Tag Archives: san francisco

on a muggy day

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events lay heavy

on a muggy day

all my stuff is dusty and dirty

everything is out of place

my precious love on layaway

on a muggy day

hard to say

hard to care

the world struggles beneath it’s own weight

hard to even muster

when the day has lost it’s luster

and has become a faded photograph

stubbornly refusing to die

there’s no reason to this
no why

because a muggy day

makes no sense

it’s feels murky, grimy

I feel like washing my face

get me out of this place

where the air can choke you

and your eyes are filled with sand

a muggy day like this

is impossible to understand

It’s a brand new day today

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It’s a brand new day today

The sun is shining brightly

I can breath today

I can hold my cat on my lap

As Billie Holliday sings

Tapping at my computer

Happy once again

Can’t account for it

The world is still what it is

Death has been working overtime

And catastrophe just a few steps away

From my door

Still here I sit feeling a deep well of compassion

Beneath the blood-stained Earth

Every day someone falls in love

And new life begins

It’s a brand new day today

Anything can happen

Let’s make it happy

Let’s make it good

A Foggy Day in San Francisco

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I like fog. I like the way it makes me feel. I love San Francisco, and the city is given a sense of mystery when enshrouded in fog. When I arrived for work this morning the Golden Gate Bridge was completely covered in fog. The fog moved across the ground like an ephemeral animal seeking it’s prey. You can smell the fog and it has a unique flavor. A foggy day enhances my senses and makes me feel more alive. I don’t mind it at all. By contrast, although I love sunny warm days because it means beautiful women tend to wear less clothes, I don’t like the way it saps all of my energy causing me to just lie around and sweat. I am certain I would like Scotland and other foggy climates. Many of my ancestors were Scots, and I can easily imagine these hardy souls freezing their asses off just for the thrill of it, standing above some fog filled crevice.

We live in such a beautiful world and don’t stop to appreciate it often enough. Ever since my eyes have been restored (actually better than just restored, my eyesight with my new glasses is 20/20 and close to that without glasses) I can see things that touch my soul in little ways. I can’t necessarily explain it, but it bares close resemblance to wasabi. I think that is the right word. This is a taoist concept of when something is perfect just as it is, in perfect balance and harmony. At times I can see wasabi in all kinds of unexpected places. But the tao puts on an especially lovely and intriguing coat on a foggy day.

There is a freshness in the air on a foggy day, and even though it isn’t comfortable I rejoice in my uncomfortableness. I am alive. I play a part in this beautiful play of existence. It seems that everyone and everything has it’s part. I still can see the squalor and sad urban decay both animate and inanimate, but I view it from a different perspective. I marveled at the sight of the little black birds picking their way through the tasty goodies hidden in the grass at Fort Mason while humans frolicked nearby. Each species absorbed in it’s own agenda, and beautiful in it’s own way.

This is why people sometimes seem unaccountably cheerful on foggy days. Even though it is chilly, the world has taken on an eerie, inexplicable quality which excites their imaginations. Or, at least, that is what it does to me. I am reminded of the tourist I saw. He was laughing and taking a picture of where the Golden Gate Bridge would have been if it were not for the fog. He was delighted with this trick played by nature, and decided to get even by snapping his photo anyway. I am often struck by the hardiness of tourists who come out to see the Golden Gate Bridge and are wearing shorts and no jacket expecting warm weather. They are tough, they enjoy themselves anyway. This says something about the human spirit, it’s tenacity in the face of adversity.

I feel like I am in the middle of a really good novel when I walk about on a foggy day. This is the cinematic backdrop to this drama called my life. I have always absorbed the texture and the mood of any place I have lived and San Francisco offers a rich antique, and yet very up to the minute contemporary texture and mood which is enhanced on a foggy day.

It Can Be Done

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Limitless opportunity in an unshackled universe

It can be done

Present the ideas that will never fly

It can be done

Dance in some new crazy sexy way

It can be done

Don’t wait for opinion or you will lose your nerve

It can be done

Blow up the carcass of your belief

It can be done

Put your plans in motion

It can be done

Cause the clockwork to pause

and reset the time

It can be done

This poem was inspired by a paperweight model of one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge, which you see above. The Golden Gate Bridge, for me, represents audacious daring. Taking a crazy idea which many people said at the time would not fly, and making it not only fly but become an icon for the American spirit of unshackled innovation and exquisite beauty. You can purchase the model at the new Bridge Pavilion, next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

What’s Up With Muni?

