February 18, 2012, San Francisco: This place is not normal. Did we know that when we lived here? I think so. I hope so. I can’t remember. When we lived here back then, did we ever get used to those vistas like the one today atop the Baker Street steps? Did we know how strikingly beautiful our routines appeared to the visiting observer? Did we lose sight of the fact that running and biking and playing and flying kites down there on Marina Green was completely out of the ordinary? Did we realize just how picturesque all those gorgeous couples were posing for engagement photos at the Palace of Fine Arts against a storybook backdrop? Did we take note of the the intensity of San Francisco? Of the stunning severity of its whites and reds and blues? Or the dramatic length of its shadows cast by that low sunlight illuminating this golden city?
Did we notice the strength of the wind off the water or does it take returning to this place after time spent away for it all to hit you? Did we know we were one of the lucky ones? I had assumed reentry would be a breeze — no awkward time spent getting reacquainted or settling back in. Like the oldest of friends who haven’t talked on the telephone in years, we would pick up right where we left off. Because some relationships are just meant to be. Because San Francisco and I are like that. And yet it is jarring to be back here. It is a challenge to try to contain my enthusiasm and play it cool. I am anxious about fitting it all in. I am somewhat envious of those around me. I am strangely saddened, or maybe just filled with longing, by the smell of eucalyptus layered atop of salty air, and by the sight of moss that grows right here on the steps in the city. I am overcome with emotion for this place. I am happy about it.
“I got drunk on the city at first the way some people do on vodka, the way it lays itself out as if in a nest of madronas and eucalyptus, the way it sparkles brighter even than the sparkling water that surrounds it, the way the Golden Gate reaches out of it, like fingers, toward the wild wide ocean that lies beyond… The fog rolls over and down the lanyard side of Mt. Tamalpais, and the city moves in and out of it, glistening like Galilee one moment, then gray and dreamy like a ghost of itself the next, and then gone, like a thought bubble, like somebody’s good idea.”
-Pam Houston, on San Francisco