>My work trips don’t always lead me to places that are particularly interesting — I’m more likely to end up in the middle of what was once a cow pasture in Iowa until someone threw up a strip mall and a Holiday Inn Express — but sometimes I do get lucky. Last week was one such time — I had a three-day project to do in San Leandro, which is just across the Bay from San Francisco.
I landed at SFO with enough daylight hours left that I decided I’d just head north into the city and start looking around. Hertz had given me a pretty fancy ride to enjoy for most of my time there, and I could just sense the chicks being drawn in my direction.
That image doesn’t do the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge justice. It is huge. Seeing it, and driving across it, leaves the mind boggled that, first, anyone could believe it was even possible to, and then, second, build the friggin’ thing! It’s kind of scary.
I found a parking garage in Chinatown (which, wiki tells us, is the oldest and one of the largest in North America). I was in a little courtyard with groups of people sitting or standing around talking, playing cards, playing Go, or just arguing. From there I walked up the street a few blocks into the North Beach area.
I found this sign on the emergency door inside The Beat Museum particularly amusing. You either get it, or you don’t.
My primary reason for visiting this part of the city first was, of course, City Lights Books. After looking around the museum, I crossed the street to check it out.
I have to say that at this point, after being in the city a couple hours, I was actually getting pretty emotional. I’ve never been that huge a fan of the Beats, but I certainly respect their place in literary and cultural history. In particular, I think if I had discovered Kerouac earlier in life he would have had a massive impact on me. As for the city itself, the role it has played, and continues to, in landmark events that have shaped our country cannot be overstated. This particular bookstore has always been right in the center of it too, if only as a publisher of stuff that, in its time, others didn’t have the guts to publish. It is pretty mind-blowing if you think about it.
San Francisco really is a beautiful city. One of the things I noted, as I drove and hiked around, was all the street art and murals. Not to mention the buildings and architecture. Even a dingy alley, with garbage at the opposite end, looked pretty in an urban way that isn’t too decayed.
Julia had warned me about parking in SFO, but I p’shawed her. I generally did pretty well. Especially when I did venture in the Haight/Ashbury district, which didn’t happen until Friday. By then I’d switched vehicles. I scored this primo parking spot — a free one! — one block off Haight, with Ashbury just another block to the right. Not only that, but I executed a perfect parallel parking maneuver to get it. I was so proud of myself I texted Julia my success, then photographed it as well. Take that, Ms. “You’ll Never Find Parking!”
You might wonder what kinds of things are going on while I’m out gallivanting around the country. It ain’t pretty, folks. In fact, I don’t think it’s too much to say things tend to totally come off the rails when I’m not at the tiller of the home vessel. Case in point. All of us who co-habitate with people — spouses, roommates, sinful living partners, etc. — have those little quirks that we either learn to live with, or someone ends up bloodied and on the receiving end of a 911 call. Julia is kind of OCD about these metal bowls we have. Some are green, and the rest are other colors. She can’t abide two green bowls being stacked one-on-top-of-another without a different color separating them. For me, I think there is a right way to load the dishwasher for maximum efficiency of space, and all other ways are wrong.
Where am I going with this? Things keep an even keel, as I said, when I’m around. But I wasn’t gone one day when shit was already coming apart.
There wasn’t much I could do at that point but hope, and luckily she kept it together. The front right tire of the car is mysteriously shredded, though. I don’t think I want to know how that happened.