Post-Baltimore visit, my eyes are opened like they have never been opened before. They say that travel nourishes the soul and broadens the mind, but such lyricism rings true for the greatest and the smallest trips that one takes.

The goodness of quirky, familiar Baltimore aside, it’s good to be back in Frisco. Today dawned gray and murky, warmer than expected which is always a bit of a disappointment. After sweltering in the swampy humidity of the East, everyone on board flight VX77 out of Dulles was looking forward to shivering in coats after we deplaned.

Washington DC and the suburbs are utterly walkable, but not in a way that I have experienced so far like in the Castro. With this mornings errand, I had scarcely been in California for 10 hours when the cast and characters of the Castro stage were played out before my very gaze:

Tree cuttings of the ornamental foliage on 17th. A friendly smile, a pre-emptive dive to cross the street as the PGE workers snipped and pruned high above. “Don’t worry, ma’am, you can come this way!” What a beautiful smile he had, all lines and creases and his story etched upon his ebony face. A face that, while seen a million times in the southern charms of Baltimore, seemed so much more to me out here in the west.

A proud, willowy boy walking from the store, the gym, or maybe just from his apartment headed towards up Market. His strides were sure, his feet sang a swaying rhythm found only on the runway. While I am not proud enough to meet his eye and be caught admiring his glamorous surety, I knew, even dressed in tight jeans and a plain t-shirt that he was a queen. When night falls he’s someone else entirely, someone whose preferred sunlight is the stage. Strut, stand, and turn. A girl could watch that forever.

The clean-cut, perfectly groomed 40-something businessmen. Like the retro-hip salarymen of Japan, this is what we have. Fine silvery scruff, too perfectly trimmed to truly be that, subtle stripes and patterns and cloth, accessorized just well enough to ride that line between casual and not. They are on the corner, in Peet’s, outside the Muni, in the office, on their phones, meeting on the corners conferring with their chaps.

Underfoot, the street life. Threaded between trendy shops and hip pink eateries, the ubiquitous individuals who seem constantly clad in drab green and black. Crusty, dirty, but social. They sleep on the street in plain sight, a curiosity to those who weave between their midnight powwows and their anarchic antics. I step over their fluids and excrement just like the next, wondering if all the strange stains and mysterious smells of the sidewalk are part of their day’s work.

At this hour, the only people I do not see are the young and hip, eternally underfed and over-fashioned, riding their fixies deftly between trains, cars, and pedestrians. Perhaps they are at work, perhaps are in their apartments planning more elegant pursuits.

And then there is myself, never fitting and never speaking. A two-way trip down the street sees me first starry-eyed with epiphanal wonder, taking in all the colorful vignettes of this city. Then, flashing lights and chaos as a truck hits a motorcyclist — ever my worst fear — and finally pouring tears and sprinting for home.