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Fog: You Know The Writer Likes the Cold…

San Francisco has been thrown into some uncharacteristically foggy fall weather. This is usually our hottest and brightest time of year, when the marine layer thins and we bask in some dog days of summer. Not this year. This year is determined to be blanketed in thick fog, which is dampening down the usual Bay area California autumn heat. Of course I have no right to complain: I hate the heat, and moreover this unusual weather means that our fire season has been skipped this year. Usually those Santa Ana winds get going, blowing hot air and fueling wildfires. Not this year, this year everything is damp and cool, foggy and dark. The sun has not really come up today, it remains hidden under a layer of foggy bliss, cool and damp.

I indulge myself in some California listening. I am not quite ‘of’ this state that I love so dearly, that has become my adopted home, and so putting on my California/Bay Area playlist is a slightly cheesy, vaguely twee uncool indulgence. The Mamas and Papas, California Dreamin’ is drifting through my headphones like a ghost of a memory. “I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day” the Mamas echo prettily. It is not just the Preacher that loves the cold, the writer likes it too. This City knows I am going to stay, how could I leave somewhere that rarely gets hot and instead lets me hide in the hard baked pall of mists and marine layer fog, ducking under street lights, and stalking the hills. It has a bohemian je ne sais quois, without the cruelty and harshness that attends New York winters, nor the steamy brutality of the summers in that East Coast jewel. Our cruelty is bound up in the sins of our Barbary Coast past. The harshness of a City that had to claw itself out of hills and mountains, and the bohemians that made this place swing for a while. That boho machine is like a perpetual motion engine that has kept San Francisco at a steady lilt ever since Kerouac and the beat boys and girls barreled into the City. If you listen very closely and stay very still you won’t just feel the occasional swing of the tectonic plates bumping and grinding, but also that unmistakable syncopated beat of rebellion and jazz inflection. It is there, fed by the mist and the steep inclination towards freedom that fuels San Franciscan life.

I can barely see across the road right now. It is gently blurred by fog, like smearing vaseline on a lens to take out the toll of the years on a pretty face. Everything looks pretty in the same way that everything looks pretty under a blanket of snow. When we can see the City in the full glare of brightness, without the soothing cover of cloud of sea fog, we see it not for how it is, but instead with the ugliness and smelliness exaggerated, baking the resentment under the skin of the residents, and fraying tempers. No, how San Francisco really is can only be seen on the least visible of days when the filter of fog puts the bloom of romanticism on the Bay, and shows us how it was and how it has always been.

It is fitting that the fog appeared out of time, out of place, rolling in silently in fall, instead of blessing us in the summer. Who knows how long we will last in this world that is determined to blow itself up, fighting not to survive, but to die. This fog is manna from heaven, like the divine winds that protected the Japanese from the Mongol invasion in 1281. I suppose I am being unrealistic – the fog can do that to you – no Russian nukes need visibility to blow us all out of existence.

The world is either weeping or burning, flooding or parched and moistureless. There is either too much or too little. This fire dampening weather is a lucky accident, I suppose. I am not so naïve nowadays as to believe in nature’s mercy, nor some supernatural blessing.

I dragged my heater out of the cupboard, stowing the fan for sometime later. It felt dangerous to turn it on, as if as soon as I pressed that button for heat, the world would explode into burning hot sun and flame. The world didn’t end by turning on the heating, at least no so I could see. Everything has a price as we have found out. Greenhouse gases cost our weather. Our ego has cost us the rise again of a rabid Russian bear. Our desire for money, our late stage capitalism has cost us our compassion and humanity. My dedication cost me almost everything. My inability to fall cost me my mind and my future. The future is here and the past is but a whore to my degradation. But the fog. The fog hides everything under the cover of darkness in the daylight. The fog is my friend.

It is all too clear recently; it is all too sharply in focus: all my failures, all my losses, all the terrible cost of it all. I failed. How I failed! I didn’t fail under the blur of fog. I failed in the full glare of all seeing judgement. I failed so comprehensively it makes me shudder to think of it. The brightness takes away my last comfort. At least don’t look at me. At least let me hide. At least, let me hide my shame under the sea. Today, the weather had mercy on me. Today the weather hid me. Tomorrow, who knows, perhaps tomorrow I will have to live in the glare of reality. Maybe tomorrow I will have to look at it all full in the face and confront the fact that I dared to hope for a future when it had already been killed, skinned, broken down and packaged for the butcher.

Can’t you see? Can’t you see? No?

I am glad you can’t see me.


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