My First Love in San Francisco

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I first discovered these incredible creatures when I visited San Francisco in 2007 and it was love at first sight. Their prehistoric nature, majestic wingspan and peculiar feeding style fascinated me. I spent hours trying to photograph them from the docks of Fort Mason and learned that near sunset every evening, thousands make their way west across the Bay – flying under and over the Golden Gate to nest on the rocks near the Sutro Baths.

Brown pelicans, San Francisco.

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Quintessential San Francisco

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I was on the N-Judah train, headed east into downtown from Ocean Beach, on my way to meet up with an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in 20 years. As expected, a local character boarded the train at Church and Duboce – just outside Safeway. He had a swagger in his step and was holding something inside his jacket. Fortunately, the expression on his face incited more curiosity than fear.

Within seconds, I had my answer as he pulled out a big pack of cold steak (straight out of the Safeway freezer) and tried to auction it off right there in the aisle. After a few unsuccessful attempts at shoving the large package of meat uncomfortably close to the faces of my fellow riders, he, of course, decided to plunk down next to me. He sat smiling, staring. Then he put out his hand for me to shake. Awkwardly, I gave him a little wave instead.

More smiling and staring.

Then, unprovoked, he looked at me and said “I don’t like you anymore”.

Oh SHIT. What did I do? What do I do?

“That’s because I LOOOOVE YA!”. Exhale. Cringe.

I faked a phone call and fortunately he got off at the next stop, but not before taking advantage of one last opportunity to get the attention of everyone on the bus. He strutted back around to my window, smiled and blew me a kiss.

The next stop was mine. As I got up to make my way off the train, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder and with an empathetic smile, handed me a red carnation.

“This is for you. You’ve earned it.”

As I accepted this thoughtful gift, a happy, knowing grin appeared across my face. Four words immediately came to mind : only in San Francisco.