On Sunday, we had a sudden change of plans. First we planned to go hiking with my kids and friends, and celebrate my son's birthday with a cake in the woods. But them we learned, from my elder daughter's Japanese teacher, that the Cherry Blossom festival and parade will be held in the San Francisco Japantown. My daughter really wanted to go and we told our friends we'll go there instead. They decided to join us still.
Several things happened that morning that were out of band: our van fits seven people (eight with the removable middle seat) but we had a bike in the back the previous night and for some reason thought I will not fit, and so I drive separately an hour later. On my way to SF, I first saw a dead cat on the side of the road reminding me of ours, black one. Then suddenly a white Volvo jumped from the left, crossing the street right in front of a Prius that was right before me, and the Prius hit it so that it flew sideways. I drove around them although I was the only witness as I needed to catch up with my family.
The kids in SF just parked when I arrived. I found a spot in front of an office building with the passenger loading-only signs Mon-Sat -- nobody reads the signs in America, so you can win by paying attention. The Post street was already fenced on both sides and I found my family in front of the Kabuki hotel. The parade was about to start, with the folks mobbing both sides and fellow photographers with tele lenses standing high on parapets and balconies. Our Japanese friend was thinking the parade will start at three, although it started around one and finished at three. The friends' kids were hungry and they wanted to go eat; I wanted to catch the beginning of the parade. In the pull and push we got separated from friends.
We saw the parade by ourselves, our friends joined us briefly and left shortly after. We haven't had a chance to connect as I hoped, and the kids went shopping in Daiso instead of going to the Ocean Beach together as I hoped. I went to have a beer and ended up in Academy brewery on Fillmore, trying Fruitland, sour gose, and tripling it.
What I felt was a feeling of dull derailment -- what would be a fun day with friends, in nature or at a festival, suddenly became a bad one, where I was comfortably alone but frustrated in all directions, the day lost. The energies of the new people -- our teacher friend -- our friends we don't see often as a family, bent n their own plans, the crowd, the kids who got tired and did not want to brave the chilly evening air. the separate driving, the strange occurrences, the parking, everything compounded to make it impossible to find any relief but drinking.
The only saving grace was the Forest bookstore I stumbled upon, with its sanctuary of books. I found a first edition of Henry Kissinger's "Years of Upheaval", and went to read it in the Academy. Continued at a Sift Cupcakes store and then the Troya Mediterranean restaurant, with a Turkish red lentil soup, a lamb kebab, a Writer's Block Malbec and a Turkish coffee, I was home in the dark, and only hugging my kids made it better a bit. I wasn't back on the rails until the next afternoon, n my favorite cafe, where I'm writing this in the patio, human chatter as soothing as coffee and the wooden tables and the smell of the spring flowers in bloom.
What makes it so easy for us to get derailed? The social context, the loos of control, the perceived disrespect by those who lose you in the crowd, the back and forth of the phone tag, the misaligned preferences and routines. The miscued interactions, missed connections, the obvious fact that you are alone, in the end. The ease with which the fabric of family and friendship you built around yourself may falter, if only for a few hours.