San Francisco Part II

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More random thoughts/observations/opinions on SF:

I visited SF's Skid Row on steroids, the infamous Tenderloin, to eat brunch at Brenda's French Soul Food. Though I had visited the neighborhood before, this time the neighborhood seemed sketchier, and more on edge than normal. Passing through the neighborhood en route to my hotel, the “sights” I saw were straight up appalling. In its hyper- gritty nature, The Tenderloin, colloquially and affectionately known as "Da T-L" reminded me more of a festering slum in a 3rd world city, like Mogadishu, Beirut or Rio de Janeiro, than it did the surrounding neighborhoods. The trademark posh ubiquity associated with San Fran was nowhere to be found. It seemed as if, everywhere I looked abandonment, dereliction, decay, homelessness and of course, vagrancy, were the norm. The characters were the kind of people I’d expect from such a neighborhood, with some people being almost sub-human, and more like wonders or animals. As hinted in the above sentence, the people were…..interesting to say the very least. In addition to the standard drugged-out Vietnam Veteran, I came across pimps, hustlers, and cross dressers. The most disturbing of the demographics present were those who chose to defecate in broad daylight, unfazed by the pedestrians and bystanders. Many, many more were disillusioned, lost in various states of trance or more commonly, strung out. Continually, I asked myself, why the city of San Francisco would allow such a travesty to flourish and prosper, especially given its central location to Downtown and other, ritzier locales. That is a question that I’ll probably never know the answer to, probably because, as is the case with other bureaucratic entities (i.e. city governments), it makes too much sense. However, despite its many shortcomings, I found “Da T-L” to be a treasure trove of fine architecture, and if things change for the better, a place with virtually boundless potential.

Another place I especially was fond of was the Haight; replete with its Hippie vibe and associated head shops, lovely rows of colorful 3-story ornately-appointed Victorian homes, and rich historical grounding. Walking in the Haight was akin to entering a time machine with the destination being the San Francisco of 1960’s…almost. While many of the things that eventually defined the era have since departed the city, vestiges of them do remain. And despite being a shell of its former self and as a whole, a lot calmer, The Haight was a very lively entity. My main reason for being in the neighborhood was for breakfast at Pork’s, my 2nd visit was, in fact. As my return to the establishment would lead one to think, I was most highly satisfied with my breakfast at Pork’s. Both times, I ordered the pancakes; blueberry the first, and banana the second, with chicken sausage links and shredded potatoes. Once again, both times were quite heavenly, and of course, memorable. I mean, just the thought alone is tantalizing. While it’s hard to really draw comparisons of such a unique neighborhood to anywhere, the one place that did come to mind was Venice. The reasons are obvious; the trinity of artists, bohemians and hipsters; the far-out, unyielding, eccentric vibe and creativity that dominates (or once did); and to a lesser extent, distinct architecture (Victorians vs. Contemporary) and burgeoning street culture.

Also, I noticed that several of my interests conflicted and were the subject of much disagreement with my San Franciscan friends. For instance, pretty much the whole North and North East of the city, was a tourist badland in their minds. These places had been despised because of the yuppie and frat demographic prevalent in these parts, and I suppose, the sheer amount of tourists visiting those places. Despite this, I had a good time and enjoyed several places I those places, with Nob Hill & North Beach being favorites, with a notable mention to the Marina/Cow Holly nexus. Nob Hill and North Beach were almost too good to be true. Nob Hill was this awesome, wonderful picturesque neighborhood situated and beset by hills of the same name; and as one would expect, those hills afforded awesome views in just about every direction. Though a little bit less hilly, North Beach was another amazing urban entity. Traditionally known as the city’s Italian neighborhood, the nabe is dotted with trattorias and ristorantes on just about every block. At the center of the nabe was the Saint Peter and Paul’s church; the church was an impressive sight to see, and it’s ornate and grandeur nature illustrates the church’s once powerful influence. The Mission, with its gritty authenticity, and position as the hub of Latino culture in San Fran, too, was cool. And La Taqueria pretty much has the best burritos around…something I say as an emissary from the Mexican food capital of the ‘States.

>Another plus in San Fran’s favor the amount of people riding their bicycles in San Francisco. Not that it doesn’t take place here, but aside from organized bike groups and a few die-hard bike aficionados, it just doesn’t happen here. Bicycle-riding, coupled with human scaled and friendly-living (not in terms of rent!), the preponderance of mass transit, and relative ease to find most amenities/necessities, makes San Fran a whole lot livable of a city.

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