Girl with magnifier

Saturday, March 20, 2010


San Francisco has never been my favorite city, I'm not really sure why? A great city but not my favorite. I spent a portion of my formative years growing up in Manhattan, and that will always be the "city" for me. And my last 30 years have been spent in an idyllic valley playing the part of the southern california gentleman farmer. So certain elements of life in S.F. are vexing. Although I have a lot of great friends and clients who love living there.

We never hunt for a parking space in Fallbrook, nor in New York, since we are either hopping into a readily available taxicab or riding the IRT in the real city, where public transportation actually rules. It is hard to find a cab in the Bay Area. But the food is great, the people are urbane and dress well, patronize the opera and symphony and it was after all the birthplace of City Lights Bookstore.

Inexplicably, it is not easy to find a restaurant or bar open after 10:30 p.m. in San Francisco, a city with a decided lack of night life. Mel's doesn't count. We got closed down at 10:00 the other night from a pub, on St. Paddy's day, no less.

Roving bands of street wolves prowl the corners of North Beach, Mission and the Tenderloin. I would occasionally have to walk 60 blocks in New York, being a poor kid, and never felt scared of the natives. Of course, there was no crack back then. Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Alphabet City, everyone was in the same boat and in the same struggle and there was never any fear, or I was too young and dumb to care.

San Francisco and Oakland are different. There is something slightly obscene about poverty in a beautiful setting. The street people are much more in your face out here. My friend in Rockridge cautioned me about walking around her block as there had been several armed muggings lately, folks from the numbered streets coming up to the more tony neighborhoods to separate the citizens from their cash and belongings. This gentleman is checking his hedge fund holdings in the morning paper.

I have yet to find a great Sushi Bar in the city. Last night I was served small pieces of rubbery hamachi, probably previously frozen. BigDave has taken me to places that do horrid things with sushi, trendily mixing it with pieces of pears and committing a wide array of culinary sins.

Parking for a night at my hotel, the Marriot Marquis is $55.00. Fifty five dollars.

Of course, it is a city known for its leniency, and if I was gay, bi, tri, trans or in my twenties and had moved in from Dubuque, I suppose the place could be somewhat liberating. It is definitely a city for the young, I had to show my identification several times to prove that I was not over the requisite age limit to enter the Marina District.

I had a really crappy BLT at the Kezar Pub the other day. How do you screw up a BLT?

My favorite area up here is actually the East Bay. I like Berkeley, Piedmont and the Oakland Hills. I like the people, the terroir, the food. My least favorite place is Marin. I spent a lot of time in Marin County in the 70's and 80's, did a lot of partying up there and might be having residual flashbacks. No one can deny that it is gorgeous. It just feels really "clubby" to me. Beamer driving moms without an ounce of body fat perfectly coiffed in their spandex bodysuits pushing around designer children and strollers that probably cost more than my car.

My old pal class envy seethes up out of the pit of my stomach when I go places where it seems people are completely removed from struggle. Their lives take on an element of psychic flabbiness, being free of the pressures that the rest of us continually struggle with. I stand outside the velvet rope of the Golden Gate Bridge, refused entry by it's rich northern host. I could never live there.

I had an appointment in Woodside a few weeks ago, in the South Bay and that area is really nice as well. Haven't explored it totally but I felt like I was in Brigadoon, Old fences and green meadows, everything but Robert Goulet. Not as removed from the milieu as Marin. Of course this is all my biased, personal opinion.

Drivers in the entire region, especially the silicon valley twentysomethings with the fast cars and the alpha personalities, rival Bostoners in their aggression and lack of sense.

The city certainly has its treasures - the Buena Vista, Palace of Fine Arts, Acme Bread, Golden Gate Park, ummm, I seem to be drawing a blank? Lots of fine museums, but those are for tourists of course, people that live in metropolitan areas rarely help themselves to the available culture.

I heard that they are taking the bulldozers to wide sections of Detroit. Reclaiming the countryside. Old Tiger Stadium was sold a few months ago for a mere half a million. Here they just wait for the next earthquake, can't see it happening. Real estate is too expensive. But there does seem to be an awful lot of concrete around. Yesterday's beautiful skies have transformed into a dull pea soup today, the norm I guess.

I sold a small painting yesterday and have probably covered my expenses. Show is slow for everybody. Better day today. Ciao and condolences to Herb Caen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i loved Herb Caen, i owe much of my "three dot" prose style to him...have fond memories of Haight and North Beach in the 60's, running the Bay to Breakers in the 70's...you're right, though, the city is ruined now, a mess....