San Francisco–the name speaks for itself. A city that collapses together romance, wildness, hippies (more imagined than real today), misty mornings, gold rushes and the great attached Bay. Not to mention far too many homeless people. And, just now, an ecological disaster, thanks to a misguided oil tanker. I was there recently, and ran from Fourth Street along Market to the Embarcadero. Yes, I ran. When in the City of St. Francis, I usually run–or walk as fast as possible with my face fixed straight ahead–it denies the homeless panhandlers the opportunity to beg. (There should be no homeless people in America, so I pretend they don’t exist, unless they have pets, and then I give them money.)
I reached the harbor’s edge, the water lapping near the beautiful symmetrical Ferry building, always perfect in its clean lines. The beautiful sunshine of the day–a type of gold, really, to match California’s fabled yellow sands–belied the grimness of what had happened down at the Golden Gate. The bay, with its ecological richness, was now threatened with oil spillage. From where I was, looking out to the eastern bluffs across the water, the Golden Gate was obscured, and the bay was serene. There was just a bit of mist hanging past the Bay Bridge where more oil tankers lay with their deadly cargo. The colors of the palette were as vivid as always, the gray-green of the water contrasting with the olive cliffs across the bay. In short, the Bay had the typical unreal too-beautiful-to-exist-look. Keeping things ever more serious, there were prohibition signs posted everywhere, almost ridiculous-looking, showing figures of what was banned in red, such as no fishing or swimming. The gulls wailed as always, as if regretting the poisoning of the water, but now I’m waxing poetic.
Beyond the inconvenience of the spillage (a local saloon owner angrily told me he couldn’t go swimming; I commiserated, of course, as we were both from Dorchester) there was a much bigger problem. And one that is with us all. As petroleum killed off Yankee whaling, which was a good thing, it has the potential to kill this harbor and, directly or otherwise, every other thing on the planet.