Update on life in SF

Leif Johnson — 12 Oct 2003, 03:10

Air shows and jets

There's been some sort of air show in town for the past few days. For me (since I haven't actually been to the show), this has manifested itself—fairly alarmingly—in a bunch of military jets flying around the city all day for the past few days. Such contradictory emotions follow those screeching and booming metallic beasts ! I cower in fear, the drone of the engine a little too precise and powerful for comfort. But somewhere in there is a twisted sense of pride, that my country, my people, have come up with such fantastic inventions. I can't help but succumb to the raw power of the devices, awestruck in a primitive sense by the jets, precise systems of mechanical devices, all working together flawlessly, pushing thousands of pounds of metal, fuel, and explosives through the air. (I went outside yesterday and watched for a bit from our rooftop ; it's flat out amazing to see four Hornets flying within yards of each other as they turn directly away from the center of the earth and travel straight up several thousand feet.)

All these feelings are somewhat old, though. I remember going to an air show with my parents at Johnson Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. I was probably seven or eight at the time, and the planes were simply fascinating. But now, especially after my increased attention toward our war in Iraq, I've started seeing these flying, screeching, booming contraptions from a victim's point of view. It's truly frightening to think of these smooth, pointy pieces of technology howling overhead as they effortlessly deliver explosives to the ground. They can't be heard until they're already gone.

Joints (knees and ankles, mostly)

Yesterday was my first day back at aikido practice, after probably about a month of voluntary absence. I've been forcing myself to stay inactive so my knee will heal up, and finally I've been able to get on my bike again ! This translates to aikido, more bike rides, and hopefully running as well. I need to get back in shape ... or at least more in shape. :)

I'm exceedingly grateful that my joints are all behaving themselves for the time being. I'm actually sitting in seiza (kneeling) position right now at my low table as I type, though my ankles start to complain about that after a few minutes.

Bicycle

It's also pretty amazing how much more quickly one can travel around in this city on a bicycle. For example, it's about 3 miles to the school where I volunteer. This translates to about a 50 minute public transit ride (provided all the connections work out more or less well), but riding my bike the other day took only 30 minutes. And it's cheaper to ride a bike.

So my recent purchase of a 1998 Cannondale road bike (fire engine red) turned out to be a good one ; whenever I don't have to take much stuff with me, I can hop on the 15lb toy and GO ! It's so much fun zooming through the streets of San Francisco.

Oakland

A couple weekends ago I headed over the bay to a party at a friend's house in Oakland. On the way there, though, I thought I'd stop at Home Depot to get some mounting hooks to hang my bikes from the garage ceiling. So I took the BART a couple stops further than this party place, and walked the mile or two from there to Home Depot. An hour later (I always get distracted in Home Depot for an hour or so, which never fails to anger me) I left the building just as the sun was dipping into a beautiful radiant sunset, and already half an hour late for getting to the party.

Having glanced at a map before I left, I figured I'd take a prominent avenue from Home Depot (technically in Emeryville) towards downtown Oakland, and along the way I'd pass my peeps’ place. Or so I thought ... it turned out to be about two miles further than I had realized, but I made it to their place no problem—even walking down the street in Oakland at night. I'm still not so sure what the deal with Oakland is.

Changing

Anyway, along the way I passed a billboard for Bank of America, written entirely in Spanish. There are many of these in the Bay area, and I'd probably subconsciously registered them elsewhere. But suddenly I wondered if I'd ever really seen a billboard in a language other than English elsewhere in the States. I can't ever remember so, if I have. I thought to myself, “Wow, that billboard isn't in English, but I'm not in a foreign country.” I suddenly had a realization : our country, my country, is changing ! And I'm going to change with it, dammit. I'm pleased that non–English langauges are finally making their way into this country (other than inside the usually small, close–knit communities of immigrants that seemed to characterize the 19th and early 20th centuries in the States).

It's a sign of change, at least for me, and change means metamorphosis, opportunities for growth, healing, expansion of ideas and possibilities. Change can also mean fear, exploitation, retreat into the familiar, but I hope that the people who call themselves Americans can hold themselves to the higher ethical ground and embrace the newness.

I just finished Kathleen Norris’ Dakota, which addresses change in the tiny farming communities of the Dakotas. Norris notes a few times how the farmers who make it are the ones who aren't afraid of changing, of following the new global economics, of being able to understand the complex world of international grain trades and price fluctuations. Somehow I feel this message applies to more than just farming ; we have to accept and move with change, possibly adapting it to our personal tastes, but never trying to counteract the flow with our own opposite energy. As in aikido, we can only blend, grow close to the center of the movement, and then possibly grasp and act on an opportunity to make our own desires heard.