. Seemed totally doable in a couple of days. Sated in several ways, we left the lovely Hotel Dieu and headed back to our hotel.

Mama Shelter is quite a kitschy little place. It was a nice enough hotel, but the most hilarious element was the in-room camera’s that they have. Guests can take photos of themselves and then subsequent visitors can view the… well, yeah. And the headboards light up.

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We started our next day headed to the Calanques. As far as I can tell calanques is the French word for fjord. Which is clearly not an English word, but anyhow, high walled inlet. This is something Frenchie had wanted to do for some time, and I am hardly going to complain about a boat trip in the south of France. The trip would be about four hours and the only sad part was there was no disembarking or swimming and we would cruise out past the Château d’If where Edmond Dantès was imprisoned in the novel The Count of Monte Cristo and along the coast to Cassis.

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It was gorgeous and hot and geographically stunning. I would do it again by kayak given the chance, and the little towns along the coast would be fabulous places to stay if you were looking for a real getaway.

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On our return to the harbor we had lunch at an outdoor cafe and directed our energies to the MuCEM. This was a perfect choice for the heat of the day and one of those places where it is hard to decide what is more impressive, the inside or the outside. Seriously. Currently there is an exhibit on panoramic photos, so clearly, it is a place after my own heart. The building was designed by Rudy Ricciotti and is awesome. The whole time I was there I was also watching the locals swim off the side of the building which seemed somehow perfectly incongruous.

We were so glad to get to the MuCEM as a respite from the heat… but it was a fabulous museum as well, much more than we could see in a day.

On leaving the museum, we headed back through the old part of town. The streets were narrow and winding, replete with street art and soap shops. Marseille was interesting in that it had the provincial feel of other parts of the South of France, but it ale had the edginess of a port city with a dynamic and diverse population more akin to that of Paris insofar as I saw in France.

 

…to be continued…

San Francisco Cyclists: The Mission (mostly) Edition

In a class discussion last Wednesday about cultures of honor (we are reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers) my students asked me if there was anything or anyone that would engender the kind of emotion (rage) that would be required to act out in the way the subjects in the Harlan, Kentucky chapter behaved. Was there something someone could say or do to me that would trigger me. I had to think about this for a while, as I generally avoid that kind of conflict because it makes me uncomfortable, but also because as a woman it is simply too risky to actually address those who act inappropriately towards you in America anymore.

I thought about it for a minute and imagined who could make me feel so angry I wanted to actually do something to them that might be permanently damaging. My former step-mother came to mind because she is a truly Bad Person, but I am trying to let that go, so, nah. Then it hit me: CYCLISTS. My friend Justin has a saying: ‘When I am walking I hate cars; when I am driving I hate pedestrians. But I always hate cyclists’ and as a non driver a third of the sentiment is not relevant to me, but the latter thought: YES.

To be fair, I never really had an opinion on cyclists until I lived in San Francisco. For most of my life I have had a bike, and I have ridden bikes in more cities and countries than I can count. It never really seemed like a “Thing” to me. It was just an activity, or a conduit to one, I suppose.

But since I have been in San Francisco it has come to my attention that the cyclists in this city are the worst examples of people. Now, I am not saying all cyclists are the worst people, but I am definitely saying that all the worst people I have met in San Francisco have been cyclists.

The cyclists in San Francisco act as if they are the most maligned and put upon population that ever lived (puh-leeze), and there are constant outcries about how they are mistreated by cars and public transportation and, well, any one who gets in their way. Which is interesting because they are about the ONLY people you will see yelling at, and accosting, pedestrians, busses, and motor vehicle drivers in this town.

In no particular order here are things I have seen:

  • Speeding down crowded sidewalks (and being annoyed that people are on them)
  • Chasing down and banging on cars
  • I cannot count the broken traffic laws, but mostly it is running lights and I am fairly certain I have yet to see a cyclist stop at a stop sign
  • Shoving people out of the way on Bart (trains and escalators and platforms)
  • Speeding aggressively close to a pedestrian about to step off a sidewalk and yelling “THAT IS JAYWALKING!”
  • People crossing through the bike lanes on foot (I do this in the early mornings on Valencia Street when there is little to no vehicular traffic and limited bike traffic) and a singular rider, rather than negotiating the space, speeds up to ensure proximity and admonishes: “THAT IS NOT A GOOD PLACE TO BE”
  • Cyclists knock over kids and elderly people

My favorite is “Bike to Work Day” which brings out hundreds of the most entitled riders you have ever seen. Those of us who keep our eco-footprints small by always using public transportation are not super impressed with your one day of awareness, by the way. Ironically, a majority of these hyper-aggressive individuals not only ignore traffic laws and signs, but they are riding fixed gear bikes, often with no brakes or single brakes, and frequently they are helmet free.

