Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My City By The Bay

Oh the Bay Area, how I love it. It used to be just San Francisco but now I’ve warmed to the East Bay as well. If I ever decide to move back to California, it would definitely be to San Francisco or Oakland. San Diego is my ancestral home but not my cup of tea anymore. Weather-wise it’s idyllic but boring and conservative as all hell. Still, my family is there so I must make a trip there now and then.
This trip to the Bay Area was arranged around a contra calling gig I agreed to do out here. Actually I wound up doing a lot of dancing here besides contra. My friend Danielle is a NIA instructor and I went to two of her Oakland classes. I’ve been meaning to start exercising on a regular basis and I think I’ve found my niche in NIA. It’s sort of yoga, aerobics, meditation all rolled into one. My body and soul felt so good after an hour of NIA with Danielle. Can’t wait to get back to Brooklyn and find some classes. Being the social butterfly that I am, I always bemoan the fact that social visits revolve around food. Not that I don’t like eating, it’s just so boring after awhile, plus my stomach can only hold so much. So, NIA with Danielle was a great way to be active and socialize at the same time. Plus it gave me an appetite for the lunch dates I had scheduled after class. There was Gaylord’s Indian buffet with Laura and Scott (from my Russia days), a ferry ride to Larkspur to see Tamara and Thai on the Embarcadero with Michelle( another Russia friend). The other dance event basides contra was Ecstatic Dance a regular Sunday morning event in downtown Oakland. This came upon the heels of a heavy brunch at Ron and Melinda’s so it was good to burn off all the calories and cholesterol. Kenny’s wife Rosie, aka Hula Hoop Girl, was there doing her thing with all the other hundred or so people doing their thing to the music. At first I was a little intimidated by this free form dance event but in a few minutes my Brooklyn shield went down and I got into the groove of things. The crowd looked like a bunch of granola chewing, millet smoking, vegan/Burning man types (that’s the cynical New York voice talking) but after a minute or two, they were just a bunch of people who love to dance. And you know what? Everyone should be doing this. Not only is it fun, but it’s a great way to relieve stress and re-center oneself. Some people go to church on Sundays and in Oakland, some people go to Ecstatic Dance. Hallelujah!
The contra dance went off with few hitches. Lots of beginners but I seemd to be able to reel them in and keep the lines from breaking down. It was a bit stressful at times but by the end of the night everyone was in sync and having a ball. The two-man band provided great music on their fiddle and piano to keep the crowd moving. About 90 people showed up to dance the night away. I tried out some tricky dances on them but reverted to easy standards to avoid complete disaster. Ben, Robert, Arcadia and the other organizers have done a great job of getting lots of people to come to their dances. They have a wonderful dance community out here and I’m inspired to get our dance community in NYC growing a bit.
Besides all the dancing, there were the many social visits around town. The Bay Area has great transportation options so I wasn’t always relying on cars to get around. Buses, BART, ferries, foot, you name it, I did it. When I lived here, no one went to the East Bay or used BART much and now I stay in the East Bay so I take BART everywhere. This was the first time I took a ferry to Marin which was fun. Of course walking all over San Francisco and Oakland was great too. I loved taking walks around my old haunts in the city. Spent a Saturday in the new aquarium in Golden Gate Park with my former Brooklyn neighbor Mike, ate lunch on Haight, aroud the corner form my old apartment on Waller, and then walked all the way down Haight to the Castro and then to downtown retracing many steps in my former life here over 20 years ago. It was great to see that many things haven’t changed and yet many things have changed some for the better, some for the worse.
San Francisco isn’t mine anymore but I still have history here. It could be seen as I walked down Haight toward the Castro: my apartment on Waller, the haircutting place where I was during the 89 earthquake, the top of the hill where I cried after finding out I was HIV+, the clinic in the Castro where I found all that out, a building where I spent a night many moons ago, the law office where I used to work, Café Flore where I many a blind date. There was a memory in almost every step I took. Both good and bad ones--memories are memories whether you like them or not.
My week culminated with a fabulous gay dinner party hosted by Ben Monday night. So nice to have a lovely dinner with a bunch of down to earth gay guys for once. Quite a difference from the NYC breed of high maintenance homo. Made me again wonder why I live in NYC where it’s hard to find a boyfriend instead of living I civilized Oakland where guys seem more up my alley. Pauly D, a realtor at the party was throwing all sorts of suggestions at me about refinancing my house and putting a down payment on something out there. Don’t tempt me Pauly D! Well it did have me thinking. Need to make some changes in my life this year and this trip was a chance to clear my mind and figure what the heck I should be doing with myself in 2009. I got a few ideas and I hope to put them into motion when I get back to NYC. So keep reading dear readers!

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