Californication: San Francisco

I’m standing on some random street in San Francisco close to midnight, carry-on luggage and stuffed backpack in tow, shivering in my cotton shorts and a thin t-shirt because I didn’t take into account the difference in latitude and bay winds. Nathan throws me his sweatshirt and insists that I wait on the stoop, somewhat shielded from the wind. We are waiting for his high school friend, Reg, to arrive and let us in to our chateaux for the next day and a half. Reg finally arrives, waltzing down the street with a smile and open arms towards an old friend. He and Nathan embrace briefly and I rush my introduction because let’s face it, I’m freezing my ass off.

The weather in San Francisco is very similar to Boston and I think that’s the reason why out of all of the places I visited in California, San Francisco had an air of familiarity I couldn’t shake. The wind whips from the Bay as it does from the Atlantic and the cloud cover brings out a different breed of people than it would in splendid sunlight. The sun, however, is something to be rejoiced whenever it actually does come out. Henceforth, I decided I wouldn’t be able to live in San Francisco. I couldn’t see myself settling down in a city that reminded me so much of a former home. Boston is my home, for now, and I love my home but I am a nomad.

This is a fact that many who grow attached to my presence, family especially, have a difficult time understanding. I can’t fathom the thought of settling down in a city or seaside town and saying to myself, “This is it. This is where the road ends.” There are so many roads, so many unexplored paths, and so many doors that are cracked open, dying to be burst through that I have yet to stumble upon. I see San Francisco as a city for nomads such a myself. I could hold a temporary love for the city by the Bay but it honestly would be a short lived romance.

Of course, it is unfair to make such an assumption when I only spent less than two days exploring it, but, regardless, it was my gut instinct. Nathan and Reg stayed up to chat and catch up and I took the liberty of passing out on the bed closest to me. The next morning is an early start to see as much as possible before the 10 hour trek back down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. It’s overcast, rather breezy and the morning chill nips at my bare legs. To say I am underdressed is a gross understatement.

The only “warm” article of clothing I brought along with me is a knit sweater meant for brisk summer nights. The overcast skies block out any warming rays of light. Reg, Nathan and I trek a few blocks down (or up, you can’t never really gauge in San Francisco) to a small but bustling breakfast joint run by a family of Asians that are the epitome of “morning people.” The walls are slathered with band and concert posters and various customer etchings on the back of booths. Coffee is served in mugs that seemed to have been collected in various parts of the world; Nathan has a tourist mug from Vienna and mine is a faded blue with a charming Tinkerbell smiling up at me as I nosh hard on sunny side up eggs and warm biscuits dripping with saturated fat ham.

With food babies festering in our bellies, Nathan and I drive over to Golden Gate Park. The Golden Gate Bridge is massive, a true architectural feat and a sight to admire. I could gaze upon each wire and support beam for hours and wonder how long it took to assemble and what part it played in the grand scheme of things. Everything beautiful takes time to develop, blossom and thrive. We explore the port of San Francisco, watch a duo of British circus men ride unicycles, balance themselves on 10-foot ladders, juggle knives and make horrible jokes to an audience that eats up every word they’re saying.

We munch on Mrs. Field’s cookies while making our way through a swarm of tourists that have descended upon the port of San Francisco. The fog is still very much settled over the Golden Gate but the clouds have parted over the port. Hand in hand, Nathan and I meander our way through a mirror maze, bumping our bodies against glass, one another and small children running and screaming around us. I lead at some points then Nathan takes my place, towing me along until we see the light and stumble out of the maze back into the crowd of tourists. Later on in the day, we venture into Chinatown, very similar to Canal Street in New York City with street vendors splaying out their merchandise and offering you a two-for-10-dollar deal on anything that piques your interest.

“Okay, were in Chinatown, now for some good ass Chinese food,” I gush. We enter a restaurant that looks promising but find only businessmen and women is pant suits broodingly sipping on their old fashioneds and discreetly munching on their dumplings. “Another place, maybe?” Nathan suggests in a low voice. I nod and another block down we are handed a coupon for free dumplings and dessert with the purchase of any lunch entree.

“Say no more, lady,” I take the coupon from the woman’s hand and she points across the street to the restaurant with roof deck seating. The food is delicious but nothing that I would consider to be mind blowing for San Francisco Chinatown. Isn’t this where American Chinese food originated from? C’mon guys, set some standards. The atmosphere was everything I had expected though.

Young children puppeteered a life-sized dragon suit while being pursued by drummers setting the rhythm for the dancers beneath the dragon. The day came to a close with a relaxing drive through Napa and Sonoma Valley. There was something so therapeutic about gazing upon an endless expanse of grapes that would soon be fermented, bottled and consumed by many for a variety of occasions. Maybe it would be drank for all the wrong reasons, maybe these set of grapes here would be consumed to celebrate a one or 50-year-anniversary or maybe this row would be downed just because one doesn’t need a special occasion to open a good bottle of wine. The sun was dipping beyond the valley and another day well spent in beautiful California was coming to a close.

The night before our departure, Reg, Nathan and I sat in the kitchen taking shots of vodka and slurping Malibu from the bottle, laughing and sharing stories with one another. I had the grand idea to trim down Nathan’s beard in a slightly inebriated state and did a hell of a good job if I do say so myself. I went to bed that night, drunk but happy with photographic evidence of my short lived love affair with San Francisco. The morning of our departure, we packed our bags and said our goodbyes to a groggy Reg recovering from a long night of online role play gaming. On to the next adventure.

“Before we go, let me show you something,” Nathan said. I followed him out to the back porch where I was greeted with a stunning view of the early morning San Francisco skyline. Of course the fog played into the beauty of the landscape and I now believe the city was built to look good in the fog. If San Francisco was a model he or she would be able to pull off yellow in any shade and make it a fashion statement. I found myself falling in love with the city on that back porch that morning and Nathan, sensing this, assured me that we would be back soon and this time for longer. Yes, my dear, but not for too long. I don’t want to spoil this love affair.

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