Tuesday, November 22, 2016

El Dia de los Muertos

Nov. 2-3

Wednesday was All Souls, and also our last day on this trip to tour San Francisco.

We decided to go back to Fisherman’s Wharf to look at the bay and the sea lions. That meant we went back to the streetcar F line.

The streetcars here run on tracks like old times because they are old-time cars. Some may date back to the 1940s or possibly earlier.

Our first ride on the F was a few days ago. The fare machine wasn’t where I expected it to be, and I tried to hand cash to the driver.

“You don’t hand money to the driver. There’s no place in North America where you hand the fare to the driver.” 


He pointed to where the machine was, behind a screen just behind his seat.

Other passengers from out of town got onto the car without the right change. A couple tried to put fives into the bill slot. 

That got the driver really upset, because he had to explain at several stops that the machine takes singles only.

When he stopped to change places with his relief driver, just before we reached the piers, he exchanged a few remarks about cars he found difficult to drive.

I felt sorry for the guy, walking around with all that angst, but it was also kind of funny.

So anyhow, the F rolls up on Wednesday morning, and it’s the same driver. I was an old hand by this time. I had been on the F at least twice before.

I was even able to make change for a couple who only had a five. I felt so sophisticated to be ready with all those dollar bills to make bus fare in a distant city.

The car went up Market Street and after a few blocks had to come to a halt. There was a Ryder truck with the flashers on double-parked and blocking the tracks.

The driver starts by blowing the horn. “Nobody is supposed to stop on the tracks. What am I supposed to do? I can’t go around him.”

He jumps out of the streetcar and shouts at some people on the sidewalk, “Who’s truck is that?” 

Of course, nobody knows.

He runs up to the truck. Nobody’s inside.

A few seconds later the truck driver shows up and moves it out of the way.

Greenhorn passengers who don’t know how to pay their fares; self-centered truck drivers who shut down traffic: That poor streetcar driver doesn’t seem to get any luck.

He finally got a break a few minutes later. Just before the piers he changed places with a relief driver.

The streetcar comes to the bay shore at Pier 1. I believe the street that follows the piers is the Embarcadero. The name may be related to “embark,” as in “get onto a ship.”

I don’t know. I’m making that up, but it sounds right.

Fisherman’s Wharf is at the far end.

One of the attractions of Fisherman’s Wharf is Pier 39. Restaurants, bars, jewelry stores, a carousel, house of mirrors, it has just about anything you need at a bay shore. There is a marina, which is used by commercial fishermen each winter during the herring season. (Or is it cod? I can’t remember.) It is filled with yachts 10 months of the year.

There are also anchored rafts where sea lions congregate. There are dozens of them, stretching their necks and barking, sleeping in the sun, climbing over each other, or playing in the water.

Sometimes a few will wander down to the piers where the ferries load. 

Signs dotted around Pier 39 relate some of the history of the place. A man named Simmons, the Taco King, got the idea of taking a derelict structure that had become the resting place of cast-off major appliances, and turning it into an entertainment hub for tourists and locals.

It took years, millions of dollars, lots of loans, and the sale of Mr. Simmons’s Tia Maria taco chain to get it done.

After it opened, there were lawsuits trying to shut it down. 

That was years ago, and there are still signs of some lingering bitterness. One of the signs on the pier says the cable cars stop three blocks short of the Wharf only because businesses along those three blocks have lobbied the city not to extend the tracks.

Maybe some of them were among the plaintiffs trying to close the Pier  39 decades ago. I don’t know.

We saw the sea lions, the ferry boats go in and out, and a juggling comedian who could put his body through a squash racket (an unstrung racket, that is). We also ate what might be the world’s best clam chowder at a place called the Seafood Market, or something like that.

A city map that we had seen somewhere had a section labeled the Mission District. The name was familiar, but that’s all. I looked it up and found that it is the neighborhood with San Francisco’s oldest surviving building, part of the original Mission of Saint Francis of Assisi.

The district was a center of punk rock culture in whatever decade punk rock was popular. 

A photo on the Mission District web page showed people in costumes for the Day of the Dead. I was looking at this on the morning of Nov. 2, el actual Dia de los Muertos. I love coincidences.

A little more searching told me that there would be a Day of the Dead festival at Garfield Square from 4 till 11 that very day.

So after our foray to the Wharf, we came back to the hotel for a rest and then got the BART train to 24th Street and Mission Street.

It was a short walk to the square from there. We arrived at last light. Families and organizations had set up altars with candles and offerings to the dead. Signs welcomed our ancestors, who come to visit on this feast day.

Many of the altars had photos of friends or family members. Others were devoted to celebrities, ranging from Elvis Presley to David Bowie.

People could write names of the dead on a wall. There were strings where anyone could hang a wish or a prayer for a dead loved one. One note said “We love you, Grandma”; another, “I love you, Prince.”

Many people, including a band of women singing and playing Mexican folk songs, wore costumes and had their faces painted to look like skulls. 

Along with the tall votive candles, the altars were decked with skulls, feathers, flower petals, symbols of both the living and the dead.

