29 April, 2009

Ghosts of Advertisements Past

Up on the sides of older buildings throughout The City you'll find the ghostly remnants of the advertising campaigns of long ago. Some are pretty obvious in their meaning and intent, others... not so much. I came across this example. It probably made sense to San Franciscans a century ago. MJB was (and still is) a coffee, but "WHY?" indeed. Reminds me of the legendary "17 Reasons Why" sign on top of Thrift Town at 17th and Mission. Were there a lot of existentialists in ol' San Francisco?

Last Ride Through Chinatown

I had the good fortune of witnessing a traditional San Francisco Chinatown funeral the other day. Led by the Green Street Mortuary Band, the procession made its way down Grant Avenue. A large, flower bedecked portrait of the deceased was followed by the hearse containing the coffin which was trailed by a limousine bearing family members. Paper "spirit money" was thrown from the window of the limo as it rolled along. Another section of the band followed. The musical selection was a variety of Christian hymns and they were performed as a kind of "call and response" with the front section playing a hymn succeeded by another hymn performed by the band in the back. Similar funerals were once a regular part of the Chinatown scene, but like a lot of elaborate traditions, they are less common today. The origin of this style of funeral is believed to be in 19th Century Hong Kong.

18 April, 2009

Earthquake & Fire

Today, April 18th, is the 103rd anniversary of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. There aren't very many living human survivors of the event, but there are a surprising number of structures that made it through that awful day (or days). I had the pleasure of spending some time across from one this very afternoon. The Flood Mansion (now the Pacific Union Club) is a proud and beautiful reminder of the pre-earthquake city that vanished that day. It's the building to the left of the fountain (The Fountain of the Tortoises, a replica of the the original in Rome) in Huntington Square Park. The building behind the fountain is the Mark Hopkins Hotel, located on the site of the Mark Hopkins Mansion. Another survivor on Nob Hill is the Fairmont Hotel. Both the Flood Mansion and the Fairmont were gutted by the fire, but their structures survived.

17 April, 2009

A Beauty in The Richmond

The renovated Richmond branch of the San Francisco Public Library is about to re-open (May 16th) and is it ever a beauty! San Francisco has been on a library building/renovating binge thanks to a bond measure passed several years ago. It seems strange, in these difficult times, to see so much money lavished on libraries, but I can't think of a better place to spend public money (well, perhaps health clinics). This is an example of the great attention and care given to renovating buildings that, in other places, would, most likely, be razed and replaced. It's a wonderful asset in a terrific neighborhood. (I'll do an entry on my favorite street, Clement, in the near future)

13 April, 2009

Excellent Excelsior

Utterly un-gentrified (in a good way), the Excelsior district of San Francisco is home to delicious restaurants, bakeries, fascinating shops and lots and lots of bargains. At the far end of The City, it's pretty safe from the forces that have turned so many shopping districts into outdoor shopping malls full of chain stores, overpriced food and useless luxury goods. One of my favorites is the fabulous "Chick N Coop". Delicious sandwiches and dinners at bargain prices served up with more than a bit of sass from the irascible owner. What I like about the place, apart from the food, is that it's a real working class joint like the kind my relatives ate at when The City was predominantly working class. Across the street is a small pharmacy with a marvelous exterior (it's a wonder it AND the storefront are still intact). You don't see many places like this anymore. It's all to found near the far end of Mission Street.

09 April, 2009

Go On!

Go on, get yourself down to Point Lobos! I did. I don't know if there's a better way to spend a late afternoon than perched on a rock overlooking the magnificent California coast at Point Lobos. It's a few minutes south of the deadly tweeness of the "village" of Carmel, but it's a world away from tourist tat. The color of the ocean, the barking of the sea lions, gnarled cypress clinging to golden cliffs, and lots of kelp. OK, the beach at Carmel IS very nice.

04 April, 2009

Tea Garden Spring

It's that most beautiful time of year in Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden. For those of you who are put off by the $5 admission charge (and who isn't?), you can get in free on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 to 10am. Outstanding color and a refreshing cup of tea are the highlights of a visit. My favorite place in the garden is the path in the back through a canopy of dwarf maples, a bright, brilliant green at this time of year. The concession for the operation of the tea house and the gift shop was recently awarded to a new vendor who has promised a more "authentic" atmosphere. That won't be too hard to achieve at the gift shop! Still, a beautiful and soul-renewing spot.