We left Yosemite in a blaze of glory, having seen a black bear in the wild and not been eaten. Hurrah.
Onwards we drove to the foggy city of San Francisco. Located on an island peninsula with a perpetual cloud above it, the city itself is a testament to peoples perseverance and positivity in the face of gloom, cloudiness and chilliness (even in summer), very similar to London but colder and with less sun.
Enough about the weather, 'What did you do?', I hear you ask. Well, my friends, let me enlighten you!
We walked along the docklands, playing with sea lions who have moved into a pier permanently and claimed squatters rights, dancing to street musicians and playing on the worlds largest collection of coin operated amusement machines.
We wandered along to City Lights who first published the controversial book Howl by Allen Ginsberg and then some more later on. The bookstore was a shrine to self published books by controversial authors who took a lot of drugs and decided to write about it., also known as the Beats. We toured the museum and found out more about Neal Cassidy, Carl Solomon, Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. Whilst we didn’t have a drink at their watering hole we did have a coffee at Mr Coppola’s café, where he wrote the screenplay for The Godfather
From that alternative experience we moved onwards into hippie-dom. A tour of the Haight Ashbury area with our tie-dyed guide Stannous Flouride. Quite a character, he was friends with Klaus the bassist from the Dead Kennedys and after a lot of partying they decided to change their last names to Flouride in the hopes that two ‘brothers’ would find it easier to pick up girls. Seems to be an awful lot of trouble to me, but then I never took LSD in copious quantities during the 60’s.
We took to the streest and saw shelters built in the 60’s, Joni Mitchells house, Charles Mansons earlier residence, and the ‘grey house’ where Rudolf Nuryev the famous ballet dancer was caught by the cops escaping the marijuana party. He never inhaled. We learnt about the African communities who moved in here in the 1940’s transforming the area slowly into a den of coolness. Interestingly back then some words had very different meanings.
Hipster – white person who likes jazz music
Hippie – derogatory slang for the kids who hung around hipsters
These words and more came from Senegalese community. In fact many of our current slang is from Senegal.
Words like: Ok- Hipgat – Hipcat – Hippie – Jazz
The coolest was visiting the house that the famous band The Warlocks lived in. Never heard of them? Well they changed their name when they found out another band in NY was called the Warlocks. They became The Grateful Dead. Interestingly the other band also changed their name to become Velvet Underground.
And the house across the street was where Hell’s Angels lived, and there a beautiful friendship began…..
Oh and I have to mention a group called the Radical Faeries began here in the Haight Ashbury area, they are a gay pagan collective with a fantastic name.
The spirit of peace and love in the 60’s was very much alive and still is around today. Many of the USA’s homeless initiatives, shelters and mental health programmes began here with volunteers and continue to develop today, which is also why SF is a big attraction for the homeless who hope to find help here, unfortunately it is an uphill battle in the USA for this kind of funding and relies a lot on volunteers in the community.
She is a Tae Kwon Do vigilante who moonlights as an actor and producer, he is a psychiatric criminologist with a penchant for rhyming words, and together, they fight crime.
On the bus Greg had his wallet stolen, once we realised this we managed to commandeer another bus and told the driver to "follow that bus!", get the police on the phone and confront the man, who finally handed over the wallet cash and cards intact. He ‘claimed’ to have found it, (stuffed in Greg's pocket) and that he was doing a good deed by taking it. He then asked us for compensation for handing over our wallet, “just a little coca cola?”. He was lucky we didnt take him to our next stop.
Maximum Security. Alcatraz.
No we didn’t put him there although we were tempted. Seriously, the tours to Alcatraz were booked up for months in advance and we didn’t want to wait that long!
So we were faced with a small crisis. How can we get into jail? Greg suggested we commit various acts of villainy however I felt it was a little excessive and potentially time consuming. Instead we joined a long queue at 5am to try for the few tickets available on the day. We were around 89th in the queue as most people had been up since 3am waiting....The irony of trying so hard to get into a jail was not lost on us, believe me. We met some lovely Polish friends in the queue Wioletta and Adam who we then had breakfast with. Sadly they were not so lucky and missed out on tickets.
Alcatraz itself was interesting, Greg was grumpy at having had his brilliant plan thwarted and also getting up so early. “It was good, but not must-see”. I enjoyed seeing it, there is a sick fascination with seeing such a famous jail. Only one jail break succeeded, which involved tunneling out through the ducts with spoons and placing fake dummies in their beds made out of papier mache. These men were never to be seen again, so whether they escaped to Mexico and took on new identities or drowned in the shark infested waters we will never know.
Luckily we managed to get out, and headed straight for the first speakeasy we could find, called Bourbon & Branch. An 1920's speakeasy, which is located on the site of the original one, entitled 'JJ Russells Cigar Shop' - he did not sell many cigars.
Whispering a password we were led through a dark corridor and taken through a revolving bookcase to a tiny bar with great cocktails. After dinner with our Polish friends we were approached by a very well spoken 19 year old homeless black man named Sio. We spoke for a while and offered to buy him dinner, he was very intelligent and looking for work, but had to wait another 2 weeks for an address. I do hope he got it, its not often you meet someone so well spoken and self educated on the streets.
We also took a trip north to Napa for a much needed wine tasting with Lily’s dad Thom & Susan, both very talented osteopaths. We saw Old Faithful, Tennessee fainting goats and Jacobs Sheep (from the bible). The goats don’t faint per se, if they panic their muscles freeze for about 10 seconds and they tend to fall over.
We did a highly recommended food tour of San Fran. I started off with a nutella latte (oh yum!), we toured several outstanding food establishments eating tidbits of deliciousness!
Muffin with poached egg, cinnamon bun with pepper and cardamom. Proper Italian pizza, meringue rochers with chocolate nibs, balsamic strawberry and crème fraiche icecream.
Definitely a Greg & Jade thing to do. There was some great history associated with the tour, like the Pirate Store which is actually a literacy programme/study group for kids, with a pirate store in front. And the graffiti murals which were thought provoking and intriguing.
We also met some awesome people, Chelsea and Rafael on the tour. After stuffing ourselves, we decided to keep wandering around the Mission district and continue with our guides food recommendations well into the evening. The best was Mission Chinese, a pop-up restaurant that has since taken over the local greasy spoon. Mixing two very different cultures, Chinese and Mediterranian cuisine; tea smoked eel, squid in noodles with lamb youghurt and harrisa, pork belly with pickled pineapple….yumminess.
Oh and several odd things happened before the tour, Greg got jumped by a group of gay and happy young men. I had to rescue him before he set off to a club. Then we were accosted by some French tourists who ended up singing to us….very odd but I guess San Francisco brings out the best in all of us!
PS Thank you to Don, Shelley & Lily for all your awesome suggestions!