san francisco, days one and two

After my first trip to the West Coast, my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, my first trip to California and my first trip to San Francisco, I have no pictures to show for it.

Yes, that's right. I'm a photographer with no pictures. Which I guess is what I deserve for being a snob and only wanting to bring my mom's old Pentax K1000 to shoot black & white film. Which, unbeknownst to me, was apparently broken. (But I'll get back to that in just a minute.)

My first impression of the city was completely overwhelming.

Now, I realize that I've grown up and lived most of my life in a small city in southern Virginia, but never before had I really felt like a country girl until now. I've been in airports more than fifty times in the past five years, but absolutely none of them compared to the vastness of SFO. I got lost. But found my way. And found Sean (my fiancé). I was then thrown onto Red Lines, Blue Lines and BART (my first experience with a subway) which hurled me into the epicenter of the shopping district on a cold, windy, rainy Saturday morning. Two rolling suitcases in tow, we traversed the mall (that's a sentence in itself), slippery out-of-order outdoor escalators, those famed 45-degree angled hills, a crowd of pedestrians like none I'd ever seen, and eventually found our way to Sean's dorm.

My first day there, quite frankly, was a whirlwind. After getting a bite to eat and checking into our hotel, we set out to walk around the city. Which I immediately fell in love with. Despite the slight drizzle, the walk was refreshing once we got away from the crowd. I oohed and awed over absolutely everything: the architecture (how every building, window and archway looked better than the last), the trees, the succulents, the bright flowers, the hills, the views, the glimpses of Bay Bridge between the buildings to the East.

And then it turned sour. The rain picked up and after such a far walk, I found that the only shoes I'd packed for the weeklong trip were completely soaked, my only umbrella turned inside out at every gust of wind, and my hair drenched. Way too much for a girl who hates to get wet.

To say the least, I felt grossly unprepared. I didn't have the right shoes, the right umbrella, or even a hat.

I then decided I hated San Francisco and proceeded to curse obscenities all the way to the hotel.

After being awake for almost twenty-four straight hours and three time zones away from my home, it was time to get some much-needed sleep.

Upon waking the next morning and seeing that the forecast called for rain all freaking week, I vowed to buy some rain-boots. No matter how expensive.

So, after waiting for my tennis shoes to dry in the dryer, Sean and I set off for Union Square, that same crazily crowded shopping district as the day before. Saks Fifth Avenue. Macy's. H&M. Bloomingdales. All the places I'd seen in Vogue ads, but never in person. Even with all the shopping possibilities, I still didn't know where to get rain-boots. (Remember, I'm really just a country girl at heart.)

After wandering around Bloomingdales trying to find a shoe department, we had our first stroke of luck. A stroke of luck which basically turned the whole week around for me. A girl walked passed us and Sean called out her name: Christina, one of literally a handful of people that Sean knows in the entire city. After a quick introduction, and deciding she was a woman of style and knowledge, I practically begged for her help on where to find rain-boots.

It ended up that she worked at Bloomingdales, knew exactly what I was looking for, and lead us to a little corner where Hunter Wellington boots were on display. Exactly what I'd been lusting after for months. And now needed. And they were on sale.

It was meant to be.

The day looked up. It was actually sunny. And not raining. In fact, it didn't really rain too bad most of the week even though the forecast kept saying it would. The first day really was the worst of them all.

With a new skip in my step, armed with my new boots and the only skinny jeans I could squeeze down into them, Sean and I set out to explore the crazy hills of San Francisco, I with my camera in tow. We took a route similar to the one the day before. Up the glass elevators at the Westin St. Francis, passed a hotel we recognized from Vertigo, passed the beautiful Grace Cathedral. After ascending and descending each hill and turning around, I found yet another photo opportunity, combining towering glass buildings, ornate architecture, and lush greens.

Everything was so photogenic!

After completing a roll of 36 exposures, I wound the film and opened the back. Only to find a little tongue of film sticking out of the cartridge. When I plucked it out, the top of the cartridge popped off and the film unwound into a pitiful spiral.

I wanted to get mad. I might've, just a little. But I decided it was okay, we had all day, all week. So we went back to the hotel to get more film and retraced our steps.

Thirty-six exposures later, at the scene of the crime with the unfortunately ruined first roll, I wound the film again. Opened the back. And tada! The film was completely out of the cartridge, still wound onto the far right side. Sean immediately said "I love you!" while I tore the film out and threw it on the ground and walked away. I wanted to cry. But decided that maybe the pictures wouldn't have come out anyway. It was better to realize it now than to get a bunch of blank, undeveloped film back a few weeks later.

So we set out to simply enjoy the place. No pictures. Just the experience of a completely new city through fresh eyes. It was almost refreshing not to have to take pictures. To be pushed to experience something for what it really is rather than being behind a lens.

Plus, I can always go back and retrace my steps, again. And I will.

More to come...


Molly said...

I love this post!
I love that your opinion of the city turned around.
I love that you found some Hunters.
I love that (despite the frustration) this trip will be full of visual memories ONLY YOU AND SEAN will share forever and ever.
I love that there's "more to come..."

Beautifully written, lady.

katie said...

you should come say hi the next time you're in sf! =)
so glad you got yourself some hunters when you needed rainboots! i have yellow ones, and i love them muchly.
i know you're frustrated that you're a photographer with no photos of your trip, but i second molly's comment. we didn't take a single picture on our honeymoon. we were in a gorgeous location and enjoying all sorts of wonderful new things, and all of those memories are wrapped up in my head and my heart and only can be shared with the person i lived them with. it stings to be without your usual tools, i know, but it's also a beautiful experience as well.

Krystal said...

I loved reading this!! I felt like I was almost there with you and I even got really frustrated about the film! But yes, you will retrace your steps, I am sure :)

Charlotte said...

I'm glad your week turned around. Wasn't it thrilling to be in a new city? Overwhelming, yes, but so much to see and do and experience! Your wide-eyed wonder pours out through this post.

And as much as I love photography, I love setting down my camera too. So I understand your sentiments. :)