Finding Inspiration in San Francisco

Article originally published in Immersion Journals Fall 2015

Writers are tasked to search for the unexpected. They are supposed to inspire, to encourage readers to dream of faraway lands, to search for remarkable places, some hiding in plain sight. I flew to San Francisco eager and confident since the city is known for it’s character. Yet when it came down to it I struggled to come up with a focus to my story. I was stumped in one of the most popular cities of the world.

How to describe the satisfaction of waiting in line for the baked goods of Dottie’s True Blue Cafe, where for decades they have baked their own breads and served a legendary breakfast made from local ingredients? Why not write about how the Sancimino family treats you as a long time friend when you visit their Swan Oyster Depot? Even if it is your first time. The family run Depot has been serving fresh seafood since 1912 from their small shop in Nob Hill. That’s more than 100 years of feeding the city from behind the same long marble counter.

I could instead describe the sweet smell of the eucalyptus trees and wild flowers perfuming the air at the Golden Gate Park as you hike the trails. A long essay could be written about the blueness of the Pacific Ocean that kisses the coastline. Or should I describe the different neighborhoods of San Francisco each with its particular character?

The steep hills are efficiently navigated through long and narrow stairs that are scattered all over the city. I headed to Grand View Park, because the name enticed me but my map failed to mention that steps leading to the park are one of the most beautiful staircases of the world. The famous Moraga Tiled Steps is a long narrow staircase that is fully decorated with a colorful mosaic depicting a cross-section of Earth from the bottom of the oceans to the celestial skies. I could feverishly write an article about how the best things in travel are not found in maps. The list of my indecisions goes on and on.

Maybe I should just encapsulate the collective attitude of the city with a series of tired clichés, but I’m even having a hard time transferring those into paper.

On the last day of my visit I reach Inspiration Point in Presidio Park overlooking San Francisco Bay. After the brisk walk up-hill to this viewpoint my mind spirals like the hawk I spot gliding the thermal above the forest. Sitting on a bench catching my breath high above the coastline I am hypnotized by the white sails dotting the deep blue of the Bay. The golden dome of the Palace of Fine Arts glistens under the warm sun that cancels out the cold morning breeze. The mysterious Alcatraz Island disappears into a foggy wave. From this overlook I relive the memories of the long and fulfilling weekend in the city below. Suddenly I feel calm. Suddenly I’m inspired again.