We moved to California the summer before I started 8th grade. Our family was down to just three then, since my sister was out of the house and in the Air Force.
The move put us what felt like a world away from New York. Even in the suburbs, you still got the news from the city, and living there was like living in the center of the universe. There was always enough going on that an entire newscast could focus on the latest events in the five boroughs and the rest of the tri state area. If you heard about anyplace else in the country it was only because you stuck around to watch the syndicated news.
Compared to New York, the local news in California seemed like a joke. No murders? No robberies? No footage of Ed Koch ranting? The biggest news here was weather and earthquakes. For a long time, my parents had the New York Times delivered even though it wasn’t the local paper. We noted the differences between there and here. For a long time California didn’t feel like home. There was a lingering feeling that it was merely an extended vacation.
One summer, my aunt ventured out for a visit. She was getting into traveling and in the years since, she made plans and stuck with them. If she told you she was going to visit, it wasn’t lip service, it was a promise. We picked her up from the airport and gave her a tour of the house. This was the only person, besides my sister, who had gotten a glimpse into our past and present lives.
The highlight of the trip was to be our trip to San Francisco. My dad didn’t take time off from work, which meant that would have to wait until the weekend. In the meantime, Aunt Alice hung out with me and my mom in the house, perfectly content to be the pampered houseguest. When Saturday came, she got her camera bag and walking shoes and we all piled into the car.
“I’m going to see the Streets of San Francisco!” she said.
While navigating the city, we drove down a road so steep that required my dad to shift the car into second and then first gear. Every time we got out to walk somewhere, Aunt Alice would pull out her brand new video recorder to capture the sights and scenes. She loved cameras and photographs, but videos were an entirely new frontier. The camera rolled as we looked over the water at Alcatraz and when we marveled over the cars zigzagging down Lombard Street. We walked through the tunnel into Chinatown. We looked up at the TransAmerica building from the sidewalk below. We watched trolleys dropping off tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf and we saw Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.
Then we piled back into the car and drove home. My dad plugged Aunt Alice’s camera into the TV. She had gotten some decent footage, but every time we left one attraction to walk to another, she had forgotten to put the video camera on standby. As a result, the footage captured by her swinging arm included blurred sidewalks, moving feet and yes, the Streets of San Francisco.
RIP Aunt Alice!