Did a Light Show Shed Some Light on My True Colors?

This summer marks the fiftieth anniversary of the “Summer of Love.” Over the past five decades, San Francisco has definitely undergone some changes but still, in the wake of all the advancements and setbacks, there are a few things that have remained the same.

You’ll still find picturesque houses with ornamentation along the rooftops and large bay windows. You’ll still find clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl down at the wharf. And you’ll still find that defining hippie spirit.

In fact, just across the street from my apartment, a group of ‘eccentrics’ (ranging from ten-year-olds to 70-year-olds) gather on Sundays to enjoy the sunshine and to roller skate to their favorite hits. With nods to the ‘70s in the clothes they wear, the songs they jam from a giant boom box and the choreographed dances they perform on their four-wheeled footwear, they are a weekly reminder that we still appreciate the idea of LOVE being the greatest power we have here.

So it’s not surprising that this city has pulled out all the stops to commemorate the official “Summer of Love” that took place fifty years ago. An exhibit at the De Young museum has been complemented by multiple events, including a free concert and light show at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park last Wednesday. The event was a donation to the city and its residents, as a gesture of goodwill and appreciation for that oh, so defining decade by a private entity. What that means in plain English? None of our tax dollars were required to make this event happen.

If that’s not a show of love, I don’t know what is.

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2017 seems like the perfect year to be commemorating and encouraging positivity. It’s no secret that the world has seen a lot of the opposite recently and that we need all the love we can get. It is also the year that I chose to turn my own personal perspective around (I know, it’s all about me, right?). Narcissism aside, ever since I can remember, I’ve been a pessimist. I am a Capricorn, after all. But this year, I decided that I didn’t want to live like that anymore and that I could choose to see the positive side to things.

I thought about all of my own faults; regrettable actions I’d made because of the circumstances I was in rather than my lack of concern for the people around me. This introspection really made me think. Why was I so quick to blame, judge, and condemn those around me, when I had no idea what their own circumstances were?

So, in the New Year, I made an effort to be more forgiving of the people around me and to try to catch myself whenever I felt my passive-aggressive, moody tendencies take hold. Overall, I feel like it’s been going well. I’m even called “The Positive One” at work and my coworkers don’t believe I have a cynical bone in my body. How’s that for a resolution realized?

So, when I suddenly found myself back to my old curmudgeon-y ways at Wednesday’s Summer of Love events, I had to think to myself… had I not changed at all? Had all of this optimistic, benefit-of-the-doubting been an act? Had I fooled myself into thinking that I could create my own positivity?

The negativity started as soon as I saw the crowd of people gathered in the conservatory of flowers. The sheer number of bodies immediately stirred an angry reaction within me. I did not want them there.

But, taking a moment to reflect on my reaction, I asked myself, why wouldn’t I be happy that all of these people were here to celebrate the idea of love? Why wouldn’t I want to share that same positivity with not only everyone who had shown up there that evening, but everyone in the entire city, in the entire world!

Phew! Crisis averted.

Scoping things out, my friend and I secured a spot on the small hill right down from the Conservatory of Flowers, walking distance from Bunny Meadows. I breathed out a sigh of relief. Okay, I could relax now. We had a spot. There was absolutely nothing to be stressed about. I could sit back and enjoy the free music that radiated from the stage in front of me—was that Norman Greenbaum I heard? I’d once heard on that MTV show “I Love the ‘70s” that Norman was a Jewish man who’d written about having a friend in Jesus. Something about that made me smile.

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There were a few other people who were coming to join us. A while back, I’d set up one of my friends with another one of my friends. Okay, so I hadn’t set them up so much as gotten bombed at a Karaoke bar and announced to the pair (as well as everyone else within a ten-foot radius) that I thought they should hook up.

I was mortified hearing this the next day, but that shame went away when the two of them went on a couple of dates and officially began “seeing each other” soon after. Knowing that they were both coming we made sure there was enough room on the blanket and the surrounding area to accommodate the two of them, another couple that was planning to come, and one other friend who was currently debating if it was worth it come, but who wanted to see the lights!

