Tag Archives: San Francisco

Welcome to The Bold Academy- The Ceiling Can’t Hold Us

19 Feb

Between February 8-18, 2013, 16 inspiring leaders from three countries joined an incredible team of entrepreneurs, coaches, mentors, do-gooders, and go-getters, and we all lived together in a house on Alamo Square Park for ten sunshine-filled days, forming the Bold Academy San Francisco.  Together, we built a community of intention, passion, and love; with the mission of becoming our best selves, living the lives we were meant to live, and creating positive social change.  It was one of the greatest pleasures of my life to help curate this transformative experience and be a member of this family, and I am forever grateful to everyone who made it possible.   

Never stop dancing.  Bold Academy SF 2013.

Never stop dancing. #boldsf

Below is the welcome speech I wrote and delivered the first evening at Bold, just after all of us arrived to the house.  I hope it can serve as a perpetual pep talk (thanks, Kid President!) for the Bold community, as well as the world at large.

The Ceiling Can’t Hold Us

Smiley’s Bold Academy Welcome Speech

As prepared for delivery

Chalkboard room @ The Bold Academy

Friday, February 8, 2013

“Welcome everyone to San Francisco.  Welcome to the Bold Academy.  WOOOOOT! 

Let’s all pause for a second and close our eyes.  Take a long deep breath.  Relax.  Ponder for 30 seconds about what this moment means to you, and how you feel.  Cherish this moment; whether you feel excited, exhausted, scared, nervous, stressed, or sad.

Keeping your eyes closed, take another deep breath.  Let it out.  Once more.  Let it out.  Really let it out.  AHHHHHH!  SCREAM THIS TIME, AHHHHHH!!! 

We have come here today from as near as four houses down the block, and as far away as Germany and Brazil.  We have come for many different reasons. 

To grow.  To learn.  To reflect.  To challenge ourselves.  To overcome our deepest fears.  To master our strengths, and acknowledge our weaknesses.  To start projects, to finish projects.  To laugh.  To love. To play.  To breathe.  To stretch.  To eat well.  To practice daily.  To work.  We are not sure where this journey will take us, but we embrace its course and its beauty.  

The journey is the journey.  The journey is the journey.  We are here!  Think about that. 

In all the cities and all the towns and countries of the world, in all the bars and restaurants and cafes and forests and offices and sandy beaches, we have come together in this space, in this beautiful home, next to this glorious park, in this magical city, today, here, now, at this very moment. 

And while our reasons for coming here might be different, we are bonded in a common passion– a passion for life.  A passion for making ourselves and those around us the best we can possibly be, a passion for knocking down walls and barriers and living our lives to the fullest, and thus changing the lives of those around us. 

But, that doesn’t mean it will be easy, that doesn’t mean each of us won’t have to struggle, to fail, to try, to try again, to try another time, to try harder, to challenge ourselves and each other, every single day, now, and in the future. 

This is a special moment.  The future is uncertain, the possibilities are infinite.  Over the next ten days, come back to this moment of excitement, of beginning, of renewal, of possibility and openness, of embracing fear and the unknown, of embracing this journey, whenever you need to.  Come back to the present, for that’s where we are. 

Remember:  If it were easy, it wouldn’t be BOLD

The ceiling can’t hold us!  THE CEILING CAN’T HOLD US!   Everybody up!” 

[BLAST “CAN’T HOLD US” by MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS feat. RAY DALTON >>> EVERYONE STARTS DANCING…]

***

Speech written and delivered by Smiley Poswolsky, Academy Director at The Bold Academy.  The Bold Academy is a life accelerator program designed to maximize your performance and empower you to live the life you were meant to live.  For more information, check out boldacademy.com

Bold SF 2013.

So much love for Bold Academy SF 2013.

Why You Should Make A Vision Board

10 Dec
Smiley's Vision Board for 2012

Smiley’s Vision Board for 2012

 

Back one evening this spring, in Mt. Pleasant, Washington, DC, I came home to find three of my roommates, Katie, Elisabet, and Leslie.  They had laid out a huge pile of (mostly women’s lifestyle) magazines, scissors, glue sticks, and colored construction paper, on the dining room table.  

“Smiley, join us,” they said, “We’re making vision boards!” 

