Friday, February 27, 2009

Pictures from a Bike Ride

In which we go for a pedal through the woods and over the bay

A hummingbird explores the outside of an old bunker at Battery McKinnon-Stotsenberg

Took a chance in between rain storms the other day and went on a bike-and-hike to the Marin Headlands. I pedaled up the hill along Arguello past Senator Diane Feinstein's old place and stopped in at the Presidio Golf Course Grill for a spot of lunch. (The food is superb there.) Afterward I rode up through the woods and over the hill along Washington Blvd. past some military housing that has been converted civilian apartments.

A historical photo of Battery McKinnon-Stotsenberg, courtesy the Nat'l Park Service

I looked right and noticed for the first time a row of old concrete bunkers behind a block of apartments. I rounded the corner for a closer look. This, I found out later, is Battery McKinnon-Stotsenberg, which around the turn of the century was home to the battery of enormous 12-inch mortars pictured above.

Outside the gate I noticed a sign reading "Presidio Wine Bunker." I wondered if this was a historical site -- was this where the Presidio's commanders stored wine for the Officer's Club? The gate was open so I ventured in for a look around.

You've heard of swords to ploughshares? Here we have gun barrels to wine barrels

I found a little portable kiosk inside the gate knocked on the door. A man answered and I asked about the wine bunker. He said that it is a private business started after the U.S. Army had quit the base. Wineries and individuals pay to use the bunkers as a cave. Seems like nice work, if you can get it.

A steel ring rusts away on the bunker wall

A container ship passes into the Gate past the Point Bonita lighthouse

I pedaled on over the Golden Gate and through the tunnel and down Bunker Road into the headlands. I alighted at the Marine Mammal Center and hiked up the Coast Trail on foot.

I hiked up the trail to Battery Townsley, built in 1938 in preparation for the then still-gathering storm.

The Headland cliffs looking West-by-North-West

Pebble Henge

Wandering the hills I found someone's idea of Stonehenge. The arrow points due North while the rock opposite seems to indicate South. I decided to call it "Pebble Henge."

Does dining down by the site of the new Marine Mammal Center

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Park Update

In which we keep you abreast of threats to civilization
It was a very busy day before the Parks & Rec Commission at City Hall last week. There was some very noisy and controversial business – something about the Dept. of Parks & Rec wanting privatize certain functions – that overshadowed the parking meters issue. Nevertheless we parking meter naysayers made an impressive showing. Several of us showed up in our croquet outfits – white dresses, seersucker suits, navy blazers – and made quite an impression in the room and at City Hall in general. When the parking meter issue was brought to the fore, my old friend Eileen, who previously lead the charge so that people could enjoy a glass of wine in the park without fear of arrest, spoke. Here are her remarks, taken from her notes:
Good afternoon. My name is Eileen Hoyt and I live in San Francisco.

I am here to protest the proposal for metered parking in Golden Gate Park.
The Park we know has been free to visitors. It has always been free and should remain that way. Paid parking will make certain parts of the park inaccessible to scores of low and fixed income residents. The threat of a parking ticket is too severe for many families to risk for an afternoon outing.

Please keep Golden Gate Park accessible to all.

Thank you.
(Read also the brief and, er, interestingly-written piece in the Chronicle about it.)

In the end, the Commission voted to install metering kiosks in the Eastern end of Park, in Balboa Park and at the Lincoln Park Golf Course. These kiosks are the kind that allow you to pay with a credit card or coin for a fixed number of hours of parking. That’s great, I suppose, assuming you have a credit card or enough change in your pocket at the time. But it adds yet another hassle that San Franciscans, already hassled enough, have to deal with, and in a place where they shouldn’t have to deal with it. And they are yet another aesthetic blight on our cityscape.

I should note that while there were many voices raised against metering, not a single voice was raised in favor. (I wonder where the supporters were?) It was clear that the Commission had already cut a deal prior to its unanimous vote in favor of the resolution, and that the public comment portion of the proceedings was just the usual circus.

