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Flowers in Our Hair

Monday August 03, 2015

My dad and I went to San Francisco a few weeks ago to meet with Dr. Phillip Starr, neurosurgeon and genuine human. We ate excellent sour dough and admired colorful style: within six hours, I was swooning.

After a slight detour to Oakland (I learned how dependent I am on Google maps), my dad and I spent our first afternoon on the boardwalk, where we sauntered towards the elusive event of tourism. Dinner, it must be known, included seaside clam chowder.

Along Piers 14-39, I grew enraptured by those well-exercised San Franciscans. The city truly is energizing; the investment in people is evident even from Alcatraz—and from Whole Foods. In the store’s parking lot, on my way to some biodegradable toothpaste, I came across a gaggle of kids in identical blue t-shirts. Day-campers.

Flowers In Our Hair

They swarmed. Their counselors, a young man and woman, were leading them in a rather nontraditional summer camp chant: “Down with corporations!”

Yes, after a mere two and a half hour plane ride, my dad and I experienced incredible bread, fashion and culture. One San Franciscan barista (SFB), in particular, embodies the latter:

It was our second morning in Haight-Ashbery—and it was promising. Around 11 am, we came upon the ideal solution to our diverging interests: a coffee shop right next to Goodwill. My dad followed my stride into the café.

Now, I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve had my share of ordering experience on both sides of the counter. I memorized my dad’s drink years ago, when his doctor suggested that he increase his caffeine consumption. So, over the years, I’ve become adaptive in my order phrasing: 12 ounce/small/tall [soy] vanilla latte, please.

That fateful day in Haight-Ashbery, I chose wrong.

The cafe was more of a pad, really, with pleasingly tall walls and disturbingly squat standing room. I approached the SFB at the counter, coffee jargon in mind.

“Hi there!” I said. “We’ll have a tall, soy vanilla latte, please.”

She stared at me. Then she groaned at her co-worker by the espresso machine, where they synchronized their eye-rolling.

“Um,” she replied, holding up a cup, “That’s not a size. What do you actually want? It’s either small, medium or large.”

“Oh, um. Twelve ounce,” I corrected apologetic/pathetically.

Perhaps I came in a little cocky, a little too sure about the barista game. I should mention that my dad pretty much anticipated this interaction from the moment I said, “Dad, this city is so cool!”

Of course, he thinks so, too. Pat-downs aside, my dad loves to travel. He flew all around the U.S. in his years at the Boys & Girls Clubs. But he’s also acquired that age-wisdom, which preserves his ironic distance from the outrageous costs and postures of San Francisco.

It’s true that I was remonstrated for ordering a “tall” latte. Down the street from our hotel, I witnessed a radical summer day camp. It’s humbling, to be simultaneously inspired and bewildered. What are the implications of being drawn to, or dependent upon, cities with progressive values—and progressive blinders? What about social accessibility in view of living with, and around, Parkinson’s disease?

These questions deserve exploration. More immediately, though, is a recap of my dad’s visit with Dr. Starr at UCSF. And of the awesome deli just kiddie-corner from his office, where we picked up some of the finest sandwiches of my corporatized existence.

But my dad’s appointment—the actual, main event of our trip—in a next post.

Until then, if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to neutralize your coffee order.

Bette Jane Camp
NWPF Blogger

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