I was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.
It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.
The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.
When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.
Pink popcorn was always something I had taken for granted. You would go to the ballpark and get it. You could go to the zoo and get it. Any event that occurred within the Bay Area you would find Wrights pink popcorn. It was like Coke™, where ever you went it was there. What I didn’t realize in my very San Francisco-centric thinking was that it was a San Francisco creation.
Since finding this information I’ve been trying to track down the history of this confection that is taken for granted. I’ve heard stories that the chemicals used to coat the popcorn causes cancer [just like everything else you eat] to it being first made in the 1800’s in San Francisco. I have even called the company that’s located now on Potrero Avenue in the City as well as emailed them, but have yet to hear from them directly.
From Wrights website they mention that they started in the 40’s and that’s as much of a history as I can get about them. I’m not sure who Mr. or Mrs. Wrights is, but they don’t really want you to know about them. I was able to find a couple of guys who did an interview with NPR who were flavor agents that made the flavorings for many high profile food products which I cannot mention, but they did say that they were the ones who created the pink glaze for the popcorn and it was bubble gum flavored. Somehow bubble gum flavored popcorn doesn’t sound as good as it tasted as a kid. Bubble gum was something you chewed and spit out, not chewed and swallowed as my mother always reminded me when I would chew and swallow a piece of Bazooka Joe [as an adult I used to buy tubs of the stuff along with red vines just to satisfy the kid still in me struggling to get out].
I think it’s about time that our Interim Mayor, Ed Lee recognize Wrights pink popcorn as a official San Francisco Treat. When public officials come to San Francisco Wrights pink popcorn should be in the baskets he presents to them not organic hot dogs like he’s given in the past. This is a company unlike others that started in San Francisco like the It’s-it and Sees candy that have moved to the peninsula, but a San Francisco company that has actually stayed in San Francisco. Sure we have Twitter, but compared to a company started in the 40’s Twitter is an infant.
While Wrights website could use an update they’re more about the product we all take for granted. While I hadn’t seen it at my last trip to the San Francisco Zoo I understand you can still get it there and I was pleased to hear that the Stow Lake boat house will still be selling it. I think I’ll have to find some and share it with my daughter so she can get a taste of old San Francisco.
I got to go to the local Sunset Community Festival on Saturday which was actually called the Playland at the Beach Festival as well even though there was only a single sign up with info on the long defunct Playland. I have to admit that it was one of the better local gatherings I’ve seen. This is probably due to the fact that it was at the newly renovated West Sunset Playground which as I expected in the previous article on it, the mulch was being trashed by kids everywhere.
Because this is a community focused event that pulls political powers from around the city there were booths for just about every person running for Mayor of San Francisco. I got to meet with John Avalos [of course], Joanna Rees and Mayor Ed Lee, who I must say is much taller than he looks in pictures. Phil Ting was there, but had no booth and ran off shortly after I arrived. I was especially surprised to see that Carmen Chu, Fiona Ma and Leland Yee who tend to be all over the Sunset district had unmanned tables and were no shows. I would have liked to have a chance to bend Carmen’s ear for a few minutes to an hour to let her know what needed some attention in the Sunset District. Tony Hall has several older, conservative cronies out to push him as well, but he too was a no show which was odd considering his connection to the Sunset District. All in all I was surprised to hear John Avalos’ name mentioned by many of the people there. I think he may have a real shot at getting it since he’s staying away from the political infighting going on with other candidates for Mayor.
The day wasn’t all about politics though and I was glad to run into Tom Prete of Ocean Beach Bulletin and Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods group who had booths as well. I’ve included lots of pictures which you’ll see at the end in the slideshow and it was a fun, but crowded day. I do have to admit that the only downside I saw at the event was Bank of America’s booth that was handing out free stuff for spinning a wheel which had people lined up blocking the comcast and Run Ed Run booth so you couldn’t even get close since people wanted to win a frizbee, caramel corn or a few other things [like I said, they were lined up thick and I couldn’t really see.
The games arcade for the kids was packed to the gills with kids flying around in the multi-tiered bouncy houses they provided and there was also a flea market sort of set up near by where you could get anything from vintage vinyl to clothes to well, garage sale junk people wanted to get rid of. I was pleased to meet Pat and Virginia of the local NERT group that I’ll be writing about soon. If you need to know what to do in an emergency, NERT will teach you in 6 short, free classes. Other Avenues, the health food store that I’ve written about previously was there and I had to introduce myself so they had a face to put with the article I wrote.