Now to our critics
A fellow San Francisco blogger going by the name of Sam Spade – no kidding – commented my original call to arms that:
William Hammond Hall was a state engineer who designed much of Golden Gate Park. Mr. Hammond, who was born in 1846 and did [sic] in 1934. Hall did not include vehicular parking because public transportation and NOT vehicle parking was preferred by the people of San Francisco at the time. It is entirely unlikely that Hall would approve of Golden gate [sic] Park being used as a daily parking lot for out-of-town commuters.

(I love how this guy, by stating Hall’s birth and death dates, tries to set himself up as an instant expert. It’s on Wikipedia, for Pete's sake.)
So Hall included no vehicular parking? Really? Are you sure? Because, as the Museum and San Francisco notes:
The legacy of Mr. Hall can still be seen and felt in Golden Gate Park because he deliberately designed roads and pathways with curves and bends to discourage fast horse-and-buggy drivers, and to shelter visitors from the wind.
And, another writer wrote a few years after the park was opened it was:
"…traversed by promenades, bridle paths and drives, invites the pedestrian, equestrian, or driver to follow their mazy windings into the labyrinths of hedges and borders."
One wonders where these horse-and-buggy drivers were to meant alight once they had found their ideal picnicking spot.

Of course, as Mr. Spade notes, public transportation was the “preferred” way of getting to the park in the 19th century, because there were few roads good roads out to the Outside Lands, most families could not afford a carriage-and-two to drive on them, and these conveyances were besides a rather risky way of navigating the hills between downtown and the Park.

Interesting to note that road races were once held in the Park.

I also think Mr. Spade is overstating the case when he suggests that the Park is “used as a daily parking lot for out-of-town commuters.” It isn't. I live quite near the Park and luckily have the luxury of being able to bike through it on many weekdays. Monday through Friday, there are surprisingly few parked cars to be seen on John F. Kennedy Drive, except near the major attractions, and it’s all but deserted toward the West end. Think about it: Very few out-of-towners are going to park their cars in the Park and then spend another bumpy 50 minutes on the 5-Fulton just to get to their offices downtown.

The tireless Mr. Spade goes on:
It is even more ridiculouas [sic] to suggest that John McLaren, who spent a lifetime in disapproval of automobiles in general and the emerging automotive lifestyle that existed during his lifetime. McLaren was born in 1846 and died in 1943.

(Again with the birth and death dates.)
I think I understand what Mr. Spade is trying to say, despite the sentence fragment. But, for more than half of the Park’s history, automobiles have been around in San Francisco and have been used to get to the Park by families on outings. Parking meters are not the answer to urban traffic congestion. Sound public transit policy and good urban planning are, and I believe that McLaren, were he alive today, would concur. If you want families to take public transit to the Park then extend BART to the De Young Museum basement.

And, for the record, I don’t even own a car and rely on public transit, my trusty bike and the occasional cab to get around.

And Mr. S., yet again:
Herb Caen would be horrified to hear that M2 so grossly misunderstands Herbs [sic] life. I knew Herb caen [sic] personally and I knew him for many years. Herb hated cars, congestion, traffic, smog, and everything associtated [sic] with it. M2 just plain doesn't have a clue what he is talking about.

(But what were Herb's birth and death dates?)
Yes, Herb Caen hated traffic, but not enough to give up the Jag, right? I wasn’t as chummy with Caen as Mr. Spade, but I did know him a bit and even fed him items on occasion from behind the plank at Enrico’s, and I know that along with congestion, traffic and smog that he also hated parking meters, parking tickets and meter maids. They were frequent targets in his column.

Parks & Rec. believes it can glean $500,000 per year from these metering kiosks. I hope they are right. It’s just too bad they have to get it by further vulgarizing the City and making scofflaws of its residents.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Save Golden Gate Park

In which we take up the cause of civilization

San Franciscans! Man the barricades!

The San Francisco Board of Stupidvisors is meeting today to consider installing parking meters in Golden Gate Park in an effort to balance the City's budget and "encourage" use of mass transit.

This is the worst idea I've heard in a long while in a city famed for bad ideas.

Ever tried to ride the bus with a large picnic hamper full of nosh and wine -- and then carry it through the park for a half-mile or so to your picnic site? It ain't easy. How about parents with kids? It is completely unfair to the people who need the Park the most -- City families with little or no outdoor space to call their own. And how are you supposed to enjoy a relaxing stroll around Stow Lake while worried about feeding a meter?

