John Tang

In the Presence of Something Great: SF Radio Tower

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 15, 2012

I was in the presence of something great. I once heard Mary Gaitskill explain as she recalled an undergraduate reading of Franz Kafka. Although she didn’t comprehend the text, she knew she was in the present of something great. The same could be said here. In the photos of Twins Peak (one side, mind you), I was in the present of something great although I didn’t understand its purpose then and there. The winds were harsh. The cold air stung my face. But the sun was there to keep my body warm as I climbed through tall bladed grass, red rocks, hard dirt, and yellow flowers.

If only I owned one of those neat cameras, that dramatizes the depth of the world, today would’ve been a good time to own one; so the photos to come are not rendered up to cinema’s standards. But nevertheless I had a good time walking on a side of San Francisco no one seemed to care for—especially tourist, students, and the saddest of them all, locals who lived here since their childhood. What a breath of wonder they had right in their backyards!

Just a warning to those who might hike there: I had the luxury to blaze the trail. You might find two hills that give you an overview of the city, from the Academy of Science’s clay rotundas to the bustle of Mission Street, from China Town to David’s Cross, but maybe your goal is to be under the Radio Tower. Well, you must trust me: Everything is connected. There is a trail or a street that connects San Francisco together; that’s one of its beauties. To get under the Radio Tower, you have to climb the guard rail close to the aqueduct—the one heavily fenced in with rusty barb wires—if you climb it, follow the cement path and you’ll be on the main street sooner or later that’ll then take you to the tower.

As I stood on the nameless hills, I despaired a little. I yearned to be in the presence of something great. I saw the Radio Tower crown the mountain, with its cross-like figure, red and white colors, the satellite dishes trimmed around the body as well as the head like a jeweled embroidery of a Russian tiara. How’d it be if I was underneath it? I wondered, as the winds brushed against my face, and I sat down on the slope. Even fellow travelers with their large backpacks backtracked when they gave up, saying to me: “If you want to get to the Radio Tower, you need to go back around. See, over there, is Sutro Heights, and the tower seems to have a mountain all to itself. From what I can tell, there isn’t a safe path. I thought I could finish over there, but as you can see, you can’t.” The young Japanese man continued on his way up the nameless hill, while I continued to stare at the tower and climb down the nameless hill. My goal was to finish the hike by touching the guard rails. At the guardrails, I then saw in the direction of the Radio Tower a cement paved way and a very narrow dirt trail. If I just jump the guard rail, I thought. Wonderlust filled my heart, and I jumped the guard rail and ran down the dirt trail. I found the main street, which spiraled upwards to the Radio Tower.

Don’t despair, have patience!


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