Author: Kyle Stark
It wasn’t a dream anymore.
“It’s not a dream anymore,” I kept saying to myself, hoping I wouldn’t wake up in my room back home. Everything would have been gone, but even if that happened, I could say I’d been to California. Anything could have happened at that point and I could still say that I made it.
My girlfriend-relationship-“thing’s” name was Mandy. She didn’t even know I was out of town. She called right as our train was pulling into San Francisco.
“Are you gonna stop dragging this out?”
We’d gotten in a big fight a couple days before I left (was that the reason I left? I can’t say it had nothing to do with it, but there’s a whole world of reasons to go to Cali than to leave a girl. I could’ve done that at home anyway).
“Are you coming over?”
“Nah I’m like 2,000 miles away.”
“What are you on?”
“Nothin I’m in Cali.”
“For how long?”
“I don’t know. I just got here though so let me call you later or something (we didn’t stop talking until like 6 months later).”
She always had a really cute way of saying “okay.” It was like it was with a kiss…
Overcast. A bit glum. Some people were rushing and some were peddling. A middle-aged Indian man was haggling with an elderly homeless man over what looked like a brand new camera in unopened packaging. The middle-aged guy was trying to low-ball him and the old man split.
Eddy told me that as soon as he got checked in to his hotel he’d show me where to stay, where to eat, and where to be. I was in San Francisco, California. By the Civic Center to be exact, off Market Street (which cuts diagonally through downtown San Francisco). I took a seat on the side of a Carl’s Jr. and had a cigarette while I was waiting for Eddy. In a way, it was already just like anywhere else, but I still felt weightless, and like a pine.
About twenty minutes passed before he came back out. I’d just been sitting there smoking (2 or 3 cigarettes) to make up for the lack of nicotine on the 3 day train ride (they only make “fresh air” stops about once every 4-6 hours) and watching the “normal” working people dodge and weave through the hagglers and joke selling comedians chasing them down trying to make everyone laugh; even just getting people to crack a smile seemed to be genuinely gratifying to them, even if that person didn’t give them any money.
“Ready?” Eddy asked.
We got on a city bus about ten minutes later, and were headed to Haight and Ashbury. If you’re unfamiliar with “Haight and Ashbury” it’s the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street in downtown San Francisco, and it was the epicenter (along with Castro Street) of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in San Francisco, and very much so the epicenter of the nation at that time. I actually wound up working in a tobacco supply store that Jimi Hendrix used to live in which was located a block or so away from Haight and Ashbury, on Haight Street.
It wasn’t until we got to Divisadero that the colors really started to bloom. Motley rows of city apartments evolved into flourishing murals in the windows of every storefront and passing human being. We got off right there to walk the rest of the way to Golden Gate Park, which is where I would end up spending a majority of my time.
Haight Street goes downhill at a steep angle on the way to Golden Gate Park, so I could see it from a distance as we passed organic grocery stores, tobacco supply stores, small circles of the homeless, the college students, and the visitors which were impossible to tell apart, and when we came to the entrance, we went to one of the grassy hills to relax, but instead of stretching out I got on my knees, and with my hands clasped together tears began to form and fall down my cheeks.
“Thank you,” I kept saying, not knowing who or what I was thanking, and it was a sweet moment before I looked up again at all the greenery moving as it always would be, and always will be.
Kyle Stark is a cultural fiction and travel writer from the Chicagoland area, and he has also spent time living in the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest.
He published his first book “Five Stories and Nine Poems” on Amazon.com in November, 2016, also available to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. He is currently studying the world of Islam. This includes Islamic history, faith, figures, culture, customs, government, law, society, as well as current political and social issues. See more from Kyle at www.kylestark.net.