Thursday, October 15th

Having put in a good 6 miles walk the day before I decided I would take it easy today. Ha! What should have been a leisurely jaunt ended up being a 5 mile forced march.

I decided I would take a trip down memory lane and go down to Fisherman's Wharf and the place where, in 1971 I worked as a teenager - Cost Plus Imports.

After checking the bus schedule I decided to take the 22 to Mission and 16th and then catch a 49 Van Ness. The 49 runs every 10 minutes so the wait would be short.

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This is a detail of a mural on the side of the WalGreens at 16th and Mission. It was painted by school children, or at least I hope so.

I got to 16th and Mission without incident and I waited as 10 minutes went by and no 49 bus. Then 15 minutes, then 20. By now an obviously impatient crowd was gathering and constantly looking down the street for the 49. One woman hailed a cab with no results and then got back up on the curb and started her wait again.

While waiting I had the pleasure of being harangued by some crazy woman who accused me of being a cop and then there was the constant parade of the unwashed masses going by the bus stop. I had never had the pleasure of waiting for a half hour at a Mission and 16th bus stop before. What fun!

Finally, the 49 came and it was already packed. We crammed our way into the smelly, stifling sardine can of humanity and all clung on for dear life as the bus lurched back into traffic. I was flanked by a woman holding her nose, a guy on a scooter in the handicapped slot and some poor slob who was trying to manage a large, heavy box on his shoulders while trying to hold on for dear life.

Meanwhile, some lunatic was hurling disparaging remarks punctuated with expletives at the bus driver while a woman next to him gave him crap about it. With each stop it got worse as more and more people jammed themselves onto the bus. By now it was like a sweat bath. Yummy.

Finally, the driver stopped taking more passengers (turns out there was another 49 bus just a block behind us).
At Geary Street half the bus emptied out and I got to sit down for the remaining 4 blocks of the ride.
I got off at California with a great sigh of relief and relished the cool breeze. What a ride. Thank god I don't have to endure this on regular basis like many of these hapless souls. Jeezus...

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I then walked up to Van Ness and took a right down Sacramento.

This is the intersection of Polk and Sacramento. Back in the 60s it was in this area most of the gay community lived - before the migration to the Castro. There used to be lot of "head" shops here as well which sold drug paraphernalia, posters, black lights, etc. So, my brothers and I, young hippies all, went exploring around this area one day.

Now, you can imagine - here we were, young boys between the ages of 11 to 14 with our long hair, army coats and beads wandering around the Polk gawking at everything. It wasn't long before be got spotted by a local chicken hawk who said "Hi" to me, reached out to shake my hand and then would not let go. He then proceeded to ask me if I had ever had my cock sucked. I assured him I had not. He said I should go around the corner with him and his young companion and they would suck my cock. He repeated this several time. Finally, somewhat confused and shaken, I broke free of his grip and walked away. A strange experience for a 14 year old kid from a small West Virginia town to have!

Currently there is a war - of sorts, between those who wish the area, known as Polk Gulch, to remain the same and those who wish to see it gentrified.

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This is the Fairmont Hotel as seen from Stockton and Mason.

I remember, back in the 60's, when we met someone who was staying at the Fairmont with his parents. He said he had gone into the hotel snack bar and the cheapest thing on the menu was a Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and it cost 75 cents! I was astounded. How could a PB&J possibly cost that much?!

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This is the Presbyterian Mission House on Sacramento near Stockton. I had tried to get some shots of this building previously but the light was poor. I didn't do much better today.

The Presbyterian Mission House at 920 Sacramento Street was chartered with rescuing Chinese girls and women from abusive circumstances. In 1882, Congress passed the first of three Chinese exclusion acts. These acts prevented all but a few privileged classes of Chinese men from sending for their families in China.

Single men could not send for Chinese wives, nor did the law permit them to marry non-Chinese wives. The small ratio of Chinese women to men bred a rampant prostitution market. To feed this market, Chinese girls and young women, mostly from Canton, were bought, kidnapped, or coerced into coming to the U.S. Most of them arrived at Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay.

