Sunday, April 29, 2012

SF, CA - Gold Rush SF

Yesterday, at the Fire Department Museum, we learned about an excellent way to get to know San Francisco, and we only have 1 day to use this. It is called City Guides and it is a series of walks throughout the city comprising history, education, hikes up hills, through wine country, etc. They have a plethora of walks. Gary and I looked at the brochure and found quite a few that we through we’d like to take but - we have only one day left in SF to take them. Oops. Why couldn’t we have learned about these much earlier? Now, we have to pick one for the only day we have left and it is - San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

We were supposed to meet downtown at the Transamerica building, you know, the one with the pointy top, at 2:00 and we’d get a tour of how the Gold Rush shaped that area of San Francisco. The most telling statistic about SF during the Gold Rush of 1849 was SF was a sleepy town of 300 in 1848 but a bustling city of 25,000 by 1849. And, 73 percent of the citizenry was between the ages of 20 and 40, with 92 percent male. Whoo-eee. Great odds. But there were a few enterprising women as well.

Lots of new businesses popped up: Ghirardelli chocolates, Levi Strauss jeans, Wells Fargo bank to name some better known ones. Here are two pictures which show you the changes in the landscape. The first is obviously before the gold rush and the second is several years after it.

Life was also exceedingly dangerous. There were an abundance of causes of death: accidents, disease, fire, malnutrition and violence led to an exceedingly high mortality rate. One estimate is that one in every five miners who came to California in 1849 was dead within six months, a rate so high that insurance companies refused to write new policies for people coming to the gold fields. In autumn of 1855, a ship bearing refugees from an ongoing Far East cholera epidemic docked in San Francisco. And, the inevitable cholera epidemic broke out in SF.
“It is an everyday occurrence,” wrote a Nevada City miner in 1851, “to see a coffin carried on the shoulders of two men, who are the only mourners and only witnesses to the burial of some stranger whose name they do not know.”

But the lure of gold enticed people to emigrate here, no matter the problems. A miner’s $8.00 a day out here certainly beat the coal miner making $1.00 a day out East. BUT, and here’s the rub, the prices were just as astronomical. Inflation was the norm for wages but also for goods. A loaf of bread that sold for 4 cents in New York sold for 75 cents in the mines. An 1849 report from Sacramento said eggs were $1 to $3 apiece; apples $1 to $5; coffee $5 a pound; a butcher knife $30, and boots $100 a pair. $100 for a pair of boots doesn’t sound too bad - but these were 1849 prices.

H. A. Harrison, in a letter to the “Baltimore Clipper,” dated San Francisco, February 3, 1849, gives the following price-list: 
                        Beef, per quarter ………. $20.00 
                        Fresh Pork, per pound ………. .25 
                        Butter, per pound ………. 1.00 
                        Cheese, per pound ………. 1.00 
                        Ham, per pound ………. 1.00 
                        Flour, per barrel ………. 18.00 
                        Pork, per barrel ………. $35 to 40.00 
                        Coffee, per pound ………. .16 
                        Rice, per pound ………. .10 
                        Teas, per pound ………. .60 cents to 1.00 
                        Board, per week ………. 12.00 
                        Mining Cradles ………. $20 to 60.00 
                        Mining Pans ………. $4 to 8.00

There were 3 ways to get to SF:

        overland across the US but this was long and often dangerous,

        down to Panama by ship, across the jungle and then onto another ship up to SF but this was disease ridden and also dangerous

        around South America where the violent storms made that journey more than dangerous.

None of these routes was safe nor easy but thousands heeded the cry of gold and, because their lot is life wasn’t the best anyway, thought they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. On to California. And, when they got here, many took off just as fast for the gold fields. Many others stayed to supply those who were taking off for the gold mines: Levi Strauss and the founders of Boudin Bakery come to mind. Many ships were abandoned and sunk in the harbor since the crew had left. Then, when the harbor was filled in to make the land larger to hold the people crowding into SF, these ships were covered and are now part of the ‘bedrock’ under most of the financial center. In fact, one street is named ‘Balance’ Street since the ship Balance is directly under it. It’s actually on one of the maps I put in the blog on April 6.
San Francisco itself was a wide open city with 3 major pastimes: prostitution, gambling and drinking. It was said at one point that there were 1 fire and 2 murders every day along with the 30 homes that were built.