There was also food from local places such as North Beach Pizza and oddly enough there was one booth selling deep fried oreo’s. I wanted to give it a shot, but I didn’t have any cash on me and apparently some of these booths haven’t heard of square that I’ve talked about before to allow them to take credit cards cheap.
For a community get together this was one that was done right. I was surprised that all I had to do for many of the booths there was mention Baghdad By The Bay and they knew who I was immediately. I plan on visiting more of these local events in the future.
Hello my friends and readers. I just wanted to let you know that while writing every day doesn’t always take up too much of my time, the researching does and I feel I need to step back a bit so that I’m giving quality and not quantity. I want to make sure I get to fact check anything I put out there unlike some of the modern day journalists. So I’m going to try something…
I’ll write Monday through Friday and keep the weekends to myself. That’ll give me time to travel around San Francisco more and get more pictures of my nefarious deeds and actually have some time to work in audio interviews for the podcast I’m trying to get started. Besides, I need to get out of the house more and moreover, I need to get out of the Sunset District more. Not because I don’t like the fog. It’s one of the things I actually like about the Sunset because I appreciate the sun so much more.
So for now I’m going home early, wait, I’m already home. I guess I’ll go out and take some photos around San Francisco. For today I’ll leave you all with some of my pretty pictures taken at Ocean Beach when we had good weather. Let’s all hope for a nice spring this year! Cheers to my friends at the Ocean Beach Bulletin!
I missed out on the Sutro Baths. A major fire in 1966 pretty much gutted the place and I was too young to have visited there let alone remember this place that through pictures was a glorious place to visit.
Opening in 1896, the Sutro Baths named after former Major Adolph Sutro who financed the build as well as the Cliff House next door created a natatorium similar to the old Roman baths, only well, bigger. We’re San Francisco and we have to one up everyone including the Holy Roman Empire. It was the largest indoor swimming pool establishment in the world at the time with one freshwater pool and six saltwater pools. You had hot pools, cool pools, tepid pools BIG pools and small pools, but it was more than just the water.
Sutro Baths was also home to the Musee Mechanique that I’ve written about before as well as a museum, concert hall that could hold up to 8000 people and an ice skating rink not to mention the obvious food vendors all around the place.
This was the type of place you would have expected to see young gentlemen in suits and hats with long mustaches and canes walking around with young ladies at their arms walking through the imported tropical palm trees gazing in amusement at the novelties that Adolph had brought back from his travels around the world. They even had their own Cliff House railroad to bring people from, “the city” to the outside lands more easily.
During high tide the pools would be refilled with roughly two million gallons of water within an hour and at low tide they would use a large centrifuge pump to do the same. It was like an 8th wonder of the world to many and it was know around the world. Sadly the operating costs got out of control and by the start of the 60’s only the skating rink remained.
[mappress mapid=”35″]Now it is a shell of what it used to be, but there is still some interesting things to find in that shell. The high tides bring up deep dwelling fish and invertebrates that get deposited in the remaining ponds. There is one specific area that you have to break the law by climbing a metal fence and walking down some rickety stairs to a small observation deck that was built on a rock that is home to thousands of sea anemones. There is a little bridge area that goes into a now sealed off cave where people where found dead inside with no apparent cause of death. In the pool on either side of the bridge at night you can see the phosphorescent flashlight fish as they are commonly know glowing in the pools. It has a very H.P. Lovecraft feel to it.
There is also the remains of the rock bridge that took you out to fisherman’s rock. It was destroyed because too many fisherman would be out there oblivious to the tides and get swept away. There is also Seal Rock which was famous for its seals and seal lions prior to their vacating for more upscale digs at Fisherman’s Wharf. It has been said that groups of Satanists and Black Magicians have even gathered in this place to hold rituals. Who knows? It would be fitting for this place.
Now if I only had the chance to go back in time to experience it in it’s heyday. Any Black Magicians out there want to lend me a hand?
Well the computer’s back so it’s back to focusing on the blog. I’ve decided to make a few changes. While I’ll still be writing about San Francisco I’m going to focus a little more on the Sunset District. Also since I’ll soon have an iPhone I’ll be taking more pictures and video [which I should have done yesterday morning].
