Parting gifts

Easyjet sent this email recently:

Far from being freaked out that the company still held this data, I thought fondly of that Easyjet flight, which cost just £10.

Flights on budget airlines aren't typically things you get nostalgic and dewy-eyed over, but this one was different.

I was making my way to the university of my dreams and I also met one of my best friends on that flight, Julia.

Julia was a visiting student from Canada. We were assigned to the same hall of residence. After we landed in Edinburgh we boarded a university-bound bus. On the way to our hall, our luggage got lost.

Julia and I had to go to our first formal event that evening (dress code: black tie) in Birkenstocks and flip flops, respectively.

One of my favourite memories was at an Ancient Greek-themed ball, instead of dressing up as a toga-clad goddess, which is what every other girl did, she went as Medusa. She wore a brown dress, Birkenstock sandals and clipped long rubber snakes into her hair. It was so weird and so funny. 

The day before she returned to Canada, she gave me Birthday Letters, a collection of poems about Sylvia Plath by Ted Hughes (I like Sylvia Plath) I think it had just been released and I hadn't read it yet. It was really thoughtful. 

The message on the inside cover of the book had a summary of our greatest times and a quote by R.L. Stephenson.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”

 

San Fran, The Beats & A Gift For Laurie

I am not a daring person. I never swim out of my depth, I am always several hours early for flights and I won’t let a dog lick my face.

On that last point, I don’t hate dogs. It’s just that I once witnessed a dog jump in and out of a pond and then lick his owner's eye. His wide-open eye. I'm 100% sure that can cause blindness.

Being risk-averse means that traveling alone isn’t something which appeals to me. But inspired by the wisdom in Kylie Jenner’s video, I’m trying to make 2016 the year of realising and doing stuff.

So last week, I threw caution to the wind and flew to San Francisco. I'm 'into' American poetry from the 1950s onward. I wanted to visit the home of the Beat Generation, see Vesuvio Café where the writer Allen Ginsberg drank with Jack Kerouac and visit City Lights Bookstore.

I contacted my friend Laurie who lives in San Francisco to ask if she was around to meet up. Without a second thought, she invited me to stay at her flat and booked a day off work to hang out. That's the kind of excellent-hearted person she is. 

I told her about the literary sights I wanted to see. She hadn’t come across the Beats before which was great for me because it meant that I got to talk about it at length. It occurred to me that it had been a long time since I had confidently talked about something which actually mattered to me without saying: ‘Sorry, I’ve been talking for ages’ or ‘Sorry, I'm being geeky’ or 'Sorry, this probably isn't interesting'. 

It also occurred to me that it had been a long time since I’d found someone willing to listen. Unlucky, Laurie!

So together we went to City Lights and read some poems, bought some books and had a drink at Vesuvio. 

To thank her for hosting me and for being a good friend (one who can bear to be a tourist when she is really a local) I decided on a trio of Jo Malone gifts, a jumper, fresh flowers selected by a lovely lady called Courtney from the Floral Loft and a meal at AQ (which I'd heard was awesome - confirmed).

I'm glad I found and embraced my pioneer spirit in San Francisco, if only for a few days. 

It seems appropriate to end the post with a quote from Kerouac's Desolation Angels:

SO SHUT UP, LIVE, TRAVEL, ADVENTURE, BLESS AND DON’T BE SORRY.
— Jack Kerouac

SAN FRANCISCO HIGHLIGHTS

Here are some pictures from my visit. They include stops at City Lights, The Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, Twitter HQ and Pier 39.