San Francisco

  • San Francisco Bay Ferry to Napa

    I caught a nonstop flight from Washington to San Francisco last night after work, and arrived in the Marina District at 9:30pm. I took a good and brisk and chilly walk through the Presidio with a friend before heading to sleep. This morning I caught the San Francisco Bay Ferry to Vallejo:

    The San Francisco Bay Ferry is $15 for what’s essentially an hour-long cruise/commute to Vallejo, and Napa is a short drive from there. The ferry itself has tables, internet, and power. It’s a great value, if you’d prefer not to drive sometimes. There was an elderly man on board on the back who struck up conversation with me after watching me shoot these videos. It turned out to be Arthur Tress, whose documentary work is presently on exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park:

    In the summer of 1964, San Francisco was ground zero for an historic culture clash as the site of the 28th Republican National Convention and the launch of the Beatles’ first North American tour. In the midst of the excitement, a young photographer new to the city was snapping pictures not of the politicians or musicians but of the people in the crowds and on the streets. Arthur Tress, an accomplished American photographer, made more than nine hundred negatives in San Francisco during the spring and summer of 1964—among his earliest documentary work. Exulting in juxtapositions of the mundane and the absurd, Tress captured the chaos of civil rights demonstrations and political rallies, the idiosyncratic moments of San Francisco’s locals, the peculiar contents of shop windows, a miscellany of odd signs and much more.

    Tress developed and printed his black-and-white negatives in a communal darkroom in the city’s Castro district before departing San Francisco in the fall of 1964. The vintage prints were packed away in his sister’s house, coming to light again only in 2009. The rediscovery of this forgotten body of work inspired the photographer to revisit his early negatives, and Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 is the delightful outcome.

    Tress was heading to Mare Island, a “semi-abandoned place” he told me he’s been spending time photographing recently. I’m heading to Napa for the Napa Institute’s Summer Conference, happening this week.

  • Andrew Chamings writes in The Bold Italic on Marcinello, a thankfully failed project to transform the wilds of the Marin Headlands just north of San Francisco into a 1960s suburbia. Here are the Marin Headlands with San Francisco just visible, from Flickr with a Creative Commons license:

    In the 1960s, when the suburbs were taking over America, a keen real estate developer from Pittsburgh, Thomas Frouge, dreamed about building a city on top of the Marin Headlands—Marincello.

    His vision: a city rising from the slopes of the Tennessee Valley, where residents could gaze across the shimmering water, past the Golden Gate Bridge and on to San Francisco. Frouge described the headlands as “the most beautiful location in the United States for a new community.”

    But thanks to some persistent conservationalists, red tape and shoddy planning, that vision never came to life—and those rocky headlands just north of the bridge remain a natural haven. The open hilltops and ridges are still cloaked in coastal shrub. The flowing, open natural landscape is one of the most frequented tourist attractions in Northern California. …

    In 1972 the land was sold to the Nature Conservancy for $6.5 million, and the area soon became part of the newly formed Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    I’d rate running through the Marin Headlands and experiencing that natural landscape for an afternoon as probably one of the best experiences of my life. San Francisco can fix its population probably by fixing its zoning and density problems.

  • Giants v. A’s

    A few scenes from the Oakland Coliseum last Sunday before I left California. We caught an Uber from the Marina District through Oakland to the Coliseum for the 1pm game, San Francisco Giants v. Oakland Athletics. It was my first time visiting either Oakland or the Coliseum. A hot afternoon in a fun atmosphere where functionally everyone there was a local, regardless of the team they were rooting for.

    The A’s ended up winning 6-5 in the 10th inning on an error.

  • Fort Mason and elsewhere

    I’m back in Philadelphia today after a great few weeks on the West coast, first in Seattle, then Napa, and then around the San Francisco Bay Area.

    I’ll share a few more scenes this week from the past few weeks. I stayed in North Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf area most of last week before meeting up with friends who moved from Lower Pacific Heights/Japantown into the Marina District. We checked out a beer garden/open house style night at the California Academy of Sciences; the penguins were my favorite part of that experience.

