The Coldest Birthday I Ever Spent Was a Summer in San Francisco

In theory it was a good idea. A bonfire on the beach to celebrate my 35th birthday. Emily sent out the details; most people responded by saying they had never attended a beach bonfire in San Francisco before and were looking forward to a new experience.

We arrived to the beach just after nightfall, laden with firewood and refreshing beverages. As the icy wind blew through my woolen sweater and silken long underwear, I reminded myself, “Yes, it really is the middle of June in the northern hemisphere.” But, as we all knew it would be chilly, we had donned our ski attire. Yes, in the middle of the summer.

As we walked over the large sand dune to reach the long, flat area of beach where we were to build said bonfire, we were met with water as far as the eye could see. Unbeknownst to us until that very moment, it was a full moon, making the tide particularly high. Something we didn’t really consider in the planning of the bonfire. We were more concerned with having plenty of beer and marshmallows.

We managed to build a fire on a quite small strip of dry sand, which, in any sense of the word, couldn’t be classified as a bonfire. It hardly qualified as a campfire. We huddled around it, blinded not only by the spears of smoke carried by fierce winds, but also stung by the sand those same winds slapped against any area of exposed skin.

Everyone was a good sport. No one complained (much) about the cold. Or the absolute absurdity of the plan. Or the fine particles of sand that would be found everywhere over the next several days – in clothes, in ears, in cars, in apartments. I think, however, the next time anyone in this group receives an invitation to a beach bonfire in San Francisco, they’ll probably look back to a cold evening in June on a lonely beach and politely decline.

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