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


Yes, we have no bananas


‘I’m thinkin’ bananas just wanna be bread’

A couple of weeks ago I chauffeured The Child up to the Big Ferry at Orient Point so that she could catch the train back to Boston. (You may recall from my story “Her Personal Truck” that not only can The Child drive now, she drives an F350. But it’s not a stick, and both our cars — the “new” ’98 Toyota 4Runner, and the old ’91Honda wagon — require stick-shifting skills.)

The Child and her BF pose in front of their new home. Yes, that’s a honkin’ big truck — but it’s not a stick

Anyway. The drive up to the Big Ferry is a pretty one (you ride on two little Shelter Island ferries on the way) but it does eat up a good chunk of time — it’s an hour and a half each way. To stave off starvation, I tossed a banana on the back seat.

Well. What with feeling sort of Mom-sad about bidding my one and only Child good-bye, I never did feel peckish. So when I got home I reached around to retrieve the unneeded, uneaten banana. But, instead of it being at its beginning-of-the-trip peak of tasty ripeness, now — just three hours later — it was looking rather, well, brown and bedraggled.

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Her Personal Truck


‘From zero driving to truck driving in no time flat’

Back in the early 80s I dated this guy who also worked in the New York City Ad Biz — he was a producer; I was a copywriter — but he, unlike me, owned a vehicle. This was (and still is) somewhat unusual for a New Yorker.

The few New Yorkers who own cars are all out here

Anyway, this guy was really cool. Still is, I imagine. He was so cool that he not only owned a vehicle, he owned a truck. This was so unusual — and, to me, so cool — that I dubbed this vehicle — I don’t remember the make but it was white — his Personal Truck. As in, “Oh, do we get to go wash your Personal Truck?”

Yup, that’s me. During my ride-around-in-the-Personal-Truck period

I say “go wash” because Cool Guy did not keep his Personal Truck in the City. He kept it at his childhood home in New Jersey. We would hop on the train, pick it up (well, it was a pickup truck, after all), wash it (this was back when you could ride through a car wash, which I enjoyed immensely) and then he would drive it around while I made those swoopy hand-fish motions out the window and felt the wind in my hair.

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