As we toured the buildings and streets in what is the financial area and the older area, we learned a lot about the history of SF and how they are still trying to preserve much of it. Here’s a new building build around and over an older building.
However, in most cases, newer buildings have replaced older ones and we saw plaques instead of the older buildings.
At one time in San Francisco history, a permit was given for the construction of a new building only if the building had some public space in or around it. And, they had to put a sign on the building telling everyone that where this public space was. Of course, the public space might be on the roof and the sign might be very small but some buildings did build some very nice small parks next to them. Here is one we walked past.
Meanwhile, it was a fascinating tour and I wish we had time to take more of the tours that were offered through this group.

We then went back to Chinatown which was only a few blocks away to see a few things we missed. We spent some time on Stockton Street which is the real ‘Chinatown’ where the Chinese Americans shop as opposed to Grant Street which is the tourist street. There is a real difference in goods sold on each street. You can’t find a single San Francisco t-shirt on Stockton Street and no stores carrying 56 kinds of ginseng on Grant Street. Stroll down Stockton Street if you ever get to San Francisco.
Here’s a true San Francisco sight: trolley wires strung across the intersections.
Almost our last day in SF and we’ve filled it full. Time to relax - oh, no, we need to get ready to rock and roll on the first.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SF, CA - Emporer Norton

Today is an RV day and we worked on projects and whatever else needed being done. We did take a walk in the afternoon and wanted to see where the hang-gliders take off from that we see winging past the campground here. Not too hard to find, just walk up the hill and over the cliff to their ‘airport.’ It was after 4:00 and the wind was up so there were quite a few of them.
If you have any contact with San Francisco, you’ve heard of Emporer Norton. Yep, for a short time in mid 1800’s, San Francisco actually had an emporer. Well, actually, the whole US had an emporer since he called himself the Emporer of these United States.’


He originated from South Africa where he arrived with an inheritance of $40,000, a considerable sum in the mid-1800’s. He then invested in real estate and soon amassed a fortune of $250,000. His next plan was to corner the market in rice when he heard that China was facing a famine and had placed a ban on rice export. Thus the price of rice skyrocketed in SF from 4 cents to 36 cents per pound and dollar signs lit up his eyes. He bought a boatload of rice, thinking he had cornered the market, just in time to see two more boatloads arrive from Peru. Oops. He tried to get out of his contract to buy the first boatload but the courts would not let him. He was forced to declare bankruptcy and left SF in 1858.

He returned in 1859 with lots of new ideas, especially against the government of the US. He declared himself the ‘Emporer of these United States’ and began to issue proclamations and decrees. He abolished the government of the US citing that:

        ‘        ...fraud and corruption prevent a fair and proper expression of the public voice; that open violation of the laws are constantly occurring, caused by mobs, parties, factions and undue influence of political sects; that the citizen has not that protection of person and property which he is entitled.’

He issued money and used it to pay his debts (worthless then but pretty valuable now). He developed a uniform with epaulettes and braid. Sounds kind of quirky, right? Was he crazy? Or, was he crazy like a fox? He issued instructions to form a League of Nations and he saw the need to build a bridge between Oakland and San Francisco ideas which eventually came to fruition. He was feted at restaurants in the area, he had box seats at openings of plays and musicals and merchants accepted his money as payment for goods. The city of San Francisco, bemused and entertained by him, tolerated his antics and valued the interest he added to the city.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s daughter summed up his position in SF the best in her autobiography, This Life I've Loved. She said that Norton "was a gentle and kindly man, and fortunately found himself in the friendliest and most sentimental city in the world, the idea being 'let him be emperor if he wants to.' San Francisco played the game with him."

Here is a plaque at the Transbay Terminal commemorating Norton I's role in the history of the Bay Bridge.

SF, CA - Ships and Fire Engines

Down to the Sea in Ships

Today we’re finishing up the tour of the SF Maritime Museum on April 6. On that day we explored several parts of the museum but ran out of time and didn’t get around to exploring the several ships they also have. We parked again in our favorite garage and walked down the waterfront from Pier 33, near the parking garage, to Pier 45, where the ships are. They have a whole slew of boats and ships but some are still being refurbished and redone. There are 6 ready for touring and we we headed for the largest, a square rigged sailing ship, the Balclutha.

