Late this past Tuesday, just a few days ago, marked sixteen years that I have lived in San Francisco, that I am, in Fact and in Time, a San Franciscan. In Spirit, a San Franciscan for a bit longer in this incarnation.
Stop rolling your eyes.
Taken even more broadly, as one must in order to satisfactorily explain the intangible, irrational yet impossibly, immeasurably visceral attraction and connection between San Francisco and me, I’m planting a finite, whole number down as a stake to mark a spot in a Sea where no one place stays put for even a moment.
So why do I bother?
Well, it’s a thing. And it’s a thing that doesn’t often get talked about. Those who experience such things tend not to be word people, or tend not to be explainers. They tend to be people who traffic not in substances but rather in ethers and ephemera.
And those people who are more “down to earth” who are explainers and documenters rarely give any sort of credence to when the evidence to be had is the Evidence of Things Not Seen and the only substances are the Substances of Things Hoped For. Stuff that’s not often there for the rational mind to have much use for unless you’re a politician who’s aspires to or intends to repurpose triumphalism.
No, I’m one of those people who rides Roman, after a fashion, one foot planted firmly on a different horse and riding both in a same-enough direction that my inseam doesn’t get coercedly longer and I provide some attraction to the masses as something of a spectacle at least, and something new at best.
Don’t ask for a list of what makes San Francisco so special to me. And what I mean by that is that you shouldn’t expect any real, concrete response to that kind of request. Not because I’m unwilling, because hey, here I am trying to explain the unexplainable already, right? But rather because your question is flawed and your expectations are already skewed.
There’s no reckoning. It’s choosing stereo speakers or having a favorite color. It’s falling in love and crying for no reason in the middle of the day.
I remember June 30, 1993 late night, nearly July 1, as if it were yesterday. I remember the dust on the dashboard of the 1985 VW Golf I drove out here. I remember trying to saw open the blister packaging of the halogen flashlight I bought at the Walgreen’s at the foot of the hill because I had no scissors or knife and I remember being in tears from exhaustion after driving 16.5 hours in that final sprint from Rock Springs, Wyoming to here.
I used to say that I don’t remember anything driving in from Sacramento to Pinole, but now I just say there’s nothing really memorable. Kidding!
But I can bring up a riotous mass of detail about that day, that evening, that night, at will. The color of the flashlight itself was dark blue. Not navy, but something with a bit of a green to it. The key to the house was not left under the Buddha statue as I was told, but the Buddha was not where it was supposed to be.
There was a full moon, which helped a lot, but the flashlight was still necessary. I found the key which would have been under the Buddha, as described, had the Buddha been where he was supposed to have been.
I slept like the dead until about noon on a futon mattress that topped a custom Captain’s bed in the spare room of this house and when I awoke at noon the next day, I found that Tim, the owner, had left me a plate, a fork, spoon and knife, and a wine glass. He’d also left the bed made for me, which was very sweet of him.
In the enormous bathroom in this house with the platform spa tub and the redwood vaulted ceiling with the skylight I took my shower and when I turned around facing away from the shower head I opened my eyes: the spray from the water hitting my enormous shoulder (ha!) intersecting with the sun throwing a shaft of yellow light just so caused a double rainbow to appear in front of me: Welcome to San Francisco! I chose to interpret the sign.
And to this day, every time I crest the hill behind me and see the skyline open up before me there’s a part of me that’s is nothing short of gleeful that I get to stay here, that I don’t have to return to some other mundane place, that I’m not just here on holiday.
And that, including today, is 5,847 days 5,847 moments of surprised glee.
Maybe that’s the metric that everyone of every Myers-Briggs persuasion can appreciate.