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Day 3 — Monday, April 27, 2015

I wanted to walk to the Embarcadero via Market Street, so Tim advised me to cut through Buena Vista Park on my way. Amazing vistas, but steep, steep, steep.

The Golden Gate Bridge!

OMG there’s the Golden Gate Bridge!

Huge redwood trees.

Huge redwood trees.

The Pyramid Building. I liked how it juxtaposed against that odd tree.

The Pyramid Building. I liked how it juxtaposed against that odd-looking tree.

buena vista park redwood

Ended up getting lost, but through a combination of native direction sense, following my nose downhill, and occasionally asking a local if I was headed the right direction, I found Market Street. For several blocks down Market, I kept meeting up with the same transient European dude (TED) at each stop light. We got to chatting. A self-professed “citizen of the world,” TED looked to be in his mid-thirties and of either Italian or Spanish descent. He offered to keep me company as I explored, but I demurred. The longer I encouraged this guy, I figured, the harder it’d be to shake him off later. I was too winded to think of taking a picture, but he looked a bit like this.

Old-timey streetcar.

Old-timey streetcar.

It was a warm, humid day. I was thoroughly wilted by the time I made it to the Ferry Building, approximately 3.5 miles’ walk.

ferry bldg

ferry bldg1

The Ferry Building is full of high-end artisanal shops: sourdough bread, good cheese, fresh mushrooms, cured meats, etc. I called Tim and asked if I could pick up anything. Got a pound of shitakes to bring home.

Wilted AND parched, I stopped for a couple cold ones at Sinbad’s, just south of the Ferry Building.

Sinbad’s is seriously old-school. All the waitstaff are silver-haired gentlemen in their 60s. Passed on ordering any food there — holy cow $15.50 for a sad-looking club sandwich! I’d been told about the incredible views of the Bay Bridge and Verba Buena Island at this place, and boy, that sure didn’t disappoint. But there was very little sea traffic to gaze at, just a couple of tugboats.

I was pretty done with walking by this time, and was looking for a taxi outside the Ferry Building, and idly walking down the street when I passed a line of pedicabs.

Now, I worked for 10 years smack in the heart of San Diego’s historic downtown Gaslamp Quarter, which is tourist trap hell. I despised trying to dodge pedicabs during rush hour with the heat of a thousand suns. But I just wanted to go the length of the Embarcadero, not thread through stop-and-go traffic full of angry, bitter cube denizens. Nice straight shot, no traffic, hardly any stops even. Plus, I said I wanted to do the full tourist experience, right? So, I hired a pedicab. And I’m glad I did. It WAS fun.

The various pier buildings are quite impressive:

Got some views of an old streetcar, Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, and an impressive brick masonry building.

Coit Tower. Named for its benefactress. She was a trousers-wearing, forward-thinking independent lady. The story goes that the tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle due to Coit's affinity with the San Francisco firefighters.

Coit Tower. Named for its benefactress. She was a trousers-wearing, forward-thinking independent lady. The story goes that the tower was designed to resemble a fire hose nozzle due to Coit’s affinity with the San Francisco firefighters.

Another view of Coit Tower.

Another view of Coit Tower.

Got to Pier 39, which is right next to Fisherman’s Wharf. This is absolute tourist trap hell at its worst. Still, I wandered through, just for the trippy experience. A charming carousel:

Wat, what is that on the upper level to the left? Could it be... a nice restaurant?

Wat, what is that on the upper level to the left? Could it be… a nice restaurant?

At the very end of the pier, I spotted this place called Neptune’s Waterfront Grill and Bar. Perfect. By now I was feeling pretty hungry. Had to wait a couple of minutes to get a window seat, and it was worth it. My table was on the end, in a corner window, so I had views on two sides. I could see the famous sea lions hauled out on the floating docks, the Presidio in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Sausalito in the distance… it was amazing.

p39-panorama1

p39-panorama2

p39-panorama3

p39-panorama4

p39-panorama5

Alcatraz looked practically close enough to throw a rock at.

p39-alcatraz

A couple of freighters chugged in while I was there.

p39-freighter

p39-freighter & bridge

A water taxi pulled inside the seawall to get a close-up look at the sea lions. Later, I was shocked to see two different full-size ferries plow through there at full speed, with mere feet on either side!

