Saturday, January 31, 2009

Over and Up


Over where?  Over there!  The Rock.  Alcatraz.  Not that my photography shows it, but the white building was glowing compared to the gray sky.  It was ephemeral.


But, before we cot on we had to figure out when it came back.  Surprisingly difficult information to locate.  It wasn't on there website, tickets, or any brochure we saw.   Thus an ingenious use for a digital camera was born, note taker.  We figured if we had a picture we could reference it later.  


Look, off in the distance.... squint if you have to. The majestic Golden Gate Bridge.  This was our first sighting of the gate.  It is surprisingly cool, even from a distance.  Later, up close, when the scale became apparent it was even cooler.


I have a thing for taking shots of American flags.  This one also includes an old man who's just realized he's in my picture.  Wonder if he thought I was going to blog about him.  Because of that, I'm going to make up some background.  Old Man Bill was  a nice old man, with nary a worry in the world.  Except for the prevalence of digital cameras and bloggers which constantly put his witness protection anonymity at risk.  I don't think the kid in the background was checking out the docking maneuver, not vomiting. 


As we got closer we started to notice that the prison is on top of a rather large hill (thus the up after the over).  


On the path up one gets the sense that no one planned to maintain the property.   The vast majority of buildings are decrepit and falling to pieces.


Green and still kicking.  This building's got a roof.  So not quite decrepit, but you get what I mean.


The hill climb.  The Forest Service lady said is was equivalent to walking eight flights of stairs.  I was pleasantly surprised that only the disabled and old took the golf cart powered tram.  Honestly, I expected the pure laziness factor to dominate causing every Tom, Dick, and Harry to ride.  Perhaps it was the lack of Americans.  It seemed most visitors were not of our country.


I'm assuming this is the old power plant.  Nowadays I think they call them physical plants.  Ya' know, where the boiler for the radiator heating and whatnot.  Growing up we used to have a red brick incinerator at the end of the block that looked a fair bit like this.  Maybe its a trash incinerator.  Hmm, maybe prisoners are trash? They did have a gas chamber on the island.   Well, that's the over and up.  Tomorrow we'll do the in, and after the out maybe if your lucky the turn it all about.   Enjoy, jon 

Friday, January 30, 2009

Get Ready, Get Set


There she is, ready to begin epic day number two.  And the beginning of the "Katherine as subject" part of the trip.  The further into the trip we got, the larger share of the pictures of Kat.


Like this one.  May's Coffee became our defacto breakfast stop.  The coffee was terrible, wicked hot, and not the cheapest, but the place had charm.  It also had these weird fish pastries.  The menu had three varieties, red beans, chocolate, and chocolate with banana. We had the odd tasting red bean variety several times before we actually managed to order the chocolate type we wanted.


It was absolutely empty, not a work day and early morning no one is downtown, not even the bums. 


Our day started early so we could go to Alcatraz first thing.  Which turned out to be the way to do it.  Seriously, go early.


The first commute without Herb really demonstrated how much he taught us about the public transportation.  Our first solo trip went off with ease.  On time and everything.


All to get to the ferry landing before 8:30.  Now, riding the ferry was sort of part of the commute, to the destination of Alcatraz Island, but its also under the umbrella of visiting Alcatraz.  Frankly, because you have to take ferry to get there.  So, tomorrow the multi-part Alcatraz series will begin.  Enjoy, jon

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whoops, Almost Forgot Herb


There he is (Via Katherine).  I don't think there could possibly be a better picture of Herb.  He was a smiling, gregarious, point at things, high energy kinda man.  He was arranged by the Hotel Kabuki to more introduce us San Francisco then show us the sights.


Now, traveling with Herb was not conducive to taking pictures.  It was rush, rush, rush, wait for bus/train/trolley, get sick of waiting, rush, rush, repeat.  This makes for a series of pictures from bus stops.


As much as it was rushed, it was necessary.  Without Herb and his magic map I never would have successfully navigated the wilds of San-Fran.


We did manage one tourist destination with Herb, the Ferry Building.  Which, actually survived the earthquakes which necessitated the new museums.  When it opened in 1908 it was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, until that famous bridge and its neglected cousin bridge (Golden Gate and Bay Bridges) were completed.


After exiting, in classic Herb style, we watched four trolleys pass us at a stop, walked over to a bus stop and watched the next trolley pick up from afar.  Which was fine, because I learned how much terrain you can cover in San Fran quickly via public transit.  We went to the four corners of the isthmus (North of Market) in a day.  From Japan town, to Union Square (Bus), to the Ferry Building (Subway), down the Embarcadaro (Walk), past Fisherman's Wharf (Trolley), pass Lombard Street (Bus),  a transfer in China Town (Bus), through Presidio to Haight (Bus), where Herb dropped us off.


That much was fun, but a little fast for Jon's putzy self who wants to stop every ten yards for a photo.


Katherine chatted him up, I tried to keep straight which bus we were on, it was great.


And we saw a duck boat.  I honestly thought they didn't exist outside of the Dells.  Well, that's the Herb section.  Enjoy, jon

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Milk, Milk, Lemonade,


This is how Chocolate is made!  This particular machine is responsible for that smooth creamy taste that only a really nice piece of chocolate has. 


