Now that we have a new span on the Bay Bridge apparently we have to name it. There are members of the NAACP in Southern California who think we should make an exception to the rule of not naming large structures after living people and name it after Willie Brown.
Don’t get me wrong, while I’m one of the few, I actually like Willie Brown. The man has style. The man has an attitude. He has so much attitude that if he was in favor of it being named after him he would have said something already. I guess that’s all part of being a kid born in Minneola, Texas and moving to San Francisco.
So functionally, by saying nothing I think we can take that as a no vote from Willie Brown. It’s part of the passive-agressive way politicians work in that it’s not always what they say, but what they don’t say. Our Governor, Jerry Brown who apparently didn’t learn the passive-agressive technique has just come right out and said he doesn’t like the idea.
So while the people of Southern California think they know what’s best for San Francisco, we need to come up with a counter attack to put the boobs of silicone valley in their place.
I strongly stand with the members of E Clampus Vitus who want the bridge named after Emperor Joshua Abraham Norton. This is a man who in 1859 proclaimed himself to be the Emperor of the United States of America and Protector Of Mexico. The man made his own money that people actually accepted around San Francisco. This is the type of guy that should have a bridge named after him.
As a matter of fact, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is unofficially named the Emperor Norton Bridge. There’s even a plaque on the San Francisco side stating this. Why can’t the politicians see this? We don’t have people like Emperor Norton anymore in the Bay Area and I think that we need people like that to symbolize the rough and tumble, do it yourself kind of mentality that made San Francisco what it is. Not the Mark Zuckerberg’s or Steve Job’s types who are in Silicon Valley, but the real people that San Francisco had who made a difference. There is no Emperor Norton Hotel, Bar or even Restaurant in San Francisco and if there’s a small chance I missed it then it needs to be more in the forefront than in the background as long as they’re doing a good job of representing him.
We are on the eve of the naming of the bridge so I suggest that you email Governor Brown, Mayor Lee and Mayor Quan and let them know that the bridge deserves a proper name.
Thanks to a friend on FaceBook, I found this great video of San Francisco from 1955. It’s a travelog sort of film that makes San Francisco look like Disneyland in many ways. If you think you know the City, see how many places you’ll find that are different today than they were then. I honestly got all of them even though Sutro Baths was closed just after I was born. I’d like to do a remake of this film using the same voice over and locations, but with today’s scenes. Sounds like fun anyone in on it with me?
It’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.
As I was spending my day surfing the web I came across a few articles about people who’ve moved to San Francisco like this one. My suggestion is don’t move here. Most of the people who were complaining about San Francisco have lived here for 3-5 years at the most, tend to be hipsters from the Mission, and shop at Whole Foods. They don’t understand that there’s more to San Francisco and I’m going to tell you some of the only reasons you should move here.
First, you’ve got an Aunt Gladys who bought her house in the pre-Prop 13 days and stayed there. Then she died and left you the house. Depending on the size of the house you’ll get stuck with paying between $800-$1500 a year in property taxes and the bit of house upkeep. Having a house handed you means that you have the equivalent of $42k/year income a year since you don’t have to pay rent. If you’re rich buy away. Once your house is paid off you’ll be paying per year less than what you’d pay per month to rent. I have a friend who bought a two bedroom house about 10 years ago and his mortgage is less than what he could get for renting the place plus it has a built in bar.
Second, if you choose to rent and now isn’t the best time you pretty much missed the boat by about 15-20 years. If you do decide to rent try to stay there. We’ve got a thing people refer to as rent control. My wife and I rented a two bedroom house 10 years ago that we payed $1200/month. Mind you we moved in there in 1997 before the dot com 1.0 pushed rental prices up to a ridiculous rate. If we stayed there we might be paying $1500/month…for a two bedroom house. When I first moved out to the Mission and that was around 1991 I split a two bedroom house with a full living room, full dining room, big kitchen, two huge bedrooms and a sun room for $400/month and that was my share. Our rent never went up while we stayed there and any fix ups the house needed we got to take off the rent.
Other than that, don’t move here. Rents are high and some of the employers are paying stupidly low wages. People who work in grocery stores and the like are here because they live with there parents, inherited their house from their parents or are section 8 disabled. Seeing guys in their 50’s who live with their aging Mom or Dad isn’t something to look down on here because they’re able to live here and go out to dinner at a nice restaurant every once in awhile while working for $17/hour. If you don’t already own and have your house paid off you need to earn about $35-$50 an hour to live like you would in other parts of the country. I don’t understand why some people move here and work long hours and then go shopping on the weekends for prepared foods because they don’t have time to cook or they go out to eat for half the week at an overpriced eatery when they could make enough food on the weekends at home for the whole week if they just made the effort, but that’s not my place to judge. I did used to shake my head when I worked with a girl who made $14/hour, lived in the upper haight with several roommates and would go to Whole Foods to buy her lunch. I would go around the corner for a $2 taco and bring a soda from home if I hadn’t brought my lunch and this was last year.
