My favorite part of San Francisco has a beach


During the long tail of the pandemic, I made a commitment to cycle like never before. I try to go out four or five times a week, and in September I hiked 130 miles around the entire bay in one day. I go to different places with different co-conspirators, but whether I drive around town or cross the bridge to Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands, I pass Langdon Court at least twice a week.

It’s like walking past a house you used to live in and where your friend always throws a great party. It’s especially satisfying en route to Marin as after the low, gradual curves along Washington Boulevard in the Presidio, Langdon is essentially the ridge. From this point you can walk to the stop sign at the next intersection, Merchant Road, and continue to Stinson or Sausalito. Once there, the adventure begins.

Maybe it’s because of all the times I’ve played hooky. Or when I was a barista working the first shift and could get there by noon – my shift is already over, but cycling my bike to Langdon Court still feels ripe with the same possibility. It’s beautiful there, but not quite pretty in the classic sense.

Photo: courtesy of the author

The parking lot is dusty and there is a lot of concrete. The low-slung proto-brutalist military installation is Battery Godfrey, a bunker that looks like a place to take refuge from radioactive fallout in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone or to shoot a music video for a band signed Matador. Built in 1895 and decommissioned during WWII, it is older than it looks. In addition to the Batteries to Bluffs Trail, you can see the Farallones Sea Teeth when the air quality is good. And you can hear the deep bass foghorn even on the clearest days.

The fog horns are meant to keep sailors away, but this one brings me closer to myself. It’s less like a siren (within the meaning of this alarm which sounds every Tuesday at noon) and more like a siren (these girls who made Ulysses sailors jump in the ocean and drown). I think about it a lot: shouldn’t such a loud and deep sound be terrifying, like the tripods in War of the Worlds? Instead, its timbre looks very warm. Technically speaking, its sound envelope lacks an “attack”. It’s a hypnotically pleasant sound.

Marshall’s Beach is the one beyond Ocean Beach, the one near the bridge, the “gay”. It’s such an implausible paradise that I almost can’t believe it: two optional stretches of sand for clothes at the foot of a semi-hiked cliff near the world’s most magnificent Art Deco bridge. I’m not much of a fan of the sexy beach shenanigans – a grain of sand, and we’re done – but I’m mesmerized by that frivolous and erotic homo maritime energy, the sound bathing in the foghorn and sunbathing. At the seaside.

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