We actually came on what the National Parks had designated as a free weekend. We’ve heard of theses but have never been around a National Park to take advantage of this. Well, today we are but, we appreciate the National Parks so much, derive such enjoyment from them and know of their financial struggles that we donated an equal amount to what we would have paid. We’re afraid that budget cutters in Congress will see the National Parks as so much fluff that they will cut them to the nubbins and begin to close some of them. They may not add much to our bottom line as a nation but they add to our top line, to our way of life, our pride and to our sense of well being

But, back to the Balclutha. She has had 3 names in her history: Balclutha, Star of Alaska and Pacific Queen and has actually appeared in a movie. She actually was built in 1886 in Glasgow in Scotland. She was built to be a general trader though the major cargo that she carried was American grain to England in exchange for fancy goods such as Scotch whiskey, cutlery, etc. Interestingly, it was cheaper to ship the grain around South America than transport it across the US by train. On the other hand, grain was a treacherous cargo to carry since it could shift dangerously whenever the ship tilted and could absorb water should leakage occur in the grain hold. Thus it had to be stored very carefully so it would not shift and in water tight bags so it would not get wet.
Then she was sold in 1899 and bought to carry lumber from north west America to Australia for the mines. She carried a total of 1.5 million board feet for the Broken Hill Mine at Port Pirie, Australia.
Finally she was bought by the Alaska Packers' Association for $500. She was renamed the Star of Alaska and carried supplies and fishermen up to Alaska for the salmon season and brought the prepared salmon back to America.

She’s lived an extremely busy life and has traveled all over the globe, and, as one of the few square riggers left, she is now serving as a museum. In her life she has also been a film star, having appeared in the film Mutiny on the Bounty starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton. She then eked out an existence as an exhibition ship, gradually deteriorating. Ouch.

Luckily, in 1954, she was acquired by the San Francisco Maritime Museum, which restored her and renamed her back to Balclutha. The NPS has done a very good job of using the Balclutha as a museum. They are restoring it (with volunteers) to its original glory. Much has been done but there is still much to be done. We could go throughout the ship and see the various sections; There were 3 separate areas in the hold along with 3 separate films about her life as a grain hauler, lumber hauler and in the salmon trade and there were examples of each of its cargoes. A great insight into trade during the 19th and 20th centuries.

We also learned about life aboard a trading ship - not always pleasant. As we looked up into the rigging of the ship, we tried to imagine climbing the rigging barefoot in a gale with gusts of wind blowing the ship around, water washing over the decks and loose rigging whipping around. And, of course, it is in the worst of gales that you need to go up into the rigging. Here’s a storm almost swamping the ship.
Food: none too good. Bunks: none too comfy. Punishment: sure enough - beatings for tipping a bucket of tar. We learned that British ships were known as ‘hungry’ ships and, while the American ships fed their crews better, they were infamous for the brutality of their officers. Being a sailor was not an occupation chosen by many and often officers had to fill their crews with men who were ‘shanghaied’ at night when they were drunk and leaving seaport bars late. Many then work up the next morning far out at sea and a sailor for the duration of the passage.

Here is the bunk area of the Balclutha, right in the prow of the ship. Notice the holes where the anchor chains leave the ship and try to imagine sleeping here. One sailor told of not tying his stuff tightly down in his bunk and, when the seas got nasty, the water rolled in through these holes and swept his stuff out the door, onto the deck and out to sea. In the picture below you can see the bunks, one above the other in rows in the bow of the ship.
The second ship we saw was the Eureka, a double-ended passenger and car ferry built in 1895 and used in the San Francisco area, running until 1957 when its usefulness faded as more bridges were built. Double-ended with interchangeable bows and sterns so it would not have to turn around as it shuttled between terminals. Here’s my favorite picture of the day: showing Rte 101 ending at the ferry terminal.
Yes, if you wanted to continue your trip via Rte 101 and head north, you had to drive aboard this ferry and take it across the Golden Gate, before the bridge was build. Many also took the ferry everyday into work before the bridges were built over the Golden Gate and over the bay.
The Eureka was extremely fast since she was built like a racing yacht underneath. Looks like she’d tip, doesn’t it?
We scanned the other ships there but wanted to get on to the SF Fire Department Museum. Interestingly, there is no SF History Museum. You can get Maritime history at the SF Maritime Museum, you can get fire department history at the Fire Department Museum, you can get Chinese in SF history in Chinatown but there is no one place where you can get SF History all in one place. You’ve got to piece it together from other museums. You’d think that SF history is so rich that there would be a historical society chomping at the bit getting a museum in order.