If you move here you don’t know the City well enough before you move here and don’t understand things like you can get the best and cheapest burrito outside of the mission because there aren’t those kind of hipsters where this place is located. You can get good food cheap if you know where to look [hint alley ways], but you’ll only know that once you’ve moved here and been around the City for about six months.
PBR is not what cheap San Franciscan’s drink. It’s Budweiser. PBR also tells everyone you’re a broke hipster and you’ve just labeled yourself even if you weren’t trying. While there aren’t that many born and raise in SF people left they’re the ones with the money in this city. Face it, until you’ve got 30 years under your belt here you’re going to have a rough time of it.
By all means though, come and visit us. We have a lot to offer. Great parks and museums and as others have noted great food. Affordable housing just isn’t one of those things.
This morning at 10:30am P.M.W. will take the stage followed by MC Hammer at 11:30 in Golden Gate Park. They don’t talk about Thursday as the start of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, but it’s here. I’m sure as I type this MC Hammer is warming up his voice and doing his morning yoga to limber up for his Thursday morning performance that no one is talking about.
Festivals in Golden Gate Park are a blessing and a curse. The Park is the real slot in San Francisco, not Market Street. It cuts a long path into San Francisco almost halfway across the city. It’s three times the size of Central Park in New York and yet has only five ways to cross it. All except two [which I won’t mention] are packed during rush hour. For the next four days, one of the less congested routes across will be closed to traffic pushing the burden on the 19th avenue corridor for those of us [like me] to get to the Golden Gate Bridge to get to work.
Growing up as a kid in San Francisco I loved the music festivals in the park. I didn’t have a car then so I didn’t bother thinking about what it was like if you had to drive across the park during one of them. Now that I do and have to commute to Marin I realize that it doubles my commute time making it take a little longer than if I had to take Muni downtown. That’s not so bad compared to the horror stories I hear all the time from people who have to take Muni, but still I had to plan a bit knowing this.
The festivals in the park have gotten more elaborate over the years and this week proved it to me as I could see people starting set up on Monday. What they are bringing in for this music festival is a lot of equipment. I haven’t seen lighting rigs this elaborate since my last Metallica concert. This gives a kind of weird feeling to Golden Gate Park which is supposed to be a nature preserve, but now you drive across it and are seeing big, hulking towers of metal rising up along side the trees. The days of a flatbed with a few generators as the stage are gone. The hippies have gone pro.
For this weekend in the park there is a huge cast of entertainers to appear most of which lean more towards the hardly more than strictly bluegrass variety. The show is expected to draw 750,000 people from a city of 850,000 people. They won’t all be San Franciscans so you can expect some ground shaking from the overload of people this weekend. The show has been going on for eleven years now and is always a big event for San Francisco. They have yet to jump the shark which will come when they schedule a band like Slayer to play. I don’t think that will happen soon.
My suggestions if you’re going to go is to use Muni. It might take you a little longer, but it’ll be easier. I’ve seen signs that there will be shuttle services in the park so that will help as well. Prepare to do a good amount of walking and as always this is the Westside of San Francisco so dress in layers because you’ll go from freezing weather to blazing heat during the day. Judging from the weather of the past few days and the fog of this morning layers is a good thing. I unfortunately won’t be attending this year as I don’t like large crowds anymore. I’m sorry I’ll miss out on seeing Buckethead and my old friend Chris Issak [who I’ll probably run into at a local sushi joint], but if you’re going I wish you all a safe and enjoyable experience.
I have to say that most of my commute experience has involved Muni with a short 3 month stint having to drive from San Francisco to Burlingame. Of those two experiences I’d have to say the commute to Burlingame was the worst because it involved 280, 380 and 101. Commuting to Marin is much different and I learned that highway 101 has a dark and a light side, but with the opposite meanings applying.
Traveling down to Burlingame I usually hit sun pretty quickly, but I also hit much more traffic. I could get there in a half hour to an hour and a half and you just could never tell. While I’d call this the light side because the sun always seemed like it was out even in the winter, it was also a nightmare because the traffic was stop and go most of the way.
Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge is another story, while current construction work on Fulton made it take me 30 minutes to get from Ortega and 19th to Fulton and Funston, from there it took me six minutes to get to toll booths of the bridge. I’ve figured out a work around that will get me from my house to the bridge avoiding the back up and get me to my twelve mile destination in under a half hour. The odd thing is that in this case even including the bridge toll [$6 because it’s the Golden Gate Bridge be-atch!] is cheaper than taking the public transportation route which would be Muni to Golden Gate transit and would take a little over an hour to do. It’s actually about half the price including gas.
Since I rarely have reason to travel across the Golden Gate Bridge I had forgotten what it was like. Dark, Stephen King like fog until you get through the rainbow tunnel of the Waldo grade. I had to turn my wipers on and off because the fog was so heavy a person from San Diego would call it rain, but it was just an amazingly fun drive. The Bay Bridge speed limit is 50 mph which means people drive about 70-80 mph in part because the fog is usually higher up over there and the lanes are wider and there is more of them.
The Golden Gate Bridge is 45 mph which means that people drive maybe 50 mph, but during commute it’s usually around 40 mph if not a little slower. because there are only three lanes north bound and two lanes south bound. I guess they want people to get out of San Francisco as fast as possible, but we only want to let them in at a slow and expensive rate.
I had vowed in the past to never cross a bridge again, but only realized that was from my experience with the Bay Bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate was, well, nice. It was the calmest drive I’ve ever had and I definitely didn’t feel as cramped as I did do when I ride on Muni during rush hour.
The biggest bonus was after getting out of the Waldo tunnel seeing sunlight and arriving at my destination I find that the company I’m freelancing for offers it’s employees free snacks like fresh fruit, chips, granola bars, yogurt, juice, tea, sodas, coffee and bottled water. They’ll even make a lunch run for sandwiches which you can enjoy in the employee lounge which has a 60″ HD flat screen TV and comfy couches. When I look out my window I get a gorgeous view of the Marin estuary and when I walk out on the deck I get the smell of the fresh salt air which I love while watching blue heron’s and egret’s walking around the marshlands.
I think I’m going to get used to this freelance gig really quick.
Today’s column comes from The Western Neighborhoods Project, run by Woody LaBounty. Woody has collected a group of people who remember the old days from their own stories and ones that have been passed down to them by relatives. I’m trying to dig through my archives of stuff my Mom used to tell me about how the city had changed from when she was a kid. I’m glad her vision was going because she’d probably not like today. So here’s another one from the Good Ole days file.
(Originally published in theRichmond Review andSunset Beacon,January 2002)
Yes, there were grizzly bears in Golden Gate Park, near the Children’s Playground.
Far from the benign setting of swings and sand boxes, the bears roamed gloomily in a sunken, almost underground, alleyway near smelly, dank dens where the bears lived.
Before they were removed from the park, the giants of the wild were confined in this cavernous layout as people peered down on the bears from above, standing on strong iron bars.
The playground at that time contained a wonderful corkscrew metal slide. It had nice architectural touches, including stairs that looked like fancy furnace floor vents. Sometimes on hot, sunny days the slide would get very hot, but that was never a problem—the trip down was always swift.
There were also elephants in the park. Children could ride in a seat on the elephant’s back along a designated path: two rides for a nickel. I never found out where the elephants went at night or where they came from (retired from a circus?), but it was an exotic ride that for a few moments transported us to India, where we felt important and powerful.
One of my fondest memories of the Children’s Playground was getting into a scooter that would go down a concrete path from the top of a nearby hill to the bottom. An eager young man always started our journey at the top when we were securely seated in the Kiddie Car. When riding in the cars, the “clickity clack” of the wheels could be heard as we sped along. It was marvelous.
The nearby merry-go-round was a whole other scene, with its mirrored panels and glockenspiel sounds coming from a loud music box. At the end of a ride, there would be a rush of kids coming to grab their favorite animals for the next ride.
Sometimes we barely had three seconds to get off the animal before someone else was trying to get on. For many children, a dream ride was on the line.
Everyone had their favorite rides on the carousel—the giraffes were wonderfully high but didn’t move and the chariots where mothers sat with their toddlers were a choice of last resort.
The swings at the old playground were different than today, with the seats of the swings being made of heavy wooden rectangles that gave many a youth a bloody nose for standing too close. Other features at the park included steel ladders that were mounted horizontally so we could swing on them rung-to-rung.
That was a long time ago, but I still have many fond, poignant memories.