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Greetings From San Francisco

Elizabeth York, California, USA
February 1999

Always fascinated with San Francisco, California, I moved here in 1991 and have slowly been building a life in the fabled "City By the Bay." As the great metropolises of the world go, San Francisco is not a very old city, but it has a colorful history. Perhaps that accounts for the rather varied and interesting--and inexplicable--experiences I've had here.

My first apartment was in a building that was built in 1917 and located in a wretched neighborhood--the Tenderloin--where I was fortunate (I'm being sarcastic here!) to witness first-hand the physiological effects of crack cocaine, the inner-workings of the prostitution trade, and the glassy look in the eyes of several dead bodies. Compared to my neighbors, I lead a very mundane, almost up-scale life. Being in my early twenties at the time (black hair, black clothes, lots o' black eyeliner), my lifelong fascination with the supernatural was intensified. Considering the environment in which I made my home, I couldn't understand why nothing out of the ordinary ever materialized (but such things rarely happen when you want them to!). My obsession drove me to try and conjure up spirits using a Ouija board, and to convince myself that every vivid dream I had was instead reality. On the few occasions when my mind was clear of thoughts of the morbid and ethereal, strange things did happen. Since I was *really* in-tune with my dark side back then, that equates to only two strange events!

The first occurred within a few months of moving to the Tenderloin. One Friday evening I was standing at the mirror in the bathroom, ratting my raven hair, getting ready to go to a party. As I thought of all the people I would see and how the night might play-out, I heard, right next to my left ear, the raspy, deep voice of a man. He stated, "It's good to be alive." There was nobody home but myself, no radio or television on, just silence, and then this audible voice. I handled the incident calmly--just went out to the livingroom and turned on my stereo, then heard nothing more but loud music.

Some four years passed until the next event, which again was centered on the bathroom. Like countless mornings before, I was in a turmoil because I was running late for work, and as I showered, I thought of how much I hated my job to begin with. I ran my face under the water, then dried my eyes and turned to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. My back to the faucet, I noticed something white hanging in the air. It was my nightgown, which I'd left atop the dresser (this was a huge bathroom). It was floating, as if someone very tall and invisible were holding it up by the sleeve. Again, I handled the incident well, calmly watching my air-borne nightgown for about ten seconds, before it finally crumpled back down to the dresser.

In 1996 I had my fill of life in the Tenderloin, and lucked-out on a sunny apartment in a 1907 Nob Hill Victorian. There was not one negative vibe here, in the beginning, and I had grown-out of my black hair and dark obsessions. Ironically, despite my bright, new outlook and residence in a secure neighborhood, I suffered a break-in within my first week of living here. At 4am that Sunday, I was awoken by scuffling outside of the building, and rose in time to see a rather hip looking guy on my fire escape, trying to open one of my windows. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of a rare heat spell, and I had left my kitchen window open to bring in some night air. Unsuccessful with my livingroom window, my would-be assailant noticed me trying to pull the kitchen window closed, and grabbed it from my grasp. I did not stick around to watch him make his entrance--I was out in the hallway by then, phone in hand, screaming bloody murder. The intruder calmly strolled out of my apartment and told me not to be afraid, he wasn't going to hurt me. He apologized profusely, saying that he had dated the woman who had previously occupied my apartment. According to him, she had "screwed" him over badly, and his invasion was simply meant to frighten her. While it was impossible for me to be understanding or forgiving, I decided, once he'd left, not to call the police. Although his motives weren't as sinister as they could have been, I had never been more frightened in my life, nor more angry when I learned that the woman he was after was in fact my upstairs neighbor.

And as a neighbor, Shirley had already proven herself unfriendly and inconsiderate, unresponsive to my hellos when I passed her in the hallway, insistent on playing her stereo loudly and clomping about her hardwood floor wearing stiletto heels (it is an unspoken rule among apartment dwellers: no carpeting=no hard-sole shoes while hanging around the house). In order to escape the threats of her volatile ex-boyfriend, Shirley had switched apartments without explanation to anyone, perfectly comfortable with leaving the next tenant as a sitting duck for his psychopathic tyrades. For weeks after the break-in, I would curse her every footstep, and lay wide awake through many nights, anxious about even the slightest noise.

In the dead of one night I arose, fearing the wind rattling the window pane was instead an intruder. After doing my usual inspection, I sat down on the couch and turned on the TV for comfort. But over the television voices, I heard the slight rumble of other voices. They were in the apartment. Coming from behind my head. I turned, and there sat my telephone answering machine, its red light blaring at me like some devilish eye. The machine was idle, there had been no incoming call, and the volume was turned to its minimum, but I bent my ear to the answering machine speaker and listened-in on a barely audible conversation. There were two men speaking, and I could not identify their language. It was not a European dialect, nor was it Cantonese, Mandarin, Arabic, Japanese, Farsi... It was gibberish spoken at an otherworldy pitch, as if it was intended not to be understood, as if the two were doing impressions of the demon voice from "The Exorcist." As I listened intently for several minutes, making sure it was not my imagination, I first dismissed what I was hearing as a practical joke, then as a misdirected signal from some nearby transmitter. But the sounds of these voices made my skin crawl, and they never uttered one recognizable word. In the end, I took the event as a culmination of all the bad energy that had intensified within me since the incident with Shirley and her wacky love life. I turned the volume up on the TV and crawled back into bed, promising to make an effort to let go of my fear and anger. I am now sleeping much better, and have not heard those voices since.

Not long after the incident with my answering machine, I landed a much better job. Soon after my hire, on my way to work one morning, I decided to forego the usual office coffee and treat myself to an espresso. At this point in my life I was generally happy, but this particular day... It was as if the city had been sprinkled with magical dust! It was one of those glorious Spring mornings when the sky is a gorgeous blue, and every color is bright and intense and beautiful, and everybody seems to be in a terrific mood. As I headed for my favorite outdoor cafe, I was very focused on the world around me, exchanging a smile and a nod with everyone I passed. About twenty feet from the cafe, my mind burst out into song: the voice of Ella Fitzgerald sang out, "April in Paris" (from one of my favorite CDs). Now I did not sing aloud, I just thought the tune, and there was no music whatsoever being piped into the environment. With that fabulous recording playing in my head, I took my place in line at the cafe, waited a couple minutes for service, and then a couple minutes more for my order. As I was finally handed my coffee, I got the urge to turn, just in time to see a security guard coming toward the cafe via the same route I had taken. He was about twenty feet away when suddenly he sang aloud, "April in Paris..." Right at the same spot where I had first thought of the same song! I was so shocked and delighted I could not help but let out a laugh, and when the poor man looked at me in puzzlement (no doubt thinking that I found his rendition humorous), I just told him he'd chosen the perfect song for a perfect day.

Well, just goes to show that sometimes incidents of The Unexplained can be quite charming!

Elizabeth York, California, USA
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