The sky is dark, the streets are wet and the end of 2012 is just around the corner.
This is my least favorite time of year when all the worn out jingles are heard and frantic messages consumerism get shoved into everyone’s faces. This year its particularly bad because Thanksgiving was so early but even before Thanksgiving, xmas decorations and music could be heard inside my local Sfway. I guess the marketing execs know what their doing because consumerism is already up and from the stories I heard on NPR, shoppers really liked leaving their Thanksgiving tables to run around cold box stores to snap up TVs. I don’t understand the madness of it all. Maybe if I had a job, (the 17th will be my 2 year anniversary of joining the ranks of the unemployed), I would feel differently. As fate would have it, I have learned instead the valuable lesson of getting by with less, much less.
For the past 15 years, I’ve been a proud car-free, SF family. People ask me how I do it. With two kids, a husband, a house and a dog, how do I manage not having a car? It’s been a challenge at times and we’ve rented cars to go to LA and Yosemite, but my favorite moment when renting a car is when I return it. Driving is really stressful in this city, at least for me it is. The independence of mind and body expressed in San Francisco is also frequently expressed in how people here drive. If you don’t want to wait for a red light to turn green, don’t. Just blast through it. Or if you don’t have the patience to wait for the car ahead of you to turn left, blast past them. Pedestrians? They better watch out.
When I owned a car in the City, I never disliked San Francisco more. It’s not just the lack of parking but the way people drive here that’s so unnerving. Especially for someone like me who learned to drive in LA when it was less congested and a bit more civilized. Whenever I’m on public transit, I feel a strong connection to the real ideals of a civilized society. Public institutions like libraries, schools, fire and police departments, mass transit, free concerts and events, all show me the best face humanity has to offer. We are a collective being. Each one of us was created by a union of two unique individuals that came together in a fleeting moment of great passion (hopefully anyway). We are meant to share and give and take, not to be isolated in a metal box acting like assholes to one another.
Life is stressful for most people the great question is, how do we deal with that stress? Individually and collectively. Would we all not benefit if it were much easier to get where we wanted/needed to go without the stress of driving? I know, a lot of people like to drive. I like to drive too, not in San Francisco, but other places. I like sitting on a couch, music playing, the heat or air conditioning set at my perfectly desired temperature and going wherever I please. I get that but there is a big price to pay for that freedom and in my mind, it isn’t worth the price of war, death and destruction of our planet.
I love being a tiny part of something much bigger, much better than myself. I want to contribute, in a small way, to making the world a better place to live in. The way I do that is by walking everywhere, riding buses and trains. I believe that when people see me walking, they might think twice about getting in their car. Why not walk? Why not spend the extra time it takes to get somewhere and experience the journey rather than just the destination? And its from my walks that I’ve come to understand my interest in houses; the way they’re painted, the variety of weather vanes mounted on rooftops, the window treatments, gates, doors, driveways, entryways, gardens, mailboxes, everything that belongs to a house catches my eye because I am walking.
I invite you to experience the joy of discovery on this cold, wet, dark December day.
With my nose pressed up against my window, I remain steadfast as your design detective,