Monday, June 10, 2013

Life, Death, and Ice Cream in San Francisco

I like old-timey things. So, I decided to combine two of them into one of my San Francisco discovery days last August. The first outing was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge -- not "old-timey" per se, but it is a historical landmark. I thought I may have missed the boat by picking a foggy day to do this touristy activity, but as I started to walk, I realized I had hit the jackpot. 

The bridge looked so beautiful with its painted red steel slowly emerging through the fog and shining where the sunlight hit it. I suppose I should have expected this, but the bridge was packed. Of course cars were zooming by, but there were also so many cyclists, walkers and joggers that day. That morning I had the romantic idea that I would have a peaceful walk across the bridge, but it just wasn't happening for me. 

I was quickly humbled about my petty problems when I noticed the pedestrian traffic backing up. We stood there for at least 30 minutes while the authorities attended to a jumper. It was a sobering moment when I saw a group of teary Christian teenagers huddled together in their college hoodies and jeans, praying out loud for the jumper's soul -- he hadn't made it. In that moment I felt pretty guilty about being on vacation, frolicking across this famous bridge. Even after the traffic cleared, I stood there for a moment, just thinking. Then, I kept walking, breathed deeply and felt grateful to be alive. After making it to the other side, I walked around the bend to Sausalito and sat down on some warm rocks facing the water. What a view. I counted my blessings. 

So, what do you do after you glimpse life and death through the fog and sunlight on the Golden Gate Bridge? You go get ice cream! 

I took the ferry back to the city and hopped on the BART back to my neck of the woods for the week, Cole Valley. I had heard about a great ice cream place down the street from where I was staying -- an old-timey ice cream place. I had to go there! Heavily themed as an old fashioned ice cream parlour, The Ice Cream Bar and Soda Fountain instantly brought me back in time to a more innocent, cheerful place. I felt like a kid again. 

I sidled up to the bar and asked the cute ice cream boys what flavour to get. After tasting a few samples, I settled on Bourbon Malt Peanut Butter Cookie. What a combination of flavours! It was the perfect antidote for a dramatic, foggy walk.  

But oh no, I didn't stop there! I spied the old fashioned soda foundation bar, so I decided that I just had to taste an ice cream soda for the first time in my life. Turns out it was not just any soda fountain bar, it was manned by Anne, the ladylike maker of tinctures and soda-based beverages who takes care of all your food science needs and does it with passion. Anne is a contributor to Mad Art Lab -- a group blog where art meets science. Here's a cool post she did about making your own fresh fruit shrubs for cocktails!

I decided to try The Valentina -- a mixture of fresh strawberries, rosewood and rosemary extracts, pineapple syrup, cream, and of course, soda. It was delicious and it made me feel a little bit like a 1950s teenager wearing a poodle skirt and saddle shoes. 

After slurping up my refreshing soda, I walked back to my place slowly and thought about the day I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and had an ice cream soda. My thoughts turned to the person who crossed over into another life that day and to his family and friends. A peaceful smile crossed my face, hoping that wherever he was, his pain was gone and he was somewhere, having his version of an ice cream sundae in the sky.

*Note: Suicide is not a topic to be taken lightly, and I hope this post does not reflect any insensitivity, as that is not my intention. My thoughts are with this person and their family and friends, and I wish them peace. If you or someone you know are in pain and contemplating suicide, please call your local Distress Centre for help, call a friend or family member or simply call 9-1-1.*

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