Saturday, April 18, 2015

leaving San Francisco

This morning, I glanced out just at the hour of the sunrise and noted that wisps of fog penetrated deeper into the Bay. The fog will lift, but the morning will be particularly cool.


I zip up my fleece. (By late morning, I'll have tucked it away into my bag.) One more pic from the hotel room. How about a selfie, taking in the windows that are such a heavenly asset here?


I have a series of flights today. To Salt Lake City. To Minneapolis. And finally, very very late -- to Madison. But do I have time for anything in the city? I must be at the airport before noon. Is there a walk I can take?

At such an early hour, on a weekend, I expect the city to be very quiet. But I've done the big walk already -- hugging the coast, then cutting through the heart of San Francisco -- so where to today?

I've been thinking I want to visit the bakery, Tartine. My daughter put me on to their cookbook last Christmas and I thought then that if ever I was in the city of its origin, I should pop in. The trouble is that it's in Mission District of San Francisco -- a hefty walk from where I am by the shore (estimated at just over an hour) and not an especially pretty walk: it cuts through a rather down and out area of town, before hitting another area of mild gentrification. I could take the subway there, but the point is to walk.

I hoist up my backpack and sling the bag of spare clothing over my shoulder. San Francisco has many faces. I'm about to explore some less well presented ones.

First, I cut through the rather empty-ish downtown.


But within a dozen blocks, the architecture changes. I begin to pass closed storefronts and the number of homeless or down and out men (mostly men) increases exponentially. I pass an AIDS center and a Red Cross center and hotels that should not be called hotels. I wonder if real estate values plummet and rise, like a see saw going from the favored to the disfavored. There is not a single commercial venue that I would willingly enter. (Safety is not a concern: I'm walking along a main drag. No one is interested in my presence. For a minute I consider the possibility of being regarded as also without a purpose or shelter. Why else walk through here loaded down with two bags? I have long put away my camera.)

I can't really comprehend this kind of disparity in a city such as San Francisco. As I gradually leave behind this sad neighborhood of sad looking people, I pass a clock on a building that appears to have some Twitter connection. Five young people are doing some jumping jacks and high kicks, right there on the street. Warm ups I'm guessing, before they break into a run. Cyber, high tech types -- I'm sure of it. Do they run through here on the way to work? Do they notice? Do they jump over the people on the street?

Of course, I am like them, not in terms of cash value, but in terms of life's good fortune. I'm looking not for food and sustenance but for a prized bakery, for God's sake!

From there I turn south and now I'm in the Mission District, so named because of the presence of San Francisco's oldest standing building (late 1700s) -- the Mission San Francisco de Asis. This building:


I think I visited it in the past. I have little interest in going inside now. You have to pay. Too, there is such controversy about the role of missions in California -- whether they brought education to the indigenous populations here (a good thing) or merely used the local people as slave labor, suppressing what remained of indigenous culture. But really, I often don't enter buildings I'm supposed to enter on my touristy walks. And now I stare outside at a sign posted in the grassy strip bordering the church: it says to please keep your dog off, because there is rat poison in the grass. For some reason this just strikes me as absurdly wrong and so I move on, with only the one photo to take away with me.

The Mission District homes are interesting. I see signs of Latin culture and there definitely are the punk hangouts and music venues, still ever present, but with the boom, along came the money and many (though not all) houses have taken on the fresh look of something not so middle class.


Still, it is an interesting neighborhood and the mixture of cheap an punky with a little more pricey seems to work for now.

I am finally at the Tartine bakery. I see there is a line snaking out the door. That's fine -- I have time. Some people come to buy cakes and pastry to take home (bread is sold later in the day, just before dinner), but many, like me, want to eat something on the spot. There are a few tables packed into the small room where the sales take place and there is a wooden counter along the window. No one stays long -- it's not a come and chat place, it's a come and eat and move on kind of situation.

The line moves ever so slowly forward. I notice that iPhones and tablets make for an easier waiting time...


Too, you move past the window that looks into the kitchen. That's kind of fun.


Once inside, I'm in a tizzy. What to eat??? I don't have any meals planned for today. I don't want a sugar overload. Here's a display case:


I smile at a young couple who obviously want to eat it all! (And they do, they really do.)


In the end, I decide against the brioche, the pain au chocolat, the morning bun. I pick  (organic!) muesli with (organic!) yogurt for the healthy part and then the very lovely (organic!) strawberry tart for the indulgent part. I eat standing up, by the window, but that's okay. I'll have time to sit on my various flights later today.


It is a lovely breakfast/lunch. I pick up a simple brownie for Ed. We'll probably share it for dinner (in addition to the free Luna bar and apple from the hotel that I 'm saving for the flight home).  Tartine deserves its exalted reputation! (I notice that the line is even longer as I leave in what is now the late morning.)


So what should be the last photo from the Bay Area? How about of these quiet blocks of the city -- I like them best, both in San Francisco and Berkeley. You can see what's blooming here now!


It's an easy BART connection from here to the airport. And soon, on this beautiful spring day, I'm on my way to Salt Lake City.

I include photos from above because I always feel so lucky when the skies are clear and I can see the country below me. So many of America's cities have more similarity than difference (San Francisco is not one of these), but when you look at the landscape, you understand that we live in a vast and differentiated place.

Here's the Bay area again -- the fog again rests over the Golden Gate Bridge, in contrast to the Bay Bridge (do you see both of them?).

in flight-5.jpg

One last look and we turn our attention inland.  The approach to Salt Lake City is fascinating. I don't think I have to explain what's what...

in flight-14.jpg

I was eight years old the last time I passed through Salt Lake City. It was on a road trip with my parents and we saw the USA in our Chevrolet (well, not really ours, but close enough). I had my first salt water taffy. I remember little else. Now, I can't take my eyes off the lake and, of course, the mountains.

in flight-17.jpg

And now I am on the last two legs of my trip -- to Minneapolis and then to Madison. I'm posting from up high. Travel has changed greatly in recent years. I have to say: and that's a good thing.