I got a lovely bowl of ice-cold gazpacho and another beer there. Delightful. Outside, I had to get some video of those sea lions.

Finally took a taxi home.

More architecture.

More architecture.

Rested until dinnertime.

Another way we got around was using City CarShare. There’s a tiny parking lot literally half a block from Tim & Alex’s home that has three dedicated spots for City CarShare cars. You can rent them (online) by the hour, and if you go over time, you can extend it in 15-minute increments. Not sure how much they cost, but the convenience can’t be beat. It does depend on which car you take. One night, only the Fiat was left, and they cost more. Lemme tell you how cramped those little jobs’ interiors are compared to a Yaris.

Yamo is a tiny hole in the wall in the Mission District with peeling paint, bad lighting, and about 30 years’ worth of greasy soot coating the walls. It’s about ten feet wide and thirty feet long, with a counter that’ll seat maybe 10 people. On weekdays, office workers line up on the sidewalk outside to pick up take-out orders. They’ve been featured in Bon Appetit. Yamo has some of the best Burmese food to be found anywhere. Burmese food is something of a blend between Indian and Chinese cuisines.

We placed our orders (black bean tofu with noodles for me), and without thinking, I pulled out my camera and snapped a pic of the inside front. Instantly, the matron lady behind the counter barked at me, “NO PIT-SHAH!!!”

yamo interior

I paid dearly for this single shot. Thank god it came out. To the far right, you can see the matron lady’s evil eye spotting my camera. Alex looks like he knows what’s about to happen.

Aw crap, I forgot to ask first. I quickly offered a “Sorry!” as I stuffed the camera away. And indeed, my plate came out last. I don’t think they spat in it at least, because the kitchen is right there in front of you. The food was AMAZING. Outside, from the relative safety of across the street, I snapped another quick pit-shah of the exterior, such as it is.

Now that is a hole in the wall.

Now that is a hole in the wall.

Tim insisted that I go over there and stand outside so he could get a picture of me in front, but I refused. That lady would’ve come running out and beaten me about the head and shoulders with a soot-blackened frying pan full of boiling noodle water. Uh-uh. No way. That lady SCARED me.

Had to get a shot of this bar’s sandwich-board:

clear alcohol

Fog rolled in just as we were returning.

fog rolling in

We watched the very first episode of Game of Thrones. Then the first ten minutes of Gravity in 3D with good 3D glasses, not those crappy blue and red plastic things you get at movie theaters. The technology is amazing. Very impressive. Then we watched the very first episode of Veep.

By then it was 9:15 in the evening, and we decided to hit the Ice Cream Bar Soda Fountain, three blocks from their house, before it closed at 10pm. Because it was late, I didn’t think to bring my camera, and have been kicking myself for it ever since.

ice cream bar

I’ve been in old-fashioned soda fountains before, with white marble counters and seltzer guns and flavored syrups. But this place was on another order altogether. From now on, all soda fountains will be held up to this standard, and most likely fail. I ordered a ginger ale; Tim got a sarsaparilla float. The hipster guy behind the bar knew his stuff. We watched as he added ingredient after ingredient from a row of dark brown glass tincture bottles with eyedropper tops. He carefully added a single drop of something to my ginger ale. I leaned over to see the label on the bottle. “Lime.” One drop of lime, among many other flavors. There was a solid block of ice the size of a shoebox resting on a raised tea towel in the center of a tray. They chip ice from it with an ice pick.

Grabbed from their website.

Grabbed from their website.

The ginger ale was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. I noticed they have a small food menu, so I determined to come back and get a grilled cheese sandwich washed down with two or more fountain concoctions, filming video of each one. Unfortunately, like the rest of SF, the place doesn’t open until noon, damnit, and I couldn’t carve out the time to get back. ~KICK! KICK!~

 

Next post: Day 4 ~ Day of Rest ~ Dim Sum ~ Making Dog Food ~ Twin Peaks ~ Dinner @ San Tung

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor garden sanctuary.

outdoor bed

Day 2 — Sunday, April 26, 2015

Wandering around in Golden Gate Park:

GGP-sundial

The De Young Museum.

The de Young Museum.

The De Young Museum's perforated bronze exterior.