In my typical, cynical, dude-like manor, I laughed at them—“I’m not cutting pictures out of a magazine, what is this, 4th grade?!  I’m too busy for this Oprah-induced foolishness, I’m gonna check my email for the 58th time today.”

So they proceeded to make vision boards without me.  Even my other roommate made a vision board, although his consisted of only a koala bear, a rotisserie chicken, and a giant bottle of beer.  I kind of felt left out, so I sat down, and awkwardly started looked through the magazines, anxious, not choosing anything to cut out.  After five minutes, I got distracted, and gave up.  But my roommates pestered me for a week about not making a vision board.  Finally, I sat down, alone, deep in serious thought, and perused the pages of Cosmopolitan.  

My vision board for 2012, which I kept taped to the door in my room, featured pictures of places I wanted to travel and spend time (Barcelona, the woods, the beach, San Francisco), things I wanted to eat and drink (avocado, coffee, popsicles, bowls of ramen), activities I wanted to do a lot of (run, read, hike, sun salutations) and emotions I wanted to feel (freedom, change, growth, passion, movement, relaxation, risk), and some random shit (Michael Jackson dancing).  Yes, I cut out a picture from Glamour of two people kissing.  (“GlamourGlamour???”)  Yes, Glamour

You may think this sounds pathetic; a man nearly thirty years old cutting pictures out of a ladies magazine and gluing them to green construction paper.  Maybe you have already thought about your visions for the year.  Or, maybe you are scared to think.

Using scissors and a glue stick has a strange way of taking you back to when you were a kid, and creating and dreaming were second nature, part of your daily routine.  It was difficult for me, as I imagine it is for most men, to get in touch with my emotions.  It was difficult for me to take myself seriously. 

I’m proud to report that I accomplished all my “visions” on my vision board for 2012, so I am especially grateful to Katie, Elisabet, and Leslie, for being mindful, inspiring women, and for Katie’s affinity for Glamour and Cosmo.  I should say I accomplished all my visions, except for love—yes, don’t worry, I got the kissing thing down (holler)—but love escaped me.  However, my buddy Dre has already deemed 2013 as The Year of Love, so things are looking up.  

I’ll be putting together my vision board for next year in the coming days, and in 2013, I’m trying to focus on focusing.  I too easily get distracted with distractions, and say yes to engagements when I want to say no. 

Writing and meditating daily, and prioritizing projects I care deeply about, are my major goals.  Also, no email on the weekend unless it’s an emergency (“Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest”), and no using my computer for at least an hour every night before bed, to leave time for writing and reading off-screen.  As well as exploring the unreal beauty that is the Bay Area.  And of course, love.

What’s on your vision board for 2013? 

-Smiley Poswolsky

Mass Incarceration In America Starts At A Young Age

5 Nov

I wrote a post in March about my experience volunteering with Free Minds Bookclub & Writing Workshop, a DC-based nonprofit organization, that organizes book clubs and writing workshops at the DC Jail, where 16 and 17 year-olds, many of whom have been incarcerated as adults, discuss literature and express themselves through creative writing.

The post discusses the devastating impact of prison on the black community, mentioning a recent New Yorker article on mass incarceration in America, which states that blacks are now incarcerated seven times as often as whites, and that there are more black men under the control of the criminal justice system that were in slavery in 1850. 

A recent New York Times analysis references research which shows that more young black dropouts from high school are in prison than have paying jobs, and that black men are more likely to go to prison than to graduate with a four-year degree or complete military service.  Blacks account for nearly half of the 2.3 million Americans in prison or jail, and because these people are not counted in census figures or data, Dr. Pettit, of the University of Washington, says, “Decades of penal expansion coupled with the concentration of incarceration among men, blacks, and those with low levels of education have generated a statistical portrait that overstates the educational and economic progress and political engagement of African-Americans.”

A month ago, I started volunteering with The Beat Within, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, which holds weekly writing workshops in 13 California county juvenile halls with volunteer facilitators, providing incarcerated youth with the opportunity to share their ideas and life experiences, and printing their words in a biweekly magazine that is then distributed to the young inmates in juvenile hall, and beyond.   

Writing is powerful tool for expression, and it can especially powerful for those who lack physical freedom and are plagued by trauma, violence, and the past.  Perhaps what’s most powerful is someone taking the time to read your words, to validate your voice and your story, and then to see your words printed in ink in a publication.  Organizations like The Beat and Free Minds provide an avenue — sometimes the only avenue — for creative expression, in a system built to kill any feeling of empowerment or hope. 

At each Beat session, volunteers help young inmates respond to specific writing prompts — a recent one was entitled “Voting For President” — and asked the kids who they thought who would be the best president for the United States, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?   It’s sad that many of these individuals may never have the opportunity to vote, and perhaps even sadder still, that even if President Obama is re-elected, there will still be more than six million people under correctional supervision in the United States.

While the Obama Administration has worked to reduce (but not eliminate) sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine, a clear racial bias that disproportionally locks up more people of color compared to whites, reforming our for-profit prison system does not appear to be on the agenda for 2012-2016. 

Listening to some of the inmates’ stories, and what they’ve already been through at such a young age, makes it easy to recognize the freedom and privilege I take for granted in my everyday life in San Francisco, which is often consumed by discussing who serves the best cup of $3 pour-over coffee or the best burrito.    

An enlightening photo book project called Juvenile-in-Justice, by Richard Ross, presents some alarming statistics:  There are 70,000 young people in juvenile detention or correctional facilities every day in the U.S.  The average cost to incarcerate a juvenile for a 9-12 month period is between $66,000 and $88,000 – in California, this cost is almost $225,000.  Nearly 3 out of 4 youth confined for delinquency, are not in for a serious violent felony crime, and youth confined for longer periods of time are no less likely make repeat offenses than those confined for shorter periods of time.

Some of the young men at the juvenile hall, which houses kids as young as thirteen years-old, are in for repeat offenses or parole violations (including minor offenses like marijuana use), and may end up back in jail after they leave.  It’s a vicious cycle, but as the statistics above and this infographic shows, not uncommon for people of color, especially black men, growing up in low-income communities around the country. 

Clearly, the current prison system is broken and unjust, or rather, it’s working exceptionally well, if the goal is to lock up millions of people of color and give millions of dollars to private corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections Corporation), who combined earned $2.9 billion in 2010.  These corporations have worked closely with PACs and local government officials in states like Arizona to support harsh anti-immigrant legislation including SB 1070, all with the motive of filling prison beds with people of color for profit.

Voters in California have a chance to make a small difference on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, by voting YES on Proposition 36, revising the three strikes rule, so that criminal offenders with two prior serious or violent felony convictions who commit nonserious, non-violent felonies, would be sentenced to shorter terms in state prison.  A YES vote on 36 would also allow some offenders with two prior serious or violent felony convictions who are currently serving life sentences for nonserious, non-violent felony convictions to be resentenced to shorter prison terms.

California voters should also vote YES on Proposition 34, which repeals the death penalty, replacing it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole.  This law applies retroactively to existing death sentences, so offenders who are already serving a death sentence would be resentenced to life without the possibility of parole — and while life imprisonment is still a death sentence in many ways (especially if opportunities and state funding to challenge convictions are taken away) — this reform would ensure that an innocent person is never executed.

These are important changes, but they do little to change the shameful state of mass incarceration in America.  We need to end the systematic and cyclic structures that lock up so many people, especially young people, in the first place — end racist stop-and-frisk policing as well as sentencing disparities, which are filling prison beds for corporate profit — and curb poverty and violence in at-risk communities by funding and empowering robust youth (and adult) education, employment, entrepreneurial, health, and after-school programs. 

To get involved with The Beat Within’s writing workshops with incarcerated youth, or to volunteer to type up young inmates’ words, click here.  To support juvenile justice reform, check out Juvenile-in-Justice’s Take Action page, or the Equal Justice Initiative.

 

Education vs. Incarceration

Using Philadelphia as an example, this graphic compares the cost, both financial and societal, of education and incarceration.  Designed by Jason Killinger for Maskar Design.  Source: Visual.ly.

What I Learned At My First SOCAP Conference

5 Oct

 

This week I attended my first Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.  SOCAP brings together entrepreneurs, impact investors, thought-leaders, changemakers, and change enablers, at the intersection of money and meaning, with the goal of supporting businesses and initiatives that are changing the world.   

