San Francisco: An Imperfect Harmony

It was the only place I’d previously spent a fair amount of time over the course of the first two months of my road trip. The highway curling into the city I’d seen before, my exit somewhere east of the Mission I hadn’t. I floated up and down over the hills and across the streetcar tracks on Market Street. San Francisco was familiar, this felt comfortable.

Along with that – and perhaps because of it – I brought with me an overflowing suitcase of expectations. I wanted to see all the friends I’d ever had here. I wanted to visit all the same great restaurants and coffeeshops and bars and bookstores and parks and scenic spots. And then I wanted to do much more. I had plenty of neighborhoods to explore, new people to meet, more day trips to take, food and drink to try. And I’d budgeted three full weeks – how could I not do all there was to do here in three full weeks, I thought.

It soon became clear that neither familiarity nor expectations (or any combination of the two) was enough for a great time. The first week withered away to rainy weather, misguided plans, poor time management, and a city that just didn’t seem to care much about all the things I wanted to do in it. The buses I wanted to take arrived late, the dish I wanted to order was the only one not available that day. The biggest, boldest, craziest event in the city all year, Bay to Breakers, managed to be overwhelming and yet underwhelming at the same time.

San Francisco did not seem to remember me quite as well as I remembered it.

One morning the next week I came to move my car and found the rear window smashed and my bike stolen. As I stood outside the windshield repair shop in SoMa after dropping off my broken into car, it started to rain.

Still, there was plenty to remind me of why I’d wanted to spend three weeks here. Sunshine beamed later in the afternoon after that miserable morning as a friend and I whizzed on rented bikes up Fort Mason and across Crissy Fields, through the Presidio and across the Bridge, and down the hill and around the curves into the always-in-bloom waterfront of Sausalito. The ferry ride back was even better. There couldn’t have been a better way to mourn the loss of my bike.

There were other good memories: a walk through the colorful Victorians in Cole Valley, my by now usual Saturday mornings at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, a drive down to Pacifica to watch the surfers on a dreary, foggy day, catching a glimpse of the President’s motorcade as he pulled in for a fundraiser at the Fairmont Hotel a block away from the studio I’d sublet in Nob Hill. I met an old roommate and a few old friends for a fun night in Berkeley, caught up with old co-workers at our old offices in Oakland. I found solar panels in Sonoma and a wind farm in the East Bay. I slurped down oysters fresh from Drake’s Bay in Point Reyes with a close friend visiting for Memorial Day weekend. We went to a baseball game at AT&T Park, had ourselves some dim-sum.

On Wednesday morning, my last morning in San Francisco, I triumphantly pulled the door shut after finding the last quarter I needed to do a load of laundry, fittingly locking my keys inside my apartment.

On my way back after locating a spare key, the cable car operator waited just long enough to let me jump on the edge and hang on for the ride back. The cool breeze went by and the sun shone down as we clanged and dinged our way down California Street, the Bay bright blue to the north. One of the few times over those three weeks, for one brief perfect ride, San Francisco was mine.

View pictures from San Francisco.

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