Saturday, July 30, 2016

San Francisco Day 4: As the Rainbow comes and goes

Thanks to the pot smoking bros in the hotel room next door (whose pot smoke leaked into our room all night long), we asked to be transferred to a new room - and moved up six floors to a spacious King courtesy of the kindly concierge. But this smell is everywhere in the hotel which surprises us all. 

We are in a rush to pack in a few more outings as it is our last full day in SF. On our way to the California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., we grab a quick coffee and a pastry at Boudin Bakery, 170 O'Farrell St. There is an exhibit we want to see called "Native Portraits: Contemporary Tintypes by Ed Drew", photographed by an African-American vet who toured Afghanistan who has an acute eye for capturing the suffering and dignity of others. 

Then we are off to the Castro district. We stop firstly at Takara Sushi, 4243 18th Street, for some excellent Japanese food just off Castro.

The Castro district appears very affluent - I don't imagine it was always so. Its roots are working class (once it housed scores of North European immigrants and then the Irish and Italian) and it has become a place for queer people to gather and live safely. It's clean, pretty, well maintained and evidently very proud of its history. 

R at Reveille Coffee
Along its Rainbow Honor Walk, it has a series of bronze plagues in the sidewalks commemorating
important LGBTQ figures from history - Virginia Woolf, Tennessee William, James Baldwin, Sylvester and many others. There is a Harvey Milk Plaza and rainbow flags at every corner. It was good to see J feel and understand LGBTQ history a little bit. The Castro Theatre (the image is iconic and is the first thing I think of when I think of the Castro district) is beautifully maintained in the Art Deco style of the 20s and 30s. The businesses appear successful and are filled with customers. One drawback: the smell of urine is everywhere in this city! Here in particular because there appear to be many adorable couples walking their dogs. We all love the inclusive atmosphere and approving looks we receive. 

Refreshments at Reveille Coffee at18th St. and Castro - I am definitely not cool enough for this coffee shop (although R and J are). I wait there while my peeps check out the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St. ($5 admission) - not for the faint of heart!

We should invest in Uber - because they have made fortune off of us on this trip. Back to the hotel to rest ...

Later in the evening we go to the City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave. In the heart of Little Italy, lit up like Christmas with pretty hanging coloured lights strung across the street and located in the North Beach area. At night it reminds me of a Coppola film of New York's Little Italy. 

The press and bookstore is the original home of the Beats - Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg. It was the first press to publish Ginsberg's Howl. The bookstore was founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953 and the press still publishes a dozen volumes a year. It's beautiful, done in dark wood throughout, and quirkily laid out with many twists and turns and pathways, and very much larger than I imagined. I find a volume of Susan Sontag's Regarding the Suffering of Others. I am absolutely thrilled to find something special here as a memento.

Later we wander around North Beach and settle on dinner at Tamarind Hall, a Thai Street Food and Bar, 1268 Grant Ave., for some excellent Thai food. Loud, overcrowded, a little slow with the service but very good with an amiable serving staff.


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