People, San Francisco
Huntington Park is a small but beautiful open space at the top of Nob Hill. It is surrounded by Grace Cathedral, the Pacific-Union Club, the Masonic Center, and numerous fancy spas and hotels. The park features a recently restored 100-year old replica of Rome's Fountain of the Tortoises, a fountain donated by the local Flood family, a playground, numerous benches, and enough green space for the neighborhood kids and dogs.
We had a nice picnic here in July 2007, just blocks from out Union Square Hotel. On this day, Nob Hill was at the edge of the fog, with the clouds dissipated just as it got to the square, leaving us in the beautiful sunshine all day.
In 1872 one of the city's finest mansions was built on the lot the park now occupies. After the house was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the owner (Mrs Huntington) gave the land to the city for the purpose of open park space.
I'm a big fan of beat generation poetry because it was the first to explore raw emotional sensations--including shocking vulgar ones. The raw emotions of early drug use are popular within this genre. In this sense then, the genre of poetry follows on the pioneering work of the classical American inventor of horror, Edgar Allen Poe, whose life was one of addiction to alcohol, but the meter and rhyme is is often more titled toward the surprise. Pioneering gay writers like Allen Ginsburg, Jack Keroac, and William S Burroughs deserve perhaps the greater credit for radical beat generation ideas, but Ferlinghetti's City Light Bookstore was so enthusiastic about publishing it that he became embroiled in the sensational 1956 Howl trial, when San Francisco police seized Ginsburg's book at the store and arrested Ferlinghetti on obscenity charges. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) defended Ferlingetti, and the charges were later dropped, effectively memorializing beat generation within San Francisco's history. City Lights Publishers continued as sole publisher of Allen Ginsberg's poetry for the next 30 years. Actually though, Ferlinghetti had begun as a French instructor and small publisher of anarchist European literature, only later to emerge as arguably the most prolific publisher of Beat Generation literature, as the store continues today as a leader in publishing radical international thought as well as current poetry. Though born in New York, Ferlinghetti has spent most of his life in San Francisco, where he has received many awards, pushed for the memorialization of Jack Keroac through the renaming of a SF street in his honor, and has continued to sponsor and attend international poetry readings. His most famous collection of poetry hails back to New York, A Coney Island of the Mind, and is an easy to read early personal favorite of mine that I highly recommend to anyone visiting San Francisco. Occasionally, the old man can be found walking the streets in the vicinity of the City Lights Store or sipping an espresso at Cafe Trieste
Even more than a decade after his death, and one of the best attended San Francisco funerals ever, Herb Caen (1916-1997) receives tributes from SFGate.com and the SF Chronicle, and he continues to be remembered by his fans, like me, throughout northern California. Caen was an intrepid and superb columnist whose gossip revelations were sometimes amazing and universally regarded accurate--with a couple of sensational exceptions. But, Caen was just chatty, his %Loyal Royal manual typewriter, shown in this public photo fro Wikipedia, produced outstanding prose with near poetic metering, from 1938 to 1991, 6 days a week, and thereafter 5 days a week until his death.
Note these quotes attributed to him, which reveal his dry wit and a broad sentiment within the San Francisco Bay Area:
Cockroaches and socialites are the only things that can stay up all night and eat anything.
The only thing wrong with immortality is that it tends to go on forever.
The trouble with born again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around
I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there
A bridge is only a bridge, a highway in the sky. The ferryboats were close to the foaming heart of the matter – something to love
A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew
There are more of them than us
One day if I do go to heaven...
I'll look around and say, 'It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco.
Caen also published several books from his column material, including Baghdad-by-the-Bay (1949), Don't Call it Frisco (1953), and One Man's San Francisco (1976). In 1996 he received a special Pulitzer Prize honoring him for all of his work. Later that same year, the city of San Francisco declared June 14th as Herb Caen Day.
Although his body was cremated and ashes scattered rather than placed beneath a tombstone, Herb Caen has been memorialized by a street--Herb Caen Way...-- (including the ellipses) which is a pedestrian part of the Embarcadero, a space made available when the elevated eyesore Embarcadero Freeway was demolished after the Loma Prieta Earthquake revealed seismic dangers. Caen had never liked the never completed freeway extension, labeling it the Dambarcadero.
His books are available on Amazon.com
This may not be a cultural phenomenon but I amazed at the effort the beggars went to convince me to give them money. The beggars in San Francisco would consistently trick me into thinking they were a friendly person who was helping out a dazed tourist and then eventually (sometimes after over 5 minutes) would ask for money.
Everyone local person I met in San Francisco was extremely nice and down to earth so I would still say to talk to anyone who may happen to be willing to help. Just be aware that they may eventually ask you for some dough!
"we will be flying for five hours. you can watch a movie or fall asleep. i know i will", our pilot of my flight to Oakland, California made all passengers laugh.
I was flying to california and it didn't take me long to find that californians were some of the simplest and fun people i met. on BART public transport stations, airports or even down the streets, people tend to be simple in expression rather than be formal. many times i heard BART train drivers making quick jokes or polytonous announcements as if they were heading to sing with a band not making a formal announcement, "we willlll beee arrivvving at MOOOntgomery" and so on!
it's much fun to hear californians speak like that. it's a relaxing environment and fun to be a tourist really;^)
although i have been here for two weeks, but already met people from different backgrounds. a friend of my friend invited us to his flat-warming party, and so i met up with many faces; californians, lebanese, and greek jews. as i've never met greek jews - only christian orthodox - it was surprising to see how diverse the culture in SF can widely vary.
in the beginning, we all got out of the flat to do the moving-in ritual. the most senior member of the family -who was a gentleman- asked the rest of the men to cover their heads with a hat, while myself and another lady were not requested to. then he recited a prayer in hebrew, translated into english, that 'may god bless this new house', amen. then the new resident himself hunged a little prayer at the door, with a slight titled angle in the direction of the house entry. this symbolises that blessings will enter the house from now on.
and on the other day, i met with a muslim family, who invited me to an Eid event held at one of the university campuses. they had islamic poetry recited in 6 languages; English, Arabic, Pashtu, German, Amharic and Urdu, reflecting the diversity of the islamic community in california.
very interesting, very nice to see different people in one place, the city of hearts
Marina Green is a favorite hangout spot for people from the Marina and Fort Mason areas of the city. This long flat area was swampland until the much of the rubble from the 1906 earthquake was used as fill. This area was used for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but only the Palace of the Arts remains. After the world's fair, most of this area was built up with the houses you see today, but the Marina Green was kept as a park.
