Growing by the Bay

Month: December 2007

Merry Frisco, everyone

ice rink at justin herman plaza

Friday Roundup / Duly Quoted

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

Duly Quoted

“The proposed design … is absurdly inappropriate. It would ruin the unique architectural character of the Presidio by introducing a generic style that is used throughout much of the world today.” — Lawrence Halprin (designer of the landscape around the Lombard Gate) on the Fisher Museum proposal for the Presidio

Pool at Hearst Castle

 indoor pool at hearst castle

Just a photo today, as we head south a little bit, to Hearst Castle near Cambria. This is one of the opulent indoor pools.

San Francisco tourist traps

coit towerThat’s the title of this page at Virtual Tourist. All I can say is, take it with a grain of salt. Some people are so keen on proving that they’re cool and they’re insiders that they won’t be happy until they take the fun out of everything. One of the privileges of being a tourist is that you can go to all the tacky places where a lot of locals don’t want to be seen. Let’s look at some of the items on the list:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf. Okay, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time here. But tell me this — how do the locals all know that it’s tacky and touristy? You know how? They’ve all been there! If you haven’t at least scooted through FW you don’t really know SF.
  • Pier 39. “It’s not a real pier,” is the complaint. Well, here’s a news flash. Almost all the Bay Area shipping has been going through Oakland for decades. Face it, San Franciscans, you’re living in a little wind-up doll of a city. At Pier 39 you can get clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and watch the sea lions. Those are things you can’t do in Iowa. Nothing wrong with them.
  • The Exploratorium. Excuse me? This is just inexplicable. The Exploratorium is one of the best museum-like experiences in the city. I’m still mad at Willie Brown for trying to kick it out of the Palace of Fine Arts.
  • Alcatraz. I have to admit I lived here for, let’s see, about twenty-five years before I visited Alcatraz. The lines. All the –you know (gasp!) — tourists. But finally I did go, and you know what — it was fun! I would recommend it.
  • Chinatown. Oh, come on. This is an essential part of San Francisco’s history. You can’t turn your back on that. If you think our history started with the founding of Yahoo, okay, then skip it. Otherwise, have lunch at the Potsticker, watch the old guys playing their board and card games at Portsmouth Square, and buy a Buddha’s-hand citron or two.
  • Coit Tower. Sure, skip it. It’s only one of the most distinctive and appealing parts of our skyline. How can you object to an erection commissioned by a lady who just really dug firemen? And by no means do you want to expose yourself to its leftist political murals from the thirties — how would you enjoy shopping at Nordstrom’s afterwards?

Bottom line: some folks get a little snooty about being locals in a popular place like San Francisco. These are the same people who complain about the Vallaincourt Fountain. And that’s the downside of insider recommendations. My advice is to ignore these folks and just go have a good time.

After all, you’re on vacation, right?


Image of Coit Tower modified from one at Wikipedia.

SF Neighborhoods: another view

san francisco neighborhood map from ork posters

This cool San Francisco neighborhood map is currently sold out from ORK posters, but I assume it will be back in print at some point. It’s much more sophisticated from a graphic design point of view than this version.

The typeface appears to be FF DIN Condensed.

(Note that the map is copyrighted by ORK design and should be purchased from them.)

Donors to secret nonprofit revealed

“Secret” and “nonprofit” are words that should not appear together. But the donors who have been financing Arnold Schwartzenegger’s jets and luxury suites have until recently somehow managed to keep their names private (despite nonprofit disclosure laws).

The donors receive tax breaks because their donations are made to an organization with nonprofit status. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the governor’s aides and the foundation say the arrangement takes a financial burden off taxpayers while allowing Schwarzenegger to serve as an ambassador for the state. Watchdog groups contend it has the potential to allow moneyed donors to wield undue influence without public scrutiny.”

Among the donors whose names were recently revealed is Don Fisher, founder of the Gap clothing stores, who is attempting to create a museum in San Francisco’s Presidio for his personal art collection.

Donors to secret nonprofit named – Los Angeles Times

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

Sutro Baths

It’s a pity — at least from the standpoint of spectacle — that the Sutro Baths, a large swimming pool complex built in the nineteenth century, proved impossible to maintain. The baths were destroyed in 1966, when they burnt to the ground. The Cliff House project has a page with many historic photos of the baths, such as this one:

sutro baths, san francisco

The baths were the brainchild of Adolfo Sutro, a leading Frisco fat cat who first made his fortune in the Comstock silver mines and ended up owning most of the Western part of San Francisco.

