Category Archives: Letters from the Bay

Letters From The Bay, Week 88: And on the third day, Granny drunk packed for the earthquake

I thought I was over it.

When I moved to California almost two years ago, the first two weeks were hell. Firstly, because I missed home and I was living with strangers and that was weird. Secondly, because I didn’t know how to go anywhere and I was constantly lost and that was frustrating. Thirdly, because THE AGENCY was very quickly revealing itself to be the worst place on Earth and I was overwhelmed and that was terrible. And finally – fourthly, if you prefer – because I was terrified to death of earthquakes and would wake up every time the garage door slammed and dash out into the hallway and half-grip the walls (because, hi, you can’t really hold onto a wall. Remember that one time you were drunk and you had the spins and you tried? Yeah.) and have a few moments of half awake panic because I was sure we were going down in the giant pile of stained carpet, green walls and overstuffed closets that was my first apartment in the city.

Luckily, after a few weeks, I forgot that I was living on the equivalent of a Jell-O jiggler atop a stack of cardboard boxes and I began to relax. And, you know, sleep at night and leave the house and stop carrying around my bike helmet, and such.

Until now, when the series of quakes in Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan have thrown the network news into overdrive. It’s the anchors, with their hyped-up hypothesizing, and the featured guest experts, bloviating about how our lack of preparedness is going to blow up in our faces when the big one hits and we all fall down, who have caused us, the residents of the Jell-O, to experience a city-wide freak out.

On Tuesday, I found this clip, which sent me into a frenzy of freaking out. According to my friend Cameron, we probably have to believe this guy because he looks like Santa and Santa wouldn’t lie to us, right? RIGHT?!?! And Santa says that an earthquake is scheduled to hit San Francisco today, Saturday, March 19th. Or, as the little network news anchors in my head are already calling it: THE ST. PATRICK’S DAY QUAKE AND DISASTER OF 2011.

On Wednesday, while my roommates were watching live Japan coverage on CNN, I was perusing the SF Quake informational site and cursing myself for never taking my Mormon friends up on their conversion offers. Mormons are crazy about emergency preparedness and even though I actually just think Mormons are a wee bit crazy, it wouldn’t hurt us to have some canned soup and a flash light in this house, you know?

And on Thursday, after lots of beer at a St. Patrick’s Day street party with a cover band of middle aged guys wearing tracksuits and ski goggles (who, I might add, were awesome), I came home and packed my emergency to-go bag.

Yes. While drunk. I packed for emergency while drunk. It made perfect sense at the time. It also made sense to call D, my general life supervisor.

“DUNCAN!!” I shouted loudly into the phone. “The EARTHquake is COming on SATurday, and YOU aren’t ready for it yet, RIGHT?!”

“Hi – what are you doing? Are you drunk right now?!”

“Yes. I am drunk. I am drunk and I am preparing for emergency!” I yelled at him as I rummaged wildly through the drawer of technology where any and all cables and things with wires sticking out of them are relegated. “I need to back up my hard drive, fill up my camelback, find that little first aid kit, and saran-wrap my love letters!”

“Your love letters?!” Dunc said, in the incredulous, one-eyebrow up way that he uses when his down home Lutheran sensibilities are confused by your lack of common sense (okay fine, it’s usually my lack of common sense) and he is .2 seconds away from talking you down, Garrison Keillor-like.

“Ooooookaaaaayyyy,” he said. Oh heeeeere we go.

“First of all – love letters should be put into a ziploc. Saran makes no sense. It’s not water tight. Second of all,” he continued, “you really need to get a dedicated bag for this sort of thing and actually put real emergency items inside it. Two cliff bars, a roll of TP and your love letters aren’t really going to help you in case of emergency.”

“Thirdly,” he said as he tried to contain his laughter and it was getting the better of him, ” I just want you to know that this day will go down in the hilarious history of our friendship, and I cannot even wait to tell your grandkids about the day their granny drunk packed for the earthquake that never came.”

How does he know?

Last I checked, it was still Saturday.


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Letters From The Bay, Week 58: Jorts, of course

Dear Universe:

You saucy minx. Acting all like you’re just going to go your way and I’ll go mine, and then all of a sudden you’re all WHAMMY! Here you go lady! Early Christmas for you.

Yesterday? Yesterday alone was one for the books. Don’t act like you didn’t plan this whole thing:

“Um, hello, do you like my bike?” a lispy voice said next to me. “I found it in my garage, and tho I thought I’d take it out for a thpin! Do you like it?”

