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Playing tourist in San Francisco

Started: 2016-04-15 17:45:28

Submitted: 2016-04-15 20:36:49

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator sees some of the sights in his new city

After returning from China in late January, I spent a week in Colorado before before driving to San Francisco (stopping along the way to ski for two days in Park City) to start my new job. I've been there for two months, and I have many thoughts about my job, which I hope to share in a future post. I've spent most of my time over the last two months absorbed with my job, and the logistics of selling our house in Boulder and moving to San Francisco, coupled with a few trips back to Boulder -- where Kiesa is waiting for the end of Calvin's school year before packing up the rest of the family and moving out to join me in San Francisco.

(All of this means the concept of "home" is slippery. I have moved to San Francisco, but right now I'm living in a sparsely-furnished three-bedroom house in the Glen Park neighborhood (or maybe Mission Terrace; the boundaries of the neighborhoods seem fuzzy to me). I have a bed and a few chairs and something that passes as a kitchen table, and that's good enough for now, but I'm still tempted to say that I'm going "home" to Colorado.)

I spent much of last weekend attending to my taxes, and the logistics of setting up my house in San Francisco. For everything I need I have to consider whether it's worth buying something to fulfil that need that I'll only use for two months, or whether I can buy something slightly different that I can then convert to some other use. (That's why I'm now sleeping on a twin bed -- we'll move that into Montse's room, replacing the larger bed she's now using.) I drove to one of my new coworker's houses in the hills above Oakland to buy his portable dishwasher -- which is something I didn't previously realize existed, but apparently it's a thing because older houses and apartments in places like San Francisco don't have built-in dishwashers. (The house I'm now renting was built in 1941, and some of the construction is clearly built to an earlier spec. On the other hand, it's apparently solidly-built enough to have survived the 1989 Loma Prieda earthquake.) I didn't even think to check whether there was a dishwasher when looking at the house -- we realized the dishwasher was absent just before signing the lease, and did get permission to install a new dishwasher, at our own expense. But that's going to be expensive, and time-consuming, and I was getting tired of washing my own dishes by hand, so I picked up a portable dishwasher to keep me going.

(It appears that I have the only lease in San Francisco that actually lets me have a portable dishwasher -- there's a checkbox in the lease that specifically allows or disallows portable dishwashers, and mine is checked to allow them, probably because we actually made a fuss about the lack of a dishwasher while we reviewing the lease before signing it.)

On Sunday I set out to actually see some of the city. It was colder and rainy on Saturday, but the rain stopped by Sunday, leaving a low cloud cover. I drove from Glen Park to Twin Peaks, one of the highest points in the city (though it's still not all that high by the standards of Colorado), a curious twin-summited hill near the geographical center of the city, with a distinctive three-legged television tower sprouting from the hill's shoulder.

Twin Peaks and downtown San Francisco
Twin Peaks and downtown San Francisco

I found a parking lot on the north side of the north summit, crowded by tour buses and tourists. I stepped up to the wall at the edge of the observation platform and gazed out onto the city of San Francisco spread out below me. To the north I could see the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking in and out of the fog. I could see the massive wooded bulk of Golden Gate Park, with its panhandle sticking out to the east. I'd studied this terrain on the map, and driven around on the ground, but this was the first time I'd seen it from above. To the east the hill descended through the Mission and the buildings started growing from three- and four-story apartments into thirty- and forty-story high-rise office towers. I could look straight down Market Street, from the giant rainbow flag marking the Castro to the Ferry Building and the bay, framed by the high-rise buildings on either side.

Downtown San Francisco from Twin Peaks
Downtown San Francisco from Twin Peaks

It was there, on top of Twin Peaks, with the wind whipping through my hair, the cloud ceiling a hundred feet above my head, that I fell in love with San Francisco, and I knew I'd made a good choice moving here.

Sutro Tower on Twin Peaks
Sutro Tower on Twin Peaks

I drove through the intersection of Haight and Ashbury to a phone-repair shop on Geary Boulevard. In my first week at my new job I dropped my phone and shattered the screen, and I was able to get my screen replaced, but a week ago the screen started blinking out, in a manner that suggested that one or more of the connections were loose. The touchscreen would still work, but I couldn't see what was on the screen. The shop agreed to take a look at it, though they managed my expectations low, and gave me a Galaxy S5 as a loaner, which took my SIM and let me continue to use my number while waiting for the repair.

I stopped along Ocean Beach and sat on the sea wall, watching the waves crash on the beach, while I set up my phone in the chilly breeze coming off the ocean.

I drove south along the Great Highway to Fort Funston, one of the coastal fortifications built in the run-up to World War II, which served as the prototype site for the (at the time) state-of-the-art casemate fortifications built around twin 16-inch guns with an effective range of more than 44,000 yards (26 miles), almost far enough to shell the Farallon Islands from the shore. Like the rest of the fortifications built during that period on the west coast, the guns were never fired against a hostile target, and were replaced after the war by an underground Nike Ajax ballistic missile battery -- which is now used as the parking lot. (The interpretive signs told me there is an Ajax missile site in the Marin Headlands that still holds the original missiles and offers occasional tours, which I now have to visit.)

Road leading to the beach at Fort Funston
Road leading to the beach at Fort Funston

I walked from the parking lot to what remains of the casemate, a massive concrete edifice designed to protect the gun and its crew from aerial bombardment, now covered in sand and overgrown with beach shrubs. The casemate gave me a respite from the crowds of dogs and their owners overrunning the park; it seemed that every dog in San Francisco must be there (I later confirmed that there were few other dog parks in this part of the city). Despite the dogs I enjoyed the coastal headlands and the bluffs overlooking the beach, and I knew I would return.

Towers of the Golden Gate Bridge
Towers of the Golden Gate Bridge
nightly chats with bin laden would be better
- Scott Galvin, about Jaeger's nightly jobsearch talks with his parents,
14 October 2002