We were invited to light a candle at an altar that gave me another back-in-Asia moment. It combined symbols of Hinduism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism (well, maybe not Kosher Judaism, because Heberew letters, yodh hey waw hey, spelled out the unspeakable name of God), Islam, and some I’m not sure of.

We also lit small votives at another table altar. 

A group called Intactivists had set up a shrine to some of their supporters who had died. Signs referring to “child mutilators” were terrifying, but became less so when we realized that the organization was protesting infant circumcision.

We had hoped to see, or maybe join, the procession that was supposed to begin sometime between 7 and 8. But it was getting late with no sign of a parade forming. So we decided to go back to the neighborhood of the hotel for dinner.

We had an early wake-up call in the morning. Two hours before our flight was 8:30 a.m., so we had to get a train a little after 7. I’m not used to being out at that hour anymore.

On the way back to the station, we bought a small loaf of pan de muertos, a festive bread, coated with sugar and flavored with cinnamon, made only on All Souls.

We decided to go to Cesario’s again. We climbed the almost vertical stretch of Mason Street to build up an appetite. Joanna had the penne with eggplant that I had enjoyed before. I had spinach ravioli. 

Both dishes were fantastic. When I’ve had spinach ravioli before, the filling was still mostly ricotta, flavored with a touch of spinach. 

Not so these ravioli. They had strings of spinach inside and more spinach in the sauce. If I have this too often, it’ll turn me into a ravioli snob.

We had the same wines as before, the Chianti and nero d’Avola, and a California pinot noir. They were all excellent.

Pinots from California have a spicy edge, especially at the end. The nero was a little sharper than many I’ve had, and oddly enough, the Chianti had less acid than most.

Five a.m. comes early. I used the coffeemaker in the room to help me wake up. We were ready to go by 7, well ahead of schedule.

We were in the station to catch the 7:13 train to SFO, half an hour earlier than our original target train. 

Things can’t go that smoothly unless there’s something wrong. Turns out, our 10:40 plane was nowhere near on time. Our flight was already scheduled with an hour’s delay when we checked in. 

Most of the retaurants at the airport are clip joints. I mean, $12 for a bowl of oatmeal at a self-service counter? Come on.

We had great muffins, yogurt, and some sourdough at a Boudin’s counter. 

Then we waited for the plane, which didn’t leave until past noon.

I did get a chance to power up my computer battery, though.

At this exact point in writing the flight is more than half finished, approximately seventeen-twentyeighths.

          •     *     *

We made it through the airport and then had another wait, this time for baggage. The airport is not only run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is a storehouse of political appointees, but it is also in Newark, where everybody seems to resent having to work for a living.

The bags finally started to show up on the conveyor, and after that things started to pick up. We didn’t even have to wait for a cab. We got one right away.

We made it to Egan’s for dinner shortly after 10, and just in time. The kitchen was due to close in 20 minutes. 

But they had oysters; they had beer; they had beef. I was happy. 

They had salmon and that made Joanna happy.

Happy trails, gang.


Halloween and All Hallows

Oct. 31-Nov. 1

Monday we decided to go back to the Asian Art Museum, to see some of the galleries we didn’t have time to visit before. This time we walked to Market Street to skip the Tenderloin.

But there was still plenty of street theater. One old guy in an electric wheelchair, for instance, was serenading the world at large with salsa recordings cranked up into distortion.

He was riding the sidewalk and shaking his shoulders in time to the music. He looked smug as hell, like the life of the party instead of a minor public nuisance.

We approached the museum this time by a different route that took us past the Settlers Monument. My favorite part is the section labeled “Early Days,” which at a distance looks like a Spanish grandee and a padre trampling a local Indian. 

A closer look tells you that the first impression is pretty close. The grandee is looking far into the distance, maybe sizing up the property he is about to seize. The priest is leaning over the Indian, who is lying on the ground, and preaching at him.  

Next to that is a small park with equipment that has fun with sound. 

One is a frame in which you get long boards rocking. They make a clicking noise and when you get them rocking out of sync, you can walk between them and hear how they resemble the footsteps of a crowd. 

The other is even more fun, long tubes that return an echo. They also let you carry on a conversation in your normal voice when Joanna is a hundred feet away.

The strangest thing, though, came as a surprise. When you clap your hands, you don’t just hear the slap of your palms returning. The echo also a sharp ping, much like a movie sound effect for a bullet ricochet.

We came to the steps of the museum and something wasn’t quite right. We looked at the door and discovered that the place is closed on Monday.

The Asian Art Museum is on McAllister, which is also where the No. 5 bus goes on the way to Golden Gate Park. We would go there, maybe to the California Academy of Sciences.

A lady on the bus heard us talking about it and checked on her cellphone. The de Young was closed, but the Academy was open.

So far, so good.

The bus driver set us down at Eighth Avenue and told us to take the No. 44 bus to the Academy. We did that.

Monday was Halloween. We saw people everywhere in costumes. A lady working for the Segway tours concession in the park was wearing red pajamas and a silver fright wig. People working in stores often wore cat’s ears. We later saw a little girl done up as a bumble bee.

