Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Bus Report #1073

 Another early morning walk and bus ride to work.

Clement Street was quiet today, quieter than usual. 

Said good morning to the New May Wah guys, walked on.

A man walking behind me kept a steady distance between us, but I think he could tell I was a little unnerved; at 8th he walked out into the street, and, giving me a wide berth, hurried ahead of me until he was about half a block ahead. Thank you, stranger, for noticing my unease. 

I will get past it, I will.

Clement Street curbs overrun with discarded Halloween pumpkins. Big ones, little ones, smushed ones, three stacked up and turned in to some sort of lamp. Probably should've disassembled that one before setting it out for pickup.

On the 33 we sped down Arguello and up to the Haight, just me and one guy who works at a construction firm near my office (he was wearing a company fleece).

Though the sky was still dark it was a bit lighter up on the hill where the 33 takes the hairpin turn. Dark green and grey sky above the Market Street Safeway.

And then the driver missed our slight turn and we were driving on Market for a minute, before he realized his error and quickly got us back onto 18th. 

We glided down the street for a few blocks. At Harriet he pulled over. "I'm rebooting," the driver called back to the three of us passengers.

He restarted the bus and got the electric poles back up on the wires. 

After a couple of false starts we were on our way again.

Nothing doing in the Castro. No one playing tennis at Dolores Park.

On Mission, my favorite early morning sight - a brightly lit market not far from the bus stop, chock full of produce and all sorts of goods piled high on shelves that only just avoid scraping the ceiling. Huge bins of fruit out front. It is beautiful in its utility.

I hopped out at Potrero, waved and smiled at the driver. 

Walked the rest of the way to work, past construction sites already humming with activity, and people huddled asleep in a few doorways. At the park, sweatshirted men and their dogs. Low mist about ankle height at least until I turned the corner, and then it was gone.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bus Report #1072

 Headed in to the office today, my usual time.

Clement Street was black and grey and quiet, and foggy. Perfect pre-Halloween weather, though I'd have been happier with more light out.

It was spooky. The fog, one of my greatest loves, grew heavier as I walked. By the time I hit 6th Ave. it was so thick I couldn't see past the next block. Even a large PG&E truck with bright lights was surrounded by a swirl of fog, muting the light quite a bit.

The woman who sleeps in doorways near 8th was sitting on the curb, shoes off, washing her feet with water from a bottle. She then dried them and applied lotion. All the while, talking to herself as she often does.

She breaks my heart. I'd love to see her get some help. She has survived on our street for over a decade but she deserves peace and security. And warmth beyond the comforter she wraps up in each night. 

Passing Toy Boat I checked to make sure all was well (and it was indeed ship shape). Halloween decorations in the windows and in the store. Down the block, the Beetlejuice shop window at the pet store unnerved me, as it has done all month.

4th Ave and the fog was achieving pea soup levels of thickness. Perfect for a cozy morning, even if I was outside.

The man who sleeps in the doorway of the Japanese restaurant was awake. He lit a cigarette, said good morning.

I smiled, though I'm still very nervous about interacting with strangers after last year. Told him good morning, too.

Kept walking. 

At the bus stop, I couldn't even see past the intersection. Usually I can see buses and cars clear down to California Street, but not today.

I dug my Clipper Card from my bag and waited.

Like a ghost bus in the night, the 33 emerged from the fog and pulled over to let me on.

We zoomed down Arguello and up through the Haight, quiet and still.

In the Castro the sunrise was orange and pink and grey and blue, a perfect Ed Ruscha sunrise especially in Dolores Park above the palm trees.

I hopped out at my usual stop along Potrero. Waved to the guys at the garage and walked the rest of the way to work. 

The park near my office had a layer of fog hovering above it, knee height, and it was beautiful.

Robins hopped in and out of the fog. I stopped to watch them for a moment. Then the fog lifted, and I went upstairs to work.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Bus Report #1071

I was planning to meet Michael and Austin at the SFMOMA on Sunday, so I kept my eye on the 38 and 38R schedule all morning. 
Ran out to catch the 38R, but it was late, of course. Time was ticking.
I chose to get on a regular 38 - which turned out to be a bad choice.
We crawled down Geary. Crawled. I'm not sure why as there wasn't much traffic, but it took 15 minutes to get to Masonic. Ridiculous. 
Then it was start and stop down to Van Ness.
Handsome kid waiting by Laguna, big colorful totebag on his shoulder.
At Gough, a man was camped out in the bus shelter. Started to move, slowly, to gather his things and get on the bus. The driver didn't open the back door, leaving the man and his bags to wait for the next bus.

Tenderloin architecture is a visual feast, and I filled up as we made our way down the hill. Some gorgeous buildings and building facades. Murals to rival anything in the Mission.

