Many Chinatown businesses are still closed but the groceries and fish markets are a flurry of activity. This is really good to see. I meander down to a parallel street with the tourist shops, and more doors are shut. I watch as a shopkeeper removes the wood from his long shuttered shop, ready to be open once more. A smattering of wide eyed sightseers flit about seeking direction.
Venturing up the stairs into the park, hearing a nearby boisterous cough sends me back to the sidewalk. Taking the next available stairwell, I expect to see the type of activity I always see here, but it is quiet. One group of men play cards, and there are scattered individuals resting on benches. It is missing the music, the laughter, performance, food, exercising elders, wandering visitors and general bustle of the days before. A bench sitter, bedraggled and toothless, calls out for my attention. He is cheerful and wants me to turn around. I don't mind his eagerness and give him a friendly nod.
The bookstore that is a landmark of North Beach is not yet open, so I peer longingly through the window. Whenever I stand there, I think of the time a friend from New York asked me to hide his poem somewhere inside. I put it in the wall near where poems are read, to be found by someone, sometime, eventually. Its words were written, read and will wait, like most art, to be (re)discovered and celebrated.
Returning to my two hour parking spot, I remove my mask and look in the mirror. The mascara I put on earlier, to look more alive, is now smudged well below my eyes. I look ridiculous and drive home laughing while looking like a sad clown.