7:42 a.m.  Cloudy.  Passing through San Carlos.  Runner in red sweatshirt turning off the main road, the El Camino Real, and onto hilly side-road.  "Belmont  --  transfer point for 250, 252 Caltrain" (announcment over the intercom).  I look left.  "Belmont Hardware," gray letters above large facade windows.  This road goes uphill.  The houses are built against the hill, terrace-style, behind each other and behind the main row of random and small businesses.  Green light again.  Sound of the bell coming through.  We're at 42nd Avenue, San Mateo . . . . My travel partner sleeps on the solid-blue vinyl bench seat in front of me.  Doors open  --  the bus has stopped.  I look left again  ---  "San Mateo Investment Co. Real Estate," yellow square sign not too prominent.  Passed "The Pantry -- Breakfast -- Lunch -- Dinner" to the right.  Passed now a gargantuan Barnes and Noble, left of us.  Store still open for business (all the Borders stores near us recently closed).  Lots of glass in the multi-storied facade.  The low single-story plane of lengthy Hillsdale Shopping Centre follows the street, Macy's, Nordstrom's, et al.  I look to the left again (having for awhile focused my sight on my writing page):  "Peninsula Clock Shop -- Antique and Modern Clocks -- Sales -- Repairs -- Restorations -- (650)-345-2460" reads the hand-painted signage on the building front.  They even have a clock with Roman numerals, which reads 7:58 a.m.  Our stopped bus goes on.  My good friend sleeps.  It's a caterpillar bus; it rises in places as we follow the slight grade, still on the El Camino Real.  Under the shadowy underpass, and out again into the light we go, rather slowly.  People talk here and there.  The bus is filling.  The fare-box beeps again.  And footsteps come my way as I sit here, passenger and writer of the moment at hand. . . . .    
 
The sun comes out and shines on the wood-shingle face of a three-tiered apartment building.  Our bus takes on another passenger filling the box with coin after coin.  And a mighty and old row of towering tall and pealing Eucalyptus border the roadside.  And as we continue on, and as I look forward out the window-glass I see more of the group  --  the trunks swirl in vari-colored beige and brown peeling manes.  The umbrage is only at the top, higher than all the apartment buildings and a church and houses and others that find themselves here on the Old Real.  The road is rough.  The bus shakes and the roadway dips the two sections of the bus  --  we rise at times like a ship on a swell, and then down again as we point the way.  My legs shake, paper, everything and here we stop, for just a moment at the light  --  "Classic Cleaners," "Little Lucca."  The vista opens, the clouds (gray, dark gray) begin to separate.  And the sun casts shadows on this very paper.  "Walgreens" (automatic doors).  Here we are in the City of Milbrae, transfer point  --  facade looks like a prehistoric bird,  boarding platforms are on the second story.  I call it the pod  --  the departure points are placed around a circle; and the roof (the "wings") are literally raised off their pillars.

Style maven in burgundy-striped stockings and pointed-toed shoes with silver buckles at the ankles can't sit down  --  pretty full bus, going down 19th, past San Francisco State University.  Waiting at red light, and we resume, and stop.  Iron-grilled gate over residential door at my right.  The bus ascends and so the building fronts climb higher; most of the residences show only doors and garages and before them steep cement sidewalks.  "Flyers"  --  gas to the left.  We're on line 28.  Balconies beneath some large window-fronts, second level.  Stopped again.  And to the right and the left, hills, streets bent sharp-wise up (Flyers gas -- 3.85 for regular).  Most buildings are stucco, they're often white.  The grates which fence off doors and inter-house pathways often have elaborate iron- or metal-work.  Now:  steep stairs up the sides of some residences.  "Please hold on"  --  strategy recommended by recorded message; the seats here are unupholstered, brown slippery plastic.  Down some now.  We stop.  Muni train crosses paths with us ---- Still on 19th, passing Lincoln, lady with big pink tote boards and many others.  It's standing room only now.  Thicket of trees ahead, either side.  We pass through a pair of monumental gate-sculptures, and we turn, and turn again, and rise.  We are bounded now by everything natural.  The clouds persist.

My travel partner holds my extra bag for me, the striped one where I carry my writing sheets and pen.  We're now on "Park Presidio" (so reads the green sign to my left).  I look ahead.  The road dips first then rises.  and people around me lift themselves out of their cold seats to leave.  They stand and wait.  The bus pauses at Geary.  Speedy straightaway, and up: and briefly through the trees to my right I see sailboats.  There's the top of the Gate!  the Golden Gate! to my right, hidden in much fog.  There it is like a Business or a House, before us, looming.  There it is my friend.  We're out on foot, base of the Big Bridge.  Sailboats.  Lots of tourists in the cold.  My best friend next to me to the right.  [We see across the water] the little island of The City itself, for we're removed from it now.  My friend is patient while I record this.  People taking pictures.  We could walk [it] now if we wanted.  About to walk it.  My friend [looking over her shoulder] observes, we got to skip the toll!  I look down just a seond to see the green water below.

Wonderful plaque on the archway:  "The Golden Gate Bridge . . . ." construction began 1933, completed 1937.  The John A. Roebling's Sons Company completed the cables.  My friend reaches out over the rail and holds a vertical orange cable in her hand.  "This is what is holding us up . . . ."

This is our planet.  the boats are coming towards us and all the water.

My friend waved her arm open, I looked left:  out there is the inlet to the bay.  Beyond that is the whole Pacific world:  out there is Brisbane and Papua New Guinea, the Caroline Islands, the Marianas, and Hawaii . . . .

No name no history?  ---  I can feel the Presence of all those men of the 1930s who came before.  This is the grand scale.  the scale speaks, reaching out [as I look at the low valley of the span], how close it is and large and round, it is defined of men and people and here they are they speak and truly persist.

Here I approach the self of the world, as it was before the bridge.  It is o.k. to go back in time to just earth.  these are of course the headlands and they're covered in mist today.

Today our day the sea gull floats effortlessly through its whole life all across the sea.  Signed G. Claire this 6 Aug. 2011.
((All rights reserved by the author, G. Claire.))  ><  ><  ><  ><  ><  ><  ><  ><   

{Part II of Big City Research, Written by G. Claire, to come . . . . .}




      



 


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    Author

    G. Claire is a descendant of Welsh Immigrants who came to California during the time of "the Great Excitement," also known as the Gold Rush.  She is, in addition, a descendant of young Mayflower passenger Mary Allerton and of Thomas Cushman, an Elder of the Plymouth Church.  The author is proud to be descended from Silvanus Brown, a member of that most notorious group of Vermont mobsters known as The Green Mountain boys.

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