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From the ruins of the Sutro Baths it had not looked like the headless sea lion it was. It had not smelled of the sea and rot. It was merely a shape.
I got close. Close enough to see. I slid down the sandstone face of the cliff around Sutro. Through the purple flowers of the succulents that grow there; looking like Verbena or Mexican Heather. I walked over the last barnacle covered rocks and stepped lightly on the sand.
The knots on the driftwood were holes in the flesh. It had bled dry in the ocean. The neck was torn at a sharp angle and if I knew anything about life along the California coast I'd guess a shark had created the mess. But I can only guess at that.
The caves around Sutro are low hanging shapes, easy to get in and out of. The rocks are solid climbable things. Approachable without fear. I've never felt quite so safe as I have while sitting on the various outcroppings around Cliffhouse. The same purple surrounded me and no one else climbed where I was. No one saw what I saw. It may not be much, but to me---walking up from the sand, to the rock, up the slight grade and finally climbing the cliff face itself until I swung first one leg and then the other over the seawall at the top---it meant the world.
Perhaps it was the fact I relied on nothing in those moments but my own balance. Perhaps it was the beauty that kept me going. Perhaps it was my one chance to see the world under my terms. My terms only.
I don't know what it was that made me go back twice, riding the 5 from Mission to the tea gardens to the last stop by the coast. To walk the half-mile down the beach and into the mouth of the cave. To duck low, bending at the waist, under the sharp rock, and to emerge in the breakwater---cold as ice. Up the cliff and over the wall, back down the other side by Sutro. Then the 18 to the 38 and back down to fourth and Market.
The Atlantic ocean is kind by comparison to the Pacific, and I have now touched them both. The Atlantic is warm and usually calm. Soft white sand burns your feet and gulls are small---holding themselves in the always steady breeze like kites secured by a string---and accepting. You can swim naked in the Atlantic, far out into and beyond the breakwater. By contrast the Pacific seems rugged, cold, harsh, violent, and stand-offish. You can look but don't touch, eh? That's how I see it anyway. That's how I felt it anyway.
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Peter: 25th Apr 2005 - 15:55 GMT
cool... one of the first dates i had with my wife was at cliffhouse. we parked in a gravel lot just above the baths, but for some reason, never got a chance to go down and take a look... we did get to see teh "musee mechanique" that used to be below the cliffhouse... i think its gone now. so pretty.
hasslehoff: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:02 GMT
> but for some reason, never got a chance to go down and take a look
slick man, s l i c k!
Jill Corral / sutrobaths.com: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:03 GMT
Lovely photos - they seem to be mine. I'd appreciate it if they were credited to my site SutroBaths.com. Thanks!
Editor: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:06 GMT
no worries, this is a user driven site. You can have a link www.sutrobaths.com if you like :-)
Peter: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:09 GMT
cmon, people, if you use someone else's photos, give em credit. youd get pissed if your citynoise content was being used by others without credit, you know?
hasslehoff: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:10 GMT
Jill, please feel free to contibute more of your fine photography here. Sutro baths has really captured my imagination.
Editor: 25th Apr 2005 - 16:16 GMT
check the website listed above www.sutrobaths.com
gary: 21st Jul 2006 - 17:31 GMT
More Sutro Baths photos from the past for anyone interested...
mark: 1st Jul 2008 - 04:57 GMT
that first picture is amazing... have you ever been down the the baths at night and followed the cave to the end?
it's scary as hell. but it's still a blast when you're with a group of friends trying to scare the shit out of each other.
SK: 27th Sep 2009 - 02:24 GMT
HAS THERE EVER BEEN REPORTS OF VAMPIRES @ THIS LOCATION? BECAUSE JUST THE OTHER NIGHT ME AND SOME FRIENDS THINK WE SEEN SOME... WEIRD! I KNOW.. BUT TRUE STORY.
Franny Wentzel: 27th Sep 2009 - 08:09 GMT
No no no... There are no vampires in the Sutro Baths.
Just the usual zombies... Go about your business...
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