City Review: San Francisco

Gentle reader, you might have noticed that I did not post but once over the weekend. Well, you might have, my regular gentle reader; those of you who have stopped by based on a Google search for missouri lottery murder might not have noticed. However, my wife and I took a trip to San Francisco to celebrate our anniversary. I know, I know, good bloggers always warn you that when they’re going on a brief hiatus, but I do not, because I want my fellow St. Louis bloggers and blog readers to wonder if I am out of town or am just suffering from writer’s block and spending the day cleaning my guns and filing my rottweiler’s teeth to razor-sharp points.

Such as it is, I offer this humble review of the city of San Francisco.

San Francisco, dear friends, is a city at the northern tip of the southern penninsula in the pair of penninsulas that almost pinch the San Francisco Bay off from the Pacific Ocean. It’s a small, compact city, with about seven square miles of streets amongst which Karl Malden, Michael Douglas, and Richard Hatch earnestly ran, Bullitt sped, and Harry Calahan fired his guns. It’s got plenty of pop-culture familiarity, from the Rice-a-Roni street car to The Presidio. Coming to San Francisco, one would almost feel like one had been there before. Well, maybe not, but one knows what one will get. However, going to the city provides the fine grained detail you don’t get from The Maltese Falcon. Unfortunately, the movies and television shows airbrush a lot of graffiti and litter, prevalent even in the better blocks of San Francisco.

And let’s talk about the better blocks of San Francisco. It’s truly an urban environment, which means that the whole city has a lot of foot traffic and a lot of people moving around in it. It has the plethora of little shops at the ground floor level or parking beneath buildings with office space and residential space above. It completely mixes use throughout, and the difference between South Beach and North Beach and Nob Hill and SoMa was not as pronounced as you get in other cities, where the lush environs of Lindell Boulevard dim to the Central West End, which dims to Forest Park Southeast, which really dims to the southwestern corner of St. Louis City. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the city’s elevated to a nice, middle class or better level like one would expect in the People’s Republic of California. Instead, all ground level windows and doors in all parts of the city have iron, albeit decorative wrought iron, bars over the windows and doors.

Still, my beautiful wife and I had a good time. We spent Thursday evening misinterpreting a tourist pamphlet map (and by we, I mean “I”) and walking due south from Nob Hill to find the Fisherman’s Wharf. Somewhere before the Mission District, we wisened up and turned left (easy to do in San Francisco) and found the San Francisco Bay in South Beach. We had fresh seafood in the first place we found. With a bit of luck and without the map (shredded and discarded as useless somewhere about Fifth and Folsom), we found our way back to our hotel.

We spent Friday on a tour of Sonoma wine country with a tour group and everything. Gentle reader, I shall never again sample chardonnay….well, unless I am really thirsty, or it’s all they have, or if I have a bottle of chardonnay. My beautiful wife and I had more wine than can taste good, but oddly enough, the wines from the fourth (or fifth?) winery we visited were so delectable that we ordered somewhere north of a million dollars’ worth (or perhaps somewhere south of….I didn’t have a good map yet). We’re expecting the tanker truck sometime this week. On Friday night, we took a cab to Pier 39 and had seafood because it is supposed to be fresher on the sea than on the plain. Brother, when fried enough, who can tell?

On Saturday, we hit the used bookstores (and A Clean Well Lighted Place for books), walking a number of miles from the Hilton to points on Van Ness, Post, and whatnot. Fortunately, we had a map this time, which eliminated some of the randomness from our wanderings. After noon, we took a streetcar (impression: it’s just mass transit, with kitsch overtones) to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we had more seafood. Afterwards, we walked along Beach Street, looking into the galleries to see the original art works which are still out of our price range, but close enough that we can dream. Heather wanted to visit the temple of the chocolatier, so we did. We then debated streetcar versus cab, and cab won when we saw lines of tourists waiting for the streetcar. Saturday evening brought a burger and a beer in the Hilton pub, and then we returned.

It was an interesting visit, definitely worth a quarter at a yard sale or the vast sums we spent. Besides, it was our anniversary. While some husbands dole out thousands of dollars of baubles to their wives for their anniversaries, I got on an airplane (which, in retrospect, is no where near as thrilling as a San Francisco cab, which also zooms, twists, and cheats death in three dimensions). Cumulatively, I got onto four airplanes. But I love you, honey, and the following latex tentacle wig thing is a joke. Really. Unless you want to.