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The rest of the summer

Started: 2017-10-05 17:29:38

Submitted: 2017-10-08 20:43:05

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator watches an eclipse, survives an epic heat wave, and sees several minor sights in San Francisco

After returning to San Francisco after our European adventure, we settled into a relatively quiet end of the summer. Kiesa went to work on Sunday, the day after we returned; I stayed home, recovered from jet lag, unpacked, and did laundry.

Foggy view of Excelsior
Foggy view of Excelsior

Eclipse

Monday -- two days after we returned -- was Calvin's first day of third grade, and also the solar eclipse. Had our summer travel plans been different, I would have found somewhere to visit within the path of totality; instead, I went up to my office building's seventh floor deck, borrowed eclipse glasses from a coworker, and watched the moon eclipse 75% of the sun.

Jaeger watches the solar eclipse
Jaeger watches the solar eclipse

At the eclipse's local maximum, the light from the sun was noticeably dimmed -- but it just looked like a cloudy day. Only when I looked near the sun could I tell that the clouds weren't enough to properly obscure the sun's light. Through the eclipse glasses I could clearly see a giant chunk taken out of the sun. I ended up with some acceptable pictures just by pointing my smartphone's camera at the sun and tapping aggressively on the screen to adjust the exposure to something reasonable for the sunlight.

Solar eclipse above the Bay Bridge
Solar eclipse above the Bay Bridge

Treasure Island

On the last Sunday in August, Kiesa staged an expedition to Treasure Island. The island is built on fill in the middle of the bay, and held various naval facilities during the twentieth century before being decommissioned and turned back to the City of San Francisco. We drove across the suspension portion of the Bay Bridge and took the exit at Yerba Buena Island in the middle of the bay and followed the road to Treasure Island, then parked and began a weird walk around the man-made island in the middle of the bay.

Fence on the north end of Treasure Island
Fence on the north end of Treasure Island

We roughly followed a route in Kiesa's San Francisco urban hikes book on a circuit of the island, on the perimeter road running around the island. These days the island is in the middle of a long, slow reconstruction process, and contains mostly small apartment buildings, nearly-abandoned light industrial sites, and rubble from the naval base's demolition. The north-west face of the island, facing the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, held two-story apartment buildings behind chain-link fences, with the occasional sign warning about radioactive contamination. (The top of the bridge towers were just barely visible above the fog.) Some of the apartment buildings were behind fences and appeared to be in the midst of decontamination, while the buildings next door were clearly occupied.

Julian sits on the seawall on Treasure Island
Julian sits on the seawall on Treasure Island

The trail gave out on the north-east side of the island and we followed a series of roads between nearly-abandoned industrial sites to get back to the core of the island. The whole thing felt like a trip through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with pockets of civilization running like normal next to radioactive contamination and decrepit abandoned and decaying buildings.

Heat wave

My travel plans took me away from San Francisco for most of the month of Fogust (the foggiest month of the year, when the sweltering Central Valley sucks cold moist air in through the Golden Gate and into the city). San Francisco summers are cold enough that I usually wear long-sleeved shirts, but it turns out that retailers in San Francisco are caught up to national clothing retail trends and expunge their selection of long-sleeved shirts for the summer. By Labor Day Weekend I had good cause to regret missing Fogust, when the offshore winds shifted to blow to the north, Karl The Fog abandoned the city, and temperatures soared.

In San Francisco, the locals tend to freak out when the temperature gets up to 85°F. Having lived in Colorado for twenty-five years, with a high desert climate 85°F is a routine daytime high temperatures in the summer, I am not especially impressed by that; I consider 85°F to be quite warm, but not really worth freaking out about. (To be fair, most of San Francisco -- including our house -- doesn't have air conditioning.)

I was not, however, prepared for temperatures to reach 105°F -- and neither was the rest of the city. Friday -- the last working day before Labor Day -- was hot, in the high nineties. I spend my working days inside a climate-controlled office (with the added bonus that I'm not in a hot or cold zone), and it a shock to walk out of my office at 18:00 and be hit with a wave of heat as I opened the door to the sidewalk. The air was infused with the faint oder of campfire from wildfires burning elsewhere in the state, giving the sky an unnatural yellow tint.

Saturday was even warmer. Kiesa and I got a babysitter so we could see a movie in the middle of the afternoon, but by the time we got to the theater in downtown San Francisco the showing was sold out. We got boba milk tea in an air-conditioned mall food court, then took a sweltering MUNI train west to its terminus at Ocean Beach. It appeared that everyone else in San Francisco had the same idea -- the beach was packed with people enjoying the sun -- and the escape from the heat.

Ocean Beach during a heat wave
Ocean Beach during a heat wave

As I hoped, a light breeze from the water kept the air cooler than the rest of the city. Kiesa convinced me to take off my shoes and wade in the water. (She was wearing sandals, which were better adapted to the conditions.) The water was brisk, to the point of being bracing, but it was a nice break from the sweltering city.

