Saturday, July 21, 2012

San Francisco (2)


That was interesting.

I managed to injure my left hand Thursday evening around 7:00. It was surprisingly bloody and whatnot necessitating more than a little attention. There would be no show with some Brit geezer at the Fillmore for me.

But that's all right. I got to thinking about the City and my ambivalence toward it. I have to say that I felt surprisingly comfortable there this last time, even with an injury -- or perhaps because of it.

We spent some time at Ghirardelli and Aquatic Park, having lunch at McCormick and Kuleto, walking a bit, checking out the artisans' stalls rather than the galleries, musing over the sour faces worn by so many of the tourists on the top decks of the innumerable tour buses. The Segwayers, on the other hand, all wore silly grins as they roamed and glided the North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf areas in packs.

The line for the cable car turnaround at Hyde and Beach was as long as it usually is, but the passengers were patient as they usually are, and their clanging journey over hill and dale was no doubt the thrill of a lifetime.

At $6 a ride, no transfers, the cable car is only for tourists now, but back in My Day, cable cars were actually public transit means for getting from Market Street or Union Square or wherever you happened to be Downtown over those hills to where you wanted to be by the bay. They were crowded, yes, but that was part of the charm. They got you where you wanted to go. At $.50, it cost more to ride one than a bus or trolley, but if I recall correctly, you could get an all day pass for a dollar or something, ride as often as you wanted, and I believe the pass was good on Muni, too. Those were the days.

The fog was coming in already in the early afternoon and the Golden Gate Bridge was almost completely obscured, but the Marin hillsides stood out proud and golden on the northern rim of the Bay. Then they too disappeared into the enveloping fog. This fog never seemed to come into Fisherman's Wharf and the Marina district, though we could see its tendrils coming over the tops of the western hills. For some reason, the northern end of San Fransisco stayed in sunshine the rest of the day. It was still sunny and even a bit warm when I bashed my hand.

There was an Urgent Care down the street, but I decided not to go that route and toughed it out with some Walgreen's first aid as it was even closer. The staff there was wonderful. You take your chances at Walgreen's (I've had very good and very awful experiences at Walgreen's over the years, and I will not recommend their pharmacy any time soon given atrocious service and screwed up prescriptions in the past.) But this particular Walgreen's had excellent, cheerful and very helpful staff; I got what I needed in short order and proceeded to tend my wounds myself.

After the blood was staunched and I'd calmed down a bit, I went for a walk along Lombard St; it hasn't changed a great deal since I made it my in town overnight destination when I had work assignments in San Francisco -- and I could get a room. Some places hadn't changed at all which is always one of the comforting things about San Francisco. You can rely on at least some of the City to stay the same -- or at least similar -- no matter how long you are away.

The video up top is kind of striking to me because it is so evocative of the City as I first recall it. The home movies the video is taken from were shot in 1941, well before I was born, and even longer before I first visited San Francisco (which would have been about 1957 or 1958.)   I've seen film of San Francisco taken in the 1950's, and the city views don't have the powerful evocative effect this earlier film does (there are others in the series that are just as evocative for me.)  The only things I can recall that appear in later films that aren't in the earlier ones are the Cliff House and Playland At The Beach, but they weren't really "in the City" so much as out at the beach.

I loved going to the beach when I was young; not so much now, though. An exception is Aquatic Park in San Francisco, which isn't actually the beach --s though there is sand so it will do. Aquatic Park is a protected area on the Bay rather than on the ocean, so it's generally not as windy and not as cold as things typically get along the Pacific. When I was younger, the wind and the cold at the ocean didn't bother me at all. Now it does. The perils of age. Things that you once enjoyed no longer seem so fine. Things you never appreciated before take on new importance.

Had a nice chat with Mr. Patel at the place where we were staying. The A/C in our room stopped functioning and I let him know. He said he'd come up to check on it, but there was probably nothing he could do, it being after 5:00pm and "nobody would come out after 5, you know." Yes, well...

He did come up, and by golly got the machine to function, and we laughed over it, and I asked him his name ("Patel," of course!) and we got to talking for a bit. He asked my age, and I told him. He said, "Well, I'm seventy-five, you know." He didn't look it and I told him as much. "Oh yes! Indeed, I was born in India in 1937! I worked in hotels in India for 35 years." I asked him when he came to the United States. "Oh, it must have been about 12 years ago. My sons were already here."

He said he missed India sometimes, "But India can be such a cruel place." I said, "That's true of almost any place, isn't it?" He said that in his opinion, America was much gentler most of the time. "It's so much newer, you know."

He said his family had bought the place where we were staying a few years ago, and they bought the building next door, too for additional lodging space. The buildings were pretty run down at the time, but they fixed them up. They put the fancy suites in the neighboring building. Did I think the room was nice?  It was, actually. Not fancy at all, but quite large, with all the requisite amenities and a few more. It had been fairly recently renovated, obviously, but it was done well. The bed was comfortable. Just needed to make sure that pesky A/C kept working. It was not that hot outside, but the room faced west, and the sun was hitting the room directly. Solar heating! Bonus! He said, "You know the suites don't have the air conditioning at all. They have to open windows and turn on the ceiling fans. So you're lucky!"


It helps to keep that in mind.
Segwayers along Bay St at Polk

Aquatic Park, Marin hills in the distance
Ghirardelli Square from Aquatic Park

Fog obscures the Golden Gate

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