Everyone writes about the hills of San Francisco, sure, but what about those tunnels? I’ve realized the magic of a few of them:
A great way of getting from Polk/Van Ness to Chinatown/North Beach. It runs directly under Russian Hill, well, in between the little trough between Russian Hill and Nob Hill. Known by cabbies citywide, but by local drivers, maybe, not so much. It’s all about the approach, which I’m sure a lot of fleet week pilots are into! My favored method is going up Powell which gives you a nice right turn into Broadway. You’re not in the mess of Chinatown at that part of Powell, so it’s OK. The pedestrians on Columbus can be tricky. They wear black (black leather being the outfit du jour for all North Beach dwellers.) They have that uppity pedestrian rights feeling where they feel they can walk in the crosswalk any damn time they please. OK, I actually agree with them, but it does make taking that right onto Powell tricky. Last night was rough because it was Fleet Week, the neighborhood was packed, and folks were walking around in their black clothes. Except for the sailors. Anyways.
This is a great way to go between Union Square to Chinatown. I’ve actually walked this tunnel more than driven through it. It’s tough to get on, unless you take Kearny to Sutter then a right into the tunnel, otherwise I can’t imagine how to get into it. The reality is that I’m never interested in driving through Chinatown on Stockton. It’s the center of all the open air markets. But I have to put it down here, because if you aren’t interested in going to Tunnel Top bar atop the entrance of Stockton Tunnel, going to tea at the Ritz, or visiting your skater/tenement style friend’s house at Bush & Mason, there’s really no point to climbing Nob Hill, so you best just walk through the tunnel. Sure, smells like urine and has absolutely no window shopping, but it’s a quick and dirty way through the hill. You will also encounter a lot of other people who made the same decision you did, which makes it, in my mind, probably a good idea.
Went to two friends’ houses on Cathedral Hill. A friend’s kid called the Catholic church there the “great washing machine,” and that is just so apt and great. It looks like that. Sure, from a bird’s eye view it’s a cross, but guess what architects, from the street it looks like a washing machine. It’s also very un-pedestrian friendly. Being Catholic, I wish and hope upon hope that Grace Cathedral was Catholic, because that is a truly fine church on top of Nob Hill, whereas I can’t conjure up much joy from the washing machine. Also, learned recently that a location in Vertigo, where Carlotta lived in the 1800s, was wiped out for the construction of the GWM (great washing machine).
Other noteworthy things about cat-hill, the view is interesting, looking down South of Market, Potrero Hill, and Bernal Heights. If you live there you’re really close to Gough & Franklin artery roads, as well as Pine/Bush. The local cuisine is amazing– a kind of cheap Afghani, Pakistani, Thai, and Vietnamese ( and other middle eastern restaurants) are all over the place. Have to give a shout out to KABABISTAN. I mean, what is a better name for a restaurant. Not in SF citysearch, weird. It’s on Jones between Offarell and Ellis, I believe. New.
Saw the Blue Angels, bi-planes, and a four propeller bomber looking thing from my roof yesterday. It was mesmerizing. They kept playing “chicken”, flying at top speed towards each other. Then, faking engine kills at high altitudes. Have any of them heard of “cry wolf”? Geez. We were cracking up about a container ship going by. Couldn’t they have waited a day or so? Imagining the conversation on board. “We must get these paper plates to China, goddamnit!” “We’ll just skirt around the Marina and no one will notice us”. Maybe you had to be there.
Neat thing about fleet week is that everyone in my neighborhood was on their roof. I actually looked up Russian Hill at my friend’s apartment and saw him on the roof. We’re like a Where’s Waldo puzzle: tons of little roofs, tons of little people on their roofs.
There’s an element of the military show-off to fleet week. I’m just glad we’re not actually engaged in anything where there’s jets flying over my house for military reasons besides showing off. Friend Rebecca said, while standing there, “Our tax dollars at work.” Lovely.