Thursday, April 16, 2015

July 15-18. San Fran and The Man.

My oh my, we're finally to San Francisco. One of the best, you probably know. It's talked about. People are aware.

I took a LOT of photographs in San Francisco. So. A striking spot. A long blog. (Or at least a lot of scrolling). Here's our first view of the city. Not the initial view our dear friend PS had always hoped we'd have.
A good place for pictures, a poor place for parking often. A frightening place for driving in your HouseVan, always. So. Frightening. I'm a FlatLander, see?? Straight up and straight down doesn't always go down so easily for me. Not on rides and not in my HouseVan.

So we got there, and I recall the experience kicking off with a whole lot of stress and panic. I probably had to pee too. Often our arrivals are similar. Stress stomach and fear of driving on hills, we decided KG would get the privilege of driving us through SF. We found a popular sushi joint in a popular neighborhood and put in our names for the worthwhile wait. (The smart lookin' kids in there were lovin' it!)
We sat outside the restaurant, where there was a dog extremely Yoshi-esque (this is when we'd been Yoshi-less for around 3 or 4 weeks) who was waiting patiently for his HumanMama to eat her sushi. The three of us sat together for around 40 minutes, content to wait with our enjoyable waiting companions. Old Yoshi-esque Friend was calm, stately, kind yet aloof. He was an intellectual, just like ours.

I remember the wait being long and the sushi being good. The staff seemed a bit cold, and we seemed to be seated after most other arrivals. My traveling partner will have to illuminate me more on the dining experience. [I finally asked him, and his further detail was: it was also cash only! So he had to drive Scuttlebuss to bank while I waited awkwardly with the check at the bar.] I think after all that wait we were sat at the bar in an uncomfortable arrangement where people stood waiting as well? Something like that. We'd been told by someone years prior that SF was ruined on their first visit because they were "always sat in the worst places". Perhaps it is the curse of the newcomer.

From there we wandered and gawked at the famous architecture from the beloved Mrs. Doubtfire that we'd never yet seen in the flesh.

We then decided to drive to the downtown business district for what we assumed would be a well lit, safe stroll at this late hour. On the contrary, it is apparently famously one of the spookier corners of the entire city. We wondered why we were the only folks strolling until we met some of the characters that hang around, and they wondered why we were there too. Well, we didn't meet so much as briefly lock eyes or get twitched at a few times. Some pretty buildings though.

Drove around a bit looking for a suitable place to illegally park and sleep in our vehicle. It seemed like the sorta town you could get away with that in, as long as you parked smart. We did! It was quite a view we received upon waking that first morning of our first full day in San Francisco.

It's a very grey place. A very grey place and a very chilly summer spot, as you may have heard from Mark Twain. I usually find grey-ness devastating and often hideous, but it wasn't devastating in San Francisco. They were sure to bring a lot of Man-Made color to the place. Though I do have to admit, the lack of sun did get to me by the end of our time there and I may be emotionally fragile enough to never live in a place so devoid of Shine. A local friend (who you'll read a story about in a bit) informed us it was fully grey all year there: "Except for October".

KG had a goal for us to walk as much of the island as possible in our few day stint at existing there. We walked those hills, dear reader, did we walk those hills. We did. Walked from our beautiful VanHotel parking spot on the corner of Mission Park and walked to The Mission neighborhood.

Pretty damn pretty. Got a famous Mission Burrito, which was as delicious as famed (even though Burritos often just hurt my body.) Then we headed to a famed old fashioned soda fountain shop for some old fashioned soda.

 Not sure if you can tell, but by this point in the journey we hadn't showered in about a week. Maybe even a little over. We have very different hair, so mine is ALWAYS UNDER A HAT at this juncture.

