I moved to San Francisco about three and a half years ago, from the almost completely car-dependent state of Florida. In that time, I have not owned a car and have driven sparingly, basically only when I leave town to go on vacation. We have a transit system here which is … okay, all things considered. Yes, I know it’s far superior to anything any city Florida could ever put together, but on the other hand, a city like San Francisco needs more than that, and more than this; and yes, I am well aware I’m spoiled now.
In any case, it works well enough to get me from point A to point B most of the time. We do have intracity rail here—two different systems run by two different agencies requiring two separate fare payments, because of course it’s like that—but there are vast sections of the city not served by either. So we ride buses. We ride buses a lot.
Imagine if, in 1985 or so, all four members of the Talking Heads were abducted by aliens who accidentally erased their memories, and then their A&R guy at EMI Records found them wandering in a pasture somewhere, so he loaded them into his Beemer and played the entire Talking Heads back catalog for them and said, “now go back in the studio and make the record that that band would make.” True Stories would be that record: an album made to be a TH album by people who know what it should sound like, but nonetheless misses the mark. The single from this one, “Wild Wild Life,” was all over the radio station I listened to growing up, which may explain why I was so late in developing an appreciation of the general greatness of the Talking Heads.
(Note: The headline of this post is an experiment in writing clickbait. Let me know if it worked on you! #ScientificMethod)
I had been thinking about writing this post for at least a couple of weeks but kept putting it off, in keeping with my usual approach to blogging. But with the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this past week, it seemed like it would never be more appropriate, or at least not until the next (and there always does seem to be a next, doesn’t there?) cluster of depression-driven celebrity suicides.
Though this post is not about them. It’s about me.
A few days ago, I got back from a vacation to Southeast Asia (you can see all the photos I took on my Instagram, if you like). The trip home was long: 21 hours of flying or layover time, and since I can never sleep on planes, I had plenty of time to process the events of the previous ten days or so. Somewhere over Japan, I shifted to thinking about the other places I’d been (I’m not all that well-traveled, at least by the standards of my friend group in San Francisco; by my count, I’ve been to fifteen foreign countries, not counting Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or St. Croix, both of which are still technically the US, but counting various British overseas territories as individual countries), and which moments from all those trips stood out as the most memorable for me.
In a few hours, I will cross the Pacific Ocean for the first time, on my way to a two-week vacation in Southeast Asia.
I enjoy traveling, except for the part about being in between home and where I’m going: for me, getting there is never even close to half the fun. Anyway, J and I both prepare for travel by reading, of course, but we don’t read the same things. She, being sensible and logical, read the Fodor’s guide for Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand to get ready for this trip. I took a different path and read The Sympathizer. Last year, for our trip to Italy, she didn’t read anything because she’s been there so many times before. And while there were plenty of traditional travel guidebooks available to me, I read The Dark Heart of Italy instead. (I highly recommend both books, by the way.)
This way, she knows all the actual sights to see and places to go, and I feel like I have an understanding – or maybe the beginning of an understanding, since you can’t get much more than that from a book – of the place based on who its people are.
At least, that’s how it worked last year. We’ll see if it works that way this time. I’ll just read the Fodor’s guide when I can’t sleep on the plane, just in case.