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San Francisco (Day 20): Land’s End

26 June 2014 Leave a comment

Our adventures began somewhat later this day, following the previous late night. We started with lunch at a Dim Sum place which J knew of.

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Like the prawns, lunch turned out to be delicious and huge.

Following lunch, we headed out to Land’s End park in the northwest part of San Francisco for a bit of a hike, and some spectacular views.

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And then it was a quick stop by the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo (it feels gratuitous to post that, on top of everything).

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On the way to dinner, we stopped by Haight Street for a bit, where I picked up a bottle of a limited release of Speakeasy Brewing’s barrel-aged ale (actually, their first series; it’s a rather new outfit). Dinner was at a low-profile (and thus relatively inexpensive) xiao long bao place, which I enjoyed.

We headed back for a night-cap, and I prepared to leave for the east coast on the following day.

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Santa Barbara – San Francisco (Day 19): Retour

25 June 2014 1 comment

I was due to take the AMTRAK back to Jack London Square in Oakland in the late morning. From the trip south, I knew that the views of the coastline were close to my departure point in Santa Barbara. We’d passed them in the night-time on the way down, however, and as I passed it again the light of day I realized I’d missed how very close we were to the water.

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The rest of the ride past quite uneventfully. I tried to sleep as much as I can, the train was stopped at points (as usual), and I ended up arriving in Oakland about two hours later than scheduled. Despite the fact, my friend J was still up to meet me.

J had been at school in the area at UC Berkeley, and so, at about 1 a.m. that night, he drove us out there to look around the campus. I didn’t mind, since I’d mostly tried to sleep on the train. Furthermore, I was hungry, and I was promised food. The promised food included the best fried rice I’d had in America.

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After some time looking around the campus, catching up, and picking up more food (bubble tea, popcorn chicken), J drove us back across the bridge to San Francisco for the night.

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Actually, along the way, we did stop for a view of the city from a peak.

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And, once we were back, we opened up a bottle of something I’d picked up from Telegraph in Santa Barbara.

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San Francisco (Day 15): Drifting North-West

6 April 2014 1 comment

10 December. Index.

The night before, I’d planned to go through photos and write about my day, but I ended up falling asleep with jacket and socks on. Fortunately, I didn’t oversleep by much the next morning. I travelled to the city by BART, as I did the day before.

My first stop for the day was Sightglass Coffee. It had recently moved into the rather spacious premises it now occupies, which, in addition to containing the cafe, are being used for roasting and coffee workshops and the like.

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After looking up some directions online, I set off from Sightglass. Whereas I’d drifted northeast the day before, today I intended to drift northwest in the general direction of Golden Gate Park. After a while, however, I noticed that was off course by some distance: I found myself in the City Hall district instead. This turned out to be a welcome detour, in the end, because of the architecture. The capitol itself was quite a beautiful sight in the late-morning sunlight. I also found the San Francisco Symphony’s concert hall in the neighbourhood.

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After this, I corrected course and set off again. Somewhere along the way, I ducked into a small pizza place, where I had possibly the greasiest large slice of pepperoni pizza I’ve ever had. I might have thought it terrible if I’d been less hungry.

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I corrected course at the pizza stop, and I reached the east end of Haight Street not long after the pizza stop. The first shop I visited had started as an internet-only outlet and had just recently moved into the premises. On sale were shirts, books, and art by Alex Pardee and Dave Correia. I ended up getting an Alex Pardee shirt which had the art on the front and some back-story on the inside. The image on the shirt-front was based in a longer story which had been shown in an exhibition in 2011.

It was still just late morning when I left the shop. While looking up directions earlier in the day, I’d found that Japan Town was not far north from where I was, so I decided to take a detour there for lunch proper. I’d first heard about San Francisco’s Japan Town from Abby’s sister (see Day 13), and subsequently looked it up. One lead I followed up on was the Japanese supermarket, which was interesting to me because it was reported to have a good hot food counter.

