Posts Tagged ‘round-the-world 2009’

I Do The Rock

Alcatraz Island, with San Francisco in the background

Alcatraz Island, with San Francisco in the background

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

As surely as day follows night, there are certain sights every tourist in San Francisco must tick off the list. The Golden Gate bridge would have been one of them, if not for the thick fog covering practically all of it. I did get to Fort Point, but stopped short of jumping into San Francisco Bay all Kim Novak-like.

Alcatraz cell block

One of the cozy and inviting cell blocks inside Alcatraz penitentiary

Alcatraz, however, was just as welcoming as I thought it would be, fog or no fog. I was mildly surprised to learn that the island was squatted by Native Americans for a while, but then again, I had just barely been born at the time and was still reeling too much from the experience to be all that interested in world affairs. I would hazard a guess that back in the days of the federal penitentiary, not too many Native Americans were all that keen to enjoy an extended stay.

Anyway, as a tourist attraction I’d say Alcatraz is well worth a visit for both history and movie buffs, seeing as the island has starred in so many wonderful and not-so-wonderful movies. Bring a jumper, it can be mighty windy.

And by the way, I don’t think Tim Curry ever did much time in Alcatraz, but perhaps he should have along with the rest of the cast of McHale’s Navy.

Would You Like a Hot One?

“The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” This quote is often attributed to Mark Twain, but apparently Snopes disagrees. Regardless of origin, I was in violent agreement as I braved the streets of San Francisco wearing 4 layers of clothing to protect my torso from the elements and sorely lamenting the fact that I didn’t pack any long johns. Perhaps I should have rummaged through the wonderful selection of men’s attire at Goodwill a bit longer.

I wish I’d had my camera at the ready while walking down Mission, because then I could have immortalized the two elderly paisanos in immaculate bright white cowboy outfits, one carrying a guitarrón, the other a guitar on his back. I didn’t, so we’ll have to make do with this shot I took a bit later on.

Castro

Castro

Street sign near Castro

A street sign near Castro

As you perhaps can figure out from the flying banners and the neon sign, ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Castro. As luck would have it, a few weeks later, on the flight between Bangkok and Sydney, Qantas showed Gus van Sant’s Milk, the Harvey Milk bio pic in which the Castro is practically a member of the cast. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Castro Theatre

Castro Theatre

I stopped for lunch at the Cove Cafe, right across the street from the Castro Theatre. The eggs Benedict was as it usually is – creamy and rich – but what sets the Cove apart in the neighborhood diner category is the extremely friendly yet not imposing service. As someone on yelp.com put it, “The fellas here are super-friendly in an unforced way. They make me feel like a relative who doesn’t owe them money.” For an unforgettable culinary experience, go elsewhere. For a relaxing stop in the middle of a day of extreme sightseeing, make a pit stop at the Cove, dig into the hash browns and marvel at the plasma screen showing pictures of the clientele from days gone by while sipping coffee from a bottomless cup (I think I had about six refills).

A souvenir from San Francisco

Ikis and his San Francisco souvenir

One of the waiters was wearing a T-shirt that said “C.O.C. (Cove on Castro) – Would you like a hot one?” on the back. Unfortunately they’d run out of stock, but I was told that Injeanious next door would most probably have something else that would do the trick. They did.

Elation, Elegance, Exaltation

Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane

Praise Jah, man!

I’ve never been much of a churchgoer, to put it mildly. Even so, for years I’ve had a dream of attending Sunday service at the St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco. Sometimes dreams do come true, and so it was on this sunny May day that having jumped off the grueling 13-hour flight from Sydney and dropped my bags off at the hotel, I suddenly found myself warming the back pew.

Praise the Lord and pass the French fries!

Praise the Lord and pass the French fries!

The service was composed of two parts. For the first two hours, the church band played what can only be described as gospel music according to Coltrane. It was quite obvious that they had not only studied Coltrane’s music but also internalised the spirituality that St. John had wanted to express. The last hour was taken up by a funny and poignant sermon from Archbishop King, who was not too shabby on the tenor sax either. If you’re in San Francisco on a Sunday and have a few hours to spare, you could do much worse than to stop by at the service and get some worship action happening – and I say this as a devout agnostic. How’s that for sitting on the fence? You can ask for your money back tomorrow.

Darn, just missed out on the Allman Bros.

Darn, just missed out on the Allman Bros.

As if this exalted experience hadn’t been enough for one day, I also had tickets to see Ben Folds at the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland. I was kind of hoping to hear The Last Polka, but at least he played Narcolepsy, so all is well. Check out Pete Rosenblum’s pics from the gig on Flickr.