On Tuesday I realized I wanted to write about something San Francisco-related this week, but I really didn’t know what to write about. I had to move my car before work to avoid the street sweeper, and decided that I’d walk to work without my iPod, so as to let both the sights and the sounds of the city inspire me. At the first corner I hit a red light and had to wait. It was one of those obnoxiously long waits, and there was way too much traffic to consider jaywalking. As I anxiously waited, mentally debating putting on my iPod just to pass the time (I think I may have mild attention span issues), a very pretty young woman approached from behind me and joined me waiting for the light to turn green. She was wearing tight jeans tucked into high-heeled boots, a black jacket, red scarf, and sunglasses. This is a typical San Francisco summer look for pretty young women and I must say I love it. I wanted to say something to her, but I’m pretty shy and I’m not sure how one chats up a girl while she’s making her morning commute. The light refused to turn green, and I’ll admit it was a bit awkward waiting there with her. Normally at least one of us would probably be tuned into a phone or iPod, but instead we just stood in silence, unaided by external distracting gadgets.
The light turned green and I crossed and turned onto Market Street. She was walking right behind me, and with every step I could hear the heels of her boots click-clacking on the brick sidewalk. It’s a really sexy sound, isn’t it—the click-clacking of heels on a brick sidewalk? I wouldn’t have even noticed had I been listening to my iPod. We hit every single red light, and again we’d stand there awkwardly, not talking to each other. She must have known I was attracted to her, and probably found me creepy, and my awareness of this only increased the awkwardness.
Welcome to my neuroses.
Anyhow, we were walking roughly the same speed. Sometimes I’d walk a bit behind her, sometimes a bit in front of her, and I’d always hear her click-clacking. Eventually (and it was really only after a couple of blocks), she left me to go underground to catch the Muni.
I was a little sad, but it occurred to me that we had shared a bizarre, awkward and beautiful magic that I can feel every day on my walk to work if I don’t use my iPod to tune out the world around me. I knew then what to write about this week: Market Street, which comprises 90+% of my morning commute.
For those of you not familiar with my city, the streets are on a very simple grid for the most part, and then out of nowhere Market Street cuts through at a crazy angle and screws everything up. Market Street drives into the heart of downtown San Francisco, ending at the Ferry Building, and chances are if you need to get anywhere downtown, you’ll take some sort of transportation that uses Market Street. It’s kind of like our Broadway, except that we actually have our own Broadway (where all of our strip clubs are located).
Market Street has been the major San Franciscan thoroughfare since pretty much the beginning of time (assuming time began when the city of San Francisco was established). Here’s some amazing footage of a trip down Market Street filmed in 1906, just 4 days before the great earthquake.
That’s my daily commute to work. Of course, things have changed a wee bit between the time that film was taken and the present.
For example, we cyclists fought long and hard and earned ourselves a bike lane:
I’m still terrified every day I bike to work. The bike lane comes and goes, and can’t stop cars from making illegal turns onto Market Street. I have a friend who has been hit hard on her bike twice in the past two years, breaking both arms. People are killed too. I usually avoid the intersection of Market and Octavia, which is the deadliest intersection in the city. In fact, I bypassed it in my walk to work the day I took all of the pictures in this entry, but had I taken a photo, you would have seen the blood of 1000 bicyclists staining the pavement.
My walk to work takes me from Hayes Valley, a very upscale, yuppie neighborhood (which used to be quite poor and dangerous about 7 or 8 years ago) to the financial district, where lots of upscale, yuppie people work. However, in between where yuppies live and where yuppies work is a magical place we call the Tenderloin. This neighborhood gets its name because back in the day, cops working there used to get paid more, and were thus able to afford pricier cuts of meat. Today, the area remains one of the, er, seedier parts of town, although rent in the TL has become, like rent everywhere else in the city, ridiculously expensive. It appears that the seedy TL, like everywhere else in San Francisco, will soon succumb to gentrification.
However, that hasn’t happened yet, and my walk to work remains interesting. For example, two blocks after turning onto Market Street last Wednesday, I came across this:
There’s just something wonderful about seeing a broken TV, isn’t there? I do wish that the screen had been a bit more smashed. I’m looking forward to 5-10 years from now when we start to see smashed 43” flat-screens on the sidewalk in the seedy parts of town (if there are still seedy parts of town). A little further down we see the first of several donut shops:
It’s nice to know that, in this city where everything is green and organic and healthy, one can still go to the TL and get cheap, greasy donuts. This is good for me, as I freakin’ love cheap, greasy donuts.
But speaking of green and organic, this guy was across the street from the donut shop:
I didn’t have any on me, but I really hope somebody helped him out. Ah, the homeless guy asking for pot…things you often see in San Francisco. And further speaking of “green and organic” and “hings you often see in San Francisco,” just a block away from that guy I happened to pass by…
Wednesday was a day that ended with the letter “y,” which means that there were a number of farmer’s markets all over the city. This one is by the Civic Center, our exquisite town hall conveniently located in the bad part of town. It is a rather majestic building though, isn’t it? And you’d better believe I bought some of these white peaches.
Of course, one block away from the farmer’s market, we still had
But enough about food. As you bid farewell to the Civic Center, you get into the heart of Market Street. Located at 7th and Market is the Market Street Cinema, with a sign proudly bearing the unofficial city motto of San Francisco:
But don’t get too caught up looking at the beauty, or you might miss this gem in a brick on the street in front of the Marinello School of Beauty:
This amazing snippet of graffiti happened at some point when I was in Japan, or maybe I just never noticed it before because I was in a different mentality. These days, it seems a little more appropriate. Grrr.
I was very sad to see that my favorite donut shop closed when I was in Japan:
But then saw that it had just changed its name and moved across the street:
Still delicious, might I add.
Once you cross 5th Street, Market Street undergoes quite a change. You go from this:
And from this:
(note: Julia Child supposedly ate at/loved Tu Long. It’s pretty amazing for the price and I highly recommend it) To this:
You go from this:
It’s a very sudden shift—you cross the street and the homeless people magically disappear, and are replaced with fashionable professionals. The smells of pot and piss give way to those of lattes and expensive perfume. Some people take the Muni from Van Ness to Powell street just to avoid “that part” of Market Street, but I enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of everything Market Street has to offer. Of course, just in case I need a little reminder of the wonders of San Francisco, across the street from my work is the bike messenger depot, which constantly smells like weed:
and next door to my work you can find this:
Ah, San Francisco, where life ain’t ever all that bad…