The Fire Department Museum was a very nice museum and they had taken great care in putting it together. We were told that a college student majoring in Museum Studies and planning to be a curator put lots of it together and wrote most of it up. There were fire trucks galore (we learned that red paint cost more than others because it had more pigments. Thus fire departments took that color since it would stand out.) The early fire trucks were pulled by the firemen (see the picture below) and, when horses began to be used, they could get to more fires faster. Steam engines were even better.

Obviously, the early engines were pulled by horses. When the fire bell rang, the latches on the stalls automatically released and the horses would spring into action and assume their assigned place in front of the fire engine.

A device in the ceiling that held their harnesses, bridles and bits would lower from the ceiling and place the gear over the horses’ heads. A firemen would quickly buckle all into place, the device retracted and they were off. Pretty slick. The horses were an integral part of the team and quickly learned to position themselves as needed and calmly follow instructions when all about them was chaos and the fire roared.

Here’s a bed key? Huh, a bed key? It seems that firemen not only fought the fire but also sometimes salvaged what they could from the burning home. Since the most important item many families owned was the bed, they had these keys so that they could disassemble the beds as quickly as possible.
Here’s an early fire engine with the hose nozzle pointing straight up. Obviously, they couldn’t get to many fires that way. The great invention was flexible, rollable fire hoses. Now they could get more hose to the fire, shoot the water in many more directions and get it much higher. Hoses can even be carried up ladders. Wow, who would have thought that flexible rollable hoses weren’t used in the beginning?

Did you know there was a special tool for twisting off the caps of fire hydrants? Well, duh. Of course. Yeah, but I had never thought of it. Most of the museum was dedicated to all of the separate fire houses in the city with scores of pictures of the men and their firehouse. There was some information about the earthquake in 1906 and the fire that spread after it. Here are some maps showing how the fire spread throughout the city in the three days after the quake. Note in the 4th picture that the fire stopped on on a corner. This is where the gold fire hydrant was.
And here are some pennies that fused together in the heat of the fire.
On our way home, we decided to hit Twin Peaks, one of the highest points in San Francisco. And - you can drive up - whew. We circled around the peaks and found a place to park, amidst all the other tourists who had chosen today to get their views of SF.
And, then finally home.

SF, CA - The Billionaire's Row (pun intended)

When you reach the middle of Lyon steps, you are on a wide street nicknamed Billionaires Row. Beautiful homes, however, there are stories behind those facades. It seems as if even billionaires have trouble with their neighbors.

Here’s a story by Henry Blodget from May 29, 2011:

Larry Ellison has a house in Pacific Heights in San Francisco that he bought in 1988 for $3.9 million. It’s a huge house--10,000+ square feet--with sweeping views of the Bay.

At least it used to have sweeping views of the Bay.

Until some redwoods in the back yard of a neighbor’s house grew so tall that they started blocking the view.

The neighbor’s house in question, Jim Carlton of the Wall Street Journal reports, was bought by Bernard and Jane Von Bothmer in 2004, for $6.9 million.

Larry Ellison’s lawyers said he had a agreement with the prior owner that the owner would keep the trees trimmed. The prior owner denies this.

Larry Ellison has since offered to buy the Von Bothmer’s house for $15 million. They’ve turned him down.

The Von Bothmers have several times found limbs from their trees on the ground in their yard, after being unceremoniously sawed-off. Once, Mrs. Bothmer caught three lumberjacks in one of her trees preparing to “top it.” Larry Ellison denied telling the lumberjacks to do that and said he would have fired them if he had known.