Courteous as always, we decided to give the couple a call and let them know where we had secured our spot.

“Great!” My friend said, “we’ll all be there soon.”

“Who’s ‘we all’?”

“Oh, there’s six of us…”

Just like that, she was there again. The ‘me’ that I had thought I’d gotten rid of this year. SIX. SIX other people?? How the hell were we going to fit everyone? Why was it on us to find a place that would accommodate that many people? Who was going to explain to the people around us that we’d soon be encroaching on their space from all sides? Anxiety took its hold. Who were these six other people, anyway?

Even when they showed up and I realized that the six others were actually my friends, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of annoyance that had developed inside of me.

Come on now, I thought to myself, you never get to see these guys. It’s fun that you get to celebrate with them on this night.

Standing up, I gave everyone a quick hug, asked how they were, and sat back down. That’s when one of them spotted another of his pals and waved him over.

The panic washed over me. Was he really inviting another person to come and sit in this spot? There was officially going to be no more room for any of the other people that were on their way. Panic. Complete and utter panic. This was not how I’d imagined this evening going. I’d imagined a small group of friends, quite small, all fitting on a single blanket and chatting away during the music until the light show began.

It didn’t help that the two friends of mine who I’d set up were so sickeningly happy that they could only give attention to each other and were cuddling together while my friend and I (who’d brought the blanket and scouted the spot) were scooched off to the side.

Again, as I moved slightly back away from lovebirds, I had to think to myself. Isn’t this exactly what I’d wanted? I’d realized how compatible and happy these two friends of mine were, brought the two friend groups together, and had suggested that it happen. And now that it had, was I really going to upset about the fact that they wanted to cuddle at an outdoor concert? What type of person does that??

A little later an issue with another close friend (who was supposedly on her way) was brought up and I felt myself closing down. I’d basically forgotten about it, but just a couple of sentences about a plan that I hadn’t been privy to, and I was on edge. It probably didn’t help that the message came from my smiling friend who’d turned for a second from leaning against her newfound beau to update me on the newest developments.

Shit. Was I really going to let myself get worked up over something so trivial when the world around me was celebrating the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and a summer all about looking past the trivial and emphasizing love?

Yes. Yes, I was.

As the lights flashed across the white dome of the Conservatory of Flowers, I had to wonder. Was this light show shedding light on my true colors? Am I naturally a negative person and will no amount of introspection and concentration change that?

I’d like to think that this isn’t the case. That the past year has shown me that I can choose to be positive and to see the good in everyone and everything. And, in the end, I had been so glad to see that group of friends after a bit of a hiatus. But, as a tie-dye display took over the Conservatory and I felt the need to move away from my friends of over ten years, I really had to wonder….

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The 60-year-old Roommate

It’s 8:00 PM on the longest day of the year and I’m sitting alone in my inner Richmond District apartment. Sex & the City is playing on my iPad and I’m half listening to the sound of Carrie Bradshaw singing a line from The Way We Were. 

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I take a moment to look out of the bay windows of my living room, smile at the sight of the red-shingled roof across the way, before noticing that I’ve strewn the throw pillows hap-hazzardly on the adjacent sofa.

Their smashed shapes cause me to feel a slight discomfort at the edge of my mind. They’re reminding me of a thought I had the other day as I sat on another sofa in a dark loft in Potrero Hill.

In Potrero Hill, I sat on the dark gray cushions of the sectional, my feet tucked up to my right side. My best friend and I had just finished putting the two boys we babysat to sleep and were now watching a particularly exciting episode of The Real Housewives of New York.

Usually, these reality shows are a welcome distraction. I love how invested I can become in the unimportant—not to mention staged—lives of these privileged strangers. It is oh, so relaxing. But this night, as the sound of an engine pulled into the culdesac outside the apartment’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows, I felt something else.

Anxiety.

As you are probably all well aware, anxiety is a daily occurrence in my life. Of course, rather than confide in a professional or go on medication, I choose to talk my friends’ ears off, and when that doesn’t work? I self-medicate with anything from a plate full of brownies to binge-watching friends to a weekend’s worth of gimlets all in one night… all of which, of course, always results in more anxiety, but that’s a whole other story.

So I was sitting there watching The Real Housewives and suddenly this sharp anxiety was brought on by the politically-obsessed, cougar, author princess Carol Radziwill.

It wasn’t anything she said. It was just the entire setting in which we found her in. She was sitting on a sofa (*I’m realizing there’s a lot of sofa sitting in this post) in her penthouse loft with leopard throw pillows and a fantastic coffee table.  To seal the deal, two tiny kittens hopped about playfully and her puppy wagged his little tail happily at home in the space.

As I stared up at the screen in the dark loft (in which I was merely a guest), my stomach suddenly sank. This, of course, was probably a good thing since I have a bachelorette party in a month and had not only finished the boys’ pasta dinner but had also snuck into the cabinets to eat a variety of snacks. Still, abated hunger aside, didn’t enjoy this sudden rush of panic.

You see, I had suddenly realized the one difference between Carol’s life and my own. Okay, so not the only difference, but this one seemed pretty important. As I saw how much the interiors reflected the princess’s personality, I was shocked to realize that I would never (at least not in San Francisco) have that. I will never have my own place.

At least not until I am in my late-30s, early-40s, and even then! I am a writer (with some public relations experience) who has no significant other and probably never will. This means that for the rest of my adult life, I will live with roommates.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore having roommates now. Even as I approach my thirties, I love the fact that it’s not always my turn to buy the toilet paper and paper towels, that there’s three of us to unload the dishwasher, and that on the rare occasion I drink a bit too much (very, very, very rare… cough, cough), I  wake up and am immediately reassured that nothing I did the previous evening will be held against me. It doesn’t get better than that.

BUT, when it comes to the next ten years of my life, I don’t exactly picture myself living in a San Francisco apartment with at least two other people. No. I imagine my own studio that allows for guests at any hour and screams of my personal aesthetic. Of course, it will be messy, but in my own oh, so chic way. Okay, so it will probably just be really messy, but I’ll totally be able to shove all of that clutter into hiding whenever necessary. Isn’t that what having a grown-up life is supposed to be like?

But, if I’m being realistic—and I’m a Capricorn so I like my reality checks like I like my collagen pills, twice daily with food—this will not be the case.

If my track record holds true, I will be a roommate for the rest of my godforsaken life! See, there’s no possible way to afford a one bedroom or studio by myself, so the only “adult” apartment I can own would have to be shared with a boyfriend. Now, I have never felt the need to chase after monogamy (and that goes for polygamy, folygamy, and all the ‘amies),  and I don’t see myself ever settling down.

I have gotten over any problems I had with that scenario long ago, but now, this thought is suddenly causing me to question my choices (in all aspects of my life). Does staying single mean I’ll never have an apartment of my own? Was my father right when he scoffed at my choice of Creative Writing as a college major? And, if am going to be a roommate for the rest of my natural born life, does this redefine my definition of adulthood? Does it redefine me??

It’s been four years now since I moved to San Francisco. During this time, I’ve always felt that though I love living here, it’s a temporary place; San Francisco is a place I will live until I’ve made a name for myself career-wise. It’s a temporary place that I’ll live in my twenties until I find someone to marry. It’s a temporary place for me to get my cosmopolitan fix until I’m ready to raise a family on shave ice, aunty beach days, and words like “bocha bocha” aka before I move home to Hawai’i.

Now, as I start to realize that I will probably never have children and that I’m okay with that, San Francisco has become more permanent. It’s the city that I’ve chosen as the place where I will spend my life.

But it is also the city with the highest rent… in the nation? In the world? I know there have been plenty of infographics on the topic, but I can tell you it’s damn expensive and writing doesn’t pay. So here’s my question: Am I going to be a sixty-year-old roommate? If so, what does that mean? Will I still call my purple-haired, walker-needing housemate “roomie”? Or will I be a last and desperate option for some optimistic twenty-something who just moved to the city in search of a bustling exciting life and found me on the next iteration of Craigslist? Help!

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Me in Pacific Heights, standing proudly in front of a home I will never own.