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A quick explanatory note: The next few posts were written on the road. Matt and I just returned last night from a trip to the Bay Area to visit friends in the East Bay and then for me to attend a conference in the city. I didn’t post any of these while I was away, as it occurred to me that doing so was tantamount to rolling out the welcome mat for would-be intruders.

Originally written 4/10/2008

I love San Francisco. I miss San Francisco. A part of me will always think of San Francisco as my spiritual home. I’ve never lived somewhere I found so beautiful and so in-tune with my values, and I consider myself fortunate beyond belief that I got to live here for eight years.

But man alive is this place tough to have a baby in! When we decided to move back, we honestly thought San Francisco was not a place we could have a family in because we could not afford a house, the public schools are troubled, and our families are far away. And we were right. What I didn’t know is all the little ways the city is tough for kids.

I’m sure it’s different and better-at least somewhat-in the neighborhoods, but schlepping a baby around downtown is hard work. Take all those steep and storied streets the city is famous for. I used to love climbing a small mountain to get to Pacific Heights or North Beach. But when you are pushing a stroller, the charm wears thin after a while, and when the sidewalks turn into long staircases the going gets very tough indeed. (A possible solution, I realize, is to use a carrier, but we unfortunately forgot to pack our Ergo for this trip. Also, older babies do get pretty heavy after a while.)

There is also a matter of the wind. It’s always windy here. I got used to it when I lived here and didn’t think much of it. I remember pretty clearly Simon struggling to breathe in the wind when we brought him out to the avenues on our trip last spring. He didn’t struggle so much this year, but I do think he was cold much of the time.

Then there is transportation. Getting around SF with a baby is challenging for many reasons: Hauling a stroller on and off of a bus is difficult. On some busses-the standing-room-only ones I squeezed myself on with annoyance when I lived here-you can’t get on at all. BART elevators stink of urine and are frequently out of service. Driving is made difficult by the shortage of parking everywhere. Traffic snarls ensure that by the time you get from one point to another you will likely have a crabby baby in the back seat.

Eating out here is hard due to the number of restaurants with long waits and no high chairs. Our first night in San Francisco, Matt and I got lucky on our second try. Our second night, we tried three or four places before settling on a diner we don’t even like because they had a high chair and no wait. And our third night we had immediate success only because I employed a free-lance concierge with spy-like connections who assured me that if I named my cuisine, he’d find a spot that within walking distance to my hotel that would seat me and could arrange to have a high-chair delivered if necessary.

And that, more than anything, sums up my stay in the city: I needed a high-priced concierge (Admittedly free to me; I was availed to his services via a work connection. Thank you Fortify Software!) to eat dinner without struggling. With unlimited funds and such a person at my service, having a baby in the city maybe wouldn’t be so hard. But that’s one heck of a conditional.

The East Bay is an entirely different story, and our days there were much easier and warmer. But the thing is, as much as I appreciate all the East Bay has to offer and understand why our friends live there, it’s not where I left my heart. Even as I (well, mostly Matt as I was working during the day) struggled with the logistics, I was thrilled to have Simon here, thrilled to hear about his adventures out with Matt, and I just can’t wait until he’s old enough to take in more of the magic on offer.

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