Across the street from the orange cream soda was this lovely mural, which actually decorates our NYtimes travel book SF section.


great coffee. scary silent.
People. Are. So. So. Quiet.
Seriously. It felt as densely populated as New York, but with essentially silent streets. Sure, there's the odd jack hammer and construction. Traffic whizzing by (though not honking). But as my companion and I strolled the city, I felt we were incredibly loud. Breaking into the atmosphere that had been unsullied with human speech prior to our arrival. Sure, people must have Sidewalk Talk. But they must do it with a far more contained energy. I turned to my partner: "Shh... I think we're the loudest people in San Francisco." He looked around at the peaceful, contained faces walking the streets surrounding us. "You know something... I hadn't thought about it, but you're right." As soon as we hushed ourselves the peace was restored. San Franciscans are a peaceful, contained bunch. Or just quieter than East Coasters and Midwesters.

A specific example of this was shown time and time again as we toured the city's cafes. MOST CAFES IN SAN FRANCISCO WERE NOT BUILT FOR SOCIALIZATION. This is computer town, and the cafes reflected that. They must express their opinions incredibly loudly in blogs (like this! Look at these loud ass caps!) and forums. They're probably saving whales and worlds with their typed words. But don't talk too loud about it on the couch next to them at the coffee joint, they frown upon that.

From the delicious, fancy, quiet communist coffee shop, we returned to our VanHome on the park. A great park to live next to, clearly. (Plus it was time to freshen up with some baby wipes, etc).
Then more beautiful sights to see while exhausting tired feet and asthmatic lungs.

Look at this crazy awesome art district you guys!


Quite taken with these visuals. See how they bring color to the drab backdrop? Well done San Francisco.

From this area we went to Haight-Ashbury... which couldn't feel more different than it must have felt when my Pa was there in the 70s.
Baby Gap and Ben and Jerry's and the like. The vibe is gone, but history remains.

 Don't remember the rest of the evening. Will have to check in with the companion's memory bank, always stocked full.

[He says we walked to Golden Gate park. It was beautiful, but it has quite a junkie population. They are intense. Even just briefly walking through, we were offered a number of substances from shifty eyed folk. Also saw some others dancing, and a suspicious circle of folk sitting criss-cross-applesauce who eyed us as we passed. From there we walked through the neighborhood just north (   ) on our way to meet up with an acquaintance. This acquaintance is a sort of old chum of KG's. He looks exactly like George Castanza. He bought us far too many beers before disappearing into a taxi while I was in the restroom. There were no real goodbyes, and more importantly, no directions on how to get anywhere from where we were. We were drunk, my phone was dead, and we were lost.

We stumbled around, somehow went through a golf course... angry, tired, bitter and more inebriated then intended (it was only a few beers each... but we hadn't eaten enough, walked way too much, and he kept ordering in secret! That sneaky George Castanza!) But somehow found an earth-friendly bus back to the van. Sort of shocking. I'm proud of us. Our van was living at the same park as the night prior, and luckily there was a port-a-potty living in that park. Unluckily, someone who did a dirtier deed beat me to it... but sometimes a dirty port-a-potty is a necessary evil].

Next thing I DO remember, following morning: Grouchy breakfast and then an ordeal of a journey to The Bridge. Before we get to that, here is a car KG wanted us to snap on our way to breakfast... which a very angry man jumped out of to give us threatening eyeballs.

Outside the breakfast spot, another adorable dog waited patiently for his owner to eat breakfast inside. Another SF observation: not only does it seem incredibly common and safe to leave your dog outside for prolonged meal experiences, no one seems to judge it. Trust hangs in the air, and that's pretty cool. Hopefully no dog-nappers ever read this -- cuz it seems a real easy gig in those parts.
We knew we'd be walking the bridge. We're bridge walkers. Even though we were told it wasn't as enjoyable an experience as you'd think, we scoffed at the idea. We love walking and bridges! Bridge walking is right up our alley. And what a bridge.

Negative aspect #1 and the main issue: we parked SO. FAR. AWAY. And still payed for our spot! We were certain it wasn't as far as it was, and we also felt fairly certain there wouldn't be better parking options. We were so so so wrong. We walked for close to an hour, always able to see the giant golden gates mocking us. It wasn't even a lovely walk, due to the construction. But we made it! And so did the rest of the world. A large percentage of them bikers. Which isn't a good combination for bridge walking with hundreds of other humans. Now. GET READY FOR LOTS OF BRIDGE PICTURES. Do I need to post so many? Nope.


