Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SF: On Big Cat Feet

I don't have a hundred words for San Francisco fog--but maybe a dozen. There's the Morning Fog--a high tent of gray that can break to blue. We awaken to white on white, but there's a hint of light in the east and a prevailing optimism that the ceiling will lift by noon.

The Fog of Haves and Have-Nots. This fog is thickest near the ocean (49th avenue) and extends over our house at 21st. Look toward downtown, however, and weep. The dome of City Hall is gleaming in reflected sunlight. We can easily see where the fog line ends. Our friends on 12th avenue (The Haves) celebrate sun from morning till night, but the gray stuff hovers over us all day like a migraine headache.

The most dense, most depressing fog arrives in July and August. This is the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Fog and it can last weeks. The SAD Fog reminds me of November in Kentucky--days and days of relentless gray. In San Francisco it's triggered by the inland heat. As long as it's 100 in Stockton, this coastal fog will have us by the throat.

When the fog moves in to stay I tell myself--stop whining. Be rational. We wanted to live in The Avenues because this neighborhood hugs the park and extends to the glorious ocean. We can walk (a long walk) to the beach on a Saturday morning, run Cleo in the sand, have a cup of chai at Java Beach, and trudge back through the park...all without getting the car out of the garage. Still...the SAD fog can get really old.

Some fogs are wonderful, such as the Daytime Drama Fog. This random and unexpected fog whisks into the neighborhood on really big cat feet, and floats down alleys and around houses like dense cigar smoke. One minute we can see Balboa Avenue and the next minute it's gone, visibility is near zero, car headlights are on, and even houses across the street have vanished under the white snuggy. This fog cranks up the adrenaline and gives me the same feeling I have when a heavy snowfall moves in to Kentucky. It's a wonder to behold.

When we stand at our front door, 33 steps above the street, we can usually see Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands in the distance. But sometimes the bridge and bay alone are buried in fog. Look toward Golden Gate and it's not there--all you see is a wide white brush-stroke along the horizon.

This might called the Bridge-Swallowing Fog. These days are fun, too, because they bring the foghorns out. Their leisurely two-note call (a perfect fifth) provides a haunting and beautiful musical score through the day.

Often the Bridge-Swallowing Fog and accompanying foghorns stretch into the evening and turn into the Lullaby Fog. On these nights--which can occur all year round in San Francisco--just open the windows, cover up, close your eyes and listen. The fog keeps the street noise at bay, and the fog horns sing all thoughts into oblivion.
drawing: "Summer is Foghorn Season"
watercolor and 005 micron pen on paper

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