Coastal Grays: Pacific Edition

February 21, 2012, San Francisco: I wake up early this morning in a land of grayscale. Cold fog lingers here on the hill on this south slope of Broderick. The severity of San Francisco’s colors have all but disappeared. This place can change on a dime.

It won’t last, I know that by now. But I recall too that this place is not only neon greens and bursts of yellow and radiant whites and blinding sunlight. There are grays here, too. They come with the marine layer. They come with the city. They come with the coast.

Continue reading

Map of Mornings: Polk Street

“San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every home a poem, every dweller within immortal. That is the whole truth.”
-William Saroyan

This is one in a series of morning photo essays documenting neighborhoods around town.

February 20, 2012, San Francisco: I have the strangest feeling here this morning. I have a feeling I’ve written this post a million times over, like this whole concept started here years before I knew it. This neighborhood on Russian Hill is documented in my memory in this very format. This morning on Russian Hill was mapped out long ago.

On that note, here are the photos I never took back then, snapped just this weekend, accompanied by words I wrote circa 2003 sitting right here where I sit now, sipping a latte at Royal Ground:

Continue reading

On The Slopes of Mt. Tam

February 20, 2012, San Francisco, CA: We take the high road, the Sun Trail, at its intersection with the Dipsea, winding our way along the slopes of Mt. Tam to the wide wooden porch of the Tourist Club. I gravitate towards the narrow dirt paths that weave through the landscape north of San Francisco, especially this one that ends at such a special place. Open to the public just a few short weekend hours, this place is a place to breathe deeply, to inhale the pine, to soak it all in. Some are here for snacks and beers and board games with friends in celebration of a 25th birthday; others have hiked in with their children for an afternoon picnic. It’s just as easy to imagine ourselves here years from now as it is to remember being here many times before.

It was from the slopes of Mt. Tam, not within the city itself, that I first felt the pull of this sliver of west.

Continue reading

My Happy Place

“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

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.

Continue reading

Reminds Me of Home

“An ardent supporter of the hometown team should go to a game prepared to take offense, no matter what happens.”

                                                 -Robert Benchley

January 22, 2012, Washington, DC: You know the drill. The remote control is out of your hands. The television volume quickly rises through the roof. Bets are placed. Competition is underway. There’s yelling. If your family is anything like mine, this reminds you of home.

Continue reading

Sunday Football & The Third Place

“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting from the home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends.”
– Ray Oldenburg, urban sociologist, author of The Great Good Place

November 6, 2011, Washington, DC:  I am not a football fan. But I confess I’m the slightest bit envious of those who are. Football fans, no doubt, will scoff at the reason. It has nothing to do with the sport itself and everything to do with the camaraderie of the Sunday ritual.

Continue reading

Racing Daylight

November 3, 2011, Washington, DC: There is a trail in the Marin Headlands, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, that always reminds me of racing daylight. It dead ends at Tennessee Beach facing west-southwest at the Pacific Ocean. If you squint hard enough, you think you just might see the Farrallon Islands. The Tennessee Valley Trail is one of my favorite spots in the country, and it’s the spot I’d once hurry to after work, to race out and back to the beach in the bottom right corner of the photo pictured above.

If I planned it right, I’d return to my car just in time to realize it was suddenly dark and very cold there in that valley. It’s that time of year again when I’m racing daylight.

Continue reading