    Spent some time working outside in Union Square during a beautiful afternoon/evening last Friday, before meeting up with friends and heading to Fort Mason’s “Off the Grid” event featuring gourmet food trucks, beer, etc. A somewhat chilly but good time.

    I do love San Francisco, because despite the ways that it shares in the derivativity of other major cities, so much of its aesthetic, architecture, and cultural character still seem distinct. That’s worth taking pride in, even if few can afford it.

  • Mission Dolores Park

    If your timing is right, to visit Mission Dolores Park is to visit a place where the world seems to have more color. It was that way when I visited last week, as clouds swept over downtown San Francisco. The elevation of Mission Dolores, combined with its terrain, make it probably the most remarkable city park I’ve seen. It’s the sort of place that feels like a truly dignified public space, a part of the public square where everyone can put aside whatever it is that they do professionally, and be human beings together.

    A trend I see in public parks in Philadelphia is that they are tending toward professionally managed public spaces, wherein some event is either about to begin or there are paid minders milling about. Dolores, Washington Square Park, Rittenhouse Square—these are public squares designed in the older model that seem resilient all on their own merit, even if they’re not.

    Mission Dolores’s history is rich, since San Francisco assembled the modern parkland in the early 20th century, to its function as a Jewish cemetery in the 19th century, to its Spanish roots in the 18th century:

    Mission San Francisco de Asís, or Mission Dolores, is the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco and the sixth religious settlement established as part of the California chain of missions. The Mission was founded on October 9, 1776, by Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga and Francisco Palóu (a companion of Junípero Serra), both members of the de Anza Expedition, which had been charged with bringing Spanish settlers to Alta (upper) California, and evangelizing the local Natives, the Ohlone.

    The settlement was named for St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, but was also commonly known as “Mission Dolores” owing to the presence of a nearby creek named Arroyo de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores, meaning “Our Lady of Sorrows Creek.” …

    The original Mission was a small structure dedicated on October 9, 1776 … located near what is today the intersection of Camp and Albion Streets, about a block-and-a-half east of the surviving Adobe Mission building, and on the shores of a lake (supposedly long since filled) called Laguna de Los Dolores. …

    The present Mission church, near what is now the intersection of Dolores and 16th Streets, was dedicated in 1791. At the time of dedication, a mural painted by native labor adorned the focal wall of the chapel. The Mission was constructed of Adobe and part of a complex of buildings used for housing, agricultural and manufacturing enterprises (see architecture of the California missions). Though most of the Mission complex, including the quadrangle and Convento, has either been altered or demolished outright during the intervening years, the façade of the Mission chapel has remained relatively unchanged since its construction in 1782–1791. …

    The Mission chapel, along with “Father Serra’s Church” at Mission San Juan Capistrano, is one of only two surviving buildings where Junípero Serra is known to have officiated…

  • Fisherman’s Wharf

    Earlier this week I walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and eventually ducked into In-N-Out for lunch. I took my platter outside into the little Anchorage Square courtyard and enjoyed the summer afternoon along with my meal. Visitors from Asia, Latin America, and Europe passed by, speaking to one another in their native tongues, as I sat and ate. That’s one of my favorite things about San Francisco: it’s like an open-air version of New York, a place where the world comes to visit, but you have more of a chance to see and meet some of these folks out and about than you do in the comparatively denser and sometimes more claustrophobic New York streets.

    That’s something else, specific to Fisherman’s Wharf, that I thought about. Namely that Fisherman’s Wharf feels like a much more relaxed, more tolerable Times Square. If you want to visit New York and pay for Olive Garden in Times Square, amidst the chaos and noise and gimmickry of Times Square, more power to you. You can do something of the same thing at Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s an Applebee’s here, and generally most of the natural world worth admiring remains free. Avoid the junk.