We flew the rest of the way  down O'Farrell, but I was already going to be late. Sometimes it happens like that.
Downtown is still so empty, it's weird.
Huge flagship stores on Powell, closed.
Chain cafes, closed.
Normally thronged blocks are now ghost towns.

But things are looking up, too. A few mom and pop places were open and doing brisk business, with their tables set outside.
Newly renovated buildings at Third and Mission looking so good, I practically swooned. Can a woman love new windows cut into old brick? This woman does.

The guys were at the museum before I was, but no harm done.
It was a pleasure to see them, and to be in one of my favorite places.
We saw a few exhibits and then headed out, but not before I stopped to see my favorite painting in the permanent collection.

"You were in and out real fast, huh?" asked the woman checking admissions.
"Just visiting an old friend," I replied.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Bus Report #1070

 I'm back on the 33 some mornings, back to work.

The neighborhood is quiet in the mornings, a bit too quiet for me.

I say hi to the New May Wah guys, the Schubert's folks. Wait for the 33 in the dark.

When the bus comes, it's almost empty. No Olga, or Alain, or the mom with the two sons.

Just me and some folks who work at the hospital. 

The other day the fog was thick and grey and heavy and when we hit the hairpin turn onto Market the city below us was completely obscured. Rare. Beautiful.

The Castro, empty.

The Mission, quiet.

On the corner, the ever present competing tamale sellers. Sitting on their chairs, their carts of cloth-wrapped, steaming tamales calling to me  - but I don't get out. I stay on the bus, hop out on Potrero as usual. 

Say hi to the folks at the garage, at UPS.

The 22, sometimes the 55 whiz by as I walk.

The 10? Not yet back in service, but hopefully soon.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Bus Report #1069

 I took the 1 California bus downtown this afternoon, to meet S. for our first post-vaccine dinner together, my first dinner out since before the pandemic. 

The bus was not crowded at all, just a dozen or so women and a couple of men, everyone masked (some surgicals, one lovely embroidered one, one mask with Sanrio characters, and one patterned with the Giants logo), and everyone quiet, except for one woman who was listening to music on her headphones and singing to herself. 

The ride down California felt almost normal. Most of the shops and restaurants were open, a few new ones, a few empty storefronts, people walking around. 

A man got on the bus wearing a knit face mask that had stretched out ear bands and an open knit that would be useless to keep anything in or out. Ridiculous! I couldn't knit a better one, but that wasn't the point.

We crossed Fillmore and climbed the hill. I love the apartment building near the corner, the curved one with the multicolored doors on each floor. It always reminds me of a building from an Almodovar film. Out front, paramedics carefully loaded someone into an ambulance. I hope they were okay.

Van Ness, still under construction. 

On the next corner, an outdoor eating parklet. Redheaded smiling man turned and grinned into the bus from his seat.

New graffiti on the old Apple Market building.

Le Beau looked the same, and as we came over the hill and headed down into Chinatown the sun came out for a few minutes, making everything look fresh and bright.

The WHY? painted on the brickwork near Stockton always makes me smile and did again. 

I haven't been to Chinatown in over a year. It was quiet when I got out at Grant and Clay, the shopkeepers already closing up for the night at five to six at night. 

Lots of boarded up shops, plywood covering windows, with security gates pulled across for added measure. 

Li Po's closed, hopefully temporarily. 

People walked quickly down the sidewalk, hunched.

It was too quiet.

Please go to Chinatown when you can - grab food at a favorite restaurant, get a drink somewhere, perhaps at the tea place near Jack Kerouac Alley. Support our neighbors, please.

I ducked down the alley and found myself walking through the Vesuvio outdoor drinking area. All the seats occupied with a good mix of locals and tourists.

City Lights was open. I went in, browsed for a few minutes. A few sections have been moved but I found what I wanted and spent some time in the stacks. Found a new translation of a Guillermo Rosales book I didn't even know existed, rejoice! At the checkout counter the bookseller tucked a bookmark and a postcard into the book and I thanked him and wished him a good, safe evening.

Across the street I sat down to supper in the Tosca shared spaces parklet, ordered a cocktail and waited for S. 

North Beach was busier than Chinatown but honestly still felt too quiet. 

When S. arrived, we hugged for the first time in over a year. I could've crushed him, but I didn't. It wouldn't have been very friendly, you know?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Bus Report #1068

 Yesterday afternoon I crossed the park to meet up with S. for coffee and a walk.

I hopped on a 44 O'Shaughnessy and took my favorite seat, in the back, by the window.

The new normal, everyone heading for a solo seat, masked, quiet - at least on this bus.

Long-haired man with studded belt and wristbands, holding a dripping bag of food from Taco Bell.

Woman with short hair, the sides freshly razored with a zig zag design. Her mask was a pretty marigold color, thick, sturdy fabric.