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This post is for my fellow San Franciscans. The one question all of us have in common here in SF is “What’s up with Muni?” Muni is our primary public transit, and everybody hates it. That is not an exaggeration. Even Muni employees hate Muni, but then most Muni employees hate pretty much everything. Which is much of the problem. I ride Muni to and from work and I am constantly reminded of how rude and hateful most of the Muni drivers are. This happens without provocation. I am perfectly cheerful and board the bus and slip in my two bucks, and the driver treats me like absolute shit. Because I exist. These people have no business dealing with the general public, they should be in the back of some warehouse where they can be as hateful as they want with only a few people having to deal with it. I used to cut these drivers some slack because I have seen some incredibly rude and obnoxious people on Muni buses, and so those drivers have to deal with a lot of nonsense every day which is enough to make anybody cranky. However, the rudeness I have seen lately has no rationale. No one treats them badly, and yet they act as if their patrons are the scum of the earth. They can’t stand to answer questions of any kind, and are especially rude to tourists. Language barriers can be frustrating but the Muni drivers only make a frustrating situation much worse. Many times I have helped people get to where they need to go because the Muni driver couldn’t be bothered. I do want to point out an exception to this however. The driver of the number 28 bus to Daly City, which stops at the Golden Gate Bridge, on Wednesday mornings, is a nice, considerate, friendly, enjoyable driver. I wish I knew her name. She is a rarity however. The other drivers tend to be very aloof, unfriendly, or down right rude and offensive.

Why has this problem persisted? Why can’t Muni get it’s act together? The Muni drivers are among the best paid workers in SF, and yet to listen to them you would think they were poverty stricken. Their culture is one of them against the public and even the company they work for. They are the poor maligned Muni drivers who don’t deserve to be hated by the people of San Francisco. Don’t believe it for a second. What they deserve is better training, and the loss of the job they seem to hate so much when they insist on being rude to their patrons. There is no excuse for the behavior I witness daily. I used to think the people that worked at the post office were bad, or the social workers that deal with the unemployed were rude, but Muni is the absolute worst. What causes some people to get to the point where they despise every human being they encounter? I can understand occasional grumpiness etc. but this is a disease. The Muni virus, and I don’t want to catch it!!!

My Life in HD

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The view toward Alcatraz as I can see it today. In fact this photo isn't as detailed as my present vision.

I never thought that a simple trip to Safeway could be so enjoyable! I could see every detail of every automobile, every sign, every person, stood out in vivid detail. This was my life in HD. All because of a simple lens inserted into my eye, and the removal of those pesky cataracts which had given me a blurry existence for several years. Those cataracts very likely cost me my job, and this time around I had no intention of allowing them to cost me another job. As I type this on a very white screen, I see ‘floaters’, little scraps of eye-stuff floating around inside my eye. They were there before the surgery, and there doesn’t seem to be more of them, so I am not very worried. Also my retina got checked out yesterday and it looked fine. Still, floaters make me nervous. The white screen makes them very visible. But back to the good news!!! I can see at a distance with almost perfect clarity. I can return to my walks throughout San Francisco, enjoying the scenery and the buildings, like I used to do! In fact, I can see better than at any other time in my life. My vision without glasses, as far as distant vision is concerned, is better than when I had glasses and hadn’t yet developed cataracts. I call it HD, high definition, vision, because it reminds me of the way HD television is overwhelming at first, providing the brain with too much detail.

I am primarily a visual person. I enjoy music and the sounds of nature and even the urban cacophony doesn’t bother me. But the look of things, the architecture, the beautiful women, the lovely landscape, the ocean. I relish everything I see. It was a profound disappointment not to be able to see clearly. It made me inward, more serious, and a bit depressed. Now, I am having to deal with some delicate adjustments associated with the healing process, but I am also thrilled with my new found cornucopia of visual delights. I want to check out everything! Go back out to Alcatraz, take a stroll through Pacific Heights and ogle the mansions, and just take in everyday things in a new way.