“Um, yeah,” I said, glancing over, looking at the voice, who was tall, with salt and pepper hair winging out from underneath a dirty baseball cap. “It’s very…” I let my voice wander while I looked for the bike he so wished to show off, and when I saw it I could not even help myself. “Oh wow. That bike is… Wow.”

Universe, as you know, the voice was a tall Spanish man, and he was riding a bike made for an ADD 12 year old. Girl. Circa 1987. It was truly a confection of awesome: banana seat held up by giant silver springs, metallic pink paint job with tiny embedded sparkles, big wheels, a low, curvaceous handle bar. If this bike were a person it’d be a twelve dollar tranny. Hot, in a big, messy girly-man sort of way. You planned that just for me, didn’t you Universe? A gem, you.

“Yeth, I thought it was interethting. But I’m going to Burning Man nexth week, tho I thought it wath okay!”

“Well, I think at Burning Man just about everything’s okay, so you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Unless the naked hippies light it on fire, but you won’t have lost much, right?”

“Ha!” laughed the Spanish man. “Ha! Oh ha! You’re funny, you know that?”


“My name is Antonio and I come from Thpain and I am only 39. I uthed to be a lawyer, but now I work in a rethaurant becauth I didn’t want to take the bar. If it meant okay, now I make loth of money, sure, but it dothent mean that, you know?”

“Oh, I see,” I said. “You’d like to make a lot of money for no effort?” Much like his little speech, Antonio was sounding increasingly like an internet scam. I was expecting him to offer me a discount on Viagra next. What about that, Universe? My birthday present, you say? That’s fine. I can wait.

“YETH!” he emphatically replied. “I don’t want to work tho hard! You know juth what I mean!”

You and THE ENTIRE WORLD señor, I thought to myself.

“Yes, I do. I’d like to make a lot of money while napping, which is like putting in negative effort, but I guess we can’t have everything, right?”

“Oh you are so funny! How about if I take your number and we go out sometime?”

Mmm, how about not?

“I’ll give you my e-mail address, but that’s as far as I go,” I told him, trying to lead him in the direction of expecting to be let down the next day, if not right here at this awkward juncture on a bench underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Well okay. Maybe you come to see me at work thometime? Or maybe you come thee one of my showth! I do thand-up comedy!”

That would be ironic, as you have said nothing funny the entire time we’ve been talking, but I didn’t expect you to be funny, which makes you not ironic, and instead, just one more San Francisco creeper, albeit, of the Spanish variety.

“Oh really?” I said out loud. “Well you’re very funny!”

Good Lord I’m a horrible liar.

“Thankth! You too!”


As we said an awkward good-bye, Antonio stood up and reached over to shake my hand. As he did so, I noticed he was wearing jorts. For the uninitiated, jorts = jean shorts. Of course he was.

So, let me get this straight, Universe – a 39-year old, graying man with a lisp who works as a waiter and wears jorts? AND has a sweet ride of the hot pink beach cruiser variety? All of my very own?

In the words of my Lutheran ancestors, what wonderous love is this, oh my soul.

You know just what to get a girl for early Christmas.


Filed under Gentlemen Friends, It's awkward now, Letters from the Bay

Letters From The Bay, Week 56: Fogged In

Dear Fog Horn,

Please stop.

Please. Please. Stop.

It’s 1:54 a.m. and I cannot sleep because you are blaring away. I know it’s foggy. I know it’s a safety issue. I know those iPods have to come in from China on giant barges at all hours of the night so entitled Marina children can have them first thing in the morning. I don’t know how we can put a man on the moon, yet we’re still boating around to the tune of a gigantic horn, but whatever. Fine. I’ll go with it.

I would just like to point out, again, that I really have to sleep. How am I going to do entitled Marina girl yoga at my fancy gym in four hours if I don’t?

And right now I can’t.

So shut your pie hole, you noisy bitch.

Pretty please?

Thanks much!


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Letters From The Bay, Week 54: Urban Lumberjills, Part II

I have never pedaled faster in my life. As you know, the faster you pedal when flat, the ever so slightly easier it will be to pedal once you’re at an incline of WTF degrees and counting.

For, like, a second.

M’s rear disappeared in the distance as I put my head and gears down and hauled up the Sausalito hills.  My thighs were burning – and not in the good way – as I slowly pushed my feet in circles, thinking less I think I can, I think I can, and more, Never again, you never have to do this again! Also, we have wine at home! Thank the baby Jesus!

