Archive for April 2nd, 2007

Day 3: The Haight, Berkeley

If I had to sum up Sunday morning in two words, it would be these: bums and bacon.

We decided to dine at Original Joe’s for breakfast (where our friend holds her second job), a famed diner in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin – possibly one of the sketchiest neighborhoods in town.

When venturing to this area, be prepared to face extreme poverty and a blunt lesson about the dangers of drug addiction, as there are rather destitue homeless people on nearly every block – a fact that makes Joe’s all the more unlikely. This joint has been around since 1937 and all the waiters (women cannot be waitresses here) are decked out in tuxedos.

Don’t be fooled though, this isn’t fine dining – it’s grease and meat and it’s delicious, if perhaps overwhelming. An order of eggs and bacon consists of three fried eggs, seven slices of thick bacon and a plate of french fries. Careful with them arteries…

We tried to pass off our leftovers to the next person who asked for change, but no one seemed interested, so they regretfully landed in the trash before we hopped a bus to Haight-Ashbury (if you’re on Market St., hop on the 21 and get off on Masonic).

The Haight, as it is commonly called, is famed for being the home of the Grateful Dead and for being the epicenter of the hippie/bohemian movement in the 60s – and while there are a few shops dedicated to intricate glass “tobacco pipes,” incense and tie-die, the area has gotten a lot hipper. American Apparel has a store there now, there’s plenty of trendy denim, shoes and other garments at Villains, and Giant Robot has one of its three shops just off Haight.

But we started off at Golden Gate Park, a lush green haven nearly three times bigger than New York’s Central Park. My girlfriend and I rented bicycles at San Francisco Cyclery (on Stanyan St., right off Haight at the edge of the park) and whizzed down JFK – which is free of traffic on Sundays – taking in the sights of cherry blossoms, stopping to relax by Sprekels Lake, and making our way down to the coast.

Seeing the open ocean after spending months landlocked was carthardic and beautiful – there’s something absolutely serene about salty water that seemingly never ends, touching foreign coasts in playful imagination. We breathed in deeply, and let our awe unroll into the scenery.

Halfway through our bike ride in the park we had realized we were rolling downhill nearly the entire way – the obvious other side to this is that we biked uphill all the way back. Nothing too tough, but enough to get out of breath. (A word to the wise, don’t try to make the trip a loop by riding up MLK, it’s nowhere near as nice. Stick with JFK)

We poked around the Haight after our ride and snacked on some amazing tacos before coming back to the apartment for a rest, as we were heading out to Berkely for dinner.

The East Bay area (where Berkely and Oakland are) is a bit warmer than SF, probably due to the lack of a Pacific breeze. We got out on Telegraph, Berkeley’s main drag, and I pictured the likes of Kerouac and Ginsberg shouting their mad poetry into the street.

We dined on salads of epic proportion at Cafe Intermezzo, along with surprisingly spicy vegetarian chili and sweet honey bread – something healthy for our system after the bacon damage.

After dinner we were eager to check out campus, but the light was fading, and so we settled for frozen yogurt instead. Licking our spoons, we cruised over the Bay Bridge back to SF listening to the surreal vintage sounds of Amy Winehouse in the car.

The lights of a new city to love on the horizon, we all suddenly felt a bit sleepy – a night of rest was needed…and so ended day three.

Day 2: The Mission District

SATURDAY, 2:30 a.m. – Multicolor Christmas lights glow on the cieling of the car, and the driver is reaching for the radio to turn up the Tony Toni Tone. Friends are laughing and singing in the back seat, and everyone’s sobriety is a bit in question: I can’t think of a better place to end a night than in this disco of a taxicab.

But let’s back up, and start from the beginning.

The morning of day two in San Francisco was spent strolling the beach at Crissy Field, squishing warm sand between our toes while taking in Golden Gate scenery and sea spray. Crissy Field is in a rich part of town called the Marina District – a lovely neighborhood with multi-million dollar bayside homes – and so there were plenty of Starbucks-sipping moms out walking froo-froo. But it’s a great place to go run, bike, or just sit and collect your mind.

Afterwards we headed back to Hayes and had brunch – which for me consisted of a fatty burger with cheddar and avocado – at Flipper’s restaurant. We dined in the back garden since the day was warming up, and took our time munching and catching up with our friend Danielle.

Then we scooted up to the Mission District. The main drag in the Mission is Valencia, and most of the shops, restaurants and cafes are located between 15th & 20th. We stumbled upon a number of little treasures – a fully-loaded bike shop, a store focusing on high quality denim (read: $$$$!), and a trendy-cute stationary/clothing/literature/art shop. And we can’t forget 826 Valencia – ostensibly a pirate supply store that fronts a creative writing workshop started by author Dave Eggers.

After sufficient poking around, we trekked back to the apartment for major napping – which didn’t really happen because we thought we’d all fall asleep while watching High Fidelity, which is really too good not to watch.

Dinner was order-in pizza and Pacifico beer. After Danielle, her roomates, Janice and I had filled our bellies and primped (for me, this involved putting on a hoodie), we shot up to the North Beach in an impatient cab and got out at Mojito Cafe, where the live band was playing latin music wonderful enough to melt away my white-boy-can’t-dance self conciousness. A few drinks later and some more dancing and we were off…to the mall?

That’s right, 1:00 a.m. and we we’re off to the top level of a mall on Market St., where a restaurant called Straits had turned itself into a dance party. We weren’t about to pay the $10 cover, and it was lucky that Danielle is friends with the bartender (he sneaked us in through a fishy-smelling back hallway). More dancing, more vodka, and the night pounded forward…

Which brings us to the disco cab ride – and what a ride it was.

Next post – Day 3: The Haight, Berkely
Today’s Agenda: Japantown

Sorry for the lack of photos – forgot my connector cable and haven’t found the time to track one down. Expect a full set on my return.

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