Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Left in San Francisco

When the crammed, cramped United Airlines flight landed Thursday evening at San Francisco International, the sky was dumping buckets, and our aquaplaning cab ride was essentially a surfer's dream. "Oh no," we groaned, during that 10-mile water-slide, "another getaway cursed by the whims of the weather gods..."

But the next morning was merely misty, and each day thereafter breezier and clearer--until by Sunday we were able to join the sun-cheered thousands spending the day at Golden Gate Park.

Friday had been our day to view the amazing Cartier exhibit at the Legion of Honor Museum, displaying over a hundred years of bejeweled, over-the-top tiaras and diadems; baubles, gold bangles, and sapphire beads. The exhibit was, sensibly, mostly aimed at a female audience. Sandra was happy to stroll and marvel, but I had hoped to see more samples of the firm's Deco era work--especially since my own unusual wedding ring is based on a unique commissioned man's ring Cartier made in the late Thirties, the massive original of which I saw in Venice 25 years ago. (The photo shows my smaller, less pricy, adapted version of Cartier's 24-carat gold, platinum-spike Machine Age marvel--which I've not found in any books about the jeweler.)

We dined that night at John's Grill, a San Francisco landmark offering old furniture, aged steaks, and new Jazz (a strong solo guitarist whose name I failed to register), plus a big photographic emphasis on Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, which mentions the restaurant favorably.

Day Two's weather looked promising, so I postponed hitting the Book Fair, and instead we headed out to wander the edge of bustling, celebratory Chinatown and then the "Little Italy" of North Beach, as well as the far end of the cable car lines--chomping a terrific pizza for lunch, and browsing for a couple of hours at City Lights Bookstore. No sign of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, sadly, but I was able to pick up several books and brag to the disinterested clerk that I'd visited City Lights for the first time way back in the summer of 1959, when I was a teenager pretending to be Beat.

San Francisco's many hills (I overheard one guy say there are 22 of them!) looked splendid in the wind-blown, in-and-out sunshine, and riding the cable cars was great fun. We dined at Ducca, a fine Continental bistro located right in our Market Westin Hotel.

Sunday morning dawned clear blue, and I agonized for, oh, about 30 seconds before deciding I'd rather spend the day with Sandra, exploring more of the city, than hole up indoors for the final day of the Fair. (Oh well, our home already houses hundreds of collectable books, and I'm intermittently selling them off.)

So we boarded a round-the-city, two-decker tour bus that visited the painted Victorian houses prior to depositing us at the new museums and resurrected De Young buildings at Golden Gate. Rain forest displays, the new aquarium with amazing coral reef, the classic Japanese tea garden, hundreds of bicyclers and 5K runners and a limousine-styled shuttle that carried us all around the Park and all the way out to the far-West, edge-of-the-ocean beach, were the highlights that made our last day most excellently special.

We flew back to Seattle that evening well-citied and -sated. I blew off the Book Fair, you say? Well, yes; I plead tourist madness, resurgent Beatness... and marital bliss.

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