I traveled to San Francisco for the first time in 2003, but it was not the San Francisco of the ‘70s that Elizabeth longed to share with me. Eileen and I looked over the bay to Alcatraz Island and guided our rented bicycles across the Golden Gate Bridge’s span. We paused mid-way to gaze at the horizon.
A man approached and said, “Did you know it takes four seconds to fall from the deck to the water? You’re going 75 miles an hour when you hit the surface.”
“No kidding?” I shook my head, astonished that a stranger would tell another stranger such trivia.
We pedaled across the span—which according to the brochure, measures one point seven miles—to Sausalito for lunch.
Later I walked with Eileen through Pacific Heights and, from a metal chair in a sidewalk café, watched the foot traffic in the Castro as the waitress served cappuccinos. We played tourist roaming the neighborhoods, the Trolley Car Museum, and the twisty Lombard Street. We sampled chocolates at Ghirardelli’s’ and tossed some wrinkled bills into a street performer’s upturned beret. On Fisherman’s Wharf, a vendor handed me a flower for a dollar; I passed the long-stemmed rose to Eileen as I kissed her cheek.
I can speculate that if I had been a San Francisco resident immersed in the culture and neighborhoods as Elizabeth wanted, it would have been familiar on a personal level. There would be memories of a life with friends gathering and holidays shared. That wasn’t the case.
Except for the memories made with Eileen, I have no memories here.
Still, San Francisco is a charming city to visit.