I caught up to her as we came around the curve, and suddenly, inexplicably, M was airborne. The wind, fiercer now, had just picked her up and wooooosht! tossed her off her bike and into the side of the hill like it was no big thang.

Ha! I thought. Poor M. That sucks.

Luckily for me, I thought that right as I came around the same curve to meet her and what do you know? Wooooosht! No big thang.

We lay there for a second, legs tangled, helmets askew on the side of the hill, bikes on top of us.

“Well that was awkward,” M said finally, awkward still. “Um, yeah. But not quite as awkward as we probably look right now, lying on the side of a hill in the dark in Sausalito,” I said.  “Point,” M replied. “You definitely have a point.”

We girded our loins (because what else can you gird?) and remounted, chugging up the last stretches of the road to the bridge.

“The most important thing to remember is to just keep going, even though it’s kinda windy,” M shouted at me over the whipping wind as we approached it. “Hold tight as you come around the towers – the wind is pretty fierce when you swing out over the water.”

“Okay!” I shouted back, hair in my mouth, eyes watering in the gale, deeply disturbed at the thought of more wind. “I’m ready!”

We hit the bridge and suddenly, everything was quiet. The wind became white noise, the boat horns faded, even the sound of cars passing on the left receded into nothing. All I could hear was the sound of my own heart beating, and the noise of the waves running into each other down below.


All joking aside, there have been so many moments in the last year where I’ve felt confused or sad or weird about the way my life is going, and then there are moments like this. Where all is quiet and calm and I feel a great sense of both purpose and place, as if the Universe has slapped me across the face yelling, HELLO! THIS. IS. IT. YOU DID IT. NOW ENJOY IT, YOU WHINY WENCH!

I hate when the Universe is sassy, but I guess it’s sometimes necessary.

I felt amazing as we slowed to the gate on the other side, and then I felt blunt force as I ran smack into the back of M’s tire.

“The gate is locked. This is the way we need to go to get off the bridge, and it’s locked,” M said slowly.

“Um, so, we’re trapped? On the bridge? Is that what you’re saying?” I asked M, hoping that somehow she was lying or that I was just misunderstanding, or that what she was saying was true, but that she would follow it up by letting me know that Sparkles the Magical Bridge Fairy was going to come down and wave her giant sceptor in the shape of the TransAmerica Pyramid and get us the fuck off this bridge.

“Yeah,” M said, laughing. “I think that’s pretty much the situation. It’s 10:00 p.m. and we’re trapped on the Golden Gate Bridge.”

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Letters From The Bay, Week 54: Urban Lumberjills, Part I

My coworker’s boyfriend called me a bullshitter last week.  I know, right?!

We were at the Giant’s game, enjoying a hot dog and cheering for Lincecum. Which is a feat in and of itself for me, as I have hated the Giants until recently.  The News was so obsessed with the Giants that every question I asked him and every conversation I attempted to start would swiftly end up back in Giants land, and hey, you know what? NOBODY CARES.


Coworker’s boyfriend, after hearing me talk about that one time I almost died in Tanzania, then that one time I touched Benjamin Bratt, and then that one time I threw away valuable jewelry and had to retrieve it at THE DUMP said that he did not believe any of my stories and determined that I was a bullshitter who made everything up.

Little does he know – I really am just this dumb.

Case in point: Friday.

My lovely coworker M was nice enough to escort me to work for the first time on my bicycle. You know how wilderness guides are great if you’ve never hiked before? Same with biking in the city. It’s basically the same thing. Minus the bears. And the nature. And the peace and quiet and tranquility of all the aforementioned nature. So, you know, same.

M and I meet at the corner of Presidio and Lyon and bike to the office in matchy match North Face jackets and are just as cute as two incredibly sweatey biker chicks in nerd helmets can be.

M and I then meet up with several more biking coworkers after work, and our little bike brigade makes our way over to Sausalito via the ferry boat. We tell stories and laugh and revel in our Californianess.  Oh look at us, just looky look! We’re on a boat! We have backpacks full of wine and snacks! The sun is shining! The birds are chirping! The tank is clean!

The revelry only grows as we peruse the farmer’s market, enjoy a concert together in the setting sun, and drink many bottles of wine. Oh look at us, just looky look! We’re on a blanket! We are drunk again! The sun is setting! The birds are gone! The tank – who the hell even knows what she’s talking about?

