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5 Excellent Bay Area Spots to Chill Out

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We live in stressful times. We also live in a stressful place.

Sometimes, you need to go where your brain can turn off and do what it really wants to do: hum Radiohead songs.

This is your list of places in the near-ish vicinity that are some combination of beautiful, mind-numbing, lonely (in a good way, mostly) and/or easy to get high in.

The Roof of the San Francisco Art Institute

Courtesy of duranvirginia.wordpress.com

Courtesy of duranvirginia.wordpress.com

Next time you’re in North Beach, head up the hill to my alma mater: the San Francisco Art Institute. If the school is open, you can go through an already very pretty courtyard and up the stairs to the roof deck for an incredible view of the Bay. See both bridges, Coit Tower, Alcatraz, all the way into Marin and Oakland plus the back of Nob Hill. Granted, you may arrive on a day when artists are doing something weird…as artists are wont to do. Just come prepared to possibly participate in a nude body-painting performance. But if it’s free of art-making, go around the low wall at the top of the theater steps, lay yourself down on those brick-red tiles and remember how nice it is that you live here.

The Marin Headlands

Courtesy of snippetandink.com

Courtesy of snippetandink.com

Speaking of Marin, when was the last time you went to the Headlands? The particular walkable strip around the Visitors Center is one of my favorites. On foggy days, you’ve got hills perfect for hiking, old army buildings, estuaries, tiny houses and, like, so much fucking atmosphere. On sunny days, you’ve got all that and a beach for that beach weather. Disclaimer: the beach exists in the fog too. When there’s no one around, the Headlands can feel a little desolate in its beauty. But even on a busy day or when the Headlands Center for the Arts is having an event, you can still get all wrapped up in the rolling California glory of it all. Plus, the Marine Mammal Center, you guys. They’re saving seals, which means seal pups too. Pups.

Flora Grubb Gardens

Courtesy of agrowingobsession.com

Courtesy of agrowingobsession.com

So, yes, it’s an expensive plant store and it’s crowded on the weekends. But! If you’re into green things and coffee and chilling the fuck out on a weekday…you see where I’m going with this. Flora Grubb is not only a living art project, it has a cafe. That means you can sit in the gardens, drink a cappuccino, and relish the fact that no one else goes to Bayview during work hours. Plus, who knows? Maybe you need a new succulent. For people who grew up watching movies like The Secret Garden  and Harriet the Spy, it’s kind of like a combination of the lonely lady’s garden and the other lonely lady’s garden. Except with capitalism.

IKEA (Emeryville)

Courtesy of instyle.com

Courtesy of instyle.com

Stop. Tell me the last time you were in an IKEA and didn’t feel like your brain turned into mush. For some people, shopping can do the same thing toanxiety as a long hike up Mt. Tam. Be honest, doesn’t that sleek, Swedish, efficient design soothe something in you that cannot be quenched by food or drink or sex alone? Though, of course, Ikea does also have food and drink. I’m not sure about the sex. Plus, if the showroom is as terrifying to you as it is to me and you somehow don’t already know about this, there’s a secret door to bypass it. Walk through the front door, go straight back towards an alcove with an unmarked door, open it and you’re in the marketplace. Now it’s time to spend all your money on striped linen washcloths and tiny ceramic bird feeders.

Mountain View Cemetery

Courtesy of www.mnn.com

Courtesy of www.mnn.com

The name is a little misleading because the cemetery is actually in Oakland. A beautiful and historic park for dead people, Mt. View Cemetery has a lot of really interesting aspects: it’s right off of a strip of shopping and restaurants, it’s got hiking (no, really, it’s a little strenuous to get to the top), it’s quiet (ha, dead people amirite?) and there’s an unsettling number of freemason icons craved on to the headstones. For real though, cemeteries are a great place to unwind and come to grips with your own reality. You’ll see some other people scattered about, walking their dogs, or in my case once, breaking up with someone. I thought it would be funny. Also, Elizabeth Short, aka The Black Dahlia, is buried there so you can contemplate her horrifying and gruesome murder.

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Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

Candace Cui - Actual Unicorn

At age 2, I was getting run over by a bike in an alley in China. At age 8, I was avoiding man-o-wars on Tybee Island. At age 14, I was overdrinking sweet tea while running through the woods barefoot. At age 20, I was learning Art History and how to drop it low. At age 25, I was making fun of drum circles at Dolores. At every age, I am charming the fuck out of you. Just wait, it'll happen.