San Francisco, 2003
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I woke up at a reasonable hour only somewhat groggy Ė I think I may be
finally starting to adjust. I hit the
San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art, conveniently right next door to the conference center, for
the Marc Chagall show. It was a great collection of his work, but tour
groups packed the floor. I was as impressed, if not more so, by their
other collections. Too bad 90% of the crowds didnít bother with the other
floors. But then again, it made the overall experience enjoyable with only
the Chagall floor being crowded. The museum is much like any generic
modern museum, with a roomy atrium that disguises the maze-like, somewhat
small display rooms. They donít shy away from potentially controversial
work, as you might expect in such a liberal city. The display of Reagan
Louieís photographs of Asian sex workers illustrates one of the many
depressing phenomena resulting from homosapienís disparity between male
and female sex drives.
I swung by the conference for
free lunch and to confirm thereís nothing Iíd rather be doing than
wandering town. I found Iíd missed a bomb scare the previous day,
canceling many of the dayís events in an evacuation but no bomb was discovered and it only caused some grumbling by those whoíd rather sit in
dark conference rooms watching PowerPoint presentations than explore the
These ladies were doing Tai Chi
in a plaza at the conference center.
I waiting on the cable car
and found it too full to board, so I decided to catch the next one.
thing, so I opted for the next.
Same thing again. Maybe this cable car
plan of mine isnít so grand after allÖ
|After missed busses and misread maps, I ended up on a long march through
Chinatown on my way to the other side of the mountain. Chinatown is hardly
worth a mention. Itís nothing but a bunch of cheap trinket shops. If you
want a deal on some tacky plastic crap or a digital camera, itís worth the
visit. Otherwise itís just something to do to say youíve done it.
through Washington Square where there is a monument to the city's
firefighters. Someone had set up a little memorial for the anniversary
of 9/11, a somber scene.
|I was headed to Pier 39 to visit the famed sea lions, but along my march
of misadventure I changed my mind and clambered up the hill to Coit Tower,
a magnificent concrete phallus overlooking the bay. It was built in a deco
style circa 1933 and has a magnificent view on a clear day.
Check out the view!
Another cross-town trip lands me at
Pancho Villa, a big Mexican burrito
joint in the Mission recommended by just about anyone who's ever been to
San Fran. Makes me miss Tortillaís. Tasty stuff, more than worth the small
prices they charge.
A couple of streetcars.
I'm riding in the one on the right, shooting this picture by hanging my
camera out the window, illegally.
A couple of trains later, itís back to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to
see what it has to offer in the way of nightlife. I turned the corner onto Haight
and found a long line in front of some establishment and decided it
must be the hip place to be. Upon closer inspection I found the
Red Vic Movie
House, a little one-screen art house movie theater showing This Is
Spinal Tap. Sure, Iíve got the DVD, but I couldnít resist seeing it on the
big screen. Great movie house too with couches for seating, popcorn in
bowls and soda in glasses so thereís no paper land filler.
Goddamn, that movie gets funnier every year. Prophetic to the point of
freakish, particularly in a post-Osbournes era.
I wandered Haight in search of fun, kicking things off in the areaís only
gay bar, Trax. Nice little place with a pool table in the back.
Up the street, Martin Mackís drinks are cheaper and the boisterous crowd
straighter, but itís still not what Iím looking for.
I cruised by every other bar on the strip and found them each announcing
last call. Iíve heard San Francisco closes up fairly early, but I was
amazed things were shutting down at midnight, even on a school night. But
many of the bars in the Haight-Ashbury area are under, in front of, and/or
next door to residences so I understand the reasons.
An exception was my
final stop, Milk, an uber-trendy club with a line full of trendy little
people trying to squirm into a packed house pounding with bass-heavy,
machine-generated racket. I peered through the window and decided it
wasnít what I was looking for either.
Not sure what Iím looking for, but Iím not finding it in Haight-Ashbury.
The real scene died there about the time I was born. Sometime in the 70ís
the mix of protesters and pot-heads giving
way to just pot-heads and other druggies. But itís re-gentrifying now and
thereís a long strip of touristy trinket shops and t-shirts with tie-die
Dead emblems and the like. When the going gets weird, the pros turn weird
and market it to the mainstream. It used to be weird and scary, but
theyíve changed weird and scary and now itís just it and Iím not with it.
Iím still looking for weird and scary.
But fortune smiled on me in the form of a well-timed train headed my way.
"These people could put us out of
Photo Editor, Creative Loafing
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