Friday, March 20, 2009
San Francisco in 1500 words or less
I am staying at a surprisingly nice (and clean!) hostel (my first patronage of this type of lodging) at the tip of the Tenderloin district (not quite in the scary part). The conference is taking place at the Hilton, a mere five minute walk away.
I’ve had a full couple of days, and I thought I would write quickly and recount my experiences thus far.
The first night we arrived, a friend and fellow presenter and I took the BART down to my favorite place in the whole city to eat: Taquerias El Farolito. Best burritos ever (eat your heart out Chipotle). That first night we walked the eight blocks (longer than it sounds, but not too long) from 16th to 24th. The meal was fantastic—I laughed as my usually vegan friend consumed a whole plate of Carne Asada. We walked off our dinner—back down to the 16th BART station and I collapsed, exhausted at 11pm local time (1am to me!) on the top bunk of the room I share with my three globally diverse roommates.
On Wednesday, I arrived at the conference and got my registration taken care of. The day was reserved for paid workshops and since I didn’t pay for any of them (my registration cost $40 and most of the 3 hour workshops were $20. Psh!), I set out for a day in the city.
I took the Market Street MUNI bus down into the Haight and walked down the near empty streets toward Golden Gate park and the UCSF medical school—one of my main old stomping grounds. All of the shops on Haight were closed, which was fine with me. I hiked up the hill to the med school and took some pictures of the panoramic view of the city from the large outlook patio (one of my favorite places ever!).
I really wanted to do some things that I had never done before—so I hopped a few busses and found myself at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I wanted to walk on the bridge and look over the edge. I’ve driven over it numerous times, but could never really enjoy it as a structure—read its historical plaques and actually lay my hands on the cold, red steel. And in the truest sense of the word, it was awesome. I walked about a third of the way out to the first main pillar where there is a lookout. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day in the city. In fact, I can’t remember a more beautiful day. It was warm, but not hot. The breeze was constant, but soft. And the view . . . ! Not only was there a perfect view of the City and Alcatraz and Angel islands, but down in the water, at the base of the bridge, seals and dolphins were surfacing and submerging—there must have been at least 10 of each. It was so cool.
From there, I took a short bus ride down to the famous Baker Beach—another place that I can’t believe I’ve never been. I sat on the beach against a log, took off my shoes (and by this time, I’d walked quite a ways and my feet beginning to ache), and watched and, maybe more significantly, I listened. We don’t hear the sound of waves breaking that often in CU, and to me, it was music. I walked along the waterline and often couldn’t get out of the way in time and found myself wet up to the knees in Pacific Ocean. I collected small stones—pebbles really—that had been rubbed smooth and shiny by the constant lapping against the sand. I’ll give them to my little Stones when I get home. It was, by far, my favorite hour spent since arriving. It’s going to be tough to beat, and I might well return before I leave.
From there, I went back into the Haight and spent some time in Amoeba records (which, after the GG and Baker Beach—and my hungry stomach!—wasn’t as exciting as I had anticipated). I bought a few lps and dvds and set out again to find lunch which I found at a small sit-down Thai restaurant where I got my standard Pad Thai. It was great—maybe the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had.
By then, I was exhausted, and my backpack was so full, and my back so achy that I knew it was time to head back to the hostel. Which I did—right after I bought a cool tie at the famous Aardvark thrift store at Haight and Ashbury.
After a few hours of recovery, my good friend Mike Harding and his wife drove up from Palo Alto and took me out to what has got to be the best Chinese restaurant in Chinatown: House of Nanking . Mike speaks Mandarin and ordered requesting the chef’s choice of a shrimp, chicken, and beef dish. Needless to say the food and company were both excellent. Right up from the restaurant is the famous corner near Kearney and Broadway—North Beach—where the famous City Lights Bookstore where Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and friends (including Bob Dylan) caused all that “beat” trouble in the 60s. After saying goodbye to Mike, I walked back up to the bookstore and poked around. I remember writing a paper my Junior year in high school about the beat poets and the hippie culture that followed. It was weird to be there, mostly because it has lost all of that real social relevance and become, quite frankly, just another tourist attraction (with, I’ll allow, a really cool “poetry reading room” full of great poetry books).
So, day two was completely full. Most of what I did that day was new stuff that I had never done during my time in San Francisco, which was exactly as planned. It was a day that I will not soon forget and one that I will try to repeat—likely without complete success—in subsequent visits.
I have a ton of pictures from the trip posted here.
As well as a bunch of pictures I took from my cell phone, which I collect here.
Oh, and I was going to write another post talking about the rest of the trip... but Wednesday was really the main day of excitement. The rest of the week, I attended the conference, presented my paper, had some good meals and on Saturday enjoyed a more typical (cold and hazy) day taking the bus and wandering around the city--saying goodbye, if you will. The pictures tell the story, check 'em out!