Love Letter #1

Let’s be clear: I have never left my heart in San Francisco. It’s not for lack of trying. But in my handful of visits over the last decade, the city in the bay has never wormed its way in. It’s left me foggy and shivering, perpetually freezing and somehow lost, as my otherwise impeccable sense of direction is challenged at every turn and I am unable to get my bearings. I can’t follow the direction of the sun because I cannot see the sun for all the hills and fog and hippies.

DeYoung Museum Tower

I know, I know. San Francisco is The Shitâ„¢. It’s The Best City Ever. That’s what everyone tells me. But you know how Cristal is, like, a zillion dollars a bottle and everyone collectively accepts it’s The Shit when in reality it’s just O.K.? That’s what San Francisco has always been to me. My Cristal. Sparkling? Yes. Tasty? Yes, of course. A memorable night out? Sure. Warm? No. Better than the entire rest of the world? Certainly not.

But I am willing to have my mind changed.

There is a lot to be said for expectations and what they can do to eff things up. The first time I went to San Francisco, I was anticipating greatness. I was anticipating an inner calling, the prompt dropping of my bags and sending for my things: “Dear Mother and Father, I have found my true north. It is called: San Francisco. Please send my things.” I had, for twenty something years, dreamt of San Francisco as the one city meant for me. Instead, I had a lovely time and welcomed my return to Los Angeles. Of all places!

I tried it on for size again, twice, over the next several years. I sampled cakes, danced the cha cha cha, rode the streetcars, drank cocktails at North Beach, dined in Sausalito, sat in photobooths, drove to the beaches, went to weddings, had front row dining at the Firefly, flirted with animators, played with babies, shopped for paper and vintage home decor, ate pizza in the Sunset and burritos in the Mission. I even rode in a limo. Stuck my head out the sunroof and everything. Still. Nothing. Still cold.

So this time, it was no surprise when I landed in a dense fog at SFO on my way to LAX from Seoul. It was no surprise that I was cold and needed my socks, warm beverages, gloves and a nap.

What was a surprise came seven days later, when I returned to San Francisco by car and could figure out where I was. Not only that, no fog. And I’m not gonna get crazy here, but it was even vaguely warm. And the bigger surprise? It stayed that way for my entire stay. I think I even liked it.

Afternoon Outing, Golden Gate Park

This time San Francisco gave me sunshine and spectacularly blue sky days. It gave me late day light so golden, I now understand why that bridge got its name. It gave me tacos and Korean markets and Russian bakeries and egg nog and gluten-free bread and Halloween candy and really delicious thai food. China Beach mornings and Golden Gate park afternoons. Sea lions and pelicans. Long walks and long runs and long drives. Guest toiletries, private tours, a giggly old friend, a bearded old friend and a few really great new ones who made me laugh until my sides split open.

This time San Francisco managed to slip its way under my skin. No, it was not exactly warm, but I assure you it was way better than Cristal.

All photos were taken the analogue way using various filums.

3 Responses to “Love Letter #1”

  1. charlotte says:

    swoon. i’ve only been the once and, like you, thought it would be the pinnacle. i was perplexed and upset when i actually preferred new york. how was that possible? san francisco was meant to be nirvana, surely? saying that, i have been hankering after a return trip lately. so it can change my mind and all.

  2. BF says:

    these photos feel like SF to me, and california. an essence that you’ve bottled up. i love them.

  3. Matt Samolis (Flickr Uncle Shoe) says:

    Man, if I had a dime for every well meaning friend who tried to talk me into SF, I’d be rich. Only been once, at the insistence of several friends who had moved there. It is a wonderful place, but my friends had all changed in order to thrive there, and I just didn’t see what was there for me, other than tons of amazing LP’s and a bunch of gay men who liked to pinch my ass. Took some records back to Boston, and left the boys there on the street. Happy New Year!

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