San Francisco is the weirdest place I’ve been. I heard I would love it. I heard I could make way more money if I lived there. Well, I suppose I could make more money if I lived there, but considering the price of rent it wouldn’t really mean very much. The hostel was twice as expensive as any hostel on my trip. In addition to being more expensive, I also had to pay $24 for 24 hours to park my car in a nearby garage. I did the math and determined I wasn’t going to be staying in San Francisco for very long.
The HI San Francisco City Center was one of the most beautiful hostels. I rolled my suitcase across the marble floor of the lobby in the old 1920s hotel feeling elegant. The hostel was filled with unique and beautiful decorations, a chic romantically lit bar and a mezzanine on the second story that overlooked the lobby. They played old black and white movies at night, but I didn’t stay in very much.
I spent some time walking around the neighborhood aka Little Saigon. San Francisco is filled with beautiful architecture, there were interesting shops and galleries in the area to stop in, murals to take pictures of and TONS of homeless people. Actually all of San Francisco is filled with people living on the street, which makes the entire city kinda dirty (um… that poop on the sidewalk probably isn’t dog poop. Dog owners are pretty good about scooping up in California. Sidewalk squatters aren’t quite as considerate.) Feeling a little overwhelmed, I decided to call the one person I know in San Francisco – my friend Robin I met at the hostel in Austin during SXSW. Here’s the recap if you want the background story.
Robin stopped by the hostel and we grabbed some Vietnamese food. Then we walked around the city climbing lots of stairs, drinking good beer and checking out the view of the city (including Lombard Street) and the bay from the patio’s of strangers. In case you didn’t know San Francisco is known for it’s hills and for it’s Steam Beer. Robin is a bit of a beer snob. Later in the night, we headed over to the bay area and watched them make chocolate at the Ghiradelli Square Shop. It’s a pretty interesting part of town, where the old chocolate factory has been converted into fancy shops and a hotel. It was a bit touristy, but I’m a tourist.
We then hopped on the historic Cable Car. They packed us on there and it feels pretty unsafe standing right next to the road, holding on for dear life in a car that doesn’t have any walls or doors or safety devices to speak of. That said, it is slow moving, so even if you fell off, you’d probably wouldn’t feel any worse than if you tripped while slowly jogging. San Francisco has to be the only city that keeps around antiquated public transit, as part of the city’s public transit in use – yes you can board a cable car with a metro pass. There are also retro streetcars from the ’50s as well riding around town. I had to look up the difference between a Streetcar and a Cable Car. In a way, they all just look like buses or something to me. I’m from Florida, where all our cities sprawl suburb style. I’m so confused.
We rode back to the hostel and made plans for the next day. I was offered to stay with Robin for the remainder of my time, so I could fully experience the city. The hostel staff had warned me of Bay to Breakers before I booked my room, so I was aware that I would not be able to drive on Sunday morning. I knew it was a large 5K, I didn’t realize it is the San Franciscan’s Halloween. I find the subway terminal and start looking out for Robin. We wait on each other for an hour miscommunicating about our locations in the exact same terminal. There were so many people there, I didn’t know where to look. We finally find each other and hop on transit to join the decorated masses on route to Golden Gate Park. Robin takes his sombrero off and places it on my head. I stammer, “I don’t have a costume, every thing I have I wear every week.” He smiles still wearing his superhero cape.
In Golden Gate Park there are many many young somewhat un-sober 20-somethings in brightly colored costumes. Even after living in Miami, I find this a bit sacrilegious and/or inappropriate for 10 am on a Sunday. Most people I know at least make it until sunset before they’re drunk, no matter what day of the week. In Georgia, they don’t even sell alcohol on Sunday. I ask Robin about the open container policy, as I’m not local and we are blatantly walking into a public park each holding a bottle of beer. “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” We look around and discussing whether there is a such a policy, when we spot the nudists. A group of five to ten men are hanging around and walking along wearing nothing but their sneakers. I laugh and roll my eyes, “We’re fine, there can’t be an open container policy! Look there’s naked people here! The whole point of an open-container policy is to keep riff-raff like naked people out of the public!”
We join the crowd and walk the route to the beach. A few people bring out their handcrafted stereos and boom boxes. Several of them seemed to be somehow synced because they played the same song at the same time. A dance party breaks out in the middle of the street. Someone produces a stick. Next thing you know we are doing the limbo and I’m dancing with a ton of random people, including a guy in a short-shorts ranger costume! I thought about the rangers I stayed with in Yosemite and laugh at the idea of them going to work in daisy dukes!
We get to a security check-point, several guards are standing around making sure everyone behaves. The nudists in front of us are walking right by security – nothing said, no one stopped. I think it’s odd that I’m walking with a beer at 10 am, but HEY, look who all is around me! The guards run up and take our beer before we can tighten a grip or think of forming our lips in protest. “No Alcohol!” “WHAT!” My mind is blown… you can walk around San Francisco with a boom box, wearing nothing but your birthday suit, sloshed on a Sunday morning with a joint, but you cannot with most sober and sound mind carry a bottle of beer!
We decided to get away from the crowds for a while and hang out in the Japanese Tea Garden, it is very beautiful and expansive. A peaceful retreat, even with the heyday surrounding it, I’m sure the gardens are an oasis all the time.
The next day I moved my stay over to Robin’s apartment in the Mission District. I loved the look of the historic townhouse from the outside. The inside needed love. In fact I felt the need to clean the bathroom. I have absolutely no problem couchsurfing in an apartment shared by four dudes or sleeping on a floor or camping in my car on occasion. If something is not to my standards I’ll happily fix it. Yeah… they made fun of me… yeah I’m a total chick. No, I didn’t feel like I had to… yes, I really wanted to… not for them… for myself.
I also got two parking tickets parked in front of the apartment. I didn’t know I needed a residential tag. Robin didn’t know either. He doesn’t have a car. I wouldn’t have a car if I lived in San Francisco either. It’s more trouble than it’s worth.
I spent a lot of time that week working inside, but I did get out one night for Dr. Sketchy’s figure drawing. It was a Moroccan night, so the model was completely clothed in a burka! The irony! In San Francisco, the figure drawing models are clothed, but the people outside in the park are not! I forgot my coat walking to the class, because it was actually pretty warm when I left. I didn’t realize that the temperature drops so quick in the area. Robin wanted to meet up and I asked him to bring me clothing. I didn’t want to leave the studio or even stand near the door until I had my coat and boots. We headed over to a really good sausage and beer place, Rosamunde. It was a nice cozy place for a cold evening. It kinda felt like fall.
I said goodbye to Robin at the bus stop in a nearby town. He was catching a ride to a festival in Lake Tahoe. I told him about my experiences in Tahoe and wished him luck, I stopped for a picture of the Golden Gate bridge before crossing it. I didn’t stop very long or leave my car unattended because I didn’t want to pay for parking when I was only going to stop for such a short time.