We remember our hills. We remember the long ones that rise ever slowly. We remember the sudden peaks or the winding switchbacks. We remember the dirt path up to the bridge and the asphalt slope returning from Baker Beach. Sometimes we stride up them effortlessly. Sometimes we swear.
Flats are more of a blur than a memory. They are like those parts of our days that we know must have happened but fade quickly like thoughts about sophomore year in college or budget meetings; filled with motion but without the sense of progress. Flats are the same bus ride home every day. Flats are the point of the marathon when you think you past mile 18 but then see a sign up ahead for mile 17 and you wonder how you could be so absent minded that you actually lost track of a mile during a marathon. Flats are the silences between songs.
We remember our Wednesday night peaks - Lovers’ Lane and WebVan hill. They lie next to each other in the center of the presidio created with the same geological hiccup. We have run figure eights around them, two loops named for different epochs of our city’s history.
April coined WebVan hill after the television advertisement that showed the vans delivering food to the residents. Created by the San Francisco firm, Hal Riney, the ad had the hazy nostalgia that brought Reagan’s “Morning in America” and the intoxicating warming blur of Bartles and James wine coolers or Henry Wienhard’s beer.
The city was drunk on what felt like never ending newness. After good internship at Microsoft, you would have venture capitalists lined up to give you money to create evite. There were cab drivers discussing portal deals on cell phones as they drove in from the airport. The poor schlub who had worked in purchasing for years all of sudden could make millions as b2b integration expert. The money flowed (and, well, the fundraising was much easier if your friends were rolling in options). What differentiated this from the earlier tech booms that the word “network” changed from being a noun to a verb. There were link exchanges. There were drink exchanges. Who you knew was everything. There were more pitches than products, and the WebVan advertisement captured the haziness of actually having to deliver anything. It too soon faded like its cup holders at PacBell park.
A few yards over from WebVan the path that became Lover’s Lane was created centuries earlier to link the Spanish Presidio to the Mission. Later the American soldiers would trudge up over it to see their loves ones (either marital or fiscally based) who lived in the city. Motivation to go up a peak is often difficult – few of us have Sir Edmund Hillary’s attitude of Everest “because it’s there.” But after spending the entire week in only the company of their fellow soldiers, they must have set a record for hill repeat determination even if the return trip was done slightly bowlegged.
We share these paths of those that came before us. Sometimes the hills of our life are about money. Sometimes the challenges are about love. Sometimes the hill wins. But there are those days, the better moments of our character when we rise to meet the peak.