With Burning Man quickly approaching, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how my first trip to Burning man in 2014 broke my self-identity, rebuilding me into who I am today.
This story deserves to be told it its fully glory, so this will be a mini series. To make sure you don’t miss parts 2 & 3, subscribe via email using the menu on the left (below for mobile).
*Jurrasic park voice* Welcome…. to part 1!
If you’ve never heard of Burning Man, you were just like me.
I had just gotten my first ‘big-girl’ job working in downtown Chicago. As such, it was my first job with paid time off. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I’d been working there for a while and had saved up enough money to take a vacation. Where was I going to go? Continue Reading
I’m a terrible little stoner. I had no knowledge regarding the history behind the term “420” and had to Google it. Originally coined by a group of San Rafael High School friends known as the “Waldos” (because they liked to hang out leaning against the walls of the school…hardy har) in 1971.
In 2009 they were contacted by the Huffington Post for an interview, and noted that they didn’t expect “420” to catch on when they were using it around school. 420 always referred to smoking during class, after school, asking each other if they were high or just referring to marijuana in general. Pretty much the same as it means today!
Marijuana can be a hot topic for some people. There’s a lot of controversy about the potential medicinal properties of consuming THC (the active ingredient in cannabis). I’m not here to try and get you to come to one side of the fence or another, but rather to take a moment on this glorious day to celebrate my very special relationship with Mary Jane/ the reefer / chronic / dank / nug / the wacky tobbacy.
I was first introduced to marijuana by a coworker while living in Columbus, Ohio. I was about 19-20. It was a HILARIOUS night. The sensation made me happy, energetic, freaaaakkin hungry, and yet mellow. It was a fun, one time thing but I knew I’d be open to doing it again in the future.
Around 22-23 I met someone who sold marijuana and I started smoking regularly. For the first year or two of my marijuana use, I admit, I just enjoyed getting high. I didn’t feel addicted or dependent on it, but did it often because I enjoyed doing it. Duh.
During this period, smoking weed helped me work through a lot of personal issues I’d been unable to fully process. I’d sit for hours and internalize. It helped me become more empathetic and understanding of others people’s situations, while becoming more self-aware and empowered in my own. I was able to slow down and process things more thoroughly.
As I got older, my anxiety kicked up, the stress levels skyrocketed, and my brain jumped into hyperdrive. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about – when your brain just won’t shut up. It distracts me and keeps me up for hours at night.
I found that during this time, smoking weed really helped with that- which is where our relationship stands for it’s continued use for me today. Over the years I’ve learned how to harness other benefits too.
For example – it reallllly helps with menstrual cramps. Headaches. Neck pain. Grinding my teeth. Biting my nails. Chewing on my thumb until it bleeds. Laughter. Creativity. Getting a different perspective on issues I might be struggling with, and more.
“How are you going to survive in Asia?”
I’ve been asked this a lot lol! Since marijuana isn’t an addictive substance, I’m not worried about any physical issues other than maybe not being able to fall asleep as quickly. That’s something I’ll just have to make extra time for. For temporary pain issues, I’d normally use cannabis (as per Dr. Oz) but I’ll just have to take some over the counter pain killers. Laughter, creativity, anxiety, struggles…I’m hoping the travel will help me with that. I’m glad you’ll be with me – we can find out together!
For now though – I’ve been very much enjoying the marijuana culture here in San Francisco! The city is not only supportive, but enthusiastic, about their deepest love for Ms. Mary Jane.
Located on “Hippie Hill“, the city put on the coolest festival I could imagine going to. Hundreds of people sitting around freely enjoying cannabis.
I welcomed by several different groups of people, it was a blast. I sort of felt like I was back at Burning Man – there was even someone walking around yelling out compliments. <3 Full of great vibes, the atmosphere was smokey with camaraderie and wafts of delicious food.
I thought maybe I’d died and gone to heaven…or maybe that’s something else. Either way, I commend you San Francisco on your Cannabis Pride! Even the police walking around the grounds played it cool. Let’s keep up the good work!
Mary Jane, we’ll be taking a break for a few months while I travel, but you bet your sweet kushy buds that I’ll be back for you!
