Story published by: Literary Yard, November 17th, 2017
What happens when two San Francisco geographical trivia nuts start dating? Read my story…
I met my partner at a Fourth of July party given by a friend. He was tall and good-looking and we enjoyed talking to each other. Both of us got off on knowing little factoids about our city of San Francisco and its urban geography, things most people wouldn’t give a care about. I was hoping he’d ask for my number, but instead he asked for my email address. These were the days before text messaging.
“Do you know the longest numbered street in San Francisco?” he asked me that day over barbecue. “Not avenue, but street.”
Indeed, I did, for these were the kinds of things I thought about late at night when I couldn’t sleep. “Third Street,” I rattled off, which impressed him to no end. I mean, his eyes widened and he gave me a closer, speculative look.
“Do you know the location of Wetmore Street?” I asked, hoping this didn’t sound too suggestive. I mean, we’d just met.
“Chinatown,” he retorted. Now I speculatively looked at him.
We developed a quirky pattern of asking each other out through emails, trying to see how many places we could think of that would geographically challenge the other. We both liked trivia, collected useless facts, and yes, were both weird in the same way.
A week after our initial meeting I received his first email asking if I wanted to get together. If so, meet him at the corner of 14th Avenue and 15th Avenue at two o’clock on Sunday afternoon. I read his email twice. Was this a joke or something? I wrote back saying no such intersection existed. Those streets ran parallel, dummy. I deleted the dummy part and hit send. He emailed me back, saying: be there or be square.
Hmm… Okay, so 14th Avenue began at Lake Street in the Richmond and ran through the Sunset, but where did it end? That Sunday, for my hectic work week kept me from checking this out beforehand, I left an hour early and followed 14th Avenue up a windy hill that led to Golden Gate Heights, a neighborhood I wasn’t too familiar with. After many twists and turns and adventures in getting lost, I finally came to a stop at, you guessed it, 14th and 15th Avenue. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
There he was standing at the bottom of the hill waiting for me, a big smile on his face. Gosh, he was cute. Whether or not the smile was generated from his happiness in seeing see me or by his belief in putting me through mental twists and turns in finding the location I could not tell. Either way, I’d take it. He was hot and I was lonely. I’d been single for over two years, going through a series of false starts. I was weary of dating, sick of getting to know people only to have it fizzle out. So here we were, and I had no idea where our adventures would take us.
The hill rose to a pyramid-like structure with steps leading to the top. We hiked up the strenuous incline, looked out at the view, and had a great time. He was easy to talk to as long as we kept our conversation trivia-based. I got the sense that he was a shy guy, thus confirmed when no talk surfaced about our seeing each other again. That was okay, for I had a challenge I would aim his way.
A few days later I emailed him, saying I’d had a nice time. I asked if he’d like to get together again. If so, meet me at the corner of Q______ and Q________Streets on Sunday at two o’clock. He wrote back: I’ll be there or I’ll be square.
I was happy he accepted my invitation. It showed he was interested in me. Maybe I was jumping the gun but I wanted him as my partner. I move fast. It’s this feeling I get when I sense things are right, no matter how little I know someone.
In terms of the location, I wanted to really challenge him and not throw out some easy peasy address. I have long had this passion for intersecting streets that begin with the same letter. I find them terribly exciting – Fell and Fillmore, Scott and Sacramento, Admiral and Alemany. Most people might not marvel at such things, but I did. I often wondered if the city hired a poet to help them plan out street names.
At least four streets in San Francisco began with the letter Q, and as far as I knew not more than two of them intersected. Would he know that Quint ran into Quesada? I hoped not. I preferred that he suffered through some detective work before meeting me.
Whereas our first meeting took place in the cushy neighborhood of Golden Gate Heights, the Q and Q intersection was located in a working class neighborhood on the east side of the city. That Sunday afternoon I arrived early, found parking and walked down to Quesada and Quint. As I approached the sign, my mood plummeted. It was my dating crazies.
Did he like me? Would this be just another fizzly romance? I wanted my search to be over, hoped that he’d hold my hand or say something flattering about my appearance to let me know he thought of me as partner potential. I told myself to knock it off as I crossed the street, but a DEAD END sign on the corner didn’t help any.
I stood at the Q and Q signpost. The houses on the block were painted in pastel yellow, pink, aqua, blue. It was a sleepy little neighborhood with nobody about, just an occasional car and an occasional dog walker. My dating angst churned. What if he didn’t show? What if he’d changed his mind? I leaned against the sign and closed my eyes.
I took a deep breath. I opened my eyes. When I did, I saw him walking down the street in a navy blue pea coat. He looked so handsome. I yelled out, “Hey, you found it.”
