Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fantasmas de San Francisco

This is the first entry in a new blog column I’m going to call Fantasmas de San Francisco. It’s an exercise in personal writing that I thought would work dandy within the confines of a blog where pictures and links can help to illustrate these cuentitos.

The premise of this column is simple: we all have ghosts. We all have memories tied to a specific place. It could be a house, a park, a corner store, or a neighborhood. But these memories reside within our minds, which is how they are akin to ghosts since no one else can look at, say, a particular street corner and remember, ah, yes, I used to walk by here every morning when I was so and so, or I had my first date with so and so there. I am interested in these memories bound to physical spaces. I am interested in mapping out these mental-emotional geographies we all contain inside.

I am going to focus mine on San Francisco. I figured the right place to begin would be in the beginning of my prolonged stay in that city…

First stop: La Victoria Bakery

This is a photo of my mom and pop. It was taken in early February 2005. We were standing in front of La Victoria Bakery en el barrio Mission, corner of 24th Street and Alabama. They had just helped me move out of our home in Fremont to my first pad in San Francisco, a few blocks away. I was 25. It was the first time I moved out on my own. I was the last of my siblings to leave the proverbial nest.

I remember suggesting we stop by the bakery. We were walking over to the 24th Street BART station so they could return home. Since we were in the Mission, I figured it would be a shame if they left without getting something distinct to the neighborhood. I figured a few sweet Mexican pastries would do the trick. I remember feeling a concoction of emotions as we walked down 24th Street, including a sense of guilt for leaving them, for finally making a home without them. After we finished hauling my belongings up to my room on a third-floor flat, I could sense that my mother, in particular, felt somber.

All these memories flood me whenever I see the signs for La Victoria. Now I don’t feel so sad when I look at it. For me, the bakery reminds me of the newfound freedom I felt at living on my own for the first time in my life. Oftentimes, it reminds me of the crazy first year and a half I spent living at the flat we called “Casa Pacheco,” the punk-rock, vinyl-record-spinning household I am proud and honored to have shared with my Casa Pacheco brothers. It was a thrilling, eye-opening time in my life—living in a city beautiful like the ones I saw in Europe, a vibrant neighborhood that was the antithesis of the depressing, yawn-of-a-suburban neighborhood that my restless spirit wasn’t meant for.

Buried beneath all those fuzzy memories, I still remember the sadness I felt in leaving home. In coming through a front door where my mom and dad would not greet me. It has been the opening chapter of a wild, unpredictable six and a half years I have spent in the city.

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