Batten down the bouquets! Break out the boxes of chocolate! February is here, and so is the inevitability of Valentine’s Day. And that’s one mixed blessing. Who could be anti-love? What loser would be against romance? But the pressure to find and be with a loved one on Feb. 14 is intense for the singles; and the demand that couples make the right amorous gestures toward one another on the day-of-days can be downright wearying. The commercial imperative weighs heavily on the proceedings. Don’t like it? Can’t take it? Tough. They say the heart wants what the heart wants. And so do Hallmark, Whitman’s and FTD.
Other than Paris, New York City, or maybe Rome, I can’t imagine a city in the world as romantic as San Francisco. And I’m not even thinking about little cable cars climbing halfway to the Fairmont or wherever. It’s enough to conjure the image of you and your paramour drinking in the glory of a typical nighttime by the bay, surrounded by two artfully illuminated bridges, surf crashing upon beaches, and hills sparkling in the dark. Top of the Mark? Top of the world! Only a cold and barren soul might resist a tête-à-tête in one of San Francisco’s many fine restaurants, charming cafes, elegant bistros, or hole-in-the-wall bars. Foghorns blowing. Wine warming. I know you get it — and plenty will on Valentine’s Day.
Although Los Angeles is Make-Believe Central, I don’t believe that it’s quite as poetic a location for a Valentine’s celebration. San Francisco is a place with the sort of physical beauty that can lend a fairy-tale quality to a lovers’ tryst. Not that anyone should balk at beachfront getaways from Malibu to Marina del Rey with taste-tempting gourmet restaurants and sensational, sophisticated nightspots that evoke the glamour of old Hollywood. So, OK, L.A. will do for a rendezvous with that certain someone. Sad to say, neither San Francisco nor Los Angeles will do me any good this year on V-Day. Commuting can really wreak havoc on ardor.
As if the pursuit of romance isn’t difficult enough, consider the perils of trying to get into a serious, stable relationship when you don’t stay in one city more than a few weeks at a time. I figure the traveling salesmen of yore had this kind of difficulty. Of course, the phrase “geographically undesirable” is frequently invoked today if a modern-day love connection is undermined by anyone’s unwillingness to cross a bridge, drive to the next hamlet, or even ride one more Metro stop for a date. Now, try to convince a man or woman you fancy to put up with a series of extended, designed absences. Often, I’m not sure where I’ll be next week, other than where the winds of work will take me. It isn’t easy to develop a commitment if you’re not around often enough to seal the deal.
Such logistical hardships don’t mean that I’d give up the pursuit of romantic passion, just that there are currently a few roadblocks on the highway to a happy liaison. And those problems are underlined by the expectations in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches. In the past, I could have dismissed all of it by choosing to attend the annual My Sucky Valentine performance-art event/gathering of the lovelorn in San Francisco. If that cathartic summit isn’t happening any more and I find myself in Los Angeles, I may deal with the angst the holiday can bring by going to the yearly Anti-Valentines Party at Birds Cafe & Bar, and venting with like-minded folks. You never know whom you might encounter when bitter, disgruntled and/or emotionally thwarted people get together. Out of shared misery could come the perfect mate!