 It was crowded and stressful on the path. The bike lanes were not heeded and the bikers were not happy and it was lots of bell ringing and name calling and all around very unSan Francisco feeling. We didn't even complete the journey to the other side, which is apparently the saddest part of the story. It's bliss on the other side, I'm told. Pure bliss. Oh well. I think I had to pee.

Once we made the long return journey to the restroom area, I had to wait in the lady line for AGES. At least one, full age. KG decided to walk to the car and drive it back to pick me up, so as not to waste another hour or more (plus I'm sure our meter was up.) It took him a good long while to get to the ScuttleBuss and back to me, but eventually we drove away from our GG Bridge Experience, disappointed and utterly exhausted.

We decided to go stare at buffalo in the park. Our first "wild buffalo" sighting, therefore somehow more symbolic than the ones we met a few weeks later in Yellowstone.

We wanted to explore the park more, but we could barely compel our brains to move our feet one in front of the other any longer. We took these sleepy pictures in a matter of minutes and then sat in our VanHome, returning to the strangely instant comfort of Breaking Bad in VanBed.

After a nap or something more akin to a coma, we ventured later that evening in the Scuttlebuss as Scuttlebuggs for one of the only occasions of what some called our "tour". We stopped in to an open mic at a place called Melt. The kind supportive nature of the host and the few in attendance made us do just that. Perhaps that's how it got it's name. Except it's probably something to do with cheese.

Melt was a kind experience, but the food was too expensive. So when we left it was in search. A search that ended up being in vain. Which left me grouchy. Liquor store nuts was the best we could do in that area at that hour, somehow. We were hoping to find a good sleeping spot nearby. We didn't. We drove and drove, eventually settling ON A HILL. As in, we were essentially vertical. Strange for a flat-lander, but sleep is rarely a challenge for me. I slept just fine. New territory the next day: downtown. Walked to an Italian place for a cappuccino but we were sleepy and grouchy and disappointed with the experience. Then to China! Town.

Pretty cool pictures, I'd say. Yet somehow, it didn't strike me as quite as life changing as New York City's had been to me. I'm sure it was because that was my first. But nothing can touch it. Not even the famed San Francisco China. Yet, of course, it's more than neat.

Then there's these pictures of the sex ads on ye ol' stock exchange building.

We walked through in outdoor market. The only note-worthy event that took place: we briefly paused to glance at a baby garment. When gently touching the garment to check for the price, the ornery saleswoman approached us.
"Are you going to buy that??"
"Um, I'm not sure."
"Then why are you pulling on it like that? You're going to stretch it out!!"
".......I was just checking the price tag."
"You should just ask how much it is!! You're going to damage it!"
We mumbled a bit and backed away. We immediately regretted not having a better reaction to her crabby rude-ness. We wanted her to understand she shocked and appalled us. She embarrassed herself, we didn't do anything! The responses we wished we'd flung back? "Oh... wow. Geez. Alright. Woah." Or even just: "Yikes, man. Yikes." Said exuding a great wave of calm.

Drove past Castro. Real disappointed we didn't end up spending a little bit of time there. Snapped the shot at the very least:

 Went to explore one of the neighborhoods our best pal PS had lived in that he told us had a "distinct feel". It did. It is called Sunset Park and it's never sunny. Quite a foggy, unique area. Felt very quiet and separate.

Then we drove past this windmill.

Then we went to see the Cliff House. Didn't find it thrilling. It made us make these faces.

Explored Little Japan Town. Had expensive sushi and indoor mall window-shopping fun.

Straight from there we drove to WalMartParkingLotHome. In Okland. To spend the next day in Berkley. Which wasn't as good.

Shoulda spent one more day in San Francisco. We never put flowers in our hair!!!!!!