SATURDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 2014. 17:56 PDT. VALENCIA ST.
I came out to the Mission this afternoon on business. Once business was concluded there was still plenty of daylight left, so I decided to pay a visit to Valencia for old times sake.
First it was a stop at Community Thrift. Frankly, I can’t believe this place is still in business at this location. I’m glad it is though, and with still exactly the same setup it had 20 years ago. Other than a small selection of flat-screen desktop monitors for sale, you wouldn’t even know the digital revolution had arrived yet; not at this store.
Next stop was Muddy Waters. Even if I’m not in the mood for coffee I always grab a cup here if I’m within a block. It’s tradition. I don’t know what it is about this particular Saturday afternoon crowd, but Valencia’s new status as a consumer destination is actually working well for the neighborhood today. It’s a grand day for people watching, which is what I’ve been doing for the last 20 minutes from my little round table at Muddy’s.
(Note: Just as I finish writing that last sentence, a party bus with blacked out windows has double-parked on Valencia and blocked my view as its passengers get out to take selfies, but I’m not perturbed. By the time I finish writing this line, the party bus will be gone.)
Valencia is more crowded, more bustling than it was in my day. Much more so. It’s not always a good bustle, but this afternoon it is. I see the same Valencia faces I saw 20 years ago; by the same faces I mean different people but the same types of faces. The people from 20 years ago would all be grey-haired by now. I still see those actual people from time to time, including the woman working behind the counter here at Muddy Waters.
The Valencia faces of today are like the Valencia faces of yesteryear. They’re young in years, but they’re the faces of old souls. They’ll be the same people in their 40s that they are in their 20s. That’s what makes them Valencia people. Today, the Valencia people are augmented by afternoon stroll people: Couples, small groups, and no startup bros in sight. These are all adults here.
Maybe it’s the jazz playing over Muddy Waters’ house system (there was great music playing at Community Thrift too, no doubt a sampling of their wonderful record bins). Maybe it’s the weather we’re having: That universal San Francisco climate of cool fog-drenched daylight; the people’s weather.
Whatever it is, I’m enjoying the vista of people ambling by much more than I ever thought possible. There’s Paris at the turn of the century; Central Park on a Sunday afternoon; and San Francisco on a day like this. I don’t know what it is, but I fully expect to see Annie Hall and Alvy Singer stroll past at any moment. Maybe it’s the season. The most cinematic urban vignettes always seem to happen in the spring or fall, and today is the second to last day of summer.
I will sit here at this table and take it all in for as long as possible because if life has taught me one thing, it’s that when I get up to go, all this goes too.