Why the Rich Live in the Hills

Obviously it’s a rhetorical question since the hills generally offer the best views, freshest air, and (often) greatest safety.

Rather than launch into a screed regarding scarcity of resources, I’ll reveal another not-so-hidden secret to San Francisco. Our abundance of hills opens these benefits to the masses. All it takes is a willingness to climb or a SF MUNI pass. Moreover, you generally don’t have to go very far to find a sudden view. The ones to my left and right are only just outside my apartment door. Remember too, I can focus my camera to catch particular aspects of the picture. However, my eyes benefits from the whole shot.

Or I can take a few more steps up a short hill to find pictures of Sutro Tower. It’s an icon for locals and our communication venue. Someone once pointed out it looks like a clipper ship if you get underneath it (especially on a foggy night).

Still if you want the best views, it’s best to make the effort to climb some higher hills. When my health improves I’ll cast the proverbial wider net. In the meantime, I’ll cheat and stick to local venues like UCSF (one of the great teaching medical centers in the country if not the world).From my house, I can walk up the back entrance to both its buildings and gardens.

 UCSF’s  location on the semi-steep hills of Parnassus Ave provides stunning views of the   Golden Gate Park, the Bay, and various local neighborhoods. Most people tend to avoid it, however, because it’s a cold, foggy, wind-tunnel. Eh it’s why us Sunset Natives love it (after all conditioning makes us curdle at sight of sun or is it we are vampires :)) It’s part of why – sadly – many of its practitioners are fleeing out to Mission Bay‘s better weather. Of course it probably has something to do with earthquakes as well. 

 

 

 

Given my obsession with buildings, I appreciate what great views it provides of Golden Gate Heights and the Sunset. Though I can’t help but think of another native’s friendly gibe at me years ago. No matter how much some of us (e.g. me) may seek to flee the Church, we always tend to live within the sound of church bells. The pink imposing building in the lower picture is St. Anne’s Catholic Church and School (nope, not my alma mater). Nor does it skimp on views of the beautiful Craftsmen Houses in the area.

 

Color Splashing on a Sunny Day

 

San Francisco now enters our most glorious weather period of the year. End of summer and early fall represent our warmest and clearest months. It brings clear blue skies (minus the fog), toasty warm days (upper seventies), and explosions of people on the street. Only the kids forced back to school as summer actually starts and sweatshirt vendors unable to clothe tourists in tacky memorabilia get upset. Everyone else throws on what passes for summer gear and heads out the door.

This past week I wandered through the Tenderloin in search of color and found small gardens dotting the landscape. Among my favorites was a riotous gathering of colorful flowers guarding the entrance to a rest home.  Granted flowers were unlikely drought resistent nor did the garden make space for veggies (all important considerations. But its jumbled beauty brought smiles to walkers passing on the street.

Other parts of the garden appeared “organized” but are no less lovely in their color burst

In contrast, City maintained parks line up in cool geometric patters to maximize space. However, none skimp on color or texture.

Sometimes also plants just randomly shoot up on their own on City Property (how appropriate it’s a lovely purple flowering plant).

Sometimes too it’s just a colorful tree on a median joining those near it to grab the maximum sun and attention.

Nor should I neglect the federal government, which has added a lovely garden of metal and flowers to its Golden Gate Courthouse.

 

Survivors Take the Other Path

Doorways, especially the more ornate, have always fascinated me. Opening them hopefully  leads to  answers, adventure, or escape.

 

Doubtless my taste in childhood literature – A Wrinkle in Time, Chronicles of Narnia, or From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – shaped this interest. In each the child characters found a hidden path,  most magical but some mundane, to  adult adventure without submitting to adult control.

Like every good piece of fiction, each character suffered disappointment, overcame obstacles,  and returned chastened. Regardless neither they nor the reader regretted the journey. Most, especially this reader, sought a pathway to return.Japanese Tea Garden Path

 

 

 

A life spent breathing San Francisco’s intoxicating smells – salty fog, innumerable spices, and perfumed humanity –  doubtless contributed to this zest for adventure. Childhood’s culinary map included  Chinese  Dishes, Russian Piroshki’s, and (homemade) Greek Food; generally sold in nearby but still different neighborhoods. (Now it would be ThaiEthiopian, and Indian, likely without as much travel but lessons still learned.)  Prior to Proposition 13 – yes, I’m that old – museum, aquariums, and parks holding the world’s knowledge opened their doors for free. (Even now you can find a way to free days if you can fight the crowds.) Frankly today the babble of different languages, clashing customs, and  the kaleidoscope of cultures make even SF MUNI an adventure. (Unlike some of my peers from the Outer Sunset, I — thanks to my mom’s early lessons — embrace San Francisco’s diversity.)

 

It’s why San Francisco continues to succeed through earthquakes, AIDS, and recessions.

 

 

 

 

Most of us came from somewhere else – or were raised by those folks from somewhere else – or wrongly get treated as being from somewhere else despite having families here going back generations. As such we know nothing forces us to remain stifled by custom or status quo. For those willing to remain so ignorant their stay is no longer pleasant. Or, on a happier note, food and/or persons from somewhere else often seduce them into knowing better. An honest look at San Francisco’s (California) history will reveal this has happened for centuries (when we used to pit ethnicities against each other, like we currently do with racial groups.)