A Q&A with Karl the Fog: San Francisco’s Elusive Landmark

Karl the Fog

This site was formerly called Writing Through the Fog. I used to live in San Francisco and now live in Sonoma County.


I’ve got a thing for the fog.

As my blog name suggests, the fog of the San Francisco Bay Area—the region’s most mysterious, misunderstood attraction—is my primary inspiration. I grew up with it in San Mateo County, and my most vivid memories of it involve driving along Highways 101 and 280, gazing west, watching it creep over the mountains. The sight was, and still is, extraordinary. Early on, I realized our fog was special—an entity so familiar and organic we take it for granted; so moody at times we can’t stand it; yet so enigmatic, so beautiful, that we ultimately overlook its overbearing qualities.

My writing comes in surges. I struggle most of the time, and am obsessed with fleetingness and elusive themes of the self and memory and love and home. The fog intensifies this haze: It hovers and lingers. It’s oh-so-oppressive. Oftentimes, I  want it to disappear.

But it’s also a presence that drives me. I don’t know what I’d do without it, what San Francisco would be without it. The landscape, the city, would not be what it is.

So I was delighted when our very own fog, @KarlTheFog, was recently listed among TIME magazine’s 140 best Twitter feeds of 2012. I decided it was time to reach out and befriend this unique being, a muse of sorts, that makes San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area what it is.

Since the sun came out this past Sunday, Karl had time in his schedule to answer some questions in his first-ever Q&A. I’m thrilled to share it with you.

Karl the Fog
Chillin’ in Lower Haight. Fog self-portrait courtesy of Karl the Fog.

Where did you grow up?

Just a few miles outside of San Francisco. I consider myself a native.

What time of day do you feel your best?

4-6pm. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The sun has been shining for hours and you’ve already posted a picture of yourself in shorts on Facebook with a caption like “OMG it’s actually sunny in SF, enjoying it while I can!”

Then out of nowhere, I descend upon the city and wreak havoc on frizzy hair everywhere.

I’ll be honest, it’s kind of an ego boost.

You’re so photogenic, especially when you pass through your iconic friend, the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s your secret to taking a stellar photograph?

Start with a strong foundation, then keep it light up top.

Your Twitter account was recently recognized by TIME magazine as one of the top 140 feeds of 2012. Do you have any social media tips for the other San Francisco landmark Twitter accounts? For other atmospheric beings?

I operate from a mantra I stole from a Hot Hot Heat song (and yes, I’m down with the hip bands from 2005): “I’m just consistently inconsistent.” Have a voice and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to be random sometimes. It keeps things interesting.



Where do you go when the sun comes out?

My parents’ place in Point Reyes. They know how bored I get so they make me bowls of guacamole & stock up their Netflix queue with old episodes of Arrested Development and LOST. My cousin was on that show as The Smoke Monster. We have a picture of him and Terry O’Quinn on our fridge.

When we tell you to go away, does it hurt your feelings?

I often see you guys tweeting things like “I hate this weather” or “it’s 90 degrees back east and I’m wearing a jacket in July lolz smh” and it definitely takes its toll. I’m just trying to hang out in my favorite place in the world and keep you from running up your PG&E bills. It all comes from a place of love.

Karl the Fog
A valentine from February. Courtesy of Karl the Fog.

What’s your favorite coffee spot in San Francisco?

My favorite coffee spot is Philz. Partly because their coffee is the best, but mostly because they keep it so warm in their stores that everyone’s glasses Karl up when they walk inside.

My favorite blend is a toss-up between the Soooo Good and Sumatra Vienna. I’m still waiting for Phil to name a roast after me, though. Who wouldn’t want a large cup of Phoggy Fulfillment to keep you warm in August?

And your favorite bar?

My favorite bar in San Francisco is Churchill because I’m a sucker for mason jars and Edison light bulbs (I look great in that lighting).

Sometimes my friends in the Sunset and Richmond become quite sad when you refuse to disappear. Why do you pick on them so much?

You think of it as “picking on” but I think of it as “doting on.”

I live in SOMA. Why do you ignore us over here?

I’m that cloud you see at a gym who sets his goal for 20 minutes on a treadmill but gets tired at 18 and stops. Going the distance has never been my strong suit.

Do you feel misunderstood?

Just like the Santa Esmeralda song in Kill Bill, Volume 1.


Is there a landmark in the city you don’t like? I sense sometimes that you and Sutro Tower have some kind of rivalry. Care to, umm, clear the air?

I’m actually quite fond of Sutro Tower. I wasn’t sure what to think when it was built in the 70s, but we’ve grown to love each other. And the way I wrap myself around it makes us both even more photogenic than we already are.

Have you ever been contacted by any of your “mist connections”?

