Tuesday, October 21, 2008

San Francisco, California, and El Valle de Anton, Panama

this cozy, luxurious room could be my magical room

I want a magical room. This room would be fully equipped with a small library, a comfortable reading chair and desk, a small but cozy bed, and a cupboard stocked with good food. And of course a bathroom with a claw-footed tub and large fluffy towels (the room in the photo, by the way, is the Captain's Cove suite at a lodge called A Place by the Sea, in British Columbia, Canada. I've never been there).

You may be thinking, “That sounds like a wonderful room but not necessarily magical.” Yes, but I haven’t told you the best part. This room exists outside of time. You can spend a month in this room, relaxing, sleeping, getting caught up on your work, eating snacks and reading novels, taking hot bubble baths, and when you emerge no time will have passed in the outside world.

And since we’re dreaming, let’s dream big. You can access this room from anywhere, and exit anywhere. Just walk through any door anywhere in the world with the idea in your head that you are going to your magical room, and voila! There you are. When you are fully refreshed and ready to leave, envision any place in the world and when you exit, there you are.

I would use this room to relax, catch up on my work, read, and best of all, to travel back and forth between San Francisco, California, and El Valle de Anton, Panama.

Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, with MOMA and the PG&E building in the backgroundWow. Wouldn’t that be something. During the day I’d be in San Francisco, maybe exploring the incredible bounty of new restaurants that are giving flavor to the Union Square/Tenderloin area. Union Square itself has been renovated and is now an inviting open space in a uniquely San Franciscan style. Yes, the Tenderloin retains its dangerous edge, but it’s changing. There are Indian, Pakistani and Thai restaurants everywhere, along with cafes, edgy art galleries, smoke shops, and corner ethnic grocery stores (not liquor stores but real grocery stores). And this is considered one of the worst neighborhoods in The City!

The Ferry Building is now a gourmand’s delight. The Yerba Buena Gardens area (seen in the photo) is bustling, with so many new shops and restaurants you can hardly count them, and of course the distinctive MOMA building, with the art deco PG&E building towering behind it. There are a few unwelcome additions as well. The new Federal Building at 7th and Mission is a monstrosity, I’m sorry to say. I haven’t yet had a chance to explore the new Third Street corridor, the lower and upper Haight, the Mission, the new Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park, the new Asian Art Museum in Civic Center, or to check on the well established neighborhoods of North Beach, Nob Hill and Russian Hill, the Sunset and the Richmond.

After a day enjoying San Francisco’s bounty, I would walk into my magical room and take a restful nap. Then I would exit in El Valle, Panama in late afternoon, with a light breeze blowing and the mist draped over the forested hills of the caldera. I’d look up at Cerro La Iguana standing proudly in the sunlight, and on the opposite side Gaital hiding behind its shroud.

El Valle de Anton: Cerro Pajaro, Cerro Caracoral and Cerro GaitalI’d walk down the main road and stop in at Carlitos and Veronica’s Galeria to say hello and admire the original handcrafts for sale there. I’d buy a candy bar at the pharmacy next door (they have the best selection of chocolate bars in town), and walk further to the Mercado. There I would visit with my friends Cleo and Niko, both of whom are crafts vendors, and enjoy some fresh fruit. I’d go for a short hike in the hills around town, or just a pleasant stroll beneath the mango and acacia trees. I’d check in on Zach & Danyelle and Rudy & Christina and see how their home construction projects are going. I’d drop by my own house and make sure Marina and Alex, my friendly Russian tenants, are happy, and I would see how my home improvement projects are progressing.

In the evening I’d go to Pinochio’s Pizza for dinner, or maybe to Mar y Tierra or El Rancho for grilled corvina and french fries. I’d get a room at one of the many local hotels and sleep to the sound of the frogs, barking dogs, crickets, and cicadas. In the morning I would wake to bird song and rooster calls, ready for my return to the city by the bay, the city of fog, San Francisco.