Source: Copyright 2003 San Francisco Museum & Historical Society

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At seemingly random intervals there are broken bricks worked in and protruding.

I could not help but think it looked like a climbing wall and would almost certainly be used as such if it were in my home town of Morgantown.

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At Stockton Street I passed by the same shop where I had my noodle bowl lunch. I used the can and got a couple of Chai Siew bow to go. At this point, I should have taken the opportunity to get off my feet and rest a bit. But no, I got my bow and started walking and munching down the street.

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One off my 50 cent bow. They have a pork BBQ filling which is quite tasty. The dough is soft and a bit sticky.

I made my way down a very busy and crowded Stockton Street munching my bow while weaving around all the people out shopping at the food Markets. As before, I saw only few tourists.

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At Vallejo I ducked into a market and got a can of Pepsi. Now I was having one of my old stand-bye's on those rare occasions when I would have lunch out while working at Cost Plus. I went just often enough the owner would say: "Two Chai Siew bow, one Pepsi!" as soon as I walked in door.

This intersection is pretty much the boundary between Chinatown and the Italian neighborhood of North Beach.

North Beach, like Chinatown is full of tourist traps but is still a solid neighborhood for the most part. Honestly, I don't see how the locals stand all the tourists, even I was cursing them as they would stop abruptly in the middle of the side walk to gawk or point at something or take a picture. Oblivious.

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San Francisco, the city of Murals.

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The cable car turn around at then end of Taylor Street. Yuk.

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This is where I used to work as a stock clerk in the "Brass and Wood" and "Gourmet" departments. In 1971, prior to taking this job, I had no inkling of the variety of imports which came into the U.S.

At the time, Cost Plus was a huge, deep discount imports store. Now, it is much more upscale and many items can be had for the same price or cheaper elsewhere. And, the store is much smaller.

It was trippy working in Gourmet department. I had never seen so many weird foods in my life!! And, I tried some of them, but my palate was pretty timid back then.

Each department at Cost Plus had a head guy. Ours was Tommy Cheng. He was not well like by those outside out department. When each department had their mid-morning break they would go to the lunchroom. Except us. Each day Tommy would make a pot of Oolong tea and then we would have some sort of cookie with our tea. The cookies were damaged stock which could not be sold, so Tommy allowed us to eat them. However, it was not long before my favorite cookies always seemed to be getting the wrappers broken some how.

Cost Plus sold vast quantities of everything and Gourmet Department was no exception. Along with everything we sold cases and case of fortune cookies on a weekly basis. The owner of the bakery would always deliver them and then collect the boxes, which Tommy had instructed us to save. The bakery then reused the boxes. As a "Thank you" the owner would occasionally bring us a box of steaming hot Chai Siew bow. This is how I was introduced to them.

I loved Chai Siew bow so much I missed them when we moved back east. When I ended up back in Morgantown I met a pretty young Chinese woman by the name of Loreena Lui. She was a student in the animal behavior department. At some point I mentioned to here about my love of Chai Siew bow. Low and behold when she came back from New York City after visiting her family, she had box of them for me. Heaven! What a sweet thing for her to do.

Sweeter still was when I told Jeannie about my fondness for these pastries - she made me some!! That was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. She probably doesn't even remember it...

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I thought of M2 when I saw these in the food section of Cost Plus.

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On my way back through North Beach I went by the Saints Peter and Paul Church and got a good view of Coit Tower.

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Urban chic or hogs at the trough?

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San Francisco has always been famous for its "girlie show". Back in the 60's Carol Doda was getting famous with her grotesquely enormous bosom made possible by silicone injections.

I recieved the email below from freind Bill in Virginia. It jogged my memory even more. Thanks, Bill!