Sadly not. I’ve been a single fog for a long time and have tried many dating avenues: OKCupid, blind dates, and Mist Connections. I’m not sure what it’s like for you down there, but it feels like every cloud I meet is looking for someone who’s a little more _______ (fluffier, greyer, longer, forceful). I’m just looking to meet a cloud that likes me for the good but doesn’t get scared by the flaws. Is that too much to ask?



If you could be any color other than grey, what color would you be?

International Grey.

I’m not versed in the many shades of grey. How is that different from just grey?

Similar to International Orange, the official color of the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s a slight (and bright) variation that stands out against inclement color choices on apartment buildings.

Do you have any siblings? (Might you be related to the tule fog that lives inland, in the Central Valley?)

So just because we look alike you think we’re all related?

Err, hmm . . . I’m learning as I go here, sorry. So, does that mean no?

Oh, just some fogism humor. I don’t have any siblings, but I stay in touch with other fogs around the world through email and our shared Google calendar.

What do San Francisco residents know about you that tourists may not?

That I’m often accompanied by that awful wind.

Me hanging out in the city: cool but manageable.
Me hanging out in the city with the wind: miserable (I’m sorry, I have no control over it).


Since you have access to pretty much anywhere, what’s the best view of the city?

Twin Peaks is an obvious answer since it feels like you’re looking down on San Francisco from an airplane, but I’m quite fond of the views from the top of Grand View Park. You can see the rectangular blocks of the Sunset and Richmond, Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio, and the downtown skyline. If you’re the type of person who wants it all, this is the place for you.

You recently said you wanted to create a line of grey T-shirts saying “Fog is my co-pilot.” Pondering starting a business?

Like everyone in San Francisco, I’m dabbling in entrepreneurship. Consider me the city’s first start-up.

Karl the Fog
Self-portrait at Sutro Baths. Courtesy of Karl the Fog.


If you aren’t following @KarlTheFog on Twitter, please do. He’s not only the most clever stratus cloud (or any atmospheric being) I’ve ever encountered—he’s super smart and sharp when it comes to pop culture, politics, and current events. And his hashtags are hilarious.

You can also find Karl on Facebook and Instagram (@karlthefog), where he posts stellar self-portraits like the ones here, as well as shots taken by friends and fans.

In fog we trust.

Published by Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Senior editor at Longreads / Automattic

24 thoughts on “A Q&A with Karl the Fog: San Francisco’s Elusive Landmark

  1. Been here about 4 years and I instantly fell in love with the fog, nothing like it compares back home in NY. While I don’t write much, a lot of my artwork has grown from old habits and memories that have stuck with me since childhood, and I like how you tie in memory with the imagery of the fog. I remember used to go to the comic book store down the street in Fairport NY, would buy up as many comics as I could, and then trace them for hours in my room as a kid. All of the muscle memory stuck with me and that’s why I still continue to draw the way I do. Thanks for the great post, you brought back some good memories for me while tying in something powerful and relevant in my routine life.

  2. Growing up in Point Reyes I’ve observed so many, many types of mist and fog, that I’ve thought each type should have its own name, kind of like some of the peoples native to subarctic places have so many names for the different types of snow and ice. I just never realized one of those types of fog already has the name Karl, and that we get to see him when he comes to visit his parents at the Point.

  3. The city usually wakes up to a foggy sky and the temperatures rarely go above 80°F here. During noon, it ranges between 50°F to 65°F and then starts to drop as soon as the sun sets. Only people with extraordinarily soaring blood pressure are likely to move on comfortably during nights without a sweatshirt, sweater or an overcoat.

  4. Here in Vancouver Canada our fog must be of British descent. Nowhere as personable as yours. The next time you interview Karl, please ask if we can send ours down there for lessons?

  5. so when he posts on Facebook, is it a stratus update?

    Also, I as a former Seattleite inquire: does he know of any fog family reunions in the late fall and winter? I’m just curious, because the Seattle skies are international grey from about Mid-October to May.

  6. Really enjoyed this blog. It’s nice to get to know @KarlTheFog up close and personal. I wonder if he can avoid the SFO so we don’t get too many flight delays. It doesn’t matter, we love the fog anyway, otherwise we won’t be living in the SF Bay Area.

    1. I think Karl just wants the people in the little planes to stay in SF as long as possible. 🙂

    1. Barry: Not sure if you meant I am brilliant or Karl is brilliant, but to be honest, I think this Q&A is *all* Karl. He was a fantastic, funny fog to interview. Thanks for the note!

  7. Love this. So, ahem, fresh. This cracked me up: “Partly because their coffee is the best, but mostly because they keep it so warm in their stores that everyone’s glasses Karl up when they walk inside.” I’ve always wanted a verb named after me 😉

  8. What a friendly fog you’ve got in your neck of the woods!

    Over in Singapore, the closest thing we have to a fog is when Indonesia starts burning their forests and Singapore becomes an indoor BBQ with bad ventilation.

    1. Yikes. (But really awesome description you give!) Didn’t realize you were in Singapore — so glad to have a regular blog reader from your neck of the woods 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: