My flight left Toronto around dinner time in a white-out blizzard; March coming in like a lion. I haven't been frightened on an airplane in a while, much to the bewilderment of all of my friends and family who've seen me paralyzed with fear about flying since the Air India Bombing when I was 10 years old. Apparently years of therapy really do pay off [albeit slowly].
The storm had me gripping the arm rests. I closed my eyes and discretely [or so I thought] said a little something to G-D. When I opened them again after the plane had leveled, the man next to me was smiling at me sympathetically. He reached across and covered my hand with his. Such an intimate gesture from a strange man caught me off guard and it took everything I had not to draw back like I'd touched a hot stove. I smiled and nodded, a gesture of appreciation, and only then did I take my hand away.
My empty stomach rumbled and I shifted in my seat. Before we boarded I'd asked at least three fellow passengers if it was even possible to be taking off in this weather. Only one said yes. The others just shrugged and I wished they could have just feigned parental confidence for me. Across the aisle, just to my right, there was a dark haired women in her forties fiercely reading a book called 'Women and ADD' and highlighting passages. Great, I thought. This waiting must be hell for her already and the flight has barely begun.
The night before I left, I dreamt I was sitting on the plane and it was shifting horizontially and undulating in the sky. I tried to pretend I was a seasoned traveler and everything was fine. The dream came back to me just after takeoff. There was turbulence for the first hour and a half. I had to pee badly but they wouldn't let us out of our seats. Trembling and barrelling through the black night seemed all the more dire with a full bladder.
The man next to me was sitting in the window seat, and the way his computer screen reflected againsty the oval window, out of the corner of my eye, looked like city lights below, which I found vaguely comforting. I let it sooth me the way I soothed myself sometimes as a child, softly tickling my wrists in half-sleep.
Partway through watching Casino Royale, the in-flight entertainment [which was more than enough for me], the turbulence had died off and it dawned on me that the 'turbulence' in my dream was more of a slow and heavy side to side rocking. What if it wasn't really turbulence that my dream was about? We were, after all, landing shortly in San Francisco, not only the land of bohemians, expensive housing, great burritos, and wine country. It is earthquake central. I couldn't get the Joni Mitchell song, The Flight Tonight, out of my head:
Turn this crazy bird around
I shouldn't have got on this flight tonight
I pushed away earthquakes and dried my sweating palms and passed the time reading some Mordecai Richler.
We landed safely in my version of paradise. The days were mild and sunny, mostly spent walking the hilly sea-side streets of the city. Not a moment of energy was expended on stress. It was like I was a different person. Even coming home wasn't weighted by the usual Sunday [times a thousand] sadness.
I fit a lot into those nine days and I loved every moment of it. The weather was impeccable. Blue skies and warm days, The best part of it was that I got to experience it all with my sister. There were redwoods, eucalyptus, palm trees, and vineyards carpeted in mustard flower.
There was the ocean, which always puts things into perspective for me. In San Fran you can see the water from almost everywhere you go.
We tasted amazing wine, went to eat at some great places, like Ad Hoc in Yountville, owned by celebrity chef Thomas Keller. That was a great night, although my favourite still was the mission street burrito. See? I'm so easy to please.
I met my first blogger friend, who showed me around one of my favourite areas of the city, North Beach. What a great guy, and smart, let me tell you. Turns out meeting blogger friends isn't nearly as scary as a blind date. I guess in that department I'm well practiced.
I also met some other interesting people when I went to a random purim party in the mission district. I walked the streets of nob hill, russian hill, chinatown, fisherman's market, we drove down palm-lined Dolores, one of my favourite streets in the city, went to the Precidio, Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach, the De Young Museum, and Sausalito.
In Vegas, the landscape was incredible but the din of casino noises and over-fed chain-smoking tourists really got on my nerves after about fifteen minutes. I did however spend a great deal of time at the free, 'learn how to play poker' table at the Mirage, taking lessons from Maureen, a 25 year veteran dealer. I bet she could tell a story or two. We also spent a lot of time walking the strip and somehow never getting very far [?]. The highlight for me was taking a chopper to the grand canyon. Incredible. I'd like to go back and do the hike. Nevermind, I'd like to fly a chopper.
Everywhere I go I like to think about whether or not I could see myself living there. I could live in Vegas if I never had to go near the strip. I would spend my time in my backyard pool or swimming in Lake Mead, rock climbing, or hiking.
I could live in San Francisco in a flash, but would probably be forced to live in a fourth-floor walk-up studio in the Tenderloin district and still pay 1700 dollars a month in rent.
Or I could move to Daly City, but then I might as well just stay here, which isn't so damn bad [thanks to the daily dose for reminding me of that].