The train buzzed and hummed as it gently swayed from side to side in a trance like rhythm. I gazed out the window blankly staring at the constantly moving scenery: the graffiti on the back yard fences, garages over flowing with useless things, old warehouses, abandoned cars, run down houses, brand new looking mini malls and shopping centers, little league baseball parks, and various bodies of water; were among the main things that I saw, but did not fully notice.
After sometime on the train and having ventured down these tracks many times, it all became a blur. With the arrival of each station comes the screeching of the wheels and monotone announcement by the conductor. The doors open and close quickly; new passengers make their way inside the train and look for a convenient place to sit. This is my favorite part of the journey, to see fresh faces, to notice a complete set of new strangers, and to hope that a pretty young woman sits close to me. And before I knew it, the train pulled into the final stop, downtown San Francisco. Happy to be standing after sitting for an hour and a half, I got off the train, made my way out of the station and caught a trolley down the Embarcadero Street.
You can smell a trace of salt in the cool ocean air. I listened intently to the silence that surrounded me, keeping my eyes towards Alcatraz Island. The sea lions barked loudly as they jumped into the water from their platforms, only to jump back on and take another lazy nap. The seagulls shrieked and stretched their wings, constantly on the hunt for breadcrumbs. A large ferryboat heading for Sausalito left behind small foamy waves. This is Pier 39, the most popular spot at Fisherman’s Warf, which is an ocean side strip of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, specialty stores and piers at the end of the Embarcadero Street. After leaving Pier 39, I walked down Fisherman’s Warf wrapped up in my jacket, glancing at the street performers, especially an Asian man in his late thirties dressed in a suit and playing a violin like I never heard the instrument played before. I stood in awe and watched him play that incredible melody, so sad and beautiful, but for some reason he had this big mischievous smile on his face. As he paused but for a second to catch his breath, the violin’s tune continued uninterrupted, you see the music was coming from a speaker the man was standing in front of. After wondering up and down the Warf a couple times, I walked over to the trolley stop and waited.
The F trolley picks you up at Pier 39 and takes you to down town along Market Street. I stretched my neck as I stepped off the trolley looking up at the tall sky rises. These buildings belong to various professional companies and financial corporations where the city’s highly driven people spend their days crunching the numbers and analyzing reports. I imagined myself working in one of these buildings someday. I walked the congested streets, doing my best to dodge the rushing business men and women, curiously looking at the young bohemians and artists covered in tattoos and body piercings, smiling at the college students, avoiding eye contact with the street hustlers selling bootleg merchandise, and casting a sympathetic eye at the vagabonds in rags wondering around aimlessly. As a cold breeze suddenly came and chilled me through, I looked for the horizon and saw the sun start to descend.
At night the city has a lot to offer for those seeking late night entertainment. There are Irish pubs and dive bars serving IPAs and endless draft beer choices, fancy upscale bars where you can order a fifteen dollar martini, dance clubs and ultra lounges where young people dressed in their finest mingle and socialize hoping to find romance. You can hear the occasional loud laughter ring out into the cold night from belligerent bar flies who drank enough alcohol to get a small elephant drunk. But the night for me was a dark roast coffee at an authentic Italian café on Columbus Street. I drank my coffee slowly savoring every sip. There is pain in being a quiet observer, and also an incredible feeling of resolution that transcends any sadness of not being part of the crowd. Having finished my coffee, I left the café and walked down Stockton Street making my way to my favorite spot in the city.
The city lights burned like tiny candles, from the distance it seemed as if they were hovering in the air, independent of any structure or building. Standing there on top of Koit Tower, I slowly breathed in the cold night air, each breath-in replenished something inside that escaped with every exhale. The city quietly rested before me, peaceful and content, in deep REM sleep. Beyond the city was the emerald sea, sparkling below the moon and stars, a being in its own right, without past or future, without boundaries or limits, an everlasting presence that filled me with wonder. And soon, after a full day in San Francisco, I found myself being swayed gently from side to side as the night traveled along side of me reflecting in the train’s window. My eyes grew heavy and my breathing slowed down, I rested my head against the back of my seat, the train became a vessel and I found myself sailing down the emerald sea, dreaming of far distant shores. I woke to squeaking wheels and a monotone announcement: last stop.