800 Chestnut Street

December 6, 2007

Originally posted to ydnar.vox.com in December 2007.

Yesterday, my friend Ford gave me a tour of his school. Previously, I’d never ventured this far up the hill from Bimbo’s. Walking through the entrance was like visiting another country, hung on the walls of the early-1900s romanesque courtyard were paintings and sculpture, the fountain murmuring, illuminated by trees strung with white lights. Saw the Diego Rivera mural, walked into the brutalist 1960s wing overlooking the foggy, sodium-lit lower North Beach and Wharf. Students wandered around, talking, smoking, watching projections on the windows of the cafeteria. Water dripped down a concrete sluice, striking an installation of crushed water bottles.

We descended a ramp into the bowels of the building, Ford pointing out the kilns, computer labs and wood shop. It smelled of acrylic, clay and sawdust. The sight and presence of actual, tactile evidence of creativity triggered memories I’d long forgotten. So many ideas, opportunities. Ford lent me his level and an industrial vise to cold-set the track bike fork I’d drunkenly trashed a few months ago. After a half-hour of grunting, measuring, tweaking and tuning it was back to its proper state, straight and true. Later, while affixing it to the bicycle at home, the phone rang. It was Ford, and he had an idea.