Saturday mid-morning, I slip on my sunglasses and drive out to the marina in Sausalito. The sky is a bright, vivid, pulsing blue, made to order for the 2007 Air Show. I arrive before my friends, so I grab a cappuccino and wander around, smiling at names like Sea You Around! and Fear Knot.
The reflections in the water trigger the ghost of an old memory, and at first I can't quite call it up. Then it occurs to me: about six years ago, I agreed to help an up-and-coming "artist" curate and promote her photography show. Her "portfolio" consisted mainly of digital photographs of boats reflected on water. She printed them out on her LaserJet, using high-gloss paper. The images were pixelated around the edges, and the paper wrinkled if you so much as glanced at it.
Staring into the water at the marina, I remember sifting through stacks of these glossy reflections, trying to determine which were the "best" of the lot while she huddled in the back of her apartment-slash-studio, clutching a cigarette and cursing into her telephone. A couple of hours before her opening show, she ran to the local art store to buy the cheapest frames she could find, slapped the photos inside and stuck price tags on them.
Wherever you are, I think to myself, I hope you've gotten better at photography or have switched careers.
We climb into the boat, and everyone finds a seat. We're off.
Diet Coke: the preferred beverage of sea captains everywhere.
I never get tired of the Golden Gate Bridge. I adore her from every angle. Including this one.
We slide beneath her, and head out into the curve of the Bay, just in time for the show.
I've always wanted to watch the air show from the water, and now I know why. It's just better out here.
This is Team Oracle, flying cherry-red planes that twist and spin like toys, making elaborate curlicues in the sky.
After the Oracle crew flies away, the squiggly marks soften and sag, slowly melting into the blue.
We stretch our legs and take a spin around Alcatraz, breathing in the salty mist. The sky is void, a cobalt screen of nothingness. We speculate about the Blue Angels, wondering how they psych themselves up before the big debut.
A huge cargo plane lumbers over our heads. Cool.
Next up are the Patriots, shiny black needle-nosed jets trailing colored smoke. The smoke is supposed to be red, white, and blue, but from my vantage point, it looks more like pink, yellow and turquoise. That's okay; they've got skills.
We're loving their feisty spirit as they fly in perfect formation, but they must know that we're saving ourselves.
Finally, the sky parts. A low rumble ripples through the air.
The Blue Angels fly into view, flexing their muscular wing tips, and a collective shout goes up from the boats scattered across the Bay.
They're big. They're bad. Slick and shiny, blue and yellow, they all but roar: WHO'S YOUR DADDY?!
They slice through the air with effortless grace, twisting, spinning, diving, looping. They're bold, confident, tight, focused. They fly in formation, then break apart, swooping low over the city, darting across the skyline. The air around us vibrates; our insides quiver.
"Jet fighter pilots probably don't have sex," one of my friends speculates. "How could it possibly measure up after you've flown one of these planes?"
The rest of us nod in solemn agreement, heads tipped back, riveted by the spectacle.
I love the air show. Chris Daly can bite me.
Just because we can, we head over to the other side of the Bay to watch the Angels fly over Tiburon.
They look good against every backdrop.
I wonder what they're thinking about up there?
All too soon, it's over.
A picture-perfect day in a picture-perfect city.