26 February, 2009

A New City

Take a walk along Mission Creek. A new San Francisco is slowly rising in Mission Bay. It's a strange place, could be anywhere. A newborn without soul...yet. The houseboats from the old City still line the south side of the creek and the ruins of Carmen's restaurant sit mouldering behind a chain link fence. They're all that's left of the area's former incarnation as a rough 'n' tumble place. There's a nice new park and many sterile boxes for busy people. Give it 20 years, it might be a neighborhood.


I came across this rubble on a stroll through the Presidio. The book I was using for the walk mentioned that it is, most likely, from the 1906 Earthquake. The debris appears, to me, to be stone from burial crypts, perhaps from one of the many cemeteries that were moved from The City to Colma. Either way, they speak to the futility of grasping for permanence in this very impermanent sphere. Think of the money and effort that went into constructing whatever edifice these remains once constituted. Here they lie, forgotten for a century, once someone's
"final" resting place, destined someday to be a bench or, perhaps, a retaining wall.

22 February, 2009

Presidio Spire

A recent, and strangely under publicized, addition to the landscape at the Presidio is Andy Goldsworthy's remarkable Spire. Rising out of a newly planted forest of cypress, it pierces the air and creates a wonderful, ancient, almost pagan atmosphere. A sort of wooden Stonehenge. It located off Arguello, near the Presidio Golf course.

12 February, 2009

Ravishing Redwood City

Nothing soothes the soul like the gentle rocking of a train as it clatters over the rails. In need of a brief getaway in these economically pinched times, the Caltrain line down the Peninsula presents a nice option. The return fare to Redwood City from San Francisco is only $8.50 and it's a nice excursion with some fascinating history at your destination. Housed in the beautifully restored 1910 County Courthouse, the San Mateo County History Museum is well worth a visit. The building itself is stunning and loitering in the sunny plaza in front of the courthouse is a great way to dream away the time until your train carries you back to the big city, or you could stop in for a bite at the Courthouse Cafe next door. A mini vacation for the price of a movie!

06 February, 2009

Ocean Beach on a Rainy Day

Ocean Beach isn't Waikiki, but it's a beautiful place nonetheless. It's a wild, windy place most of the time and a bit rough around the edges. Still, it can be a fantastic place for a long stroll on a moody day. There aren't a lot of urban areas in the country with this kind of wildness at their borders. Just a streetcar ride from the crowds and the noise, but a world away.

05 February, 2009

Ode to the Manor Coffee Shop

Ah, the joys of West Portal Avenue! One of San Francisco's least self-aware neighborhoods. It's remarkably unchanged from the days of my childhood when my aunt or my grandmother would take my brother, my sister and me to lunch at the Manor Coffee Shop and then a matinee at the Empire Theatre (when it had one screen). If we were well-behaved, we might stop in at Shaw's for an ice cream or some chocolate. They're all still in place 40 years later. The Eezy Freezy still had a Green Stamps sign up until just a couple of years ago!
I wanted to make a special mention of the lovely folks at the Manor. It's a reliably wonderful place to stop for a bite and the staff is efficient and pleasant. The food is very much of a time when we weren't so obsessed with what we put in our bodies, which is not to say that it isn't tasty, it's just old-fashioned, un-fussy food. Stop by sometime and give it a try. It's a real "local" place, but the locals are friendly.

04 February, 2009

Mitchell's is Back!

Mitchell's Ice Cream on San Jose Avenue is back after being closed for renovations. Busy as ever on this past SuperBowl Sunday. I don't know if I like the new decor. The old store had a funky charm to match their matchless ice cream. It's pretty sleek now. A little cold. I think they were a bit understaffed this day as the wait was more than a half hour. I do hope the new configuration hasn't slowed them down. The crowd looked pretty restless... and hungry. Macapuno, macapuno!

03 February, 2009

The Beauties of McLaren Park

I'll bet there are quite a few long-time San Francisco residents who haven't a clue about McLaren Park. It's the largest city park after Golden Gate Park and it's pretty darn beautiful. Some of you might have noticed the blue water tower on one of the southern hills of The City. Well, that's part of McLaren Park. Among many things at the park, you'll find a natural spring, several lakes, lots of ducks and hawks, an amphitheatre, hiking trails, incredible views and many happy dogs. It's a great place for a picnic on a gorgeous San Francisco day.

02 February, 2009

Not Much of a Winter

Residents of the Bay Area don't have to be told what a strange winter it's been. Apart from some rain and chilly temps in December, we haven't really had a winter. I'm fond of the winter months here. I like the rain and the way the hills of the Bay Area turn a bright green when most of the country is mired in shades of gray. Well, it's been blue skies and warm sun for most of January. Great for taking pictures, though . If you're near Columbus Street, stroll over to the San Francisco Art Institute on Chestnut Street for a cup of coffee, a marvellous mural by Diego Rivera and some spectacular views from the rooftop. That's where I took this picture.

Bye to the Bleachers

As part of the ongoing renovation of the National Maritime Museum at Aquatic Park, the old concrete stands and facilities for bathers are being replaced. I can't help but think of all the memories tied up in this place. They've been used by San Franciscans since the 1930's (top photo) and featured in many films and TV shows. I have fond memories of long afternoons spent sprawled on them. There were always lots of characters to be found here, especially in the late '60s and early '70s. If the restoration of the Maritime Museum is any guide, the steps will be returned to The City in very good shape.