At the next stop, a handful of folks in surgical masks filed in one at a time, took up distanced seats in the back.

The park, when we got to it, was full of people - walking, biking, roller blading, it was wonderful to see. Everyone having a good time. I hadn't seen the De Young open yet, but it was, people spilling from the doors or getting pictures taken in front of the huge photo of Frida Kahlo out front. 

A couple got on and sat behind me. 

"This is fantastic," said the man. "Just look at how many people are out enjoying themselves, and this bus goes right through it all!" 

I wanted to say, you're right, isn't it great, how can you not love public transit? But I didn't. Just sat with my face angled towards the open window and the breeze, and the sun. 

I jumped out at Lincoln and 9th and went to meet S. and her friends. 

At Arizmendi, I recognized some fellow Richmonders - all of us going for the good stuff (but for the love of S., do not come between her and her coconut croissant!)

After a walk, a coffee, and some quality park time, S. walked me to catch the 43.

This was the opposite of my earlier ride - the few people on the bus were not following proper Covid protocols - unmasked or partially masked, which really is the same if you ask me.

The driver stopped to take on a passenger at Haight and Masonic - a person with three trash bags, a huge yellow suitcase, a broken umbrella, and a filthy facemask that might have been blue in a previous life, but which was now a dark grubby brown. It took them a long time to drag their stuff to the bus and then to throw it inside.

The driver should've just not opened the door for them. I know it sounds heartless but Muni requires a fare and a proper mask to ride and this person had neither, and was already a problem before the doors even shut behind them.

We made it to the next stop but then the suitcase slid across the floor and got caught in the well of the leftmost door, making the doors stick open, and keeping us from moving. Instead of freeing their suitcase, the person just started shouting at the driver, "You better open the doors, you better open the doors or we can't go nowhere!"

The driver called out, "You gotta move your suitcase!"

The person shouted back, "I can't move the damn thing, not with the doors open!"

In all honesty, while the suitcase did look stuck, a good hard yank would have freed it but no one wanted to go near this person or their stuff. Finally, the driver walked to the back and pulled on the doors and forced them shut, and the person dragged the suitcase a few inches. "I told you," they muttered.

At Fulton the person shouted that this was their stop and that no one could enter through the back door until they were done getting all their stuff. Out went the trash bags. Out went the suitcase, skidding across the sidewalk until it rested upside down by a tree. Next came the umbrella and then finally the person got out.

They screamed at the handful of folks waiting to board, "You shoulda gotten in on the front!"

A woman with a dog and a man with three duffel bags had been waiting and the man said, "I can't get in on the front, not with all my bags."

The strange person disappeared around the corner, their stuff still strewn across the sidewalk.

A tiny, hunched man shuffled in through the front door and stood at the farebox dropping quarters into the box one at a time. Great, I thought. Longest shortest bus ride ever.

He got on, holding a mask in his hand but not putting it on. He sat across from the man with all the duffels.

"I hate wearing these," the tiny man said. "They're the worst."

The duffel guy nodded. "Yeah, you can't breathe with em on at all." He said this, and then proceeded to put another mask on top of the one he was already wearing.

I just shook my head, sucked my teeth, tried to look annoyed but that is hard when you've got a colorful mask covering your face. 

When we got to Geary I got out, and hurried across the street, and walked the rest of the way home. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Bus Report #1067

 More like an on foot report, but still.

I went out today to run errands and get a haircut. Afterwards I walked over to visit E., and swap some marmalade for her excellent homemade cookies.

As I walked up to her building I saw Olga, dear sweet Olga, sitting out on her balcony, adjacent to E's apartment.

I smiled beneath my mask and waved up to them both.

After a visit with E. I called up to Olga, in my terrible Russian, and waved some more. She grinned and waved back. It was all I needed, really. Just knowing that she was okay was enough for me.

I turned to leave. A man with shoulder-length hair and blue track outfit stood a few feet away. He waved at me and said, "Hello!"

I smiled back, waved back. I knew him - but I couldn't place him.

He laughed, his eyes crinkling a little. "You don't know me?" I'd know that accent anywhere.  It was Alain, the Frenchman! 

I chuckled as he took his mask off for a moment to show me his wide grin. 

"Of course I know you!" I laughed. "How are you?"

"Ah, I do not take the 33 anymore," he said, shrugging. 

"I haven't either," I said. "Come with me," I gestured for him to follow me. I took him back to E. and Olga's building, the two of them were still chatting across balconies.

"It's our friend, our Russian friend," I said, and he and I both waved up to Olga. 

She waved back, and then Alain and I said goodbye and parted ways.

It was wonderful to see the both of them, two of my 33 bus crew. 

I walked home, an extra spring in my step.