Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanks for the Legs, Dad

The day started at 6:30 am.

In a fun, adult role-reversal, I had my parents over last night so I could finagle my father into a 10k run in Golden Gate Park today. The three of us slept in my V-shaped attic room and crashed down the stairs early to make chicken-apple sausages before the race. I wasn't expecting it to be such a clear day--it hardly feels like winter.

We got to 8th and Lincoln by 8:10. The race started adjacent to the recently renovated Academy of Sciences. Dad and I jogged straight to the starting line just as the announcer was winding down. We were told to line up according to our approximate mile splits.

"We can do 8:30," Dad said.

He's a seasoned runner, and my favorite running partner. We did the Bay to Breakers this year (my longest race, and my first B2B), plus a number of 10ks and a few Turkey Trots back in my hometown. This is the man who woke up with me four days a week to jog around the village green when I was an insecure eighth-grader, the same one who followed our racing shells after regattas to make sure my rowing team and I made it in okay off the Sacramento River. He's got a ponytail and usually runs in board shorts.

"Let's start at 9," I suggested. "We can always up it as we go."

The start was anticlimactic, as every race start is, requiring us to jog in place for a few minutes until the elite runners (I've always hated that word) left a clear spot for us to follow. The sunlight was clear, yellow; autumn light. We circled the 7th and Lincoln baseball field, the one where I've taken Kaplan Aspect soccer clubs, and looped out MLK drive all the way to the Panhandle.

Here's the reason I like to run with my father: because we are built the same, mostly legs and arms with long-twitch muscles that don't make us particularly fast, but do make us goddamn stubborn. Many times when we run together, there's no time or distance goal, but rather a personal challenge, usually involving an unknown fellow runner.

"See the guy with the obnoxious red-white-and-blue shirt? Yeah, the one about 100 yards ahead? We're gonna pass him. Now."

My dad is strong and powerful, and he had to take a brief hiatus from running this summer because of some particularly unruly vertebrae in his back. I signed us both up for the 10k a few weeks ago, somehow forgetting the 8 weeks this summer he spent off the track. And yet, today he was just as strong and determined--if not more so--than ever.

The real reason I am writing about running tonight is because it mirrors what I am thankful for. Quiet mornings with my family. Being outside. Functioning limbs. That sensation after exercise when one feels absolutely able-bodied. Whatever chemistry it is that brings friends together inside and outside, at all times of the year.

Dad and I both completed the 10k in good time, after cruising up above the Conservatory of Flowers and around Stow Lake. Mom was waiting for us at the finish line with our border collie Taj, and there was music, water, and goodies waiting for us between the de Young and the Academy of Science.

We weren't the fastest runners, nor were we the slowest. But we were the most goddamned stubborn. And thank goodness for that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Last weekend I was stopped by a photographer as I was leaving the Bicycle Valet parking at the San Francisco Green Festival. These things generally don't happen to me. It was a hot day for mid-November, and I was attempting to bike in a miniskirt and pink Converse sneakers. And then this woman approached me.

"Do you mind if I take your photo?" she asked.

"What's it for?"

"Oh, I take pictures of fashionable women on bicycles for my blog."

I wasn't sure which part of this statement surprised me more--that she has a blog devoted to fashionable bicyclists, or that I somehow fit that description. I'm the kind of girl who tends to accidentally mismatch everything, usually because I'm more loyal to a favorite shirt than I am to an overall "outfit." My mother can attest to this--hers are the eyebrows that raise, hers is the voice that quivers when I leave the house. "You really want to wear that?"

I obliged her, and lo and behold, a week later, I stumble across her website.

I think I am an official San Franciscan now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On Morality, of Sorts

--image by Kristen Blackmore, from

On Saturday, November 15, my roommates and I biked down to the San Francisco City Hall to Join the Impact against Proposition 8. We arrived around noon, two hours after the rally had begun in 80 cities around the United States, and the lawn before the Civic Center was crowded with thousands of protesters. We wove through recently-married gay couples wearing wedding dresses and allies waving "another straight against h8te." There was nowhere to stand, so we wandered over to the Slow Food Victory Garden and perched atop hay bales. The sun beat down an almost impenetrable ray of civic justice, and yet the only speaker I could actually hear was a Baptist preacher. His voice had that hearty, scratchy pitch of someone who is accustomed to raising it high enough to be heard. He referenced the beginning of his education in civil rights at the death of Emmett Till, and argued that Christian fundamentalists and Evangelicals do not understand the hypocrisy of their "moral" argument.

