|Its always 4:20 in Haight Ashbury|
San Francisco surrounded me on all sides and I had some time to kill. I figured I would stick to what I do best. I went for a walk.
I was based once more at the Fort Mason hostel. Departing from there i headed inland to Lombard Street. San Francisco is known to have roads which challenge a car to defy gravity. None are more precipitous than one block of Lombard, which is composed of a series of hairpin turns. The speed limit is five miles an hour and I suggest you adhere if you care to live through the experience*.
Next up was a trip to the cable car museum. Trolleys once operated in cities all over the United States. The introduction of bus lines after World War II led to their demise all over the country. Three lines continued to function in San Francisco, defying the onslaught of technological advances in favor of attracting tourists. One hundred and forty years later after the first bell rang, passengers are still being summoned for yet another magical ride.
I won't ever know any of that stuff from the last paragraph, because the museum wasn't actually planning to open until 10 and I arrived at 8:30. I didn't want to wait around.
The Chinese don't sleep in since they have a world to conquer, so I moseyed over to their little town. Lanterns hung above the streets as if in preparation for a parade, but a multitude of dragons never materialized. I trod quietly by storefronts decorated with Oriental characters, wondering at the mystery of what lay behind the doors. I never gathered the courage to venture inside, the sidewalk carrying me inexorably onward like a river. Only food could have pushed me ashore and he restaurants were not yet open either.
I rolled on, past numerous city blocks, thousands of steps adding themselves to the millions that had gone before. I stopped at the Mission district, where the Spaniards had first set up shop centuries before. Father Juniper Serra established the Mision de San Francisco Asis here in 1776, although the first actual building was not completed until fifteen years later. A larger church was constructed next door in 1918.
The mission remains a major center of Papist sentiment to this day. Pope John Paul II himself gave the sanctuary a visit in 1987. You too can walk right up to the altar where J.P. prayed for the destruction of the Protestant faith#. The basilica, chapel, and sanctuary are all open to the public, as is the cemetery where all the famous local Catholics rot in peace.
|The Mission, with the Basilica looming to the right|
Leaving the holy I went amongst the sinners in the Castro section of San Francisco. This district is home to thousands of gays, lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, and trisexuals. Maybe you knew the city has a large gay population, but what caused the same sex loving masses to flock here?
Even before "In the Navy" was written, an extensive segment of that branch of our armed forces was infested with man love. When during World War II the military decided to expose and expel these deviants, many of them were off-loaded in San Francisco. Once outed, the ex-soldiers were frightened to return to their small communities in Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina, etc. They opted to stay where they were and start a new life free from prejudice.
Castro became the unofficial capital of rainbow and fairy land in the late 60s, just as nearby Haight Ashbury was being overrun by the hippie hordes. Artists, musicians, and homosexuals alike were drawn by the low real estate prices in the wake of white flight. They created vibrant communities which still flourish today. My only quibble with the Haight is the preponderance of head shops. I appreciate mother nature as much as the next guy, but dedicating the square footage of a super Walmart to bong sales is going a bit overboard.
I had a disappointing lunch at one of the restaurants in the Haight. Mea culpa, I should have figured the standards would be low. People with the munchies are not exactly what one would call a discerning clientele.
Circling back towards the Presidio, I found one of the great architectural wonders of San Francisco. The Palace of Fine Arts is the kind of public building we don't make anymore. The mammoth Roman/Greek rotunda and the accompanying columned halls soar above. They are surrounded by immaculate gardens , the landscaping equal to any monument in Europe. I was particularly reminded of the Crystal Palace in Madrid's Buen Retiro Park. Originally designed for the Pan Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Palace was so beloved that citizens petitioned to prevent its demolition after the fair ended. I'm elated at their success; the Palace of Fine Arts was easily the highlight of the day's stroll.
My happy balloon burst next door at the Exploratorium. A hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium had delighted a younger me when the family and I had visited it twenty five years ago. I wanted a nostalgia fix, but I was denied when the doors were locked. Monday is the staff's sabbath it seems.
Unable to get my learn on I was thrown into a cyclone of dazed confusion, uncertain where to go next. Barely avoiding epilogue epilepsy I regrouped at the hostel, where I showered and ran into my idols.
Karen and Jerry were only a few days from finishing their own epic three year journey across America. They were also staying at the hostel that night, so we decided to have a premature^ celebration at restaurant Asqew. The meal was excellent, a fabulous utilization of the cosmopolitan cuisine available in San Francisco. I can't exactly walk around the corner in South Carolina and grab restaurant quality shish kebab.
The conversation with Karen and Jerry was equally enchanting. We have shared experiences that few humans can even comprehend, much less have the opportunity to undertake. Needless to say, we have quite a bit to say to one another. We took our blabbering back to Fort Mason, where we unwound by watching the hometown Giants defeat the steroid shooting St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the National League Championship Series. I have a funny feeling the Giants are a team of destiny. I believe they will go on to defeat the impotent Cardinals and then sweep the World Series. Anyone want to bet?
*Steve McQueen excepted
# I recommend texting God instead, I hear he is a bit of a technophile
^Post-mature in my case
Miles: Don't care. Total miles: doesn't matter. I'm done.