Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Return to California Part 3: San Francisco Bay

Crossing the Bay Bridge from Oakland into San Francisco was exciting. I actually rarely saw the city from that angle before. I didn't drive while I lived in California, so when I crossed into or out of the East Bay, it was usually on BART via the tunnel that goes under the water. 

We had a few hours to kill before Death Guild at DNA Lounge - and the Hubba Hubba Revue show before that upstairs! - so we headed to my favorite kooky neighborhood, the Haight. When I was living there, some friends and I went on the Haunted Haight tour. I wished I could have found the book I was given as part of the tour and had it with me while we were there, but I did remember a few things. 

Our first stop was Buena Vista Park. When it was built, old gravestones were brought in, broken up, and used as pavers for the drainage system. Not a ghost story, but it's still an interesting story (as is San Francisco's sordid relationship with cemeteries as a whole) and a fun thing to go hunting for while you are in the area. The Panhandle located a few blocks away  from Buena Vista has a ghost story about a man and his dog and a lot of pigeons, and Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park is supposedly haunted by a lady in white who drowned (there is a 100 year old police report of people fleeing her in a newfangled automobile at the crazy - sorry, hella - fast speed of 25mph). Take the tour to learn more!

Most people know about the Painted Ladies, even if only from the opening to Full House. They are lovely, sure, but my absolute favorite Victorian homes are the located on Waller near the corner of Masonic. They were pointed out to us during our Haunted Haight tour. I don't think they're haunted, they're just beautiful and our guide couldn't help pointing them out.

The shops along and around Haight St are fun and interesting. I often went thrifting there, and before I moved, I sold a bunch of stuff to the Buffalo Exchange. My favorite coffee shop was Coffee to the People on Masonic just off Haight. And, of course, there is Amoeba Music. There are also bars and lounges, like Zam Zam (I went once, and so did Anthony Bourdain). I'm not sure if it's there anymore, but I once went to a place that hosted a friend's DVD release party. There was a break dance battle. Good times. I've also had people playing tambourines and drums frolic around me on the sidewalk. You never quite know what's going to happen in the Haight. 

The Hubba Hubba Revue was great, Death Guild was less populated than usual, which was really sort of nice, and I had a lot of fun that night. It was great to see old friends and dancing buddies and finally have a Tokyo Tea again! (Not a well known drink out here.) It was also great not to have to rely on public transportation to get us back to Alameda (where we were staying with Greg's friend). 

Our next day in the Bay Area took us down to San Jose for the Winchester Mystery House. I went with a couple of friends when I was living in the South Bay, and I really wanted to show it to Greg because it is a really crazy place, and crazy places are sort of our thing. It turned out that due to some construction that was being done on the top floor, our tour took a slightly different route than last time, too, and, of course, every tour guide has her own stories, so I learned things I wasn't told last time. 

We went from there to lunch with friends. It was great to see how everyone had changed and reconnect. It didn't feel like 5 years had passed. If it weren't for the troubling water crisis, I could picture myself living there - in any part of the Bay! (Well, maybe not the North Bay. They have an equally troubling measles fetish.) 

Driving back north, we headed to San Francisco to meet up with another of Greg's friends who lives in a tech commune of sorts on the edge of the Mission. It was fascinating! Reminded me a little of when I was living in Parkmerced with a rotating roster of roommates, usually 5 at a time with various people crashing on and off, except her place in the Mission was way cooler. (Our townhome was pretty basic and not at all interesting architecturally.) 

We drove down to Fisherman's Wharf for the Musee Mecanique, walked over to Pier 39 to look for sea lions, then on to Ghirardelli Square for chocolate and ice cream. I was so excited to see so many flavors of chocolate that I'd never seen before and that don't usually make it this far east. It was all so delicious!! Ghirardelli Square is one of my favorite spots in the city. There is a great affordable diner there that offers a wonderful view of the Golden Gate Bridge while you eat, provided it isn't too foggy to see anything, which it often is.

With ice cream in hand, Greg and I next walked to City Lights Books, another of my favorite spots. My father was a huge Ferlinghetti fan and had always wanted to visit. I was pleased to see that many of the staff picks on display were also books we carry at Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor. Great minds think alike, as the saying goes. Greg and I picked up a book of old Tom Waits interviews that we'd never seen before. I wish I had the money to buy every book I wanted. (We're also kind of running out of room for them at the apartment.) Being at City Lights was a little hard because it reminds me so strongly of my father, but it was good to share it with Greg, too.

There was absolutely not enough time in San Francisco. We barely saw the Mission, and I had wanted to eat so much more good California-Mexican food that is just not found elsewhere. We had plans to check out some places in Oakland, too, but by the end of the trip we were both just exhausted and had to take some time to rest before flying home. We're already talking about going back and devoting just one trip to the Bay Area, though there are some other places we want to see around the country first. (I'm rooting for warmer places again. Warmth is nice.) There is also the honeymoon to think about. (That probably won't be to California either.) And we're buying a house. (That can get expensive.) 

But I will return to California again. I miss it. Hang in there, California! And please do something about the water problem.

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