It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
“How do you get to West Egg village?” he asked helplessly.
I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.

– Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby

“There she is,” Jeff said, pointing to the Golden Gate Bridge, hazy in the distance. “Unfortunately, this might be the best view we get.”

I had confessed earlier in the day that, despite our unspoken agreement not to behave like tourists, I did, in fact, want to see the Golden Gate while we were in town. This was Jeff letting me down easy. We were driving back down to LA in the morning, and had a few people to meet up with yet—getting to the bridge before dark didn’t look good.

I pulled down my new hat—black, emblazoned with the flag of California (a steal at $3.50 from a Chinatown flea market). We had climbed into a clearing at the top of Buena Vista Park.

“We should get a picture of us,” Jeff said. He approached the nearest person with an expensive-looking camera and handed her his iPhone. We swapped stories with the girl and who I suppose was her mother (or I should say Jeff swapped stories—I was trying to find the best direction to point the bill of my cap to make myself the most sunburn-proof). They were from Sydney, Australia, on the tail end of a cross-country sightseeing trip.

After a few minutes we parted ways, and maybe that’s where Jeff got the idea. He must have smelled my disappointment. “What if I go meet this guy, and you go down to the bridge on your own?” It took me a second to remember that I no longer needed an adult. “Alright,” I said. We descended, then split.

I walked a couple blocks and got on a crowded bus heading north, toward the bay. Beyond that I didn’t really know what I was doing. I hopped off as soon as the bus turned in what seemed to me the wrong direction, and started walking north and west. I cut across some parking lots and through some alleys I wasn’t sure I was supposed to be in. I could see the red crowns of the bridge above the tree line. I couldn’t quite figure my next step. I was here. The bridge was there. It was at about this time a friend texted Jeff and I, sparking this brief conversation:

Mike:   How’s sf?
Jeff: great. lost Greendonner tho.
Mike:   Damn

I kept walking. A few times I made it to a spot where I could see the whole bridge, only to look around and find distant bodies with a better vantage point. The straps of my backpack were cutting into my sides. I stopped in a cemetery to use the bathroom, then took some pictures of it all so I wouldn’t have to say I stopped in a cemetery to use the bathroom.

I hiked a little farther, until down the hill I saw a dock jutting into the water that looked like the best of all possible worlds. And after a few more twists and turns: a set of ramps that led there. On my way down, a couple (also Australian) stopped me to ask for directions.

“Sorry, I’m not really from around here,” I said.

Honest mistake. The hat probably threw them off.

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1 Comment

  1. Brad Zwiers

    “It took me a second to remember that I no longer needed an adult.” Pretty much encapsulates the reason we have this blog.

    Reply

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