San Francisco

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SF IV: Golden Gate, Land and Sea

What’s a San Francisco series without obligatory Golden Gate photos? I certainly wouldn’t know.

We had lots of opportunities to take pictures of the Golden Gate. Chadoh found a nifty little sunset cruise for us to take on our second night there. It was an anniversary trip, after all. The Adventure Cat took us out under the bridge and past Alcatraz before turning around and heading back. I was not prepared for how freezing cold it would be on the water in the evening.

We met another couple on the cruise, Maurice and Debbie, from Ohio. They recommended renting bikes and riding over the bridge to Sausalito. I wasn’t that into the idea, so Chadoh found a place to rent electric bikes. It was fun to zip past other people struggling up the hills. I thought I might feel a little silly about the electric bike thing. But when we were flying up the hills, I yelled to Chad, “I don’t feel like a sell out at all. I feel like a girl who knows what she wants.” I don’t know what I would have done without the power assist going up those massively steep hills. Actually, I do. I would have walked my bike up the hills, whining all the way.

Even though it was sunny and warm where we rented our bikes, the bridge was cold and foggy. Intensely foggy. Like a cloud would feel. Regardless, I got maybe the worst sunburn of my life, but only on the back of my hands and a bit of my nose and scalp. It was so cold that those were the only parts of my skin that were exposed. Even now, a month later, my hands still hurt sometimes.

We took the ferry back from Sausalito. It was a pretty little boat ride.

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SF III: Flora and Fauna

San Francisco is a magical land where succulents grow like shrubbery outside.

For scale: Succulent next to man.

The types of growing things also changed dramatically from one place to another. Here, by the Golden Gate, everything looked like a dusty-colored version of itself. 

The sea lions were so very strange. I don’t know that I had seen a sea lion before. Their sounds were really funny. They slept on top of each other. It looked relaxing. Except, some of them were really awful and got in fights, throwing less dominant sea lions off of the docks. I’m wondering what it would be like to hug a sea lion. Maybe someday I will try to find out.

I don’t know why anyone would want a sea lion sound alerting them to a phone call or text message.

Garden kitteh.
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SF II: Dark and Light

San Francisco is a city of dark and light.

The murals were beautiful. The people and the community we found there were helpful and inspiring.

While walking through the Latino Mission looking for murals, we found a woman breaking a glass bottle to collect discarded cigarette remains to smoke.

On Monday night, after a beautiful day of enjoying the city, Chad was telling me about the missions trip he had gone on in high school. They had spent a day in San Francisco. The person running the missions trip was from California, and told the kids that he really liked bringing groups through San Francisco on missions trips because the spiritual darkness was almost palpable there.


I was scoffing at this idea. We had just walked around all day in one of the most enjoyable, fun, bright, hopeful cities I had ever visited.

Then we saw this.

And I stopped. And reconsidered. I thought about how systemic problems might be failing these women who need safe surrender sites. About how I can’t imagine being in the position to feel like anonymously giving up my child is the only option.

Everywhere we go, people and things and systems are broken.

But everywhere we go, we can bring light. Even in our own darkness and brokenness.

I love that tension.

Maybe that’s why San Francisco was such a compelling city for us. I’m sure that as tourists (even though we strive to be as non-touristy as possible) with only a few days to spend, we didn’t see the worst parts of the city. I know that everything we saw, even the parts I described as “dark” here, was really quite tame. I know that much, much darker things exist in the world, and I’ve seen them in other places. This wasn’t a missions trip. I’m used to seeing things I’ve had time to mentally prepare for. We were on vacation. But the same darkness that lives in slums in Mexico also lives in the suburban United States and San Francisco, no matter how beautiful the city.

What struck me so strongly was my sudden awareness of the dark-light juxtaposition, and the hope that the murals, the water, the people we met, and the yellowness of the city’s light, even in the fog, brought to this space. The murals themselves, and even their content, were visible signs of people working in whatever ways they knew to bring more light to the places around them. Without passivity. With passion and playfulness.

It was stunning.

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San Francisco may have been one of the best vacations I have ever taken. Granted, as a farm kid, my family wasn’t able to travel a lot, so my vacation experience is limited (though I think all the time I spent in Spain probably more than makes up for that).

It was more or less an anniversary trip. Chadoh and I rediscovered our love of exploring new cities together. It had been awhile since we’d done that! I think that traveling with someone adds a different dimension to the relationship. You get to observe your partner outside of their natural habitat and watch how they react to the unexpected. We didn’t have much of an agenda, which allowed us to explore at whatever pace we were feeling on a particular day.

We stayed in North Beach, in a cozy-tiny basement apartment that is rented out per night. It was filled with books and art painted by this guy. There was a cream-colored baby grand, which Chad took advantage of. It was also a good spot to keep track of my jewelry and scarves.

Our building had a roof deck. Unfortunately, it was way too cold and windy (at least for the East Coast kids) to stay up there much.

My SF knowledge prior to the trip was really limited. I had never been there before, and Chad had spent just a day there during a missions trip in high school, before moving on to various other cities in CA and Mexico. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that North Beach was kind of a big deal in the beat movement back in the day. It’s home to City Lights, where I picked up an obligatory copy of Howl and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s What is Poetry?, and Chad got Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants. Naturally.

We spent a decent amount of time lounging in Washington Square Park, where very many elderly Asian people do tai chi in the mornings, some with their small grandchildren. It was pleasant.

The North Beach area is also super Italian, which meant I got the most delicious espresso every day. At Cafe Roma, I ordered a latte primavera — a latte with cinnamon and honey. Definitely need to attempt to recreate that this fall when I start drinking hot lattes on the weekends again.

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SF bound

This morning, Chad bought our plane tickets to San Francisco! I’m hoping to find some interesting places to go. My travel M.O. has typically been to wander around until I find something that looks interesting. This often results in hunger, exhaustion, and frustration, especially if other people are involved. (The day we wandered up and down Las Ramblas until I got so grumpy I begged Chad to stop and buy me ice cream from a McDonalds (McDonalds! Of all places! We were in Barcelona for goodness’ sake! It didn’t matter. I was hungry and tired and wilty and whiny. I needed calories.) comes to mind.)

So, I’d like to pick out at least a few specific sights to see, places to eat, and routes to wander. I’ve already started researching our options, and I wasn’t sure how to keep track of my links so far. So here’s what I’ve found. I’ll be certain to add as we go along.

826 Valencia is already on my non-negotiable list. We’ve been to the Superhero Store at 826 NYC, but I’d love to see the original center in SF. Now, if I could just get myself to 826 National 101. I would definitely go if we happened to be there when it’s going on. Alas.