Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bayside, and a Hippy's Mission

Alright San Francisco – you may have defeated me yesterday. But not today. No I had scoured over early morning maps, and finally found one (only available in the foreign language guidebooks) that offered a to scale view of the city, listing all the bus and tram routes. It was go time.

Today Katherine and I would head out first to the bay and check out the piers. The many many touristy pier. Still – this seems to be what visitors to San Francisco do, and who was I to avoid such a thing. Down the road we went, stopping but once to go into a Game Stop. The reason for this? I am trying to convince her to buy a PS3. You see, were she to buy a PS3 and own Heavy Rain, Uncharted 2, Little Big Planet, and the God of War games then I would be able to play them – I mean, she would get a good sense of current games, and enjoy them,

Walking her through the titles, I realized that there really were a lot of PS3 exclusive games worth playing. And prices for used games – most of them – weren't all that terrible. I know, I know, used games hurt the industry – but until people start doing thinks like Mass Effect has done (offering free content to those that buy new, but charging people to download the stuff if they buy used) what's the point? It's about bottom line here folks. Bottom line.

Also, the touch screen HD tv they have in the store with trailers for hundreds of games? This could prove a fantastic rainy day distraction.

But today was not rainy. There was sun. Edinburgh sun, but sun never the less. Off to the cable car! Today we rode the Hyde car, sitting in a lovely seat facing out at the city, and those handing on to the rails.

At Pier 45 we were entranced by the clam chowder being served in bread bowls. Katherine felt a great need to eat this feast, however having forced Burger King upon her only an hour earlier, there was no room for eating. It's not burger prince, or burger queens we're talking about here – no. Burger King! And if there's one thing that can be said about BK it's that if you eat there, you probably won't need to eat for the rest of the day. It's that filling.

Still – chowder in a bread bowl...

Passing all the shops, and people having a grand ol' time we ended up as Museum Mechanic. Except it's really written in French, and has a much cooler sounding name that way. I had wanted to visit this place, however I had no idea where it was located. That it was located in the tourist area delighted me, but also surprised me. When I saw it, on the Co-op show (where all my SF knowledge comes from, and the 1UP show before that) it was mostly deserted. But today? Full to the brim!

There were all number of things to waste quarters in, and as it was a historical experience you didn't feel bad about it.

There were three old baseball games that were like modified basic pinball. I played them all – I was owned in them all. I want to buy them and practice. If I lived in this area, they would become my new Skee-Ball... Skee-Ball... Skee-Ball... There must have been a Skee-Ball machine around here.

Finding it, Katherine sighed. I would be out of commission for the next little while until my quarters ran out. Even now, I think on it. I love Skee-Ball, and hit a classy 100 in my first game (never mind I was aiming at the 40.) If I could on one extravagance in my own home, a 3000 dollar Skee-Ball machine would be it. And not one of the knock offs like Ice Ball or Fire Ball, or a tiny kid version – it needs to be legit.

Finally becoming frustrated Katherine left my side in search of one of those old movie machines that showed naked people dancing for ten seconds.

I found her next at the Opium Den where a questionably racist display showed skeletons in closets, and dragons appearing, while Chinese men got high.

The amount of things to waste quarters in here? Inconceivable. Also, one of the fortune tellers rewarding you with a paper fortune, probably worth your money for the souvenir or the kitsch factor alone.

After your pockets have run dry (and don't forget dime and nickels as some machines run only on them, and there are no bill breakers that offer anything but quarters) you can make your way to the vending machine. There are a number of treats here, but the best (and at 20 bucks it's a little expensive, so it pains me to report I didn't buy it, though I love the idea of it so) is a book of photo strips. These are pictures taken in the photo booths left behind in the machine over the years. Snap shots of other peoples lives. And why were they left behind? What made them run off and forget? It's a charming concept.

Katherine returned without finding the naked people machine, but with a fortune telling her that travel was good. Also a smooshed penny with the arcades logo on it. If you're gonna smoosh a penny – might as well be here. I needed one too for my jangle jar.

