The young woman is in the tree. The tree is on a busy street. This street happens to be the Haight. In the heart of San Francisco. The young woman is naked.
Some law in San Francisco allows for public nudity if the person’s genitals are not exposed. This translates to the regular vision of middle-aged men wearing nothing but a sock over their genitalia. It is usually a Sunday afternoon and usually in the Haight, most known for being the centre of the counter-cultural explosion of the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. Janis Joplin was a resident here; as were the Grateful Dead. Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, considered it too mainstream. And now men who saw it all and lived to tell the tale still roam the streets, one wearing nothing but a long rainbow sock that reaches down to his knees. And the girl in the tree.
She squats in the tree and her friends, also naked, yell encouragingly up at her from below, while snapping photos. One guy with clothes on is also taking photos and I’m not sure if he’s a friend who missed the ‘nude-day’ memo or an unrelated passerby.
“Are ya done yet?” she yells. “I wanna come down!”
Her friends reply negative, that they want to still get more pictures of her among the foliage.
* * * *
Another Sunday afternoon we’re driving home from Santa Cruz. Halfway along the highway there is a field of flowers, brilliantly yellow. An expulsion of pixels, the escaped creation of a Silicon Valley animator. Michael thuds the car to a stop on the side of the road. He’s got a horse mask and he wants us to frolic in the field with it. Families have also stopped here, an elderly woman dressed in a silk pantsuit, two girls taking pictures of each other lying in the flowers with a camera on a tripod.
“Ok, ok dudes!” says Michael. “So ima lie in the grass and you come skipping along and I’ll stick my head up out of the flowers. And you’ll be like, what, what, a horse? And I want you to film it, ok?” He gives his camera to Barbara, who laughs before affirming that she’ll do it.
I link arms with Anita and skip through the yellowness and Michael-the-horse lifts his head up out of the flowers and we are appropriately shocked for the camera. It doesn’t look so effective played back; but it was one of the moments that I’ll keep with me long after being here. A brief window of time in which our laughing mingled so thoroughly it was impossible to tell which sounds were coming from who and the good feeling was so solid and complete I could almost stick it in my pocket with the Santa Cruz seashells I’m planning to weave into a necklace.
Emma Rose Smith