touring San Francisco - Sunday January 31 1999    

After another relaxing morning with cable teevee, videotapes and continental breakfasts, Kim and I decided to go on a little walking tour of San Francisco. Naturally enough, I suppose, we walked down to nearby Haight Street and headed west into the Haight-Ashbury district. Like, dude, I heard it was all about hippies and such. Truth be known, there wasn't much of a scene down there on this particularly gorgeous Sunday. It really wasn't that much better than Bethesda Avenue in Bethesda Maryland, except perhaps for the lack of thirty-something mothers and their hyper-alloy tandem baby carriages. I noticed that some motorists had solved the pervasive parking "challenge" by simply parking on the sidewalk.
Then this girl walked up to me randomly and asked if I was Gus. She didn't immediately look like anyone I know, though I am familiar with her pictures. It was Jen Wade, one of the online journal world's more famous diarists, formerly of Boston, now a resident of San Francisco. When she'd read that I'd be in her town, she'd written to ask me to meet her. I'd gone so far as transcribing her phone number from email to a scrap of paper in my wallet, but this happy coincidence made our actually hanging out all very easy. I wasn't in especially top form for meeting new people mind you; my voice was a sad wisp of its usual strength, and since no one could hear me when I talked, I'd sort of fallen out of the practice. So I let Kim do most of the talking. She's always a good stand-in when I'm socially crippled.
We did coffee at an overpriced (I suppose) Middle Eastern place near the end of Haight. I ordered a $1.75 cup of coffee and it came out in a cup the size of a shot glass. It was super sweet and rather strong. Jen talked a little about how she'd moved out to San Francisco to be with her then-boyfriend, Jay from Hawaii, perhaps the first online journal-keeper ever. Love being what it is in the 90s, he broke up with her only a week later. We talked some about our journals, what drives us, what doesn't drive us. For her, she says, there's never been any issue of her journal getting her in trouble, for those are the places she doesn't go. (With a few exceptions; for awhile she was keeping a fairly juicy "secret diary" to which a few people, such as myself, were privy.) It's rather different for me, of course. But our inspiration came from the same source: the magical, difficult-to-follow but gloriously noncensored Daze of Justin Hall.

Note from Jen Wade on these things:

OK, now you've got yet another person to question the veracity of your diary statements! But I just wanted to clarify that I didn't move to SF to be with Jay. I decided to move here before he did, actually.

I know it sounds like a silly thing to niggle about, but it's a widespread misconception, and I don't really like being thought of as the kind of person who would give up everything for SOME GUY.

Anyway, just wanted to clear that up!

I got the sense that Jen was the quietly determined type. Also, for her, the internet seemed to be more of a real place than it is for me. For me it's always been an uncrossable, unknowable, and not especially inviting ocean into which I can throw lonely little bottles bearing messages of my life along its shoreline. I throw the bottles, but I'm almost oblivious to it otherwise. I told Jen that I've formed very few real friendships over the internet. She, on the other hand, has used it to reliably find friends, lovers, and solid social interaction.
We decided to walk through Golden Gate park back to Jen's apartment, not far below the forested summits of Twin Peaks, the two highest hills in the city. In this part of the city, a strong cold wind blows off the ocean and as we walked, we were never comfortable unless we were in the sun.
Jen has a studio apartment in an older building, a survivor of earthquakes. It would be a nice place if it didn't cost over $900/month. Evidently all the high-paying high tech jobs in nearby Silicon Valley have forced the rent in the city out of the reach of anyone without such a job. I have no idea where the San Francisco Jack in the Box employees live, but I have a feeling some reside amidst the bushes of Golden Gate Park.
Jen, Kim and I next decided to go on an excursion into the Castro, the center of all things gay in the city. For me, no trip to San Francisco would be complete without such an expedition.
To get there, we took the Muni, a small electric train that rides on tracks set in the street. San Francisco has a great variety of public transportation schemes, some fascinatingly exotic. In addition to the usual buses and light rail, there are electric buses that tap into wires strung overhead and quaint little cars pulled up and down the hilly, terraced urban terrain by cables moving under the street (these have to be turned around when they reach the ends of their routes on small turnstiles).
The Muni traveled in a roadbed for a mile or so until it came to an extremely steep hill, at which point the street came to an end and the Muni passed through a long tunnel. I suspect I found this all much more exciting than anyone else.
The Castro wasn't exactly hopping with activity. There were the usual leather shops and gay-themed bookstores (one of which we perused; it appeared to be in the aftermath of a lesbian author's book-signing).
An Chinese lady was selling jewelry, and when Kim expressed interest in a butterfly ring, I bought it for her. For some reason I liked it.
By now, though, I was suffering from a terrible pain in my stomach. I felt like someone's fist was pushing up against my diaphragm from the inside. When I mentioned this to Jen, she joked that I was in the right neighborhood for such feelings. About this time we went our separate ways. Believe it or not, Jen was to be having dinner with yet another online journal keeper and his girlfriend tonight.
Meanwhile, Kim and I were supposed to do dinner with one of her old college chums named Holly Greenberg. But my stomach was in such a state, all I could do once we got back to the hotel room was lie around and moan. Kim was concerned I was going to be a liability tonight, and she didn't take much pity on me. She ordered me to get ready for dinner and take a shower if it would make me feel better.
But I didn't recover much. Even over at Holly's apartment, I had a tendency to writhe and squirm. She fetched me some Tums, which may have helped a little. The best therapy, though, were Holly's various animals: a cat with stinky butt disease and a 30 year old parrot with a distinct hatred for Holly's Latino boyfriend.
We went out for sushi at a small unpretentious place with mostly Japanese customers. The wait for a table was long, and by the time we sat down to eat, my stomach pains were gone and I was actually hungry. But I've been sick and my stomach has shrunk; I couldn't eat very much. I think the thing I like most about sushi restaurants is the way the sushi chefs almost seem to be performing a martial art as they prepare the various dishes. Suddenly, a flick of the wrist, and the dish is done and being handed to you to be devoured. Hi-yah!
Holly and her boyfriend were nice enough, I suppose, but I was too distracted tonight to get any strong sense of who they are.

See Jen Wade's account of our meeting.

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