San Francisco has long felt like a missed chapter in my life. In an effort to make it up, we have celebrated Christmas there the past couple of years. And now, all I want for Christmas is San Francisco.
Where else in your own country do you land and find that the billboards speak a language of their own, intelligible only to natives? And where else do cabs come and pick you up without any apparent call, and deliver you without any sign of payment? I know my daughters have something to do with this. They know the workings of this city. They are enmeshed in it, while it baffles me. But then, I am easily baffled by technology and enchanted by magic, so San Francisco is for me too. I don’t know how it works but it does, remarkably so.
Where else would you dine on sushi at a restaurant named Tsunami? And find stocking stuffers in a toy store named Tantrum?
With two daughters living there we have a place to stay. Their flat is in Buena Vista alongside the park. It’s the best of both worlds: a rather posh area on the edge of Haight Ashbury.
In The Haight I meet many Tibetans minding their stores. I delight in their colorful goods, listen to their stories, and purchase a strand of prayer beads to drape around a Santo in my writing room in Seattle. The beads are in honor of a friend I grew up with in Connecticut, only to learn decades later that she has become a Buddhist. Janie, if you are reading this, it is one more example of you “walking the walk” in life, while all I do is write about it. How I love and admire you, Jane.
Contradictions co-exist in all cities, but seem more extreme in San Francisco. The Wall Street of the West, the birthplace of so many start-ups, and surely one of the “establishments” of bohemian lifestyle. Oh, the splendor and the squalor of it all!
And just when you thought that everyone in this fair city is young, up on the 19th floor of The Mark Hopkins Hotel at 1 Nob Hill, an older generation is enjoying cocktails and dancing after dark at The Top of the Mark. Men in jackets and ties, women dressed to the nines. A Tony Bennett kind of place where the male vocalists sound like him, and all the women, like Etta James or Nina Simone.
Honey, if we live in San Francisco oneday, that is where we will go if we grow old and can afford it. They’ll be playing The Beatles songs by then, and our appetite will have finally shrunk, and we could make a dinner of appetizers and just keep dancing….
But how in the world will we ever get up that hill?