Besides these obvious drawbacks, parking meters in the Park are simply barbaric and completely outside the spirit of what the park's original champions, William Hammond Hall and John McLaren, had in mind.

Do not let the Board of Supervisors or the Department of Parks and Recreation brutalize Golden Gate Park for the sake of a few pennies.

Please join our well-dressed protest at City Hall today, Feb. 19, 2pm, Room 416 -- or call or write your Supervisor!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Don't Call It...

In which we talk city
My Pops, over at the Yolo Papers, collects and deals in, among every other kind of junk, paper ephemera. Recently he purchased a photo album that included the snap above. Evidently, the "Linebarqer Bros" went on a long hike -- mayhap for charity? -- all the way from Fort Worth, in Texas, to "Frisco."

The sailor's term "Frisco" has historically been much maligned among San Franciscans. The late great Herb Caen even wrote a book called Don't Call It Frisco. But even he came around to the term's charm before he died. I have decided that I am fond of it and even use it on occasion. What bugs me more is the appellation "San Fran," usually intoned with a nasal Midwest accent.

But whatever. Apparently, the previous owner of the photo album was a die-hard San Franciscan, because the hand-written note at bottom of the photo reads "I don't care how damn cute your dog is, don' t call in Frisco!"

Sunday, February 15, 2009

View Finder

In which we ogle the urban scenery
The San Francisco skyline, taken from my friends' home in the Oakland Hills.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rainbow Detection

In which we enjoy what passes for Winter in San Francisco (suck it, East Coast)
Snapped this rainbow over Ashbury Heights early this morning while cycling up to the gym. My next post will be all about puppies and unicorns.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Who is in charge? The man in the big hat.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the dock my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

--Walt Whitman

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A San Francisco Sort of Day

In which we revel in the eccentric city... just a bit
This day was actually a few weeks back when the weather was still good. But it's still worth sharing.

- 2pm: Lunch with old friends at Sam's (Est. 1867); martini, real sourdough bread, Sam's Fillet of Sole, glass of Sauvignon Blanc

- 3pm: Tour of the Cable Car Museum and Winding House (I'd never been); a fascinating, underground look at how the world's most profitable and efficient public transit system works

The cables on the wheels they go round and round, round and round, round and round...

- 4pm: Cafe Americano and chat with friends at a cafe across the street from the Winding House; watched gripmen replace a worn grip on a Hyde Street Line car

- 6pm: Attended memorial for P.J. Corkery, author of a bio of Johnny Carson, Hollywood writer, and a sometime SF Examiner columnist. Speakers included the Honorable Willie Brown, the eye-patched and hound-toting literary privateer Warren Hinckle, restauranteur Ed Moose, Mrs. Dewson (the infamous hatter) and writer and gadfly Bruce Bellingham.

- 9:30pm: Date with an adorable Asian chanteuse; went to burlesque night at Annie's Social Club; late night cheap dinner at The Grubstake.

It's like therapy.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Goodbye to All That

In which we hail the last survivor
Read in today's colorful new San Francisco Comical that Herb Hamrol, the last survivor of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 died yesterday, aged 106. Hamrol, reporter Kevin Fagan's warmly written obit noted, was also the world's oldest grocery clerk, who worked at the Andronico's on Irving Street right up to the time he was hospitalized for complications from pneumonia last week.

Back when I lived out in the Richmond I went to Andronico's frequently and had often seen Herb working in the store. I didn't know he was an '06 survivor. I remember wondering what dire circumstances the fellow was in that he could not retire. Evidently, none at all; he just liked to work.

Fagan relates Hamrol's advice for young men:
  1. Don't spend every dime you get
  2. Stay away from wild women
  3. Don't smoke, drink or do drugs
  4. Wear a tie when you go to work, also a nice shirt
Next April 18 at 5:18 a.m. I'll be at Lotta's Fountain, ignoring rule three as a lift a glass of sparkling wine in ol' Herb's honor. Afterward, I'll ignore one and two for good measure.

(Photo courtesy the San Francisco Chronicle, used entirely without permission)