EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Fire | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'fire'

The Towering Inferno

The Towering InfernoIt’s time to go to the movies again and last night I watched the Towering Inferno to remind me of life in San Francisco back in the 70’s. This is one of those movies that you have to watch to get a feel of what the city was like back in 1975 even though it has plenty of Hollywood sheen added to it.

I first have to give props to Hollywood in that a large amount of the movie was actually filmed in San Francisco. I remember when the film came out there was a big opening night screening with lots of the cast members in attendance here in San Francisco and not Hollywood. This movie came out at a time when disaster movies were all the rage until they started being spoofed by movies like Airplane! The set designs were über 70’s chic that reminded me of an old James Bond movie more than a place were people actually lived and worked. All the men wore suits and had voices like they smoked too much [which they did back then] and women wore, well I’m not sure what the style was called, but when you see it there is definitely a 70’s fashion sense that comes through. The good thing is that women did look kind of hot back in the 70’s until you realize that the younger women in their 20’s are now pushing 70 today. The men were dashing and a bit on the overly macho side. I had to think for a minute to realize that Fred Astaire would be 114 years old if he was still around today. The lifestyle was pure decadent 70’s in this new high rise building. So decadent that the main office had a secret bedroom off to the side which Robert Wagner and Susan Flannery make use of within the first 10 minutes of the movie.

The cast is a definite who’s who of 70’s actors and actresses. If you don’t know their names you certainly will know their faces. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are the best known and this movies just shows why people would sometimes confuse the two. Faye Dunaway is absolutely gorgeous in this movie as Paul Newman’s high society girlfriend who is always dressed to the nines throughout the film. One of the things I noticed was how white the movie was, but that was back in the 70’s and that’s the way people watching TV and going to the movies liked it back then. You have two token cast members with O.J. Simpson playing the head of security and Gregory Sierra [anyone remember him?] playing a bartender, so they got their ethnic bases covered for the 70’s. Not a single Asian was used in the filming of this movie which I thought was kind of odd since you’re in San Francisco which has one of the most well known Chinatowns in the world, yet there are no Asians on the streets anywhere. Now that I think about you saw very few Asians in TV and movies back then except for the occasional comic relief in a western or George Takei in Star Trek.

Now then, onto the plot. This is where the movie gets funny looking back. A skyscraper is built in San Francisco which is the tallest building in the world. Obviously since this was the time of disaster movies building up to code wasn’t good enough and they needed better, but they just stuck to the rules and built to code along with leaving a large pile of oily rags surrounded by containers of flammable liquid next to a main electrical box that shorts out. The fire starts on the 81st floor while a party to celebrate San Francisco having the tallest building in the world is going on at the top in the Promenade Room. Apparently back in the 70’s nobody had learned that in case of fire take the stairs not the elevator. This is shown very quickly when Steve McQueen’s character walks in calmly and takes a look at the fire then hops in an elevator three feet away that he takes up to the Promenade Room. Note this is the same elevator that ten minutes later a group of people crowd onto to get away from the Promenade Room only to have the doors mysteriously open up on the floor of the fire serving up roast human to the firefighters. My cousin is a retired fireman and I’ll have to ask him how horribly wrong the fire department handled the fire during the movie. In the end the movie sticks to disaster theme formula of I die, you die, we all die pretty much with only the most righteous believers surviving.

If you see nothing else you should at least see the opening of the movie with the helicopter ride over San Francisco. While not a car chase, the helicopter visuals were spliced together in such a way that wasn’t linear, but hits all the sites of San Francisco. Enjoy the trailer and watch the film if you can find it.

The Mission Is The Hot New District? Seriously?

Mission DistrictI don’t like to put down areas of the city and in this case it’s kind of a half hearted commentary, but I just read that the Mission District is the new hot place to buy in San Francisco. I’m not so sure it’s hot to buy or hot to sell. The reality is whether or not you’ll drop a million dollars on a fixer upper.

Yes, you read that right, there is a home that the owners are asking $1,000,000 and it’s a fixer upper expected to sell for more money. This house was one of the original houses and my guess from looking at the outside is that not too much has been done on the inside. I can see asking a price like that on some of the more updated homes, but a lot of the original homes were built in the 20’s and 30’s and there are possible problems that will cost you even more in the long run.

Granted, it was 20 years ago, but I lived in a 2 bedroom house in the Mission. It was my first time I had moved out of my parents house and had sort of a house of my own. This house was built in 1924. It had a living room, dining room and kitchen on one floor and a large bedroom, small bedroom and sunroom on the top floor along with the bathrooms. It was a good sturdy house, but there were also parts downstairs that no one ever walked into. There was a door next to the garage door that you couldn’t see for all the spider webs. The door out to our backyard that was overgrown with weeds and blackberry brambles was sealed shut with spiderwebs. To get into the garage you had to have a tiny car because the street was so narrow you couldn’t really get enough angle to get into the garage with a regular sized car.

