The difference is perspective. This is not new information. This morning as I was walking through the neighborhood to go to the bank, the coffee shop, the bakery, I was thinking about the coffee in Southeast Asia. I was thinking about how the Vietnamese coffee is roasted with sugar and butter and you have to use a special t up to brew it. Noah and Trinh taught me how. And I thought about the sweetened condensed milk and how it always seems like the coffee was an afterthought if you did not say “no milk!” Walking around in cool morning air on a day that would probably be warm, but was strangely chemically overcast for San Francisco considering these details reminded me so much of Ubud, Saigon, Hanoi, Xian, Shanghai, Bangkok, Kota Kinabalu, sipadan, Vientiane, Luang Prabang. Bad coffee.
Sometimes bad is good.
I had gotten on the subject because we saw someone wring by with a McDonald’s bag and I joked and said, we could go to McDonald’s. He answered back saying he would like to say that he would never again have coffee from McDonald’s. Or 7-11. Then he rethought it and said, well you never know I guess. I knew what he meant though. I told him about how I used to have to take the 5:30 am ferry to get to my yoga class in Hong Kong that started at 7:00 because the next ferry would get me there too late. And so I always had this strange 45 minutes of very quiet early morning time in Happy Valley where nothing was open except for McDonald’s, and so I would go to the McCafe and get coffee. How was it, he wanted to know. I don’t know, I answered. You know, like I don’t totally remember. I mostly remember just having this little bit of totally quiet time where the light was coming up and there were just a few people around. Sometimes I would go sit near the park outside the race track and watch people do tai chi. It seemed like it was always sweeter than it should have been. The coffee I mean. Even though I never put sugar in it. But then, so much in Asia was always sweeter than it should have been, especially the coffee.
Sometimes when I look around my neighborhood, especially on Mission Street in the morning, I can get that feeling I used to feel who I was walking around cities in far away places early in the morning. My neighborhood can be very “developing nation” in aesthetic, if you know what I mean. And I have always had a penchant for the seemingly unplanned juxtaposition of old/new, rich/poor, clean/dirty. Your basic urban experience. [Excluding SNG, of course.]
This morning I grasped more urgently at the familiar feeling: early morning, city, far away, edgy, dirty, perhaps. I was almost there, walking along Sukhumvit, looking for a coffee shop or a street stall to get some fresh fruit. But then it was gone. I was in San Francisco after all, in my own neighborhood, knowing exactly where I was going and what I would be doing this fine ombre day in my city by the bay.
Sometimes good is bad.
This frustrates me, sometimes even depresses me. Here is me chasing my dragon. In the midst of considering how the sidewalk between 23rd and 24th on Mission could be a sidewalk in so many other places, it hit me. The difference was not in the observations of what is certainly one thing or another. The difference is the mindset of being far afield. No matter where I have traveled, or how much I have planned on said travels, there is a permanent sense of the unknown as I walk down those distant streets. It is the simple notion that anything could happen and that I could literally do anything I want. Truthfully, that is a load of horse shit, but the feeling is always there. When I was traveling and I would be running out of money it was fun, like an adventure or a puzzle… What would I, or maybe we, do next. When that happens here, I just feel like a loser. I am confused as to what leads to this difference. There when scheduling or transport snafus happened, it was all part of the experience. Here, when stuff goes awry it is a total shitshow. And stressful.
And that is it. That is the entire grass is greener thing I was trying to get at a few weeks back. It is the completely voluntary choice to believe that right now, right this very minute, I could do whatever I want to do – and that anything could happen. This reality remains constant in both scenarios, particularly the anything could happen element. It is hilarious when one takes a moment to consider it; that we eliminate the possibility that anything could happen because we think we know exactly what is going to go down only because we are in a more familiar place. Here I have to… do all these things, meet all these people, take care of all this shit. Just like what my friends would say to me from here while I was there. And there… I have all these things I can do, all these people I can see, and all these things I can manage because I am experienced. Just like I hear all my friends who are there say, when I am here.
Sometimes good is good. Or maybe it just is.
*written a few weeks back, if that matters.