Day 11: “High on a hill, it calls my name”

San Francisco

Following a night of some revelry, the wise choice seemed to be to sleep in, but traffic is traffic, so I was forced to give up around nine, which led to some writing. Man, I do love traveling with a laptop.

After Stig woke up, we dragged ourselves over to Columbus Avenue. I had a hankering to go to City Lights Books. Last time I was in the store, I was up in the Beat section looking at the literature, when the door to the back room opened and Lawrence Ferlinghetti walked out. He gave me a distracted look and was gone. It wasn’t exactly a rock n’ roll moment, but still. For a beat entusiast, it was pretty grand as far as such things go. Anyway, coming here is just as much a force of habit as anything else, but I really like this place. The basement contains a ridiculous amount of both porn and conspiracy theories, for example. How can you not love it?

After that, I dropped by the candy store further up on Columbus to buy some saltwater taffies.

Anyway, as my shopping needs were taken care of for the moment, we headed over to Coit Tower. The tower, which doesn’t look phallic at all, na-hah, provides a great view of the city, although you first need to get up there, which is quite a trek in the heat, and even more so with a bum foot. Halfway up, I realized why I was in such good shape five years ago.

We cut back across after that, climbing up Lombard Street. You know, the really crooked one you always see in the movies? There was a ridiculous amount of tourists there and everyone were taking pictures.

After that we headed down Hyde Street, which was a strain on my ankles. The Norwegian Seamen’s church is here as well, overlooking the Bay. I can’t imagine how much this piece of real estate costs. We headed in, just to look at the view from the patio. I thought back, remembering waffles and lemonade on the patio on many occasions.

The Wharf by day is still a tourist trap. The Bush guy was still here, scaring tourists witless as they pass by. The sea lions had taken a summer vacation, it seemed. The Wharf was milling with tourists buying stuff, jamming the cafés and stores, and after the open expanses of the road so far on the trip, I started feeling vaguely claustrophobic. After Stig finally got his clam chowder, we fled back to the hotel and chilled out. It was Saturday, though, but we weren’t up for more heavy drinking, so we decided to catch a movie instead.

Since I hadn’t been in San Francisco for four years, I think I did reasonably well navigating from memory – my compass seemed fairly intact as well – but every now and then, I mess up. Like now, for example. On our quest to go to the movie theater to catch the indubitably awesome Hellboy II: The Golden Army (SPOILER: it wasn’t that awesome), I forgot to take into account that we’d moved a few streets down from where we were supposed to start out from. This meant that we had a nice stroll trough the Tenderloin after dark, which isn’t an entirely wonderful experience.

I’m not sure how dangerous it’s supposed to be there (I’ve heard it’s pretty safe), but being surrounded by addicts, hookers and throngs of shifty-looking dudes sizing you up may not be your idea of a good time. I do know that there are tons of people living there who have no problems, and given the amount of bars there, you know the area is better than its rep. Still, it can feel hostile, so you tend to walk faster than normal, especially when the guy with the crazy eyes sizes you up and starts ranting about fuckstoked butterfly gub’mint spooks.

The way back from the movie was less scuzzy, although the ladies (and boys) of the night were somewhat more prominent than I remember them being.