I left my first job of the new year at 1AM on 1/1/13. I walked out of the hotel and onto Powell Street in downtown San Francisco. Cable car tracks lay before me, separating me from the bright, festive lights and palm trees of Union Square.
The streets were buzzing with activity. My first thought was, “Holy sh*t am I sober.” I smiled at this wondering how many of my friends, three thousand miles away in New York City, were having the exact opposite thought at the exact same moment- “Hooolly shuitr Iam d9runk@”. Looking at my phone for the first time all night, I was greeted with a series of “Happy New Year!” texts. Those sent around midnight EST were jovial, betraying no level of inebriation. The most recent one sent at 3:30AM EST/12:30 PST was a greeting of “Happy New Year on the west coast!” which took me a good 3 minutes to translate from drunk-text language. Yep, three thousand miles away my friends were wasted.
I’m not exactly big drinker, especially by NYC standards. It’s just that drinking has become so instilled into our celebration of a new year, especially for 20-somethings. Even my mother, who herself didn’t stay up until midnight, later exclaimed, “You didn’t have champagne at midnight!?” I stood outside the hotel watching couples arm in arm and giggling groups of girls staggering down the hill (it’s hard enough to walk in heels when sound of mind). I didn’t feel lonely, I just didn’t feel ready to go home. I called my one friend still in the city only to her on her way home. I vaguely considered going to a bar alone for a celebratory drink but decided against it, knowing I’d be annoyed by and thus
cruel snarky to anyone who talked to me.
It was with that realization that I turned my back on the crowds or revelers and began the walk home, toward the hella steep hill of Powell Street. Though I was headed home, my night wasn’t over. I was going to enjoy that walk to the fullest, taking time to admire all the sights, stopping to appreciate the beauty of San Francisco on a clear night. How many people forget how they get how on New Year’s Eve? I was going to savor it, for myself and for the thousands who’d have no such memories come morning.
As I walked, I was greeted in one way or another by every one I passed. A shared smile, a spoken “Happy New Year!” While it is more common to acknowledge passers-by in SF than it is in NY, people were especially friendly on this new year’s night. Or maybe it was just me. Before starting the climb, I was stopped by a tiny fella with a french accent who couldn’t have be more than 20 years-old. “Where are you going? Know the good after parties?” he demanded, “You smoke? I have some good stuff. Let’s go somewhere and smoke it!” As temping as that offer was (not), I was resolved to my walk.
I felt a kindred to the other lone souls I passed on the streets. Were they like me, sorta wishing they weren’t alone but choosing to embrace the peacefulness of a solitary walk? Or were their steps full of disappointment, of failed “First Lay of 2013” missions? I reached the top of Powell and veered West, passing the Top of the Mark Hotel and appreciating the view in the middle of California Street.
There was the moon, high in the sky just above the hotel. A giant night-light illuminating the way to bed for all guests of (arguably) San Francisco’s finest hotel. Nothing gets me like spotting the moon between buildings in a city night sky. It was perfect.
I continued down the block towards Grace Cathedral. A voice called out to me from the stoop “I could hear you coming from down the block. Clop, clop, clop, of your shoes. It’s a power thing, that sound.” His name was RJ. He was my age and held Rockstar Energy drink in his hand. He was drunk, but in a funny way. He was also lost. I helped him find the way to his friends and he walked me home. For 15 minutes, we were friends; my first friend of 2013.
…to be continued