A long walk on the cliffs above the foggy and foamy Pacific. Quiet and cool.
No one to talk with. Just DeeDee and me. Although we walk not three strides apart, both alone, in our own ways, with our thoughts.
Mine have been fierce and jumbled lately. Trying hard to make sense of things that may have no resolution. My hands are thrust deep into the pockets of my shorts. Head down. Eyes on the sand under my feet. Thinking unsettling thoughts.
But then DeeDee and I both look up, hearing the unmistakable whoosh of birds above, just in time to see a ruler-perfect “V” of pelicans gliding past. I can’t take my eyes off them and my feet stop dead.
The sound of the wind and the crashing waves give me a moment of peace. I give a silent thanks for the moment.
The morning didn’t start auspiciously. Another driver, distracted by a brilliantly beautiful person running down Dolores, turned in front of me with neither look nor signal. I swerved to avoid him but nearly took out a streetsign to do it. When I’m behind the wheel, my spouse calls me Mario (after racing legend Mario Andretti) for a reason.
Disaster averted, I took my canine pal, DeeDee, to Fort Funston, built in the late 1930s as an artillery battery to protect San Francisco Bay from Japanese invasion, now a dog park and hang glider takeoff spot. It’s one of the few safe places the city’s dog owners can let their dogs run offleash and free, and a wonderful place to enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. [Great ocean views were once critical, I understand, for artillery batteries.]
Not a cloud in the sky, the sun was warm, the breeze off the Pacific refreshing. A glorious first day of summer, the so-called longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
We, my spouse and I, once visited the Orkneys, islands north of Scotland, during the summer. Even after midnight, it never got truly dark. As I waxed poetic about the islands’ stunning beauty, a native reminded me that, 6 months from then, in the dead of winter, it would never be truly light; the sun doesn’t really rise, the place stays in perpetual twilight.
Yeah, thanks anyway. I believe I’ll just stay right where I am, closer to the Equator.
There was a time when Americans seriously prepared for a Japanese invasion of the West Coast. We can look back at that time with a sort of ironic amusement, I guess, but the truth is our war planners weren’t being completely paranoid; as we discovered many years after the Second World War, Japan did have plans for military action against California and did, in fact attack American Alaska.
So, starting in the late 1930s, the War Department constructed a series of artillery bases on the coast, several clustered around the Golden Gate: Battery Townsley, Battery Chamberlin, Battery Davis, and so on.
Here’s Battery Chamberlin, above what is now Baker Beach.
Battery Davis, during its working life:
And Battery Davis as it looks today:
Long since decommissioned and allowed to fall into disrepair, the artillery batteries that ring the entrance to the Golden Gate are now just crumbling curiosities. People mostly visit Fort Funston, the location of Battery Davis, to walk their dogs off-leash in a beautiful, open natural setting. Most visitors have no idea what these decrepit tunnels were originally constructed for, nor the enormous (but now welded-shut) underground vaults near them.
Probably just as well. These are now places to walk with best friends, smell the ocean (or occasional beach bonfire), appreciate the views, get some fresh air and quiet away from the city’s tumult, not to watch and wait for invasions. Thank God.
I hope you get some peaceful time with your best friend soon.