When was I last in Glen Park? Was it five years ago? Ten years ago? I recall seeing the San Francisco Mime Troupe performing in the park of Glen Park. We must have had lunch, my friends and I. The book I bought there sparked a flurry of phone calls regarding my credit card number…I recall that much. But the rest is lost in the mists of time. So yesterday when I rolled out of the BART station, our regional subway system, in a sense I didn’t know where I was. In more than one sense, of course. Home purchase being a one-time experience in my life, and so many decades ago that it hardly matters. But there I was, no longer in the mists of time, but in the midst of San Francisco’s perennial mist, a.k.a., fog. The winds were howling, their chill factor considerable. And there was Jane just outside the gate. As for the rest…well, I did not recognize any of it. Oh, in a general way. But Glen Park is a small San Francisco neighborhood, naturally enclosed by geography and its scale. An enclave of sorts, it caters to its own. Of which we were hoping to become a part. Jane and I were here to look at a house.
First, we wandered the lanes. There aren’t many of them. And something about the general layout pleasantly corresponds to many a hilly village in Britain. Lunch gave us a general focus for wandering. This place was closed. That place seemed a puzzling combination of cut flowers and sandwiches. How about there? We settled on a nondescript sandwich joint where we had, you guessed it, nondescript sandwiches. Still, there was time afterward to glance in the neighborhood cappuccino bar…large and bustling. And then, why not, the florist with the sandwiches. A good move, this, for we stumbled into a large shop that sold a few flowers in front, proclaimed sandwiches just beyond, and then opened into one of those upscale food emporia that now dot the Bay Area. Sea salt tasting scheduled for later in the week, in the back, next to the olive oils. Fresh-baked breads of the day proclaimed above the takeout specials, of which there were many. A good place to grab a little coq au vin to go, along with your seaweed salad. Glen Park.
I don’t recall the neighborhood looking so painted and fixed up. It’s like Notting Hill Gate or Kensington Park Road in London, rundown in my youth, now the hangout of the Prime Minister. Which is a good backdrop for the unprepossessing likes of the small house just up the hill from lunch. Everything about it seems modest. Even the color. Nothing modest about the price, these days. It’s enough to floor any sensible person. Which means there is nothing modest about our aspirations to buy it. Even while Jane and I are waiting the three or four minutes it takes for the realtor to arrive…another realtor does arrive, another couple in tow. While they tour the place upstairs, our real estate guy gets us started downstairs. He introduces the elevator guy who goes to work on the essential problem: how anyone in a wheelchair can deal with all these stairs.
One answer quickly comes into focus. Once the realty coast is clear, we scramble into action. I rise from my wheelchair, which Jane parks in the adjacent garage. She closes the door. And up I go, one step at a time, mounting what is really one and a half flights, Jane standing at my side, the realtor in back. Inside the rooms are small, the passages tight. It is urban. To make it a functioning home, aside from the elevator, we would need to convert the garage into more rooms. It all seems ridiculous in one dimension, shoveling money into this workman’s cottage. And yet this is what people do, everyone does, if you want to carve out a life in the urban frontier. I descend the steps backwards. This way, if I fall, my body will land uphill. The realtor helps me place my paralyzed foot on each step. Down, down, and down. And once down to earth, that is to say grounded, I collide with the other reality. That at least 15 crazed buyers will submit bids on this place.
Jane and I start down the hill. There is really no time for cappuccino. I insist on having one anyway. I need to recover. Besides, I already like it here. Which is dangerous. It’s like falling in love with a movie star. She is so popular, the screen is so close…and your chances of scoring are so small. Still you have to do this, get infatuated enough to make a move. The disappointment in home buying, the cycle of ups and downs so notorious…odd to have to undergo such a lesson. Yet undergo I will. People who know me sense that I am heavily defended against disappointment. Too bad. Being this close to the village life, transit, another life. I am already in love with the notion. Jane. A fresh start and a new place. That’s the whole idea.