Pacific Tides
My name is Thomas Sturm and I'm a programmer, photographer and writer.

Now go outside and look at the sky.

The Pulse of the City

Walking to work and home is some of the best time of my everyday life here in San Francisco. Our company moved offices last year and my commute has been drastically extended - from about 1.5 kilometers one-way to more than 3 kilometers one-way.

I now walk every day across Nob Hill, parts of Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill, with smaller parts of North Beach, Chinatown and Fishermen's Wharf thrown in. Yes, I know I am a lucky bastard. :-)

My walk usually takes about 45 minutes, and so for a total of about one and a half hours every day I can feel the pulse of the city.

The neighborhoods wake up every morning as the fog slowly moves off the hills as if the city is rolling back the night blanket for the day. House managers are hosing down the sidewalks, the garbage collectors methodically go along the blocks. There's people walking their dogs, jogging or going to work. With the first rays of the sun the old Victorians are splendid in their pastel colors.

Muni buses full of bleary workers roar across the hills, their warning beeps and mechanical announcements breaking the silence of the residential streets around Russian Hill.

The pigeons are usually still asleep along the edges of the roofs, while the seagulls circle near the Bay and the noisy swarms of parrots come over from Telegraph Hill for their morning trip to Russian Hill and beyond to the trees near the Marina. The sky clears up once the fog is gone, revealing the bluest of blue sky you can imagine. Life is good.

Then in the evenings on my way back up across the hills, San Francisco is aglow in the last light of the sun coming in across the Golden Gate Bridge. Everywhere in North Beach the restaurants and cafes are bustling with people, while a few blocks further up, Chinatown slowly comes to rest, with grocery stores clearing the sidewalks and metal shutters rattling down for the night.

When it is fully dark and the fog returns to the Bay, you can hear the fog horns all the way from the Golden Gate Bridge and nearer from Alcatraz, a sad booing sound that echoes across most of the city and can often even be heard near downtown. When I get to our doorstep it is often just about when the cold wind from the ocean reaches our area and it is time to stay warm indoors for the night.

I very much love this daily rhythm, and I've just found a website that shows you pretty well what I'm talking about: Hi-Def San Francisco is a very single-minded site - it's a live webcam from across the Bay in Sausolito that automatically creates a daily midnight-to-midnight time-lapse movie of the skyline of San Francisco where you can follow the daily cycle of our great city in about two minutes.

© 1998 - 2022 Thomas Sturm