Then you're back under the blue sky, looking out at Alcatraz. Alcatraz. That seemed like a good idea...

When we reached the pier selling tickets we were told that they were sold out until tomorrow. Very well, one ticket for the [insert time here] boat tomorrow. No, no, you can't choose times. Only the 1:45 isn't yet sold out. The 1:45 it is!

who knew that this was a thing that sold out, often weeks, in advance? If you're planning on taking the trip out here, book tickets on the internet and book them long before you come. It might make sense to book around this event. Keep in mind, we bought tickets for a Monday when school was still in. If this was spring break, or summer? Getting tickets might have been impossible. Still – we were prepared for tomorrow. And also aware that it would now pour rain as it was such a beautiful day – the sky actually becoming clear and blue – today.

Back to Pier 29 – the other tourist pier. There we wandered through Magic Shops, and were amazed by coins passing through hands, and cards flashing away. There were also merry-go-rounds that were avoided, but the 3D/4D rides were kept in mind as things that would be returned to if time ever permitted, and then there was – Funnel Cake. I love cakes, I love deep fryers, I love ice cream and strawberry sauce. I love funnel cakes! But just like Katherine, unable to eat her clam chowder, BK had defeated me as well. I'd remember this as a pre-Alcatraz meal.

With touristiness explored and experienced, and the day becoming mid-afternoon, I pulled us away from the water, and beauty, and the delightfulness to the F-line. From one end to the other of this line we would ride.

We were off to the Mission District!

Again, I wouldn't have even known this part of the city existed (as it's cut from all tourist maps!) without the Co-op show – so thank you very much to them all.

We were very near to walking off the map, and as we all know the only possible reason that things are ever off maps is because there there be monsters. If by monsters one means the mission after which the district was named, and a park. Ahh the park. What a park there is to be seen here. It is a park unlike any park you've ever before seen, and it is a park that warrants the use of the word park this many times in such a small column of text.

You will know the grassy area of which I speak the moment you set eyes on it, for nary a patch of grass will be seen. Young adults cover the space, heaped together in masses, circling up to talk, read, enjoy the day, and occasionally play bongos. And as Demetri Martin says, playing bongos means only two things: 1. I've got rhythm, and 2. [expletive] your day in the park.

But here? Here it seemed to work. Few people took notice as make-shift bands took their place and began impromptu concerts. Most people seemed far to busy throwing back one beer after the next, and smoking things that – to my knowledge – did not smell a whole lot like cigarettes.

But this is how the park works. You'd think they were gathering for a show, a display of some sorts, perhaps a music festival. But there is nothing. Just hundreds and hundreds of people sitting on grass, enjoying the sun, and talking watching the street below.

It's strange – at a beach you'd accept this behaviour of sitting and being unproductive, but without fire or water to gaze upon it seems to foreign to me. And yet here, on the hill, it feels completely like what San Francisco should. It almost seems a caricature of itself. Fantastic views of the skyline can be gleaned from this location.

On the way back to the city proper I took some more pictures of California graffiti, and wandered through a garage sale – there were few things of interest, but the sale seemed to be attracting a ridiculous amount of attention for being late Sunday night. Minutes later up the road a woman walked by carrying her newly purchased thirty five dollar pot from the sale. One can only hope she bartered that price down.

Popping my head into a corner store I looked for hamburger flavoured potato chips which I'd heard so much about. But they still don't seem to exist. I will continue my quest for these elusive treats.

Final stop? Carl's Jr. for a banana milk shake. Oh how delicious they are! All it means it wading through the line of a dozen homeless people all looking to spend their hard earned coinage. This isn't really a problem, but it is interesting to see the vast array of peoples congregating there. They seem to range in age from teenagers to quite elderly, and in dress, behaviour, ethnicity – and yet here, they come together to enjoy a Carl's Jr. combo, and perhaps a banana shake – because, once more: delicious.

The chocolate chips they add to it? They may seem strange at first, but no – you will grow to love them, as you grew to love bubble tea. All must love the bubble tea.

And then, sleep – with dreams of visiting the inescapable super-max prison located only one half mile off the shore of the bay.

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