Hi, it’s been a while since I last posted. The rest of the story will now be coming more regularly…
San Francisco’s chilly clouds in the morning. Drive into Oakland. Home of Jack London? That’s about it. Remnants of his legacy include a deserted commercial complex on the bay, a few feet from the hardly romantic cranes and cargo containers (a real estate promoter’s nightmare).
“There’s no there there.” Gertrud Stein (a quote that has been decontextualized, much to Oakland’s dislike).
Work at a coffee house till afternoon.
People unfriendlier, get angry when I take pictures – a social thing, reminds me of situations I’ve had in other countries. Drivers in the area are also more virulent. Guy actually gave me the finger simply because I had cut into his lane – though by no means aggressively.
Meet B, a family friend. In his fifties perhaps, but young-spirited, both in manner and speech. He kindly offers that I spend the next nights on his couch.
“I try not to go to Starbucks constitutionally.”
I park the car in Oakland thanks to an arrangement with B and one of his friends who’ll look over it. San Francisco, the Bay Area is full of winos, foodies, liberals, hippies and more.
I notice more of the post-drug population too, derelict individuals, roamers. The smell of marijuana lingers in all areas of town: the ball park, downtown, mission district, etc.
I’ve concluded San Francisco really is a city of its people – defined by its culture, its heteroclite liberalism (maybe liberalism is itself a condition and byproduct of heterogeneous society…)
As opposed to other cities that are primarily defined by their physical aspect, or industry, business, etc.
I catch a peak of the World Series Champions at the AT&T ball park: it’s free to stand in the pit on the ground level in the far field. The atmosphere is warm, the fans dedicated.
I walk all the way to the Mission District, play some ball, have a beer in one of the crowded bars. I meet a writer and journalism lecturer at Berkeley, we talk a bit. He breaks the ice when two girls from New York come in and sit down at our table. A friend of the lecturer comes, and I am soon left with the two girls from NY. They work in a paralegal firm, are here for a friend’s wedding, have had a couple of memorable moments since they got here.
We poke fun at the local metro card system, which forces people to refill their cards by increments of 5c or dollars, instead of allowing them to choose a given amount. The girls also comment about the widespread use of drugs: they’re pretty sure they had a ride with a stoned bus driver; something about the driver taking a break in the middle of the road for no reason.
They also had an encounter with a MUNI lady (public transport) who, when asked for directions to the Golden Gate Bridge, pointed to somewhere on a map down in the middle of South San Francisco (where there was no water, by the way).
“I was trying not to be too rude by questioning her knowledge of the city, since she was the lady supposed to know all about it,” chuckles one of the girls.
We’re both surprised that SF’s most famous landmark is located at such a dissuasive distance from the main touristic area of the city (as must most visitors who come to SF for the first time). More on that later…
They also had a run-in on their first day in an LGBT parade. It was alright at first, or so it seemed, people half-naked strapped in leather contraptions, till they bumped into a naked man. Their attention was caught by the gushing red sore on his back and the giant feather that had been stuck into it like a spike. That hit the mark of their tolerance threshold and they prudently retreated, their memory scarred.
Come to think of it, for a city with such a reputation, I’ve noticed few displays of public homosexual affection.
We get dinner (Indian), then I take them to a nearby bar; it turns out their friend’s wedding is to be held there (in the next door theater). Coincidences.
I tell B about how liberal this city is, living up to its reputation. Seems like there’s little policing, a lot of self-regulation.
“It’s also because cops are real lazy around here. Unless they catch you over a dead body with the pistol in your hand.”
“And even then…”
“And even then, if you have the right lawyers, with the right political juice…”
We walk back to his place so I can get my stuff. He’s been a great help. At one point he says:
“I don’t give a fuck about you but your ma has some pictures I don’t want the press to ever get its hands on.”
Yeah, B’s cool.
I briefly meet for a drink by the Bay Bridge with one of the NY girls, then take off. I’m going to Paradise.