Monday, October 9, 2000

Advice for Tourists

For those who are considering a visit to everybody’s favorite city, San Francisco, I have a few pieces of advice for you from a third-generation native (me). If you want a leisurely, uncrowded, unhurried pace for your visit I advise never visiting the city when:

1. It’s a pleasant, warm Sunday;
2. It’s a major holiday that comes with a big celebration;
3. The fleet is in;
4. The Blue Angels are putting on a show; or
5. One of the major sports teams is playing in town

So today it was a beautiful warm Sunday afternoon, the fleet was in, there was a Columbus Day parade through North Beach, the Blue Angels were performing and the 49ers were in town.

And we. were. there.

We wouldn’t have been there at all, but it was Steve’s fault. He was participating in the services for Dolores St. Baptist Church and I dragged Peggy to the services with me. This fallen-away Catholic and the Aussie who hasn’t set foot in a church for 25 years. What were we doing there?

We got hung up in football traffic on the bridge, had a slight "let’s double check the map" moment, and then, of course, couldn’t find parking right away (but Gilbert finally came through with a spot just half a block away--he was Jewish; he didn’t know from Baptist services). So we were 15 minutes late. I felt somewhat uncomfortable sneaking in while the service was going on and couldn’t immediate find two seats together, but finally Peggy spied a couple in the second row, and so we grabbed ‘em.

There was a session for the little kids and then a dramatic reading from the book of Job, and then a nice sermon on people’s search for God and how he’s not always to be found within the confines of organized religion. This segued into Steve’s singing "Where Is God?" and talking about his own story, singing a couple of other songs. I asked him beforehand if he wanted me to take pictures. He said he would like a couple of shots just to get the ambience and so he could use them in his journal. Unfortunately when Peggy and I chose our seats, we didn’t realize that the bench of the piano would be behind a potted ficus tree. So this is my picture to show the ambience. I call it "Where is Steve?"

After church services, we took Steve and his friend Ken back to Ken’s apartment, and the four of us had a bit of lunch, after which Peggy and I set off on our own. I was giving her the rest of the tour we didn’t take a couple of weeks ago. The important parts--like where I went to grammar school, the flat where I grew up, and, of course, Gilbert’s chiropractor’s office. (They don’t include these on the regular tours, you know. Only for special people.)

So there we were, lined up three blocks long on Lombard St., so we could drive down the twisty hill, Peggy standing up with her head out the sunroof so she can take photos and suddenly she makes comment that there must be an airport nearby. I realize that I don’t remember hearing such noisy planes there before (it’s my old neighborhood). And we look and there is a stunt plane doing loop-de-loops. Then, as we went over the top of Lombard St., I looked down into North Beach and there is a parade going on, with floats and balloons and bands.

As we drove down in the direction of the parade, I saw signs for "fleet week parking." I had hit San Francisco on a Red Letter Day. We were trapped by a bazillion cars looking for parking, barricades keeping us away from the parade, horse vans and even a HORSE in the middle of the street, a mass of people all waiting for the Blue Angels to begin their show, and I didn’t even know at this point that on the other side of town the 49ers were playing.

Instead of doing the sensible thing and just getting the hell out of there, we found a parking lot which let us park for a mere $20 ("flat rate; pay in advance" --someone was making a mint on that deal, let me tell you!) and we went over to the ships, getting there just before the Blue Angels started their show. I’d never been to an air show before and lemme tell you, it was something pretty spectacular. It went on for about 30 minutes and we got some nice photos.

When the show was over, we walked around looking at what was going on, elbowing our way through the crowd. I can believe that I suggested we walk a block or so on ine direction and then turn around and head back in the other direction. I must be getting into this walking jazz. We ended up on Pier 39, where Peggy did some shopping ($100 for SOCKS??? --she had to do it. If she bought 12 pairs, she got a "free" traveling bag...)

We also looked at the seals lounging on the platforms next to Pier 39.

Finally we’d had enough, walked back to the car, and got in the traffic jam to get out of town. It took about an hour to get onto the bridge. The radio was talking about the mass exodus from San Francisco onto all freeways, all bridges were jammed, etc., etc. We didn’t sweat it. Peggy went to sleep and I just sat there waiting for traffic to move.

Eventually we got onto the bridge and traffic opened up a bit, so the rest of the ride went more or less uneventfully, or at least until I started feeling sleepy and Peggy began feeding me jelly bellies to keep me awake.

We spent the evening looking at photos, organizing all the stuff we bought on our trip to So. California, and sitting on the couch reminiscing about all that had happened over the past few weeks, marveling at what good friends we had become in such a brief time.

Tomorrow we head back to the Bay Area and I trade Peggy for Steve for a week. I’m not sure when the next entry of this journal will be written. I’m spending the next 3 days with Steve and Ken at Stanford (Steve is a visiting speaker there), and won’t be home until Thursday. I’ll have the laptop with me and may or may not post reports on our time at Stanford. If you don’t see a new entry, I’ll write a catch up when I get home.

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