To be honest, Ghirardelli chocolate is made across the bay from Ghirardelli square.  Probably not made with cool old belt driven machines, but some disgusting process that includes scary ingredients.  I'm pretty sure this is the first time I paid attention to how Ghirardelli is spelled.  Had I read it before I heard it, I would have no idea how to say it.


An awesome sundae, that's how we finished the first full day.  It was a huge day. HUGE!  Seriously.  I don't think Kat ever fully recovered.  But that's how we roll.  Active, and full bore.  Enjoy, jon

Monday, January 26, 2009

Architecture, Buses, and Else


From the park to our hotel was a short walk and bus ride.  This ritzy part of town didn't have the classic Victorian homes, but they were all pretty bad ass.


Every major street was overhung with wires for the buses.  The local bus network claimed "Zero Emissions" transit.  I found that claim suspicious for several reasons, mainly because I don't know California's power generation mix.  I do know, from the Enron debacle, that a significant amount of electricity comes from natural gas, certainly not emission free.  Not really greenwashing per-say, but people should have all the information.  Damn marketers.


I suppose this area wasn't the fanciest in San Francisco, mostly because every front entrance is adorned with a wrought iron gate.  Generally I accredited this to the high density of SF, and the bums.  The bums which are everywhere. Everywhere. Bums.


First floor parking, bookend staircases, balconies not only over the driveway but facing each other, what a crazy ass apartment building. 


It was nice of this church to wait for the bus with us.


Hooray! Katherine!


Boo crowded bus.  Well, I suppose, not boo.  It turns out, when you average all the ridership and buses across the country that each bus rider is doing no better than any car driver in reducing emissions.  Easiest way to fix that, more crowded buses.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


In case you didn't know.... the proper way to cross the street.  Enjoy, jon

Sunday, January 25, 2009

By the Museums


The California Academy of Sciences is the big fancy new museum. With an aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum all under a living roof (their words) it is rather impressive. Impressive, and incredibly crowded. Interestingly, the rebuild to this structure with its green roof was prompted due to earthquake damage to the previous one. And the previous one was in Golden Gate Park because the prior downtown Academy was destroyed in an earthquake. Not quite creative destruction, but destruction leading to creativity isn't the worst.


The newest iteration of the De Young Museum was completed in 2005. Its the newest iteration due to the same reason for the Academy, and even the same earthquake. Two museums in one earthquake, stupid earthquakes.


We did find a nice bench to people watch from. One may suspect we were the watchies as much as the watchers. Along with her sweet red shoes this lady had a handmade red felt purse with a snowman happy face. She's the all around awesome vacation mom.


Reading under Francis Scott Key, enjoying a $140,000 renovation to a $60,000 sculpture. Katherine one upped me on history here, I had no idea who Mr. Key was. Those in the know will tell you, he wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Those in the know will also tell you, its to the tune of a drinking song. Bonus.


Perched atop Mr. Key is what I assume is sculptor William W. Story's interpretation of "Ms. America". Standing guard with her crown of eagle, she commands the birds to take wing and defend the constitution against all enemies.


There he is! Wow! What a man.


A large stage at the end of the promenade was under construction, perhaps from an earthquake? So I got a nice shot of its corner.


And this naked dude. Honestly, what does he hope to accomplish with his little dagger running around naked? Probably before people with guns or arrows.


Our buddy here is half man half lion. I'm sure there is a specific term for such a travesty of nature, but I am not aware of it.


Overall the museum grounds were really cool. Not pictured is a grove of gingkoes that is the anchor to the grounds. On each point of the compass rose from there you see the museums north to south, the stage to the west and Francis Key to the east. The newer museums are interesting architecture in the sustainable development and earthquake resistant technology, but the museum campus in Chicago with its classically imposing structures is sadly missed.


I'll finish up with one of my favorite things, graffiti. Well, we're mostly through the first full day in San Francisco. Still one bus ride and a trip to meet up with a friend to go! Enjoy, jon

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shakespeare's Garden


Correctly, Shakespeare Garden, but I like to think he owns it post aliveness.


It was mostly a showplace for a sweet sun dial.  Which we thought only partially told the time.  


And this giant tree.  So many cool trees.  Well, that's Shakespeare Garden.  Enjoy, jon

Friday, January 23, 2009

Golden Gate One


Entering form the East side of Golden Gate Park was the first entry.  Right at the end of Haight Street.  Now, we also entered from the North and from the West and each direction had its own flavor. 


The East end had parks, playgrounds and merry-go-rounds.  Both of us found the playground cool.  There is no way that a solid concrete wave (? what is that) would be deemed child safe these days.


Nor would this crazy broken arm machine be allowed to stand.  I am going to break up the first day GG Park trip not quite in order of time.  Its hard, since the park is so freakishly large.


George Moscone is famous for being assassinated just before Harvey Milk.  It is important to understand that Harvey Milk wasn't shot because he was gay, but because Dan White lost it.  The dude reloaded after killing two people.  He's also famous for the "Twinky defense".  It is a mixed bag, only remembered because someone famous was shot before you, and having yourself be remembered at all.


Again, the variety of trees was crazy.  Everywhere a new tree.  I thought it was pretty fantastic.


The best part of this sign, it is on the edge of two baseball fields.  Which were covered with people walking their dogs.  Also notice, Californians have a law for everything.  It was after this section that we went to the Japanese Tea Garden.  Enjoy, jon