Hi, Mike,
Your day of nostalgia was surprisingly nostalgic for me too. On one of my 1975 days in SF, my friend and I did a walking tour that was briefly outlined by AAA, which told when to get a bus or trolley, but much of it was walking and looking. One of the places we went was the Coit tower. I don't remember Cost Plus but we may have gone in there.

I remember noticing The Hungry I because the Kingston Trio had and album out that was recorded there (in 1959). Not long before, I met them when they did a concert in Richmond at the peak of their popularity. A work friend of mine was married to a musician who left her when he had an opportunity to join the Mamas and Papas. Also, I was familiar with Jack Kerouac in those days, but I don't think I read any of his stuff -- or did not get very far with it, if I did.

Notes: This recording comes to us live from Enrico Bandicci's Hungry i. The venerable San Francisco club featured some of the best in folk music, comedy and intellectual discussion. This set by the Trio is full of classics such as "Southcoast" and "The Merry Minuet" and more. Never has the combination of vocals, guitars and banjo worked so well as when these guys get all spun up. Whether they're singing about politics, social issues or love's lost lament they do it beautifully. The Trio left us a wealth of recordings in their wake and all are worth investigating. The artwork is not credited on the cover, but it's a great cartoon depiction of the San Francisco area. It was re-released with the same cover in July 1979 (Capitol M 11068).

Source: Tralfaz

I remember going up to this area with a couple of guys in there early twenty's who were house mates of my then girlfriend, Susy Ruley. I was about 17 then. We went into one of the topless bars. Boy, did I get an eye full!! But, as soon as the bartender saw me he told us "No underage" and we had to leave.

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The Condor, Big Al's, Roaring 20s, Hungry I, these places are legendary and have been part of the North Beach scene for over 4 decades.

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If ever their was a tourist trap posing as a restaurant, this is it. This is one of the place the two you gals I met from South Africa wanted to go.

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Speaking of legendary...

City Lights is an independent bookstore- publisher combination that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which publishes selected titles related to San Francisco culture. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later).

Both the store and the publishers became widely known following the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg's influential poem Howl and Other Poems (City Lights, 1956). Nancy Peters started working there in 1971 and retired as executive director in 2007. In 2001, City Lights was made an official historic landmark. City Lights is located at the nexus of North Beach and Chinatown in San Francisco


Source: WikiPedia

When we were living in San Fran we used to spend a lot of time here. Occasionally I would shoplift books and then go down the block and resell them at another book shop - for pennies on the dollar. Shame on me!

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These steps were oh so familiar to me and the Science Fiction section was still in the same old place it always was.

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This is the alley behind City Lights. Kerouac was a famous beat poet.

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I then started my trek down Grant Street to Market. This is the Chinatown all the tourists want to see. There is an amazing amount of junk for sale on this street, which the tourists gobble up.

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This is at Grant and Bush Streets: the official entrance to Chinatown.

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There is always a table of chess players here on Market near Mason.

I wandered down Market past a Michael Jackson impersonator, and the hordes of people getting of work - it was just now 5:00. Then I headed up Eddy and into the Tenderloin. I wanted to get up to Larkin and scope out the Sandwich and noodle shops in Little Saigon. There are a bunch of them. But, did I stop, take a load off and have some tasties. Nope. Instead I marched on down Larkin, made a detour to the Library for a quick pee and then walked up to 10th Street. just as my bus, the 9 San Bruno, was leaving. Worn out, and hungry, I propped myself up against the wall of the Bank of America and waited for the next bus. Thankfully, another one arrived in about 10 minutes, and I joined the rest of the riders in trying to stay clear of some very fragrant homeless folks. Whew! "Stanky!"

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Waiting for their burgers.

I had every intention of going out for sushi but was so beat I ended up getting some Fish and Chips from Ganim's Market, (1135 18th St - between Mississippi St & Pennsylvania Ave). Itis just a block up the steet from Bruce's place.

When I got to the apartment I showered off the grime and had my dinner and sat and stared out the window for a good long while.


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