For now though, I’m going to get pizza. What’s your favorite munchie food? Sober or not.
They are simply the best. They are my chosen family. I would say they are my adoptive family, but they adopted me, not I them. I can show them sides of myself I have to keep shamefully tucked away around my immediate relatives.
Since I’m currently in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take the 5 hour drive to visit them in Carson City, Nevada. Originally, I was going to take the Greyhound there but my friend Brian was heading there from the city too, he was nice enough to spare me that.
It turned out to be quite the adventure!
We followed the highway to Lake Tahoe, it was beautiful! It was my first time visiting the lake, but it was long overdue. Peaceful, clear, and serene.
Once arriving at camp mom and dad’s house, we gathered to have a thanksgiving style dinner with all the good stuff – rolls, cranberry sauce, stuffing and turkey. Good conversation, great food, and exceptional company, it was a wonderful evening – I was ‘burnin’.
Speaking of ‘burnin’, the next day my camp sis and I went out for a walk along a path leading from the back yard. We came to an intersection and (you know where this is going), decided we’d just ‘keep going around the golf course’. After quite some time, we realized that the path didn’t go around the course but rather off in another direction. We had to turn back and then take the correct turn. Our impromptu walk ended up being over 4 miles long! Thinking it was going to be a quick 30 minute walk, my skin wasn’t prepared. Also, I keep forgetting how close to the sun we are out in the desert!
Returning from the walk, we packed up and headed to the local Burning Man Town Hall and pre-compression events. We had packed up a picnic style lunch in a cooler that we kept in the RV we drove, using it as a home base between events. Hanging out with the family was wonderful – and the burners as a whole are so kind and open. We drank, we bonded, we laughed and we rocked out to The Bloodhound Gang’s “we aint nothing but animals”.
The next day we went back in time to the Wild West straight from the Gold Rush days. Welcome to Virginia City.
It kind of made me feel like I was playing Fallout (I would love to be playing Fallout right now). The rolling brown hills of the desert, the classic big band music, and the costumed little townspeople.
We had old fashioned root beer candy and the best bloody mary’s from the Bucket of Blood. Managing to steal the best seat in the house, we had our liquid lunches and enjoyed the view while telling funny stories.
We wrapped up the tour of Virginia City by looking at the suicide table and silver dollar lady. I laughed at the thought of everyone scrambling for them if the building were to burn down.
We parted ways with one of my camp aunts who has been one of my most avid blog supporters. I won’t say it wasn’t sad, but it’s only until we’re in the dust again in a few months!
On the way home, we got the full tour of Carson City (FYI: the capital of Nevada) including the Governor’s Mansion and wild street deer! I totally fan-girled out for a picture. Hey, I live in a city, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a deer!
The evening was a quiet night of everyone resting and getting their digital fix – the perfect relaxing end to a fun filled weekend. Camp dad even helped me become the proud owner of Zoom.com (more on that soon)!
Returning to San Francisco via greyhound, I am so happy I got the chance to see everyone. The warmth, support, and radical acceptance will keep me going for a long time. Until the next Fugfest.
Chicago and San Francisco both hold a dear place in my heart. It’s been fascinating for me to see how the different cities have evolved. The sometimes subtle, sometimes not, differences between the two. Each city offers a different day to day lifestyle, and I’m loving walking in the San Franciscian shoes (even though my two pitiful knees “San” and “Fran” are begging me to stop). We could learn a lot of from San Francisco, and they could learn a lot from Chicago. Who will take the belt?!
Chicago vs San Francisco
1. Transit – Welcome to the land of scooters and trolley cars.
This was the most obvious for me to talk about first. As a Chicago commuter, I feel pretty good about navigating public transit as an enjoyable way to get around. The CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) and MUNI (San Francisco Municipal Railway) share many similar qualities – the ability to accept cash fare, along with RFI cards. Riders can board through the front door and exit from the back door. Here though is where, no pun intended, the rails begin to split.
Chicago: We seem to have more main roads and therefore, more busses. It’s easier to access public transit. The grid structure of Chicago also makes navigating it a zip! Additionally, the EL has many different lines running around the loop and branching out all of the city – it’s good to live off a train line. When it comes to driving, Chicago is NUTS. God help you if there is rain or snow.