I had the opportunity to interview several of these individuals over the course of the week, and will be profiling their inspiring stories in the coming weeks for New Empire Builders, a SOCAP media partner.

If you have difficulty paying attention for long periods of time, or are easily distracted by buzz and activity like I am, SOCAP can be a whirlwind.  You’re constantly being introduced to new people, doing that awkward thing where you try to look at their badge to see where they work and what their title is (usually “Founder”)– while still trying to make eye contact – which is not humanly possible.  You’re constantly noticing interesting – or good looking – or interesting and good looking people going by, and you always feel like you should be somewhere you’re not.

I found myself deeply stressed on the first day of the conference, agonizing about whether to attend a panel on “The New Connectivity:  Storytelling For The Digital Age,” or “At The Table:  Where The Sectors Work Together,” which were both scheduled at the same time.  FOMO got the best of me, and I attended neither, instead finding myself sitting in a comfortable bright green chair in the HUB:Create lounge area drinking an organic Runa “focused energy” iced tea, staring into space, when my friend Michael who I met this summer in Boulder came up and said:  “Smiley!  Great to see you buddy, I’m off to the meditation room!”  I was starting to explain how I really wanted to attend two different sessions, both of which I was already late to, when I stopped myself, and replied, “Awesome.  I’m in.”

So, in the midst of 1800 conference participants running around, and ten simultaneous sessions on themes ranging from “the new economy” to “social design” to “tech for good” to “meaning,” we went to Room 210C – which was empty – and laid down on a yoga mat and closed our eyes for twenty minutes.  Afterwards, we both felt present for the first time all day.  A calm feeling washed over me and I stopped trying to be in six places all at once, and instead spent the rest of the conference just talking to people who seemed interesting. 

Thus, the most important lesson I learned at SOCAP:  The real value is the wealth of knowledge of the people in the room.  Business cards are nice – I now have a huge stack, but infinitely more valuable are the conversations I had with the people there, simply by sitting down at a random table or walking around the Festival pavilion.  Take, for example: 

Paseka Lesolang, WHC South Africa

Paseka Lesolang from WHC South Africa.   Paseka was invited as part of SOCAP’s impact accelerator program this weekend at the HUB Bay Area, which brought 100 entrepreneurs from 25 countries on scholarship.  Paskea is a 2012 Unreasonable Institute Fellow who runs a company that has created a retrofitable technology called the Leak-Less Valve for toilets that can save 132 gallons of water a day, helping to reduce water waste in South Africa, which faces an extreme water crisis.  

Veronica D’Souza, co-founder of Ruby Cup.  Ruby Cup is a menstrual cup that can be re-used for up to 10 years, and is sold to women and girls living in developing countries who cannot afford sanitary pads, and because of this, are forced to stay at home from work and school.  Ruby Cup is sold through a network of female entrepreneurs in Kenya to create local employment, increase health education, and empower local women.  

Ryan Wagner, co-founder of Penyo-Pal.  Ryan and I met washing our hands in the men’s bathroom and started talking about his venture, Penyo-Pal, which is a digital game designed to teach 4-7 year-olds foreign language skills.  In only a few minutes, I myself even learned a little Mandarin. 

There’s a reason SOCAP brings together so many people from different backgrounds, with unique skill sets and passions.  We need to continue to cultivate this HUB, this robust ecosystem of social change catalysts; the grassroots entrepreneur, the investment banker turned impact investor, the traditional finance expert and the new economy professor, the tech developer and the community designer, the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform and the seasoned incubator program.  As Fabian Pfortmüller, co-founder of Sandbox told me, “We need to take the dreamers and doers and surround them with people like them.”  We need to continue to accelerate the accelerators, who come from all sectors, from all over the world.  You can’t solve these challenges alone.

GoldieBlox- The Engineering Toy For Girls

At the opening plenary session, Katherine Fulton, president of the Monitor Institute, mentioned that despite a 200% increase in impact investing capital between 2000 and 2010, the verdict is still out on impact investing, and that courage will be required moving forward. Speculation remains from the mainstream business community about the viability of investing in social ventures and small and medium-size entrepreneurs, with smaller returns on investment over longer periods of time.  New innovations in crowd-funding and crowd-investing will be game-changers for poverty alleviation, and improving education, health, food access, and expanding democratized economies and community initiatives, offering both remarkable possibilities as well as new challenges.

