April 23, 2001

I think it's interesting how riding the bus becomes such a part of your life when you live in the city. At least it does if you have no car, like me. I take the bus every morning and every evening and it becomes so familiar, it's almost like walking into a restaurant or bar or coffee shop where you're a regular. Everyone's familiar to you and you are familiar to them. Except no one talks to anyone. At least on the bus I ride.

I had been riding the bus for about four or five months before it occurred to me that I was in the interesting position of being vastly in the minority. The bus I ride is at least 95% people of color. Often I'm the only white girl on the bus.

Sometimes I'm the only white person on the bus. I love this as it reminds me of the diversity in the city, and love that it took me so long to notice. I come from the Midwest where there was one black family in my entire school. I always thought I was open-minded and non-racist/sexist/biased in any way. But it's easy to think that when you never see anyone who's different in those ways. In fact I was quite biased, but it was toward the white middle-class Republicans I went to school with, hippie girl that I was.
I ride the bus with tons of teenagers. There is a school on the bus route, about half-way along, which apparently starts around the same time I get to work. So the bus is packed every morning. If I get to the bus when I plan to in the morning then it's not too crazy and sometimes I can even sit. But I never get to the bus when I plan to, I'm always running late, so I get to squeeze on. And I'm not exaggerating. The bus is already packed and there are a lot of people waiting with me to get on. I try to stand in the most advantageous spot in front of the bus stop and I get lucky a lot of the time--the bus stops in front of me so I'm near the front of the line to get on. It can get a little vicious; people pushing in to get on while the people already on the bus are trying to get off, people pushing in front of each other to get on first. It's tiring. Then once I do get on, the bus driver is yelling for everyone to move to the back, people are packing on through the back door already, and no one wants to relinquish their spot once they get one so no one wants to move back. After all, you have to have one of the all-important bars to hold onto if you're going to stand otherwise you wobble and stumble into everyone once the bus starts moving.

So in an aisle that can't be more than 3 feet wide, people sometimes pack in 3 thick, some with big backpacks,

me with my messenger bag full of books and shoes and whatnot, umbrellas on rainy days, lots of teenagers with those big poofy coats that seem to be popular these days...
It thins out a little when we get to the BART station. A lot of people get off and some people get on but usually I can start to breathe again at this point in the ride. Sometimes I can even sit down if I'm lucky and late enough. I used to read on the bus, when I got a seat, and I still do sometimes. But mostly I find myself watching people and taking guerrilla photographs with my little digital camera. I love taking pictures without looking through the viewfinder. Just point and shoot and hope that I manage to get something interesting. And anyway, I feel too awkward trying to take pictures the old-fashioned way on the bus. I always think someone's going to beat me up, as if I was papparazzi and they were movie stars. I get a kick out of looking at the photos on the computer when I get home.

The teenagers get off at their school about 7 minutes after the BART station, taking their radios,

impressive array of swear words, baggy pants,

and architectural hair with them. I look out the window to see kids smoking in the bus stop or walking to Starbucks for coffee. It's a very different world from the Midwest of my youth.
Sometimes I get off at the next stop and walk from there, if I'm not running late. There's an Asian guy who gets on at this stop some days, usually with coffee, always very well-dressed.

He always looks preoccupied, otherwise one of these days I might talk to him. Again, like a regular at the coffee shop I used to work at, I feel like I know him, seeing him and noticing him every time he gets on the bus. At the coffee shop I had an opening line, though. "Can I help you?" doesn't really work on the bus. Not if you're a passenger anyway.
Usually I wait a few stops and get off at Forest Hill