Oh, and in every example I have listed above, the cyclist was a white male.

Just saying.

The most famous event since I have been back in the city was the guy who plowed through a cross walk and killed a man. In spite of the fact that the guy had no remorse, and blogged about the whole things as he was riding for “time” he only received probation and community service. Gross. [Also, white male.]

Now, I realize that the fact that I can list and identify my issues with San Francisco cyclists definitely suggests that the majority of cyclists cannot be this loathsome, and that these assholes must be outliers. But I am not sure that could or should quell my distaste.

In a very interesting turn of events, on the very same Wednesday that I had been having the aforementioned conversation with my students, I had a very unpleasant experience with just the type of cyclist I am speaking of.

I was coming home at what would basically be considered rush hour and arrived at my Bart station at around 6:00 pm. My station is one of the most crowded, and according to Bart information has the greatest number of people walking to and from the station. As we filed out of the train on to the escalator from the platform a white male cyclist, somewhere in his twenties, approximately 6’1″ maybe 180 lbs, in standard tech-bro normcore clothes (jeans that allowed his Oxford boxers to show and a generic shirt and zip up jacket) with sandy hair and glasses, shoved his bike on to the escalator.

For what it is worth, bikes are not allowed on escalators in Bart stations.

He shoved a few people for the simple fact that the escalator was totally full and held his bike upright resting on the rear wheel so that the front wheel was bumping the woman in front of him. I looked at him as I made my way up the escalator on the left and had a thought of how fun it would be to drop some knowledge on him about how there are no bikes allowed on the escalator.

I did not say anything to him because: 1) It had been a long day and really what point would there be; 2) as a woman I do not have the freedom to say what I want to men because there is ALWAYS the very real reality that it could be dangerous to me.

I made my way through the turnstile and headed up the stairs to exit the station. As I reached the top of the stairs I became aware of the fact that this cyclist had sprinted up the other stairs (so clearly he did not NEED to be using an escalator…) and as I stepped off the stairs, he physically blocked me with his bike and got in my face yelling, “YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH HOW I HAVE MY BIKE ON THE ESCALATOR?!” I looked at him in total shock and took my ear buds out.

“Are you talking to me?”

“YEAH, BITCH I AM. YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH HOW I TAKE MY BIKE ON THE ESCALATOR? YOU WANT TO SAY SOMETHING TO ME? BITCH?”

“Uhh…”

“YOU GOT SOMETHING TO SAY?!” (At this point, he is still physically obstructing me while I am trying to walk, and takes one hand off his bike raising it as it to… well, who knows.)

“Are you serious? FUCK OFF.”

“YEAH WHATEVER. BITCH.” Now he swings his leg over the bike and begins to pedal away – through a very dense crowd – and yells back, “I WOULDN’T HAVE FUCKED YOU TEN YEARS AGO!”

Wow. He went there?

And he rode off up the sidewalk towards Bartlett regardless of the steady stream of foot traffic in both directions from the station. Then he crossed 24th on the diagonal, from the SE corner of Bartlett and 24th to the NW corner.

Now this encounter brings up myriad issues, not all related to cyclists, but likely all related to white male privilege, and in my neighborhood, the two more often than not overlap. And then of course there are the obvious facts that I am completely within my rights to look at people around me and not only for general safety and awareness, and his waning insult suggests his problem might have had little to do with any look I gave him, but much more to do with some larger issues he has, dare I say, with women. 

