I constantly have to remind myself that I’ve only been living in San Francisco for three months and that allowing myself to be in any kind of rut this early on is completely unacceptable. Sure, I’ve wandered into most of the neighborhoods in town- Pacific Heights, the Marina, North Beach, Union Square, the Financial District, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf, the Ferry Building, the Mission, the Castro, Inner and Outer Sunset, Golden Gate Park… but its not like I’ve really explored them all in depth. Walking down Chestnut Street one time does not mean that you’ve seen all that the Marina has to offer. That’s like taking a stroll down Bardstown Road in Louisville and saying you’ve experienced the Highlands.
That said, I’ve been to the Ferry Plaza building a couple of times and always like it there, even if it is crowded with tourists who lack any sense of personal space. I thought I knew what the building had to offer; the standard tourist spiel- an indoor farmer’s market along the pier full of shops and eateries. And yes, that’s what it is, but it wasn’t until I met up with an old friend from Louisville for lunch this past week that I took the blinders off and saw the Ferry building in all of its glory. We met up at lunchtime to grab a bite and catch up and guided by Kurt’s craving for some seafood ended up at the Fish Market sitting on stools and gossiping about mutual friends while we nibbled on our fried oyster po’boys. We shared the small L-shaped counter with a family, another set of friends, and a couple of corporate-types escaping from the sea of Subway sandwich shops in the nearby Financial District.
It being my weekend and a gorgeous day, I decided to join my friend for a walk along the piers; not to mention, 30 minutes is not nearly enough time to catch up on a year’s worth of gossip and life. We left the Ferry building through the back where I discovered there were restaurants I had no idea existed- with outdoor seating and an amazing view of the bay no less. I stood there gazing out onto the water kicking myself for not having been more observant in the past, thinking to myself ‘We could have eaten out here you idiot! This is a mistake I assure you I will not be making again.
As we strolled North towards Fisherman’s Wharf, with the bay breeze blowing my curly hair into knots, Kurt kept commenting how beautiful it was here and how lucky I am to live here. I looked out onto the water, Angel Island and Alcatraz floating before me, and realized that I really was lucky to be living here. We stopped into a restaurant that was advertising waterfront seating for a glass of wine and ended up sitting out back at a small table with bar stools, our backs against the side of the building looking into the u-shaped dock formed by the surrounding buildings and out onto the bay with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, obscured by a little bit of fog. The water lapped up against the sides of the pier building as sea gulls floated along, taking a break from tourist-tormenting. The perfect backdrop for discussing life and our scary and as yet undetermined futures. Having older friends is a nice source of retrospective advice as well as a reassuring reminder that no one really ever has their lives figured out completely.
Post-wine, our stroll led us into the insanity of Pier 39 and eventually Fisherman’s Wharf where the conversation became a little bit distracted due to tourist dodging and pushy crowds gathered around absurd street performers. Once we broke through the t-shirt shops and made it past the ridiculously long line for the Powell Street cable car, we found ourselves along the water on the mini-beach where I watched fireworks over the bay on the Fourth of July. Thinking that this was as far as you could go in this direction, I was ready to turn around and head into Russian Hill, but Kurt kept moving forward, finding a trail and a park that I hadn’t known existed. Our stroll took us up a steep hill into a small but gorgeous forest-area and finally out into a park that led eventually to the Marina waterfront. (Did I mention that I was wearing cheap ballet flats this whole time?) By the time we found ourselves on Chestnut Street, it was after four and Kurt had a dinner to get to. Having only hailed cabs from busy intersections at night, I didn’t think it would be a problem to grab one off of Lombard in the early evening on a weeknight. How wrong I was. Twenty minutes and three intersections later, we finally found a cab and I sent Kurt on his way. Happy and tired, I headed home to crash on the couch.
…until I got a text from my friend Katherine and her boyfriend Luke, inviting me over to have dinner. I allowed myself to melt into the couch for 45 minutes and then pulled myself back out, grabbed wine and headed out to the bus. They live in the Inner Sunset, not exactly close to my studio in Pacific Heights, but easy enough to get to via bus according to my phone. One bus to VanNess and Market and then the 71 into the Sunset, which drops me off less than a block from their place. Easy enough! The first 71 came and it was so packed full of people that I opted to wait for the next one. Thirty minutes later, another 71 bus comes aaaaaaannnddd passes the bus stop without even pretending to stop. Really?! Cue crazy homeless man. I knew we were in for a show when he ran across the street to the bus stop, layers of clothes interestingly assembled including a girl’s jacket tied around his waist like an apron/skirt and an inflatable guitar. I turned up my headphones and avoided eye contact. This was easy enough until he found a pair of underwear on the ground and proceeded to scream about how he gets paid for sex often, interjecting every few sentences with “It’s all about the booty baby!” It was sort of funny at first, but after 15 minutes of yelling, started to get obscene and a little scary so I cautiously moved down a few yards, stationing myself between some normal-looking middle aged men. It had been another half hour at this point and it was significantly colder outside than it had been when I was out strolling earlier; my light sweater and flats weren’t exactly doing the trick. I stared down the street willing the right bus to come. At this point I would hang off the side of it if there wasn’t enough room inside. Luckily it didn’t come to that, but when the bus finally arrived it was definitely crowded. I was relieved when I looked through the bus and noted that the crazy man had not decided to get on the bus. Moments later however, I realized that I had traded him for another; a drunk, unshowered twenty-something dangling off of the hand bar, grasping an empty milk carton and singing the wrong words to “Build Me Up Buttercup.” He seemed harmless enough until he stepped on the foot of another passenger who kicked him in return. Then he started freaking out. Yelling about how there were so many nice people in the world trying to do cool things and being shut down by mean, ignorant, bastards like this guy. Headphones up, wine concealed under my purse, please let him get off soon before they have the chance to start fighting. He finally got off in the Haight, the rest of the passengers in the back collectively breathing sighs of relief. A few more stops and I was finally to my destination, greeted with smiles and food and music. Let’s open that wine, shall we?
You can bet your bottoms I took a cab home that night.
What happened to my great city day? It went from delightful to disaster in one bus transfer. That’s life in the city I suppose; you can be in your own little utopia one moment and turn the corner to find yourself in a less desirable locale or situation without realizing it. If the whole city was Chestnut Street on a sunny day, would we even really be able to appreciate the little things? As ugly as it can be sometimes, a little bit of perspective might be just what we need to make us realize just how good we have it. San Francisco is full of perspective, and maybe that’s why people that live here love their city so much- because they know how lucky they are to be here.