By Morgan Hannah, Life & Style Editor
We stopped moments before the Golden Gate Bridge. I thought there was something wrong with the car, but Dave had a plan. He taped his phone to the front bumper of the car and started filming a video.
Off we went towards the bridge. We crested a small hill and were greeted by low-hanging clouds with tips of the red bridge peeking out of them. Sneaking in behind a school bus and evading the bridge toll was our first stroke of good luck. Followed soon after by a wrong turn that ended up taking us to an expensive residential area before we turned around and finally found our way to Lombard Street.
By the time we got back on track, the phone had died. Our perfect traveller’s video wasn’t a success, but I had my phone recording our twisty descent. Tourists and locals alike watched from the sides of the street as our Pontiac Sunfire we converted into a mobile home wound its way at a snail’s pace down the cobblestone drive.
From Lombard Street we drove down to the Fisherman’s Wharf, a dirty boardwalk full of cheap places to eat, buskers, and a group of people dancing on the street. Lost in its abnormality, I had honestly never seen anything so free as this before. Tourists and street performers danced, smiles across all their faces. I itched to join them.
Dave barely had time to park before I jumped out of the car with a scream of delight. The smells of trash and seawater floated through the air and I floated through all the happy moving bodies. Garbage bin lids smashed against each other to the tune of a boombox and maracas. This was music. I wanted to move and dance and laugh and scream, letting this moment that I knew would never happen again wash over me, like waves washing against the side of the ancient pier. And there was Dave, my new boyfriend, holding my phone high above his head, trying to capture us dancing. I was a blur of long, whipping brunette hair and polka dots. He was as stiff as a tall, white lamppost stuffed into a pair of jeans. We’d need to work on that.
That’s when I had first spotted them. The goddess of the pier, she was older, and for that I immediately loved her. I was aware of how naïve my thoughts were, but at 19 I didn’t care. I wanted to be just like her, to absorb the eyes of my partner as she did hers. He wore glasses and had a strong, square jaw. They were perfect together, their hands always touching as they both bent down in some sort of a Russian twist position. Then the leader of our tribe of street dancers and tourists called me over, and when he opened his mouth to ask me to scream for him, I didn’t hold back. I let all the building energy, all my joy spill out from my lips and into the crowd. And with a smile that grew deeper and deeper, he asked me to scream again, and again. I complied, happy to do so. And all around me, legs wrapped in fishnet, lips painted red, large golden hoops bouncing from ears, and open blazers revealing hairy, wet chests continued to move and groove to the natural sounds around us.
The Musée Mécanique is an antique museum on the Fisherman’s Warf run entirely by one-dollar bills. It had arm wrestling machines, photo booths, old arcade games, and fortune-tellers. The charm was as thick as the dust that layered everything in the large, circus-like tent. Dave and I only had a handful of dollar bills, but we were eager to stretch them as far as we could. We bought a couple of fortunes from an automated psychic and watched as they were printed out on aged paper from a typewriter. They were barely legible, but I could still read them. Mine had said: You should be a most interesting person. The combination of traits you possess makes you honest, truthful, and noble; gives you courage, energy, and strength. Balanced against these good qualities go the less desirable ones: cynicism, easy anger, and over-aggressiveness. Your success will depend on how you overcome the less good. I believed it all wholeheartedly and immediately as a devout Christian believes in God.
Walking past one of the photo booths, we ran into the short-haired couple from the pier dance party again. They introduced themselves as Mike and Amy, commenting on how full of energy and life we seemed, and how well I danced.
“Have you tried out the old fashioned black and grey ink booth? It takes the best photos,” Amy said. We admitted that we had run out of dollars when Mike handed me some.
“On me. Take some good ones,” Mike said with a wink and a thick Aussie accent. They ducked out of the museum, but not before accepting our offer of a drink at the nearby pier restaurant in an hour. With Mike and Amy gone, Dave and I slipped into the photo booth. It was a simple grey booth with a bench and a camera. I pulled at the black velvet curtain, concealing us inside.
Click—Dave was barely smiling, while I, as usual, beamed from ear to ear. Click—we shared a kiss, my hat hanging low across my face. Click—cheeky grins and twinkly eyes. Click—I jumped right out of the frame from Dave giving me a good poke in the side.
That roll of photos became the best souvenir I could ever ask for, thanks to our new friends.