While the road ahead will not be easy, and will require us to go beyond the echo chamber and reach across the aisle to build new alliances with mainstream audiences outside the social impact space (as well as make frequent visits to the meditation room); the growing ecosystem is ready, willing, and able to innovate and sustain the initiatives that are tackling the world’s most pressing problems.  

Celebrating Food And Entrepreneurship In San Francisco

27 Aug

La Cocina’s Fourth Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival

Sea of foodies on Folsom Street, San Francisco Street Food Festival, August 18, 2012

Last Saturday afternoon, within a week of moving to San Francisco, I found myself floating in a sea of 80,000 food lovers on Folsom Street in the Mission, for the Fourth Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival, presented by La Cocina, a nonprofit incubator kitchen whose mission is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize their businesses with a focus on women of color and immigrant communities.

The Street Food Festival was foodie paradise, with over 80 vendors spread along six blocks, selling small bites for $3 and big bites for $8.  And I was wearing a walkie-talkie and a bright turquoise t-shirt that said CAPTAIN on the back, which basically meant I could do whatever I wanted, which was eat everything in sight; hand-pulled garlic bread with burrata from State Bird Provisions—served with a spicy summer tomato giardiniera—I ate two, the best damm cheeseburger from 4505 Meats, lumpia from Hapa SF, sweet potato fries from Liba Falafel, beyond spicy pork ribs from To Hyang, a chicken mole tostada from El Buen Comer, a peanut tofu taco from Azalina’s, sweet potato pie from Yvonne’s Southern Sweets, and a chocolate cupcake from La Luna Cupcakes

Hand-pulled garlic bread with burrata from State Bird Provisions

Founded in 2005, and led by executive director Caleb Zigas, La Cocina’s vision is that by supporting food entrepreneurs, they will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant economy doing what they love.  There are currently 33 food businesses in the La Cocina incubator program, and 35 La Cocina businesses were serving at this year’s Street Food Festival.  The incubator program serves low-income entrepreneurs, and offers resources including affordable commercial kitchen space, mentoring in key business areas like online marketing and operations, access to farmer’s markets, catering jobs, and wholesale distribution, and other capital opportunities.  

Night Market at Alemany Market

I had the opportunity to volunteer at La Cocina for two days leading up to the Street Food Festival, and then welcome hungry (and chilly) guests as they entered the Night Market at Alemany Market last Friday night.  The Night Market, a fundraiser for La Cocina, featured dishes from over 20 vendors including empanadas made from scratch by El Sur that rivaled the scores of empanadas I used to eat while living in Buenos Aires, a Russian soup with cured meats and pickles by Anda Piroshki that stopped the Alemany wind and warmed the soul, and Korean braised oxtail with daikon, carrots, dates, and hard boiled egg, by To Hyang, which was so sweet and tender I had to sit down and close my eyes for five seconds. 

Bacon and peanut crusted chocolate cake pops by Matt Jennings, Farmstead

The day after the Street Food Festival, I volunteered at La Cocina’s Food & Entrepreneurship Conference at SOMArts Cultural Center.  The Conference featured panel discussions on female restauranteurs, introducing new ethnic food flavors, how to write effectively about your own food (you better write something really good on the label if you want me to buy your $8 chocolate bar), creating spaces for successful food entrepreneurship, and using technology and social media to grow your food business.  Delicious food was served as well, including bagels and gravlax cured to perfection by Sal de Vida Gourmet, honey lemon thyme biscotti from Saint & Olive, bacon and peanut crusted chocolate cake pops by Matt Jennings, and Nepalese chicken and rice cooked by Bini Adiga, owner of Bini’s Kitchen, one of La Cocina’s program participants. 

