Broke-Ass City: Where is the fog? Missing SF’s Great Grey Dame 

click to enlarge The absence of fog in San Francisco in recent years has conspicuously coincided with The City’s changing landscape. - MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/AP FILE PHOTO
  • Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP file photo
  • The absence of fog in San Francisco in recent years has conspicuously coincided with The City’s changing landscape.
The City shrouded in fog is what San Francisco looks like when she’s all dressed up. It’s her evening gown, and the way the lights of the tall buildings flicker mutedly through the cloud cover are her diamond earrings.

San Francisco is most beautiful this way — classic, mysterious, full of possibilities. Holding someone close while walking through the streets, it’s the thickness of the fog that makes you wonder if you’re falling in love with the person next to you, or just wrapped up in the romance that is San Francisco. The fog has always been one of the things that defines this city and the thing that sets her apart.

So it was weird that I was caught off guard on Monday by the fact that it was cold and foggy. It wasn’t until then that I realized we have been sorely lacking in fog lately. And by lately, I mean for a few years now. It’s an odd thing that, as The City has been embroiled in tumult and turmoil these past few years, the fog has rarely been seen.

At a time when the place around us is changing so rapidly that it rarely feels like home, it would be nice to have the fog to remind us where we are. And maybe, who we are. Being a San Franciscan just doesn’t seem as … San Franciscan without the fog to back us up. And maybe that’s just it, like a shitty friend, our Great Grey Dame decides not show up when we need her the most.

It used to be that the fog was the great decider. People would move to San Francisco, spend a couple years here and then leave saying, “I just need more sun.” The fog was what weeded out the people who got to live in one of the world’s greatest cities from the ones who just got to visit it. And that was OK. We’d grin as our friends packed up their U-Hauls knowing that they just didn’t have what it took to be San Franciscans. It was like San Francisco’s natural protection from those who just didn’t love The City like we did. If you can’t love her when she’s foggy, you don’t deserve her when she’s not.

But that’s all changed now, hasn’t it? Where is that damn fog? It’s strange to think that the only relationship those who’ve moved here in the past three or so years have with the fog is with Karl the Fog, the brilliant social media personality. To them the fog is a clever Twitter punch line or a pretty picture on Instagram. It’s not one of the things that defines the way The City looks and feels. It’s not what drifts by in the night and leaves its dewy breath on your bedroom window. It’s almost like a bit of folklore only seen in movies or heard about from those of who were here way back before things got to be like whatever they are now.

On Monday, we left my girlfriend’s place to go work in a cafe. It was cold, dreary and foggy. It was perfect. I told her, “Ah, yes! This feels like San Francisco!” and smiled while nestling my face into the space where her neck meets her shoulder.

“But it’s so cold,” she told me, wrapping her arm around mine as we walked down Market Street in the Castro, her not being used to the weather since she’s been here for just a year and a half.

“It’s supposed to be,” I told her, “because this is San Francisco and this weather is ours. And The City is too. Hopefully they both stay that way.”

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in The San Francisco Examiner.

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