I am sitting in our square Edwardian bay, laptop rested upon our round marble table mexican music blaring up from a truck on the street below. Just in front of me are the bright orange and cerise dahlias I purchased down Mission way. When I caught a flash of my reflection in one of the windows I had the sudden realisation that I had adorned myself with every which colour in the spectrum from the bright green sweater to my turquoise silk scarf and every which in between. This in turn meant I was unintentionally camouflaged as I strutted down the colour washed end of 24th street. The Mission part of town is intoxicating to me. It is, in truth, somewhat more run down than the zooped up pastels of Haight street or the Noe valley, but there is something very comforting about it to me. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that I could perhaps pass for an Argentinian or, at a stretch Brazilian perhaps, and therefore can pretend I too am a San Franciscan. The boys and I hopped on the 49 bus which took us down the length of Mission street, once again passing the colourful array of taquerias, money transfer companies and, Thrift World - a gargantuan charity shop to you and me, which, tragically, I didn't make time to loose myself in. I had promised Cory a tour of Balmy street to take in the glorious murals, with food before hand. Down we sauntered along 24th street loosing ourselves into the neighbourhood, passed canary shops, flower stalls and a cluster of restaurants each with their mouthwatering smells whirling about us. Eventually we came to the taqueria I had spied with my cousin. Inside every inch had become part of a mural depicting the history of the city with almost an entire wall devoted to the 49ers football team. At the counter we ordered portions of meaty delights and rice and beans. Boys were served a couple of fresh juices from two enormous vats, one melon based the other a fruity watermelony concoction. Both tasted like holidays on the beach. After a short while our marinated pork and chicken plates arrived and we fell into silence as we scoffed our authentic delights. Our concentration punctuated only by the flap of several pigeons who had found themselves inside proceeding to hop from tile to tile and occasionally on table tops. I have discovered that sharing my dining space with flying friends is not on top of my list of favourite things to do whilst digesting. Hey ho. Plenty of room I spose. After several more flappings one other customer, a skinny mexican lady of indeterminate age with brylcreem'd slicked back hair, a red and black tracksuit and a seriously generous application of cream (red) blush slammed the doors that were open onto the street shut. Minutes later, the last remaining bird flew into my peripheral and almost knocked himself out on the glass. This tickled my husband no end. I captured it on camera. Accidentally (pardon the pun). The bird had some serious comic timing.
Which leads me nicely on to remembering the undisputed highlight of our week. Triple bill of 20 minute black and white silent shorts shown at the Castro Theatre saturday morning as part of the 15th annual silent film festival. It was Sam's first visit to the movies. With no conceit intended, we are delighted that he had the opportunity for Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Max Davidson and Laurel & Hardy to be the first to engage him in this wonderful genre. We arrived on the F streetcar, in all its retro splendour, only to join the queue that was snaking its way around the block. Amongst the spectators were a handful of 20s affecionados dressed in vintage clothes with hats, curled moustaches and red lipstick to boot. In we shuffled, past the islamic tiled stand alone box office and into a dimly lit velvet splendour of a place. A truly breath taking movie house, lovingly preserved within an inch of its life. The lights dimmed, people shuffled in their seats. First up, The Cook, in which Fatty Arbuckle plays a glib, well padded cook with Buster as his sidekick waiter. Turns out I love a man in eyeliner. Keaton gave an adorable turn as the lovestruck accident prone stooge to the hilarious Arbuckle. It was electric. The audience almost 1,000 strong roaring into the auditorium, joined in a fleeting but beautiful moment of comedic perfection. An hour later we jostled across the street to The Cove for some brunch and whilst Dad took off for the show, Sam and I let off steam at the playground.
I will shed some light on the area that is Castro. A predominately gay area, it is customary to see children at playground accompanied by their two dads or mums. On the day in question we met a young girl, dressed up as a jock in training, playing with her dad and his partner. I promise I was not eavesdropping when I heard dad say mum was coming soon. Minutes later, mum, a voluptuous vision in pink with jet black dyed hair holding a skinny puppy chiuwahwah at the end of a rhinestone studded fuschia S & M leash, strutted in. Child was handed over with accompanied pleasantries and details on her bedtime for the previous nights. Honestly I was not eavesdropping. When dad and dad had left I made small talk with mum who quickly shared the fact that she and dad had opted for IVF together and, having signed a parental contract are now sharing the responsibilities of their little girl. Soon after another two dads came in with their 14 month old and greeted my new friend and I as we sat cross legged on the floor. One of them asks when the two children's birthdays are, meaning Sam and his new friend, and I, without thinking give the answers for both. The dad smiles back at me with recognition and I suddenly realise that there is no doubt in his mind that my new friend and I are a couple. Then I realise his smile also tells me that he thinks we were both pregnant at the same time (the little girls birthday is in october and Sam's in november). I smile back, feeling warmly initiated into the community.
Soon after Sam and I leave for mama's coffee fix in a little outdoor cafe. We sat next to a man becoming a woman and another couple, the three putting the world to rights. Eventually we make our way back to the streetcar which would take us all the way to Fisherman's wharf where Cory and his cousin and niece would meet us for dinner. On the way about half a dozen men utterly naked but for tans, tattoos and DM boots strutted by us, their eyes twinkling cheekily in the early afternoon sunshine. Sam took them in, cast a glance all over their bodies and kept walking. Turns out nudity on the street is far more suprising to a 33 year old than a person 30 years their junior. As we waited for the street car I clocked another two, sitting casually at an outside table sipping their coffees and sharing a joke. I think it was on us.
Half way through the streetcar ride to the wharf a little boy fell asleep on my lap. I was glad, because the onslaught on the senses of the touristy wharf deserved some rest before hand. Course carrying a lithe 3 year old limp in your arms whilst trawling through the river of tourists swimming upstream towards you is also not on the top of my favourite thinsg to do list either. Eventually we get to our cousin's favourite restaurant (they came in from Sacramento to see us) and half an hour later we scoffed shrimp like they were going out of fashion. Even our boy became one with the fruit of the sea, shovelling them down the hatch in between gasping, loudly at the ships and sail boats on the bay which we spied form the expanse of picture window we sat beside. Dad made a hasty getaway for the evening show and we bought candy and trinkets and took in the sea lions on the jetty and the clown doing his turn on the stage. The evening fog and the descending chill made us huddle up hill back to the homestead. In the morning our relatives returned back home.
The boys have since returned home from their galavanting in a park on the outskirts of Japantown where we headed for lunch today. Big boy is taking his regulation early evening sieta before the show and mini boy's head is peeping over the top of the table his belly full of dinner (I went off to make it around paragraph four), now feasting on japanese cookies in between detailed descriptions of his adventures with daddy. "Lets get some tennis racquets," he says, "and a real green tennis ball." He is miming the game for me now. And talking about girls. Another cookie has made it into his mouth, hushing him into a fleeting moment of reflection as he turns to the window to watch San Francisco drive by us and into the evening. It won't be easy to leave this place. I'm only just getting used to wandering about without looking at a map. Or iphone. Just under a week left.
Best enjoy those dahlias whilst I can.....