Ah, free time to blog. What an unbelievable luxury. I feel like I haven't had ten free minutes this past week. Also, we have regained the ability to download pictures; thus, the week-old pictures from San Francisco can now be posted. At left is a gorgeous shot from SBC Park. Since Melissa comes from heathen St. Louis, last weekend was the perfect time to visit America's Most Beautiful City as the dastardly St. Louis Cardinals were in town to play the Giants. I bought that Giants sweatshirt that I'm wearing in the picture not out of any loyalty, but because it was windy and cool. Okay, and to bug Melissa, who is a big Cardinal fan and insisted on wearing Cardinal red to the game.
We had a great time during the approximately half a weekend we got to spend in San Fran. We left Reno at about 6:30 Friday night. I had reserved a room at the Hotel Mark Twain
off of little more than a map and a brief description on hotels.com. We got over the Bay Bridge and into The City at about 10:00, which is pretty good time from Reno. Unfortunately, I knew right away we might be in trouble.
Now let me preface this by saying that I love San Francisco. In addition to being America's Most Beautiful City, I think that it is also the coolest city in the world. For me, San Francisco will always be the restless, epic, half-crazy capital city of the West, a place that draws free spirits like a beacon, a city that belongs to the whole world and to no one, a city
that lives life out loud and in the open, where the seekers and the hustlers and the aimless misanthropes and the geniuses and the hysterical bullshitters and the insanely practical all find a way to co-exist in the most picturesque setting imaginable. It's the city of Dashiell Hammett and Jack London and Jack Kerouak (and yes, Mark Twain). I know that most people think of cable cars and the Castro District and Haight-Ashbury when they think of San Francisco, and certainly all of those things help make The City what it is. But I can't help but think of The City in terms of it's wild, brawling, frontier Gold Rush roots, with a dash of mystery and Noir
intrigue thrown in for good measure, the place where "Dirty Harry" Callahan appears out of the fog and tells you to Make His Day, or Sam Spade chases down mysterious strangers as he tries to get his hands on the Maltese Falcon. To me it is exotic and romantic, a place that could make your fortune or eat your soul, or both, if the mood struck it.
So much as I find The City intriguing and exciting, I also know of it's dark side. And as we descended off the Bay Bridge and searched for the Hotel, the dark, neon-lit, desperate side of The City was on full display as we drove through what turned out to be one of the peninsula's more "questionable" neighborhoods. From the sidewalks, all manner of gang bangers and street people eyed us with something that seemed to fall between suspicion and lust. A few even waved us over to them as we drove slowly by; what intention they might have had in trying to contact us I don't know, and I do not regret that I never will know. By the time we found our destination, Melissa (being a good, Midwestern Catholic girl at heart) was in something of a state of shock, but as always she kept up an unflapable facade.
As it turned out the hotel was adequate enough (one interesting bit of trivia--world famous jazz singer Billie Holiday
was once arrested there, and now has her picture over the front desk in honor of the incident) but was not, as I'd hoped, within walking distance of SBC Park. Plus, some jerk on the seventh floor took it upon himself to pull a fire alarm for no reason at 5 a.m. While I can't really say anything negative about the Hotel Mark Twain, I think next time we go to San Fran, we can do a lot better.
The next day we got up early and drove across town to Cliff House, one of those fantastic Deco-Chic places that you will only find in California. We were hoping to find seals there, but were informed that no seals have inhabited the area since a large earthquake several years ago. That was unfortunate, but breakfast and the view was fantastic. This picture of Melissa was taken just outside the classic building. I'd like to tell you that the slight blurriness on the left is an intentional artistic effect, but something strange was going on with the camera. Still, I think it looks kind of cool.
From there we drove north through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. If you've never been to San Fran, you might find the Presidio something of an anomaly, a gigantic former military complex that now exists primarily as public green space, occupying some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The government would probably make hundreds of millions if it were to sell it to private developers. But the Presidio, too, is an indelible part of The City. Melissa commented that one thing she really liked about San Fran is that like her beloved London, much space is given over to parks and public land. I was hoping to drive Melissa over to Marin County and up to the headlands to get my favorite view of The City behind the Bridge and in front of the Bay. It's truly a remarkable sight. Unfortunately (as is prone to happen) the headlands were completely fogged in and there wasn't much view to be had. But it gives us something to shoot for next time.
After returning to the Mark Twain we took the Metro to SBC. One thing I truly appreciate is the renaissance that America's big league baseball parks have enjoyed in the last ten or fifteen years. SBC (formerly Pac-Bell, formerly some other name that escapes me at the moment--corporate names are the only scourge of the ballpark renaissance) is one of those new ballparks that both looks back lovingly on baseball's long and quixotic history in this country, while simultaneously offering every modern convenience imaginable. Plus, the dastardly Cardinals went down 2-0. The Cards don't lose often these days, so you have to savor every one :-).
We ended the Day on Fisherman's Wharf. Melissa was still eager to see seals
, and the wharf is usually a reliable place to do that. A sign informed us that unfortunately the seals had migrated south to the Channel Islands to mate (I suppose that's unfortunate for us, not the seals), but there was one lone holdout, sleeping soundly on a pier as a gaggle of people watched and took pictures.
I hated to return, but Melissa had to work on Sunday--the relentless life of a journalist. I would love some day to live in San Francisco. Heck, I would love just having enough money to be able to afford
to live in San Francisco. It's not a real possibility right now, but it's nice knowing that it's so close by.