Here is the (hardly inclusive) list of things it brought to my mind:

  • How is it possible that no other person stopped to see about this potentially problematic situation?
  • Who the fuck was this kid?
  • Would this have happened had I not been a woman, walking alone (albeit in a crowd)?
  • Would this have happened had the cyclist not been a white male? (I tried to replay the situation where the rider is black or latino or Asian or female and the resulting image is laughably fictitious)
  • Who the fuck is this kid?
  • How is it that the most offensive and entitled cyclists are the ones who do not follow the rules?
  • Why did I not think to retort that his aggressive ass was not supposed to be on the escalator in the first place?
  • Did he think I said, “Fuck YOU” prompting his retort about how he would not have fucked me ten years ago? Or is this just the go-to kind of insult for a young man to level at a middle-aged woman?
  • Did he think I would have actually ever wanted to fuck him? (I know this is not the issue, but it makes me think about how homophobic straight guys always think gay men will want to get with them – and I had to remember that a great number of young men in San Francisco must somehow by into the mythology that San Francisco women are desperate for them.)
  • Ultimately, my largest question (aside from what I should do about the situation) was: WHAT IN THE HELL WAS THIS KID’S DAMAGE?

This is the kind of shit that ONLY women have to put up with. And I know it is not only from cyclists, but anyone reading this can be absolutely sure that this little prince would not have done this to a man, or a woman who was with a man. Further, not that I should ever need to say this, but let me add that I was dressed completely normally, coming home from work carrying a load of stuff – there was nothing setting me apart from any other person returning from work that day, and certainly nothing sexualizing about my appearance.

The situation agitated me enough that I spoke to the Bart station attendants the next day, who told me that they were terribly disappointed I had not come back in to report the man the night before, and that they did have him on video in the station as a matter of policy if I wanted to file a police report. I considered it for sure. At this point I have not done anything else about it, but I certainly have considered how the experience speaks to so many of the social issues we are facing in our society everyday including white male privilege, sexism, misogyny, entitlement, dangerous self-interest, ageism, to name but a few.

It is a shame that this guy was on a bike because all it does, even in my rational mind that knows it is unfair, is make me more unforgiving of the bicycle culture in San Francisco.

At the end of the day, if I had to name a group of people who bring our any sort of Hatfield-McCoy energy in me, it remains SF cyclists. How unfair it is that I am unable to express this because of cultural norms that endanger me for responding to this sort of thing in kind.

Earlier in the day when I had arrived at my answer for my students, their response (many of them skaters and riders) was a chorus of agreement, and nearly every one of them had a story about an egregious act perpetrated by an urban cyclist. As Malcolm Gladwell would say, one example is just that, but 30 is a pattern.

Watch yourself out there people.

Not So Super (Bowl) in the City.

Ok, I will start this post with the requisite caveat: I really do not care for American pro football. This is noteworthy because I love sports. Really. I can get excited about just about any athletic competition. To name just a few, I can get psyched for golf, track & field, cricket, gymnastics, swimming, lacrosse, soccer, polo, rugby, basketball… I love them all. But I just cannot get on board with football. And I promise I have tried.

When I think of football, especially the NFL, I think of murder, child abuse, spousal abuse, misogyny, cheating, rapists, medical irresponsibility, racism, unfair labor practices, and abusive treatment of labor (Here is what are considered the “worst” crimes committed by NFL players.) On top of this, in an average game that lasts for three hours, there is approximately 11 minutes of play.

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So, yeah, this is not a game I like.

A couple of years ago, the San Francisco 49ers moved from San Francisco to Santa Clara. The how and why of this are not all that interesting (or surprising): it is all about the $. And of course, anyone who ever spent much time at Candlestick knows that was its own set of circumstances. Interestingly, since the move the 49ers have gotten progressively shittier. Again, this is not something I care much about since I don’t really watch football.

Why, then, am I spending any time at all writing about football (especially when I am inundated with absolutely stunning basketball at the pro and college level in the men’s and women’s game all around me)? Because, for reasons that are also not so interesting or surprising, San Francisco bid for the 50th Super Bowl at some point and they won the bid. Regardless of the fact that San Francisco is no longer home to an NFL team. So, they got the rights to host the Super Bowl and I am sure there are more economic interests and manipulators in play here than I could ever imagine (or want to). The word from the city is that it is going to be some sort of windfall for local businesses. Thus far that has not born out at all, but the game is a week a way. The Mayor was all keyed up to present the best of SF and so he decided he had better hide solve the homeless “problem“, so he shipped them out. #compassionate

And all of this for the Super Bowl City.

