Our Clown

There is a stretch of highway US 101 a few miles north of San Francisco International Airport that includes a view of South San Francisco on your left and Candlestick Park and the beautiful San Francisco Bay on your right. For someone new to the San Francisco area, that is the first time you can have a look at our magnificent bay.

To this day, each time I come home from travels and take that drive up 101, that first sight of the bay after being far from home is a vivid and lovely reminder of how blessed we are to live here. Two decades ago, this stretch of highway was once littered with trash. Yet that was changed when a benefactor paid for the cleanup of that stretch of freeway, a reminder of how wonderful it is to be here — which remains mostly pristine to this day.

The benefactor was Robin Williams.

Robin Williams wove himself into the fabric of our lives. He lived in the North Bay, in the exclusive town of Tiburon in Marin County. But he was San Francisco all the way. You could see him having dim sum in the Richmond District, or introducing the SF Giants — he was a big Giants fan — at the start of the National League playoffs, ending it with a flying chest-bump with Lou Seal — the SF Giants’ mascot: an overgrown version of our SF bay brown seals, named cleverly to appeal to our town’s gender-fluid demographic.

Homegrown, he was ours, not Hollywood’s. Not New York’s. Ours. He was a fixture, not a bug, which, looking back — even with our home-grown pride — we took for granted a little. He was part of the scene that was, and is, us.

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