When I was growing up, there was a toy called Polly Pocket. A blonde, fingernail sized, Zelda Fitzgerald little darling that would dress up in various outfits and professions. A forward- thinking, working woman of the early 90s who partied hard, yet accomplished her goals. She had no male counterpart as far as I knew. She inhabited various shells that would fit into the cotton pockets of 7 year-old girls across the nation.
Her worlds were like makeup compacts, but instead of pressed powder inside, you would find an ancient bejeweled Egyptian palace, a vet's clinic, or a big city apartment.
It was this last one that really got me. Polly's apartment transported me from my concrete block back steps in the desert to an urban evening full of promise. I would crack open her pastel abode and delight in moving her from the living room (complete with hot tub) to the breakfast nook (where a fridge opened and shut) to the bedroom, where, through a miracle of Small Science, a switch would illuminate a backdrop of stars through a window even smaller than Polly herself. A pinprick cosmos, waiting; satellites swirling and echoing and imaginary people on pretend sidewalks below. moving always forward.
I would often linger Polly by the window, turning on the delicate plastic moon, watching the city light up and thinking of a velvet skyline right before twilight that I might be a part of one day. I would get chills.
Unconsciously, I took these pocket experiences of my small self to San Francisco and neglected to re-scale my expectations. On Polly's microplanet there were no homeless people. No gangs, or flakes, or drugs. No isolation, because Polly was made of plastic and didn't really need a community. There was only the cozy comfort of a fake fireplace (which I did eventually have) and the knowledge that everyone out the tiny window was going about their lives, inside their warm star-squares, as you were, preparing for the next little adventure.