I write at a long wooden table in a room that holds four such tables, a wood-burning stove, four couches, and a piano. Tall windows allow visions of the surrounding firs. Pictures of the Marin Headlands adorn the walls, along with a guitar, a fire extinguisher and a large clock announcing that seven a.m. arrived three minutes ago. To my left, a bulletin board displays information about the nearby trails, the seasonal vegetation, and local farming.
Exhaustion overcame me at 9:30 last evening, more than nineteen hours after my alarm rang in a friend’s spare bedroom, halfway across America from where I now sit. A shuttle pulled into her driveway beside the Prius less than thirty-minutes later, and my Western voyage began. I flew into San Francisco, perhaps not my wisest decision; but as usual, a gentle, slight “pusher” wheeled me through the gigantic corridors, hauled my suitcase which outweighed him by ten or twenty pounds, navigated me onto the train, and deposited me at the car rental counter in due dispatch.
I crossed the Golden Gate bridge at 1:15 p.m. Pacific time. I thought about a phone call made to me from that bridge by my son, a quarter of his lifetime ago. I slowed in brief honor of the man whom my son watched teetering on the edge of that bridge; and of the police officer whom – if memory does not white-wash Patrick’s account – coaxed the man back to safety, help, and possible salvation.
I understand the need for rescue. In some ways, I’ve cobbled together rescue for myself, out here in California’s untamed parks, above the ocean, away from the city. But I have not walked the soft paths or stood with my face to the sea. Instead I drove into San Francisco last evening, invited to attend a Rotary Connect evening with three or four Rotary clubs. My cell phone died somewhere along the way, so I depended on memory to guide me. I found the Golden Gate Tap Room, a parking garage, and a sidewalk teeming with tourists, musicians, young professionals, briskly walking women tapping their tablets, and scampering children. I approached the exterior of the Tap Room awash in misconception of what I would find, lulled into Midwest misunderstanding by the Tap Room in which my own Rotary Club meets. The Tap Room at Waldo Pizza in Kansas City augments the restaurant itself as a private room available for overflow, private events, or large families. Quiet, secluded, with its own bar, our Tap Room gives the Waldo-Brookside Rotary Club a place to mingle over cocktails, sit and nibble appetizers, and listen to guest speakers.
Not so the Golden Gate Taproom. Four floors of pounding music, with hundreds and hundreds of partiers, multiple bars with fast-moving bartenders – in short, a place at which I felt lost rather than welcome. I stood awash in hesitance, clutching the plastic bag holding our Club polo shirt with which I intended to gift the SF Evening Club officer who had invited me. Finally, I approached a server, made my inquiry, and she shook her head, gesturing to the scores and scores of humans around us as though to say, I could not possibly tell you whether the people whom you seek have arrived.
But then the server saw a man hovering at the head of the stairs, beside the elevator. She took my arm and pointed to him, saying, I don’t know what a Rotary guy looks like, but I bet that’s one.
The man, in his late sixties perhaps, wearing a suit and several lapel pins, indeed fit the model of Rotarian as most of the world understands that concept. And, when asked, he proudly admitted as such and took my small hand in his, telling me that he had not been aware of my arrival and came from a different club than the woman who had invited me. He assured me that she was present and escorted me to a table in the midst of the melee.
I spent the next two hours exchanging business cards, stories, and accounts of aspirations for impact on the world. Finally, about 8:30, after pictures had been taken of my hostess wearing the WBRC shirt (pictures in which I look dead-tired and old), two young SF Evening Club members escorted me three blocks to the garage at which I had left my car. Along the way, their sparkling eyes told of their love for one another while they themselves recounted a tale of meeting when the slender, vbrant woman moved to SF and transferred her Rotary membership. Seven or eight months ago, they said, but I could tell they meant that time had no meaning for them; that eternity held the contours of their connection.
I drove back across the bridge, into the Marin Headlands, up a dark road to the hostel, and, eventually, collapsed into unbridled sleep on the bottom bunk of one set of bunkbeds in a room holding four such sets. The only other occupant still slept when I woke at six-thirty from the longest continual span of sleep that I have enjoyed in more than two years. Funny that I should sleep so well on a three-inch foam mattress covered with rubber when rest eludes me on my Seal Posturepedic.
Now I sit in the great hall of this hostel. I cannot write this into my blog as I usually would, for I have not been able to connect my laptop to their wireless internet. Instead I type into a Word document and I will save it, to post later, when I find a way to plug in. But I’m not complaining. It’s the twenty-fifth day of the twenty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining, and I see no need to worry about when my readers get this missive. It will keep and so will they. Life continues.