I am reminded of how delicate we are as physical beings. A simple blow to the head could cause my retina to detach, leading to almost instant blindness. My heart is dependent upon the stints in my primary artery to the heart. I depend on medications to regulate my blood pressure and cholesterol. We are fragile beings. I do try to be careful, but at the same time, you have to live your life. I can’t just hunker down and live my life in fear of mishap. Life is risk, as I coldly advised myself before this surgery. You have to deal with it, whatever cards are dealt. Someday I will face other health crises, and someday my physical journey will reach it’s end. I will cope as best I can. I am adjusting to my new situation, the inconveniences and worries that accompany the healing process, and the thrill of having my sight restored. With each thing that happens, adjustments occur, even after death. With each adjustment there is fear, uncertainty, a deep dark chasm of the unknown. We each enter this place by ourselves. We can do so courageously or kicking and screaming the whole way. Either choice is a learning process.

 

Compare this post to this past one: MY LIFE IN 2-D

looking towards alcatraz, as I see it.

I had a good morning. I paid off my rent, thanks to the help of friends, one of which I ran into as I stood in line at Wells Fargo.  She looked cute in her stylish hat. It is nice to have friends.

But enough sunshine and daisies, I had wanted to bitch on this post so here goes. I love San Francisco. I came here partly because of it’s unique beauty, and now I can’t really see it! My vision is shot to hell. I don’t care if prospective employers see this, they would figure it out soon enough. I can still do a job. I’ve learned how to compensate. I am still a wise investment. I’ve got a brain and I know how…..Ok Ok!! I’ll stop trying to sell myself. But, anyhow, as I walked down Polk St. to the bay, checking for help wanted signs, and other places where I might work, I was unable to enjoy the city I love. No more 3-D. My life is now in 2-D. Not literally of course, but that is how it feels. Out of focus, with a bit of double vision. I gaze out on the bay at fuzzy dots. Are those boats? It is more than enough to make a cheerful guy like me pretty grumpy.

My life is flat and dull. I don’t have all those sharp edges anymore. It isn’t just because of the cataracts. My brain is dull as well. I have come to accept a lot of things that used to drive me up the wall, or leave me in a deep depression. I thought I would never get used to losing my sight in my left eye. But I did. I accepted that fifty percent of life would be shrouded in darkness. I simply lived my life to the right. There is no left as far as I am concerned. (and I think the same is true of Barack Obama). Unfortunately, when I first began living my life on the right, I was still driving. I almost side swiped another car on the interstate. I was unbelievably close! The other guy’s eyes were so wide! Scared the shit out of me! That guy was living his life on the right and left. So I gave up driving. Once in a while I accidentally ran into somebody. I mean, I literally ran into them. They look at me like I am a total jerk, and it usually doesn’t do any good to explain. I was in the wrong. Even though my left is in darkness, it is still there, and I have to take it into consideration.

The uncertainty and fear I feel could be considered a part of that dark left side of my life. Rather than let it lie in darkness I need to bring it over to the right, so it doesn’t just fester, grow mold and poison me. Awful things can happen in the dark.

So even though I live in a 2-D world, it could be worse. How about 0-D? So I carry on. At some point I will likely get an operation to remove my cataracts, even though I risk total blindness. Seeing well was an important part of my life. I want it to be again. Otherwise all those beautiful sights in San Francisco are going to waste!!