And now Larry Ellison has hired an attorney who specializes in neighbor’s-trees-blocking-your-view litigation and sued the Von Bothmers to force them to cut down the trees. In connection with this litigation, he has already submitted a 207-page deposition, in which he revealed that, when a neighbor complained about redwoods on his property in the Valley blocking her view, he chopped them down.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Von Bothmer is attempting to have one of the trees that Larry wants whacked, an acacia, declared a “Landmark Tree” by the city of San Francisco.

Stay tuned
And, the beat goes on….

Here’s a follow-up story by Philip Ferrato from Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The latest twist in our tale of Mother Nature and the distress she causes among mere mortals: Curbed SF intel says Oracle CEO Larry Ellison will buy the home of late socialite/fashionista/philanthropist Dodie Rosekrans at 2840 Broadway- immediately next door to his- for $40,000,000. The Rosekrans' extravagant Willis Polk-designed house, built in 1916, has twenty-two rooms and lacks a garage, but it does have unobstructable views of the bay. And the billionaire's multi-year battle with his downhill neighbors/millionaires Jane and Bernard von Bothmer may be finally coming to a close. Apparently settled yesterday morning, with lawyers beavering away over the holiday weekend, the case is a log-book of Dickensian wrangling over an eighty-year-old acacia and some overly-enthusiastic redwoods and just how many feet of wood would get trimmed from their tops. Meanwhile, there's been an attempt to landmark the acacia, plus during a recent deposition, Jane von Bothmer produced photos of Ellison's employees illicitly strapped into her trees, ready to trim.

This past week, Ellison defended himself in the Wall Street Journal via his tree lawyer, and back in 2007, the von Bothmers turned down two offers from Ellison to buy their property. Having paid $6,900,000 for their house in 2004, renovating it and the garden extensively, the barnacle-like von Bothmers refused to be scraped away, but they have now agreed to maintain the redwoods at a height within two feet of the elevation of the yachtsman's second floor.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

SF, CA - Walt and the Lyon Steps

Today we visited a museum which we would ordinarily skip given its name but we stopped in several weeks ago to use the bathroom and did some exploring. We decided that this musuem is definitely not a museum for kids but a very sophisticated museum devoted to Walt Didney, his life and Of course, Gary and I grew up with Walt Disney: we watched the Mickey Mouse Club with Jimmy, Sharon, Cubby, Annette, Bobby and others.
We put on our mouse ears,
and sang the song,

Who's the leader of the club
That's made for you and me
Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there
You're as welcome as can be

Mickey Mouse!

Mickey Mouse!

Forever let us hold our banner

High! High! High! High!

Come along and sing a song
And join the jamboree!

How many of you still have your mouse ears? Mine were consigned to the trash heap long ago but I still see them in antique stores.

It was only on for 4 years, from 1955 to 1959, but, my, I probably watched every episode. I watched Spin and Marty, The Hardy Boys, Zorro and all the other series they had. Then they went off the air, I had grown and American Bandstand took its place in the after school hour.

However, back to the gist of the museum, the genius and life of Walt Disney. I couldn’t take any pictures in the museum but I’ll just tell you it was fascinating and I recommend that you visit when you’re in San Francisco. It has hundreds of original drawings, historical artifacts, pictures, films of people who worked for him, several hands on exhibits (one where you got to add the percussion to a cartoon following the bouncing ball, and one where you got to choose the appropriate music for a cartoon with explanation about why it is appropriate) a movie running the whole time, and much more. In fact, it is 10 large galleries full of items used to tell the Disney story.

In the end I had a much greater appreciation of Disney and his genius. He was not only an animator but he was an innovator, TV star, manager of a huge operation and developer. He was both the creative genius behind the operation and the manager of the operation.

He began in the 20’s with some simple shorts films using a young girl named Alice in a cartoon background. Pretty simple and then he began to develope it all.

First he added music with a small group of short animated films he called the Silly Symphonies. Even Gary and I, growing up in the 60’s remember these films. We both remember the Dance of the Skeletons and how one skeleton uses another to make a xylophone. They were still showing the 1930’s Silly Symphonies in the 1960’s and we still enjoyed them.
Throughout the 30’s he and his animators did short cartoons but he wanted to go someplace else: he wanted to do feature films. And, in 1939, he bet it all on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs even though everyone told him not to. He also added character to his animation, another innovation. When he got done he had a classic which is watched and loved by new generations every day. Each of the 7 dwarfs has his own character with name to match. Interestingly, Snow White had several animators and the Snow White in the end looks younger than the Snow White in the beginning. Oops.
During the next five years, Walt Disney Studios completed other full-length animated classics such as Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.