and walk from there. Or more precisely, I get off at the intersection of Woodside and Dewey, just up a bit from Forest Hill. I call it the Prevot stop, as there's a restaurant across the street from the stop that I always looked at and wondered about. I think it was the sign saying they have live gypsy music on Wednesday and Thursday nights that intrigued me. I finally ate there with my family one night. The food was ok and the gypsy music annoyed my dad.
If I'm running really late, I'll take the bus all the way down to 7th and Lawton and get off there. I only have to walk about 3 long blocks, which takes about 10 minutes. I regret the loss of exercise those days and try to walk on my lunch instead. Sometimes I try to help make up for the exercise I'm missing by doing what I call "bus exercises." The bus I take goes around a lot of curves and corners. So, as I'm usually standing, I hold onto the bar above my head

and pull or push myself contrary to the movement force of the bus going around corners, using only my arms. I actually feel the muscles in my arms working so it's not as silly as it sounds. Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly motivated, I try to stretch my calf muscles by going up and down on my toes. I envision someday doing an exercise book called "Bus Exercises For Busy Commuters" or some such thing, expanding my exercise regimen. I imagine people doing pull-ups on the overhead bars.

Using seatbacks as ballet barres.

Using the back stairs as a Stairmaster (though very short and dangerous when the green light comes on).

I even envision some sort of gymnastic movement being doable using the black straps that hang down.

Perhaps all the seats could be taken out of certain buses and replaced by aerobics/yoga mats. It certainly would be more energizing and healthy than talking on your cell phone while driving your BMW through rush hour traffic. We could even expand it to the BART trains, which would be easier to keep balance on. With all that space, you could turn the whole thing into a gym. A few treadmills, some Stairmasters. You could have just a few cars be gym cars and leave the rest for seats. I'm convinced this is a good idea. If it was my city...

On Sunday I saw "Josie and the Pussycats" which I'm surprisingly willing to admit to. Well, that's not really accurate. To anyone who knows me, the fact that I went to this movie and admit it is not a surprise. People call me up to see a movie when no one else will go to see it with them.

Anyway, it was a very fun film. The music is great (I plan to buy the soundtrack) and it's never a movie that takes itself seriously. Everybody's cute as a button, it's got the feel of those old cartoons like Josie or Scooby-doo with the big evil and the simple sweet kids trying to make things right. I enjoyed it very much. I highly recommend going to see it. Just don't expect high art...

I also discovered that my little digital camera will take pictures of a movie screen. Unfortunately I was doing the guerrilla thing and didn't aim using the viewfinder...

Incidentally, my co-worker Lynn is pregnant. She's about 4 months along now and getting a good little belly showing. She's a very small person and has only gained about 5 lbs but is showing every bit of it. Here's a shot of her:

Pregnancy Watch 2001


Posted by Alyssa at 06:30 PM
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April 13, 2001

My sister postulated the other day that there are magazine people and non-magazine people. She herself is not a magazine person, reading only the "Industry Standard" and throwing away the "Sports Illustrated"s that mysteriously started arriving at the apartment. My dad is a magazine person, reading every car magazine (preferably British) and Wine Spectator, New Yorker, the Economist, etc. etc. Actually, he may have given up on the New Yorker as having more than one weekly magazine makes it too hard to keep up. I'm guessing I got my fondness for magazines from him. One of my favorite things when I was younger was going into a magazine store with him and picking out a bunch of magazines. If I didn't go crazy and buy the $15 French fashion magazines then he would buy the stack for me. This was usually on trips, when I was spending a lot of time in the car and wanting something to read. It didn't matter that I usually had at least two novels with me... Every now and then when I go into a magazine store with him, he will still buy me a stack of magazines and it's fun, like I'm a kid again, looking through pages of a magazine I've never seen before.

So hopefully that will help to explain why, while waiting in line at Tower Market one day, I picked up "Cosmopolitan." It's not a magazine I generally read; I mostly go for "In Style" or "US" these days, magazines about style and movie stars. What can I say, I like pretty things... But Kirsten Dunst was on the cover and I love her, ever since "Interview With The Vampire" and especially since "Bring It On." And I was going over to a friend's house and I thought it might be fun, there's always a sex quiz or two, something to make fun of.

