It’s been three days since I arrived in the Golden City, busy days of wandering, exploring and absorbing the city energy like a fresh sponge. I’m fortunate to have my sister, Greta’s, house in Sunset to crash at until I find a place of my own and the views from her hilltop house are expansive. The famous San Francisco skyline and bay rolls in and out of the dense fog that seeps over the Sunset on most mornings. I can see the orange peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge just beyond the park, and the hills of Marin beyond beckon me to explore farther. The park itself is a 10 minute downhill walk through small-town bustle of 9th and Irving, which boast the Sunset’s markets and restaurants.

The diversity here is outstanding, fun, inspiring. During a visit to Beanery, a stellar coffee shop on 9th that roasts all of its beans in house, I stationed myself by the window and watched the colorful Saturday crowds stroll by. A young Vietnamese family pushing a stroller; an Indian woman wrapped in a patterned sari; hipsters in pencil tight jeans, converse sneakers and plaid shirts; park bound joggers plugged into IPods; a wrinkled Asian man with a rolled newspaper tucked beneath his arm; girls in tights and square sunglasses. An older woman in her mid-60’s with a purple and white striped crewcut entered the coffee shop. She carried a leopard print bag and wore a purple fleece jacket, black tights, leopard print Danskos. On the curb outside, a homeless man loitered, trying to sell his copies of Street Speak to the passerbys, most of which brushed him off. He looked to be 60 or so as well, unshaven and rough in appearance with small rounded shoulders that were hidden by the oversized army fatigue jacket that hung to his knees. He wore a felt hat with an iron-on Grateful Dead patch on one side, cannabis leaf patch on the other and rasta tassels streaming off the back.

In this city, there are so many walks of life that fitting in feels easy. I’m learning how each neighborhood has its distinctive features–the hippies in Height, gay crowd in the Castro, yuppy Marina, expansive–and absolutely authentic–Chinatown, predominately Hispanic Mission. All walks of life stroll the sidewalks, drive the boulevards and bike down the steep hills. Trite as it may sound there is something for everyone, and consequently, I feel certain there is plenty for me.

Yesterday morning I woke early and drank coffee while the fog settled in the bay. Then I ran the six blocks to Golden Gate Park where I lost and found my way along its established paths and off-shooting trails. The trees, bushes and flowers amazed me; I was surrounded to flora and fauna I’d never even known to exist. And the sky was so blue, the California sun so warm. I ran through the great pavillon that houses the deYoung Museum and Academy of Sciences where groups of tourists wandered through the gardens. A thought came to mind–legendary places. San Francisco truly is a legendary place.

Later that afternoon, Greta’s roommates and I went to Zeitgeist–a bar in the Mission–for beer in the Beer Garden. We sat in a walled patio and shared pitchers of strong Racer 5 IPA as the sun lowered and conversation flowed between the picnic tables around us. I saw my first glimpse of the Tamale Lady, a landmark San Francisco street vendor who is famous for her tamales–grilled corn husks stuffed with rice and your choice of pork, chicken steak or beans, which she douses in hot sauce at your request. Sarah, Greta’s roommate’s girlfriend who was sitting with us, recalled that a documentary about the Tamale Lady she’d had seen while traveling in Prague was part of her impetus to move to the city a couple of years ago. Had I not just grabbed a tasty burrito from a Mexican joint along the way I would’ve chowed on the famous tamales worth moving to the city for.

Speaking of moving, I’m now embarking on my first round of house hunting in the city, an endeavor I hope to be short lived and successful. Not that it isn’t fun checking out places and meeting the quirky (or not so quirky) cats that live in them, I just know I’ll feel more grounded in the city once I’ve my own bed sleep in. Until then, Greta’s Sunset haven is a wonderful place to crash, hang with her fun Venezuelan roommates and take in the beauty of this incredible city, particularly at sunset. Pictures to come!

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