I’ve really enjoyed this past week of foggy weather.
Now it’s sunny, coat-less and warm during the day, but the truth is I like the city when it’s cloaked in fog. I liked walking around and watching the fog hang in the street lights, I like the way it makes all the tall views in the city look like Impressionist drawings of what, just the other day, was clear and crisp.
I take these epic, head-clearing walks almost daily, up and down several hills, in wide squiggley ovals through the city. When it’s foggy, the soundtrack to my walk changes drastically. I like the idea of seasonal songs, and it’s one of many things I miss about having seasons. Fog songs are about as close as I get.
“Spooky,” by Dusty Springfield
We don’t get sticky summer nights, when the air is dense and your blood quickens. When the fog rolls in, it’s the closest San Francisco gets to a sensual, seasonal moment—the thick low fog, the feelings it stirs, it’s all strange and a little wild, spooky. Dusty gets it. The first line “In the cool of the evening/When everyone is feeling kind of groovy” is right on.
“Swingset Chain,” by Loquat
I’ve been trying to reclaim this song. Do you ever do that? There are some songs so stanched in memories, often unpleasant ones, and I would like them back without the baggage. In the first dregs of a long, dark winter a few years ago, I listened to this song constantly. It reminds me of crisp, hard November coldness and teary Metro rides. It reminds me of a box of Trader Joes crackers I used to come home and eat while drinking white wine and watching bad movies, like a triage for winter blues that seemed to facilitate them more than abate them. But I want to listen to it again without cracker crumbs in my lap or a sigh lodged in my throat. It’s dreamy and catchy; it’s even by a San Francisco band. When I walk around in the fog, “Swingset Chain” feels fresh and that winter feels far away.
“Fluffy Lucy,” by Cracker
A few weeks ago, Joshua and I were trying to list our top 5 lustworthy musicians. I wasn’t great at this list–I’ve never been much for crushes on musicians (boy bands were sold to my generation so hard in our puberty years that it turned me off, rather than on) and most of the men I listen to rabidly fall into a playlist labeled “Sad Old Guys.” I have a lot to say about Richard Thompson, but I don’t really want to take him home.
That said, David Lowery is also kind of sad, and comparatively kind of old, certainly a guy, but I think he’s silly cute and always have. A little crush is nice on an almost dreary day. But even if you lack a Lowery crush, this song is one of many slower Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven songs that work well when walking through the fog (See: “That Gum You Like is Back in Style“). “Fluffy Lucy” is a great example of one of these: soulful, slow, a little suggestive. The soft strum of the guitar, the light drumming and sparse piano moments, it’s all the kind of pace that works perfectly when slowly ascending steep hills. I hope it hits the chorus when you get to the top, where the outlines of the city have gone smudgey, like a child just finger painted San Francisco onto the skyline.
“The Crane Wife, Pt. 3,” by The Decemberists
Joshua listed this as one of his Top 5 Snowed in Songs, which I think is definitely in the same genre family as Foggy Day songs. It’s lovely and sparse, full of rich imagery and music that makes me feel wildly hopeful and excited. I think it has something to do with the way the sounds build, and how the music seems to burst on the chorus. The Decemberists make a lot of good foggy day music; I like walking up a hill listening to this, and walking down the hill listening to “Red Right Ankle.”
“Sweet Thing,” by Van Morrison
Van Morrison created a song that sounds and feels like falling in love. Bright, happy, rich and strange, dizzying overall. Sometimes in the deep fog, the trees seem bathed in an otherworldly light. Flowers pop, bark glows, the outlines of leaves and branches seem to hover and sway. It reminds me of when I first visited the city, when I wandered through coffee shops and book stores, when I sat in the park half-crazed on espresso and couldn’t stop smiling. It was like falling in love—it had to be. You can’t move across the country for anything less. Bounding up hills, wandering the city, watching the same views become even more beautiful, it makes me fall in love with San Francisco all over again. It still seems strange and wonderful. It’s still exactly where I want to be.