What surprised me, as I flipped through the magazine, was that every story, every article, every fashion spread managed to be linked to getting a man, looking good for a man, pleasing a man, stealing a man. Are there still women in the world whose whole lives revolve around men? It's hard to believe, but the magazine still sells. And apparently not just to random curiosity-seekers like me. Here's a selection of articles:

Flirt Moves That'll Floor Him
Strut The Stuff He Loves
5 Secrets For Making Sex Supersensual
The Biggest Mind Games Guys Play
The Tough-Girl Trap: Modern women often send men mixed messages that can drive them away, says 26-year-old romance novelist Hillary Fields.
Do You Give off A Sexy Vibe?
How to Stage a Siege on His Heart
Get a Lust-Worthy Bust
Love Musts

It's amazing how everything comes back to men in the end. In an article about Spring Cleaning, it says you should reward yourself for cleaning by going to "a movie with your man." (Aside from my obvious objections, this seems ridiculous as I know I always feel sexiest after scrubbing the toilet and smelling like Tilex.)

The idea that a man is the most important prize for a woman to win in her lifetime is so out-dated it galls me that it is still being put out there. And they wonder why women still get paid less than men. Of course they do, they're clearly too busy trying to get a date with him than trying to get a raise from him. At least if this magazine represents any real part of the population. And lord, I sure hope it doesn't.

On the other side of the coin is my new bible, "The Bad Girl's Guide To Getting What You Want," a book written by Cameron Tuttle.

This book will never leave my side until I have officially achieved the title of "Bad Girl."

The Bad Girl's Guide takes every aspect of being a girl and celebrates it. As she says in the first line of the book, "Being a girl is your ice cream sundae--being a bad girl is the cherry on top." The book screams at us to grab every ounce of influence and feminine power we have by birth and by attitude and use it every way we can. Women are powerful? Who could have thought such a thing? Hee hee, I laugh with glee, and turn the pages.

The Bad Girl's Guide accepts men/women and sex as part of what the average Bad Girl wants and will get. And a good fourth of the book is devoted to getting a date. But Tuttle's suggestions start with dating yourself. She explains that you have to think you rock before you can expect anyone else to think so. The "Getting A Date" section is more about wielding your feminine powers to get free drinks, to keep yourself entertained, to meet new people. It teaches you to make the first move, be bold, be yourself.

Subsequent sections are "Getting A Job--in which I found the best job interview advice I've ever gotten: pretend like you're on a talk show-- and "Getting A Life" which includes getting the perfect apartment, having great parties, having good friends, and getting the best parking spaces and airline upgrades.

Bottom line is: The key to getting what you want; be it man/woman, job, apartment, life; is to be bold, use everything you've got, and don't for a minute think that because you're a girl you don't deserve all of it. I'm slowly integrating The Bad Girl's Guide into my daily life and I'm loving it. I would be a Bad Girl with the world at my feet any day of the week rather than be a Cosmo chick trying to use my lust-worthy bust to twist some man around my finger.

Posted by Alyssa at 05:21 PM
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April 06, 2001

I had my opinion of men raised and dropped in the same day yesterday. Just when I thought chivalry was dead...

I was riding the bus yesterday morning, which was packed as it always is between 7:30 and 8:30 because of the school kids. I was running late as usual or I would have been on the 7:15 and been able to breathe for the whole ride. The bus had thinned out and there were only a few of us standing when we got to the stop before mine. I was standing in front of one of the coveted single seats on the right hand side of the bus when the woman in the seat in front of me got off the bus. There were a couple of hispanic men standing near me, holding onto the metal bars and black straps as I was. My stop was next, which was about 3 minutes down the line so I didn't bother to take the empty seat. I waited for one of the guys next to me to rush to it and moved myself so I wouldn't block the path. But no one took the seat. I looked at the other standees--they were all men. As the bus went forward toward my stop, I waited for someone to take the seat but still no one did. Finally as we approached my stop, I moved to stand in the doorway to make a quick exit and sprint to work. The man who'd been standing next to me looked up at me, realized I was getting off, and took the single seat. I got off the bus thinking how surprising that small gesture was to me, that neither he nor any of the other men on the bus would take the seat as long as I was standing. I guess I didn't see chivalry much in my daily life anymore. It made me happy for most of the morning, knowing there were still old-fashioned guys out there. Then...

