Back in December my sister forwarded an airline promotion email between Denver and San Francisco so I bought a flight to visit her and her family for a week in February. The intent was to inject some state-side adventure and family time as a way of self-training appreciation for what America has to offer me. It worked well in Kansas City for Christmas, Breckenridge in January; could such an ongoing strategy of regular, domestic adventures be the key to avoiding American stagnation? Is this the mode that can allow for me to live a conventional life somewhere in the USA without getting stuck in the sort of time hole that makes five or ten years of my life disappear in the blink of an eye? It’s a coping mechanism I’ve been aggressively testing in 2018. So I flew out for a week in early February to live the life my San Fran Fam lives — and it was great.
My nieces and nephews are rockstars and being able to hang out with them was the highlight of my week. My sister’s family lives on the West Side of the San Francisco bay in Marin County which is really posh and exquisitely nice. Sleeping on the living room sofa convertible felt like a Californian bed and breakfast. My sister and I did a couple hikes around the area – puling my 9th grade niece out of school on a Friday to hike 6 miles of the Dipsea trail. My brother-in-law joined us which was great, and afterwards we had a truly amazing lunch in Stintson (where the trail ends) — crab, smoked salmon, a cobb salad and a milkshake. This place is great.
While near San Francisco for a week I was able to visit two friends I hadn’t seen for ages, Brian and Hannah. I’m not the best at maintaining friendships but I’m making efforts to do better. Having friends all over the world makes this a fun game of international tag. Brian lives in the heart of San Francisco and Hannah in the East Bay so I had great excuses to visit and explore each. Hannah took me to a Thai temple in Berkley that serves Thai food brunch on Sundays in exchange for donations — it was worth waiting in line to be able to catch up and hear about how her life has been since spending Oktoberfest together. I had drinks with Brian and his lady Emma in North Beach and they definitely instilled an appreciation for the San Fran lifestyle. Thanks buddy! Looking forward to next time!
I was privileged to see my youngest nephew play a basketball game (as the highest scoring player) and his team win. My sister and I picked up my 15 year old niece from school after her lacrosse practice — I think the first time I have set foot on a high school campus since my own graduation almost 20 years ago. Weird. We went to watch a Gospel choir and a Capella performance by my eldest, high school junior nephew. In the evenings when the kids were done with school, sports and homework we would watch the Winter Olympics and play Star Wars Battlefront on my nephew’s Xbox.
The life this crew lives is inspiring! As I recollect my own childhood I did so many things wrong — watching them do it right makes me proud and happy. My own parents were divorced when I was four years old and I’ve always attributed my own relationship strategies to having been affected by this. I’ve never sought a nuclear family of my own — it seemed inevitable that it would become a nuclear explosion; but living alongside this thriving, functional family has changed that perspective.
I was also able to visit Sonoma Valley for the first time, just an hour north of where my family lives. I had never seen the rural side of California before, and perhaps never conceptualized its existence. We had lunch in the town of Sonoma at an awesome local, organic etc. café — I had a smoked duck sandwich on the greatest bread I can ever recall eating (and I don’t eat much bread) — it was a fresh, crusty San Francisco sour dough baguette. My sister had a thai chicken salad. After some window shopping we went wine tasting at three different wineries and there were so many to choose from we could have done 30. I have a terrible wine sense but it’s always fun to practice how little I pick up in comparison to others when searching for fruity nuances and aromas. Tastes kinda like wine to me!
Thank you to my lovely sister for playing tour guide and host and to my brother-in-law for enduring a more-messy-than-normal living room for an entire week. I look forward to my return sooner rather than later!