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Super Bowl City has made a key area of our city completely inaccessible for a period of three weeks. Thankfully, I will probably be able to avoid this situation in my day-to-day. However, there are thousands who will not.

This was a terrible idea for San Francisco. When cities like London, Paris, Rio, Beijing, even Los Angeles, host events like this they are able to sustain the regular functions of the city – albeit with greater crowds, but those are not necessarily a negative if the people who live in the city can manage to continue living. Those cities are big enough in land area that they can offer reasonable and feasible workarounds. This is not the case in a geographically tiny city like San Francisco. This is a 49 square mile area with no feasible workarounds.

As I stood in line waiting for a ferry I didn’t even know was running because the ferry I intended to catch had left  early because it was at capacity, I was speaking with a lovely older lady who had had to walk 15 minutes out of her way to get to the ferry on her way home from the airport. She too missed the boat. Another woman lives across from Pier 70 where most of the big shows will be, is going to be unable to access her home by car and cannot get her daughter to school unless she takes the F-Market, which will take her more than an hour. To say we felt frustrated would be a vast understatement.

Really, if Santa Clara is good enough for the football players, how can it not be good enough for the football fans?

In spite of all the gross feelings I have about this situation in SF, I would be terribly remiss to not mention the people working in and around Super Bowl City. Every single person I have encountered, regardless of my state of duress, frustration, or confusion, has been unbelievably kind, patient, informative and helpful. Seriously, these people are showing the very best of our city, and they deserve so much more of a shout out than a temporary job. My mom told me she was talking to a worker down there who was telling her she was so grateful for the work. It kills me that our city cannot provide permanent work for these people, but that is an economics lesson for another time.

For now, if you are trying to get anywhere stay away from Super Bowl City. If you are excited about the events of the next few weeks, then enjoy. Oh, and pro tip: if you need to get from Bart to the Ferry Building for any sort of transportation situation, try going up and over Embarcadero 2.

Good luck.

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Ziggy played guitar.

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I woke up this morning like millions of other people to the news of the death of David Bowie. Like those millions of other people I was shocked to the point of disbelief, and surprisingly devastated by my sadness. I felt like I had lost someone I knew. I am sure this was exacerbated by the fact that it was, for those of us not in the know, a complete surprise. Not to mention the fact that there are some people you cannot imagine the world without, and David Bowie is definitely one of those eternal souls.

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I listened to his music all morning and was somehow consoled by the fact that my social media feeds were completely and totally dedicated to Bowie. That all my friends felt – maybe as unwittingly as I had, or maybe not – as equally distraught by this loss made me feel like it was okay to be feeling the way I was.

And that was what David Bowie always did.

He made it okay to be who we were.

There are hundreds, more likely thousands of tributes and testaments and honorifics that emerged instantly from his star dust. And I probably don’t need to add one more. Still, so much has been said about how Bowie was there for the “weird kids” or the oddballs, or the ones that didn’t fit in. But he was more than that.

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David Bowie was so damn cool that he gave the generic kids – the kids like me who weren’t edgy or cool or different enough – a”in” in the same way he gave the aforementioned people validity and acceptance. I cannot think of another person who had that much cool: enough for everyone.

By simultaneously giving a voice and validity to kids who didn’t fit in so easily and showing the kids who needed an extra push to step out of the pains of adolescent (or other) conformity, Bowie became a conduit to a kind of energy that changed my generation entirely.

He fed us pure inspiration, beautifully strange and always unpredictable, yet somehow everything made perfect sense. No other musician was more influential for our generation. David was a pioneer, and inventor, a space traveller, a superhero, a truly astonishing songwriter and a friend. – Nick Rhodes, Duran Duran

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In 1983, I was tall, skinny, awkward, and trying to figure out what mattered to me at a really weird time to be alive. I listened to this album non-stop for nearly two years and was completely taken with the tall graceful man who defied any sort of label my 7th grade self could come up with. 

Suddenly, I had someone who helped me be a little less awkward and something that I knew mattered.

The truth is of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time.

That he mattered this much to so many other people who I never understood were just as desperate to find an entity-oddity-starman like Bowie makes me feel connected to humanity in a way that defies explanation but seems even more important with every passing day of my life.

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Ubiquitous, ever-present, fluid, transcendent.

He will be king.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

And you, you can be mean
And I, I’ll drink all the time
‘Cause we’re lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we’re lovers, and that is that…

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[All images from public domain.]

