50 Stories, Week 18: Idleness


When I moved to San Francisco in 1994 to finish college, I lived by the skanky strip clubs on the edge of North Beach where it meets Chinatown. My boyfriend Richard and I shared an apartment that belonged to the owner of the Green Tortoise hostel, which was across the street. Richard had met the owner the previous summer up in Seattle, mentioned we were moving to SF and needed a place to live on the cheap. Not sure what transpired between the two of them but he seemed happy to oblige us. I arrived a week before Richard and I walked into this huge, bright apartment with a big back deck thinking we’d struck gold. But when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. Alas, there were two things we didn’t know before moving in: 1. The apartment was above a nightclub called Finocchio’s which had multiple performances into the wee hours of the morning and 2. The owner was planning on giving us notice a month later when his son came back to town. 

The day I arrived, I went outside to find some lunch and looked down to see a fortune on the ground. It said “Idleness is the holiday of fools.” I grinned widely. It was exactly how I’d always felt, as I subscribed to the ‘sit, walk or run but don’t wobble’ zen philosophy. I was a type-A doer and found that when I was taking action, even baby steps, I felt more in control of my life. Safe, even. Safety being something that an anxious person never takes for granted, I was thrilled by this omen at my feet. 

Fast forward almost ten years of living in San Francisco. By that point, I’d finally graduated from college with a degree in theatre. I separated from Richard but we shared custody of our five-year-old son Jackson. I had worked countless part and full-time jobs in delis, restaurants, theatres, and office buildings. I lived in the Mission (twice,) Noe Valley, the Panhandle, North Beach (again,) and Bernal Heights. I knew that city inside out and felt like not much could surprise me anymore.

Then one day, I was interviewing for a job at an advertising agency – one where I would end up staying for eight years until I moved to NYC. The building was at the corner of California and Grant, one of the main streets of Chinatown. As I walked out of my interview, I looked down to see a fortune on the ground. It said “Idleness is the holiday of fools.”

No shit.

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