There were only two reasons why San Francisco ever featured in my itinerary, an old friend had told me once many many years ago that I must see how beautiful it could be and being a music lover I had heard the song, “If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” by Scott McKenzie. And if you have heard this song I'm sure you are smiling, it's just a simple, soft song giving the warmest feel of the city.
I slept through my flights to San Francisco and was going to be staying with a single mother and her daughter in SF. I had badgered Mary with multiple queries about Alcatraz and she had been very patient and honest with all her advice and descriptions. So I was expecting a professional lady to greet me on arrival. As I left the airport my shuttle was waiting; a good way to travel to and from most airports in USA is to use the shuttle services, they are pre booked a day in advance preferably and are very economical and safe.
I had the cutest welcome by her daughter. She was probably 11 or 12 years old, had curly hair till her shoulders which were kept free and untamed and wore a pink tee with blue pyjamas and had the most warm, honest, gleeful smile. Her father was there too. A pretty grumpy man with hurry and disapproval on his face screaming out loud. But the daughter's absolute cuteness made it easy to ignore him as she showed me the facilities and things in the kitchen and even asked me if I needed coffee and the man just sat there looking at his watch and repetitively reminding her he was late, till she very assertively asked him to back off saying "I have a guest to take care of Dad, please wait" and smiled back at me confidently. I told her she could go and I'd take care of myself and watched her hop away while she kept talking about things to take care of... Mary was a very interesting woman and her house was eclectic in style with art pieces kept randomly all over. These pieces were not conventionally beautiful but raw and drew attention. Her walls were full of paintings of people and faces, now I won't call them masterpieces but there was definitely an intriguing story behind them, and I wanted to know. Mary came in later that evening and we caught up and she was the most strong and vulnerable woman I had ever met. In her pictures she looked lovely with her red hair but when I had met her she had chopped her hair very very short.
Coco Chanel said "A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life" and Mary had recently been divorced after what seemed to be a traumatic marriage. Please know this; I am not a sexist nor am I a feminist, I just believe in people but perhaps am guilty of understanding women more easily than men and hence can project their stories better. She was clearly struggling in her life but had an air of pride protecting her carefully. Through our conversations she told me that after her divorce she had struggled with expression and then found paint and everything became easy step by step and she was still on her path of total recovery. Her life lay in her daughter and most of the paintings were of her in various moods and colours. Both of them would interact as almost adults and I must admit it was a bit strange to hear such a little girl voice out her 'opinions'. Mary kept asking for justification for them and the baby would think for a while and then substantiate each of her reactions or opinions with logic.
I think I was too tired that night to process what was happening. I woke up well rested the next morning and decided to walk. San Francisco has the most wonderful weather and roads are just perfect for long walks. Directions were easy... "Walk straight down the Fillmore St.", and I would reach the Marina. It was a mile long walk and it was 8 am. I had managed to get some coffee and a croissant and I must confess the air was so fresh that my body felt lighter and in-spite of the rod in my leg the mile long walk didn't make me break a sweat. Soon... was that San Francisco looked glorious... to be in touch.