The baths opened to the public in 1898, promoted as the largest indoor swimming facility in the world. There were seven pools with varying temperatures (at ten degree intervals), from chilly to steaming. Trampolines, flying rings, slides, swings, toboggan slides, and diving platforms were placed around the pools for plunging in style.

sliding into the sutro baths

The vast scale of the baths proved their undoing. Operating and maintenance costs were so high that Sutro’s heirs were unable to keep them running. At the time of the fire they were already in the process of being demolished. The Cliff House Project has before and after photos (and many more photos than I am showing here, as well as links to other sites).

sutro baths, san francisco, before and after their destruction in 1966

Today the ruins of the baths can be visited. Later I will add one or two of my photos of them.

Vertigo at Fort Point

fort point in the movie vertigo

Fort Point, at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, figures prominently in the Hitchcock film Vertigo. It is here where Kim Novak plunges off the fort into the water and is saved by Jimmy Stewart.

The story is told — I don’t know if it is true or not, although it sounds plausible — that Novak and Hitchcock squabbled throughout the filming of the movie. Novak, it is said, constantly complained that her wardrobe was not glamorous enough.

In the filming of this scene Hitchcock exacted his reverge. Claiming to be dissatisfied with the first couple of dozen takes, he made Novak enter the chilly water 25 times.

The Cake Gallery

barbie cake from the cake gallery, san franciscoThe Cake Gallery, located at 290 9th Street (at Folsom) has made a name for itself by offering a line of x-rated cakes. But, according to their website, “the majority of our custom cakes are actually delivered to businesses and children’s parties.” And indeed, at my day job I recently sampled a cake decorated with a map of Hawaii for a colleague who is moving there.

In addition to their erotic cakes, they offer kids’ birthday cakes, 50th birthday cakes, 3-D cakes, wedding cakes, baby shower cakes, over-the-hill birthday cakes, unique cartoon cakes for kids, bachelor party cakes, celebrity birthday cakes, baptism cakes, and novelty cakes for kids. Fortunately, their cakes are better than their photography — I did what I could with this image of a 3-D Barbie cake.

Bonds media frenzy

bonds media frenzy

Coming into work very early on Friday, before the sun was up, I couldn’t miss a swarm of broadcast media setting up their lights and cameras around the old federal building on Golden Gate St. I asked a cameraman what it was all about. “Bonds,” he said.

Entering my building I mentioned this to the security guard. “Everyone knows he’s guilty,” he said.

Later a squadron of helicopters joined the circus.

What a lot of uproar about some steroids. Ironically, our governor is this guy (image from

arnold schwarzenegger, governor of california

Friday Roundup

Notes from a week of travel in virtual NoCal.

Duly quoted

“The California Zephyr line, which runs from Chicago to San Francisco via Denver, is on time only 4.6% of the time, with an average 10.5 hours of delay for a trip along the entire route, according to Amtrak.” — Forbes

Mission Bells

Here’s a song from The Aislers Set that evokes San Francisco (lyrics below the video).

i’ve been in the narrow slashes
velvet red and real as rashes
california’s got me wanting more
four years got me from this caption
generation came to kill
i know you and i know you will
who’ll be sleeping on the mission bells?

leave me or let me go
oceans on two sides
optimism parallel, breaking in rich tides
how they must soothe you, now day and night

hypocrisy has smashed that atavistic take
on my commitment, one mistake
how’s the new kid, all the new truths and the vileness, god forbid
i lie here waiting while the mission bells are ringing, ringing
out over the city and the sunshine and the doubt

Beach Chalet

beach chalet, san francisco

B in the D, the Beach Chalet at the ocean end of Golden Gate Park housed a sketchy pool hall. But the place has been restored and turned into a decent restaurant with an excellent view. There is also a visitor center devoted to the history of the chalet. The walls are decorated with historic WPA frescoes created by Lucien Labaudt in the 1930s. Click the screenshot to visit the official site.

Muybridge’s San Francisco panoramas

muybridge panorama of san francisco, 1877

Eadweard Muybridge produced two panoramas of the city. This one, made in January 1877 (the same year he produced photographic evidence that a trotting horse may lift all four hooves off the ground), was shot from the Mark Hopkins Mansion at California and Mason. Muybridge used 13 different cameras to make the image. At America Hurrah you can click the panorama thumbnails to see larger versions.

UPDATE: The American Hurrah link has gone bad. One place you can still find at least a portion of a larger version is cameraplex. (There the first panorama is dated to 1878.) Below is a detail.

Muybridge, San Francisco panorama, detail, ca 1877-78

Muybridge, San Francisco panorama, detail, ca 1877-78.

San Francisco neighborhoods

san francisco neighborhood has a good overview of San Francisco neighborhoods, with some comment under the heading “a local’s guide.” Nice identification of SF neighborhoods, although the typography and color scheme would induce migraines. For the screenshot above I mellowed out the colors a bit.

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