Adriana Almazán-Lahl, Founder of Sal de Vida Gourmet

All too often when we talk about food or go to food festivals or read “Tables For Two” in The New Yorker, we only hear about the pecorino and the foie gras and the pork belly and the $100 prix fixe.  In San Francisco—where there is no shortage of gourmet restaurants and craft food trucks and pop-ups serving all the delicacies that a foodie could dream of and more—La Cocina is working hard to ensure that celebrating food is about more than enjoying the burrata.  It’s important for all of us to remember that food is about building community; food is about bringing diverse groups together, empowering others, increasing access to affordable healthy and delicious food for all, and creating opportunities for low-income entrepreneurs, as they start food businesses and share their inspiring stories through food. 

Food trucks arrive early at La Cocina

To learn more about La Cocina, or if you are interested in applying for their incubator program, check out lacocinasf.org.

San Francisco Is Beautiful

16 Aug

(And other Week 1 observations from an East Coast transplant)

Dolores Park

Last Thursday morning I hopped on a Virgin America flight and moved from Boston to San Francisco, with two suitcases of clothes, my laptop, a frisbee, the July 23 issue of The New Yorker, a Timbuk2 shoulder bag that my sister gave me, and a neon green bike helmet. 

Have you ever flown Virgin America?  It’s bliss; it’s the closest a not-rich American like me can come to feeling like they’re doing all right in life.  You walk on the plane and it’s like you’re at a spa run by Thievery Corporation.  The overhead lights are purple.  Some real chill electronic music is playing in the background, and a cool breeze is flowing from above (or below—perhaps both).  The leather seats (in coach!) are comfortable, the leg room is spacious, the red pocket (which includes an inner mesh bag) is perfect for holding a magazine and a Moleskine and a water bottle, the latch on the tray table works perfectly, even the little red puke bag is cute.  By the time they play that wonderful animated safety video (“In the .0001% chance that you don’t know how to put on a seatbelt…”), everyone on the plane looks like they just got a massage.

The purple lights dim, and it’s time to sleep—or use the sauna— your choice.  I sleep, and when I wake up I read Junot Díaz’ piece The Cheater’s Guide To Love, which makes me feel slightly nervous about being single while all my friends are getting engaged and married, but his line, “When winter rolls in, a part of you fears that you’ll fold—Boston winters are on some terrorism shit—but you need the activity more than anything, so you keep at it…,” reaffirms my decision to move to California.  Junot Díaz is raw, brutal, and real; his prose oscillates between the casual and the prolific so naturally, so easily, that the conversation you just had at the bar with your boy, the conversation on the street between two nobodys, instantly becomes poetry. 

Then the pilot gets on the mic and says, “We’re about 30 minutes early as we make our descent into the San Francisco area.  That’s how we roll here at Virgin America.”  Indeed.  And I’m in California. 

People here are so nice, everyone is happy in San Francisco.

The first thing I notice about SF is that everyone here is so nice, so happy to be here, so happy to be alive.  Now, to be fair, I’m coming from spending the most of the previous 29 years of my life living on the East Coast, so a happiness comparison may be unfair. 

First, the Virgin America flight attendant strikes up a conversation with me as we’re making our descent, welcomes me to the Bay, and says “you’ve finally seen the light my friend, you’re gonna love it here!”  Then, when I’m getting my bags at baggage claim, a very attractive young woman strikes up a conversation with me, welcomes me to paradise, and offers to watch my bags while I check to see if my friend Zeb is there to pick me up.  When Zeb arrives he gives me a huge hug, and I throw my arms up in the air, kiss the sky, and scream “I LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO!” and another group of three (attractive) women give a rousing applause and respond, “Welcome, welcome to San Francisco!”  What is this, a fairy tale?  Have I died and gone to heaven?  (Yes.)

Usually, when I land at Logan Airport in Boston, I am greeted by a bitter bus driver yelling, “Get the fuck on the bus kid!  Next staaaap, South Station!  I didn’t have my ahhhh Dunkin ahhhh Donuts coffee this morning, and the Red Sox have lost three in a row, go fuck yaself!”  No such harshness in SF, only love. 

I never know what to wear.

Fog on the San Francisco Bay Trail

Weird does not even begin describe the weather in San Francisco.  Microclimates = what the fuck.  When I got off the plane at SFO wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I wished I had worn my cut-off shorts because it was 75 degrees and sunny, absolutely perfect weather.  Then, Zeb drove me up to Twin Peaks to check out the view of the city and the wind was brutal and I was like dammit, where’s my flannel shirt?  An hour later, we were sitting in the sun on a bench in Golden Gate Park and I was hot again and had to roll up my jeans. 

