My San Francisco host lives at a frenetic pace I could never stomach. The notion of operating regularly on less than 6 hours of sleep in any case short of a plague (done that) is simply beyond what I could reasonably suffer without endangering my safety and my performance in anything of importance. He, on the other hand, has embraced the start-up life cycle with a gusto that I only have when pursuing the most interesting of projects or when avoiding the most severe of consequences so maybe he puts his activities into one of these two camps. His apartment was palatial compared to my normal standards of housing and “apartment” was applied to it in the same way resort homes in the Poconos receive the title of “cottage” but he shared the place and its recently redone interior snubbed its nose at the tradition of San Francisco homes having a style that rhymed with “Ictorian”.
We started the day with a trip to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which hosted a mediocre view of the San Francisco Bay but a spectacular view of people willing to double park at any cost to secure a view. This included classic archetypes like:
- Guy abusing handicapped parking permit
- Person who just stops in a lane to slowly drop off people
- Motorcyclist who still finds a way to double park
- Foreigner looking at the lesser site of interest
- Exasperated local just wanted to take his god-damn dog for a walk
It was truly a show of American diversity. Dave and I had no interest in wallowing in this mishmash of personages so we skipped a construction barricade (yellow tape, if it had been a genuine fence or even a few cinder blocks I’d have been screwed) and walked to the observation post at the top of the area next to a bird observation post that looked like a pillbox whose smell indicated the birds had found it. My guess based on the crude inscriptions I could see from the outside is that “bird observation area” means the same on the West Coast as East Coast in that it’s an old Indian phrase meaning place of fellatio. On the way back to the car I experienced a slightly thrilling, slightly scary phenomenon: I couldn’t identify any of the flora or fauna beyond the genus level as I surveyed the grounds of the park. There were cedars, but probably not Eastern Red Cedars, and soft-needled pines but whose needle clusters went above and below five ruling out white pine. The weed was some sort of thistle and the bird some sort of woodpecker but both lacked the familiarity of their Eastern equivalents. If I ever do this again, I’m going to come better armed with a folder in my car simply labelled “dichotomous keys”.
Dave went to work and I dawdled with photos and his home network until guests started arriving for a grilling event he was holding that evening. I like to think that I have a well developed sense of when I’m being insulted and the novel combination of light drinking, an unfamiliar culture with its own collection of symbols and codewords, and a bit of defensiveness on my part being a stranger in a strange land led me to second guess eveything. Was the callback to something I’d said a way of repeating a line they thought clever or to point how pedestrian the observation was? Was the exploration of ostomy appliances genuine interest, polite interest, or way of getting me drone on and point out the superficially odious nature of the work? I think I’m being paranoid but I suppose it’s my turn for once.
There’s a complete lack of pictures in my travelogue for this day. Not to say that San Francisco isn’t generally photogenic or without touristy spots of note but reconnecting with a high school friend and resuming conversations not held for eight years seemed to wind back the clock including for my hobbies. Dave is still Dave and it’s good to hear that he still sounds like an asthmatic 10 year-old when he laughs.