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I got myself some comfort food in the form of oyako-don, which came well-seasoned with seaweed strips.

Another attraction I’d looked up was a mochi shop that had apparently been in business for many years, and which produced some authentically good mochi. One fact that wasn’t mentioned in the reviews I saw online was that the name of the shop, ‘benkyou-do’, translated to something like ‘study hall’, which kind of explained the design style of the place, which I might describe as being rather simple and utilitarian, and somewhat classic because of that: wood furniture, counter/display of durable glass, fluorescent lighting, clean white walls.

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I picked up some of that mochi.

What I discovered I didn’t see any students inside benkyou-do, nor, for that matter, anyone who wasn’t gray- or white-haired, including the man at the counter. More generally, I noticed that most of the folk who lingered in the shop or in the square outside were elderly Japanese people.

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After leaving Japan Town, I made my way back down to Haight Street to see the rest of it. Inasmuch as it was less hipster (like, say, Valencia) than out-and-out hippie, it was quite a contrast from Japan Town. The Haight-Ashbury corner near the west end of the street was more commercial, but most of the middle stretch smelled faintly of stale smokes. One of the shops I went into down that middle stretch was an anarchist bookstore. There were anarchist or otherwise politically radical books and tracts on many of the shelves, but what I ended up buying was some regular old fiction from a prison reading programme. (The book in question was ‘Your Republic Is Calling You’, by Kim Young-Ha.) From what I understood, the books were circulated through prison libraries, with the stock being renewed from time to time. I don’t quite understand how the rest of the programme works, but in any case it entailed the old books being sold for a dollar or two each.

As I moved west down the street, the shops got gradually more hipster-ish (my powers of description are evidently flagging; I wish I had more pictures of this part but, on the day, I was quite tired by this point too), but with a darker, at times macabre, tone. Whereas Paxton Gate on Valencia was colorful and had bell-jars of herb plants, mounted moths and butterflies, and taxidermied animal heads, the shop of trinkets and odd things on Haight that I remember was decorated in black, and stocked shrunken heads and what appeared to be the skeleton of a baby siamese twin; I didn’t stay long.

The west end of Haight Street was on the edge of Golden Gate Park, but was still a mile or two from the water’s edge. I needed to get back to a BART station, though, and the sun was lowering. I walked up a small hill near the park’s edge to see what I could, then caught a bus back east to the BART line.

Categories: Events Tags: , ,

San Francisco (Day 14): Drifting North-East

23 March 2014 1 comment

9 December. Index.

The next morning, Dr. Shapiro gave me a lift to the BART station. From there, I made my way to the Mission District for breakfast and my morning coffee.

The shop, Grand Coffee, was a small place, but really bright and colorful.

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For coffee, I had a crazily juicy-tasting cup-and-a-half of Guatemalan coffee. The beans were from Four Barrel (a rather famous San Francisco roaster), and the coffee was brewed by French press. I loved it. Overall, too, I think this was my favorite coffee shop of the trip.

After coffee, I set off in the general direction of the other Anchor brewery. (In all fairness San Francisco’s Anchor Steam Beer beats our Anchor.) The most important thing that happened along the way, though, was coming across a bookbindery along the way. Someone working inside noticed me peering through the door, invited me in, and gave me a quick look around the place.

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Talking with my guide, I also heard that the proprietor (on the phone in the office at the time) was also a Singaporean. I also got a bunch of tips for places to go in San Francisco, customized for the type of bloody hipster who would be diverted by a bookbindery.

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After the bookbindery it was a short walk to the Anchor brewery, where a short enquiry revealed that there wasn’t really anything to tour. I’d not really expected there to be, but I’d intended to travel in that general direction anyway. After the tips I got, though, my plans were slightly different, so I backtracked and made my way in the direction of Valencia Street.

The change in plans gave rise to another en-route possibility, which was a visit to the Blue Bottle Coffee branch located on the premises of a glass factory. I had an espresso here, which was solidly done, but I guess I’m generally more of a brewed coffee person.

