Thursday, February 21, 2013

Notes on a San Francisco Morning

Small boats at Fisherman's Wharf

Notes on a San Francisco Morning
travel memoir
by Greg Larson

It’s 8:00 A.M. and the city is not yet fully awake.  I grab a paper and walk out of my hotel near Fisherman’s Wharf.  The moist air wraps around me while the sun attempts to burn off the small remnants of fog that cling to the hillsides. I stop at the Cannery shops and pop into a bakery for a butterfly pastry and a cappuccino.  Other than the noise from the cappuccino machine, all is quiet.

I like the early morning when the sidewalks are still empty of tourists, before the bustle begins.  The peaceful setting . . . the bakery, the sidewalk, and the table at the window . . . it looks like an Edward Hopper painting.  My mind clears quickly as I smell the cappuccino and sip through the foam in my cup.  I sit in the empty bakery, savoring every bite of the flaky pastry, and read the morning paper, which is much like any other big city news. One article reports of misuse of funds by public officials and another tells of graffiti artists painting over an existing graffiti mural.

Cable car begins an early morning run

Leaving the bakery, I hear the bell on a cable car making its early morning start up the hills.  The pier with historic ships beckons me, and I’m the first person of the day to buy a ticket to board the old vessels.  My ears strain through the quiet to hear the sounds of a soft, gentle morning.  A seal barks from a pier to the east.  The sea gulls cry from overhead as they fly out to the bay.  The water laps against the piers, then washes over the sand on the beach.

Historic three-mast freighter - Balclutha

          I breathe deeply, taking in the smell of the barnacles and the sea air, then begin to inspect a three-mast freighter.  I try to visualize the port of San Francisco in the late 19th Century, a port much noisier than today.  At the end of the pier, a gull sits atop a post that is wrapped in coils of sun-bleached ropes, and warms itself in the sun. A patch of moss clings to a crack in the pavement edge.

Seagull warming in the sun

Sailboat glides past Alcatraz

          I find a bench on a giant old ferry boat and look out towards Alcatraz where the morning light warms the rocky perimeter of the former island prison.  Sailboats small and large begin to bob and glide through the bay.  My eye catches a giant freighter plying the water beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, bound for Oakland with stacks of containers full of merchandise from China and the orient.  A jumbo jet above, slowly gains altitude, destination unknown.

Freighter bound for Port of Oakland

A fire truck’s sirens and horns pierce the quiet morning and a busy day in San Francisco begins.

A busy day in San Francisco