San Francisco: Many different types of cars – rail, cable, or busses. On most MUNI busses, you can also board from any door on the bus as long as you have a Clipper card. The public transit network however seems less extensive in San Francisco. You might have to walk a bit [up a hill] to get to the nearest bus stop or bus line you need. The BART also seems like a headache with all the different lines sharing platforms, whereas in Chicago, all the colored trains have [mostly] their own platforms. Driving around San Francisco is a breeze. People aren’t total asshats, the bikers have their own lane on almost every street, and the city is a completely manageable size.
I haven’t had a terrible time riding the MUNI or the BART, but, I think Chicago takes the cake here. Rides seem to be more consistent, more extensive, and more available.
Citizens of both cities should count themselves lucky! With many services available, including public transit and bike sharing programs, living in a larger city has its perks.
Chicago: Chicago has all the basics – state aid, recycling, assistance for the homeless etc. There are mental and emotional health services available, but they can be hard to find and are in really high demand. Chicago also has a very high poverty population which puts a lot of strain on an already overworked institution.
For city services, San Francisco is sharing the love a little more.
3. The wind – whoosh!
Chicago is known for being ‘The Windy City’ so you might expect it to be the automatic winner here – but don’t be so quick to judge! San Francisco is blowing back. Ultimately though, both cities are worth of Totoro whisking through them!
Chicago: Consistent wind, no matter what the season is – including winter. The lake provides downtown Chicago with some additional points, but even the suburbs can keep their breeze here. I’ve gone around a corner downtown and been caught in a wind sweep so strong I had to muster the force to push forward.
SanFrancisco: The Ocean is a major factor in regards to the on-going wind in the city. I can hear the wind whistling up against my windows and I’m always chillier than I expect. With the bay getting blown from all sides, the whole city has a subtle rustle to it, but never overpowering.
San Francisco tried to hold its own here but, unfortunately, Chicago has blown it down!
4. Ocean front beach vs. lake front beach
Oceans and lakes, what’s the difference? Can’t I swim in both equally as well? NOPE!
Chicago, the lake front beach: With limited lake front space, the beaches do tend to be more crowded. However, being a lake has it’s benefits! Being super dirty is not one of them, that is a lose. But, short lake cruises are really fun and it’s an easy way to go out on a boat [with your flippy floppies]. Secondly, with it being a lake and waves being much more manageable, there are often water based shows like fireworks or jet ski races.
San Francisco, the pacific ocean beach: Always too cold for swimming – psych! Pretty much only the hardcore surfers get wet at these beaches. The sand is soft and the sound of the waves is the perfect ambience for a picnic. San Francisco also has an unofficial nude beach.. +5 points.
The ocean beach does go on forever and ever which is pretty cool. There’s just something about the ocean that beats a lake. Since I wasn’t going to swim in either of them anyway, I’ll take the ocean!
5. Fashion – hipster vs hippie
One thing about Chicago is that all the men look kinda like lumberjacks with their beards and plaid for dayssssss. I’m not against either of these things…I would just like for it to go away as a trend. Forever. Like, die. San Francisco seems like it would be hippies abound as far as the eye could see. Lights, camera, action and catwalk – go!
Chicago: The aforementioned days of beards. Chicago is a very hipster city, which is why I thought it was cool to live there before you. See what I mean?! While most Chicagoans enjoy their muted tones, I like to wear bright colors, flamboyant clothes and am rocking the pink dreads. My old roommate tells me there is a very, very strong goth scene – I believe it! I feel like most Chicagoans just bought their identities off Pinterest.
San Francisco: Fashion here seems to be much more of a statement of personal expression rather than fashion expression if that makes sense. I feel people here dress for themselves over dressing for a magazine photo shoot. The expression is also subtle. While the dress may be wild, it all seems to blend together very nicely with the city. The gypsy, hippie and flowy look is also more popular here, as well as color. San Francisco naturally has the advantage with the weather, and they are working it!
San Francisco rocked this runway!
6. Diversity – talk about melting pot!
This is less of a comparison since both cities are very diverse, but more of a commentary. Coming from po-dunk Ohio, Chicago was shockingly diverse. When I visit Ohio now I’m like “god, there’s so many white people here...”. Even though the culture shock has worn off, I still enjoy, and relish, the diversity offered by larger cities. MMM…relish.
Chicago: Very hispanic oriented. Everything is in both English and Spanish. We have food from all over the world, and hispanic food is very prevalent. Chicago also sports several ethnicity oriented areas including Chinatown and Ukrainian Village. While diverse, Chicago is still very racially segregated, with groups tending to clump together.
San Francisco: Rocking not only a hispanic influence, but also an Asian one! Instructions on public transit are in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Chinatown in San Francisco is much bigger, more expansive, and feels more authentic than its Chicago counterpart.
Not far from Chinatown is Japantown which has it’s own very distinct flair. As a whole, San Francisco seems as equally diverse in culture as Chicago and also in financial disparity.
Ring – TIE!
7. Pizza – who has the better pie?
Pizza is a hot topic with Chicagoans. I’ve seen nothing less than a Malort shot battle (this is not something you want) to settle who gets to pick where the pizza comes from. Let’s see if San Franciscans are as pizza-passionate.
Chicago: Three words: Deep. Dish. Pizza. It’s my favorite, and that it is all to be said.
San Francisco: When looking up the highest recommend pizza place in San Francisco (aka best Yelp reviews), Little Star Pizza took the top of the list with 2,505 reviews and a 4.5 star rating. Luckily, they also serve deep dish, of which, I happen to be an expert.
Measuring in at 9″, this meant I could have more than one slice of this pie. Okay,.. more than two slices. Okay, … – nevermind. Look at these cliche stringy cheese photos:
Being mindful of overall cheese, crust, sauce, and flavor I give San Francisco’s deep dish a 4/5! Not as much cheese as we do in Chicago. The crust was kind of corn-bread-style so I’m glad I got the extra marinara sauce.
This pie blew it out of the park on flavor. Holy herbs and spices, perfectly roasted garlic and fresh mushrooms. THE BEST.
8. Media and advertising – uplifting vs. efficiency
As leading cities in the states, both San Francisco and Chicago are advertising battlefields. On public transit, billboards, on buildings, street handouts – everywhere.
Chicago: Whenever I see an ad in Chicago, it seems to be trying to make me more efficient. More cell data for less money, a way to get your work done faster etc. Always with the rush. That’s not a bad thing! It suits the city – Chicago is always poppin’!
SanFrancisco: San Francisco has just as many ads as Chicago. The ads here though seem to be more geared towards services and positive things. Learn how your children learn best, public resources, or just straight up kind messages. Also, lots of marijuana ads which is always a plus!
9. Drinking – booze is good.
I have to admit, I expected San Francisco’s stoner culture to be more obvious to me since Marijuana is so accessible. Its obvious in a way – people smoke weed on the sidewalks. You sometimes smell it on public transit when someone is heading home from the dispensary. Overall though, I’d say that drinking is still the oldie-but-goodie for socializing.
Chicago: Chicago, honey,…you are a drinking city with a sports problem. Seriously, when I moved to Chicago there was so much booze. So many drunk nights. Every bar has great PB&J specials (PB&R + Jameson shot) for $5. How could you resist this? Chicago is also sporting the good ol’ Malort, boozy ice creams, and more breweries than a hipster heaven. Combined with our multiple stadiums and Black Hawk pride (true story: many employers break
from work if your office is along the parade route), it makes for the perfect storm of sports-crazed-drunkenness. Let’s not even talk about St. Patrick’s day.
San Francisco: Talk about a good cocktail or a glass of wine, San Francisco has my number. From Tiki bars to spritzers, this city knows what I like. I admit I haven’t done too much drinking here since I’m kind of a cheap date, but every store sports an impressive wine selection due to the amount of vineyards in California. I’m much more prone to wine and cocktails over beer. Also, because the sports start so early here due to the time difference, those are less hours I have to deal with the crazy brahs!
10. Geography and Terrian
Featuring a large body of water is a perk for both our contestants!
