27 January, 2009

The Last of Woolworths

Sometimes little fragments of San Francisco's past linger on. Perhaps it was just too much trouble to take the sign down. Perhaps a longtime employee at BART or MUNI at the Powell Street station likes the idea of leaving this little reminder hanging from the ceiling in front of the old entrance to the basement of the store. The store has been closed for many years, replaced by the charmless GAP emporium. Woolworths; one of the pleasures of a trip "downtown" in The City of yore.
To long-time residents, Woolworths was much more than just a version of Walgreens or Rite Aid.
The smell hit you the moment you entered the doors. That weird and wonderful mix of popcorn, hot dogs rotating on little broilers, candy and Ben Hur perfume. It was an enormous store. You could get anything at Woolworths. It was full of characters and employees who probably spent the better part of their lives behind the counters. I loved the lunch counter, the candy selection, the record department and, of course, the toy department. I loved the downstairs at the store; that's where they kept the pets. I bought a goldfish there once and a Habitrail for my hampster. Everytime I walk by this sign in the Powell Street Station the memories come flooding back. My thanks to whomever is guarding that old sign.

Happy New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year!
Found this beautiful Dragon at Embarcadero Center. A bright spot amongst the empty store fronts on the floor beneath the Landmark Cinema.

24 January, 2009

Tokyo Bay?

Not nearly as exotic as it looks. It's the Benihana in Burlingame. Still, if you squint, it DOES look like a bit of Japan. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Bay Area is the incredible variety of moods, weather and scenery one encounters. You can travel the world within a few square miles. By the way, the Bay Trail along the shore south of the airport is a very nice walk. Head toward Airport Boulevard off of 101 south of Millbrae Avenue in Millbrae. Don't forget to bring the binoculars for a spot of bird watching (or plane-spotting, if that's your pleasure).

Obvious Things We Never Notice

How many times have you walked, rode, or driven by this monument at Dolores and Market? Ever bother to read the inscription? Wonder what it's all about? It's a memorial to the California Volunteers of the Spanish American war. They served in the Philippines and helped bring us one of our first (and most controversial) colonies. There's a fascinating exhibit at the Presidio documenting this sadly neglected chapter of our history. Do yourself a favor and visit.
P.S. That's the US Mint in the background.

23 January, 2009

January Noir

In honor of the upcoming Film Noir Festival at the Castro Theatre, I thought I'd post this little snap of the the legendary 500 Club (located at 17th and Guerrero) on a recent, moody evening. No doubt that there's some nefarious character, lurking in a dark corner booth, plotting his wife's murder at this very moment.

Clifford Goes Over the Cliff

I thought this sign at Fort Funston was somewhat amusing. Not that I find the idea of dogs (or people) tumbling to their death the least bit mirthful. It's just the that the little pictures are sad and funny at the same time. Tragedy, comedy... dog piddle; you'll find them all amidst the ice plant and sand at the edge of the world.

Laff, Sal, Laff

She's everyone's favorite Cacklin' Doll, located at the marvelous Musee Mechanique at Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. But, did you know she has a sister? Yes, Santa Cruz's Laffing Sal, the evil (or slightly more evil) twin our our beloved Sal (formerly of Playland at the Beach) continues to bounce and guffaw on the Boardwalk in Surf City. Evidently there were dozens of Laffing Sals, frightening young and old alike, across the nation. The two Sals remain estranged and will continue to do what they need to do, if only to keep from crying.

Let's have lunch at the Patio

The award for the best maintained neon sign in The Castro goes to the Patio Cafe... or what was the Patio Cafe. Yes, it's been a long time since anyone enjoyed a meal at this Castro institution. I think it's been 8 years or so. Lots of fits and starts. But then, that's no surprise as it's owned by that much-loved character and Sarah Winchester of Castro Street, Les Natali. Look for the opening sometime in Spring of 2012!