Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Assimilation- the me becomes the we

In most of my travels, I have striven to find the "out of the way" experience. I have wanted to live like the locals even if just for a few days of my visit. I do not take the packaged tours. I visit the farmer's markets and back row shops. I daringly eat from the carts and sample local produce. There is freedom in being outside of the madding crowd and out of step with the tourist rush.
One of the benefits is not waiting in lines to get on the bus and then waiting for the bus to start its day. The freedom of planning my own schedule and finding my own way around is exhilarating!
But here, in the Great San Francisco, I am feeling something different. For some reason, I don't want to be out of step. I want to be in the crowd of tourists staring at the sea lions, watching the cable car turn and visiting the local tourist shops.
I think that part of this feeling is the uniqueness of San Francisco itself. All during my life, San Francisco has been the place to go for people who are out of step with the rest of society. Yes, it has its rich and stifling element, but it was also the destiny of the hippies. It has great music, free on the wharf. It has wonderful public transportation systems. It is casual chic, relaxed formal, and internationally natural. San Fran is the place where international immigrants came (on the west side) to escape their native country oppression, to start a new life, to find a new way. It is the wild west refined. It is the gold rush free for all. It is end of the line and the beginning of something new. For some reason, I feel comfortable in the crowd, here.
So I bought the muni-pass and have been in line waiting for the cable car every day to take me from the Wharf to Downtown and back. I stop along the way and shop, explore and dawdle just like all the other tourists. There are dozens of bakeries in China Town and I have visited 3. There is only one Fortune Cookie factory and I went there. Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, and Market street. Crab shack- yes. Boudin sourdough- yes. Clam chowder.
All the tourist traps are calling my name- loudly, and I am happily wandering over to explore what the other tourists have done for a hundred years. Here, the tourist is the normal person. The whole environment is 24/7/365 tourists. It is the blood and heartbeat of the place. I am surging in the veins of the city on the cable car, on the side walk, in the crush of people, in the shops. I am new and familiar at the same time. In two days, I know several of the cable car drivers by name and help others find their way around. The people are friendly and busy. The visitors are happy. We are becoming as one. Listening, walking, floating through time, moving with the motion, relaxed and still alert. I am becoming the crowd. We are one.
It is going to be hard to go home.