“Take it back, don’t let it die…”

I feel like I go into every weekend with all these grand plans of what I’m going to accomplish since I have two whole days off of work, and then I come out of every weekend wondering where the time went and why I still have nothing done. This weekend I meant to read (The God of Small Things), write (journal/blog entries), attempt to learn the guitar, answer letters, and call people. Didn’t get any of those done. I did, however, go out salsa/merengue dancing with Teresa Friday night, put together a pretty decent pirate costume from thrift stores Saturday afternoon, see The Haunting and Don’t Look Now with the Science Fiction society and Lorraine on Saturday night, and get out to the grocery and the USF pool today. I guess that’s an improvement on accomplishing absolutely nothing all last week.

I had really intended to get up for 10:30 Mass this morning and then go swim at USF, just to drag myself out of this lazy streak, but I woke up at 10:20 and saw that my alarm had gone off and I’d buried it under my pillow in my sleep—so Mass was out, given public transportation (and the godforsaken 33 bus). I figured I’d just skip it, but Teresa looked up Mass times this evening and we decided to try for the 9:00 at USF. What with the dread public transportation, we got there around 9:30. They had the night Mass in the chapel instead of St. Ignatius (the big cathedral-like church). It was small and very modern, with plastic chairs set up around an altar in the center of the room, and the musicians and choir against one of the walls—even so, it brought me right back to Canisius Masses. Being back on a college campus felt to me like coming home. Teresa and I hesitated in the back until a girl noticed us and waved us over to some empty seats in front of her. When they took up the collection, they announced that this week’s recipient would be an organization called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and I wondered amusedly if we should just take the money when the basket came around. After Mass we thought it would be nice to go introduce ourselves to the priest. His name was Dennis, and he offered us a ride home—he talked to us about the city (where he grew up), the JVC, and where we’re from. All in all it was a pretty cool experience, and everyone was really friendly. I think I’d like to go back.

In other news, Keane came out with a new album last week (Perfect Symmetry), and I’d like to note that the songs “Perfect Symmetry” and “Love is the End” are pretty freakin’ sweet. I wasn’t such a fan of the more 80s-sounding tracks, but who knows, maybe they’ll grow on me. (You can listen to the whole album here.) Snow Patrol is also coming out with a new album on Tuesday (A Hundred Million Suns), so this should be a good month for music.

(If nothing else, PLEASE listen to this song. It is amazing.)

(I don’t think this is an official video, but it’s the best one I could find.)


Retreats, Guitars, & Company

Last weekend was our Fall retreat. We drove 6 hours down to the mountains outside of LA in a rented minivan and got lost several times due to bad directions from the JVC, and once again, the retreat was FREEZING. Fortunately this time I’d brought an enormous fleece-lined green corduroy men’s jacket that I found in our closet when we moved in, but others were not so lucky. It was nice to see trees and nature, and there was an incredible view from the field above the dining hall—if you stood at the edge you could look way out over the mountains. We went up there after dark the last night to look at stars, and it was one of those moments when you feel like you’re really there, really alive, like, this is it, and it doesn’t matter what it is, because everything just…is.

Retreat was alright. I didn’t mind the mandatory three hours of silence; it’s not so bad if I think of it not as a break from talking but as a break from listening to other people. (I do like listening to other people, but it’s also nice to have a break.) The three hours of discussing conflict resolution, however, were rather unnecessary. Our Sunday activity was amusing. Cedar led us in an “art reflection” in which she gave us each a chunk of clay, and we were to let our intuition guide us into modeling it into a symbolic representation of our inner selves. My inner self had dreadlocks and a tendency to fall over, and therefore my inner self became a pinch pot.

This weekend we had a total of somewhere around 25 people over to visit (not all at the same time, though that would have been entertaining). It was crazy. And fun. And craaaaazy. …Yeah.

Last Tuesday I bought a guitar off Craigslist, from a guy with a dentist’s chair in his living room. I taught myself a few chords last week… I’m kind of excited to learn this thing. I don’t aspire to be good; I just want to be good enough to entertain myself. I think setting low goals is a good strategy for life :)

And today the next-door neighbors built a platform over our back stairwell so we can prop a ladder there and climb onto the roof. I am, like, ecstatic. WE HAVE ROOFTOP ACCESS!!!!! I went up there tonight for a while and just sat and looked at the city and looked at the sky and listened to the sounds of the people and the cars all around me and I felt the wind and the openness and it was wonderful. SPACE, people, SPACE!! OH MY GOD it’s amazing.

SF From the Roof

SF From the Roof

What I’ve Been Up To

Things I’ve been doing over the past few week(end)s:

-I took a New Orleans streetcar to Pier 39, quickly bypassed the tourist crap and went to see the seals. They were big and noisy and smelly and awesome.

-I went to Ocean Beach and took lots of pictures of the water and sky and stuff. It took me 45 minutes on the #5 bus to get there, so this will not become a regular thing.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach

-The Folsom Street Leather Festival. It is what it sounds like, and they’re not talking about baseball gloves and handbags.

-I went to China Town and rode a cable car to Fort Mason.

