28 July, 2009

The Phenomenon of Dolores Park

I'm probably pretty late to this party, but I'm always astounded at just how insanely popular this poor place has become. I suppose it has to do with its location in The Hippest Neighborhood in America®, but Dolores Park is more than a scene. Its current habitues are probably unaware that Mission Dolores Park is the approximate site of the ancient Ohlone Indian village of Chutchui. It was later the location of a Jewish Cemetery and once served as a home to many displaced persons after the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 (top photo). Per acre (there are 14), it has to be the among most densely utilized parks in the country. There can be THOUSANDS of people here on weekends with no apparent special event or other "draw". It's a very attractive place and it seems almost anything goes. Dogs dash about, Pabst Blue Ribbon is guzzled and the scent of cannabis wafts through the air. A bit like the panhandle of Golden Gate Park during the Summer of Love but with expensive coffee. It's hard to believe, but not so long ago, you could pretty much have this place to yourself on a weekday. I wonder where the next "gathering place" will be?

25 July, 2009

Leaves of Three, Let it Be

I'm trying to imagine the scenario that has prompted the placement of these signs.
San Francisco, and most of California, is full of Poison-oak. It can be quite pretty in its most dangerous phase. Still, I have trouble imagining someone going out of their way (which is where this example is located) to tread around in its tangled vines. Have people been wandering into local hospitals or police stations irate, complaining that they hadn't been sufficiently warned of its dangers? Is this an example of a future with signs everywhere warning of everything?
Warning: Nature may vary slightly from the way it appears on TV.

22 July, 2009

Lovers' Lane

I'll let the sign at the beginning of this path in the Presidio do the talking:
"This trail has witnessed the passing of Spanish solders, Franciscan missionaries and American soldiers of two centuries. It is perhaps the oldest travel corridor in San Francisco. In 1776 this path connected the Spanish Presidio with the mission, three miles to the southeast. During the 1860s it became the main route used by off-duty soldiers to walk into San Francisco. Many of those men made the trip into town to meet their sweethearts, and the trail became know as Lovers' Lane."
The Presidio is a magnificent place packed with history and incredible sights.
It's also a great place to gorge yourself on wild blackberries.

21 July, 2009

Wired City

When you're away from home, you can find yourself missing some pretty odd things. Things that others might not even notice or, if they do notice, would probably find unattractive or just strange. I miss trolley wires when I'm away from San Francisco. They make a very distinct sound when a MUNI streetcar or trolley bus goes by. An echoing, whip-tail sort of sound. It's something you might hear in a science fiction film. I hear it all day and night and when it's not around I really do miss it. Sure, the wires block out the blue skies, but they're, somehow, quite comforting. They power the things that take you places and they make it possible for you to not have to listen to the roar of a diesel engine, smell its black smoke or watch that black smoke curl up into that blue sky.

16 July, 2009

San Francisco's Most Exciting Street

As this is my 50th entry, I want to finally devote some time to my favorite street in San Francisco. My choice is wildly subjective and I don't expect many will share my opinion. It's not Market Street or Broadway or Powell or Grant Avenue or any of a dozen other arguably thrilling thoroughfares. The City's crown jewel has to be... Clement Street (accent on the second syllable). I know, it doesn't figure too prominently in guidebooks (in fact, it probably doesn't appear at all). It's not setting hearts racing in Peoria. No Cable Car bells or fishing boats will thrill the visitor. What Clement Street does have is heaps of character. It is, in many ways, the typical SF neighborhood "main street". Plumbers, cobblers, butchers, bakers, video shops, coffee shops, pubs, anything the city dweller might require is all within a short stroll. It's home to a fantastic book store, one of the largest in The City; Green Apple. On the west end of the street is the charming, family-run 4 Star Theatre, home to both Hollywood films and direct-from-Hong Kong pictures. For the most part, it's free of the scourge of chain stores.
I once took a out-of-town visitor to Clement who spent an entire afternoon thinking he was in Chinatown. Although it is predominantly Chinese, the street has a sampling of Russian, Irish, Japanese, Burmese and Vietnamese businesses. Many happy hours can be spent exploring this incredible boulevard. Oh, lest I forget, it's also one of the great restaurant streets in town. If you can't find it on Clement, you don't need it.

07 July, 2009

The Heights of Bernal

Spectacular views and birds galore await the Bernal Heights explorer. Named after Don Jose Cornelio Bernal, the area was part of his rancho, Rincon de las Salinas y Potrero Viejo in the 19th Century. Now well into gentrification, the area's main drag, Cortland Avenue, has a wonderful small town feel and is easily accessible by public transport. It has everything you'd want or need, save a movie house, in a neighborhood.

04 July, 2009

Roadside Shrine

San Francisco has more than its share of monuments and historical markers. What we don't have are a lot of are roadside shrines. Familiar to motorists the world over, these shrines, more often than not, honor the departed. This is no exception. The charmingly homely (but, no doubt, heartfelt) monument sits on the street below the Veteran's Hospital and honors the service and lives of America's Veterans. I know it's the 4th of July and not Veteran's Day, but it seems appropriate to think of them today as well. Also, a special thanks to whomever takes care of this shrine.