Jaeger's feet in the Pacific Ocean
Jaeger's feet in the Pacific Ocean

We walked to down Ocean Beach to the end of the L-Taraval line, then caught MUNI back home, with a transfer to K-Ingleside at West Portal. (Most of the other MUNI light rail lines are named after the streets they run down, so I'm inclined to suggest this line should be named K-Ocean Ave.)

Sunday was cooler -- back down to 85°F, which felt like a major improvement. Monday -- Labor Day -- was downright (seasonable) cold (well, colder), at 75°F.

(I was not at all impressed when, a couple of weeks later, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management abused the broadcast warning system built into mobile phone networks to send a dire warning of temperatures getting back up to 85°F -- and encouraging us to check on our neighbors to check whether they were drinking water in the epic heat wave. (I want to call it "ETWS", for Earthquake and Tsunami Warning System, though I think it's technically slightly different.))

Art

I spent my European vacation ignoring art museums in the cities I visited because they would be inaccessible to my children -- but also to the extent that it also honored the Ian Visits rule -- don't visit museums in cities you visit that you could visit in your own city. The unstated corollary, though, is that I should visit art museums in my own city, especially since San Francisco has a collection of first-rate art museums. (It also turns out that many of these museums offer free or reduced-price admission to me because I work for Google.)

Birthday cake in the microkitchen
Birthday cake in the microkitchen

I turned 37 on September 7. To celebrate my birthday, Kiesa and I went to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. The building itself is a work of art -- the original building was damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and was rebuilt in a striking copper-clad triangle with an angular observation tower overlooking the park and the western part of the city. (I spotted the observation tower while visiting San Francisco in 2005.) We spent most of our time in the American art collection, arranged chronologically starting with the colonial era. The collection spent a fair amount of wall space on late-nineteenth-century landscape romanticism (reacting to the industrialization of American life and the closing of the west as a frontier), then dove headlong into impressionism and surrealism.

de Young Museum sculpture garden
de Young Museum sculpture garden

We walked around the sculpture garden, under the overhanging awning of building's shell, then left the museum to walk through the Music Concourse immediately in front of the museum, the only remains of one of the major exhibitions at the beginning of the last century. We caught a bus to the Mission and ate at a vegan restaurant featuring Vietnamese food. I ate a rice dish served in a clay pot that was quite good.

Clay pot dinner
Clay pot dinner

Urban hikes

The next weekend Kiesa took the family on an urban hike in San Francisco. We took BART to Embarcadero Station, then caught the MUNI streetcar to Levi Plaza, and hiked up the stairs to Coit Tower and down the other side into North Beach, then back up another hill, skirting the edge of Chinatown, into Russian Hill. I stopped to take the picture of twenty-something couple when the woman suggested that they could do better than a selfie since they'd just gotten engaged. The route meandered at random up and down the hills with a knack for finding the most interesting route. We walked up a tree-lined dead-end alley with icons of the Buddha embedded into the walls. (One of the trees was a fig tree with ripe fruit out of reach; another was an avocado, which was probably the first time any of us had seen an avocado on a tree.)

We walked down Lombard Street, joining the gawking tourists, while simultaneously thinking ourselves better than them as locals and enjoying the same spectacle they were enjoying. Then we left the crowds behind on a tiny alley squeezed in the middle of a block. There we saw a solo walker coming in the opposite direction clutching a book that looked a lot like the book I was following. (Halfway through the hike I realized that the arrows indicating direction on the map disagreed with the text -- the text recommended following the loop in the opposite direction, though it wasn't obvious why one direction would be preferred over another.)

Joe DiMaggio playground and pool sign
Joe DiMaggio playground and pool sign

We dropped by the North Beach Library, then ate lunch at a cafe around the corner, and returned to Joe DiMaggio park. (I wasn't sure where he had gone, as our nation turns its lonely eyes to him, but I did at least find his playground -- around the corner from the church where he and Marilyn Monroe took their wedding photos.)

The route took us back up to Coit Tower before dropping us down another set of stairs to end right where we began -- right in front of the MUNI streetcar line to take us home.

Ann Leckie at Borderlands
Ann Leckie at Borderlands

Ann Leckie

Our last outing in September was a trip to Borderlands to see Ann Leckie promote her new book Provenance. (I was on call, and the coverage at the back of Borderlands was a bit dodgy, but I didn't get paged, despite checking my phone constantly to make sure I hadn't missed anything.) I was happy to see Ann Leckie, listen to her answer interesting questions, and get my copy of her Hugo Award-winning debut novel Ancillary Justice signed, as well as Ancillary Sword and her new book.

Fog covering Ingleside before dawn
Fog covering Ingleside before dawn
Power to the insanity -- it's the only thing that keeps us sane.
- Jaeger, 26 March 2000