Walking from Fillmore and Hayes, Alamo Square, 6:30 p.m.
I live about four miles from the ocean. Sometimes when the weather is nice, I take my bike out there, to Ocean Beach, which is the end of the world. On certain days, there is nothing more perfect: a sky as blue as you can imagine, a sunset, a fire with friends.
Today, the wind started in earnest about a half-mile away, as I was headed downhill. When I reached the intersection at the Great Highway, pedaling hard to cross the street before the light turned, the sea, churned up with white caps, was a dull, sick green-gray. No soothing ocean smell, no soft crash of wave on shore, only a droning, persistent roar of wind and water.
Two crows picked through a trash pile left beside a blown-out illegal fire pit. Families hunkered down behind sand dunes, bicycles leaning against a sea wall covered in ugly graffiti—no street artists here. The cracked concrete exposed rusted metal rebar. An old man struggled with his Sunday constitutional, a gust plucking his cap from his head. Dirty weeds grew in the cracks between wall and sidewalk, ice plant on the divider covered in road-grime from the Great Highway. The asphalt and concrete had been torn up, orange netting surrounding them, no place for pedestrians to cross.
No shouts of joy, no seagull cries, no thing to love or marvel at. Even the lone kite down the beach was uninviting—a black, winged shark above the waste. I held my backpack against my stomach for warmth, face to the wind and the sea. No place to stop, and read my book, and eat the strawberries I had brought in my pack. Back, across the road, stark windmills, unmoving, stood sentinel.
Two men and a woman passed by, one of them pointing out the smoothness of the sand, the color of the sky. They did not see that the marine layer far across the water promised a windier, colder, foggier night, or that the sand, slippery and fine underfoot, treacherous, flowed across itself, a quiet whispering as the wind blew the grains back against the wall, piling up around corners, burying stairs, erasing my footprints.
Although I’m far from getting to every big arena and hidden-gem music joint in the Bay Area, the Fillmore was the last true biggie in San Francisco for me (OK, I haven’t been to the Warwick yet). Last night, I saw Father John Misty and the Walkmen on the first show of a two-night, sold-out series.
The psychedelic posters lining every wall, the miniscule bathrooms and slightly horrifying crush to exit, the free apples for starving hippies all added to the historical power of the venue. There’s some kind of rare electricity in the air. And if you’re lucky, you get a free poster when you leave.
Last Saturday was San Francisco’s first day of spring. Although it reached the mid-seventies more than a few times during our (so-called) winter, we endured a bit of a cold, wet spell throughout March and April–I know, Californians suffer so much on account of the weather–so that when a perfectly clear, perfectly warm weekend day came along, everyone put on dresses or shorts, grabbed beers and lawn games, and headed out to the park. I spent much of Saturday writing in my apartment, which meant that I couldn’t get to my favorite outdoor people watching spot, Dolores Park, with enough time to enjoy the sunshine. Instead, I headed to Fort Mason: the playground of the Marina set. It doesn’t quite hold a candle to DoPa, but Fort Mason has its own brand of unbridled ridiculousness. With views of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and the downtown area, as well as old military buildings and a community garden, it’s unbelievably picturesque.
I’d planned to spend some time getting my daily allowance of vitamin D and reading some Gary Snyder, which meant that I didn’t tote my camera along. When I got distracted by the surrounding scenes, I had to resort to my iPhone. All of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 4, Hipstamatic, Adler 9009 Lens, Ina’s 1969 film. The overexposed, bleached finish of the lens-film combination captured, for me, how the afternoon felt.
Update, 4/27/12: I saw today that Fox ran a story charging that “green activists” “trashed” Fort Mason on “Earth Day.” SFist has already made the points I’m about to make. However, since I happened to spend several hours at the park on the 21st and went to the farmer’s market down there on the 22nd, I’d like to set the record straight: The photos Fox took were from April 21st (it was foggy on the 22nd, so no one was out), there was nary an activist to be seen in Fort Mason on April 21st, and Earth Day is April 22nd. So, A+, Fox, for fact checking. Keeping it fair and balanced, people.