EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Golden Gate | Baghdad By The Bay - Part 2

Posts Tagged 'golden gate'

Grizzly Bears? In Golden Gate Park?

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.
Golden Gate Park Children’s Playground 

Golden Gate Park Children's Playgroundby Pat French Swendsen

(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.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the park

I had meant this to be my Monday post, but because I was a bit shocked about Darla’s closing I decided to hold off a day. After finishing my part two of Golden Gate Park I saw a tweet about the following “job opening” on craigslist. Click on the photo to read it in its entirety.

I have to admit it’s a pretty funny job listing, but what’s a little bit shocking is that some one is so pissed off about Park and Rec [now Recreation and Parks that they call it now] that they were willing to pay $75 to list this job of an job listing. My close personal friend Craig Newmark [who once banned me from his list] must be laughing all the way to the bank on this one.

I do have to admit that our parks are suffering a bit. When we were kids [and I’m sure my other close personal friend Steve will chime in on this] the parks were well grassy more than weedy. I have another close personal friend Nikolai [who deserves special notice because I’ve used that term and have actually met up with him in the past ten years] worked for the park system as a gardener.

Nikolai used to make sure that the grass was grass and the weeds were gone, that the grass got watered and didn’t turn the many colors it does other than green. We used to have a very nice show piece with the park where the only thing you had to worry about when you were being a rough kid with your friends was hitting the odd piece of crab grass that I remember as hurting like hell.

The drinking fountains used to work until some of the bigger kids would stuff gravel in them so that you’d get squirted with a high pressure blast of water which is what we all took our science classes to learn how to do. God knows where the water came from for those faucets, but I’m sure they’d be on a toxic waste list today.

The park used to be much nicer than it is today. The only way to get even close to the experience is to go out to the west end of the park around the chain of lakes at 45th Avenue [Sunset side] or 43rd Avenue [Richmond side]. That’s about as close as you’re going to find to the old GGP I knew as a kid. The playgrounds out around there have sand that the feral cats aren’t using as a litter box for some reason and it’s just a nice clean and green area. The Arboretum and Japanese Tea Garden used to be free and the DeYoung and Academy of Sciences didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. It was really a place to be proud of if you were from San Francisco. The Polo Fields used to have grass before it died off to the point that weeds don’t even want to grow there.

I’m hoping our interim Mayor Ed Lee reads this or at least someone forwarded him the craigslist job listing. Maybe he could do something to change the park for the better.

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Beach Chalet: Great Views & Food

The Beach Chalet occupies the top floor of the old Golden Gate Park Visitor’s center with stunning views of the ocean, great food and a microbrewery that in addition to making beer also makes a great root beer [more on that later]. I’m not sure when the actual building was constructed, but I do know that they artwork downstairs was done as part of the WPA project in the 1930’s by artist Lucien Labaudt. It spent most of its years a vacant empty shell during my youth until Gar and Lara Trupelli and Timon Malloy bought it and started to restore it sometime in the early 80’s.

The place is filled with that “outside lands” vibe that I always talk about. It’s a great place to kick back and relax while enjoying some great food. When the weather’s good I usually like to skip the Beach Chalet and go around back to the Park Chalet. Same general food, but to replace the view of the sea you get a very open area where the windows that also serve as walls can be turned and moved to open up the space to the well kept up garden area where you’ll usually find a few kids running around on the weekends.

Now let’s talk about the food. The prices are in the $10-$32 range for main courses and the variance depends on what time of day you go and of course, what you get. I think the prices are pretty reasonable considering what you get. They have a range of dishes covering the beef, pork, chicken and fish departments and each one has a favorite for me. THey also have a Prime Rib Monday special that while I haven’t tried that yet, I think I’m going to have to.

For beef I have to go with the flat iron steak & frites. I’ve learned to love flat iron steak ever since Chef Bruce Hill [Zero Zero] introduced it to me at a restaurant he previously worked. It’s got a meaty flavor, but is also very tender served with a caramelized onion sauce and the frites are crispy to perfection.

For pork I have to go with their Carolina style pulled pork sandwich. I’m a sucker for pork and this is a juicy sandwich to bite into. You get a really good taste, but not overpowering flavor of the Carolina style sauce in the meat and the fried onion strings [always a favorite with me] are just icing on the cake.

Chicken is tough with me as it is in most restaurants, but they put it to good use in the west coast carbonara. The fettucine, chicken, english peas, bacon, thyme and shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese all blend well with the sauce to create a dish that won’t leave you feeling weighed down when you finish like some pasta dishes can.

