My friends thought I was crazy.
“You go for walks at night? Through the Tenderloin*?” Repeated questions spoken with incredulity. Um, yes. Walks at night. Through the Tenderloin. Once you’ve made it past Taylor and Market in the direction of Union Square, you’re golden. Just, uh, don’t tell my mother.
*The “Tenderloin” is one of the less safe neighborhoods in the middle of San Francisco, right next to Union Square. It’s got quite a number of unique citizens living on its streets and corners. I used to live right on the edge of the Tenderloin when I was still in school. Rule of thumb for tourists: Don’t make eye contact, and don’t act aggressive. Worst case scenario, get a non-touristy hoodie, pull up the hood, start walking with a limp and growling. No one will bother you.
Day -8: I am thankful for nighttime walks
I loved going on nighttime walks. When I was still in school, my friend S and I would head out in sweats and hoodies and explore the city at will. One of my roommates currently thinks that I barely explored San Francisco during my time in grad school. He’s wrong. I just didn’t go to the bars he frequented.
Instead, I saw a San Francisco through a nighttime lens lit by the moon and filtered by the glow of street lamps. S and I often found ourselves in North Beach, where our ponytails, thick sweaters, and sneakers struck a stark contrast from the people out in tiny dresses and sharp heels who were there to party under the brilliant glitter of billboards pointing to various dance venues.
We weren’t out to dance. At least, not with other people. We danced within our hearts with San Francisco.
Other times, we found ourselves climbing the hills to Japantown, the Fillmore, and past, to the gorgeous homes of Pacific Heights. Oh, how we dreamed! Wouldn’t it be marvelous to peek inside these houses with their perfectly manicured lawns and hedges? What kind of people lived there? How did they get there? Would they allow me, a poor student, a glimpse of their lives? “Champagne tastes on a beer budget,” my friend S would say of our situation. Indeed.
That was back when I was still going to school and living in the Tenderloin. I’ve since moved to the “suburbs” of San Francisco, and since S graduated before I did and then moved away—first to Korea, then to LA—my nighttime walks became infrequent. After I moved back from Spain, my friend P and I would do similar walks. But then P moved back to Orange County and got married.
It was harder to go on nighttime walks when I started working. I was closer to the beach, but further from the easy streets of downtown. Long working hours meant I cherished every moment of sleep I could scrap together. Chris lives in the East Bay, and we generally opt instead for weekend hikes in the mountains.
But sometimes we end up in the City at night. Sometimes we end up at Twin Peaks, shivering in the dark and looking at the golden splendor that is my City. And we walk around in the Mission, protected from some of the fog and chill by a blanket of wine and spirits. I love every moment of it.
Do you go for walks in your neighborhood? Have you discovered that your neighborhood is different at different times of the day?
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