The de Young Museum’s perforated bronze exterior.

Pond and statues by the De Young Museum.

Pond and statues by the de Young Museum.

Loved this angle of the De Young Museum's tower.

Loved this angle of the de Young Museum’s tower.

These two sphynxes fronted the De Young's original Egyptian revival building when it opened for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition.

These two sphinxes fronted the de Young’s original Egyptian revival building when it opened for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition.

Bacchanalian winemaking vase by Paul Gustave Dore.

Bacchanalian winemaking vase by Paul Gustave Dore.

The California Academy of Sciences, with its distinctive living skylight roof.

The California Academy of Sciences, with its distinctive living skylight roof.

I missed the Japanese Garden and doubled back for it. But by then the place was packed, and the line of people waiting to get in snaked out the entrance. I regretfully passed.

GGP-japanese garden

Not just in the park, but throughout the entire city, I saw lots and lots of large, mature trees. So nice.

Not just in the park, but throughout the entire city, I saw lots and lots of large, mature trees. So nice.

There are also lots and lots of gorgeous bronze statues everywhere:

GGP-lion statue

GGP-statue

I loved how dramatic this one looked from behind.

I loved how dramatic this one looked from behind.

GGP-statue2

Beethoven.

Beethoven.

Burns.

Burns.

Emmet.

Emmet.

Garfield.

Garfield.

Goethe and Schiller.

Goethe and Schiller.

King.

King.

Verdi.

Verdi.

Discovered a memorial glen full of redwood trees, with a lovely stone river running through the shady center.

GGP-memorial garden

Several sets of stacked stones ringed the "river."

Several sets of stacked stones ringed the “river.”

This "bridge" over the river rocks is made of giant slabs of stone.

This “bridge” over the river rocks is made of giant slabs of stone.

The REALLY big stone slabs were used to line the walkway.

The REALLY big stone slabs were used to line the walkway.

By now I was feeling pretty parched. Ducked into this dive bar named Murio’s Trophy Room, est. 1959. It was cool and dark and quiet there while I had a couple of cold beers.

haight-murios

The bar back is copper sheeting with rough-hewn wood plank shelves. Lots of antique trophies, too.

haight-murios bar back

haight-murios bar back1

One thing I’ve noticed about San Francisco is that only coffee houses and corner markets are open before noon. So I headed back for some more window-shopping on Haight.

The famous corner.

The famous corner.

Mural.

Mural.

Architecture.

Architecture.

Hippie shop with an impressive tie-dyed ceiling and chandelier:

haight-tie dye ceiling

There’s a fantastic shop called the Piedmont Boutique that sells everything any self-respecting drag queen should ever need. It’s easy to spot: just look for the legs hanging out the upper window.

They were nice enough to let me take pictures.

haight-piedmont

haight-piedmont1

haight-piedmont2

haight-piedmont3

haight-piedmont4

Pasties, pasties, pasties!

Pasties, pasties, pasties!

There were some really cool places that didn’t allow pictures — they even have explicit signs on the front doors saying so. One was Decades of Fashion. It’s a huge warehouse (you can see it behind me here) full of costumes and vintage clothing from the 1880s through the 1970s. There’s also accessories, jewelry, undergarments, shoes, luggage… It was amazing. No pictures.

Grabbed this off the net.

Then there was Loved to Death, a fascinating shop specializing in taxidermy, specimens, prosthetic eyeball and butterfly wing jewelry, poison bottles, unusual antiques, Victoriana, and other oddities and morbid curiosities. No pictures.

Stuff like this. Grabbed from their website.

Passed by a black guy on Haight, who commented that he was “lovin’ those killer sunglasses.” I didn’t react and kept on walking, but then he said to my back, “With a six-pack and a shotgun, you could take over the world!” Had to laugh, which made him laugh more. I think I have a new motto!

Got back around mid-afternoon and wrote postcards and chilled for a while.

Several times, we all used Lyft (like Uber) to get rides around the city. I was impressed. Prices comparable to or better than a taxi, with clean modern cars, clean English-fluent drivers, and our wait times averaged between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. No joke. You also get a picture of the driver and their car so you know what to look for.

