I was born in San Francisco, 1937. During my many and lengthy travels away from the city by the bay, I fondly remembered the murmurs, moans and whistles of foghorns in the morning, and the sight of the gently rounded pair of hills, Twin Peaks, in the middle of the city. In an apocryphal tale, possibly by Herb Caen, it is told that the Spanish settlers called them the breasts of the virgin.
After living and working in Los Angeles for four years I got a job in Modesto, in the Great Central Valley, less than two hours by car from San Francisco. I waited until my wife and I had settled in our new home before we made the first trip in some years to visit my home town; the year was 1975.
As we broached the final pass over the ranges of hills separating the Valley from the City, I eagerly scanned the horizon for the beloved hills. There they were, poised above the fog—but I was stricken with horror!
Dwarfing everything on the skyline was an immense steel structure standing tall, rigid and ugly on Mt. Sutro, next to Twin Peaks, its three towers standing far above the peaks of the hills. It interrupted and obliterated the contour of the gentle ridge, overpowering it and diminishing its hills into insignificance.
I was in a state of disbelief, then anger and anguish as I realized and was forced to accept that the Great God Television had commanded the city fathers and mothers to erect this excrescence without regard to the beauty it destroyed.
I fell out of love with San Francisco, my anchor in the physical world since I began traveling away, back, and away again since age nine.
I no longer vest my soul in any one geographical setting. It isn’t a particular hill or mountain, or forest or seashore I love, it is any of them I may visit.
But I have made an exception for that place named Alaska, where I have lived for eight winters. I have allowed myself to believe it is too vast and too harsh for man to destroy its primitive beauty, at least in my lifetime.
I return to find
The old place now imperfect.
What did I expect?