I got used to parking 2-4 blocks away from the house because the house was on a private street that dead ended and you had to back up to get down the street because there wasn’t enough room to turn around. You couldn’t park on the street on my side and on the other side people would park halfway on the curb. Because I was parking 2-4 blocks away my tires were always in good shape usually because I had to replace them every 6 months because someone would slash them. I got to fall asleep to the lulling sounds of gun fire that was going on between the local gangs. I never really walked the streets unless I was going to work because there wasn’t anything to walk to really other than my car. I would have to drive to get to most places because walking wasn’t really that safe.

Let’s fast forward to today and see how it is. When you look at the paper you still see stories of people getting shot or car chases ending in crashes. There are a lot of new restaurants catering to hipsters that have had cars crash into them or people shot during dinner service. Fires caused by substandard old wiring. This is not a positive reason to live in a place. The Mission attracted hipsters because it was a cheap place to live at first. Hell, our rent on the house I was in was $800/month split between 2 [sometimes 3] of us. When we moved out the house had sold for $209k. Now the prices can be 5x that.

It’s not cheap to live there anymore, but there is still a mix of the old Mission and the new Mission which is having problems. You’ve got six figure income people living next door to welfare recipients. The crime level is still much higher than in other parts of the city. A lot of the hipsters living there are at the lower end of the income spectrum because they’re new to San Francisco and don’t understand that it takes a lot of money or luck to live here comfortably. They are the ones that will come and go that will make the Mission’s old beat up properties slide by the way side quickly.

I’m not too sure because I don’t have many homeowners to talk to, but the idea of buying a house and flipping it for a profit in a couple of years seems to yield a lesser return than it did 10-15 years ago. Owning a home is a long term thing and takes commitment. You’re tied to it for 30 years if you’re serious and a lot changes in 30 years. Oddly enough there are better places [and by better I mean less expensive, lower crime rate, better schools, etc] outside the Mission that change more slowly that are better for a long term commitment. These are parts of the city a lot of the new comers call boring. Excitement for me in owning a house isn’t asking myself when I step out the door, am I going to get shot at or just have my car broken into. In the long term, these areas have more value as they keep moving up in value just slowly. Note that the house I used to live in in the Mission could be sold today for $735k and rent for $3300 a month.  While that’s quite an increase since I was there my old next door neighbor has seen the house value rise and fall radically over the years.

Overall, I don’t mind my couple of times a year visit to the Mission, but the idea of living there now would be a step down for me.

NERT: It could save your life

NERT, or Neighborhood Emergency Response Team is a free service provided by the San Francisco Firefighters to help train the public in how to deal with emergency and disaster related situations. Other cities have Community Emergency Response Team classes, but San Francisco, being a bit different focuses on the type of disasters we are most likely to encounter. I haven’t heard of a hurricane ever hitting San Francisco, but earthquakes are up there at the top of the list and this is a good way to get training on what to do in case you’re hit by one or any of the other problems that could crop up with or without an earthquake such as fires, medical emergencies, etc.

My wife found out about this first and brought it up to me because I always used to test her by yelling GET DOWN NOW! and watch her ask me, why? I’d politely remind her that if she had to question me when I yelled a line like that she might end up dead. I can be a bit smug at times and I know that it wasn’t exactly the right situation to make that most effective. Since I had been a Boy Scout and gone through all of this before I figured it might be fun to have a refresher course since it was free as well. There are six classes you take totaling 20 hours. It’s not really that hard or time consuming and it’s definitely not a boring class. You have to be re-certified every couple of years, but that’s just having to take the last two courses.

Well, it turns out what I learned as a Boy Scout isn’t what you’re supposed to do anymore. We were always taught the first thing you do when someone has a severed limb [how many of us have ever been in that situation?] was to apply a tourniquet. Turns out that’s not the best thing to do since you could end up making the person lose more of the limb by killing off blood flow and you should always apply direct pressure until medical professionals can get there.

Remember standing in a doorway during an earthquake? WRONG! It’s actually best to get up against a way because if the ceiling drops in chances are pretty good that a portion will fall at an angle leaving you with a safe place. I also got to learn things I had never thought of before such as teamwork in a situation when some is trapped under say a fallen telephone pole or a car. This was also the first time someone had lit a controlled fire and handed me an extinguisher and told me to put it out. These are handy tips to know and the best part was at the end we got our yellow hard hats and orange safety vests. Yes, some of you might think at times that those outfits look a little dorky, but if something bad comes down like another ’89 earthquake you’ll be glad to see these people. I could go into more detail, but it’s best to get your information from the NERT website.