The SF Armory

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From sfarmory.com The Armory as it appeared in the 1920's

In keeping with the post on the Golden Gate Bridge, I am posting about the SF Armory in light of the fact that I applied for a job as a tour guide. The Armory cannot and does not escape your attention as you walk down Mission or Valencia Streets. It is huge! It is a fortress out of a fairy tale. It looks dark and forbidding. You can only guess at the dark goings-on within those walls.  It was built in 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, as a home for the National Guard. Not only was this a place to keep the massive naval guns, horses, and other ordinance, it had a splendid drill court where the men could practice close-order drill. But times changed and the needs for the armory changed with it. It became a place for the guard to relax, use the swimming pool. This huge, well equipped facility was an excellent recruiting tool for the Guard. In the thirties and forties it was used for dances and prize fights. It was even regarded as the Madison Square Garden of the West. However, after the Second World War and Korean conflicts, the National Guard saw a need for a modern armory, with more parking and a more suitable design for modern needs. However, plans to tear down the structure were fiercely resisted by the local people of the Mission. They succeeded in having the Armory granted landmark status in 1978. Although George Lucas used the drill court for some scenes in the first Star Wars movie, plans to convert the armory into a film studio fell through.  It seemed that no one could think of a good use for the massive structure, and in 1980 it was declared surplus property by San Francisco, and put up for sale. However various ideas over the years fell through. The cost of seismic refitting, and other renovations needed to bring the building up to code was too formidable for prospective buyers. At one point, someone considered using the building to house servers for the internet. There is a vision of Big Brother for you, computer servers buzzing away within a dark forbidding fortress. But that didn’t happen. Instead the building remained unused until 2007 when Armory Studios, LLC purchased the armory. It became the film studio, and office space for Kink.com, where the work is literally cutting edge. This website offers very high quality, high definition, video of some the most extreme sadomasochistic sexual fantasies you can find on the net. Needless to say, this has been the source of controversy. The armory was picketed by those who opposed this use, and didn’t want a porno film studio in their neighborhood. However, unlike the Power Exchange, which had operated at a location not far away from the armory for many years, this was not a sex club with patrons hanging about the entrance late at night. This was a professional studio and not a magnet for crime of any sort. Unless of course you consider the creation of pornography a crime in itself. Which I don’t. The Armory has had a colorful, eventful history. Personally, I would love to see it used for public events as well as a studio. I suspect Kink.com could find a way to do this if it so desired.

Blurry (just another day in San Francisco)

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SF General Hospital, my home away from home. Notice how they have a heart out front so you think it's a fun place? (I don't think it's there anymore. At least I didn't notice it. But then, I can't see!)

My eyes are just now starting to adjust. I went to an opthamologist at SF General Hospital and had my one good eye dilated. He was checking my cataracts to see if they could be safely removed surgically. There is always risk involved in such an operation, and in my case that risk would involve possible blindness. However, the doctor seemed to think the chances were one in a hundred of there being a problem. Also, now is the best time to get them removed, and my eyesight would come out better than ever. I wouldn’t even need glasses except possibly for reading, he said. That sounds pretty good, considering that right now pretty much everything is blurry in my life. I have to lean in close to the computer screen to type which is hard on my back. People’s faces are blurry. It makes it hard to keep a job, so if I can get this handled, all the better.

I suspect a lot of my readers are familiar with the dull disrespectful drill involved in visits to a public hospital, which is the only recourse for someone unemployed and dependent on public assistance for his/her health. It involves being herded around like cattle into and out of rooms and hallways, and made to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait and wait a very long time. My appointment was at 2pm and I got home at 5:20pm. Actually that’s not so bad, it felt like six hours. Some poor soul was still waiting his turn when I left. It wouldn’t be as bad if it weren’t for the disrespect. The doctor was fine, but the nurses were short tempered and treated you like just another body to deal with. I understand the work is stressful. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. A lot of people complain endlessly about the wait, which gets on everyone’s nerves. Going to the doctor can be kind of stressful even without all that additional nonsense. But it can’t be avoided. Too many people, too little facilities, too few staff, and you end up with tired, pissed off people all the way around.

And so, hopefully in about three months I will be cataract free, although I may not have an apartment to go home to. I will be able to see my plight more clearly than before. But maybe not. Perhaps something will come through. If I get a job,I could explain that I am getting an operation soon to get my eyesight back. I gotta think positively, right? But that stuff they use to dilate your eyes gives you a major headache, or maybe that is from the stress on the eyes. I hate it, and the checking out was no picnic either, ‘Look right! Look left! Look up! Look down! Really look down!’ and it hurts! My eye doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing and I’m trying to give it the right instructions, but it’s tired and wants to go home. So I’m not looking forward to that drill again. What a whiner I am! There are certainly worse visits to the doctor. Now when you have the money to go to one of those fancy joints you get the friendly nurses who make the whole thing a lot more bearable. That’s my goal, to go to the fancy doctor’s with the cute and friendly nurses. Especially if I need to get my prostrate checked.

