I moved into my new apartment on August 1, and I’ve been pretty busy since then—unpacking, setting up accounts, exploring my new neighborhood, and just generally getting settled. I’m finding that the reverse culture shock of returning from Japan after two years is a lot stronger than it was when I came home for a visit after my first year—nothing insurmountable, but certainly a strange thing to feel when returning to the city I’ve missed for so long. My new place is right between the Mission and Bernal Heights, and on Thursday I walked up Mission to 18th and then came back down Valencia, passing by 826 Valencia and making a quick stop to browse at Dog Eared Books. It was too hot for the jeans and light jacket I was wearing, and I felt weird seeing the contrast between hipsters eating lunch on the patio at Rosamunde Sausage Grill and the long blocks of dingy discount stores. I was intimidated by the hip, well-stocked bookstore after two years of Toda Books, Amazon, and the JET midyear seminar book swap, and my feet hurt by the time I got home. To be honest, by the end of the day I was mentally composing a confessional blog entry about feeling wrong-footed in my own city. I thought longingly first of the foggy Sunset and Richmond districts on the other side of the hill, then of driving my mini-SUV through the snow-covered Niigata rice fields. I always felt like a self-sufficient badass doing that, even though the commute was a pain, and now I felt like a little country mouse trying to figure out Clipper cards (which didn’t exist when I left the city two and a half years ago).
So what changed? Well, on the way home from an internship interview this morning (which went well, by the way), I accidentally stumbled across the Mission branch library.
I popped in to renew my library card, and then went upstairs to the stacks. Suddenly being a country mouse was an advantage—I got to experience the awe of entering a real, healthy library as if for the first time. I also felt at home instantly. It’s dorky and cliche, but true—libraries are a tonic to book nerd types, a way to feel safe and reassured in the face of almost any trouble. I never met an SFPL branch I didn’t like (not so for LAPL, although their main branch is lovely), but the Mission branch is particularly nice.
Just as exciting was the bulletin board, which was filled with colorful flyers and announcements for all kinds of events. I’ve been digging through the library events pages quite a bit lately (research!), but there were still quite a few that I hadn’t heard about—for example the Mission branch book club (the current selection is Tales of the City), or a workshop on Pinterest at the Bernal Heights branch.
I didn’t stay long—just enough to pick up two books.
I’ve wanted to read Valencia for a while now, for so many reasons. Author Michelle Tea is one of the main movers and shakers of the San Francisco literary scene, and the book has a fantastic title and sounds so wild and punk rock and fun and will, I imagine, give me even more reasons to love my new neighborhood. As for the Francesca Lia Block, what can I say. I haven’t liked what she’s put out for at least the past six years, but old habits die hard. (I was actually looking for Pink Smog: Becoming Weetzie Bat, which I long and dread to read in equal measure—what if it’s awful?!—but this will do.)
Anyway, even though I drove down Park Presidio in the fog yesterday and felt the little pangs that you feel only when you truly come home, I’m back to loving my new neighborhood and the heady high I get from sitting in my wonderful bedroom looking out the window at Sutro Tower and the houses winding up and down the hills. I’ll explore Bernal Heights and try all the taquerias and read Valencia. I will even smile and pretend to agree when people cite the warm and sunny weather as a positive (although seriously folks, it’s called Fog City for a reason). And as I jokingly-but-not-really told people in Japan, after moving to the other side of the world and back, living on the other side of the hill is the next great adventure.