When we got back to my house in NoPA, the fog started to roll in and it felt like a storm was coming and I had to bust out my hoodie and slippers, my body was freezing.  Then, the next morning I had coffee sitting in the warm California sun, and it was once again, 75 degrees and sunny with a breeze.  But, sure enough, later that afternoon, the fog rolled in and I put on my fleece again.  So, yes, as the San Franciscans say:  always bring a jacket with you, always. 

San Francisco is beautiful.

Alamo Square Park

If anything, the constantly changing weather only increases the natural beauty of this city.  To watch the morning fog fade away to bright blue sky, on my morning run in the wild jungle that is Golden Gate Park, is a joy.  There is beauty everywhere you look (everywhere you look): the painted Victorians, the palm trees, the eucalyptus trees, laying out in the hot Mission sun starting at the city from Dolores Park, the fog obscuring all but the bottom third of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field, the bikers zooming through the Panhandle, smiles on the faces of couples spending Sunday morning at Thorough Bread & Pastry, the avocado in my garlic shrimp burrito at Little Chihuahua (a gringo burrito, not a real burrito, I was told, but call me a gringo, it was delicious), the piece of mint perched on top of my cup of Philz coffee (no coffee has ever given me such a rush—I nearly ran down 24th St. like a mad man after three sips), the green compost bins in front of every house on trash day, beauty is everywhere in San Francisco. 

Nobody asks “what do you do?” 

Having spent the last three years living in Washington, DC, I grew accustomed to answering the requisite, “So what do you do?”  If you ever happen to find yourself anywhere in the Dupont Circle vicinity, it may take someone less than (not joking) five seconds to ask what you do.  In fact, I once met a woman in DC who asked me for my business card before she even shook my hand, before she even got my name, as if actually even meeting me was dependent on what my job title was. 

Not so in SF.  People just say hi to you and what’s up, and through the course of talking about what neighborhood you live in or where you used to live or what you’re interested in (walking around, climbing, biking, blogging, eating good food, gardening, coding, Beck, apps) you maybe get into “what do you do,” but that’s like 15-20 minutes into the conversation.  What someone does for money does not define them or their reason for being.  People out here would much rather talk about what they care about, and so would I. 

I have no idea what to call my neighborhood.

I live two blocks North of the Panhandle, in what, according to Google, is now called “NoPA.”  However, when I told a San Franciscan that I lived in NoPA, she rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s just what bourgeois people call it since there is a delicious restaurant called NOPA and the gentrifiers don’t like saying Western Addition.”  But then when I told another local that I lived in Western Addition, they were like, “Dude, you don’t live in Western Addition, you live in NoPA.”  Another friend just told me to play it safe and say, “By the Panhandle.” 

Call it what you will, it’s amazing, I love its mellow mood, the painted houses, my wonderful roommates, the smell of eucalyptus, and that I can basically step outside and be inside Golden Gate Park.

San Franciscans take their bikes and their bike signs seriously.  (Helmets, not so much).

I knew people in SF were into bikes, but I’m not sure I realized just how obsessed they were.  Everyone has a bike.  Everyone.   And not only that, everyone knows the bike routes, and the bike signals.  Riding on The Wiggle, a bike lane marked with bright green paint, which zig-zags for a mile from near my house in NoPA to Market St., following a posse of seven random bikers, all experts who used the correct bike signals and wiggled in unison, felt so progressive, so badass, so post-climate change, that I couldn’t help but wonder if I had suddenly been teleported to The Netherlands. 

I also noticed that while my biking companions each were riding $1000+ bikes and sporting $100+ Chrome shoulder bags, only two of them were wearing bike helmets.  The East Coaster in me nearly commented:  “Excuse me, hipster biker dude.  Your bike is a lot nicer than mine and you are intense with your biker bag, and you kind of scare me when you ride so fast.  But you might want to spend $30 on a bike helmet so you don’t embarrass yourself.”

But I didn’t, best to keep things West Coast when on The Wiggle. 

Garlic shrimp burrito at Little Chihuahua

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