“The loveliness of Paris, seems somehow sadly grey.
The glory that is Rome is of another day.
I’ve been terribly alone, and forgotten in Singapore.
I’m going home, to my City by the Bay.”
-not quite the lyrics from “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” written by George Cory and Douglass Cross as sung by Tony Bennett
Music is the great delimiter in our lives. It marks the moments that we come back to, it sets poetry and rhythm to memory. It is the language of my soul, though I can’t “speak” it to save my life, inside me, at all times, is song. There are ties to events that will forever be defined in my head by music; one of those shining memories is walking along the right field wall in AT&T Park, serenaded by Tony Bennett’s signature tune.
Portland I’ve adopted, Oregon the state I’ve fallen in love with, but San Francisco is my home. I was born there, I’ve lived a majority of my life in and around the City, and the memories of friends, love and family all center around San Francisco. The City by the Bay is legend, one of the world’s most famous and recognizable sights, and its impact on the United States, and the world, far outstrips its modest size. Most people I think are shocked to learn the population of the City and County, a meager 850,000 souls, a tiny fraction of the eight and half million in the Bay Area at large.
As an aside – compare either the Bay Area or the City and County proper to Singapore, a small city for Asia, clocking in at 5.5 million folks within its borders. Five and a half million. In the United States, that’d be behind only New York in terms of population size. Here, on the world’s most populated continent, it’s barely a blip on the list of largest cities.
That small city on the tip of the peninsula punches well above its weight, and for reasons that often make me smile. San Franciscan “counter-culture” has become part of the world’s literary and progressive collective memory. “Howl” remains one of my favorite poems, every reading brings me some new recollection, some new contemplation. The writings of Herb Cain are a life goal, a voice of a city, not the voice, for every city speaks for itself, but a voice, a leading voice. The near misses and taken-for-granted victories of our sports teams; Joe Montana in a huddle pointing to John Candy as if he wasn’t about to enter sports immortality three minutes later, Will “the Thrill” Clark, Robbie Thompson and Jose Uribe turning double plays like practice. The progressive and liberal politics of the city – Harvey Milk and the LGBT movements of the 60s and 70s that gave a start to the work that I found myself loving.
The music. Always back to the music.
Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be boarding a plane bound first to Hong Kong and then on to San Francisco. This will be my first trip back to the United States, where, despite my frustration with my countrymen lately, I consider with no small amount of pride as home.
I’ve been listening to “I Left My Heart” on endless repeat.
In 2004, I abruptly quit a job of three years. It was the day after I returned from London, my first trip overseas. The job was terrible – the bosses cruel and constantly infighting. I was sick of Sonoma County and wanted desperately to move south towards San Francisco. Quitting a job probably wasn’t the best way to accomplish this, but the shock got me moving. Two months later I had moved to Larkspur, a small town in Marin County with ferry access to the City. I had a new job. I sat on my new balcony overlooking Corte Madera Creek feed into the Bay, listening to “I Left My Heart”.
At that moment, I felt like life was once again moving forward. By how much, I couldn’t have guessed.
The next day, I would start my new job and meet, among others, the part-time accountant that had just started at AlphaCard as well. Ten months later, that accountant and I went on our first date to a Giants game. As with every game, as we left the park, “I Left My Heart” serenaded us.
Two & half years later, we were married on a windy patio in Novato, near where the Petaluma River feeds into the Bay.
Did it all come down to that moment? Sitting on the Bay, letting the peace of a soft song center me? Perhaps. That song is forever a part of me now, it reverberates within my bones, echoes in my soul. And I know as I travel east tomorrow, it will evoke such strong emotions in me as I tear through the sky towards the Bay.
Tony Bennett’s ode to the City by the Bay is one of many, including John Phillips'1the author of the song, it was sung by Scott McKenzie “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” and Journey’s “Lights”, all three sing of a common thread, not only traveling to San Francisco, but a yearning to move or return to San Francisco.
So it’s probably no surprise that I’ve been listening to all three lately as well.
Yes, this is another short entry. What can I say? My excitement is blotting out the words I want to use. Since I can’t just squeal like a 10 year old school girl here for a thousand words, I’m cutting this a bit short with well wishes. Most of my readers, well, I suppose I’ll see you soon.
For my friends in Singapore, I’ll back in two weeks. Work on that “Coming Back to SG” song, y’all.