Puis nous sommes allés au Sud de la France [google translate, do me right…]

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The only things I knew about the South of France before I arrived I figure I must have picked up from questionable romantic comedies. Or Inglourious Basterds, I feel like there was some provincial Provence somewhere in that film. Maybe? [RIP Shosanna Dreyfus.] As was the theme thus far in France, I was unclear on what I was supposed to want to do in the South of France, but I know I certainly enjoyed saying, out loud, that I was summering in the South of France. What else did I really need to know?

I had heard a lot of things about Provence. Mostly to do with food, lavender, wine, and sunflowers. I think I also had some illusions about dreamy, mysterious, older gentlemen who might wander out of quaint cafés or mysterious corners bearing flowers or wine or something, while romantic music emanates from some equally mysterious location.

Some of these preconceived notions were spot on.

We left Paris by train headed to Nimês, where we would rent a car to drive to Uzès, a small town near Avignon where Frenchie’s dad lives when he is in France. It was hot, and stunningly beautiful as we moved through the countryside to our first destination. There is something viscerally exciting when, before your eyes, preconceived notions become realities. It is a strangely satisfying combination of surprise, validation and joy.

Arriving in Nimês, we found the car agency and took a bit of time to work out exactly what was going on. Initially I had not been entirely on board with a couple of the decisions – like renting a car – did we really need one? [Yes.] Or did we want to see a concert at the Arena de Nimês even if it was not going to be Lionel Richie? [Hello, yes, although initially no-yes-no-yes.] In keeping with the trend, Frenchie knew best and I was finally learning to keep my mouth shut about it. We would get a car, drop our stuff in it, and head out to see the village of Nimês for crème glacés, tickets, shopping, walking.

And so we did.

Nimês was lovely, and hot. I remember being really impressed initially, but looking back on it after seeing Uzès, it was a little less special, perspective being what it is. It was a lovely intro, at the very least, and the Arena… well, we will get to that.

On returning to the car we were grateful for the shade of the subterranean garage. So grateful apparently that the powers that be allowed us to be there for far longer than we anticipated. In our (occasional) fiscal and (regular) regional pragmatism we opted to have only one driver on the car: Frenchie. And I was excited to see how this would go. But it appeared that we were not going. To be fair, I have not had a car since I sold mine – or rather #4 did, for far less than he should have – when I moved to Asia, and cars have become far more… automated. It is amusing to me how in simplifying things, car makers have made the vehicles so much more mysterious. Add to this that Frenchie is a committed luddite and an indefatigable anachronist, and we were nearly in a Mr. Bean sketch. There was an informative (though French) LED display that kept saying to engage the clutch. I am not sure how I suddenly understood French when I could barely recall how to say you’re welcome after several weeks dans le pays, but suddenly I could. So I kept saying “Put the clutch in.” And Frenchie kept saying, “What is this clutch?” And I would tell her and she would look at me like I was crazy. This went on for quite some time. At one point we were even considering going back upstairs to tell them we had a defective car.

And the shade of the garage was no longer keeping these four ladies cool.

I asked could I just try once, so we switched seats.

And the car started.

I believe we are now  all clear on how to say, and effectively demonstrate, clutch multilingually.

More to the point we now had air con and were en route to what lay ahead: Uzès.

The drive was beautiful and the approach to the village stunning. But we were completely unprepared for what was really in store. I now understand so much more clearly Frenchie’s love for all that is old and gone – I have always been curious, almost perplexed, by her love for the past. She has described it as a love for the lost innocence of people and places. I have felt more that it was a strange resistance to see the world – for better or for worse – as it is. In some cases I even felt like, and tried unsuccessfully to communicate, that her love for days gone by in places is at best limiting to these places as she insists they not progress in any way for the benefit of maintaining an image of something she wants to hold, rather than a reality she should be able to see. At worst it feels repressive and imperialistic. I know that this is not at all how she feels it or means it and that she would tell me I am up to my tricks of over thinking. This may be true. Either way she is my own Adriana, the one who will always long for some illusive Golden Age.

But walking through the gate (yes, gate) on the narrow, cobbled streets, we were transported.

