Sunday, July 22, 2007

San Francisco

For our honeymoon, we decided on San Francisco mainly because of the MLB All Star Game but also because we both had never been there. My first impression of San Francisco was not great. On the ride from the airport, the cab driver had to drive us through a seedy part of downtown that I had never seen on Full House. Scum-soaked, hourly-rate hotels and pornography stores created a mishmash of uneasiness and regret as we cruised through the streets. The scenery greatly improved as we got closer to the hotel. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt which is located in Union Square by Market Street. The area was a high class shopping district that put my stomach at ease. There were Louis Vinton, Apple Stores, and Neiman Marcus as far as the eye could see. After dropping off our bag (I use the singular “bag” because American Airlines misplaced two of our bags for a while), we hit the streets and immersed ourselves in the flamboyant arrogance that can only be found in the heart of wealthy California. To our surprise (insert tongue in cheek) there were a myriad of homeless men and women draped across the sidewalks. One has to wonder why there are so many homeless in the wealthy, liberal Mecca that is San Francisco, but I digress. That’s another blog for another day. If you can tolerate being asked for change every seven and a half seconds, a stroll in downtown San Francisco can be quite nice. The weather is really great. It hardly gets above 80 degrees in the middle of the day in July, which is pretty remarkable. At night, it gets fairly cold; sometimes in the low 60’s depending on the wind. San Francisco is quite accessible by foot. There were only a few attractions we had to ride the bus for. Unlike New York, every pedestrian obeys traffic signals. Nobody cross the street when the don’t walk sign is lit and nobody crosses outside of the crosswalk. Maybe it’s the pacifist nature of a liberal city; maybe it’s the fact that you would most certainly be flattened by cars running red lights. Who knows?
The food in San Francisco was surprising not terrible. There is a much wider variety of restaurants than I expected. Just about every restaurant is a “fusion” of different ethnic cuisines showing off the city as a vast melting pot. We ate at a number of restaurants: most of them good, others merely adequate. They all share a commonality in the level of service. Every single restaurant in San Francisco has horrible service. It doesn’t matter if you go to a greasy spoon or an upscale bistro, the servers could care less if you enjoyed yourself or not. The servers are unfriendly, slow, and rarely come by to check up on you. Maybe they are trying to be more like Europe or maybe they didn’t like us, either way bad service can ruin a dining experience no matter how great the food is. The best place we ate was a French restaurant called Le Charm. This cozy bistro featured interesting entrees and the best French onion soup I’ve ever had. It wasn’t too pricey either. A close runner up was Citizen Cake. Their specialty is pastries, but these bakers wiped up a pretty tasty roasted eggplant sandwich for lunch. After lunch, we had their famous “personal-sized” cakes which are whole cakes about the size of a Ding-Dong that feed one person. Having the largest Chinatown in America, we figured the Chinese food must be great. We ate at two restaurants there: Young Café and The Four Seas. Young Café was a small, rambunctious joint that seemed to specialize in quick lunches. The Four Seas is Chinatown’s oldest restaurant which featured dim sum and family style portions. I was a little shocked that the food in Chinatown wasn’t that much different than the Chinese food in Baton Rouge. I guess we went to the touristy places. Oh well. Some of the other places we ate were the overly trendy Cortez and Colibri restaurants as well as the charmingly strange Irish bar/cafeteria Lefty O’Doul’s. San Francisco doesn’t have as many attractions as other cities that size. We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was pretty much a huge bridge. We got exactly what we expected. Fisherman’s Wharf is also a popular spot for out-of-towners. It is a touristy, fisherman-themed money trap on the bay that is lined with overpriced restaurants and stores that sell stuff that makes the products in Spencer’s Gifts look luxurious. It reminded me a lot of Navy Pier in Chicago. We didn’t stay there long because if you aren’t in the mood to eat or waste money there really is nothing there for you. We also ventured off to City Lights Bookstore as was suggested to us by more than one person as a place we should check out. It seemed cool enough. They had a huge inventory for such a small, independent bookstore, but the three different Socialist magazines (sitting right next to the latest copies of The Nation and The Progressive) available told me everything I needed to know about that place. Needless to say, they did not have the latest copy of National Review I was looking for. Open minded, Schmopen minded. We also went to the MLB All Star game and took a tour of wine country, but I will blog about those experiences separately. San Francisco was everything I thought it would be, but I am a little disappointed that I was only asked one time to join the ACLU. However, there are always union protests to remind you that the heart of San Francisco bleeds, but not for the homeless of course.


Allen Gladfelter said...

I, for one, have always been quite charmed by San Francisco and consider it one of my favorite cities. I'm sure that will not surprise you. Thing is, you seem to suggest that there are a disproportionate amount of panhandlers in San Francisco. Well, I've been to New Orleans (pre Katrina) and I was accosted for change as much there as anywhere else I've ever been. That would seem to contradict your suggestion that there are panhandlers there because of the liberal bias of San Francisco. I'd say that the only difference between the way that the "Liberal" West and the "Conservative" South deal with homeless panhandlers is that in the West they try to help those people get their lives together and get back on their feet, while in the South they load those people into the back of a van and drive them to the county line and threaten them not to come back, or else! And then you go to the most famously Liberal book store in the world and complain that you can't find a copy of the National Review! Man, were you just looking for a fight? That's like going into Cornerstone Christian Books and looking for the latest by Richard Dawkins!

All in fun, my friend. Now I recommend that you go join the ACLU. They are a noble organization devoted to defending your freedom and liberty when nobody else will.

Patrick said...

That's why I love you, Gladfelter. :)