29 July, 2010

The Great Star Theatre

The Great Star Theatre on Jackson Street is the only remaining Cantonese Opera House in the United States. The theatre was built in 1925 and is currently being renovated. I watched Hong Kong films here years ago and I'd love to visit the place again someday. It's not much to look at on the inside, but it's still a pretty amazing cultural asset and I'm glad it hasn't met the fate of the other theaters of Chinatown. Here's a link to what's going on with the place (as of March, anyway). It was pretty quiet the last time I walked by.

27 July, 2010

The Last Bus Out or The Last Days of the Transbay Terminal

The once-grand Transbay Terminal at Mission and First Streets opened in 1939. Designed by Timothy Pflueger (other Pflueger projects include the Castro Theatre, the Oakland Paramount and Pacific Telephone Building), the building served the extensive system of interurban trains and buses that was developed after the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The trains of the Key System (predecessor of today's AC Transit) once ran on the lower deck of the bridge while auto traffic was confined to the upper deck of the structure. At its peak, during the post WWII years, the terminal served 26 MILLION passengers a year with 10-car trains arriving every 63.5 seconds at peak hours (take that, BART!).
Today, after years of neglect, the old station awaits the wrecking ball. It's hard to imagine, while walking through the empty corridors, that this place was built to handle 17,000 passengers every 20 minutes. Not so long ago the building had coffee shops, a cocktail lounge, news agents, a shoe-shine man, information booths, you name it. For the last few years, the cavernous waiting halls have been home to scores of homeless individuals and the only passengers that the place saw would scurry as quickly as possible out onto the city streets. A temporary terminal at Howard and Beale (Network!) opens on August 7th. The shiny new terminal is scheduled for completion in 2017 and will be home to the new California High-Speed Railway to Los Angeles (I have a feeling that we will all be VERY old by the time this train makes its debut).
These photos are among the last of this old place. The Terminal is the sort of unloved and oft-ignored urban structure that no one will remember and who's passing few will mourn, but it's important to acknowledge that this place played an important part in the history of The City for the past 70 years.

22 July, 2010

Musical Stuffed Monkeys

This, admittedly, oddly-named attraction is my favorite little slice of joy at the joyous Musee Mechanique on Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. Unfortunately, the music filter on this blog site seems to be blocking the accompanying song (it's Herb Alpert) due to copyright issues. You'll just have to hear it for yourself. You may want to wait until the summer throngs have moved on until you give this place a visit, but when you do , these little Bimbos won't disappoint.

16 July, 2010

Taking a Break

A wee bit o' whimsy from Sacramento Street in Laurel Heights. Little feet on a mail box. Little Doctor Seuss-type feet on a mail box. Not much else going on on this block. It was early evening when I took this photo and like many ├╝ber-upscale neighborhoods in San Francisco (or elsewhere, for that matter) this street really roles up the sidewalks near the end of the day. The cafes close up shop, the shops close up shop and one expects the tumbleweeds to start rolling at any moment. I imagine that if I hang out long enough in this dead zone, this mail box might wander off, looking for somewhere a bit more "happening".

07 July, 2010

Another Hidden Paradise

I don't think you can have too much of the out-of-doors. There are so many places in the Bay Area to explore, you'd spend the better part of a lifetime just sorting them out, let alone really getting to really know them. Here's a spot that's easily overlooked, yet it's adjacent to one of the more visited areas of the Peninsula. It's called the Burleigh-Murray Ranch. Just south of Half Moon Bay on Higgins-Purisima Road, it's a little-known and little-visited State Park. I was there over the busy 4th of July weekend and only encountered one other hiker. There's not much to the place other than spectacular solitude and simple beauty. The main trail winds through fragrant eucalyptus groves and verdant meadows. There are wild blackberries and a swift, cool stream. Near the end of the trail is an old dairy barn from the 19th century and a couple of picnic tables. Not much, but more than enough.