There are various approaches an airplane coming in to SFO might take, but they usually end up looking the same as you stare out the window and watch yourself descend that last 1,000 meters, getting closer and closer to the ground. This scene replays itself again and again, showing you the same terrestrial landmarks, running on a loop that, just as you get close to the ground, seems to start again. You admittedly don’t have to fly in to San Francisco to experience this as highways 101 or 280 will elicit that same feeling of just nearly touching the ground, yet not quite reaching it. The arrival gate or Octavia or Sixth seem to be oasis mirages, taunting you with the lure of a destination.
Then one day you find yourself departing.
It’s really impossible to tell just how much time you’ve spent in San Francisco and you’re not really sure what it is you did while you were there. Maybe when you depart you have a spouse, or expensive/worthless shares in a virtual company, or a child, or a tattoo you didn’t have when you remembered yourself descending whenever it was that had been, probably from somewhere in the Mid-West north of Kentucky and south of Canada. But then, you’re gone and San Francisco doesn’t really remember that you were there.
And that’s San Francisco, a town that’s never really a solid piece of ground. The thought of someone actually making a life there seems laughable; sending kids to the schools even more so whether you believe in public education or not.
I look at a decade and a half there as completely implausible and it was. I suppose like others, I will be one more who is “from San Francisco”. There are a lot of us. This town churns out reams of people every year who go on to wake up in some other place one day, sure that they were once in San Francisco but not really as to how long… or why they have the distinct memory of getting in a fist fight over the best ice cream flavors or burritos in the Mission or worse, comparing rents and/or salaries. The definition of absurdity.
A bizarre, irregularly street swept dream of an island; floating off on its own. While you’re never really sure when your arrival in San Francisco happened, you do indeed know when your departure has finished.