  • Pro-Life San Francisco

    I met Terrisa Bukovinac last month at Notre Dame’s Vita Institute, and when I saw that her organization, Pro-Life San Francisco, would be hosting “Stand with David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt” outside of San Francisco’s federal courthouse while I was still in the Bay Area, I decided to be there.

    Judge William Orrick is presiding over a case that will determine whether David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress will be permitted to release its remaining investigative footage of Planned Parenthood’s incriminating interest in profiting from the sale of human body parts. David is also facing a suit from the National Abortion Federation. Together, these groups are interested in punishing anyone who dissents from their worldview, which holds that human life is only valuable insofar as another says that life is valuable, and that ultimately one can obtain justice at the expense of a weaker human person. These are some of the oldest, most disordered philosophies in human history. History is “on their side” on to the extent that human beings naturally seem to tolerate a great deal of injustice until it touches them personally; but after it does, the story changes.

    I have great respect for Terrisa specifically as an advocate for life. She’s not coming at this from a religious perspective, but simply from a philosophical and scientific perspective. Here’s how Pro-Life San Francisco describes itself:

    Pro-Life San Francisco is a millennial focused non-profit human rights organization for pro-life people from across the political spectrum. We stand for the basic principles of equality, nonviolence, and nondiscrimination. We recognize that regardless of your religion, sexual orientation or your political affiliation, a consistent application of human rights means protecting the pre-born members of our human family.  We are dedicated to creating a culture of peace where the pre-born members of our human family are protected from the violent and lethal discrimination of abortion. We aim to achieve this through the following actions:

    Increase community awareness through online and in-person engagement, lectures, debates, public appearances, demonstrations, protests, and other creative educational efforts that uphold our commitment to the values of equality, non-violence, and nondiscrimination.

    Assist those facing pregnancy decisions by connecting them with the resources they need to to thrive, such as: prenatal care, financial assistance, job placement, childcare, information regarding their title IX rights, and accessing nonviolent reproductive healthcare options.

    I met a few of the Pro-Life San Francisco folks outside the courthouse after the hearing had concluded, and they’re joyful, unassuming, remarkable people.

  • In Hayes Valley

    Writing from my Uber to the San Francisco airport, where I’ll arrive with about thirty minutes before my Delta flight to Detroit (and ultimately to Philadelphia) departs.

    Met up a few hours ago with Eric Snyder after work at this little Biergarten in Hayes Valley, on Octavia Street. Despite a truly hot afternoon, our evening beer time turned out to be in practically November-like Philadelphia conditions: windy, slightly damp, and downright chilly.  “It gets warmer here in September,” Eric commented at one point without any trace of irony.

    But it was good to share a final beer with him before leaving. This has been a good visit; two full weeks, the longest time I’ve spent in California so far in my life.

  • San Francisco streetcars

    When I wrote on the aesthetics of streetcars earlier this year, I didn’t realize that San Francisco hadn’t simply conserved some of their streetcars but, in fact, chose to maintain many different types of historic streetcars from cities across the country. I was told that these run specifically along Market Street and loop near the San Francisco Ferry Building. I snapped these photos when I arrived back in the city on the ferry the other day. There are many different types: I noticed streetcars with origins as varied as Detroit and St. Louis, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, and of course San Francisco among others.


    I particularly lined the gun-metal gray of the Philadelphia streetcar at the top, which I snapped near Fisherman’s Wharf. I like it not only because I think it’s beautiful—as fitting for Philadelphia as a dramatic black and yellow is for sunny San Francisco—but also because it dates to 1938, and that’s the same period that my little 14 year old grandmother was boarding perhaps this particular streetcar on her way to Chestnut Hill Academy in high school.

    The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

  • Port of San Francisco

    I didn’t do a great job capturing the sense of the San Francisco Ferry the other day when I was leaving the city for Vallejo, but I think yesterday’s attempt when I shot a minute or so as we approached San Francisco turned out pretty nicely and gives a sense of what it’s like in real life. It helped that it was such a beautiful mid-afternoon as we were arriving.

    I’ll be here for another few days visiting with family, and then will be back in Philadelphia on Thursday.