Monday, April 5, 2010

San Francisco

There are some places which exist, sui generis, in the collective consciousness.  San Francisco is one of them.

TBG and I came for the first time in 1979.  Armed with HDK's yellow legal pad itinerary of places to go and things to do, we checked into a small hotel in Pacific Heights and headed for North Beach, the site of the first topless bar in the USofA.  Carol Doda's enhancements were on view for one and all, which included the two of us and 6 inebriated Japanese sailors.  After 15 minutes, I was done.  If this was the famous San Francisco vibe, I'd stick with Chicago, thank you very much.  

Walking out of the club, we turned left instead of right and found ourselves in the midst of Chinatown.  Red pagoda roofs, live chickens hanging from hooks in butchers' windows, tiny ladies jaywalking obliviously across crowded intersections.... to say that my brain was confused would be an understatement.  We ate noodles and moo shu and drank way too much tea before buying a Happy Jacket to keep me warm.  

The next morning, we began to follow HDK's plan: drive to Lookout Point and look out.  Sweatshirt hawkers were doing a brisk business clothing unsuspecting tourists who were experiencing, first hand, the micro-climates of the Bay Area.  TBG and I stood there, watching ships float past Alcatraz, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and out to the ocean towards China.  There were ferry boats and steep streets and the point of the TransAmerica Building and suddenly Ms. Doda's DDDD's were history.  I was in love.

I think of that trip every time I drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin.  The next item on HDK's tour was drive to the top of Mt. Tamalpais.  Living in Chicago, the flattest city in the world, the 2574' of twisty, hugging the edge of America road to East Peak took us nearly 2 hours and just about did us in.  Scary?  Oh, my, yes.  And when you go up, you're on the mountain-side of the road.  Coming down, on the edge, was worse.  

We rode cable cars and ate chocolate at Ghirardelli Square and listened to Peruvian pan-flutists in Aquatic Park and vowed that we would, some day, be citizens instead of visitors.

Returning this week, I relived that initial surge of pleasure.  The air smells different from anyplace else, the views are stunning, and the residents all seem glad to be here.  Just look at what they have:

A fish seller at the Sunday Farmers' Market in the Civic Center plaza

Snacks for me since the Big Cuter's apartment has only beer, water and left-over pizza. Watching 6 hours of basketball requires sustenance, after all.

And flowers and families mixed amongst the homeless and the LGBT folks encouraging me to boycott the live chicken sellers at the market.  Though they were happy to point me in the direction of the abused beasts, I passed on the opportunity.  Life must be pretty good for those of alternate sexual orientation in San Francisco if they are now able to move their lobbying efforts in the direction of foodstuffs.

There are job opportunities available, as well:

This sign was up all week.  It made me smile every time I passed.

There were stairways to no-where:

although there is a parking garage beneath the plaza.  Were the stairwells becoming faux-shelters for SF's ubiquitous homeless?  Were they a security risk, located right across from City Hall?

No one could tell me.  Yet there they were.

Scripted television is making a come-back (thank you, Jay Leno, for freeing up 5 hours of prime-time viewing) and we watched a pilot being shot as we walked to dinner:

Can you think of a more generic screen shot?  Every car and person is part of the scene.... Law'n Order?  The Practice?  Boston Legal?  Hill Street Blues?  I'll be watching all the Fall Premiers to see if I recognize that couple to the left of the doorway.

There are restaurants and shops with sweaters priced at $675 hanging in the window to tempt me (Me to Saleswoman: "Please tell me that sweater is very expensive so I won't be tempted."  She to Me: "I'd be glad to!").

There are museums with Cartier jewels worn by Grace Kelly and Mrs. Cole Porter and Elizabeth Taylor and lots of heiresses who married British royalty in the early 1900's which left us pondering exactly which tiara would look best on our heads.

And there is my boy, ensconced in his studio, erasing TO DO's from his white board, and ordering possibly the best Chicago-style pizza outside the confines of the Windy City.

I really didn't need more than that.


  1. This was a nice trip back. It's been a long time. It might not be too late to become a citizen, but you might have to fight me for that hard could it be?

  2. I think the scene is from "Barely Legal". It's what's being filmed here nowadays. Just saw the first episode. Not great, not bad. Says all lawyers are very human, some forces for justice, some for money, most just quick and stupid. Like many locals I like to laugh at the impossible geography while thanking my lucky stars that I never have to deal with any of these horrible people.


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!