Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sonoma, Scribe, and the Seashore

Weekends are the coolest. But you know what's just as cool? A random Thursday that you decide to take off of work because one of your best friends comes into town last minute. This is exactly what I did one week ago today with my friend Ian, who was in town from Brooklyn. Our day began early and with a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge. Endless possibilities awaited us on the other side:

First stop? Breakfast with our friends Jen, Sarah and Dana at the Fremont Diner in Sonoma. This is one of those places I pull up to in the car and say: how have I never been here? There was talk of biscuits:

and pancakes...

and then there was the eating of the biscuits and the pancakes.

You can't put an old pick-up truck outside of a diner and not expect people to hop right onto it. Sarah, Ian and I posed for the camera (which happens to be my BRAND NEW IPHONE!!! ...more on that later).

We then ventured down what felt like an old dirt road to Scribe, the winery where Jen works. Fun side note about Jen: back in the day, Jen and I went to junior high school together. Her family then relocated to the east coast. I stayed put in L.A., went to college in Maine (where I met and became best buds with Ian), moved back to L.A. for a minute, and then lived in Portland, Maine for about a year before moving to my beloved SF.

During one Portland night, I met up with Ian and some friends at a bar called Heart. Who was sitting at the table with them? Jen! Out of the clear blue sky a vision from my adolescence appeared. We played a quick game of: what, who, how?! Jen spent summers in Maine and since Ian is what I call the "Prince of Mount Desert Island" he was bound to meet her someday and become friends. Small world. Even smaller was when within a month of my living in SF, I run into Jen at a poetry reading. Small world indeed.

So, Jen being her gracious self, invited us all to the winery for some tasting and exploring. Whether you like wine or not, Scribe is a wonderful place to be.

Fresh, wildflower bouquets on every wooden table.

Spectacular views every which way you looked.

Decorative vignettes in the most unexpected places!

Sarah, my lovely friend (another one of my BFFs from Bates), also saw good reason to take the day off. She made the trek out to Sonoma all the way from her farm near Sacramento.

Her sweet friend Dana was visiting from out of town as well, so she was also with us (Dana in the cute hat). So much love!

Me and Jen, mid-pose.

Sarah, mid-swing.

After offering us a tasting of a few delicious wines, Jen had to get back to work. She told us to wander the property, leading us in the direction of the Hacienda, which is basically an abandoned old house.

It might have been empty and uninhabited, but this place sure had its charm.

Dried flowers never looked so well-placed.

This room reminded me of how much I love wallpaper.

The view from the second floor. For all the Dickens fans out there, this place was straight off the pages of Great Expectations. It's as if we were in Miss Havisham's house.

After Scribe, we hadn't had nearly enough of each other. Once we'd hugged and kissed Jen goodbye, we took a long windy road west. Our destination was Point Reyes, one of my personal havens. We only had a few hours before we needed to be back in the city, so we made the most of our afternoon with a hike along the seashore.

Ian and me, looking well-worn from an adventurous day. It started to rain a little bit which was actually quite cozy. A little drizzle didn't stop us from enjoying the sights.


Oh, yes, the flood! Yes, indeed, the trail was flooded. We did see some FLOODING signs on our way into the park, but we naturally disregarded anything in our way. Luckily, I have some brave friends and they were prepared to walk through the muck. Knee-deep muck. I'm slightly less advanced and asked Ian for a piggy-back ride through the water. He was so sweet to say yes. And everyone (Ian, Jen, Dana and Sarah) was so sweet to spend the day with me. Last Thursday reminds me of a quote from Great Expectations that I believe sums up the powers of a special day:

"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."

-Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Here's to long chains of iron or gold, of thorns and of flowers...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Magazine: Mess or Muse?

It's April which means I'm in Spring cleaning mode. I do this every year. Go through piles of papers and throw away what feels like hundreds of pounds of clutter. It feels so good. This year I have a goal: to remove negative space from my apartment and replace it with positive space. Negative space is what I refer to as those areas that have no purpose: that rocking chair that gets littered with clothing, that one corner that has a vacancy sign for dust bunnies, or that kitchen drawer filled with junk and old candy. Maybe now you can see why my apartment needs a face-lift?

One way to create positive space is to put to use all of the inspiration I've "collected" over time. As it happens, I've aquired some magazines over the past year. Lots of Vogue, Vanity Fair, W, Bazaar. Some bought for long flights, some bought in moments of weakness, when I just needed to smile. Needless to say, they served their purpose. In the wake of new beginnings, is it possible that they can be re-purposed?

In the midst of cleaning my apartment I realized I don't need them anymore (French Vogue excluded) because they take up too much space and I can't picture flipping through them ever again. Side note: when I was younger, I used to collect magazines (mostly Bride magazines ;) and stack them high as towers. It became hoarder-esque and I'm forever fearful of recreating such bad habits.

Thus, the magazines must go. The inspiration doesn't have to though! I went through the magazines and ripped out the images that spoke to me. I'm planning to make an inspiration board out of what I find. Here's the takeaway: negative space = these gorgeous images inside magazines, unopened, suffocated and stuffed in a closet. Positive space = these images, out in the open, breathing positive energy into my apartment. And so the inspiration begins!

Here are some of the gems I've collected:

Inspired by her summery look.

Inspired by Liv Tyler's poise, bottom right corner.

Inspired by how these women lean.

Inspired by the fun and flirty way these women take the street.

This spread was epic. Need I say more?

Inspired by the set-up of this bathroom and the copper ware in the kitchen.

Inspired by these beautifully natural actresses.

Inspired by the flower burst!

Inspired by this reminder of forever summer.

Inspired by Gwyneth always, especially this sweater.

Inspired by this exquisitely dressed woman on a bicycle.

Inspired by Bardot.

It took a few days, but I finally got rid of all of the magazines! Already my apartment feels lighter, fresher, and happier. While organizing, I've taken all of my clippings and placed them in gorgeous new folders I bought at my local art store, Flax, for this very purpose.

Tell me, readers, how's your magazine stack these days? Organized like antique books on a bookshelf? Or waiting to be opened, in search of inspiration?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Great Job. A Golden One.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Symbolic. Historic. Absolutely insane to bike over on the weekends now that the bike lane is closed until May. I had no idea of the closure on Sunday morning when I put on my spandex shorts, pumped up my tires and hit the road for a leisurely ride to Marin and back. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no idea that my tolerance and patience would be tested to such a degree that I had to take a deep breath and ask: what's this really about?

Let's start at the beginning: For as long as I've lived in San Francisco, biking over the Golden Gate Bridge has been one of my favorite past-times. Not only does it represent freedom and leisure, but it connects my love for the city to my love of nature. One ride over the bridge and the natural world is yours! Beaches, mountains, lakes, hiking, waterfalls, wildlife. The list goes on.

As I left my house on that crisp and clear morning, I anticipated all of my favorite things about the ride: the quietness of the early morning Mission, braving the Arguello Hill, cruising through the Presidio, among the Eucalyptus and Cypress trees. As I approached the bridge, I felt as I usually feel: I made it! Can't wait to bike over it!

Then I noticed something strange. The bike lane (on the western span and only open on weekends) looked empty. Where were all the helmets, the wheels, the spandex? Then, I saw the signs. No specific mention of closure, but the reality of sharing. This is typical on a weekday: bikers and pedestrians must make do, together, with the eastern span. Normally this isn't too much of a struggle because the biking and tourist traffic isn't too heavy Monday through Friday. Sunday though? A beautiful, sunny Sunday in San Francisco? I smell trouble...

Pedestrians aside, I've experienced some crazy things simply in the bike lane in my time. Hardcore cyclists (spandex, whistles) navigating the less hardcore bikers (chilled out, maybe wearing flip flops). I'd like to say I've been both, but I don't bike with a whistle in my mouth. Tourists on rented bikes, stopping to take pictures, breaking the flow. I've even biked across on a tandem, fighting blaring wind and dense fog.

