Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Culture shock, just a little.
My plane from Tokyo was diverted to San Francisco because of the snowstorm. The pilot came on the mic about an hour before we were supposed to land and said that braking at PDX was nil. That didn't sound so hot, considering what happened in Denver with no ice, so to SFO we went.
As we were waiting in line at the NWA ticket counter to get our hotel vouchers, a friendly woman named Jeanette struck up a conversation with me, engaging the other passengers around us, and talking my ear off. On the shuttle, she gave me $2 to tip the driver, since I didn't have any singles. The driver, grinning, drove us badly to the hotel, stopping ten minutes into his route to fuel up the rig. The clerks at the hotel were brusque, verging on rude. One called Ashika sighed as she checked us in, as if we were ruining her day by taking up rooms.
I waited for 30 minutes in the rain for a bus to take me from South San Francisco into the city. After I got on, a scruffy man with sweat-stained clothes and five-day stubble said "Hey baby, how you doing?" to me. Of course, I immediately gave him my number.
I got off at 20th and Potrero and walked through a fine drizzle to my old neighborhood, the Mission district. I gorged myself on murals and, sated with art, browsed in little shops on Valencia on my way down to my final destination, and the main reason for braving public transportation into the city on this unexpected visit.
I arrived at Papalote, my favorite burrito joint. Every San Franciscan has a favorite spot to feast on Mission burritos; Papalote is mine. The food is fresh, the salsa is spicy, and I don't worry that tongue or tripe drippings are going to sneak their way into my veggies.
At the taqueria, which was filled with the expected Valencia hipsters, I overheard lots of conversations at the tables around me. Topics varied, but not much. They included reincarnation, and, "How are you planning on changing that? Yoga? Meditation?" and "You might THINK you're happy in the relationship, but you're not." It's good to be back.