I have faint memories from my childhood of the dull intermittent blowing of a foghorn lulling me to sleep at night and nudging me awake on Saturday mornings. I grew up in the Outer Richmond district of San Francisco, just a 5 minute drive to the Golden Gate Bridge, and the foghorn would turn on as often as the fog rolled in, which was most evenings. Back then we didn’t have a name for the fog and we certainly didn’t assign it a gender. But I do remember it as a living, breathing creature, haunting me at night but a welcome friend when driving back into the city from a hot Summer day in the East Bay or Marin. I would get excited to see the thick layer of grey blanketing the Golden Gate Bridge while I sat in the back of the car heading south on 101 just outside Sausalito and roll down my window as we passed through the Waldo Tunnel, feverishly grasping at empty handfuls of mist.
In high school and college the fog smelled of eucalyptus and wet gravel and tasted of weed smoke and salt water. It kept us company while drinking 40s outside the Presidio Bowl and pissing out bonfires at Ocean Beach. It provided cover as my girlfriend and I would make out in the back of my car in whatever random parking lot we could find. And it sobered us back to reality at 7am as my friends and I exited Oakland warehouse raves and got back onto 880 for the drive home, the echoes of house and drum ‘n’ bass still pulsing in the back of our minds.
Throughout my life, the fog was a constant, regardless of season, creeping slowly over the hillsides of San Bruno and Daly City, blanketing Hwy 280 and making its way down to 101. It would fully encompass my car while driving along Skyline Blvd after dark, where the fog was so dense, I could barely see 20 feet past the hood. I’d look forward to getting lost in the soupy haze on the way up to Mt. Tam, where the road became almost unrecognizable the further I climbed, only to find myself suddenly near the peak, staring down at a sea of billowy grey stillness and feeling as if I was at the world’s edge. Through it all the fog was a familiar companion, purposefully obstructing my view from all directions as if to say, “Don’t dwell on the past. Stop looking toward the future. Relax and be present. You won’t have this moment again.”