Saturday, April 03, 2004

driving to sf

My cousin wanted to go to the Bindlestiff Alley, where Bindlestiff Studios have temporarily moved while their former building gets demolished and rebuilt, but she couldn't find anyone who was going. I was going to a retirement party of the guy who ran the lab the SO had been in in grad school. But more on that in a bit.

I tell my cousin to contact a friend of mine who will probably go. He says it's cool. Now, what to tell her parents.

Since her 18th birthday, she's been growing up along with her parents. She lives out in the burbs. Before, if she was visiting me over in Oakland, her parents would tell her to drive to the BART station then take BART to my place. Thing is, the BART station she parked at was only 10 minutes away from my place and slightly more dangerous. So, the last time she came to my place, I convinced her to just drive the whole way and park at my place since my neighborhood was safer, which she did. And though she was scared, she realized that didn't hurt one bit.

Her parents still don't want her driving all the way to San Francisco. Oakland is far enough, but San Francisco is this big scary other world. I remember when I was her age, my parents felt the same way. My father wanted me to park in downtown Oakland and take Bart into Berkeley for school, which added 30 minutes to my commute. What I soon realized is that by the time I came back from Berkeley, downtown Oakland was a ghost town and considerably more dangerous to walk through than a busy night street in Berkeley. From then on, I drove straight to Berkeley. It was ironic, the thing that my parent's thought was safe and familiar ended up being the more dangerous option.

Now, here is my cousin, going to an event in the city essentially by herself. Before one of the older cousins would join her or at least one of her friends. But this time she goes with one of my friends. She spends the evening agonizing what to tell her parents. Would they freak out that she's going with a guy alone and no girl friends? My friend tells her to tell her parents that if anything happens to her, Michelle will undoubtedly kick his ass. (Sometimes it pays to have a reputation of a woman who collects swords.)

I'm hoping the fact that he is one of my friend's buys her some credibility. I have that affect on parents. "Oh, it's Michelle's friend?" or "Oh, you're going with Michelle? OK whatever." For some reason my reputation holds the ultimate in responsibility cards. Um, I guess they didn't read my blog about my trip to the Philippines. good. good. yeeeah.

OK, so the plan is the drive to my place, park here and have my friend pick her up here then head to the City. Fine. Next thing I know, I get a call. "Ate, I took the wrong exit, I'm on the bay bridge on the way to San Francisco. What exit do I take?" I give her directions to the place and tell her to make sure to get parking on a nice well lit street. Bindlestiff is not the greatest of neighborhoods, especially if you're from the burbs and not used to this city life.

As I turn off the phone I think, "good for her!" she's made a bold move. My father didn't like the idea of me driving to the city either. He hated driving in the city: narrow streets, MUNI, bicyclists, one way signs that never seem to go your way.

I remember driving to the city for the first time. Actually, I had one of my friends drive my car just to see how it was done. He was from the City. I remember his girlfriend being so mad that he was driving my car so nicely, when he drives her car like a maniac.

After watching him drive that one time, I decided to try it myself. I don't remember where I went exactly. It was probably an event or something. I remember being on high alert, concentrating on keeping the car in my lane, worried about whether I could get over in the correct lane with the speeding cars. Though the City had been just a bridge away, we didn't have that many relatives there so there weren't too many reasons to go and if we did go, we might go take the train in. It was exciting and scary! Kept thinking what my dad would say if he saw me driving here. Wondered if he would get mad. Crossing back over to the east bay I felt triumphant and a sense of freedom from the monsters that my father said were on the other side of the bridge. Eventually, I would drive across the bridge more and more often till it wasn't that big of a deal.

My parents would eventually also find out that I was driving across the bridge and somewhere concluded that since I successfully came back alive so many times that any time the family was going to the city, I would be driving in order to get there at least 30 minutes faster than if my father drove. Thus became my ever evolving role as the family "dryber," especially when my sister went off to college. Take my grandparents grocery shopping, my mom to a party, pick my brother from school. Being a "dryber" got me a cool gig once being Joey and Jesse Ayala's chauffer for a week. In one sense, my new found freedom got me more responsibility, but so goes the way of freedom.

So here I am, blogging, staying up, waiting for my cousin to come back from the city. It's a bit too far to drive back to the burbs tonight, so she'll take a pit stop here, before going home tomorrow.

My role as a "good ate" is to teach my younger cousins how to make choices. And to make choices that don't necessarily coincide with their parent's wishes. Their parents would consider it "rebelling." My brother asked me once, how did I get this relationship with our parents. How I can just go off and go places despite their advise not to. Looking back, I realized it wasn't so much the big decisions (like when I went to the Philippines for the first time without my family) but these small ones like driving a little farther down the road, that really added up.

I came to realize that each time I drove further down the road, it broke down some of the fears my parents had for me. These things I had imagined as dangerous because they said so, no longer were. I came to understand danger as risk. While danger connotes an eminent thing that will happen, risk was more like something might happen. Each time I "survived" a drive back from SF, made them less fearful of the world.

I realize too that my parents give the advise they give because they've been down some of these roads before and are only telling us what they have seen. And I should be aware that if I go down that road too, that I might see the same exact things. Yet, what I came to learn is that I may not necessarily have the same exact experience. I cherish the advise my parents are able to give me now, because I know that there will be a day when they won't be there to give that advise. In the end, advise is what it is. In the end, you choose whether to take this exit or drive further down.

No comments: