I left my heart in San Francisco


‘And my life between the moon and New York City’

This is a story about how The Child almost didn’t come to be.

I had almost forgotten about her near miss with existence. But, just the other day, my memory was jogged by Her Childness herself when I asked, “Where are you now?

See, The Child, as you well may know, has taken the concept of working remotely and sort of super-sized it. She and The Beau gave up their apartment, stored their stuff (mainly in my attic), bought an F350 with a BigFoot camper shell, and hit the road.

Trailer Hitch: Child and Beau a few months after the start of their trip — and a few weeks after their engagement

(If you can do it without going all green with pent-up-in-my-darned-house-for-almost-a-year envy you can read about some of their adventures in “Her Personal Truck” and “Deeds of Derring-Don’t.”)

Well. It turns out The Child is in San Francisco. When I heard this, my soul was suddenly filled with longing.

The Traveling Two entering the Golden Gate

I have previously regaled you with the story about how I got myself to New York. (It’s a pretty good yarn called “Take a Letter, Miss Henry.” A rubber chicken is involved.) But I failed to mention in this story that my other very-seriously-considered option was to move to San Francisco.

I fell in love with San Francisco on my very first trip, which was by train — back when trains were trains, with white-table-clothed dining cars. I traveled there from Kansas City, where I was living at the time working as a copywriter in the biggest agency in town (which, sadly, no longer exists.)

Trains then had cool names, like The City of New Orleans. I can’t recall the name of mine. But I bet my Oldest Younger Brother Scott would know. He once had a summer job as a train porter. Which is a heck of a lot more glamorous than a summer job baby-sitting.

Sleeper Car: This portrait taken by Oldest Younger Bro Scott on The Empire Builder graces the wall in the Ken and Barbie kitchen

Anyway, I packed some fruit and some wine and many books, folded myself into my “roomette,” and, after three days of train-bound travel, met Scott in San Francisco, where he took me to City Lights Bookstore and Coit Tower and the Mission District and North Beach and Chinatown and that twisty Steve McQueen Bullitt street. And well, I just fell head over heels for the place. (See gleeful mural-posing pic at the top of this post.)

Me with Youngest Younger Bro and Favorite Only Sister taken on another trip to visit Scott, this time in Oregon. I know it was while I was in my KC resume-building years because I’m wearing the same shirt that’s in my SF pic up top. (I’m a whiz at dating photos by outfits)

Well, I went back to Kansas City and spent the next few years beefing up my resume so I could leave. I mean, KC is a pretty cool place, what with its fountains and barbecue joints and Mission Hills-y neighborhoods. But Mission Hills ain’t Telegraph Hill.

Me, pretending to do Something Important for a publicity shot at my KC agency

When I felt sufficiently Ad World Attractive, I waged my Leave Town Campaign. I stayed late at work so I could use the fancy IBM Selectric and wrote two sets of cover letters for two sets of resumes: one set for New York agencies — the other for agencies in San Francisco. I figured that whichever of my two favorite cities picked me, well, that’s where I’d go.

Here, mainly to break up the copy, is another shot of me Bossing People Around at that KC agency

There’s much more to this story — the letters, the interviews, the time I hailed a cab to go one block (in those pre-Google-map days I didn’t realize how close my hotel was to the agency where I was going) — but in the interests of brevity I’ll cut to the chase.

Yup, you guessed it: I got job offers in both cities. So I flipped a mental coin and — even though I longed for San Francisco — picked New York. Because in the Ad World, New York is, well, New York. Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of the Legion of Honor be darned.

Me, happily ensconced in New York. At Ogilvy & Mather, no less

But sometimes I find myself thinking about what life would be like if I’d picked San Francisco. About how now I could be a retired creative director from Wilton, Coombs & Colnett (I’d have to be; the agency no longer exists), gazing out a bay window in my Victorian in, say, Pacific Heights, sipping a latte while writing a story about my alternate life in New York City.

Instead, here’s my view these days. Which is cool, in the snowy sense anyway

But then I wouldn’t have met The Dude. And The Child would not exist. Not even with red hair. (See “In an Alternate Universe, I Would Have Been a Redhead” to see what the heck I’m talking about.)

Having my cake and eating it too: The Dude and The Child — in San Francisco

Golly. All this could-have-been reminiscing is making me want to check Spotify for that song. No, not I Left My Heart in San Francisco — the other one: City of New Orleans.

Amagansett, New York. February 2021


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11 thoughts on “I left my heart in San Francisco

  1. I’ve been to San Francisco exactly once, as a teenager with my parents and loved it too. Would love to go back someday with my Hubs. But NYC must come first, as I’ve never been. Isn’t it entertaining sometimes to think about how life would look now if we had made different choices?

  2. Oldest Younger Brother

    When you rode the train it was the “San Francisco Zephir”. Later it was renamed the “California Zephir” – actually its original, pre-Amtrak name. Onboard crew called it the “Bumpy Burlington” due to its poorly maintained tracks which were supposed to be maintained by Burlington Northern at the time.

    • Aha!!! I knew you would know! Come to think of it, it was rather bumpy. But I sure as heck enjoyed it. The roomette setup was kind of a dry run for living in the Ken and Barbie House! (I love looking at that dining car photo while I’m cooking, BTW.)

  3. Ruth Meisenheimer

    I took my first airplane trip to San Francisco, and I loved it too. Have reconnected with the friend I visited there over 60 years ago via Facebook.

    • I bet you dressed nicely for that airplane trip, dear Ruth! It is a special place, isn’t it? So glad you could reconnect with your friend. Facebook has lots of downsides, but I have also reconnected with old friends — even made new ones. Two of my closest buddies are women I have never even laid eyes on. Not in the flesh, anyway!

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