San Francisco Vignette no.5

It was 4:20pm. As the ferry back to Pier 33 embarked from Alcatraz, I made my way to the bow to secure the best spot for photographing San Francisco's skyline. Next to me stood two tourists from Mumbai. We entered into conversation about Goa, dolphin sightings and imagined life in maximum security prison. 

"So what did you think of the tour?" I asked them. 

"It was very interesting," one of the gentleman replied. "but I don't understand why everyone thinks it is bleak. I did not find it so. They were criminals and got the punishment they deserved." 

San Francisco Vignette no.4

It was 5:23pm. We were at Haight-Ashbury admiring the now commercialized former hub of the counter culture. I wanted to visit Whole Foods. 

At Stanyan Street, I gazed into the eastern periphery of Golden Gate Park and felt a thousand eyes stare back at me amongst the darkness of the trees. Loitering about were young people, old people; some more weathered in appearance than others, some with canine companions. They congregated here with visions of 1969. Of free love and cheap drugs and being in the presence of their apostle Garcia, even though he - and the gospel he preached - were long dead.

Death changes everything.

"LSD. I can get you some LSD." a 20-something male with a yellow lab uttered to my companion and I. 

I walked into Whole Foods. 

San Francisco Vignette no.3

It was 1:45pm. The purpose of my trip to San Francisco was ultimately business. I was attending a digital design conference hoping to acquire knowledge and inspiration from some of the greatest minds in the industry. Currently stationed at the podium was a content strategist from Facebook. As he spoke, I surveyed the audience. It consisted of a motley crew of marketers, designers and programmers each remaining amongst their own tribe and realm of self-importance. Half the room had their face buried in their phone. This is how we connect in the modern age; we speak to the world via an interface rather than to those at the same table. 

Later in the evening, I went for a walk. One of the highlights of my trip was strolling through China Town at dusk and I used my limited time in the city to revisit its magic nightly. The colours, the scents, the noise … all weaved together to transport me to another world. My phone, in this setting, was used to capture a part of that. 

San Francisco Vignette no.2

It was 12:36pm. We were seated at a booth near a window overlooking the ice rink at Union Square. My lunch date talked about shopping and clothing and men but I wasn't really listening. To get to this restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy's, we had to pass the seasonal display, the sight of which sucker-punched me into a state not conductive to sociability. The first Christmas without my father is approaching and I am dreading it. I miss him terribly. 

I focused on the rather lengthy menu but could feel the weight of someone's stare. Looking up, I met the gaze of a man seated at a table to my left. He resembled an elderly Spike Lee and was dressed quite dapper for what appeared to be a solitary dining excursion. He smiled warmly at me and didn't blink. I averted my gaze out of habit, as I am wont to do when someone challenges my aplomb.  

"I'll have the soup of the day and a salad."

In between listening to the one woman dialogue at my table and watching a flock of pigeons terrorize the patrons seated on the patio, I continued sneaking a glance at the man at the next table. He didn't look away. Now nor did I. I smiled back at him. He nodded.  

I observed as a waiter brought his order. A large bowl containing a hot fudge sundae. My soup and salad arrived shortly thereafter. We ate in synchronicity. 

San Francisco Vignette no.1

It was 11:15pm. I stood at the corner of Ellis and Cyril Magnin, slice of pizza in hand poised to satisfy a late-night craving. There was a lot of activity on the streets, something foreign to the sleepy northern village I call home. Sirens blared in the distance. A mentally ill man to my right shouted obscenities at no one in particular in between reciting random bible verses. Cars honked incessantly at a cab in front of me. The light was green, but it remained stationary. A shirtless man was trying to open the trunk. I assumed he was loading gear. 

"What the fuck?! HEY!!!" the cab driver exclaimed upon looking into his rearview mirror. The shirtless man continued to be transfixed with opening the trunk. 

A scuffle ensued as the taxi driver physically pried the shirtless man away from his vehicle and placed him next to me near the curb. I started to contemplate which self-defence technique would best work against this clearly high-as-fuck individual should shit go down. I didn't want to lose my pizza, but it was probably inevitable. I noted the shirtless man also wasn't wearing shoes. His gaze was as vacant as a zombie. 

Without incident, he made his way back to the trunk of the cab. The driver again exited his vehicle and braced for round two. The mentally ill man to my right proclaimed that God is great. 

I continued munching on my pizza. The walk signal lit up. My hotel was two blocks away.

The symphony of the streets played on.