For the fish I have to go with an old standby because they do it so well and that’s their V.F.W. beer battered fish and chips. The flavor is intense, but not fishy nor overly greasy.

Now one thing you always have to remember when you come here is that it’s a micro brewery so you have to try the beer. They have five regulars on tap, V.F.W. Light, Presidio IPA, Riptide Red, Fleishacker Stout  & Dee’s Bitter Ale. They also have specials that pop up like their Ocean Beach Oktoberfest beer and I honestly can’t pick a favorite. They’re all good and there’s something for every beer drinker there. They offer a circle of ales where you get a small glass of each of the beers to try and compare.

Now about the root beer. Funhouse Root beer is unlike any root beer you’ll ever taste. I tell everyone who goes there that they have to try the root beer and they all say the same thing, Damn, that’s good root beer! It is and brewmaster Aron Deorsey hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s got a bit of a thicker and heavier taste than most store bought root beers and the flavor will stay with you after you’ve finished it. Best not to switch over to beer afterwards unless you like your beer tasting sweet. I wish they did sell it in stores, but unfortunately they don’t. They did used to sell what they called a growler that was basically a gallon jug they’d fill up with whatever beer or root beer you wanted and you could take it home with you. It really is that good. TRY THE ROOT BEER!

Tuesday’s and Fridays they have live music and there’s always the 3-6pm and 9pm-closing happy hours with $3, $6 & $9 drinks and appetizers Monday through Friday. Since it looks like we’ll be having some nice weather for a bit I suggest you head down to the beach and check out both the Beach and Park Chalets.

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Urban Wildlife: It’s More Than Rats and Roaches

A lot of people don’t realize that just because we live in a city that there isn’t some real wildlife you can find here. Sure, we’ve got raccoons and skunks and the occasional possum or opossum where the “O” is silent, but we also have a few other beasts that make our way into San Francisco.

Well, there are feral cats, tons of them. No matter where you go you well see stray cats running around, but we also have some nice pristine areas that urban dwellers haven’t taken over that have become home to some even more wildlife. In the East Bay a few years ago there was a jogger who was attacked by a mountain lion. San Francisco, luckily free of mountain lions does have its share of coyotes now. You usually see them in the Richmond district making their way through the park to Sunset Boulevard in the Sunset district. The biologists in the know say they are coming from Marin and are actually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at night to venture into better feeding grounds in the Presidio.

I read a story yesterday though that shows that apparently our coyote population isn’t just made up of immigrants from Marin. There are several coyotes living in Glen Park Canyon and people who have been watching them have noticed that one of the cubs, term used loosely because he/she is a couple of years old, has moved on to greener pastures. I used to live near the canyon and if I was a wild animal living in an urban area I’m not sure where I would go. They could go up the hill from Glen Park, but that would be navigating along asphalt walkways until you get to the top and hit the mini-mall like shopping area and juvenile hall. Not sure how long a coyote would last in juvenile hall, but I wouldn’t want to test the theory.

If the coyote went east you’d be smack in the middle of the Mission District 94112, again, not a nice place to be a wild animal with the 14 Mission buses to avoid along with all the people cruising down Mission street. The Norteño/Sureño gang’s aren’t as big there anymore so you wouldn’t have to worry about being shot, but Jeez, it’s kind of tough to be a wild animal in an urban setting when the people are more wild than you are.

I will give you a word of advice though. If you do run into a coyote in San Francisco keep in mind that they aren’t dogs. They’re a little more confusing than the foxes that you rarely see anymore except by the beach, but coyotes can be easily mistaken for dogs so don’t walk up and put your hand out for it to sniff or you might be making a quick trip to the hospital to have your hand put back together. While they don’t bite with as much force as a wolf or a pit bull their faces are built to tear flesh and as someone who once went through the wind shield of Caddy from the outside in, having your flesh torn from your body is not a fun thing to have happen.

I had one walk by my car when I was driving through the Presidio and I stopped thinking it might be a lost dog. Luckily I realized when it was a couple feet from my window that it wasn’t a dog. We stopped and looked at it safely from inside the car until it got bored with us and started to walk away. Coyotes are seen by the Native Americans as tricksters and I wanted him to leave first. If I decided to drive he might have done something stupid like jump in front of my car since they’re fast and having to explain to my friends in SF that I hit a coyote with my car in San Francisco is just something that might be a little difficult for some people to understand.

Coyotes, they’re here and they’re not going away. Just keep that in mind.

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