Chicago: Flat. I never truly appreciated this until I came to San Francisco, but that is a huuuuge perk! I would say that Chicago also sports seasons…but it doesn’t. Summer in Chicago is nice, winter in Chicago makes for good alone time.
San Francisco: The hills here are a pro/con situation. They make everything look adorable, but whewww they are hard to walk up. The comfortable and predictable weather here is the big win. If you would love Fall all year round, you’d love San Francisco.
Here we are at the end of our friendly competition!
I could count out some points and declare a winner, but I’m not going to. Sorry [not sorry] if you’re pissed, but I can’t choose between these two special cities! Both of them will always mean so much to me and I love all my city children equally.
First, I’d just like to say that I love having this much time on my hands. Since I quit my job to travel, I get to take naps, make my own schedule, loaf around town, and work on my blog! Can I be retired yet? PUH-LEEZE?
Now, on to my new relationship with San Francisco. This city has been making me a better person – both actively and passively – and it has been making me absolutely glow!
1. Walking is amped up – dem hills, man.
Whew, buddy! These hills are bitches – holy moly! I do my share of walking in Chicago, but when you add a huge incline it’s a whole new game. At one point, I had to stop and pretend to read a restaurant menu so that I could get a breather.
I was so wrapped into looking like I was very interested in ordering, that I didn’t notice the restaurant was out of business! Derp derp derp.
I’m not hating on the endorphins though! I’m feeling more energetic, challenged, and proud of how strong my body is. My two shitty knees “San” and “Fran” are getting better at the daily climbing of the four flights of stairs to my apartment. Also, I’m sleeping soooo much better.
2. Eating healthier – farmer’s market and produce stands abound!
When you spot a fruit stand or a farmer’s market, it’s hard to pass up the chance to stop and look at their wares. Often times, the food is healthier and cheaper! Also, you get to meet the caretakers of your cauliflower and oranges. Due to the year round lovely weather, these stands are very common throughout the city, making it so convenient to buy fresh every day!
This also makes healthy snacking much more convenient – I’ve been picking up tangerines for $.25 and enjoying them on the road. I’m eating a lot of tomatoes and roasted vegetables too – love, love, love! Not that I didn’t eat roasted vegetables in Chicago (my roommate Rachel and I made them a staple), but getting off the bus, shopping, then waiting for the next bus in the semi-chilly rain or wind is so much better than the scorching heat or freezing cold.
3. Going green – public composting and pet waste bins.
San Francisco takes their waste disposal very seriously. All over town you’ll see anywhere from three to four different trashcans. Trash, recycling, compost and pet waste disposal.
In the household of a Sanfranciscian, it’s common to have multiple trashcans and assumed that you know how to compost – I admit I didn’t know. I had to Google “what is compostable” (this adds a little respectability to my Google search history). Luckily, the little compost trashcan has images on it for those of us who would throw pizza into composting. THE PICTURE SAYS IT’S ACCEPTABLE!
I’m also getting a nice warm glowing feeling about being able to see my trash in this way. We have composting, regular trash, and recycling. You’ll notice that so far all of my waste is going to be recycled or composted. I admit that I’ve never recycled or composted in my life. First, I just wasn’t raised with it and secondly, I never thought I would make that much of a difference.
Seeing these results though, it’s undeniable that just one person can make a difference.
Do you recycle and/or compost? What about in cities that don’t offer it as a service? For example, Chicago doesn’t compost. Maybe we could learn a little something from San Francisco.
4. I’m more aware of nature.
This is one of the most enjoyable for me so far. Not that Chicago doesn’t have good parks or green spots, but, due to the weather in San Francisco, flowers are rocking here. Chicago had snow a few days ago!
San Francisco seems to be more colorful in general. Trees, flowers, the houses – everything. You guys know how much I love color!
5. I’m nicer/less resting bitch face.
Everyone that I’ve talked to has been super friendly. This includes strangers in Walgreens, on the MUNI, at the airport – everywhere. I would describe everyone as very chill, artistic, expressive and open minded. Maybe it’s because of the huge concentration of burners here, maybe it’s the legal weed or maybe it’s all the vitamin D pouring into our systems. Whatever it is – no worries man!
