30 November, 2009

Where Dinosaurs Would Roam in Golden Gate Park

As part of the Thanksgiving Day weekend, I took advantage of our beautiful weather and had a stroll through some of my favorite parts of Golden Gate Park.  I love the Fern Dell located across JFK Drive from the picturesque Conservatory of Flowers.  A path leads to the Lily Pond through magnificent tree ferns. Walking through here, I can't help thinking of Kong Island in the original King Kong.  You half expect a Triceratops to come charging through the thick. 
I came across an interesting bit of movie trivia about the dell; it was the filming location of Spock's "final" resting place at the end of Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn.  He's since moved on.
It's an exotic corner that's not far from the busiest part of the park and well worth checking out.

27 November, 2009

"Black Friday" or Buy Nothing Day

Today is, of course, "Black Friday", the consumer orgy on the day after Thanksgiving that's supposed to balance everyone's books (the books of the retailers, that is).  It's a term that was once used only to those inside the retail trade but it seems to have moved into the common parlance.  It's an unfortunate phrase with a pejorative association for me.  It makes me think of crucifixions or stock market crashes.  In general, something to avoid.  I think a lot of other people feel the same way.  
It's also National Buy Nothing Day.  A good time to reflect on our spendthrift ways and where they've taken us.  This year, with the economy in tatters, it's not so difficult to ask ourselves whether we really need all the "stuff" we're so keen on accumulating.  I'm all for things that make us slow down and assess our lives and the value we tend to place on the wrong things.  
On that note, I was at the wonderful Thrift Town on 17th and Mission the other day and couldn't help note their depressingly large selection of Christmas, I don't think any other word will do, crap.  If you find yourself wondering "who the hell would buy this stuff" when you're in the holiday aisle at Walgreen's, the answer is evident; lots of people.  The next time you can't resist that little something glittering in front of you, think about where it came from, who made it, what it's made out of, and, finally, where it will end up.

25 November, 2009

Across the Gate

Just minutes from the busy city, across the Golden Gate, is Fort Cronkhite in the Golden Gate Recreation Area (the largest urban national park in the United States).  Formerly a US Army installation, it's been part of the GGNRA since the 1970s. It was saved from a massive development scheme that would have had the hills covered with homes and shopping centers. On a recent visit, I encountered a few deer and a coyote while hiking the beautiful trails above the ocean.  The place has everything from historic buildings to black sand beaches.  You can tour an old artillery battery, visit a Cold War Nike missile site, stop by the Marine Mammal Center or walk across a suspension bridge to one of the oldest light houses on the west coast, which was completed in 1855.  You don't even need a car to get there as it's easily accessed by bike or, on the weekends, MUNI bus service (route 76) to the Marin Headlands.  

23 November, 2009

Shaw's Ice Cream and Candy

Long-time residents of the SF Peninsula will recall the name of Shaw's Ice Cream with great fondness.  The ancient Millbrae store and factory was  shuttered recently and is up for sale.  I think it's been quite a while since Shaw's made their own ice cream, but they've been hanging on for years at the El Camino Real location and on West Portal Avenue in The City. They were peddling (the very good) Mitchell's Ice Cream and someone else's chocolate last I checked.  The company was founded in 1947 and had, at one time, 50 licensed franchises, now long gone. The company's heyday was in the '50s, '60s and '70s. The original West Portal store remains in operation.  

Was a time... oh well, I have some very nice memories of sitting on their wrought iron chairs and wolfing down banana splits.  And I'll really miss that sign on El Camino.

20 November, 2009

Autumn in The City

What a wonderful season!  Fall in San Francisco (the part of the year between the dry, foggy summer and the rainy bits, for those who insist we don't have seasons in the Bay Area) is truly a glorious time of year.  The temperatures are great for long walks and the sun shines in the blue California sky.  The only drawback is that the days are over far too soon as the sun sets earlier and earlier.  Winter seems to come on so abruptly in this part of the world.  You're enjoying a picnic or reading a good book on a warm bench and then it's Christmas.

17 November, 2009

Manila to San Francisco

One of the many wonderful things about San Francisco is its rich and varied history.  That history is sometimes not just of California but of far-away places and the people who've settled here.  It's always a treat to be strolling along and encounter these traces.  South of Market there are a few short blocks named after heroes of the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1898 (and the Muslim chieftain who killed the explorer Magellan in 1521).  Having just returned from the homeland of these historical figures, it's nice to be reminded of distant places and to be challenged by unfamiliar history.
p.s. you can ponder this history over an MSG-licious burger at the nearby Jollibee restaurant, a branch of the Philippine's own fast food chain.

16 November, 2009

Hard to Get Away

I've been away again, and when I'm on holiday I usually restrict my computer use to the occasional checking of email.  When I first started to scratch my travel itch, light-years ago, intercontinental communications were much more primitive than today.  Simply making a phone call could use up heaps of precious vacation time. Using the phone involved strange and elaborate local dialing customs, language difficulties with operators, unfamiliar coins, funky equipment, awful connections and the requirement, in some remote locales, to actually book a call and wait for the connection to be put through. 
The only contact friends and family got from me was the occasional postcard or, if really lucky, an aerogramme (ask an elderly relative). 

I'm on about this because people nowadays get very feisty indeed if they don't receive constant updates on your whereabouts via phone, email, text and tweet.  I suppose in this case, as in so many others, I'm inclined to be nostalgic.  I liked being far away and, relatively, out of touch.  If anything truly awful were to befall me, I'd find a way to get word out.  All of this was provoked by me recieving a phone call from a friend in San Francisco while on an island, in a boat, on a river located 15 hours by jet, 3 hours by bus and 2 hours by boat from the Bay Area.  I was happy to get the call, of course, but the strangeness of the sensation of yakking into a small phone while sitting in that small boat in the tropical heat, surrounded by jungle, was a bit overwhelming.
I think it robbed a bit of the romance and sense of adventure from the moment.  I might as well have been pushing a shopping cart around Safeway.

Here's a little photo that I took on that boat ride... before I got the phone call. It's the Loboc river on the island of Bohol in the Philippines.
I know it's not strictly in keeping with the subject of this blog, but it's a very pretty place with very nice people.