As I was walking to the L-Taraval street car yesterday morning to go to work I saw something I hadn’t seen in the Sunset before. A homeless guy asleep on the sidewalk at 33rd and Taraval. I’ve been here for 47 years and the “homeless” people you see usually standing outside a 7-11 are more “financially challenged” than “homeless.” They’re generally pretty clean, some are funny, like Donald who usually hangs out at the 7-11 in the evenings on 32nd and Taraval, or Willy who hangs out in the lower part of Judah street. Willy could use a bath, but I think he’s encamped in GG Park because I never see him asleep on the streets.
You don’t feel threatened by these people, but this guy looked more like the picture. Dirty, smelly and while I can’t say for sure I did see a few open sores that meant he was probably carrying some sort of disease with him. I’m going to start taking pictures and maybe Taraval Police station will start doing something about it.
With that said, we made another trip to the Zoo today. So I’ve talked enough about the zoo so I’ll focus on their food today. Part of me misses the dumb simple food they used to serve, but at least they still have hot dogs. We went to the leaping lemur cafe to have some food and I decided to try their bacon cheese burger because who doesn’t love bacon? My wife had the “gourmet international deli sandwich” which translated into a packaged turkey, swiss cheese and a slice of bacon on a croissant with a bag of chips and of course our daughter had to have some “all natural french fries”.
Price: $22.91. That’s with the 10% members discount too. The food was pretty awful. While they’re trying to come off as a healthy food place like the Academy of Sciences, they don’t come close. The bacon cheese burger was tasteless. All I could tell is that it had indeed been cooked. My wife asked me if I’d like a “taste” of her sandwich. Taste usually implies you’re going to actually taste something. Well, I didn’t. The best bet were the french fries which were actually crispy and hot, but no salt, no flavor. Our daughter enjoyed the fries for a little while at least. This is when I noticed that there were lots of families who brought their food and were sitting down outside eating. Note to self, do this next time.
On the upside we got to see a lot and our daughter had a good time even though we had a lot of walking to do to see everything. They have a new area called Greenie’s Conservation Center that has one of the original 1906 earthquake shacks that was a cool find. It was in great condition and had two lights that were so old that they were probably originals. They’ve got a nice garden you can walk through that’s fed with collected rainwater and, uhm, “animal compost”. I remember they used to sell that for $1 a bag calling it ZooDoo. I suppose it was another attempt to look green, but it was small. They should have taken it a step further or two. There were still lots of empty cages and pits and there were a lot of exhibit areas that are now blocked off by fences, probably because they don’t have anything in the areas there. The only problem with this is that some of these walkways were great cut aways to get where you wanted to quickly. Now you have to walk a long way between exhibits that are clumped together with lots of unused space. You can get a better idea from the map. What they need to bring back with so much walking you have to do is bring back the old elephant train. I wish I could find pictures of it, but they stopped it back int he 80’s.
There’s a podcast I occasionally give a listen to that is from Minnesota where the podcasters talk about sex. Sometimes it’s mildly amusing at other times they’re downright insulting sex nazis. On one of the recent podcasts one of the members said she’d like to move to San Francisco because of how open minded we are sexually. Then one of the other members made a comment that she’d have to be able to afford $7000 a month for rent and that the people here are smug.
Obviously this person has never been to San Francisco. Yes, rent is high here. Probably some of the highest in the US, but you can find deals if you look hard. The smug comment though got to me even more. I think with the economy crash all the techie yuppies that put the smug in San Francisco left to be smug somewhere else. They occupied only a small part of the city as well. If you travel out to some of the other parts of the city you find real community in the people who live there. I used to live west of Sunset Boulevard near Judah Street. Once you go west of Sunset the entire vibe changes. Everyone’s a little more laid back and relaxed. The people who run the stores and restaurants out there know your name and you know your neighbors as well. We all had something in common out there. We learned to tolerate the fog for the few days of beautiful sunshine we’d get by the beach. Over the years I’ve noticed that for some reason the Sunset is getting more sun and less fog which is a good reason for me to have stayed here.
We’re all good people here and I think it would be best to leave the smugness to the people outside San Francisco who like to look down on us even though they act like us or want to act like us. What do you think?