Walking to Forest Hill Station last night, on my way home from work, I was walking along the wall that borders one side of 7th Avenue across from Sutro Tower

and the lagoon that I assume gave Laguna Honda Hospital, just up the street from there, the name. I was looking ok and feeling happy, thinking about the pretty good day I'd had. But I certainly wasn't traffic-stoppingly stunning. Nevertheless, as I walked I heard a quick car horn toot and looked up. A cab was passing by on the lagoon side of 7th and the man driving had his head out the window staring at me and grinning idiotically. As he passed by and I turned away, I admittedly smiled to myself, flattered by the compliment. I think almost anytime someone finds you attractive enough to comment, whether the comment is a "You look great today" or a honk on the car horn, it should be considered a compliment. Which is not to say that the compliment entitles the deliverer to anything. As I continued walking down 7th, I saw the man in his cab drive by me again. He looked back at me as he passed and I got an uncomfortable feeling. There was nowhere to pull over along the wall, but just past Clarendon there was the church parking lot.

I wondered idly to myself, he wouldn't pull in up there, would he? I mean, if he went to the trouble of going down past the lagoon and getting himself turned around just to pass me again, it was just a quick leap to him pulling over and trying to talk to me. Which in and of itself was no big deal, I would just say "not interested" and leave it at that. But as I started to turn the corner where I would be able to see the parking lot, I cautiously glanced around it and saw him there, pulled over. I paused and thought for a moment. If he was just going to ask me out or something, it was no big deal. But suddenly I felt almost like I was being stalked. I mean, this was a stranger in a car who could pull me into the car. He could be a psychopath. A homicidal maniac. Ok, so my imagination was running a little wild, but a girl can't be too careful.

So I crossed the street at Clarendon--a tricky intersection but possible to cross--and started walking up the other side of the street. As I passed where he was, on the opposite side, he drove off. Once he was out of sight, I crossed back over to the other side and walked on up to Forest Hill, thinking about what a stupid display that had been. I mean, it reminded me of the stereotypical construction worker, hooting at women thinking, what, that a woman would hear "Hey, baby, I know you want it!" and respond with, "Why, yes, you're right, I do in fact want it, let's go out tonight!"? Honking and hanging your tongue out at a woman then tracking her down with your car is pretty much the same thing. How did he really think I would react? I mean, I didn't know anything about the man, I certainly wasn't going to hop in the car and say, "Let's go someplace romantic." Once, back when I was in a relationship, I had a cab driver who was driving me home ask me repeatedly, for the entire 20 minute trip, if I would go out with him. No matter how many times I said no, I have a boyfriend; no matter how many times I told him how big and tough my boyfriend was; he kept asking. Again, what did he think he would accomplish? That after asking 50 times, when he asked the 51st time, I would say yes? I think it's pretty creepy.

So as I sat and waited for the bus last night, I thought about the contrast between the feeling I had about the men on the bus that morning and the way I was feeling about men after the cabbie incident. I decided that most men probably fell somewhere in the middle, a little of the white knight mixed with a little of the tongue-waggler, though it is good to know that the extremes still exist so I can keep an eye out for them.

And speaking of taxi-drivers, I found this site last night and think it's great. This guy is not the one who I encountered last night, but rather one of those few and wonderful people who finds a way to make art out of his everyday life. Check it out: http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sfmetro/03.98/taxis1-98-3.html

Posted by Alyssa at 01:21 PM
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