Wednesday, July 27, 2016

San Fancisco Day 1: A Streetcar Named Diversity

One of the fabled SF cable cars ... 
Flying Air Canada through Pearson airport is as annoying as expected (thus the moaning about first world problems begins, she notes coyly). Arriving at 6.15am for a 8am direct flight still takes us one and a half hours to pass through several security points and we barely make it to the plane on time - arriving at 7.45am at our gate. No food is offered during the flight except for what you pay for with the exception of mediocre coffee or a soft drink. R and J are blissfully asleep. Of course, I am awake for the entire flight comforted only by bad movies, TV shows and tidbits of bad airline food I must purchase. The only way I can fly without fear is if I imagine I am sitting in big shaking box and not think too much about what's outside. 

A BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) subway trip takes us almost to the Clift Hotel, 495 Geary St., in the heart of the Mission district. We purchased preliminary tickets for a trip from the airport on the subway - later we learn it's a rip off at $60 when we could have taken an Uber for $35.

The Mission District is problematic, as I mentioned in my previous entry. This part of the city reminds me of NYC in the early 1980s - garbage everywhere, reeking of urine, many homeless on the streets - that's not my memory of San Francisco. Are things worse or am I more aware now?

[Editor's note: Awkward segue ...]

The Clift is a luxury boutique hotel with clean, modernly designed, funky furniture and elegant decor but she is not a cheap date. We have J set up in a cot in our Queen sized room. It's a bit of a tight squeeze. One great thing the hotel offers is if you forgo a daily cleaning to save on water and the toll on the environment you receive a $15/day voucher that you can use in the hotel for discounts on food and drinks. We take advantage of this.

It is cool here! And I mean that in the weather sense (as well as the "cool" sense). It never goes above 18 degrees while we are here - we were expecting warm weather. We left a sweltering Toronto where it hit 40 degrees this summer and came to fall-like weather. 

The city is rife with Europeans - German, Italian, Spanish, Northern European with indecipherable accents, French tourists ... everywhere you go. Many of us dragging luggage and holding maps in the middle of the sidewalk. We are comfortable here ... in that we blend in, we don't stand out, no one really stares at the bi-racial family with the queer kid. J says, quietly happy: "I could live here." He could, we could. 

A very late breakfast at Lori's Diner, 336 Mason St., as we are starving. No breakfast, no lunch, no fair Air Canada! It's a faux 1950s style diner that serves a solid if not particularly inexpensive all day breakfast, with friendly staff, and it is just around the corner from the hotel.

Snacks and drinks in the Redwood Room at the hotel with the offspring in the late afternoon after we rest and unpack. It's a beautiful lounge for adult drinks and hipster snacks. So strange (and nice) to share drinks with J who is now a young adult.

We walk over to Powell and Mason to catch the famed cable car north ($7 per person). It travels along Powell into North Beach, the heart of Little Italy. I force the family to go ... I am excited about it even though the two drivers are grumpy and loud and the cable car crowded with dopes playing Pokemon Go instead of looking at this amazing city.

This is where Beat culture meets Italian culture - the haunts of the poets and scoundrels Corso, Ferlinghetti, Kerouac, Cassaday, Ginsberg. At the last stop of the cable car (where the two drivers manually turn the car around to go in the opposite direction on the track), we walk southwards into the North Beach neighborhood.

We find a charming Italian restaurant called Piazza Pellegrini, 659 Columbus Ave., for generous portions of linguine, gnocchi, margarita pizza, arugula salad, two drinks, and cannoli to finish ($108 plus taxes & tip). An excellent meal! I am among my people ... it is good to be Italian!

And an Uber home courtesy of the kid who appears to be navigating most of our technological issues ...

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