A big part of coming to San Francisco has been attempting to secure couches to sleep on while I am here. Up to about a week before I was to leave, I was at a complete loss as to where I would be staying during the length of the 25 days in San Francisco. Couchsurfer.org was inundated with requests, and all of the hostels were full. I was coming to a point where I was resolved to sleep in a hammock if I had to. Then, my bff sent out an email to her San Francisco peeps and I was saved by a very kind family who live around the Twin Peaks area. I knew the wife and mother, (Marcie), of the family unit through a former employer, but I had known her so long ago, and for such a short time in such a limited way, I had all but forgotten about her until she offered to help me out. Initially she had volunteered to meet with me to show me her San Francisco favorite place, but when I asked her to host me for a few days, she didn't hesitate to help. Staying with her family has been such a wonderful experience. They are the definition of hospitable, and it has been a joy to be around her children, even when they are shooting each other with silly string and making food for me which can best be described as "experimental".
When Marcie took me to her favorite San Francisco place, it ended up being outside the city in Saratoga, the little town It's a Wonderful Life was set in. The cheerfully sunny little town is a contradiction to the serious grey fog and hurried atmosphere of the streets of San Francisco. The specific area is in the hills where she and her husband were married, where her kids go to day camp, and Hakone, the Japanese Garden she took me to, is the place where the two went before they were married, before their kids came, and then, after they had children. It is a large garden, 18 acres, and is the oldest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.
Marcie gave me some background on the town and its weather cycles:
"Saratoga and Cupertino have historically had a large Japanese population. It is a hot mountain town, but it is strange because there is a rain forest not too far from here, and then Santa Cruz to the south, and the beach on the other side, so it gets wickedly hot over here. Usually, by the end of a day in August, I feel fatigued and sweaty, like I have been working in the fields. I am scorched when I walk out of the door of my office."
As we walk through the small town, I comment that it really is a perfect day, sunny, low 80's with a nice fragrant breeze blowing through. Marcie replies that this is a bit of a respite from every other year in Saratoga, which is good news to me as I get heat stroke and sun stroke quite easily. Marcie had also lived in Portland for a spell, and drew a similarity between the two places in its siren call to visitors.
"It's like Portland in that if you visit at the right time of the year, you might think it is like this all the time, which it is, really, it just gets so crazy hot in the summer."
Of course, in Portland, it is quite the opposite in that for about three months of the year it is like paradise and for the other nine months, it is grey, cold and quite damp if not outright soaking wet. On the plus side, it is a rare experience for me to have to worry about sun stroke or heat stroke there.
"I have memories of coming here with Michael,(her husband), before we had kids, and coming here with Emily to do the Mom-daughter yoga with her teacher and all our friends. I have pictures of Emily sitting in a lotus position next to this pond, pictures of her feeding the turtles. It has been a really nice place for our family. This Japanese Garden is cool because it is not in a Japanese-like climate as it is very warm and dry. The Garden was built a very long time ago, during old-school times, and this is why it has that quality to it, it is the oldest in the country."