Treated Tim & Alex to sushi at Domo. Didn’t take any pictures. We waited extra for the window seats. I tried uni for the first time. It was divine. Also got a Fiesta roll, with tuna, mango, and cilantro. It was interesting and surprisingly good. Discovered one thing on this trip: I’m not super keen on hot sake. Cold is lovely, though.

 

Next: Day Three ~ Market St. ~ Embarcadero ~ Pier 39 ~ Dinner @ Yamo ~ Ice Cream Bar

 

 

That is all.

This beauty is a Hildebrandt’s Starling photographed in Tanzania.

hildebrandts starling-kenya-tanzania

Day 2 — Sunday, April 26, 2015

In the morning, Tim & I popped over to the Haight Street Market for coffee. It’s a charming little high-end market. Their coffee bar features pour-over drip coffee — it’s strong and oh so good.

haight st mkt

Love the Jimi Hendrix mural.

 

Tim makes Moby’s food from scratch, but that’s another post. This morning though, Moby’s breakfast consisted of a chicken back and neck, a couple of melted bone broth & turmeric cubes, and a whole egg.

moby breakfast

He polished the whole mess off in under five minutes:

Then Tim set to work making Crabcakes Benedict for the three of us. It was to DIE FOR. You’d pay at least $25 for this in a restaurant.

OMG OMG OMG

OMG OMG OMG

Thoroughly stuffed now, I left the guys alone so they could get some work done while I wandered around. First, I explored Haight Street. Lots of transient hippies. Murals. Secondhand pot smoke. Tibetan shops — four in the Haight-Ashbury area alone, plus I spotted a high-end one downtown.

Lots of chunky stones in the jewelry.

Lots of chunky stone jewelry.

I tried to ask permission for pictures, but sometimes I forgot.

I tried to remember to ask permission for pictures, but sometimes I forgot.

Bolts of fabric and lots of wild, furry coats.

Bolts of fabric and lots of wild, furry coats.

I have a Tibetan singing bowl, but it sits on a wooden stand, not these stuffed rings...

I have a Tibetan singing bowl, but it sits on a wooden stand, not these stuffed rings…

Resin skulls. One had the alphabet, yes/no, good/bad, etc. so it could be used as a ouija board.

Resin skulls. One had the alphabet, yes/no, good/bad, etc. so it could be used as a ouija board.

Scary carved wood masks.

Scary carved wood masks.

I ended up going back a day later and getting a ring for our singing bowl. Glad I did, too. The wooden stand it had been sitting on (under the plant to the left now) disappeared under the bowl, and with the bowl now sitting on the ring, its gonging sound reverberates much longer than before.

tibetan bowl ring

Got a couple of touristy items from a tie-dye shop:

haight ashbury tshirt

shotglass1

shotglass2

Randomness on Haight Street:

Architecture.

Architecture.

Architecture.

Architecture.

Loved this old hardware store sign.

Loved this old hardware store sign.

Mural.

Mural.

Then I headed three blocks west to the east end of Golden Gate Park. What a gorgeous place.

GGP-pond

My first destination: the Conservatory of Flowers. OMG this place is amaze-balls. It’s an enormous greenhouse and botanical garden housing a world-class collection of rare and exotic plants. Completed in 1878, it survived the 1906 earthquake and is the oldest building in the park. It was one of the first municipal conservatories constructed in the United States and is the oldest remaining municipal wooden conservatory in the country. For these distinctions and for its associated historical, architectural, and engineering merits, the Conservatory of Flowers is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Places. It is a California Historical Landmark and a San Francisco Designated Landmark.

GGP-CoF-exterior

It costs $8 to get in. WELL worth the money.

GGP-CoF-interior

GGP-CoF-pool1

GGP-CoF-railing

Random bits of art dotted the place.

Random bits of art dotted the place.

A wall of bromeliads.

A wall of bromeliads.

 

GGP-CoF-railing1

GGP-CoF-trickling pool

GGP-CoF-potted plants

Some doors between climates had to be closed; others were kept open.

 

Temperature and humidity is tightly controlled in each environment.

Temperature and humidity is tightly controlled in each environment.

GGP-CoF-statue

People have weddings in here, too.

People have weddings in here, too.

GGP-CoF-interior2

GGP-CoF-terrarium

GGP-CoF-railing2

GGP-CoF-interior3

Loved this stone slab bench. Took forever to get a picture without some people in it, though!

Loved this stone slab bench. Took forever to get a picture without some people in it, though!

A giant bromeliad.

A giant bromeliad.

Extremely steamy in here. You can see the condensation on the glass, and some pictures came out foggy.

Extremely steamy in here. You can see the condensation on the glass, and some pictures came out foggy.

GGP-CoF-lily pond

These strangler fig vines were growing straight out of the tiles.

These strangler fig vines were growing straight out of the tiles.

GGP-CoF-fountain

GGP-CoF-lily pond1

A pineapple!

A pineapple!

Ran across an outdoor swing dance class:

 

Coming up in part 2 of day 2: More Golden Gate Park ~ More Haight Street ~ Sushi @ Domo

 

 

 

 

Professional skier and rally driver Guerlain Chicherit attempted to beat the world record for longest ramp car jump. The result was not what he had hoped for, and the video that came from it was not just a crash video.

“The life of a professional stunt athlete is rarely without consequences,” James Kirkham, the 4 Wheel Motor Sports Creative Team Leader for GoPro Original Productions, explains. “We see them fall, crash, get hurt and, yes, sometimes they die. But what we captured inside of Guerlain’s car was very different than a crash video — it was a deeply ethereal, intimate human experience. We captured ‘that moment’ – A look on a man’s face and a light in his eyes when he realizes, ‘this is it. I am going to die.’ Three or four seconds that seem like minutes, without time. Where I expected to see fear, panic, contortion, and pain, Guerlain shows us a deep existential calm.”

It was a record of one man confronting his own mortality, and ultimately experiencing a moment of what we can only describe as grace.

For the jump itself, minus the lead-up, start at 7:00. After the initial impact, I think I see the car do a full end-to-end 720 degrees in the air without touching anything. I love how he calmly brushes a piece of broken window away from his face at 8:29. He climbed out of the car by himself and suffered only minor injuries.

Cuddling owls.

owl cuddlinks

I recently spent five days visiting my good friend Tim and his husband Alex in San Francisco. Had an absolute blast. Now I need another week to recover.

Day 1 – Saturday, April 25, 2015

Arrived around mid-afternoon feeling gross and drugged from Dramamine and still motion-sick. Took the BART train to the Civic Center downtown, then took a cab from there to Tim’s neighborhood, the famous Haight-Ashbury area. They live in a 100-year-old Edwardian. Here’s the view from inside the entryway of their home:

entryway

My gracious hosts, Tim and Alex.

My gracious hosts,  Alex and Tim.

I'd forgotten my sunglasses, so I bought these cheapies for $2 at the tackle shop on the way to the airport.

I’d forgotten my sunglasses, so I bought these cheapies for $2 at the tackle shop on the way to the airport.

They put me up in their living room with a nice air mattress. Their dog Moby is a Kelpie mix.

w-moby

In the evening we went to Japantown for dinner. Here’s the Japanese Peace Pagoda:

japanese peace pagoda

me @ peace pagoda

We ate at Tanpopo, their favorite ramen place. The bowls were ginormous. I could only eat about half of mine.

After dinner, we wandered through Japan Center, an indoor mall whose shops are devoted to all things Nippon. I got some postcards at a stationary shop, Tim pulled me into an incense shop, and I spotted a bonsai shop, which was thankfully closed or I may have had something shipped home. I had to take pictures of this insane Sanrio shop:

amiko store

amiko store1

amiko store2

There was also a high-end kimono shop:

kimono shop

kimono shop1

kimono shop2

Random storefronts with interesting displays:

japantown toys

These Kewpie dolls will come to strangle you in your sleep.

These Kewpie dolls will follow you home and strangle you in your sleep.

Back at home, we watched a brilliant animated movie by acclaimed artist Hayao Miyazaki on their big projection screen. Inspired storytelling, otherworldly creatures, and gorgeous watercolor-like visuals. Here’s a couple of stills from the movie, “Spirited Away“:

Slept like the dead that night.

 

Next: First full day — Crabcakes Benedict — Exploring Haight St. — Exploring Golden Gate Park — Sushi @ Domo

The 1922 silent movie Nosferatu condensed down to 4 minutes, and with added sound!

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