What You Wish For

“Caution: Diarrhea may occur with excessive consumption. If this happens, reduce intake or discontinue use.” – Consumer advice on a package of xylitol.


There’s an old New England saying about being careful what you wish for, and i’m sitting here mulling ramifications over having been granted one of my most fervent.  Not, of course, that i regret having wished for it but rather that now that i’ve been granted it, i’m not quite ready to accept it.

See, for several years i’ve been on a waiting list in San Francisco for some low income senior housing that i quite like, and the wait has been a roller coaster as despair soared to hope and plunged back down.  So finally i just said whenever, stopped fretting about it, and moved up here.

And wouldn’t you know, Petaluma has turned out to be an even better fit for me than i’d imagined possible, especially since i can easily drive back to the city to get together with friends and eat at favorite restaurants.

So to celebrate my being here happily for two whole months, i got a call the other day informing me that i’d reached the top of the waiting list for my senior housing.

Oh hell.  I mean, i moved up here with the idea that i’d be moving back to the city when my number came up, but i sure didn’t expect it to be so soon.  It was only last week that i finally got my main bookcase reassembled and stocked, and i just don’t have the strength to move again so soon.

So i took a rain check.  They expect to have another opening in six months or so, and that will give me time to figure out what i want to do.  I love it here, and even though it would be much cheaper to live in the senior housing in San Francisco, my rent here is low enough that i can stay here for the rest of my life.  This makes the finances a non-issue and leaves me weighing other aspects.

Friends.  On this the scale tips strongly to San Francisco since i have only one friend here and he has such a full life that we have not managed to get together in the two months since i arrived.  The great majority of my friends in SF have died or moved, but i still have a handful of friends there who have enough free time that we can get together.  That said, i’m so gregarious that i get plenty of social interaction just chatting up strangers wherever i am.

Markets.  San Francisco, hands down.  There’s only one year-round farmers’ market in Petaluma, and while there are a handful of good vendors, it’s a far cry from those in San Francisco.  And yes, there’s the Marin Farmers’ Market on Sundays, but as much as i enjoy it, it’s a forty mile round trip.  Also, i like Petaluma Market as my go-to grocery store, but Rainbow Grocery it ain’t.  That said, just how much food can i eat?

Weather.  Again, San Francisco.  I mean, i’m finding Petaluma weather entertaining, what with thirty degree variation between daytime and nighttime temperatures and distinct seasons, but good grief, it often freezes here at night in the wintertime and summer days are often in the nineties!  Freezes!  That’s zero Celsius and feels even colder.  Oh please.  I’m quite comfortable in the range between fifty and seventy and would strongly prefer living in SF, where excursions outside that range are uncommon.  That said, i’m adjusting to a more normal weather pattern.

Water.  Yep, San Francisco.  It’s fascinating to live here at an elevation of ten feet on the banks of the Petaluma River estuary, seeing the tide move in and out twice a day, but that’s not the water i’m talking about.  Oh no, i mean drinking water.  Don’t know where the stuff that issues from my tap comes from, but it sure isn’t Hetch Hetchy, the most delicious drinking water on the planet, and i miss it so badly that i’ve thrown a gallon jug into the trunk of my car in hopes that i’ll remember to fill it when i’m visiting.  That said, oh please, Matte.

Obviously i should have snapped at my first opportunity to move back to San Francisco, so other than not having recovered from my previous move, why didn’t i?  Had to think about that, and then it sank in:  I’m tired.

No wonder, being 75 and having a long list of medical conditions beginning and ending with AIDS.  I don’t mean to complain since i’m well aware that i’m very lucky to be alive and to have the Segway to compensate for my difficulty in walking.  Unfortunately, my mind is also failing.

I’m not totally gaga yet, but i had to finally get honest with myself last week and stop going to my Spanish class because i can no longer assimilate new material well enough to make progress.  I tried for weeks but could not seem to pound into my head the declensions for the Spanish past tenses.  Nor can i remember new vocabulary.  Oh, i can get things down well enough into short term memory to be able to repeat them and use them in a few sentences, but i can’t retain them and the next day they’re gone.  The frustration became too great to bear.

On the other hand, I continue to enjoy creating adventures great (like last summer’s Portland Bridge Pedal expedition and photo essay) and small (like gathering the material for this fall’s Bridges of the Petaluma photo essay), reading, continuing the occasional preserving/pickling, writing this website, and just running around town shopping and taking photos.

But still, i keep going largely on willpower.  I joke with my peers that at our age something is always hurting, but the reality is that at some point i will not be able to keep going.

And that understanding, i think, is what’s really behind my passing up that first chance to move back to the city.  Why bother going through the hassle of moving when i can have mini-adventures like today’s, when i celebrated Thanksgiving a day early by bundling up in my warmest clothes against the early morning frost and Segwaying down to the gym at the peak of king tide so i could get photos of the river at its highest, being all fascinated with tides since i’ve never lived on an estuary before.

It wasn’t impressive although i should have done the math and realized that since king tide was only about six inches greater than a normal high tide, how much difference would it make?  Anyhow, here’s what the Balshaw bridge looks like over a king tide.

Balshaw Bridge over a king tide


This afternoon i drove back into the city to the Castro Farmers’ Market, socialized with friends there, and had an early dinner at Sushi Zone.  Spicy Tuna roll and the amaebi.  A fine day.  Oh, i’m in the end game, but my ability to entertain myself remains inexhaustible.

Meanwhile, here’s Petaluma’s least Segway-friendly bridge at a normal high tide.  It would be bad enough without those damn spikes sticking up.

Petaluma's least Segway-friendly bridge

And a thankful Thanksgiving to everyone.

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