field notes SF – overheard on the Caltrain

this is the first post in the Bay Area installment of the travel series “field notes”. hope you enjoy!

overheard: “I heard Berkeley Hillel is, like, so much stronger than Stanford Hillel. I’m not sure why, I mean, I’ve been to both campuses and they both have solid Jewish communities…” – a gregarious young Jewish woman
sidebar: Whatever else it may be, Stanford is an overwhelming sensory paradise: the rows of palm trees that echo the countless arched pathways; the seemingly endless occasions for photo ops (including one where we witnessed a freshly-minted bride grab her groom’s asscrack, with Rodin’s sculptures eyeing them in the background); the colorful nods to Art Deco; expansive space to breathe, utterly antithesis to Columbia’s austere geometry; the omnipresent sun etching every crevice in gold, from the Quad to the Arboretum.

overheard: “Dude, do you even go home? Like, do they make you come in on weekends?” – tech bro #1
“Yo, if you were working ten hours a day and all your meals were covered and your supervisor’s chill, you wouldn’t care about the hours.” – tech bro #2
sidebar: Listening to this exchange about, among other things, whose allbirds were more comfortable, was eerily akin to touring Facebook Classic Campus. The irony in receiving a heart-racing Oculus demo is that one emerges sensing Facebook itself is VR. The mini-village (after all, what else is there in Menlo Park?) is bloated with eleven free eateries, countless micro-kitchens so well-stocked they seem to refill themselves, minuscule bike parking spaces, foxes, “HACK” splattered on every wall mural, light-wash denim replacing fitted blazers. It’s as if Candyland met Hogwarts, then underwent a Black Mirror “Nosedive” facelift. Forget hours, the very concept of work is undefined here.

overheard: “Yeah, I gotta say, one thing I do miss about the East Coast is good public transportation.” – fellow East Coast expat remarking on the miles of suburban nothingness spread on the left & right.
sidebar: I found myself craving the bluntness, the unveiled judgmental glances, of New York. There’s something distinctly unsettling about the pervasive smiles that inevitably breed that trademark Silicon Valley “pretending I’m not trying at all to be this hipster” vibe.

overheard: “Is there going to be seitan? I choose not to eat gluten, so I won’t be able to eat anything there…” – (I didn’t sneak a good look at her, but I would guess that she sported copious lululemon, stopped at lemonade after spin class, and would claim that she’d read every chapter of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.)
sidebar: Aside from my qualms with voluntarily going gluten-free, listening to this woman got me thinking about why the Blue Bottle I held in my hand was so magnetic. Perhaps because it symbolizes all that California touts itself to be: wholesome, pure, and without a care in the world. Is that why I woke up the second morning lusting after B.B. New Orleans and 500 avocados? Or why I actually salivated at their logo-embossed minimalist mug that costs the equivalent of three La Taqueria super burritos? I unbecomingly slurped every last drop and accidentally tossed the plastic cup into compost (again), the ubiquitous flash of blue winking behind me.

parting notes

I did a lot of thinking on my Caltrain rides to-and-from SF. The listless monotony of each stop gave me space to wander. Ideas were sprouted and swatted away, Bare Bowls were devoured (thank you, Harvey!), music coursed through my head, and the drought-grazed grasslands stretched on. Until next time, Baby Bullet.


other posts in this series
sfmoma x munch
flower power
ramen, etc.


field notes documents my travels.

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