Farewell To San Francisco
“One makes mistakes. That is life. But it is never a mistake to have loved.” — Romain Rolland
If I can give myself so much credit, I will ride away from San Francisco in two weeks, knowing that I loved it with all my heart. And it failed me.
But only in my dream of what it might be when I moved here five years ago. A place of artistic, caring people, and progressive action. The reality was even better. It was more real. More challenging. More beautiful, and had greater rewards. A couple major losses, several jobs, many new friends, hundreds of incredible views, thousands of magic moments, and metamorphosed thighs later, I could lay down on the ground and hug its dirty sidewalks for how much this layer cake of beauty and ugliness has given me.
But the nomadic spirit that guides me has to move on. Still, I wonder, and grieve; I feel like I’m abandoning a lover, and many friends. Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” It does. Often, just like that, and overnight. But I don’t know if it can ever be a clean break. There is both unwanted residue and newfound armor that clings to our physical bodies and our minds.
I am moving both for more and less romantic reasons than why I came here. I am going to try a more natural place, a slower pace of life, stretch my daily adventures further than what our topographically diverse, but ultimately limited parcel of earth allows. But will I really forget the pain of that conversation about love, tears streaming, rain pouring on 15th and Guerrero? Or the first and last kiss in front of the laundromat deeper in the Mission? That time I almost became roadkill on the 3rd Street bridge?
The day I discovered the majesty of Mile Rock Beach by accident and watched the sunset on our massive, engulfing ocean. Or the train ride down the peninsula that day one of my best friends almost died?
What you remember and what you forget are about as unreliable a source of real history as you can get, but they are a part of what carries you forth. Whether I will think on San Francisco fondly, for all the freedom and innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and natural beauty it represents. Or, with some bitterness at the pain and suffering I saw day after day, and the hard times I personally endured, is neither here nor there. When, you consider the fact that it is now a part of me. My physical muscles are cut from riding its streets – some of the asphalt is actually still embedded in my knee from a bad fall I didn’t have time to properly clean out. And my mind molded by everything from my life as a messenger, to its intellectual denizens, its businesses, its complicated but colorful history, to the transient populations yelling in the Tenderloin.
And, if you look at it another way, I am forever a teensy tiny part of the ever-changing organism that is San Francisco, too. We all are. So, I will not say goodbye. But I will tip my hat, er, helmet. And say, let’s hit the road. Because, as Mr. Albert Einstein famously said: “Life is life riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Arrivederci, mi amori.
-Michele L. Appel