View from the Cable Car

View from the Cable Car

-Dark Star Orchestra at The Fillmore. I went with Julie and Chris and our support person Peter last Thursday. They’re a Grateful Dead tribute band that memorizes specific shows that the Dead once played. It was pretty cool, and it also involved the most blatant public marijuana use I’ve ever witnessed.

-The Presidio, a nude beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked across it and back. Great view, loooong bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge, View from Nude Beach

-Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park, where we saw/heard Iron & Wine. He played “Naked as We Came” and I was happy.

[…I admit that I wrote that largely as an excuse to put up more pictures.]

I’m off work tomorrow because we’re driving to retreat, 6 hours away, at a retreat center in the mountains outside of LA. All seven of us, in a minivan. It should be interesting. Retreat is Friday through Monday, and it’s supposed to be based on the second part of St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, not that I entirely know what that means. Most of us are somewhat reluctant, because there’s a lot going on this weekend that we would rather be doing than having a retreat. Last week we had visits with our Area Director, and in the weeks before that we had individual check-ins with our support people, and I think many of us feel like we’re getting enough JVC involvement as it is—but hey, we get a day off work and we get to go somewhere else and be around different people. I’m hoping I’ll actually get something out of it, but I’m not counting on it too much. Still, it will be nice to get away; life has been kind of wearing on me this week.

Random Nice People Day :)

Since we were out of groceries today, I figured that for lunch I’d just go buy a bagel at Noah’s, a little bagel shop a couple of blocks away from the office.  All I had was $2 in change, but with Tim Horton’s in mind, I thought, hey, a bagel with cream cheese won’t cost more than $2.  So when I got up to the counter…

Ava: What can I get for you?
Me: How much will it be for a bagel and cream cheese?
Ava: $2.45.
Me: Oh, okay. Can I just get a plain bagel then please?
Ava: How much do you have?
Me (sheepishly): Two dollars…
Ava: That’s okay, I’ll give you a discount.
Me: Oh…thank you!

Then the guy in front of me in line complimented my jeans (well, he said they look comfy, which I take as a compliment), and when I got to the register the cashier said “$2.15.”

Me: …Oh… I’m sorry, I don’t have the 15…
Cashier: Don’t worry, I’ll spot ya.

The guy in front of me offered me change too, and Ava smiled and said “Bye!” as I was on my way out.

Maybe I just looked the part of a destitute volunteer, but I think I’d rather chalk it up to “Bagel people rock.”

East vs. West: A Top Ten List

As awesome and groovy and far-out as the West Coast is, it’s also making me appreciate some things back home more than I did before. I’m familiar with this phenomenon because it happened when I was in Spain as well: being in Spain gave me a new appreciation for the unequivocal excellence of certain aspects of American culture often taken for granted (i.e., mac and cheese, bagels, peanut butter, and movie nights). So I thought I’d make a list of what I miss, so that all y’all back home can appreciate it for me.

What Buffalo Has that San Francisco Doesn’t*
* In making this list, I tried to separate Buffalo from Canisius and San Francisco from the JVC, because otherwise this post would have been way too long.

10. Cheap shit. There is like, NOTHING cheap in San Franciscothe rent on our little pad is over $3000 a month. Crazy? Mm, I think you could say that.

9. Free theatre. Even if it wasn’t always amazing (*cough* Hot L *cough*), it was free, and I can’t really afford to see shows here on $85/month.

8. Mighty Taco, Tim Horton’s, & Spot Coffee. These fine institutions haven’t quite made it to the West Coast.

7. Canisius Masses. Church just isn’t the same without Shaggy singing the Alleluia.

6. Rooftops. I have yet to find a rooftop that I can get onto without the threat of serious injury in San Francisco.

5. Staying up all night for basically no reason. I’m the only one who stays up late here, and by “late” I mean 1:00 a.m. Laaaame.

4. Old shit. I hadn’t thought much about this before I came out here, but nothing out West is old. In San Francisco in particular, everything kind of died in the 1906 earthquake, so there isn’t much here older than that. Personally I have a hard time envisioning San Francisco at all before the 1960s happened; the hippies are so integral a part of the city’s history… But the main problem that this newness creates for me is that there is a serious dearth of cool (read: abandoned) buildings to lust over.

3. Seasons. If I’m being realistic (versus nostalgic) I won’t miss winter much (aside from ice-skating and the first snowfall), and the main appeal of spring has always been that it’s not winter, but I sure as hell am going to miss the fall. You can’t have bonfires in the city, and the leaves here stay green and stuck firmly to the trees. Also, it hasn’t rained since I’ve been here, and you know I love me a crazy-ass thunderstorm.

2. Trees. SeriouslyI love SF but the trees here suck. Eucalyptus smells bad (I never knew trees could smell bad before), palm trees are boring, and the redwoods are not in the city. There are no trees here to climb. There aren’t many trees in general except for Golden Gate Park and the PresidioBuffalo is actually considerably greener, in my opinion.

1. And the first thing Buffalo has that San Francisco doesn’t, is, of course (drum roll)… all of you! (Aww, I know.) I miss my college friendseveryone here is great, but that doesn’t replace all the great people who aren’t here. You know how it is.

Soo that just about wraps it up! Stay tuned for another spectacular Top Ten list to complement this one, whenever I stop being lazy again :~)