Socks

We’ve made it to San Francisco, Sadie and me, and are enjoying our time on the fringes of the Tenderloin. The dating landscape is daunting here, and my mission was sidetracked by a couple of good friends and the promise of a martini or two.

In her laid-back, Northern California way, San Francisco is treating me as San Francisco should.

I confess, I was a little concerned with the catalog of potential dates on the online. It seems that most San Francisco and East Bay men proudly sport facial hair and beer bellies, but I was much relieved when a Very Handsome Scraggily Bearded Flat Stomached Art Restorer chatted me up on the street.

If I were more desperate for a story I would consider this a date.

Well, it was a date, really. Twenty minutes of conversation with a handsome stranger. I never did learn his name.

There was another date this morning. Coffee at 10. A 6’6″ surfer. I don’t know his name, either. I call him Socks. Sock’s posting online is even vaguer than mine, but he likes my smile, so I like him. He also likes sock puppets, so we have a lot in common. Plus which, he says he has a sock drawer full of Really Big Socks.

Sadie and I walk all the way down to the dog park, then along the water to peek at the house barges. The path is glorious. Quiet and sunny. Socks and I never did determine an actual place where we’d meet. The plan is to let him know when I’m in the neighborhood.

I text Socks, sit on a bench, and watch the reflections of sky and buildings on the still water. Sadie chews a stick.

There’s a mysterious quality every city has. Some cities are flirtatious, some hard and cold, some embrace you the moment your feet touch ground, and some never open up, no matter how vehemently you pursue them. They have nooks and special places that they’ll show to those who finesse their streets and alleys. They woo you or scorn you, turn their backs, or open their souls. Getting to know a city is like getting to know a lover.

I feel like I’m finally getting to know San Francisco after all these years. She sweet and salty. A little dangerous and a lot of fun.

Fifteen minutes later, I call Socks and leave a message.

Sadie and I explore the blocks around Giants Stadium. We share a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We wander over the Third Street bridge to check out a cluster of curious circus tents.

I think a lot about Los Angeles and New York, my two urban loves. New York opened her arms to me when I moved there sixteen years ago. She treated me so well I thought I’d never want to leave. She’s warm and comforting with a sly sense of humor and a pair brass balls. Los Angeles is harder. She trusts few people with her secrets. When I left New York for Los Angeles three years ago, I thought she’d love me as much, if not more. Maybe my hubris caused her to turn her back and send me crying into the solid embrace of Manhattan. But this last trip, when I caressed her sidewalks, her public transportation system, her coffee shops with my admiring eye, she seemed to smile – just a little bit. She teased me with unfulfilled promises, but, step by step, I fell in love with her.

Back at the water, I look at my watch. 10:40. Socks is nowhere to be seen. The water, the quiet, my happy dog stalking a pigeon, I revel in the fickle San Francisco sunshine.

I text Socks one last time. “I’m headed home. Maybe we’ll catch up some other time.” What I want to say, but don’t is, “and thank you for a beautiful morning.”

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