Today's theme is the Price of Spontaneity, which is not quite having the experience you want, although it was still quite a good day.
1) Up latish after a fitful night. Coffee and a croissant. Indecision. And then a suggestion from Mine Host: why not see the Coit Tower? And why, I said to myself, not? It's a defining San Francisco landmark!
2) So off I went, spontaneously. There's nothing like starting the day by taking the wrong bus, is there? In Boston, we have the subway, buses, and ferries for those who absolutely require them. Here in San Francisco, there are three kinds of train (Caltrain, BART, and Muni), two kinds of streetcar (streetcars and cable cars), and buses. And most of them use the same stops. At any rate, I boarded a 21 bus instead of an antique streetcar (which is not a cable car). Oops.
3) Nevertheless, I treated it as an adventure and was pleased to end up at the Ferry Building, which of course I know from The Maltese Falcon. Brigid O'Shaughnessy ditches Sam Spade or Effie Perrine there and buys a newspaper.
4) I spontaneously decided to walk, which reinforced what I already really knew: that distances in San Francisco are always much greater than they appear on a map.
5) The Coit Tower looked beautiful in the distance. How, I thought, in the hell am I going to get up there? No obvious streets presented themselves. I happened upon a flight of concrete steps and thought, well, at least they're going the right direction! I huffed and I puffed, and I climbed that staircase - and a couple others - through what is undoubtedly some very expensive real estate in a section of the city I might not otherwise have seen. Leafy and quite secret. Jasmine vines. Well-kept gardens. Coyote warning signs.
5a) No, I'm not kidding. A warning sign about coyote sightings.
5b) I did not see one parrot. Coincidence?
6) Finalmente, the base of the tower. What a lovely spot! A real urban oasis. See photo above.
7) The first floor of the tower is decorated with fabulous WPA murals of the workers of California. And by the elevator there are murals of fields and seascapes and sea birds.
8) Eight or so passengers squashed into the little elevator, original to the building. The operator, a pleasant elderly man, made a few jokes about WD-40 keeping it going, along the lines of "I take a shot every day myself." I didn't ask if he meant liquid or hypodermic.
9) Arriving at the top floor, I exited the elevator, ascended a flight of stairs, and there I was in the center of the top of the Coit Tower. And immediately felt my acrophobia kick in. I managed a few photos (truly, it's beautiful) and then hustled down those stairs to wait for the elevator. I was up there for a total of around four minutes.
10) The line for the down elevator grew so long that a staffer came down and called out "Anyone who wants to take the stairs can follow me!" It seems the interior staircase isn't open to the public, but you may be sure that I was the first one down.
10a) And the bonus for not waiting for the elevator? Seeing the beautiful murals on the second floor!
11) The staff, God bless them, gave me a MAP, and directed me to take Lombard Street downhill. And when I got off the hill I took a look at it and said "THIS is the crookedest street in the world?! It's straight as a die!" Silly me, the crooked part is an entirely different part of the street. So on I plodded.
11a) And did I mention the coyote warnings?
12) To continue my embrace of all things touristy, I lunched at Fisherman's Wharf (beer and a crab melt) and ingested a hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli. Om nom nom.
13) Informal plans with a local friend slowly took shape, but left me a couple hours on hand. Setting my steps toward Dolores Park, a much calmer scene greeted me than on Sunday. Pleasant to contemplate the future away from the madding crowd.
14) The Pilsner Inn is decidedly a dive bar, but with an inviting back patio covered with bougainvillea. A local friend and I enjoyed a large lager and conversation in the shade.
15) A friend of Lane's joined us, and we spontaneously decided to change locations to the Midnight Sun, relatively nearby. Heavily engaged conversation en route, but at the Sun one becomes distracted by the sheer volume of noise and people, and did I mention the gigantic video screens? We were joined by another friend of Lane's (he knows everyone), and conversation went down some unexpected paths, like African passport practices and getting deported from Kenya under false pretenses.
16) Once everyone's plans sorted out, I extricated myself to dine a seul at the Cove on an excellent prime rib.
17) And that is what a day of spontaneity can bring you.