Monday, April 27, 2015

April 27, 2010: A Life-Changing Day

Five years ago today, on April 27, I sold my condo in St. Louis. Two months later, I moved to San Francisco, following my heart to move close to my son and daughter-in-law and also giving myself the gift of a great adventure – the chance to get to know this amazing city.

I have adapted well! Here are just six of the reasons I know I really do live in San Francisco.

1. I do errands based on available parking. Parking is a huge problem in San Francisco. How big a deal is it? When I color with my three-year-old grandson, first he asks me to draw roads for his cars and then he asks me to draw parking places. Even when we play with his little plastic dinosaurs, I am instructed to provide parking. You can tell he is a native!

Most often, I take Muni, because if you have the time, the bus will take you anywhere you want to go. But if I’m heading out to pick up groceries or anything bulky, I drive. (Still, my odometer tallies fewer than 3,000 miles a year, and I buy gas every six or seven weeks -- but only if I need it.)

Anyway, if I can’t park right away where I planned to shop, I will go around the block four times. After that, I make a new plan to try again at another time or at a different place or I decide on a different purchase option altogether. Sometimes, I just forget about it. So not finding a parking place sometimes saves me money!

2. I know a lot of people here. Standing alone at a bus stop downtown one day, a stop that serves five different lines, I saw a #9 bus approach. I was waiting for the #6, so I stepped back. The #9 stopped and the door opened, but no one got off the bus. Then the driver waved and called out, “Hi, Pat! I’m not on the #37 any more, so I never see you. How’s that grandbaby?”

3. I have a favorite getaway place in the city. Cultural opportunities abound here – theater, the symphony, the ballet, the opera, dozens of wonderful museums. I take advantage of all that when I can, but San Francisco also offers numerous places that boast astonishing natural beauty.

If I’ve been working at the computer too many days in a row, I push back the chair and drive three miles to the edge of the continent. Once there, sometimes I walk. Sometimes I stare at the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes I memorize the cries of the gulls, the rush of the wind and the crashing of the waves. Beautiful – and it’s free!

My favorite getaway place outside the city is West Marin, where I head once a month. (Read my Post-Dispatch travel story on the area at Heck, just driving across the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge gives me a thrill!

4. I’ll pay $10 for a cocktail. (My favorite is the pear martini at Cliff House: Grey Goose Le Poire vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh lime juice – tastes like silk.) Once a month, most often on or near the full moon, my Full Moon Cocktail group heads for a bar or restaurant where the four of us order pricy cocktails and split some tasty bar food. We drink, we laugh, we eat, we talk about what we’re doing or thinking or buying or hoping will happen. We never order a second drink.

5. I carry extra layers with me. San Francisco has micro-climates, which means every day the temperature can vary by up to 20 degrees across town, depending on what neighborhood you’re heading to or meandering through. People tend to dress for their home turf, but most of us never go out without a windbreaker and a scarf, just in case.

Before I moved here, I never cared much for gray. Now, some of my extra layers are gray, as are other items of my clothing I’ve bought gray jackets, scarves, sweaters, shoes and purses. Why? I love the famous fog. From my apartment I have a great view of fog banks filling and then receding from the Golden Gate strait, and I am always grateful for the cool air here that the fog guarantees. (I also love the sunsets – art in the sky!)

6. I wrote a book about San Francisco’s neighborhood attractions. What a great way to get to know a city better! Reedy Press asked me to put together the guidebook, so first I found a co-author with deeper roots (the incomparable Eve Batey) and then together we compiled “100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die” (see

The book, which actually features about 230 things to do here, is one of Reedy’s 19 city guides, all penned by people who live in the cities they wrote about. (That’s rare.) Now that the book has been published, I’m meeting even more people as I spend time marketing it!

So even though I lived somewhere else for 62 years, I have adapted quite well, thank you, to my new city and even made dear friends. (Read my article about how to do that, published on Next Avenue at

Still, after almost five years here, I remain in awe that my address is in San Francisco. I celebrate that – out loud. My route to the grocery store takes me up the hill to Twin Peaks, past a stunning view of downtown, with all its classic landmark buildings. On every trip to the store, I roll down the window, face into the wind and yell, “I live here!”