It’s on nights like tonight that it hits me particularly hard.
It’s late and I was going to step outside with Truman for his pre-bedtime constitutional. The front door of my building is a heavy one – my building being one of those early 1920’s Edwardian sorts that’s so prevalent in San Francisco.
First the low squeak of the hinge, then a nearly silent whoosh as it swung back, and then I caught it – that unmistakable scent …
There’s nothing like living near the ocean. Granted I can’t see it from my window – not unless you count the teensy sliver of bay that, on clear days, I can see between two high rises to the south – but the ever-present sense of sea wraps around me daily, just as it edges San Francisco on three sides.
Recently I made a trip to San Francisco City Hall. It was time to renew my consulting business license. I stood in the City Collector’s office and stared at the towering photograph stretching about 10 feet across the wall. It was an aerial shot of the San Francisco skyline taken from somewhere above the Bay Bridge, circa 1963.
Besides the conspicuous absence of now iconic images like the Transamerica Pyramid, the Embarcadero Center and AT&T Park, it was shocking to see just how much of the waterfront area at that time was dedicated to shipping and warehouses – a city living from the sea.
Not any more. Now San Francisco is largely an information economy town. As the northern civilized anchor to the digital breadbasket of Silicon Valley, San Francisco’s bread and butter comes from technology. There is still a vibrant waterfront, but one that is largely now landscaped with terraced stone benches sporting weird brackets in the shape of sea creatures designed to both decorate … and dissuade skateboarders.
Every day people trundle to their buses, cars and trains heading for offices where they toil merrily (or not so). At day’s end – especially in summer months when the fog comes in – they retreat from their cubicle cages to some other location to while a few hours before starting it again.
How many people take the time before or after engaging in that work to take a moment and pull in a deep drink of that cool sea-tinged air? How many people are so disconnected from their environment that they can’t catch that scent as is wafts past them on their way to work, to the market, to get the kids at school?
I stood in my old Muckrakers softball jersey and sweatpants, silky cold marble of the front steps under my feet, waiting as Truman took his tree-side stroll. Slightly humid air with a cool whoosh of air passed. Truman returned, but I remained still, long swallows of the briny scent filling my lungs, wishing that instead of heading back inside and up the elevator that I had a hammock or Adirondack chair so that I could fall asleep wrapped in the downy comfort of the sea.