It was after all the wine and all the sun had disappeared that M and I realized it was time to head home. On our bikes. Over the Golden Gate Bridge. On our bikes. Up the hills of Sausalito. In the dark. On. Our. Bikes.

Don’t know where this is heading?  Neither did we.  If we had, we would have called a cab.  Unfortunately, I really am just this dumb.

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Letters From The Bay, Week 53: I am a drunken girl

It’s true. As the title says, I find myself in quite a state.

I’ve just come from next to the fridge. Before right now, as in, mere moments ago, myself and my cocktail dress and my very askew eyeliner were crouching in heels with a spoon and making our way through the pasta salad, the potato salad, the peach pie, and yes, the sangria. We used a straw for that one.

Before that – hot, messy mess that it was – we were at a wine bar, my dress and eyeliner and I…eye?…I.  We drank, we laughed, we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Prior to, we drank sangria in the back yard. Boatloads, if you must know. Pitchers full, straight out of jam jars, because we recycle and also because it’s cute. We are firm believers in both ecological awareness and fiesta avant gardeness.


Jelly jars

Before the sangria, oh what was it? It’s hard to remember before sangria.

Or after, for that matter.

Well, I think before that, it was this:

Faith in the trees

Hope you had just as keen a weekend.

If you need me – or my cocktail dress, my eyeliner, or my spoon – we’re now in the living room.

That cupcake doesn’t stand a chance.

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Filed under Another one bites the dust, Fiesta!, Friends, Letters from the Bay

Letters From The Bay, Week 52: San Franiversary

We are pioneer people.  I come from a long line of wanderers, explorers, the Westward-ho, people who have come to traverse our great nation, to see and to do. We came from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, in search of anything, and everything.  Freedom, love, land, money – what my ancestors came here to do is a mystery to me. Why I’m here – or rather, how I came to be lucky enough to live here – is still a bit of mystery to me, too. But I’ll take it.

Ferry flag c. hilaryldavis

The Mister once told me that there is a lot of beauty in an adventuresome spirit – my adventuresome spirit – and I have always clung to that thought.  Simple though it might be, in moments of fear or frustration or uncertainty, it helps to think of myself as an explorer, an urban Indiana Jones in search of something, instead of some dumb girl who pulled up stakes and ran away to the big city.  I have to remind myself that there is a certain kind of beauty in the struggle and a bigger, grander rightness to the way my life is unfolding here, despite the days when it seems all wrong up close.

Jamie lights c. hilaryldavis

Maybe what I’m looking for – what we’re all looking for – isn’t a thing or a feeling to hold onto, but simply, me.  I went searching for me.


I have not been business as usual since college. In college, I felt like the best possible version of me. I biked, I hiked, I lived with my best friend, my LP, who has always made me feel funny and beautiful and awesome. I wrote, I laughed very loudly, I ate too much cake, I stayed out too late, I made a lot of snarky comments, and I had the time of my life because I knew me, inside and out.

The three years that have ensued since then have been…odd. Nobody talks about it, but 23 and 24 are a no man’s land and shit gets weird. I moved home, fought with my parents, hated my parents, came to realize that my parents are, in fact, the world’s best parents who were just unprepared for me to come back not 18.  I had my first very real, very painful heartbreak, and I began to question everything.  Am I too loud? Too sassy? Too happy? Too depressed? Too liberal? Too outspoken? Too much?

I would stare at the ceiling of my childhood bedroom and watch the fan spin around and try to figure out exactly what kind of life I needed to make for myself. That’s the other thing nobody talks about: your life is for you to make and you alone, and making that life for yourself is harder than it seems, and takes longer than you’d like. A lifetime, in fact. I’m still learning that.


Listening to the drumbeat of your own soul is, I imagine, much like the whittling away of wood to form a carving. You have to see both farther and deeper to figure out what’s inside waiting to emerge.


Today is the anniversary of my move to San Francisco, my one year San Franiversary.  In the past year I have biked, hiked, made amazing new friends who make me feel fabulous and funny. I write a lot, I laugh a lot, and I eat a lot of cake.  I stay out late whenever I feel like it, I make snarky comments to wide acclaim, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m having the time of my life.  This city makes me feel like the best possible version of myself, because my real self is here.


I come from a long line of pioneers. I am a wanderer, an explorer, a woman stirred with a spirit of the west, if such a thing exists. Finding yourself is a lifelong exercise, and something I’m just beginning to start, but if there’s a better place to find myself than California, I can’t think of where it is.

Namaste, ocean

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