In a couple of months it will be 48 years since my first airplane ride and first visit to San Francisco.
I was less than a year old and although I went to San Francisco many times after that initial trip I didn’t set foot on a plane again until I was 16.
Sometimes when my children make comments about where we have or haven’t been I remind them of that and tell them they are lucky to have been as many places as they have.
No Flowers In My Hair
I remember visiting my uncle somewhere around ’75 or ’76 and hearing the song while we were actually in San Francisco.
I thought that was pretty cool but didn’t understand why anyone would put flowers in their hair but figured girls must be the one doing that and everyone knew that girls were weird.
At six or seven years-old and a big brother to way too many sisters that wasn’t supposition, it was fact.
Sometimes I think it still is. 😉
I thought about putting a picture of the Golden Gate bridge up above and decided against doing so because Tower bridge provides a spookier and more ethereal shot.
It better suits my mood.
San Francisco is a place I have spent a lot of time in and it has a lot of memories for me, especially of the time I spent with my uncle as a kid and twenty-something.
I could tell you about the time my uncle took my middle sister and I to a party in one of those old Victorian homes and how weird we thought it was.
Tell you about how when I think about that night now I wonder if it was as strange as we thought or it was just really different than what we were used to at 15 and 17.
It came happened just after my sister outed our uncle.
Ok, she didn’t really out him, she just asked if he was gay.
He laughed and said yes.
I remember being shocked. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that he might be but the moment he said yes all sorts of things snapped into place.
Memories of being seven and asking why there was only one bedroom and being told that he and his best friend only needed one for their sleep overs.
I never saw them be affectionate with each other so I had no reason at seven to think anything other than how cool it would be to have a place for sleep overs.
Twenty-Three Years Later
My uncle died twenty-three years ago which means it is probably closer to 24 years since the last time I saw him, give or take a few months.
We talked a little bit about my potentially moving to the city and whether I could afford to live there.
That was long before the real estate market went nuts there so it is kind of funny to think back about how I thought it was expensive then.
He offered to let me stay with him for a bit while I looked for a place.
Since I had visited him throughout college Noe Valley was familiar to me and I seriously thought about trying to make a go of it.
I never did do it and I can’t tell you there is one reason or another why.
A few years later I regularly flew out of Burbank into SFO for business meetings. There were some months where I went almost once a week and every time I would land I would think about my uncle and how sorry I was he wasn’t around any more.
In 2011 I interviewed for a few positions that would have required the family to move to the Bay Area. I would have worked in the city but lived in one of the suburbs…probably.
It all depended on whether they offered me a position that paid enough for his to be able to afford it.
Since the offers never came I never had to get serious about looking for one or got to investigate whether his jewelry shop still existed or if the owners would consider selling it to me.
Anyhoo, none of that happened and during crazy times like now I remind myself that my uncle was about 49.5 when he died and didn’t get to see whether Browning’s words are true or not.
Things may be a bit challenging now, but I am still here and that is worth a lot.
Mama They Tried To Break Me
Always liked that line, “mama they tried to break me” for challenging moments because it suggests they tried and failed.
When you are up against it you look for any and all angles to help get through that moment. Doesn’t matter if you are wrestling angels or dancing in the fire you just do what you must.
These days I have a long list of questions that I wish I could have asked my uncle. I think he would have had plenty to say and it would have been interesting to hear from another Wilner man.
But can’t go back so all I can do is push ahead and promise those who get in the way that it is not a good place to be.
Don’t have time or energy to argue, I can only steamroll past or go around if possible.
Got to just hang on a little bit longer and cross over.
Someone asked me what that meant and I smiled and said I would see them again on this side or the next.
They asked me if I was trying to say I was sick and I told them I don’t respond to people who don’t care if I live or die.
Probably was a little harsh, but I just don’t have the time or tolerance for nonsense now. It is a love me or hate me kind of moment, but give it time and things will return to normal, whatever the hell that means.
Hell, I might even put flowers in my hair, well, if I had any. 😉