Saturday, February 14, 2009

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

Unemployment - Day 40 in Human Days; Day 29 in Business Days

It’s been 7 hours and 40 days…since they took my job away.

"I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan.  I'm going home to my city by the bay.  I left my heart in San Francisco..."

It is Valentine's Day in San Francisco and I can't get Tony Bennett out of my head.  No job, no Valentine, and a new city make for one contemplative gal.   While I may not have come to San Francisco with a Valentine, I am certainly leaving this city with one.

The love affair began as soon as I arrived on Wednesday night and has been hot and heavy since.  Well, more like cold and rainy, but you get the idea.  Nothing like 50 degrees with a 110% chance of showers to get you in the mood!  (Mental note: Bikini and sandals not required for next trip to San Francisco in February.  Heck, razor not required either.   The standard uniform seems to be a North Face vest.   Sigh.  What’s a NYC girl to do?  But as we say in the dating world, that’s “fixable.”   Like bad facial hair on an awesome guy – fixable.)

So I can get past your lackluster fashion.  Especially since it's been years since I've fallen this hard.  I know the makings of that uncontrollable ‘L’ word all too well.  I recognize this bud immediately for what it is.  Crap – I am falling in love yet again.  As I walk up your hills, in and out of your shops and down toward your bay, my heart swells.   My chest pounds with excitement as I turn each corner, wrapped in your arms of fog.   There’s something thrilling about only being able to see two feet in front of my face.  Anything can happen – good or bad – and I walk into you blindly.

You reveal yourself to me one fog-a-licious piece at a time.  City Lights, Chinatown, The Mission…all worth the burn in my thighs and damage to my new boots…the effects of navigating your steep streets.  Working this hard to get from one place to the next makes each destination that much more pleasurable.   Even Alcatraz adds to your allure…a bad boy side to your clean-cut, ever-recycling self.  Heart, have you met Sleeve?  Oh yes, says Heart.  I live on this gal’s Sleeve.

I imagine that I’m living here with you.  Spending every day with you.  I could do it.  I could just leave NYC.  Cara, my amazing friend and tour guide, tells me that in San Francisco, people don’t care if you’re an i-banker or a barista at Starbucks – everyone hangs out with everybody.  And it’s a rare thing for people to talk about their work when they’re being social. How delightfully European!   What a wonderful thing, I think, particularly since I don’t have any work to talk about these days.   My typical NYC conversation these days goes like this:

Potentially Awesome Guy with Soul Patch (fixable):  So what do you do for a living? I’m an i-banker who pulls in 200k before bonus.

Awesome Gal Who Has Taken Great Care to Remove Facial Hair:  I don’t do anything right now.  (awkward chuckle, flip of curls)

Potentially Awesome Guy with Soul Patch (fixable):  But what do you do for money?

Awesome Gal Who Has Taken Great Care to Remove Facial Hair:  I collect unemployment. For now. But I have great potential…um, as an earner. And as a creator. I think I’ve got a novel in me. And a film. It’s a post-apocalyptic comedy of errors.


Awesome Gal Who Has Taken Great Care to Remove Facial Hair:  And I’ve got birthing hips.


Awesome Gal Who Has Taken Great Care to Remove Facial Hair:  And a flat-screen TV. With HD.

Bueller? Potentially Awesome scratches his soul patch and checks Blackberry.   Not so awesome after all.

I think of Manhattan briefly and wonder if it’s thinking about me.  Does it miss me?  Does it even know I’m gone?  Will it accuse me upon my return of cheating on its mean streets?  Or does it barely notice I’m not there what with its 8 million other lovers?

My friend Cara volunteers at the Old First Church in San Francisco.  She goes there on Saturdays and serves dinner to the homeless.  Her friend Jeff and his dad cook this dinner for 150 people.  On Valentine’s Day, I went with her to serve dinner.   I was already in love with this city, but I wanted to see a side that tourists don’t see.   It’s easy to fall in love when all you see is a beautiful, cobble-stoned marina and a quaint farmer’s market with over-priced gourmet fig spreads (and chilaciles that makes you think you’ve died and gone to scrambled egg heaven).  I wanted to see all of San Francisco.   I’d rather know my lover’s idiosyncrasies and dirty little secrets sooner rather than suffer shock and disappointment later.  (Jaded?  Who, me?)

I’m not gonna lie – homeless people smell.   Not good. But so many of the people I met on Valentine’s Day weren’t “bums.”  Many were just people down on their luck.  A job lost, some poor planning, and bam – you’re out on the street.  I talked to a man named Arthur.   That’s my dad’s name, I told him.  And I’m Barri.  Why’d your dad name such a pretty girl after a boy?, he asked.   He told me it was a shame for a beautiful woman like myself to only come to the church dinner once, but that he just might move to New York City to see me again.   I laughed.  To my surprise, it wasn’t a fake laugh.  He asked what I did for a living and I said that I’m out of work right now.  He looked at me and nodded.  That’s tough, he said.   It’s not easy.   But you’re a bright gal, you’ll get back on your feet…just don’t forget who you are.  He didn’t quite understand why I was serving dinner to a bunch of homeless men on a Saturday night, and Valentine’s Day to boot!  You could be out seeing the city, he said.   I think you’re out of your mind to be here.   But I thank you for it.

And so my love this Valentine’s Day is San Francisco.  My Valentines are my friend Cara and all of the lovely people she introduced to me…Arthur and all the other diners at the Old First Church…and the city of San Francisco itself.  But the next time I come home to you, San Francisco, it'd be swell if, as Tony says, “your golden sun would shine for me.”  In the meantime, I leave a piece of my heart with you.

Jobless City Adventure – Serve Homeless Dinner in San Francisco
Money Saved: Cost of Dinner, ~ $50. Experience: priceless


  1. Followed the link from Drunk and in charge of a bike. That About Me is precious. And as former San Franciscan (raised in the Bay Area, now in L.A.) I love hearing about all the things to love there (Like walking by the Arboretum one ultra foggy early morning while the lonely notes of someone playing some elegant Italian tune on an accordian in one of the pedestrian underpasses).

    Keep going. The job will come. And you'll always have the love.

  2. Glad you fell for SF the way I knew you would.
    I don't know if you saw it, but I happened to leave my heart there too many years ago.