Oh, and another thing! The Rain. We need it here in San Francisco, and we got it. It wouldn’t have been bad walking in it except the wind made trying to use an umbrella just plain silly. So I just got wet. So now I will get a cold just in time for when I may be starting a new job, if in fact I get the job (I should find out this week). So let’s see, any other grumpy old man stuff I can lay on you? I was looking forward to working on my blog tonight, but my vision is still a bit blurry, I have a headache, so maybe this will be my only contribution on this blessed thirteenth of March.  I want to thank the people that take the time to read my blogs. I appreciate it. I try my best to check out your work as well. I am seriously thinking of trying to do some Flash animation to depict …..oh I shouldn’t give it away. I am going to try to use even more ways to bring my fiction alive. Perhaps some music as well, if I can get the hang of Garage Band on my Mac. I have a lot of stuff I want to blog about, although if I land a job I won’t have as much energy to devote to it, I suspect. I am so so old. You have no idea how old I am. I can barely see, barely move my fingers, my back is screaming in pain,  I can’t walk too well, and the bathroom is horror incarnate. I am 58 but I feel 75. I may die soon. Seriously!

No, not seriously. I made all that up, except for my age and the part about the bathroom. Actually horror incarnate doesn’t even begin to describe the terror. Right now, as I’m writing this I feel about thirty years old. Sometimes I feel younger and dance around my apartment like a complete idiot. (where did we get this idea that idiots dance? Or do anything? True idiots don’t do much of anything except drool.) Other times I feel old, about 63 or so. Other times I feel exactly my age.

I wish Stock Photo Woman could have been there with me, at the hospital today. Then the wait wouldn’t have been so bad. Oh, wait, she is with me at the hospital in my fictional world, isn’t she?

Palace of Fine Arts

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A little piece of heaven

I got such a nice response to my post about the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought I would post something about another of my favorite places in San Francisco. The Palace of Fine Arts was part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, and is the only part of that exposition standing in it’s original location. The Palace was rebuilt in 1965, and generally spruced up and retrofitted in 2009. It is a little piece of heaven in the middle of a busy urban environment. I used to love to sit on the bench in front of the lagoon, after a long walk down Embarcadero, checking out the piers, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Fort Mason. I’d watch the ducks dive for fish, their little rumps comically sticking out of the water. The Palace of Fine Arts gives a visitor a sense of what it may have been like on a beautiful summer day in Greece or Sicily in 500 bc. It is an archetypal place brought to life! I notice how people tend to lower their voices or remain silent when they are walking about the grounds, careful not to disturb the serenity.

It is refreshing to discover a place whose only function is to bring pleasure to the senses. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck as a fictional ancient milieu. There were originally ten palaces, representing various human endeavors, education, agriculture, manufacturing. They were designed to be temporary, and the Palace of Fine Arts had to be made into a more durable structure. Originally wood, plaster, and burlap, it was completely redone in light weight concrete. The Exhibition Hall has been used for various purposes over the years. During the Depression it exhibited WPA artists’s works, during WW II it housed trucks and jeeps. It has held telephone books, limos for statesmen, and been the headquarters of the fire dept. I love the sculptures which depict Contemplation, Wonderment, and Meditation. They are typical of the neo-Classical style current in the early twentieth century. They fulfill their function admirably. When you visit this place you are left in wonderment, meditate upon it’s meaning, and sit in silent contemplation of it’s beauty.