He also added music to his animations. Snow White had a score but probably his most famous use of music with animation is in Fantasia. The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski. Here the animation supplements the music rather than the music supplementing the animation.

Disney also added color to his animations using a new technique called Technicolor. He then negotiated an exclusive contract for the use of this and held this until 1935, meaning that other animation companies could not use this process. What a head start he had.

Note all of the innovations he has added to what used to be called cartoons:

        Feature length films

But he wasn’t done yet. He still had more innovation ahead. In the 1950’s he moved into TV and filmed all of his programs in color even though TV’s at the time only were black and white. He had seen how color took over movies and knew it was coming in TV also. When it did come, his shows, which had been filmed in color, looked so much more realistic than those filmed in black and white with color painted in.

He also invented the multi-plane camera which used up to 6 different screens all at once, each moving independently. Here’s a picture of a multi-plane camera with 5 planes.
And here is a drawing with an explanation of how the camera works with 4 planes:

        sun, sky and clouds in one plane
        green hills and house in the second
        fence in the third
        tree in the fourth
With this camera, they could zoom in and zoom out and it looks as if you are moving into or out of the scene. It made animations take on the depth of real movies. The cameraman could move the camera on top and it would give a realistic motion to what would otherwise be a static scene.

Pretty cool, huh?

But not all was smooth sailing for Disney. He met and faced down many troubles in his life. He went bankrupt several times, had one of his businesses somewhat taken out from under him, had financial troubles coming out of WWII and faced an animators’ strike in the 1950’s. After the great success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he and his brother, Roy bought their parents, Elias and Flora Disney, a home close to the studios. Less than a month later Flora died of asphyxiation caused by a faulty furnace in the new home. It is said that he never forgave himself.

The museum presented not only his work but also his family, which was as important to him as his work. Throughout the museum were pictures of his family as it grew.

He loved to collect miniatures and had quite a collection of very realistic ones. Out of this grew his idea for Disneyland.

In early 1966 he planned to have an operation on his hip and went into the hospital for a routine pre-op lung exam prior to the operation. A walnut sized spot was found on one lung and he died in October of that same year. And, the final room in the museum was a wall of editorial cartoons expressing disbelief and sadness at his death.

Did we enjoy this museum? Absolutely. Of course, Gary and I grew up with Disney and relived many old memories as we walked through all the various rooms. It’s not just a museum but a thoughtful explanation of all that Disney accomplished in his lifetime and the legacy that he left ot all of us.

However, our day is not done. Also on the Presidio grounds where the Disney Museum is are two homes that were hurriedly put together in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire for all of the homeless in San Francisco. The first picture is in 1906 but the second picture is of the 2 that still exist on the Presidio grounds.

One other spot on out list is the Lyon steps, which we have read are pretty cool. They are a 2-block long series of steps with a beautiful garden in the middlle and surrounded by bushes and trees. Oof-da.

We left out car where it was, put in another $3.00 for 3 hours and took off through the Presidio where the museum is, eastward to the Lyon steps are on the border between the Presidio and Pacific Heights, one of the neighborhoods of SF. After the earthquake and fire of 1906, when Nob Hill, where the elite lived in pre-earthquake times, was destroyed, the elite moved to Pacific Heights, further out of rhe city. Here’s part of the first flight of this 2 block stairway. After two more flights like this is a street called Billionaires row with a beautiful flower garden with one of the hearts from the Hearts In San Francisco project.
We found that we might be the only walkers on these steps since most of the others were in running togs and were going faster than we were. We did overhear one young woman is black tights remark to the other young woman in black tights, “This sucks.’ And, then why are you doing it? But we plodded on. At the top of the first block, we took a moment to admire the garden with its SF heart. (Actually, we were huffing and puffing but the photo op covered this.)
And, beyond the garden, you can see more of the stairway. At the top of the second block, we noticed several dogs patiently waiting for their masters. No fools, they. We could hear them saying:

        ‘Let my master beat her/his brains out on those steps, I’m going to relax here.’