For all my dating angst, we had a great afternoon. We walked up Quint Street toward McLaren Park, which we somehow never managed to enter. On the way up the hill we passed the double R intersection of Robblee and Revere. Wow, that seemed magical, especially since it was so close to Q and Q, its alphabetical neighbors. We climbed super-steep hills while getting lost, amazed to find that Scotia came to an end on two separate blocks, once on Bridgeview and also on Thornton. To top it off, we discovered the intersection of Venus and Williams, as in Venus Williams, the street so named before she was born.
After this afternoon’s outing, the relationship heated up. We began emailing each other several times during the week. He’d send me a challenge like this:
Name a street that has four words in it besides the word street. The first word is a military title. One of the words is an initial.
I leaned back in my computer chair and had a good laugh. No problem. I flashed on Rev. Cecil Williams Way, named after San Francisco’s famous Glide pastor. This would be in the Tenderloin, near Ellis and Taylor. Except when I stopped laughing, I noticed there was no initial in his name, plus the word reverend wasn’t exactly a military title.
I racked my brain. The street must be named after a corporal or a colonel or a sergeant or something, perhaps in the Presidio, the old Army base. But I didn’t recall any such streets. I did what I had to do. I called the police department. They’d have to know. Alas, within a few minutes I had my answer. Sergeant John V. Young Street. It led into the police station near Balboa Park, right off of San Jose Avenue near Ocean Boulevard.
Full of myself, I responded, adding:
I’m a buffoon and the sun is setting. Which two intersecting streets am I? We both begin with the letter S.
Gloating, I figured he couldn’t decode this and had my back-up clue ready:
Think of one street as I am a stupid man and the intersecting street with a season in its name. Additional hint: The streets are off Silver Avenue.
However, this didn’t throw him. Within an hour he’d written back: Silliman and Somerset Streets. Damn. This was such a turn on!
By this time I was thinking of our little games as geographical foreplay. The more answers he got right the more turned on I became, and so far he was an A+ student. His knack for city geography amazed me. I loved how his brain moved quickly, making connections.
He came up with the challenge the next time we got together. “Meet me on the Northwest corner of the numbered street closest to a numbered avenue.” This stopped me in my tracks. What exactly was he asking? So, he was saying that the numbered streets didn’t intersect the numbered avenues, but at some point two of them came closer to each other than all the rest? Okay, so thirty numbered streets and forty-seven numbered avenues existed in San Francisco. Which two were the closest?
Once I put on my thinking cap I figured it out in no time. In the Castro, 17th Street advanced up the hill toward Twin Peaks, leaving the other numbered streets behind. Voila! The avenues started just over the hill.
During the following weeks, we continued to meet each other but had as yet to go out on a real date, like to a movie or out to dinner. I started wondering if this would ever happen. Of course I could ask him out, but I needed it to come from him.
Or did I? I’d dated a shy guy before. Waiting for them to make the first move was similar to waiting for molasses to pour onto a stack of pancakes. Maybe I needed to give him a whack and get him going.
I didn’t want to be too forward. That might scare him off. So I wrote him an email with innuendos, you might say. And this is what I came up with.
Hi back. I just wanted you to know that I’m the kind of person who likes romantic street names. (This was true). I fall in love with them. Have you ever noticed Roddeck and Still in the Glen Park area? I was wondering this. It’s one of my romantic favorites. Is it just me, or does the name of that intersection make you feel romantic too? Have you ever seen that funky old boarded up Victorian on the corner setting off the sign? Do you have any favorite romantic street names? PS I miss you.
When I hadn’t heard back from him by the next morning I’d almost given up. I didn’t have it in me to play any more of what I now considered to be these silly trivia games. I imagined us a year from now still doing the same ole thing. If he wrote back and wanted to meet at some stupid place, I’d give him one more chance, but only one. If he didn’t make some kind of move, at least holding my hand, then that was it. I didn’t care if he was shy or what. Too bad.
It was two days later when I heard from him. I opened the email not expecting much. I took on the attitude of here goes nothing. I scanned the lines, and my eyes widened. My hand touched my heart. I smiled as I read:
I would like to hug and Kissling you. Meet me at six o’clock. Be there or be square.
Kissling Street. I knew that street. It was near the freeway overpass near Rainbow Grocery, between Folsom and Howard. If I remembered correctly, Rainbow had a sign out front of their building, advertising additional parking on Kissling.
He wanted to hug and Kissling me. I wanted to be hugged. I wanted to be Kissled.
I changed into my sexy sweater. I grabbed my car keys and I was off.