Fleet Week and the Ten Million Dollar Lot


When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, no one explained what Fleet Week was. But after many years, I finally figured it out — big ships, military stuff, the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels are six military jets that fly in formation by some amazing pilots. They fly over the city of San Francisco for one weekend in October. They practice the Friday before and make a lot of noise in surrounding communities.

I was hiking the hills of Alamo with my boyfriend at the time when they flew overhead and turned around to go back over San Francisco. Nothing wakes up a person from her hiking reveries in the woods quite like six fighter jets buzzing you.

Several years ago, I was invited to view the air show from a vacant lot in Sausalito in Marin County. The lot belonged to a guy friend’s friend’s dad, so he invited a handful of us to accompany him to the show. We weaved our way up skinny gravel roads until we finally found the lot above the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was Mike, Dave, Bob, Bill, Margo, Suanne, Chris, Robert, me and a bunch of guys we didn’t know.  There were some teen-aged boys, too. All in all, there were a dozen males and three women.

We brought our lawn chairs, and Robert set up a gas grill.  Everyone had brought a salad or chips or dessert plus their choice of meat. There were hamburger patties, sausages, chicken, salmon and steak.

We had our choice of two vacant lots, one higher, the other one with a better view.  We could see the top of the Golden Gate bridge because we were above it. We could see the city, all the sailboats, and Alcatraz Island.  The fog gave way in time for the Blue Angels. It was loud but not as loud as if we’d been sitting down below in San Francisco.

The family in the house below us was having a viewing party, and they didn’t appreciate us poking our heads up over their deck.

We ate, we drank, and we watched the show. But then I needed to pee. Since I’m an Iowa girl who went to Iowa State and who’d been to a woodsie or two back in the day . . .

“What’s a woodsie?” you ask.  It’s where a dorm floor of guys gets a pig, a pig roaster, and somebody to roast it, a keg or two of beer, and invites a female dorm floor to meet them in the woods for a barn dance. It’s greasy, it’s straw-filled, it’s fun!

I rounded up the other two women and we headed down the road to find a place to squat in the woods. It’s a funny thing when you are drinking, baring your butt to a clump of trees.  We held onto each other’s hands so that we wouldn’t roll down the hill and get poison oak on our backsides.

The day was fun, different, and memorable. We found out later that the lot was up for sale for ten million dollars. The other one was only eight million.

The group has split up now. Three of the people have coupled off with different partners who weren’t there that day. I don’t know if the lot is still vacant. I don’t talk much with the guy who organized the whole thing. My ex is wheelchair-bound right now from a bad fall.

That was my one and only time to watch the Blue Angels above San Francisco. It popped up in my Facebook feed today. A good memory.

Thanks, Facebook.

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