, , , , , , , , , ,

“What is your name?” the man sitting on the bench next to me asked. He was tall, dark, handsome and fashionably dressed in a wool pea coat with a stylish plaid scarf.

I was wearing some yoga pants I pulled out of the hamper, my favorite lightweight sweatshirt (also in need of laundering), yellow running shoes, teal socks, and a bulky sweatshirt coat I purchased at a football game in 2009 on the spur of the moment because I was cold and it looked really warm.

“You want to know my name?” I replied in the awkward manner I like to use when people speak to me.

He looked a little surprised by my response, or perhaps it was the look on my face that screamed crazily, “I’m not a homeless person, no really I’m not.”

Let me back up a little . . . .

Tony and I headed over to The City (this is what we call The City in San Francisco although I’m pretty sure everyone calls their city THE City) yesterday to run an errand. We decided we would walk Cassidy around one of our favorite city neighborhoods (because Cassidy needs to lose 4 pounds to reach his ideal weight of 64lbs. – 64lbs. ironically is how much weight I would need to lose to reach my ideal weight if I were 5’ 4” and large-boned which I’m not). After the walk, we planned to have dinner at a very casual restaurant we like called Q.

The neighborhood we walked through is called Presidio Heights. It is one of many beautiful neighborhoods in San Francisco, and in my mind reflects the epitome of city living. The home we raised our children in is located in the Inner Richmond District which borders Presidio Heights. The best way to describe the difference between the two neighborhoods located side by side in the northwest portion of The City: Presidio Heights is where the 1% live (and as I learned later that night, where the guy with the pea coat lives) and the Inner Richmond is where the 99% live (the entire spectrum of the 99%).

I snapped some pictures for you because I knew I was going to write this post even before I met the man in the pea coat.


As we walked through the neighborhood which we have walked through a dillion (a number I like to borrow from my blogging friend Jell-Jell) times, I thought to myself, it is so nice not to be wanting.

I used to walk through this neighborhood wanting, wanting, wanting. I spent most of those walks trying to think of ways we could buy one of these big houses with a view of the bay. We tried, trust me we tried. We invested, we educated ourselves, we did innovative things, but everything we did was never enough. And everything we had was never enough. Until now. Now we have too much (although Tony might disagree if you asked him about a certain kitchen appliance). Our teeny, tiny empty nest is more than enough.

Walking through Presidio Heights yesterday not wanting, confirmed what I have known for some time now (side note for those of you still wanting – Danielle Steele lives in the next neighborhood over which is even nicer than Presidio Heights so there is money in writing romance novels): I don’t need the stuff. I’m very content to walk around and take pictures of it. There is no thing that can make me happier than I am now.

The only home that matters is the one we are walking around in, the one that houses our soul, this shell we call our body. In that sense, I am wanting. Not for beauty or perfection (or even anything remotely close to perfection – not even unjiggliness – I can live with jiggly – I’d be perfectly happy with the ideal weight of a six foot tall big-boned woman . . . or man), but just a decent place for my soul to live. Something healthy, strong, that can get up when it falls down – preferably something that doesn’t fall down (and I’d also like this body housing my soul to live in Paris for awhile).

I explained my theory to Tony as we headed toward Q. He agreed we should treat ourselves better and take care of our bodies. It was decided, on January 4th we will begin eating less, exercising more, stop going out to eat so often, and use the money we save to at least visit Paris for awhile.

Note to reader: If you are only interested in the man with the pea coat and have skipped to this point, you are fine starting up here again.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at Q we discovered it was closed. There are at least 100 restaurants on the same street so we headed for another favorite, Bella. Bella was closed, too. This is where I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the window. Hmmm? I’m not really dressed for anything, but Q.

We ended up at B Star which is an Asian fusion restaurant. It’s casual, too, however, on this night there were lots of people out with their visiting extended family so everyone was dressed up and everyone was cranky (I was happy our kids left on the 26th otherwise we would have been the “airport family” at the back table).

After dinner, it was cold out so Tony volunteered to go get the car which was parked several blocks away.

I sat on the bench in front of the restaurant. Quite a crowd was gathering on the sidewalk waiting for tables so I was happy to sit and watch the people. I thought what an odd feeling it was to be sitting here all alone with my brown paper bag filled with leftovers – no purse, no id . . . , dressed in unwashed exercise clothing (which in my case means clean).

I reminisced in my mind about all of the times I had walked down this street with our young family. Earlier, Tony and I had walked by our old house. All the windows were lit up and we could see two young girls dancing around the living room next to their Christmas tree. Dancing around OUR living room. We stood there silently looking up at the house, holding hands, mesmerized.

I think some tears may have welled up in my still very bloodshot eye as I sat on the bench. I thought this must be what it is like to be a homeless person – sitting here alone watching all of the happy (albeit cranky) families pass by. Being completely unnoticed. This must be what it is like to be our 91 year old friend who used to live in one of those big houses in Presidio Heights, but who now has nothing and must rely on two annoying liberals when she needs something as simple as a pepper grinder or a working microwave.

My soul felt enormously lonely, and the body that houses it was not doing a great job representing who was inside to the outside world.

I decided I needed to speak. I chose the tall, dark, and handsome man in the pea coat. He was with two beautiful women; his wife and his mother. His wife was very pregnant. I made some comment about how beautiful she was and mumbled something about raising my family in the neighborhood years ago. That’s when he asked me my name.

“You want to know my name?”

“Er, um yes.”

“My name is Julie.” And then thought a little too loudly, either you recently moved to The City from a small town where people ask you your name and tell you what street they live on during the first three minutes of meeting a stranger on a street, or you think I’m a homeless woman sitting on a bench with a bag of somebody’s left over food.

I don’t think the threesome believed my story about about the empty nest and Tony and the dog and . . . how there were two little girls dancing around our living room. They had recently moved to Presidio Heights and had never been to B Star. “Should we go to the pizza place on the corner?” the beautiful pregnant woman asked her husband. “No!” I answered for him, “You are going to be eating pizza for the next two decades, you should eat Asian fusion tonight.” I think this statement gave me some credence with the mother-in-law who I am sad to report smirked a bit when the beautiful pregnant woman pointed out with hopefulness that there was a baby in the Asian fusion place. Uh-huh, the mother-in-law and I nodded in unison.

Finally, Tony pulled up in the car. I waved goodbye and gave them my best, “See, there is a real car with a real husband and a real dog” look.