the city of san francisco has never left me disappointed. the road up from los angeles has always been one that brought a delicious sense of anticipation, because there were always friends or food – or better yet, both – waiting on that northern end of the highway.
every spring for several years in high school, a tour bus would take a gaggle of us students up, always stopping at kettleman city for dinner before continuing on through the twilight until we reached the city. i loved looking out the window at the open land, darkening. i loved knowing my friends and i would soon be setting down our bags in our very own hotel room and then setting out to find a sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder as soon as possible.
recently, as i’ve gotten older (and really started to feel it), san francisco has been a place to reunite with old friends who have wandered away in search of this or that – a law degree, a job, a new life. when i visit, for those two or three or four days, i get all the best bits of the city that they present to me: that street with all those cute boutiques, the museum with the sprawling lawn and the great view, a brunch spot with an eggs benedict almost as ridiculously good as the wait is ridiculously long.
a couple weekends ago, for the first time, i got a chance to come into the city on my own. between dropping off one travel companion and meeting with another, it was just me and my little car as it curved with the bends in the road, passing by the low mountains of south san francisco and ducking under the shadows of the bridge. the light was just right at the end of the day – the kind of hazy dusk that softens even the sharpest of corners. and as i finally entered the heart of the city, making a right here, a wrong turn there, i saw those streets differently. i wondered what it would be like to make this different city my home. i just wondered.
there was no conclusion to it. before long, my friend was hopping into the passenger seat, and we were on our way to meet a few others – a mix of the oldest and newest of friends – for dinner at a warm, delicious place called firefly.
i’m in no place to make any decisions – not yet – so i left my thoughts to evaporate over a plate of short ribs (rich, tender) and potatoes (buttery, perfectly smashed). i figured there would be another 400 miles or so of road on the way home for those thoughts to finish themselves. for the first night back in this city, what to order for dessert (plum sorbet on honey orange blossom mousse) was enough.