Friday, January 1, 2010

All Decked Out

Have I found an apartment in San Francisco?

No – but I have found a deck, a big multi-level wooden deck, a deck perched on the edge of the continent, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I found this deck at Fort Funston, a stretch of craggy cliffs and dunes along Skyline Boulevard, south of Ocean Beach.

I found this deck on Christmas Day, when it was sunny and almost warm, close to 60 degrees in San Francisco. “Let’s go for a hike on the beach,” said my son, Joel. His bride was all for it. I was excited, too. We put on our layers and off we went.

Our first stop at Fort Funston was this wooden deck. When Joel and Patricia were ready to head out on the hike, I decided I needed to sit in the sun, stare at the water and listen to the sounds of the sea instead of scrambling down 200 feet to the beach. Off they went. I hiked to the car to retrieve the baseball cap Patricia had loaned me for the day, and returned to the big deck.

A woman was seated on one of the lower levels, a pregnant woman who had rolled up her shirt to expose her belly to the warm sun. Respecting her privacy, I moved to the other side, on another level, and we sat together/apart in silence, listening to the sounds of the sea.

As time passed, other people came to the deck. Two young men and a young woman arrived. They sat down on the level below me and opened sandwiches. After they ate, the young woman started taking photos of the ocean through a half-full bottle of water. One of the young men lightly mocked her; the other defended her, applauding her creativity.

Two couples showed up with a teen-age daughter and a big woolly dog named Bonnie. Fort Funston allows dogs to romp free of leashes, so many people there had dogs with them. Bonnie was interested in the three young people – probably she smelled the remains of their lunch on the paper wrappings in their backpack.

The sun was so warm, the sounds of the sea so soothing, that I fell asleep for a while. When I woke up, the pregnant woman was gone and one of the couples with Bonnie was showing the other couple how to swing dance, right there on the big wooden deck. The teenager laughed in delight.

More people came and went. Some stopped on the top level for a quick look at the view. One man chased after his dog, which suddenly slipped through the rails of the deck and started bounding down the cliff. When the runaway dog heard another dog barking above the deck, it bounded back up and was reunited with its owner. The barking dog, a little black Yorkie mix by the look of it, raced around the deck drooling on everyone, but in a dog-friendly way. No one seemed to mind.

Out in the ocean, a seal – or maybe it was a sea lion -- popped its head out of the water to stare up at those of us on the deck. A couple of pelicans flew low over the water. A cormorant soared overhead. The sun shone on and the waves just kept rolling in on this peaceful Christmas afternoon.

On another day, I did look at some apartments in San Francisco, scattered throughout several neighborhoods. The one I liked the best, in the Outer Richmond, offered two views of the sea. When I told the fellow from the real estate management office that I am a writer, he said another writer lives in the building. “His home is in Sonoma,” he said, “but he comes here for inspiration.”

No matter where I end up living, I now have a deck where I will find inspiration -- a big multi-level wooden deck, a deck perched on the edge of the continent, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.