The Pacific Coast Highway took me along some of the best road of trip, and some of the strangest architecture before dropping us off in San Jose, ready to head onto San Francisco. I end up approaching San Fran from the east, having spent the night in Oakland for some reason. (That isn’t a “why am I in this public library” some reason, I think this one was less Inception, more whimsy). But here we are, in the 3rd most destroyed city in the US (by Hollywood) . Let’s see if it survives me.
I start off with breakfast in the Castro, the, er, gayest of San Fran’s gay areas. Down here, the quintessential punnery of hair and beauty salons follows a somewhat distinctive theme:
San Francisco’s developing tech hub and subsequent gentrification are currently causing the rental prices to rise – what’s a comforting way to say “wallet-crushingly”? – stratospherically? Rise a fuckton, I believe is the official economic term. A brief look at some 1 and 2 bed flats to rent points out that some of these flats – per month – cost half of my entire trip across the US. I would say I’m lowering housing values just by being here, but I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.
This charming studio is a steal at $2,500/month.
I cross the Golden Gate Bridge (which is neither golden nor a gate – I mean, why bother if you’re only going to get 1 out of 3?) to check out the city from an inexpensive distance.
I should also mention that, at this time, it’s St Patrick’s Day. So I’m roaming around the Golden Gate Park singing Raglan Road and quoting non sequitur bits from Father Ted. I’m just trying to paint the scene for you. Something else that will help capture the scene: fucking cyclists every-God-damn-where. How aren’t these bastards keeping the prices down? Sorry, sorry, sometimes I struggle to hide my feelings towards cyclists. These ones were almost sometimes obeying road regulations, which is actually more than plenty of drivers. Although on a note of concern: cyclists, have you seen the hills in this city? Do you have some sort of mental issue? I’m quite worried about you.
Anyway. Near the bridge I discover that Hollywood wasn’t inventing all those disasters, as we come under attack by a dragon:
I saunter back into the city across the bridge which, when going south, is a toll bridge. Since I’ve been there, they’ve replaced the remaining people in the toll booths so it’s now entirely electronic. I’m not entirely sure how that works with rental cars, but I presume if I were there now I’d just have to smash through it like I was playing GTA. As evening falls, I grab sushi and, with considerable hesitation, think to check out an Irish bar. Fortunately, that requires grabbing the ever-cool cable cars. It also requires that I get confused and try to pay the conductor too much, as he sympathetically tries to explain to a simple mind what has happened. Meanwhile, the gripman operates the cool looking (and presumably magic) levers that make the cable car go.
I have a couple of Irish bar prospects lined up. The first one has live music. When I come in they’re playing “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”. First pint’s poured. They move onto The Proclaimer’s “500 Miles”. Okay, not great, but getting Celtic-er, this could pull itself around. The next song is the Beatles. Never mind. Pint finished and it’s time to get out of here. The next place has police milling around at the exits of its alley. Good sign. As I come around the corner I realise that this Irish bar is responsible for the pulsing, throbbing sound that has been shaking the ground for the past block and a half. Incredibly loud drum ‘n’ bass. Maybe not.
The next morning we’re up bright and early to hitch a ride on a boat. If San Francisco’s Irish bars have let me down, and the mainland is far too expensive for my peasant blood, maybe there’s one place I’ll feel at home:
Working backwards through time: after the prison closed, a group of Native Americans occupied the island and some of the graffiti has been preserved, so as the boat arrives you are greeted by:
Elsewhere, it’s bad news for Bertie (who managed to escape that Weeping Angel by tricking some Chinese tourists to stand in front of it). All of his bad doings (the bombing of Cambodia, the assault & battery, the nuclear accidents and the meth dealing) have finally caught up to Bertie and he’s thrown in the slammer.
Alcatraz is a bleak, haunted place, with the ruined buildings in their various states of decay adding to the sinister, oppressive atmosphere.
But on the other hand, the gift shop’s quite nice. I bet the prisoners couldn’t wait to get their “I went to Alcatraz and I all I got was years of my life lost in a squalid box” tshirts. The gift shop had plenty of kitsch, but also some informative things, as well as replicas of various Alcatraz life items, like:
It’s a quick boat ride back to the city and lunchtime on the pier, enjoying a chowder bowl with San Francisco’s famous sour dough bread, then it’s time to head on. There’s only one thing left I need to see, and I can hear them from where I’m eating:
The sea lions moved in nearly 25 years ago and, due to rent control, can still afford to live here. If you’re having trouble working out the difference between seals and sea lions, it’s that seals have little holes for ears and sea lions have flaps. Now, if you’re also going to have trouble remembering that, Answer Me This is here to help . I’ll leave you listening to that as I head out of San Francisco and, for the first time in about four months, start heading east.