Settling Down

The city of San Francisco is the perfect place to conclude an overseas trip. From the Torte shops of The Mission to the cannolis of Little Italy, the whole world feels contained in these 7-square miles. I may be back in the country, but the adventure is hardly over.

After the humble rice-and-potato food scene in Nepal, I’m awed by the culinary variety here: taquerias, sushi joints and tapas bars. Cafes with names like “La Boulange” display glossy rolls and serve up gourmet coffee in absurdly pretentious ceramic bowls. Back to dealing in U.S. dollars, everything feels expensive.

There are only seven days left of the ring auction and the bidding holds at $10,000. I’ve committed myself to blogging more during these last auction days, giving more up-to-the-minute accounts as events progress. No more obsessing over commas, or the right turns-of-phrase! Just going to let the words wobble forth like stilettos over potholes.

I’ve been roosting in a Russian Hill apartment. The owners are away in Shanghai. I wake early restless with jetlag, and by 7 a.m. am out wandering. Russian Hill is quintessential San Francisco: sea-weathered Victorian houses, hilly streets, and no place to park. The Powell and Hyde cable car clatters by the apartment, and from the top of the street you can see the spire of the trans-American pyramid, the Bay Bridge, and Alcatraz eerie in the fog.

My half-light strolls are poetic and rich, but this monastic schedule has me ruined by noon. My interview on the Here on Earth radio show was a real feat.  Less than 24-hours after my plane touched down, I was scheduled to arrive at KQED studios to chat about the ring on Wisconson Public Radio. An NPR-affliate, the show is broadcast throughout the Midwest and was a 14-carat opportunity to find a ring buyer.

I wafted into the studio a full hour early, donning rumpled travel clothes that still reeked of incense and the pungent smoke of yak dung fires; I hadn’t even had time to do laundry.  Sheila, the receptionist laughed when I signed in. “Why are you here so early?”

“I just wanted to be SURE I made it here.” Afterall, I thought, a cow might have been dottering in an intersection, or a broken down bus may have blocked the road. Then I remembered I was back in America, where life was preternaturally smooth. But I was still in the habit of expecting the unexpected.

I signed in at the desk and then wandered down to a corner café. The waitress set down a basket of bread and I considered wine. Though exhausted, I also had jittery nerves. A friend recommended a well-timed glass of white before the interview. I ordered a cheap Chardonnay and nibbled on a piece of bread, hoping I wasn’t making matters worse.

At 12:45 I was ushered into the studio, belly gurgling with an unhappy configuration of caffeine and alcohol.  The sound tech positioned the headphones over my ears and conducted a sound check. Through the ear piece, I heard the tail end of NPR news.

My mind spun: I don’t belong here.

For days I’d been having anxiety-dreams about the radio show. Live broadcasting is a terrifying prospect. In fact, I write, in part, because I don’t feel I speak well. I love the long brew of ideas, the process of carefully preparing slow food sentences.

Jean Feraca introduced me and the show progressed at a fast clip. She’d ask a question and I’d alternate between going blank and rambling. Sometimes I’d start to answer and forget the question. Thankfully, Jean was skilled at keeping things afloat. They bulked up the show with music, excerpts from my blog, and sound clips from my vagabond philanthropists.

Then Jean hit me with a math question.

After a clip of Marc Gold explaining how $2,000 can build a school, Jean asked: “So, Christina, tell us: if each school costs $2,000, how many schools can you build if the ring sells for $22,000?”

It was a simple story problem, but I panicked.  It was like being called on in math class. Two schools? 11,000?

“A lot” I blurted out.

A few big-hearted callers phoned to express their support and I teared up. I was touched by the support.

I returned to my Russian Hill digs, took a shower, and settled in for the deepest sort of sleep. The next day I woke up in the 4 a.m darkness and listened the interview podcast. And for a half-drunk, half-wired, jetlagged diamond seller, it actually wasn’t that bad.


One Response to “Settling Down”

  1. Rita Says:

    Chris…love it!
    the final link is broken….
    I’m RTing and FBing and hoping that the price soars this week….(and I’m writing this as I’m listening to your radio interview…great job!)

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