In the 74-acre Marina Green park you will see numerous people having picnics, flying kites, jogging, and playing Frisbee in view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Next to the park are the St Francis Yacht Club and the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
Saw this Indian dance performance celebrating the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. This is San Francisco - whether Chinese, Ethiopian, Irish, Italian, Ukranian or Cambodian, you can find a store, a community and an ethnic restaurant.
There are many ethnic restaurants on Vanessa Road and many cultural events held in Golden Gate Park or one of the many venues in the city. Check the local papers or online.
When I first moved here it seemed as though everywhere I looked people were running around naked. I covered Bay to Breakers (a popular race) and many of the runners were...naked. I covered critical mass and a few of the cyclists were...naked. And then I took this picture of a group of cyclists at the Justin Herman fountain near the Embarcadero and yes, they were...naked.
Okay, so not everyone in San Francisco walks around naked all the time but the next time Bay to Breakers is here don't be surprised to find some people...naked!
My grandparents, great-grandmother and 32 other family members were survivors of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. My Great-Grandmother died in the early 1960's, but she was a widow with spunk. After her devout Protestant husband had died at a young age, she raised my grandmother and three younger brothers, one of whom died before the earthquake. My great grandmother had two houses. One was a boarding house, which she acquired after the death of her father, was located at the corner of Myrtle and Polk (near Van Ness) but was dynamited by the US Army to form a firebreak that was never needed. English family heirlooms were lost as she was an immigrant among some 32 other family members. The other home, located at 731 Wisconsin Street, burned to the ground along with three other buildings BEFORE the quake, and then was rebuilt to survive the Great Fire. Only a few of these houses on Protrero Hill survive today, since most have been replaced by newer structures. In any case, her parents had lived there, and she managed to find another home in the neighborhood for them to rent. During the moving, she sent my grandmother and the two brothers by lumber schooner to Fort Bragg. At that time, Fort Bragg had no port, and so people were conveyed by Bos'n chair--a cable and chair transport that stretched between shore and ship. My grandmother recalled the thrill of that ride. My Great-Grandmother became a boarding house owner, and subsequently remarried in the October that followed the quake. My great-cousin Elsie Allen's house on Wisconsin also survived, but she had to move out because the chimney had fallen over.
In 1900, my great-great- grandparents (Henry and Margaret Rodger) who had come from Scotland were living in an apartment near the corner of 5th and Mission. That year they purchased a farm in Fort Bragg to which they moved. In 1906, the entire area of their former home was leveled by fire. My grandmother's family had fled their home at Geary and Myrtle for a tent in Golden Gate Park for a few days. Meanwhile, my grandfather, still a bachelor, worked through the Earthquake and Great Fire of 1906 at the Union Iron Company, which was located off 3rd Street in the vacinity of today's Giant's Baseball Stadium. He was a machinist, and I believe that his work was sorely needed to rebuild the city after the quake. He had lived with his mother and brother in a home at 1508 20th Street, which was undamaged by the quake. Bear in mind that during reconstruction, rails were layed and trolley's run to deliver redwood lumber brought down from Fort Bragg by lumber schooner. Thus, within three years, the city was rebuilt, and within 15 years, the city hosted the World's Fair out near the Presidio. The Palace of Fine Arts is the sole remaining artifact from that fair. Around the time of the fair, my grandparents met and got married.
Keep your's open and you never know what you will find. This amazing City of great diversity rewards the visitor with a palet of colors, a cocophany of sound, a menu of tastes and smells (some even good!) and something for everyone. If you get bored in San Francisco you've only yourself to blame.
Many native San Franciscans, especially those in their teens or '20s, say the word "hella" in their day-to-day conversations. This word means "a lot" or "very" - for example, "I am hella hungry" means "I am very hungry." This word is definitely local slang, and not everyone uses it (I don't, for example). You will also find some people will substitute "hella" for "hecka."
Beware the Bushman! Ok, so now I've ruined one of the most fun activities in the city, but then, not everbody who visits SF reads VT. Here's the deal...in the Fisherman's wharf area, there's this man, who hides behind his own tree branch on the sidewalk and scares the crap out of tourists as they walk by. It's really harmless fun and most people play along with the joke, but the guy does have a bodyguard near by in case someone didn't pack their sense of humor on the trip. Traditionally, after you get scared (and leave a few coins in his jar) you move to the other side of the street with the rest of the tourists and wait for the next unsuspecting fellow. He can attract large crowds during the summer, so if you're walking along down fisherman's wharf, and you see a crowd of people staring at you...LOOK OUT!!! The bushman might be waiting, ready to pounce.
My daughter and I encountered a homeless gentleman rolling up his trousers and wading into a small fountain inside Ghiradelli Square. Of course on the bottom of the fountain was a large amount of change. There was a little boy who yelled at him not to take the money out of the fountain. I had to explain to my daughter about how the homeless had to be creative.
When we were waiting in line to ride the cable car, there was a musician singing and playing his guitar, he was very good and my daughter made a contribution to his earnings.