--image from Flickr, by Generick11

My adolescence was highlighted by the infamous decisions of unfortunate politicians, whether it was George Bush Sr. throwing up in Japan, Clinton getting impeached for an immaturity not worthy of the Oval Office, or the various embarrassments and tragedies that have been the Dubya administration. And now, finally, the change I am witnessing has the potential to make our lives better. Thus, the pots and pans of November 4, 2008.

And yet, the civil rights movement is not over, nor will it ever be. The perception of homosexuality and all non-heterosexual communities has evolved at an almost incredible rate during my lifetime. I will never forget how the word "gay" was such an accepted insult when I was in junior high, or how risky it felt to join a Gay-Straight Alliance in high school. I'm straight, and yet I still feel the intensity of that association as a teenager.

Eight years later, it feels almost criminal not to be an ally. Being human is being human, regardless of where we're from, what we look like, or who we love. I live in one of the "gayest" cities in the world, and instead of feeling threatened by the non-traditional or the unexpected, I'm more comfortable because of it.

Yesterday was a full day. After the protest, I met up with Laurel at the Green Festival downtown, an indoor sustainability fair with a seemingly endless supply of free samples. In the evening, we headed down to the Box Theatre in Potrero Hill to see a dance performance that benefited the Darfur Women's Center. I forgot how effective nonverbal communication can be sometimes. It was an evening of expression, and the movements of last night, combined with the images of the protest and the festival, have slid through the microfilm of my mind all day. Politics and art have been chewing away at my brain these days, and for the first time in a long time, they are a source of inspiration.

Thank goodness.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

O. Bama.

Tonight I ran the streets of San Francisco banging pots and pans, drinking champagne and yelling joyfully into open cafes and bars. Tonight I felt proud, actually, honestly proud, to be from the United States, for the first time since I was in elementary school.

It started after work, when I ran home to pea soup and NPR, and I heard the commentator noting that "many of those contested red states are turning a shade of blue." And then Ohio. Oh, Ohio. Obama and his campaign took Ohio. And then Pennsylvania. And Virginia. And so many more, until at long last, it was eight o'clock and the projections were suddenly not so projected. Obama: 323. McCain: 144. No hanging chads could destroy that landslide.

I was sitting in a friend's living room in the Mission, surrounded by twenty young progressives with open laptops and powerful lungs. The milisecond we knew, the minute it was true, the room was humid with tears. It was a reaction I didn't realize politics could provoke, transforming a group of high-energy, highly expectant voters into a quiet, weeping mass.

McCain folded like a stack of cards. He was dignified enough, putting his arms up above his head in that universally-recognized symbol of almost Democratic surrender. And then, after he seceded, and Palin waved her Miss Congeniality wave from the side of the stage, it all became so much more real.

Obama took over Chicago with three words: Yes we can. His rhetoric is impossible to beat, and his delivery is perfect. Even the tone of his voice is sympathetic, measured. The following phrase is what broke me down completely, gave me over to a new form of optimistic patriotism:

"Our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

And thus we took to the streets, feeling an almost Biblical pull, like Miriam with her tambourine. We shouted and screamed "O - BA - MA!" and kept pinching each other and running into cafes with our arms up high, surrounded by smiles and fellow chanters. The world feels new suddenly. Faith is palpable. Authority welcomes debate. Humanity is recognizable. American dignity is not an oxymoron.

I won't rattle off Obama's policy promises, although they are attractive (yes to health care for those of us with pre-existing conditions! and pro-choice education! and a quicker retreat from Iraq!), but perhaps more than anything is this injection of renewal that you can feel in the very earth. The days seem clearer suddenly. Grad school seems a little bit more attainable. Small, measurable gains seem possible.

And besides, who cannot love a president who says things like this:

"Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."

Finally, a leader who's funny on purpose.