Loving (And Hating) San Francisco!
By Stephen Doherty
February 27th, 2022
“Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart.” -Walter Cronkite
In the fall of 1977, I left college at twenty-one and embarked on a journey that would change me forever. Two days later, I rolled across the Bay Bridge in San Francisco and began my tenuous love affair with that “city by the bay.” In a few brief months, my life would be forever changed and this foggy city would be tattooed onto my memories for all time.
There are places we go and things we do that attach themselves to us with such a powerful vividness – that they become companions for life. I don’t know of any sensory experience I’ve ever had that can compete with a ship’s loud horn in the misty fog shrouded by the Golden Gate bridge from the shores of the bay at Crissy Field.
For all of us, there came a time in our lives when we crossed that bridge out of our childhoods and cut the ambilocal cord to our most important comfort zone. For some of us – that was college. For others, the military. For still others, a relocation born of a hundred different possibilities. It’s an inevitable, but necessary, break.
These moments provided us with an invaluable metric – the distance between who we truly were versus the collective perception of our hometown peer groups. Only by leaving can we ever return as the authentic person we were meant to be. I believe it’s an invaluable sojourn we were all destined to experience.
Over the years, my relationship with San Francisco changed somewhat. Rather than carefree days sailing the bay or riding trolley cars, I found my visits steeped more in business meetings or as a pass-through to other places. Additionally, the once pristine beauty of this Victorian jewel was beginning to fray and be tarnished by collective forces seemingly bent on forever defacing and crippling this foggy oasis.
I guess it’s a metaphor for life. Sometimes reality is a harsh slap to the idyllic pictures we’ve committed to memory. The beauty of this once great city has been squandered by fools, but they can never extinguish the spiritual magnificence it has always held for me.
As I look back on those magical days so many years ago, I sometimes wonder if any place ventured to at such a young age is forever seared into our hearts and souls mostly because of the times – not the place. I often suspect that had I ventured to Wichita, the same magic would accompany my memories, driven not so much by geography, but because youth can craft such powerful tributes to the times of our lives.
Regardless, as I listen (for the 500th time) to Tony Bennet’s “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” I am catapulted back into a surreal time and place where a fog shrouded Golden Gate Bridge will always trigger a reminder of a very special time and a very special place.
“Stop trying to be less of who you are. Let this time in your life cut you open
and drain all of the things that are holding you back.” -Jennifer Elisabeth