Hayley - Tales of the City

Originally from:
New Jersey, USA
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Type of book:

AP: Tell me about the book you are reading?

H: It’s Tales of the City, have you heard of it?

AP: No, I didn’t.

H: So, I’ve read it probably four or five times. It’s by Armistead Maupin. He is a famous San Francisco writer and he originally started writing it in Chronicle as series, a chapter every week.

I originally received a copy when I was 17 from my mom who’ve received it from her friend who used to live in Noe Valley. And I lived in Boston at the time, and it was old, worn yellowed copy and I’ve read it. It is a very easy read. It’s like a serial novel. It’s kind of like soap opera.

AP: What are the years events take place?

H: The years? It’s started in the 70s, so it takes place in the 70s. I’ve read it and I fell in love with it and I came to San Francisco when I was 17 with my family and I decided that I had to move here. For a couple of years I’ve read I think there are 8 or 10 books now of the series. I’ve read all of them. I think he just stopped writing them a couple of years ago. He lives in Santa Fe now.

I love it. I don’t know, there is something about it. All the places in it they talk about - a lot of them still exist. I live right down the street from where it takes place. There is a word in it that they use very often and it’s also the name of one of the characters called Halcyon. Which means like an idyllic time or place in your life. That word comes up a lot in San Francisco colloquialism. You’ll see it now. It’s a name of the nightclub now. It’s everywhere. I actually have it on me (AP: Hayley shows the tattoo on her left hand). I love it very much.

So I was just rereading this book. I was in the Castro last week with my brother, he just moved here and I was showing him the bookstore there. And I just had to buy a fresh copy because mine is broken. And they had the first edition of the third book, so I’ve got the first edition of the third book for 10 dollars!

AP: Is this book about real people who used to live in the city?

H: It’s a novel. A soap opera kind of novel. People in the 70s living here after free love flower movement. And a lot of TM (transcendental meditation), EST (AP: Erhard Seminars Training), LGBT. It’s kind of intersection of regular people and people who live on the top of Nob Hill - rich people. It’s a great book.

AP: It also sounds like a life-changing book for you.

H: Oh, yeah! It’s a very good book, for me.

AP: So you read 10 books by the same author?

H: I think there is 8 or 10.

AP: And every book is the same style and is about SF?

H: Yeah, they kind of spin-offs of each other.

AP: Are the characters travel between the stories?

H: Yeah. They even made a TV show, that was on PBS in the 90s.

AP: Interesting, I’ve lived here for a couple of years now and I didn’t read anything about SF. I don’t have that kind of attachment and I really like how you spoke about the book and how it influenced your experience.

H: Yes, definitively. I’m consistently amazed by the city and I think it’s captured in here. There is something in it that forever have captured why I fell in love with San Francisco. I like rereading it.

AP: What are other books or authors you really like?

H: I read a lot of books about meditation and learning about what is Zen.

AP: Like Alan Watts?

H: There is a book called What is Zen? (AP: by Alan Watts). It’s like a conversation between two people - a person and their apprentice. It describes what Zen is and talks about the creation of the Zen Center on the Page street. I’ve driven by it a million times, and I always wondered what it is. But it’s apparently the site where the Buddhism started in the US. So, in the 60s or even 50s a group of Americans would go to Tibet and come back and start Zen Center and that is how Buddhism made it here. I read a lot about that kind of stuff. Do you know what a Jewbu is?

AP: Not really.

H: It’s a Jewish person who is interested in Buddhism. There are a lot of very famous very smart Jewish people who became Buddhists.

AP: Do you try to compare Judaism and Buddhism and pick the best features from each religion?

H: Yeah, I think that is what I do. And I think that what a lot of really smart Jewish people realize, that Judaism like any other religion can be very restrictive and there is a lot of antiquated rules and stupid things that come along with it. So they move towards this way that is a lot less stressful and has a lot less resistance. I think Buddhism is about releasing resistance. So I like learning about that stuff.

AP: So you like novels about the city and books about spirituality, but somehow they also connected to the city.

H: Actually yeah. I’m a sucker for San Francisco life.

AP: Ok. Why are you here? Why you in the Joe & the Juice?

H: I saw this comfy chair. I wanted to go to Jane (AP: Jane bakery on Fillmore street), but it was so crowded and I just wanted to sit and read for a while.

AP: How often do you read? And how many books do you read per year?

H: I read most nights. It puts me to sleep. I read not as much as I’d like to. When I have a free afternoon like this I like to come over to Fillmore and find semi-quiet place to read. Because that is what I did when we first moved here and I didn’t know anyone. I think the very first week I moved here, I used to work at the Fairmont hotel, where actually Armistead used to write from, and it was Super Bowl Sunday and I came down to Fillmore street and I’ve just read. Maybe I was reading this again, I probably was cause I just moved here. So I like to do it from time to time.

AP: Tell me about your relationships with reading, when did you start? Did your parents read?

H: Yeah, but not tremendously. We were like a TV family, not like a reading family.

AP: But you are still the only person here reading a book. I’ve just checked 3 coffee shops on my way here and I found no one who reads a book there.

H: Really?

AP: Yeah, so I wouldn’t be so harsh on yourself.

H: Yeah, I recognized now the value of stopping and practicing mindfulness and focusing on one thing. I am a business person. I am very high energy most of the time, so it is just nice sometimes to deliberately remove myself from my apartment and sit down and read. Because if I’m home, I will not read. I’ll find something else to do.

AP: So when you came to the coffee shop you didn’t have much with you, right? You don’t have a laptop?

H: I have my phone. But I’m a realtor. I can’t really fully turn off.

AP: Do you use some digital tools to keep track of what you read?

H: No, I don’t read that much to need something like that. I like my bookshelf at home, I’m proud of it.

AP: I assume that for you paper book is preferred?

H: Yeah, I do have a Kindle but I rarely use it. I like the feeling of the paper book. I like knowing how far I am along.

AP: So it seems that you read for both relaxation and learning.

H: Yes, something like this is definitely to relax and escape, and the other ones are to learn.


After I finished recording we spoke for 15 more minutes. We went back to the topic of Zen Buddhism. Hayley practices meditation and mindfulness by herself. I also learned that she reads a book about the place she is going to travel to, which I found to be a really good idea - it allows you to understand a place on much better level and feel it more personally.