I wasn’t always the fog of San Francisco.
I had several shitty jobs before I took over the family business. I spent one winter being a stand-in for a broken fog machine on the set of Who’s Afraid of the Dark? (it was as insulting as it sounds). And there was that time I posed for pictures against a green screen for The Weather Channel where they screamed things like “dance, monkey, dance!” (just awful).
Then one morning in September 2006, after finishing the last day of her summer shift, mom returned home to Point Reyes and said she was retiring.
“I said I was retiring” she yelled to my dad who was busy watching tourists near the lighthouse run back to their cars for jackets. She looked in my direction and smiled. “Rest up, Karl. You have work to do.”
I always knew I’d inherit San Francisco, but when was difficult to guess. This wasn’t exactly the first time she claimed to be done.
“I’m retiring after this summer” she said in 1776 when they finished building Mission Dolores. “Sure it’s just one building… but what’s next? A village?”
“This is my last time doing this” she insisted in 1873 when cable cars were introduced for the first time. “They’re riding up those hills to attack me.”
“That’s it, I give up” she hacked in 1967 after all the haze from the Summer of Love gave her asthma attacks and an insatiable appetite.
But after several centuries of sweeping over the land finger, later called Yerba Buena and finally named San Francisco, she was done. And I knew it because she was smiling. She never smiles in September.
Mom became the fog of San Francisco long before it was colonized. My dad married into the family business just months after meeting my old lady for the first time. They crossed skies while she was on vacation near the Nu’uanu Pali State Wayside in Oahu. She wore grey, he wore clumsy compliments.
He was attracted to her strong opinions and what-you-see-is-what-you-mostly-get translucent nature. She was a sucker for his corny puns and admired his listening skills (something she occasionally lacked). They hit it off, and after a few months of trans-Pacific correspondence, he floated thousands of miles away just to be with her.
My parents settled over Drakes Bay, a lovely sky community in Point Reyes. Located 40 miles northwest of San Francisco, it was a quick commute for my mom while she juggled work and raising a little cloud. Giving up her job was never an option. “Sweaty people walking up hills are counting on me.”
My hometown is one of the foggiest places on earth, mostly because my parents are retired and don’t travel as much as they used to. Now they spend most of their time telling me I don’t eat enough and asking if I’ll ever meet someone and settle down. I miss the days when they were so tired from work they let me get takeout from Marin and veg in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Mom says June is the best time to perfect new techniques so that’s what I’ve been doing the past few weeks: unexpected dramatic entrances, dance moves with Sutro Tower, and laps from Ocean Beach to Twin Peaks (mostly for strength training, but partly because I like showing the Outer Sunset who’s boss).
One thing has become crystal clear since I took over this role: my mom and I are very different clouds.
I love the idea of more tall buildings tickling the sky, making me duck and dodge as I race from breakers to bay.
I get a natural high from sweeping in over the city after a three-day heat wave, providing relief to everyone who’s used up all their “summer” clothes in one fell swoop.
I support the local economy by making tourists buy embroidered SF fleeces at Fisherman’s Wharf because they didn’t realize July is actually winter and all their t-shirts and flip fops aren’t helping them stay warm.
And I live for those mornings when I stretch as far as I can, reaching the depths of the Mission where hipsters and techies stand in line outside Four Barrel or Philz and complain that I’m not supposed to be in their neighborhood.
But then again, I’ve only been doing this for a few years. Maybe I’ll have a different opinion next century.
Six summers down. Five hundredish more to go.