After Midnight Walk

Last night I was inspired by a conversation between two friends on Twitter. One said she couldn’t sleep, the other made a comment about staying up all night. It was about 10:45/22:45 and I had a craving for something sweet. I got the bright idea of leaving my comfortable apartment, NOT watching Supernatural again (I can do that tonight!), not working on the website, and just going out. I had no idea what I was going to do.

I haven’t been going out much lately, and when I do I’ve been going to an event or performance like a play, nothing spontaneous where I just wander around. I have a book on unorthodox traveling and one of the suggestions is to experience a new city by going out at dusk and staying up until dawn. I’ve always wanted to do that here at home in San Francisco.

I first decided that I needed to park somewhere on Market Street which is on the other side of Twin Peaks from where I live. Market is the main street which slices diagonally from the Ferry Building on The Embarcadero through the Financial District, Civic Center, Union Square shopping area, and up to The Castro. Since most public transportation shuts down around 12:30/00:30, I would need a way to get home without having to take a cab.

I ended up tweeting my little nighttime stroll.

Cakes but no strawberry!

I parked on Noe Street and went to look for something sweet. Fortunately for me, Sweet Inspirations Bakery and Cafe in The Castro was open until midnight. I picked a slice of caramel cake with a side scoop of Oreo cookie ice cream.

The guy at the table next to me was sleeping. No one seemed to care. There were small groups of people in the front and back of the cafe, noisily chatting. There were also two huge slices of chocolate cake at the table in the window, completely abandoned, barely eaten. I almost gnashed my teeth at the waste.

Folks would wander in and out. The door was wide open and it was a mild, clear evening, fog-free.

I checked my phone. My twitter friends have been talking about Guardians of the Galaxy lately and I had the thought there might be a midnight showing. There was but I had to get to the theater in less than 10 minutes. I wrapped things up with my cake and made my way to Church Station (MUNI). I managed to get to the theater only a few minutes after the movie started.

It was in 3D, which I enjoyed. It was also $17, which I gave me sticker shock. The funny thing is I didn’t even notice the ticket was $17 until I took a picture and tweeted it! Really enjoyed the movie. Lots of fun. I won’t say anything else about it for the folks who haven’t seen it yet.

When I exited the theater, it was 02:30. I started walking up Market Street back to Castro which almost a two mile walk. Through the Tenderloin. I thought about getting a cab but I was feeling adventurous.

In Union Square at the start of my 02:30 walk.

The Tenderloin is located almost in the center of the city and is considered a bit of a rough neighborhood. Lots of homeless folks, alcoholics, drug addicts and dealers. I’ve walked through the Tenderloin a zillion times before, even at night, but not this late. I figured if I stayed closer to the street, didn’t make eye contact, and walked like I own the place, I would be fine. And I was. It was an interesting stroll.

The streets were so quiet. I’ve never been downtown when it was that quiet. It was eerie. I kept looking up at the buildings and there was a ten story building with a tall stairway. The top of the stairway was glassed in on two sides and a woman was standing there, looking out, with her hands on the glass. I wondered what she was thinking and why she looked so shadowy.

I walked with my hands in my pockets. I avoided people, especially groups of men, and stayed as close to the street as possible (so no one could grab me from a doorway or surprise me from around the corner).

I didn’t walk particularly fast but I moved like I had a purpose. I only checked my phone once, when I was standing in the middle of a busy street on an island waiting for the light to change and no one else was around. I figured I needed to stay alert and looking at the phone just makes you vulnerable because you’re not paying attention to your surroundings.

I noted a few things:

  • The night belongs to the men. Other than two women I saw accompanied by men, I was the only woman out there, and there were no women alone.
  • There were times when I was worried, usually when walking past groups of men. I either crossed the street to avoid them completely or moved even closer to the street.
  • From reading the #YesAllWomen tweets on Twitter and similar posts on Tumblr, I was acutely aware of how different this situation is between men and women. Most women should not do what I was doing since there is a very real chance that you could get attacked. I was holding my keys in my pocket like a weapon and my cell phone too in case I had to beat the crap out of someone with it.
  • It was exhausting being on alert all the time.

Would I do it again? Definitely not unless I was with someone.

By the time I saw the 24 hour Safeway sign at Church Street, I decided I needed to take a breather and went into the store. The employees were busy restocking shelves. A few shoppers wandered in and out of the aisles. There was a group of rather scruffy young men by the door, playing the occasional instrument.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE stared at me. The store clerk and the two security guards did double takes. Apparently, the night belongs to men even inside the 24 hour Safeway. I shopped for popcorn (random, right?) and checked my phone. I was there to take a mental break from being alert all the time before walking the last three blocks to my car.

By the time I got back to my car and home safe it was close to 04:00. I’d wanted to stay awake long enough to watch the dawn but I was too worn out. I’m glad I went on this little adventure but next time I decide to randomly go out into the night, I’ll take a cab back to the car.


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