Karin Lemkau –
I don’t do San Francisco like most people.
I skip the cable cars, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, and the fine restaurants and museums.
Soon after my flight arrives, I drive my rental car north over the Golden Gate Bridge and hike uphill a half-mile where I am rewarded by breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and steep slopes filled with dry grasses and brilliant green vegetation.
But that’s not what I’m after. I trek a mile farther down a treacherous slope to a small beach, where I find what I’ve been seeking. Rocks. Rocks with oil on them.
Next I drive to a popular coastal walkway to peruse more rocks.
The following day I visit a local marina and one of the largest dog parks in the United States, where, in addition to rocks, the shoreline is covered with hundreds of broken ceramic dishes—remnants of a ceramic factory closed in the late 1960s.
I’ll collect anything with oil on it. On the third day, my search takes me by ferry to Angel Island.
I walk briskly around the island’s perimeter and make it back to the ferry just in time to catch the return trip to San Francisco. And then to the airport. I know the routine well.
I’ve done it half a dozen times. At each stop, I pull out purple gloves and foil envelopes and scour the shoreline for oil samples.
Passersby offer me quizzical looks; a few stop to ask questions.
If my intense staring at rocks and searching in every nook and cranny doesn’t get their attention, the purple gloves do.