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I knew I was going to enjoy my time here, in a quaint experiential way. But when I turned to look at Nic I saw something different: she was home. I had never seen someone look so perfectly in situ. She belongs in the South of France… if not now, or forever, definitely right then, Nickie was home.

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After dropping off our things and appreciating the wonderfully familiar home of a person who you’ve never met but in knowing his familiars you know him anyhow, we went out. We wandered around a few of the streets to the place du village. We chose a small taverna and sat down for appetizers and rosé. And there we were: a group of people, sometimes friends, sometimes foes, sometimes family, sometimes allies, sometimes travelers, always simpatico: especially in the moments when we were not so sure.

Over wine and bread and wine and olives and wine we considered if people always have choices or sometimes they don’t. We talked about men in Australia and America and Hong Kong. We talked about the recurring narrative that we could not really believe that we were here in this place, at this time.

There were perfect dark corners and music emanating from them… no mystery men… but it was early.

For the next few days we explored various aspects of this part of Provence. We got a wonderful tip on a restaurant from two women who had been sitting next to us at the taverna, La Table 2 Julien, for which we booked a table later in the week, there were villages of ceramics, open air markets, an arts festival in Avignon, the aqueduct, the Tower of Uzès… the list had the potential to go on and on. And not to be forgotten was the lovely home we had at our disposal.

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I think the myriad options gave rise to the more obvious differences in our various objectives. It would be the first time – to my knowledge (save for the regular disparagement for being American) – that these differences began to be a little prickly and sting as it were. (As I have said before, group work can be a struggle in the best of times.) The result of this was a bit more alone time, or tandem time, which was good for all of us, and required that we make our needs clear, which is another good practice.

I was not giving up the Pont du Gard, nor the ancient garden and tower of Uzès. And food, I wanted all the food, though truth be told I didn’t really want to figure it out in terms of restaurants and meals, I just wanted to eat it. As for road tripping and shopping, I felt like there was enough in our vicinity, but was reminded that I didn’t really know what was in our vicinity, which was an undeniable truth. Still, I was not really excited for hours in the car to spend moments in towns I was not sure I could actually see. But for the potential of greatness (positive spin on F.O.M.O.) we went.

Our day to Avignon was important because my young real estate magnate (aka Frenchie) is looking there for her next purchase, but also because of the Festival d’Avignon, self-proclaimed as “one of the most important contemporary performing arts events in the world.” I think it was impressive, I mean I know it was, it was just all in French. So we eventually went to a dance production. I was far more interested in the history of Avignon, it was the home to the Popes for years and there was a big old Palais des Papes, which I wanted to climb.

I did not get to climb this palace. We did however witness a mad conflict between a bunch of French officials who were trying to oversee a memorial for Jewish soldiers who had died in WWII at the same time that a visiting troupe of Korean drummers and dancers was kicking off in the plaza directly adjacent to and below the memorial. There was a lot of unscripted whistle blowing. It reminded me quite a bit of this for some reason.

Avignon is a walled city along the Rhône River with an interesting and complicated history. While it maintains much of this feel, during the festival it is like one giant billboard.

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Following the show we had a walk and lunch and then I took the liberty to scramble across town in search of a particular show poster that I had been unable to pull from the walls (there were so many posters but the one I wanted of course cost €5.) But this run gave me the chance to see the ramparts and the walls – as you know I do love a walled city.

The city was gorgeous and another one of those places that really takes you back, with winding streets and narrow buildings with the colored window shutters on muted terra-cotta colored buildings. I tried to picture myself living there as we considered different areas where Frenchie might find herself. Every time, as with Uzès, I thought it was lovely and sweet, and positively unlivable. I am just not cut out for the provincial, I guess.

Leaving Avignon we were en route to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This town rates incredibly low on my Fabulous French Review. I would like to say this is because with limited time the parts we saw were totally uncharming… so strange for the part of the world that seems to have a lock on charm… and it was unbearably hot. And we were going the opposite way from Uzès so I was confused. The saving grace was that after a quick stop we drove on to Gordes, a place I would have loved to check out further but it was not to be.

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Someday I will go back to Gordes with one of those mythical mystery men – out the shadows or not.

