The Authenticity Experiment, the City edition. Last week, I spent the night San Francisco—“the City,” as everyone in the Bay Area calls it. The City—as if there is no other city in the world. But I’ll tell you, on a morning when the tide is out and the fog is burning off, and you step onto O’Farrell Street and cut up and over to Union Square, the impatient honk of cars startling your small town self (and don’t kid yourself, Portland is a small town compared to any other city on the West Coast), the smell of Chinese restaurant grease and garbage assaulting your nose, the clang and grind of the cable cars lifting your heart up, up, up and over California Street, a cup of strong coffee in your hand as you stride past businessmen and bag ladies and queer street corner poets slamming out poems, and Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Salvadoran, Black, and White—the rainbow of who we are—when you are in San Francisco on a morning like this, there is no other city in the world.
The day before, I drove into the City across the Bay Bridge, thinking hard of my father as a young Naval Lieutenant when I passed the exit for Treasure Island. He’d been stationed there most of the time and, I swear to you, I could feel him in the car with me, his presence that palpable, feel the warm best of my father fill my chest. Then I remembered floating in a yellow sea kayak in the chop of the Bay, near Cavallo Point, dumping a Mason jar of his ashes into the blue green, looking up at the Golden Gate 245 feet above me and glancing at Treasure Island behind me. I remembered him telling me that mixed drinks used to cost a quarter. No wonder everyone back then was alcoholic. A quarter for a scotch and soda. No wonder esophageal cancer.
I left the city heading towards that most iconic of bridges. As I drove out, I thought about my mother, about her life here 55 years ago. Crossing Polk Street, what was the name of her gay hairdresser, the one who knew how to backcomb the hell out of her hair (of course he did). Turning right on Franklin, where was her apartment? Here near the top of the hill, I’m certain, closer to Geary, before Franklin drops to Van Ness. Left on Van Ness, heading Northwest now towards the only bridge that makes me tear up a little each time I see it, the sun shining on the green Marin Headlands and a rainbow touching down in Sausalito. The Palace of Fine Arts just visible between white apartment houses and a grove of redwoods, the long ago picnic there where a three year-old Jule cried when we told her she couldn’t grow up to be a bird (and the Tines telling me 43 years later that I should have said, Jule could have been a bird if she wanted, her soul could fly even if her body couldn’t).
Now, the concrete barriers funneling cars down to three lanes and onto the Bridge (you know, the only bridge there is in the only city there is). While I love the St. Johns Bridge—it is the most beautiful in Portland—nothing compares to the majesty of the Golden Gate. These towers are massive—46 stories above the bridge deck—so much taller than anything in Portland, and the cables a feat of engineering even today, much less in 1937 when the bridge opened.
But it is the constant sound the tires make as they cross the flexible spans on the bridge deck that soothe me and throw me back to being nine years old and riding without a seatbelt in the back seat of my father’s tan Lincoln Continental while Pete Fountain played Dixieland on the 8-track tape player. The tires sound like a heartbeat as first the front and then the back ones hit the metal spacers. Bump, bump. Bump, bump. Over and over. All the way across the bridge and into Marin. The heartbeat of this place calling me—calling all my family—home once again.
#DarkAndLight #AuthenticityExperiment #KateCarrolldeGutes
Do me a favor, will you? If you read Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear and you liked it, will you please write a review of it on Amazon. Yes, they’re evil, but Powell’s wouldn’t stock my book until after I won the OBA (and they still don’t have it in the store, just online), so all my online reviews are on Amazon. And if I get more than 50 reviews on Amazon, it drastically changes how they promote the book in search rankings. You can just write a single line—”I love this book! It changed my life.” (Okay, that’s two lines, but you know.) You just can’t say you know me or the review is disqualified.
If you haven’t read the book, you can buy a signed copy directly from me or order from Broadway Books, Another Read Through, or Annie Bloom’s Books (indie bookstores who have been big supporters and helped spread the news about my book), then review it on Amazon.