The slower pace of San Francisco is really helping me unwind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s keeping the big city feel – but just so much more laid back. While San Francisco has its problems, they are more drug related than gang related. I haven’t seen anyone who is probably packing and I’m actually approached less here than in Chicago – including my last visit where I stayed in the Tenderloin. I do prefer tweakers to gangbangers.
Do you have a city that makes you a better person? If so, how? I’d love to hear from you!
I’ve officially set up camp in San Francisco! This includes a sunburn on day one – my literally warm welcome.
Once again, I’ve called upon my burner family, and they do not disappoint. I arrived at the airport and was immediately whisked off and shown a great time by my friend, Brian. He is an amazing host whose generosity knows no bounds. We’ve been having a great time! He’s given me the driving tour of San Francisco. So far this has included: the original mission, the pacific ocean and its surfers, a Russian Orthodox church *beautiful!*, Dolores Park, Mark Zuckerburg’s house, and the houses from “Modern Family”. We’ve eaten at several delicious holes in the wall, went to a doggie fund raising concert with his two pups and visited a dispensary. This Friday we’re going to ride out to Carson City, NV and visit more of my camp family members.
I’m staying in my friend Meghan’s studio apartment. We met on the burner express bus headed to San Francisco after Burning Man last year – she was my seat mate. We became friends on Facebook and kept in touch. I was looking for a place in San Francisco during April and it just so happened that she would be traveling in Vietnam while I was hoping to be here, so it worked out perfectly. Too bad we won’t be in Vietnam at the same time, but I’m putting her on reconnaissance duty for hotspots in Hanoi. Meghan also introduced me to some of her friends – I went to their delicious brunch on Saturday. As expected, everyone was very welcoming. The host was from Thailand so I got a bunch of travel tips too! #winwin
The first few days were spent getting settled. I added money to a transit card that Meghan loaned me, got groceries, and went for many walks around my neighborhood. San Francisco is sprinkled with farmers markets that I’ve happily pillaged and plundered. The food is so fresh, I love knowing where it came from, and it will last much longer in the fridge.
Much like Chicago, San Francisco is also very festival centric. This weekend, I went to the Cherry Blossom and Shiba Inu Festival. It was an amazing experience! There were lots of booths, lots of puppies and hello kitty everywhere – including the line-around-the-block ‘Hello Kitty Cafe’. I felt like I’d walked through a portal that transported me to Japan.
Fun Fact: the Shiba Inu is a breed of dog that originated from Japan and is still popular there today.
Noticing a pattern of dog-oriented events? I’m really missing Yahtzee so I’m going to events with pets, allowing me to subject my snuggles on other people’s animals! LOL
I’m struggling big time with wanting to try all the Asian food here and holding out because I’m about to have access to some authentic AF food which I’ll be eating every day. This isn’t making the struggle any less real!
I figured that if I could make some money, it would justify being able to get some sushi. So, I searched the ‘Gigs’ section of Craigslist and found a guy looking for some cleaning in his apartment – kitchen and bathroom. I told him I’d work for $15/hr cash monies. We met up and I knocked out the cleaning in an hour – it wasn’t bad at all. His name was Jose and he was about my age. He was so pleased with the cleaning that he gave me my hourly $15, plus a $25 tip!
This week, I’ll be zipping around the city. On my list is Chinatown, back to Japantown, some hiking, the house from Ms. Doubtfire (I LOVE YOU ROBIN!), and a trolley car ride. I’ll also spend one day just riding busses around and getting intentionally lost – that’s how I found my favorite sushi restaurant of all time – the ‘Floating Sushi Boat’. I’ve always wanted to go to a sushi place that serves the sushi conveyor belt style. This place one ups that by having a sushi boat river that sails in a circle around the island where the sushi chef is working.
I literally squealed like a child when I walked inside.
Can’t wait to get my fingers on some of those boats!
Coming soon, I’ll be doing a Chicago vs. San Francisco “challenge” and I’m taking requests! Already in the ring we have: public transit, street art, and a few other surprises. If there’s something you’d like to know how Chicago and San Francisco measure up, leave a comment and let me know!