Thursday, May 08, 2008


San Francisco, the Mental Health Tour

Yesterday was my first full day in the city. And I do mean full.

While I cruised Chinatown on Tuesday afternoon and evening, my day had started at 3:30 AM East coast time, and by 8PM West coast time, I was exhausted. Too tired to even think about a serious dinner, so I picked up a snack at a Chinatown shop and went to bed. (Besides, I had to get up at 4:30AM Wed. to make a call to be received in Florida at 8AM-- a piece of business that had to be taken care of immediately)

But in true JP fashion, I not only hit the streets of SF with a camera Wednesday, but I found a boat with sails to take me out into blue water.

After walking from the Financial District, through Little Italy in North Beach, down to the piers and Fisherman's Wharf, I had an early (8AM local time) breakfast at the Boudin bakery (hard to screw up toast, fruit and coffee) and shot some pictures of the California Sea Lions that live in the bay, then boarded a 55 foot catamaran for a trip around Alcatraz, then under the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond. Absolute heaven. (well, except for the slight fog that made some of the images less contrasty than I would have liked.)

Arriving back at the Marina, I hiked up the hill to Ghirardelli Square, (and ironically, the ony chocolate I bought was a gift to be shipped to my Aunt for Mother's Day. I hear they have great ice cream there, but ice cream and I do not always get along very well, and the last thing I want is to get sick on this trip) then took a slightly different route back through North Beach, stopping at an adorably tacky tiny Italian restaurant called Franchino's on Columbus Ave.

The place had about 8 tables, (well, 13, if you counted the ones on the sidewalk) and Pop was the MaƮtre D, Mom ran the cash register, and some other family member was in the kitchen cooking. It was like going to a relative's house for dinner-- without the family feuds. :-) The place was decorated in early fleamarket kitsch, but the food was amazing (or maybe I was just starved, since there had been no time for lunch) I had a killer salad topped with thinly sliced eggplant chips and fresh asparagus and a veal and chicken and whole wheat pasta dish that defies description. Decidely yummy.

After dinner, I walked a few blocks over to the City Lights bookstore (once home to the Beat Poets like Ginsburg and Keroac and Ferlinghetti) to prowl the stacks there for a while. It was a surreal experience.

There is the sense of history you feel when you step inside a place like Independence Hall in Philadelphia-- a sense that something important happened here-- but it happened to other people in another time. And then there is the sense of history you feel when you touch the sculpture outside Taylor Hall in Kent-- a sense that something important happened to **you** here.

This was closer to the second experience than to the first. My thoughts and opinions and ideas were changed by the people who made this place important. I clearly remember the first times I defied teachers and parents to read the books on which this place was built. I remember the sense of validation I felt when I realized that others were as conflicted and passionate about ideas as I was. (The fact that Bruce, Keroac, Ferlinghetti and Ginsburg were my parents' contemporaries, rather than my own, was even more delicious. These were not crazy kids, they were grown-up intellectuals)

Then back to the hotel for the evening "concierge floor" get together which was a California wine and cheese tasting. (Good prep for my trip to wine country later this week) Talk about a culture shift. Geniuses of the counter-culture to yuppies in full-blown pretentious mode. The people were uninteresting, but the wine and cheese was good and that event wrapped up at 9, and by then I was ready to crash, because my body still thinks it is on East Coast time, and it felt like midnight.

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