“The licking of the fog upon our faces brings us reluctantly back to reality.” (Maureen M. Mills)

Rosenberg Archive
Past issues of Forum magazine can be found at CCSF’s Louise & Claude Rosenberg, Jr. Library, R335 (Archives).

Embarcadero

by Maureen M. Mills

The San Francisco Embarcadero, a milling mass of traffic during the day, is almost deserted by eleven P. M. The State Belt Line railroad engines silently wait for tomorrow morning, when they will snarl traffic as they push and pull the railroad cards from one pier to another. Automobiles that scurry impatiently along with their horns taking the lead during the day now avoid the line of piers that stretches from Berry Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. An occasional truck an trailer back into a pier to deliver cargo to a waiting freighter. Quiet reigns on the Embarcadero until morning.

A freighter prepares to dock. With a magical air she slowly approaches the pier. The lights from her midship section diffuse softly over the entire ship, giving her a phosphorescent beauty. The people who have come to meet her talk in subdued tones on the pier. Small waves splash against the piling and lap against the hull of the ship. Her whistle blasts a command to the guiding tug which acknowledges the command with a short toot. Both sounds resound across the still water. Finally she is tied to the pier. The gangway is lowered. The crew decends. Wives and sweethearts rush to meet their returning seamen. But this is not a noisy reunion, for it is night on the Embarcadero and everything is quiet.

A breeze blows in from the Bay, bringing with it the smell of fish and salt water. It infects the brain with dreams of bold adventures and vast treasures that lie just beyond the Golden Gate. The mournful bass of foghorn drifts across the bay for the breeze has brought not only dreams but wisps of a damp fog that is now covering the waterfront in a great shroud. The licking of the fog upon our faces brings us reluctantly back to reality. Daylight will soon come. With the dawn, the seagulls, those waterfront scavengers, will awake. They will spend the day foraging in garbage cans, helping people eat their lunches and snatching bait when the fisherman is not looking. Daylight means that traffic will be snarled once more. Pedestrians will dart across the Embarcadero and then tell anyone who will listen that they are sure that the driver in that green car tried to run them down. Booms will begin to creak as they load and unload cargo on the ships. Longshoremen will complain about the parking situation, company officials will again grumble about the lack of cargo, and everyone will continue to berate the seagulls. Another day on the Embarcadero will have arrived.

“Embarcadero,” by Maureen M. Mills originally published in Forum (1960, City College of San Francisco).

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