>Boots on the Ground: The SFO Walking Tour

>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.

I had marked a map with a few places I wanted to visit, and figured there was no time to waste. Wasn’t long and I was spying landmarks that one sees more often in movies than in real life.

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.

I think I could spend a day just wandering around looking at and photographing all the wall art.

Some of it is more commercial and kitschy, though, particularly in the famous Haight/Ashbury area, whose only ties to its hippy heyday is the abundance of tie dye and head shops.

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!”

Of course I paid the price for my gloating, because as I was out walking around the weather changed rather drastically.

Speaking of Julia

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.

I worried an intervention might be in order. Her next text left little doubt.

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.

7 thoughts on “>Boots on the Ground: The SFO Walking Tour

  1. Rebecca

    >When I was a kid, every time I traveled across the lower deck of the Bay Bridge and then off the bridge and under the Nimitz, I was sure–SURE–the Big One was going to happen there and then, and I would be crushed to death between the decks. And guess what collapsed during the '89 quake? The Nimitz. The universe vindicated my irrational fear.

  2. Chris

    >Rebecca: I have those same "It's the big one!" feeling when I drive over those things. Same in Seattle when I'm on one of those big, looping interchanges they have out there. It's terrifying.David: There is artwork out there everywhere, and a lot of it is great. I just love that it's there in the first place, and is such a part of the city.Becky: I think if you and I visited SFO we would find more common ground than not! I'll still be getting a couple posts out of this trip. As for Julia's business, she's cranking away at it. She's getting her site re-designed, and her Etsy stuff up and running. It can be a slow process, that's for sure.

  3. olshittay

    >Oh, I used to love visiting City Lights. There were also two good stores in Berkeley at that time, Shambala and Cody's. May have the latter misremembered.

  4. Isorski

    >As you know, Chris, I grew up in the Bay Area and in my band days lived in SF for four years. It was so great to live in that city and I don't regret it, although I wouldn't want to live there with kids. I assume you did not make it to Milano Pizza but next time try to. It's fairly close to the Haight. Your photos are great and make me pine for my next work trip to the Bay!Oh and I was living in the South Bay during the 89 quake and it was a hell of a trip.


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