San Francisco is many things, it indeed has many sides, many openly obvious and claims the greatest freedoms. But in reality we have to look at the entire Bay Area to understand the dynamism that is here.
As I write this I’m kicking back in Monterey and heading on back down a day later than originally planned to the land of plastic faces, that one nip-n-tuck too far and on back to Corona; so I’ve had a little time to think about all we’ve seen – albeit, have we even scratched the surface? From what we’ve seen, would we even want to?
This, like all sun kissed lands the world over has seen war and bloodshed, these days it claims to be the area of free thinking, openness and true multiculturality [I think I made that word up]
But what can I say? What can I add to all the usual clichés that brings this city to worldwide attention? I could talk about the millions of people whom suffer the insanity of living in a place that should have and probably will; one day shake itself to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Then China Town, The Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Mythbusters, and every conceivable genre of the entertainment industry – especially the world of amateur robotics.
From stunning hills and neighbourhoods of quaint pastel painted timber homes to sky high landmarks and of course – bridges.
As we move south towards Mountain View, there are the stunning, affluent, safe and green lifestyle neighbourhoods of the who’s who of the software world, internet and the world wide heard of tech innovators. Before finally hitting Palo Alto and the of course the businesses of the tech world as we know it. Here are the full blooded companies, the place where Billions are created from minds of imagination and insight; the modern home of the patent lawsuit.
When we arrived in the area we had so many plans and so many people we were looking forward to meeting. However, as all things with the greatest intentions, things just don’t turn out how they should. In fact hardly a thing we planned was achieved. As it turned out Gabby had a couple of good plans that did turn out well, but I thought were going to kill me at the time as we climbed the steepest side of Telegraph Hill and it’s 3, 475, 924 steps.
We hit Down Town San Francisco via the local “BART” (think tube) and headed north on foot through semi deserted streets towards the University to get there, we rolled past loads of things including the Global headquarters of Levis; this was kinda strange to me because I just didn’t think they were a San Francisco company.
Once at the top of this evil hill of near death we suddenly became amateur photographers as loads of people started asking us to take their pics. Of course under my breath I was screaming “Yeah, I’m David fkin Bailey!” and keeping the British tradition of covert grumpiness as I smiled on politely. Thankfully Gabby avoided taking too many pics of me on the grounds that the “near dead” are not always the most photogenic.
We headed off the hill stopping to take cross valley shots of that wiggly road with all the cars on it – we wanted to photograph Gabby driving the Snot Rocket down it, but then realised there was a massive queue for people wanting to do that very same thing.
Strolling down the hill we noticed the sheer number of Mini’s parked everywhere making them very much the car of choice in this city and certainly a car of the people (ie: as common as muck).
We headed into Washington Square where I had previously planned a bit of a piss-up with a load of old school buddies a few months ago with the help of awesome twitter buddies Paulo Elias and the brilliant former Journo Layla Bohm ; both of whom we failed to sadly meet :-(
Cutting a piece to video, we turned in for food in little Italy before heading through China Town where I actually saw an old Chinese guy fingering a live crab :-/ furthermore I got it on video!!!
We were happy to leave China Town only to walk into a wedding photo shoot right outside the Ritz Carlton.
Onward and we cut through the hordes of tourists and headed up to the Hayes Valley area, a far more Boho existence with street music and Gabby popped into Lava 9 to seek out a jacket – but failed (haha).
We headed out and back to base thinking about what we had and hadn’t seen, and tried to get our heads around the things we had.
I finally got to check twitter and noticed Andrew Baron of Rocketboom.com was in SF this weekend as well and also suggested meeting up. Irony being what it is, I was going to fly up to NYC see Andrew as soon as we got back home, with a twitter chat in flow he said that we’d be better doing the NYC thing instead – so that is what we agreed.
We crashed out heavily that night, yet there seems to just not be enough time to sleep.
The downside of SF :
In reality, you either live in the good bits or you get persistently and aggressively begged upon… I’ve never come across more beggars in my life as the Bay Area holds – but the worst part is the level of aggression, if this is a badge for which the greater SF wishes to be proud of, then good luck to them – but to hell with ever returning. I dunno, I might be old fashioned, may be too picky in my fat assed forties, but to be aggressively begged at and verbally abused for not giving my money to a man standing by a fresh heap of his own faeces while walking down central Market Street in the heart of San Francisco with my better half has me restraining myself beyond the norm at the very least. In other places groups of young guys hang on “their” bit of the sidewalk seeking to intimidate by their presence.
Yet two streets over on “Hayes” and the world was entirely different, cultural, local and quaint – A place you instantly felt you could spend the next two years simply hanging out.
Such is the maelstrom that is the Bay Area, all it’s sins and all it’s beauty, just bear in mind that they’re not separated by whole blocks, but often simply by a few feet.
The following morning we headed out early to drive around the bay and head south. We took in the Golden Gate Bridge and Gabby drove us all through San Francisco However, before we got to the Golden Gate we noticed a sign which took our interest instantly ; The Rosie the Riveter visitors centre! We pulled in to the very place Rosie the Riveter worked and was photographed and artwork made about women’s contribution to the WW2 war effort. The place was fascinating and was the site they constructed the Willis Jeep and tanks right on the dock side. The other amazing thing is that this was the very area Gabby’s own grandmother worked as a wiring technician on ships.
We carried on past San Quentin and on to the Bridge and then away south, stopping in Mountain View for a bite before heading through the hills to Monterey.
It was during the drive to Monterey that we decided to pursue some auto safety care for the dogs. Previously I have turned to look over the seats to see two dogs in various states of disarray and bewilderment, even hind legs and butts stuck in the air in unison; but on this journey Gabby took an unexpectedly sharp corner in the car and we heard the inevitable sliding sound of dogs and the rattle of their collars. A moment later Gabby called “you two ok?” – it was then after they heard the reassurance of her voice (giving them their shred of hope) the single, totally in unison, as one, loud THUD!! was heard as both dogs came to the end of their impromptu demonstration and education in Physics.
The following silence was deafening!
Gabby, suddenly concerned for their well being was asking me [who was at this time curled into a ball crying with laughter at the almost slapstick event that just happened – asking if they’re ok before they were pile-driven into the sidewall] to check on them to see if they were ok.
Finally I reached over and switched the lights on to be greeted by two silent and staggering dogs! Ben crawled into his crate not to return anytime soon and Elise just stared at me with ears back, intermittently shaking with a look I understood all too well.
I switched the light off and returned to my uncontrollable laughter.
We head back south now down the coast to Malibu, Fender and then – Vegas!!.