You get the idea? (pic from June 2010)

Sunday was something different. First of all, they've split the lane into "two lanes." Bikes on the westside, pedestrians on the east. Now, let me translate that: bikers biking at full speed towards each other and people on foot, stepping in to the bike lane, oblivious to everything. Of course they're oblivious. They're walking across one of the most famous and beautiful structures in the world. They're looking north to the Marin Headlands, East to Alcatraz, and South to the skyline. They're going about their walk in their merry own ways. This gorgeous landmark (and city) brings TONS of people in for viewing. I'm happy to share.

Or was I on Sunday? Here we go. Let's begin again: full disclosure. I was frustrated, fearful even. Pedestrians were driving me bonkers. Right as I realized what I was dealing with, I figured it would take me twice the amount of time it normally does to go over and back. Like all the other bikers, I spent most of time with one foot on the petal and the other on the ground, waiting until it was safe to ride. Once I achieved some momentum (in my "quarter" of the lane) someone would hop into "my" lane, causing me to brake fast (I didn't know which was worse—picturing a collision of my own or the thought of a pile-up behind me—caused by my sudden stop).

Eventually, I made it North (yay, view!) and then it was time to turn around again. I took a different approach on my way back. Maybe I can enjoy myself and not be so afraid/angry/accident-prone. I tried to use slowness as a tool. Take in the beauty, observe the tourists seeing the bridge for the first time. Lucky them, I thought (or tried to think). I also took advantage of my "new" lane—the "quarter" farthest to the west. Instead of constantly stopping, I was able to simply lean my body to the right and use the red ropes as a cushion. Who was I kidding? This is ridiculous, I thought.

I tried and tried to be patient, but suddenly my worse self came out (and I've often said that sharing the lane w/ bikes and pedestrians on the GG bridge brings out the worst in me). I felt defensive, yelling "Single file! Walk in single file!!!" Who was I to make those rules? And what was I thinking "my lane." None of it's mine. But clearly, I had zero perspective. I was even acting crazy, yelling "On your left, on your left" when I was actually on their right. I started laughing.

Then, I hit my breaking point. Bikers coming at me, tons of bikers behind me, pedestrians in my lane, blind spots up ahead, people with ear phones in their ears, families, children, sudden wave of vertigo!!! I pulled over. Like the slow leader of a pack of cars on a curvy road, I found my turnout and used it. Why couldn't I keep up? What am I so scared of? Why am I so frustrated with everyone on this path? Why am I saying "this is psychotic, this is psychotic" over and over in my head? Then, something happened. Once I pulled over in shame, the sweet, bearded biker behind me (who probably just came from the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes) said: "You're going a great job." Really? I thought, and searched for sarcasm in his voice but couldn't find it anywhere.

Then I realized what was happening. All the while I was worrying about the bikers in front of me, the bikers behind me, the pedestrians to my left, right, in my face—I wasn't even thinking about my experience. I was worried that I was in the way, that I was causing every spandex clad bad-ass on the bridge to roll their eyes at me. Why? They were just gettin' by, like me. You're doing a great job? Really? What he should have said was: "You're doing a great job, but can you just enjoy yourself a little more?" Like in a Woody Allen movie, I fantastically picture all the cyclists in his pack shaking their heads in agreement.

About half way through my southward ride over the bridge, I thought: What? am I going to let the bike lane closure prevent me from riding over the bridge until the end of May? I think not! Suddenly, I let go of the fear. I'm not going to hit that pack of teenagers because I'm going slow, taking my time, soaking in this beautiful day. We're all in this together. Spandex. Rental. Feet. Walking shoes. Tricycle. Cameras. Posing for pictures. Aw, how cute I was finally able to think. Soon I made it back to land. Here I am now wishing I could have it back again.

At one point during the ride, I watched as a sweet family on rented bikes approached the lane. A young boy (maybe 6 years old) on his small rented bike looked fearful, hesitant—like he knew. His mother, curious where their little guy was, looked back and said, "it's okay, honey, it's okay." At the time, I thought: NO, it's not okay! This biking experience is a freak-show. DO NOT ENTER! He did though and, in the end, he did a great job. He'll always be able to say, "When I was six I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge with my family." He won't remember the crowd, the yelling, the whistles. Because it's a memory and he doesn't have to.

Me in the Presidio. I might be over the bridge, but the ride is just beginning.