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Our remaining time in and around Uzès accommodated almost all of our needs in different ways. We went to the Pont du Gard, and it was as fantastic as I could have imagined as we were able to walk through the actual aqueduct. Well, some of us were… somehow one of our tickets had been misplaced and in a strangely non-provincial way, the woman who had sold the ticket suddenly claimed she had no recollection of such and event and she would not let Frenchie through. Nic and I were unaware of this until we had gone through the entire aqueduct and sat wondering how we had lost our friend in a one way tunnel. I was a disappointment, though I am not sure if Frenchie was more disappointed in not going through the aqueduct or in the behavior she declared decidedly UN-French from the guide. The day itself was so stunning, it made up (almost) for this mishap.

The Pont du Gard is: an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River in the south of France. Located near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard, the bridge is part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 50-kilometer system built in the first century AD to carry water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes) Because of the uneven terrain between the two points, the mostly underground aqueduct followed a long, winding route that called for a bridge across the gorge of the Gardon River. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and, along with the Aqueduct of Segovia, one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO‘s list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 because of its historical importance. (wiki FTW)

And basically I just wanted to walk around saying: What have the Romans ever done for us? [“The aqueduct?”]

It was one of the coolest things I have seen. Along with the mural of world heritage sites that listed French gastronomy as one of them. Oh France.

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In our last full day I was able to explore the medieval garden of Uzès which is between the ancient King’s Tower and Bishop’s Tower – formerly used as a prison among other things. This tower I got to climb.

After spending a little bit of time by myself in the medieval garden and exploring the King’s prison and the Bishop’s tower I headed back to our flat. For our last night all together in the south of France we would be driving to Nimes to see Sting perform at the ancient Arenes de Nimes. The drive was easy and the parking was fortuitous. If only choosing an outfit would have been so easy.

We stopped for a light dinner beforehand, although by this time I had waited too long and was crabby from hunger and nitpicking. This is the thing about being in a group: sometimes little things go unnoticed and sometimes they don’t and sometimes they just build up. It is usually in these situations I find that the inconsequential breaks the levee and emotions are misdirected and further misinterpreted. For public consumption, I’ll just say, the one person who I snapped at was not the one I meant to… And I needed a time out.

Or champagne. Champagne is generally a good alternative.

There is no mood that the Arenes de Nimês could not conquer, which for the setting seems completely appropriate.

Built in the year 70 (C.E.) for gladiator combats, animal slayings and executions it was fortified and held by the Visigoths after the fall of the Roman Empire. By the 700s it enclosed a fortified palace and eventually a small neighborhood was established within the amphitheater; home to around 700 people. In 1863 it was remodelled to serve as a bullring and today it is still used for this (gross) practice as well as lots of other public events. It is 130 m. by 100 m. and can seat 16,300. And it has sections still called the vomitoires. Which is obviously awesome. [These are the seats adjacent to the lower level tunnels that facilitate the exits.]

When we arrived the setting was simply breathtaking and this was before we even saw Sting (although, the hipster beard he is now sporting is less breathtaking… but he’s still totally hot. It’s the yoga, I know it.) The show was great, the crowd was entertaining, the weather was perfect. It was a lovely last night in Provence.

The next morning we woke up knowing that we would be heading out our separate ways. Nic and her sister were off to Bruges, Frenchie and I to Spain by way of Marseille. I got up early to walk around the village one last time and bid adieu to Uzès.

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On my return we were readying to go and people were packed, the house reassembled, and we were off.

Except the keys to the house were missing.

Like, totally gone.

Although there were some mild time constraints – more for us than for Nic and Sam who would be spending the night in Nimês – we basically had time. And how hard could it be to find a set of keys?

Suddenly we were looking everywhere. In packed luggage. In garbage. Under furniture. In the toilet.

No keys.

Of course, it was hard not to look to Frenchie who, without intentionally casting aspersions, I might suggest has had some struggles around losing misplacing items. Everybody was verklempt.

Still, no keys.

Until… there they were. On the kitchen table. Albeit, under the tablecloth, but they were there. It was relief incomparable to much I could think of save for having to pee so bad you think you might die and then finding a bathroom. And not dying.

So we were off. Back to Nimês to share a tearful goodbye with our friends and then to the train for Marseille. There was much to unpack – emotionally and experimentally. We had seen so much of Provence and seen how differently people see the same things. There were moments that were challenging and others delicious and still others that were transformative, and some that simply eliminated the need for words.

I suspect those are precisely the sentiments that define travel.

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