Every story begins with San Francisco, doesn’t it? This story is no different.
Picture this, the perfect city. The city where you can get coffee in a dilapidated warehouse, go through a library wall to get your cocktails at the latest speak easy, attend a painting party on Thursdays, and watch a burlesque clown comedy show on Tuesday. The artists are thick in the streets, the rawness is palpable and inspiration hangs on every corner. Even through the surprising filth that clings to the streets, this city pulses and breathes the magic of Never-never land. Dreams aren’t confined to a Friday night movie rental in this city. It is proof that art can be in motion in everyday life.
I remember falling in love with this city in my childhood imaginations before I ever stepped foot on its soil. I believe I was five years old the first time I glimpsed this city, playing in the oak tree in our front yard as I waited for my parents to get ready before church. I heard the front door open and not wanting to get in trouble for playing in my church clothes, I made the hasty decision to jump out of the tree. To my dismay the dress’ hem caught on a branch and I was gifted that bat-like clarity attained by an adrenaline burst, and with a flash I realized I could achieve anything, be anyone, and I saw a city plucked straight from the mind of an artist on a psychedelic trip, and knew I would be there one day.
While I swung upside down, helpless to do much more than wait for the threads to rip and release me, I felt more alive than I had in my previous, well, five-ish years at that point. I thought that there was no other way I wanted to live my life but in vivid technicolor from that point forward! Or, the thought probably went something more like “WEEEEEEEEE!” to the brain of a five year old, and the notion was zapped away as soon as I came crashing down to the ground. But the fact was, my eyes had been opened and you can never not know afterwards.
It was 26 short years later that I set my sights on San Francisco, obviously, right? That’s where it’s all happening, and so I moved to California with my then bi-sexual husband. It turns out San Francisco energetically makes me nauseous and we ended up in Berkeley, but I found that the actual city that changed my life and the city of my dreams is pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle in the midst of many cities.
In San Francisco I learned how to love my devils and dance with them like old friends; in the beautiful, raw, gritty Oakland I met the love of my life, discovered soul-level survival tactics and made life-long friends that dragged me out to the desert for a month each year to get primal and centered; in Black Rock City self-love ignited my soul and my heart was set in flames in a blaze of synchronous magic; in the off-grid hills in Willits I glimpsed freedom, learned to grow marijuana and cultivated my love of working with the earth; in Austin, oh my heart, my birthplace where I rebelled and grew up, jumped in spring waters in the summertime, ate barbecue and listened to southern blues under the stars, where I learned to love and appreciate what home really means; in Denver I discovered that you can’t judge a book by its cover and any amount of “hipness” or physical beauty in a particular place cannot change the loneliness that selling out on your dreams brings; in Rincon, Puerto Rico, I learned to surf and ran through the streets barefoot on steamy nights; in Berkeley I realized that you can simultaneously experience joy and heartbreak as I watched my marriage, and all that I believed about my life, disintegrate around me. But then I saw myself pick up the pieces, building a stronger and more loved version of myself.
But it all begins with the city I called into focus when I was five, hanging from a tree. Because it was in that moment I knew two things:
1) Do things. Even when you are scared. Even when you end up swinging upside down, hanging by a thread because…
2) Joy lives in the doing of life not the observation, even when you are scared.
So you see, perfectly, this city starts my story.