Small Town USA – Lowville, New York

IMG_2566 (1024x1024)The closest town to Chase Lake (see, I’m writing it like the locals now) is Lowville. Wikipedia says that it has about 5000 residents. It has the usual – a few restaurants, movie theater, some shops, post office and library within a couple blocks of each other.

IMG_1917 (1024x1024)IMG_1915 (1024x1024)IMG_2301The restaurants were what one might expect. For example, I ordered an “authentic Caesar salad” and got romaine lettuce, sliced onions and Wish-Bone Italian dressing on top (I used the stuff in college. I know the taste).

The girls and I did visit a nice cafe called Z Cafe, that was charming and welcoming. The coffee was surprisingly decent and the best thing I can say about the scones and muffin is that they were edible. BUT…we weren’t in town for the food.

IMG_2345 (768x1024) IMG_2388 (1024x1024) (1024x1024) IMG_2565 (1024x1024)I did love that the area is not a destination point. Which is to say that if you don’t have a reason to be there, you’d never go there. It’s not a tourist spot. The girls and I walked around town one day and we all enjoyed the quaint buildings and farmhouse-style homes. We took pictures in old doorways and played in gravel lots.

IMG_2643When heading back to my Dad’s place, I took a wrong turn and found this gem. A true treehouse. She’s a beauty.

I don’t think I can describe myself as a wanderer. I like home (whatever that is, nowadays) and all of its comforts. But I do enjoy exploring new places and being an observer. Figuring out what makes a place tick.

There’s something about a small town that’s so vulnerable. And I love that. I appreciate that. And there’s also an element of take it or leave it. No apologies. I wish I were more like that…. This is me. I’ve got nothing to prove. You want a Caesar? Here’s some Wish-Bone Italian. It’s so bad, but it’s also so awesome. Rock on, Lowville. See you next time.

Homes on Laurel Heights

Home in Laurel Heights

Laurel Heights is a small San Francisco neighborhood just south of the Presidio National Park. It’s one of the city’s wealthier areas, which means beautiful, well-maintained homes and impeccable landscaping.

Home with rotunda

I had some time between doctor appointments last week (most of Laurel Heights sits just above CPMC, one of the main hospitals in town, and several other medical buildings), so I went for a short run in the Presidio and then walked through the neighborhood (where I took these photos).

Home on Cherry Street

San Francisco buildings, especially the Victorian and Edwardian ones, are distinct, unique and quirky. And one of the things I’m going to miss the most.

San Francisco Weather Report: Cherry Blossoms Confused

cherry blossoms

If you haven’t already heard, California is in a drought. We’ve had unseasonably dry, warm weather this winter, and it’s confusing the plants. Cherry blossoms, which usually bloom in early spring, have arrived in full force. They are everywhere and they are beautiful. But I’m afraid they won’t last. The sun was nowhere to be seen today and it’s supposed to be more of the same this week.

cherry blossoms against a blue house

Michigan is known for their cherries. Traverse City in Northern Michigan boasts over 2.6 million cherry trees. And someday I want to drive up there just to see the miles and miles of orchard trees in bloom. I have no doubt it’s a sight to ooh and ahh over.

But there’s something special about seeing them in the City. There’s a wonderful element of surprise…their bright pink flowers against vivid Victorian colors or dull concrete buildings… it’s pretty magical.

And it’s little things like this that I don’t realize I’m going to miss until I come face to face with them. It seems like every other day I find something new. It’s bittersweet. I love that there are so many great things about this city and I love that I’m grateful for all of them. Of course it will make leaving that much harder, but better to have loved, as they say.

cherry blossoms against a blue roof

820 Jones Street: My First San Francisco Apartment

Apartment Building

Photo Credit: Anomalous_A at Flickr (Click to view his full photostream.)  Number 56 is on the right (with the window open), second floor from the top.

I moved to San Francisco at the end of 1996. I had been living in Reno, Nevada for two years and was itching to get out of its eerie strangeness (if you’ve ever been for an extended amount of time, you know what I’m talking about). I worked as Publishing Coordinator for Addi Galleries’ publishing division (limited edition fine art prints). When they announced that a new location (now occupied by the Martin Lawrence Gallery) was being built in Union Square, I jumped at the chance to relocate as the new gallery’s Administrative Director (for a cool $13 per hour).

366 Geary - former location of Addi Galleries.

366 Geary. Addi Galleries’ San Francisco location. Photo: Martin Lawrence Gallery

In one extended weekend, I set out to find my new apartment. My whirlwind search was a success (reminder there was no Craigslist yet); the rental agreement 820 Jones Street, #56 was signed at the end of my trip.

I believe the rent was $875, which covered 420 square feet of studio space, including a separate-ish kitchen, huge walk-in closet (which some tenants used as an office) and tiny bathroom. The basement housed a coin washer and dryer, and also the garbage bins, which more often than not had huge roaches scurrying about. (I have a phobia of roaches. No, seriously. Have you ever woken up to find yourself squishing a flying cockroach just inches from your mouth? Didn’t think so.)

The ad in the paper (the paper!) said the apartment was in Nob Hill, but some would say it was really in the Tenderloin. I think technically it’s Lower Nob Hill, (“Tendernob” came into use in the early 2000s, a term I’ve never liked nor used), but I always told people I lived in Union Square, as it was a short three and a half block walk to the actual Square.

map820

I had the corner unit, so I could see across the street to Sutter. Back then, the Commodore Hotel (now a residence hall for the Academy of Art) ruled the block, with its popular Red Room nightclub (all red decor, as one would guess).

Commodore Hotel

The Commodore Hotel. Photo credit: Phil H. via Yelp.

Next door to the Commodore was the Titanic Cafe (now the Cafe Bean), a small diner that served breakfast and lunch only. Sometimes on weekend mornings I would sit at the bar and treat myself to a their buttermilk griddlecakes for $5.75. It was the first time I saw the sign, “Tipping is not a city in China”.

titanic.logo

My first few days in the apartment were spent trying to keep warm (one of the windows didn’t shut and my radiator was jenky) and to function on very little sleep. I didn’t yet have a futon; I slept on a bed made of my bathrobe and towels, and used my comforter for covering (why did no one tell me about heating blankets!? I would have bought one in two seconds!). I also didn’t have curtains for I can’t remember how long.

I arrived during the week between Christmas and New Years, so the city was even louder than usual and had a weird energy that made me uneasy. On New Year’s Eve, the the town went wild with people yelling, honking car horns and throwing calendars out windows (a tradition that has since stopped).

Inside view of 820 Jones Street

The inside of 820 Jones Street #56 on move-in day.

Soon I was sleeping through the 5am garbage collections, the wailing fire engine and ambulance sirens and the late-night revelers (whose sidewalk voices sounded like they were in the apartment). I looked forward to watching the transgender prostitutes walk the streets on weekends, getting into cars with their “dates” and arguing about who was on who’s turf. (This weekend ritual only lasted a year or so. I faintly remember some movement to “clean up” the area, which pushed the girls from Jones Street to Polk.)

820 Jones Street building

One last look.

Coincidentally, 820 Jones was also my third San Francisco apartment. In 2000 I lived at #51 for about five months. This was during the dot-com boom and the rent was up to $1100. I saw an online ad dated October 2013 for a 3rd-floor unit. The rent was $1895.

I drove by it the other day on the way to get my hair cut. I pulled over and got out to take a couple photos and say goodbye. I had forgotten it was painted my favorite shade of pink – a realization that made me suddenly so happy. I smiled all the way back to my car.