We stopped for a chance to view the harbor, turned left and walked a block to Baker Street where there was a 2-block set of steps down the hill. Wheee.
Streets_Stairways_Driveways-2-2012-04-27-21-24.jpg Streets_Stairways_Driveways-6-2012-04-27-21-24.jpg
At the bottom, we turned right, walked a block to Broderick Street where there was a third 2-block set of steps up the same hill we had just oof-daed up and wheeed down. And, look, what we found: look at this driveway. Beautiful view of the bay, curvy driveway and a Smart Car at the bottom near the garage (that black thing in the center left of the picture). Those cars must be stronger than I thought. Wowsa, wowsa.
We walked around the area a bit more, finding some other stairs and a beautiful park and then headed back to the Presidio where we had left the car. We found some lovely large roses
and some magnificent mansions on Billionaires’ Row. Note the RV in front of the first home. There are lots of people living in RV’s on the streets of SF and they can park anywhere they can fit in, even on Billionaires’ Row.


For more on the stories of Billionaires’ Row, please read the next blog about Larry Ellison of Oracle fame. Not all is a bed of roses on Billionaires’ Row.

Finally we headed back to the Presidio where our car was parked and found this old beautifully decorated cannon. It was in bronze in France in 1754 and used by the Spanish. It was captured by the Americans during the Spanish American War at the turn of the century.


And, now, we’ve paid our homage to Disney and we’ve walked the steps, it’s time to go home.

5.2 1678’

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

SF, CA - Misc

Sometimes, I have neat pictures that don’t seem to fit in anywhere. Here are a few.

We’ve made a goal of climbing lots of the stairways scattered throughout the SF area, and there are a lot. Sometimes, though, they are not so much stairways as paths. Here is a public path which goes down a few railroad timbers with beautiful gardens on either side,
onto a grassy area that looks like someone’s lawn
and around a corner to this pretty obscure path through long grass. It looks as if it might be part of someone’s yard but there are signs on it to indicate that it is a public path. Unusual and really neat to find.
On Sunday, when the main street through Golden Gate Park is closed to cars, it is the perfect oppoptunity to learn how to ride a bike and here’s a father with his son. Do you think the son wants to be here?
I’ve mentioned that many of the hills here are quite steep but somehow my pictures don’t really show this. Here are two pictures that I took to try to show how steep some of these streets are. First is the street as it really is, with the homes on the level and the cars on the hill. I think that you can see the steepness better in the second picture where I’ve made the cars on the level and the homes show the angles. This hill is somewhat steep but by no means the steepest we’ve found. It was just handy when I was thinking of this angle. And, by the way, Janis Jolplin lived in the home in the middle when she lived in the Haight Ashbury section of SF. (And note the slope must be going into the garage of each of these homes.)

For this next picture, you’ve got to know that every corner is a 4-way stop except for the main streets. Now, here’s a picture of a car cresting a particularly steep hill and stopping at the top as is the law. Come on, how in the world can this driver possibly see what is in the street in front of the car over the crest?
Gary went to Google on his phone to look at a satellite view of how the cliffs are eroding along the coastline here in Pacifica. Then, by chance, he did the same thing on his laptop and noticed that the pictures were different. On the laptop, the pictures were older and showed more coastline around the homes. On the phone, the pictures were newer and showed how much of the land had eroded. We thought the difference striking. Notice in the older picture on the left that there is some cliff with green grass on between the street and the beach. In the newer picture on the right, the cliff has fallen and the city has made a path to the beach with switchbacks in it where the grass used to be..
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Here are two more pictures, showing some apartment homes which used to a have a great view of the Pacific. Today, they have a much closer view than they had planned. Compare the green space around the older left-hand hand picture one with the newer right-hand one. Note that in the newer picture the sand cliff is right on the edge of the apartment homes. AND, there are still people living in these. There are a few apartments which have a condemned note on the front door but not many. And, it seems to me that if one apartment in a building falls down the cliff, probably others will fall down with it.
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Here is the sign on the door of the one apartment which is condemned. It might say ‘this building’ but it lists only one unit, # 36. And, note the date, 12/17/09. And people are still living here and the slope continues to degrade.

4.3 390’