If you come to San Francisco, it turns out, flowers in your hair are not required.
For spring break this year, my wife and I jetted to the left coast to visit the city by the bay. Our son and daughter-in-law have tech jobs in the computer capital of the universe, which is not exactly San Francisco, but nearby, south of the city.
For one week, we sampled quite a variety of experiences. We ate and ate and ate—prime rib, and Chinese dumplings and Korean Chicken and burritos in the Mission District that are the kind of burrito angels in Heaven order when they get a hankering for some Mexican.
We walked through the peninsula to the larger part of Golden Gate Park and toured the Botanical Gardens. We partly crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on foot. We saw the Sutro Bath ruins and the remains of a federal fort and prison at Alcatraz.
It was a thrilling whirlwind, and our gracious hosts assured us there is much more to see, which I fully believe. We didn’t see wine country nor the big redwoods. We only spent significant time in two museums—the Cable Car Museum, cool because the machinery that actually runs the cable car system whirs away before your very eyes; and The Computer History Museum which was just cool. So we got to see technology that was the height of 19th century cleverness as well as 21st century wires and silicon chips. And, yes, we’ll be back again, I’m sure.
Of course, most of all we got to spend time with our son and daughter-in-law. Jon and Nalena, thank you for being such gracious hosts. Thank you for putting up with the slow walking speed of an old man with a failing left knee—and, honestly, the many miles of walking each day seemed to do me some good, although I could skip the stairs.
The weather forecast for the week called for clouds and rain most days, and I suppose there was some rain more days than not, but it often fell at night, and we were blessed most days with sunny skies that made me regret not brining an Iowa baseball cap (probably one that says “Diocese of New Orleans,” but that’s another story) and some shades. In particular, our Alcatraz Island tour was favored by sunshine—and although it turned cloudy at the end of the day, by then, who cares?
San Francisco was warm and green compared to Iowa. We’re warming up here, but are still 10 degrees or so behind central California. There will come a time, in June or so, when Cedar Rapids, Iowa, starts being hotter than San Francisco, California, for the Midwestern summer—and an Uber driver assured us the green we saw was a bit misleading. “We forgot what green looks like” during recent drought years, she said.
We engaged in some competitions while in the Bay Area. One minor high point of my trip was defeating my very intelligent oldest son in a game of chess at the headquarters of Facebook. However, I will make no further mention of the two chess games played earlier in the week.
We had a Facebook-based photo contest—my wife, son and I each chose 10 photographs of San Francisco to post in a “Seen in San Francisco” gallery, and used scoring based on “likes,” “loves” and comments. My son and wife are close in the scoring, but my wife seems to be winning. Me, I’m way behind. Besides overall points, there is a competition for best photo, too—and it’s a tie right now, between photographs I did not take. And let’s not talk about Bananagrams—come to think of it, I didn’t do well at any of our competitions this past week.
The Bay Area, while a bit crowded, busy and dirty, was nonetheless also quirky, interesting and full not just of pigeons and trash, but also charming Victorian houses, street art and restaurants.
Restaurants! San Francisco is not much larger in population than Des Moines, Iowa, but the Bay Area has Iowa beat to Sunday and back in the food area. Yes, it can be pricey, but I had the best Korean, Mexican and even American (prime rib) food that I think I’ve ever eaten. There is just one Puerto Rican restaurant in San Francisco, as far as our son knows, but even it serves food that makes you think you needed to walk six miles a day just to make up for that lunch.
Some people have left their hearts in San Francisco. I can see that—but me, I think I would leave my stomach.