Be not lost

In June friends arrive in San Francisco. By car, from Colorado via new Orleans, via California, via Houston. Late in the evening we joke that we are growing older in years and traveling in circles. Like everyone.

Many things have changed since our last cohabitation. We live in San Francisco, for one. We have jobs, cars, and a kitten. The later of which rampages around the living room, doing small flips. Our guest is thankfully without allergies and with patience, for Mr. Squish uses small paws to the face to test new accomplices. She passes his four am challenges and we spend days wandering, exploring this city again. San Francisco is gracious. May’s gorgeous weather lingers into June. The week is seventy degrees and filled with sunshine. Eighty. Eighty five. We bask, we dance, and we celebrate the company of those without schedules. We cook and discuss fish. It is a marvelous week of knowing a place well enough to be a guide and yet not well enough to be bored doing so. I wonder if this summer will be the peak of this city. Is.

And we amble home through the park in the fog which finally, long past midnight, creeps in.

In June a friend asks for guidance on the trains of Japan. Our recent adventures allow the specifics to come easily to mind. Deeper, though, lies the layer of comfort that comes from living there. I wonder how to impart this specific kind of familiarity with locations, with lines and names. Born of taking the Saikyo line home every day for two years, of walking dozens of times between Shibuya and Harajuku, of bicycling to Omiya in the dark, it is difficult to explain. The trains in from Narita, the NEX or Keikyu, retain the memories of old journeys home, jet lagged upon return from America, from Italy. Without these they would be meaningless words leading to places unknown.

The details do fade. Without the recent trip I would have known few restaurants from a decade ago. Without our long evening walks in February from this new apartment I would not know so many restaurants in San Francisco, in the Richmond district. Yet I am not lost here in San Francisco. I was not lost in Tokyo this spring.

With this realization, and the challenge of helping friends discover places I have been, I remember my own goal from years and countries back: to keep moving until I am comfortable arriving anywhere.

To keep exploring until I am not lost.

Welcoming others

In the fall of two thousand nine we welcome our first guests to San Francisco. We have lived here scant months, but feel ready. In many ways this is the true test of our comfort in a new place, the ability to show to others what we have built and discovered. Our house is not finished, lacking a desk by the window and a mirror on the wall, but it can be cleaned, the detritus of a life with regular jobs and ultimate games put away, and so it is. We have explored enough to have a coffee shop, a noodle joint, a burger place, and even a sushi restaurant for family outings. The tour of our neighborhood is small, but includes a secluded park on a hill tall enough to afford an incredible view, and Golden Gate Park, near enough for jogs as well as bird watching. We do not know everything, or even many things, but are comfortable with busses, paths by the ocean, and cooking dinner. Our house has but three chairs, yet we can manage to house a guest, and have spare keys.

This ability, to those long with it, seems no grand gift, no special acceptance of place and people. Yet to a transient person it is an achievement long sought. Not only are these four walls new, this specific place, but so too is this city, and state. This is the first lease I have signed in America this decade, possibly ever. Changing my bank’s address of record from my parent’s house I feel my life finally shifting west, belatedly acknowledging where it’s center of gravity has been for years. And after a summer of taking recommendations on cities and neighborhoods it is comforting to lead the way to a mid-morning bagel for a friend fresh off the plane from Shanghai via Beijing. We all rotate around, though, and he is familiar with this neighborhood, having lived here in 01, before heading to Taiwan, and from there to Shanghai, where we met.

In Los Angeles later, for a weekend, in the city that has been the nexus of my travels east and west, we think of all the other places we have seen together. Have I still been everywhere you have ever lived?” he asks, the two of us standing on the rooftop of his new house, looking out towards the Marina, and Venice, and the Pacific. Jets from LAX pass on the horizon. Yes, I say, save San Francisco. And San Francisco he will, for three months in we have begun to welcome visitors.