  One of the things I love most about San Francisco is it’s love of unique beauty. It preserved the lovely Victorian homes and ornate buildings of yesterday, because it saw it’s value. It is one of the special thrills of San Francisco to walk it’s streets and take in the endless variety of architectural treasures which fill this city. I could post many more stories and photos to document this fact, and I plan to. I love the fabulous statues and gargoyles which grace many of the buildings downtown. I love the intricate art deco designs of many of the older skyscrapers. Much of modern architecture leaves me cold, and San Francisco has it’s share of that. Fortunately, this city is primarily a living museum. I live in a studio apartment which was built in 1907 following the earthquake, to house the Chinese workers who did so much to rebuild this city. I found the date embossed into the iron frame of my murphy bed, 1907. It was a thrill to be living in the midst of history. This is a special city. If my efforts threaten to overtake this blog, I will create a new blog devoted to San Francisco. Think of russell5087 as a nursery, where ideas take shape and find there own home in other blogs I create. Thanks for the great response to The Golden Gate, hope you like this post just as much!

The Golden Gate

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My City of Dreams Beckons Beyond The Golden Gate

Tomorrow I have a job interview with the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy. They need someone to manage their gift shop, where they sell hats, coffee mugs, books, posters, you name it, all in celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary. A new refurbished gift shop will be opening in April, and so they are in the process of hiring. For now, all these gift items can be purchased online, at http://www.goldengatebridgestore.org/store/ I have a strong retail background, but also know there will be considerable competition. Such is life. It would be fun to work there, though. The Golden Gate Bridge was one of the first things I checked out when I came here many years ago, and it did not disappoint. It stood there, in the bright sunshine, like a lady in red inviting us all into her boudoir. It is ironic that this magnificent bridge, which always lifts my spirits any time I glimpse it from a distance as I move about San Francisco, is also one of the primary places to commit suicide. Given that it feels like a portal to another world, I guess that’s appropriate.

She stands there like a lady in red inviting us into her boudoir

Construction began on January 5, 1933. Herbert Hoover was finishing out his last days in office. Automobiles had become the primary mode of transportation in America, and Highway 1 could promise breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. However, the route was interrupted in San Francisco. Clearly bridges were needed on both sides of the bay. And so both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges were built. They were a symbol of the modern era of freeways and a sign that San Francisco was no longer the rough and ready home of pirates and prospectors, but a modern, hip city, festooned in fancy Art Deco skyscrapers. The Golden Gate Bridge was the ultimate Art Deco icon. The people of San Francisco persuaded the architect, Irving Morrow, to leave the International Orange color of the sealant he had been using, and paint the entire bridge that color. It actually seems more red than orange to my eyes, and what could be more appropriate for San Francisco? Brazen. Bold. and Sexy. The bridge was completed in April 1937. Franklin Roosevelt was busy trying to lift us out of the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler had come to power and was rearming Germany at a breakneck pace. A civil war had begun in Spain. Japan was on the move in Manchuria and was at war with China. The bridge came into being in a dark time, as a beacon of better times ahead.

The Golden Gate Bridge sported the latest in suspension technology, enabling it to withstand strong winds. At 4,200 feet, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, until 1964. Today eight other bridges are longer. However, it still remains the second longest in the US, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City being the longest. I recall with pleasure the several times I walked the length of the bridge, gazing at San Francisco to my right, and the endless Pacific to my left. San Francisco, from a distance, appears like a imaginary city in a child’s book. A place where wonderful things happen. Is it really a coincidence that both Dorothy’s slippers and the Golden Gate are red? I am sure that I saw the Bridge with a child’s eyes on that sunny day so long ago, when San Francisco was an adventure, instead of a familiar and rather unadventurous home.

The Golden Gate Bridge has had more suicides than any other bridge in the world. Eric Steel captured 23 of them for his documentary The Bridge. We know the statistics, but it doesn’t really tell the story. San Francisco has a harsh beauty, unforgiving. The wild waves crashing along the ragged coastline speaks of a natural world filled with violence. A human being can seem very small. The views are awe-inspiring and beautiful but it has a bit of an edge to it. Another reason the bridge is red. It feels right somehow to leap to your death from the symbol of dreams, when your own dreams have been dashed. But this is sheer speculation. I do not encourage anyone to take that step. It is not a quick and easy death. Those who survived the leap can tell you about the agony and the cold and the fear. This is not a fun, romantic way to die. And so the Golden Gate frightens and thrills me at the same time.