Saturday, 12 July 2014

I Left My Heart In San Francisco

I really was scared, but not in a bad way. More in the shivery, excited, anticipatory kind of way when you know something good is about to happen that you have waited for forever and always seemed out of reach. It was September 2007; I was in San Francisco by myself with some money burning a hole in my pocket and I had an entire week to explore the city. 
Cable cars dominate the city streets
This city is big, brash, and out-there; a delightful drag queen ready to perform for anyone at the drop of a hat in return for nothing more than applause. 
Residents add individuality to their homes with colour
Afternoon cityscape
Of course I took in all the big sights - the Bridge, Alcatraz, Chinatown, Pier 39. 
All aboard at the corner of Jones and Jefferson on Fisherman's Wharf
Peeping back at the Bay Bridge from Alcatraz
But the minutiae of the city didn’t escape me. I’ve learnt to look down and up as well as right in front of my eyes to capture the true soul of a place. 
In case you forgot where you were
I spotted this advice stencilled onto the footpath in the Haight-Ashbury District by a passing sage. It served to remind me that even photographers should turn the lens inward once in a while. 

In a really corny, kind of touristy way I’d always dreamed about the day I would walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Well here I was and it just wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. The wind was howling through the trillions of pylons and steel supports, it was a miserably grey and cold day and the whole bridge was actually bloody vibrating from the non-stop traffic thundering across it.

And I was alone, exploring this amazing city by myself with just a camera to share the memories with.
Other hand white-knuckled gripping the rail
So I rang my mum from the start of the bridge before I even set foot on it. So she could be at home in Australia and still somehow share the moment with me. It was early afternoon at home and mum was surprised to hear my voice. The phone connection was crackly but I had made the physical connection I needed to complete the journey. After that there was no looking back.

Don’t look down would be an appropriate mantra to chant crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. I walked with my gaze fixed straight ahead for most of the outward crossing and it wasn’t until my victorious return journey that I really relaxed enough to start looking around. When I did I forgot myself a little in the interesting details: a child’s baseball cap blown over the edge and caught in some steel cables, the burrrzing! noise of bicycles as they brushed past me on the concrete, the strange juxtaposition of crisis counselling signs for jumpers right next to signs promising a fine for throwing objects off the bridge. 
No one's ever going down over the edge for this.

Spray painted directions on the sidewalk promised ‘bumps ahead’, and I secretly hoped they were wrong.

It was all good until I looked down and saw a hole in the concrete. A bit of a squint and I could see right through the bridge and down to the water god only knows how far below. This loosened my tenous grip on a calm state of mind a little and froze me to the spot while I worked through all the reasons I couldn’t fall to my death from where I was standing. 

Eventually I lifted my head and was rewarded with a vision of the fog rolling in to blanket the bridge in fairy floss and carry me back to the city.

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