After this coffee stop, I picked up a burger somewhere for lunch, then continued on my way to Valencia Street.

When I arrived I could see why my friend at the bookbindery had made the recommendation. I went into two bookshops, the first of which was an all-Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Mystery shop. There I was strongly tempted to pick up a beautiful edition of Lovecraft’s Necromonicon. I ended up picking up a bunch of postcards instead. The second shop was also fun:

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The shop where I stopped to talk the longest, though, was a pirate shop. The reason I stopped to talk for a while, though, was because they were running writing workshops on the premises for the schoolchildren from the area. This was a kind of community engagement, writing-related thing that some of my friends back home at the USP had been looking at doing (and which they eventually did).

At some point after the bookshops and before the pirate shop, I stopped in the public playground/park in the middle of Valencia Street for lunch. It was quite a nice spot, and it was also bright and sunny early-winter afternoon, so some of the kids were out too.

Following my visit to Valencia street, I’d intended to continue my northward drift towards Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner. I had an en-route stop in mind, and to get there I was going to have to head back to the BART station on Mission. As I went down the escalators to the train, though, I found myself wondering where that amazing singing voice I heard was coming from. I soon discovered who it was, and I stopped for a good 20 minutes or so to listen to this man playing:

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I put some money into the case after the first song, and eventually put in some more after the fifth song I ended up staying to hear. It wasn’t a whole lot of cash, but as I was putting it in the singer thanked me for listening and passed me a copy of his CD, which was titled ‘Panhandler’. (If I recall correctly, the name on the cover was Samuel Norman Long, and I only doubt my memory in this because I can’t find any trace of him online anymore by that name, whereas I remember searching him up some time in December and finding a few videos of him playing at the 24th/Mission BART station entrance. This is a video of him, though.)

After that rather magical stop, I continued on my way to the stop I had in mind, this being City Lights Booksellers, which had also been recommended to me in the morning. The bookshop had a history as a gathering place for the Beat writers, and number of literary figures. It was located on this alley, that name of which inspired a momentary pang:

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While I have a bunch of pictures from City Lights, it isn’t as present in my memory, perhaps from a combination of fatigue and having had other things on my mind.

After City Lights, I finally made my way to the Wharf, arriving just in time for sunset. I stayed out on the jetties for a while. I was getting hungry, though, and it was getting close to time for me to make my way back to the BART station and the Shapiros’, so I got myself a dinner of English-style fish & chips and fish tacos.

After dinner, I made my way back to Colma station, where Dr. Mrs. Shapiro picked me up. I rounded off the night with some Anchor Steam with Mr. Shapiro.

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San Francisco (Day 13): Pacifica

20 February 2014 2 comments

8 December. Index.

We checked out from the inn at various times in the morning. I was due at the CalTrain station for another ride north.

My appointment was with Abby’s sister and her husband at Broadway station, and I was due for a family lunch at the Shapiro residence in Pacifica. From the station, it was a short drive up north, with views of the Pacific.

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I’d met Abby Shapiro in Singapore. We’d met at Living Waters, and I found that she had been living three levels above me in Cinnamon College. We’d chatted online while I was in Chicago, the day after Thanksgiving. Abby was (still is, actually) in Dominica, doing work with the Peace Corps. During the chat, she told me about the Thanksgiving dinner that the volunteers had together, away from home but with as much tradition as could be summoned. At some point, I’d mentioned that I’d spent a quiet night in (incidentally, the night I started writing this series on my travels) with some food I’d prepared on my own, after a short jaunt downtown (i.e. the Loop in Chicago, although most of the shops were closed). I mention this because when I arrived for lunch, I found that the Shapiros had specially procured a pumpkin pie, which, I was informed, was on Abby’s orders. In addition to the pumpkin pie, there was a great ham, which had been prepared by Dr. (Mrs.) Shapiro.