We found that the Academy of Sciences wants $30 a head for a ticket. We were going to be in the museum for a couple of hours. For that kind of money, I want something with live music and alcohol.

We walked the park, looking at the sculpture, which in this area was mostly devoted to music and literature—statues of Goethe, Schiller, Cervantes, and Beethoven, for instance. 

There was a major monument to Francis Scott Key and the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which was still called “the national song.” It didn’t become the national anthem until 1931. The monument was unveiled in 1888.

The park map had something nearby called the Shakespeare Garden. It is a small fenced area with various trees and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.

The trees have what appears to be Spanish moss on them. It’s the only place I’ve seen it out here. I don’t remember reading anything about Spanish moss in Shakespeare.

[Editor’s note: Harry later learned that there are other forms of mossy growth that form on trees. One, usnea, is also known as old man’s beard.]

A structure in the back of the garden has bronze plaques with hundreds of quotes from Shakespeare referring to trees, flowers, and herbs.

We walked around Stow Lake to the boathouse for a bite to eat and then decided that we’d had enough walking for a while, so we headed toward the bus stop.

We got on the wrong bus, of course. Right number but wrong direction. All we had to do was cross the street to fix it. After that getting back was easy.

We went downstairs to Foley’s for dinner. The place was packed for Halloween. A waitress snapped a photo for a couple at the next table who wore matching skeleton pajamas. 

There was a table in a separate room where everyone was impressed when a lady showed up as a lion.

I finished the night by closing Bartlett Hall at midnight. 

Tuesday the art museum was open, so we walked down Market Street again.

We passed groups of idle men. Street aromas mixed the fragrance of cannabis with human piss. 

I saw something that I had never seen before. 

A woman crouched on the Sidewalk and started looking intensely up and down the street. She was shielding a man who leaned against the wall of the Federal Office Building and worked a syringe in his arm.

We made it to the museum without injury, and this time we started on the second floor in the Chinese galleries. 

We saw ancient porcelains, several of which are more than 1,000 years old; ivory carvings of legendary historical figures and of the Eight Taoist Immortals; paintings old and new of landscapes, plum blossoms, and the fungus of immortality.

Lots of bats, too, because the word for bat, fu, is a pun on “happiness.”

Much of this stuff was fascinating, like an intricately carved drinking cup made from a rhinoceros horn or a lotus root carved into a procession following a trail up a forested mountain.

But the most fascinating for us is called “Collected Letters.” It was commissioned by the museum for a corner of a gallery. It combines Roman alphabet letters with Chinese radicals. 

The characters are white porcelain and hang from the ceiling at various levels. There are more than 1,500 pieces in all.

The artist said he chose letters as the motif because, before it was a museum, the building was a public library.

It is a fascinating thing to watch. It is unexpected, in a corner next to a pillar, and unlike anything else in the place. The breeze raised when someone walks by causes the letters to sway slightly.

We also had time to see the Southeast Asia rooms on the third floor. Thai and Cambodian Buddhas, a video of Angkor Wat. It was like old home week. 

Being primed by Asia, we headed to Chinatown for dinner. We met a trio of musicians playing stringed instruments on the street.

They gave us a card and recommended a restaurant nearby on Washington Street. So we went there.

The cod with black bean sauce was tasty enough. The claypot of mixed vegetables and vermicelli was OK, but a little on the bland side for me. Joanna, who really enjoys vegetable dishes, was satisfied with it.

I think all this museum walking has gotten to me. I didn’t even want a beer tonight. 

That’s all right, though. I probably had enough yesterday to last at least a couple of days.

I’m packing it in soon.

Good night to all.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Asian Influences

October 28-30

Friday was another damp, drizzly day, so we went to the nearby Asian Art Museum. It is in walking distance of the hotel, but be careful, though. If you’re not in the know, you can take a route that runs through a less-than-chic area of town called the Tenderloin.

Among its colorful sights are drunks demonstrating nervous tics or arguing with the air.

We also saw a man who seemed annoyed by something, maybe failure of a cellphone. In any event, he threw the phone on the sidewalk and then appeared to abuse a man in a wheelchair. 

A woman who seemed to know him picked up the pieces of cellphone. The man in the wheelchair followed down the street catcalling after him. I believe they were friends.

We only saw fraction of the museum. It is on three floors, and it starts at the top with South Asia, art primarily of India.

We were in the Indian galleries for a while and then decided we needed something to eat. The museum cafe had mostly Indian food on the menu, and I suggested a chicken biryani, expecting it to be mild.

The dhal and naan may have been the better choice, but you can never tell about dhal. Sometimes it is made with red chilis floating in it.

Joanna was able to eat a bit of the biryani, but not much. So we shared an apple tart for dessert. The doughy crust helped cool off her tongue.

There was a special exhibition on the first floor devoted to the Ramayana. It contained works owned by the museum and others on loan from various sources, including the British Museum and private collections.

We joined a guided tour of the exhibit at three. The docent, Joanna learned, is a pro, a professor of comparative religions.

The exhibition focused on images of four main characters—Rama, the hero and the human incarnation of the god Vishnu; his consort, Sita, a goddess in her own right in human form; Hanuman, the monkey god who helps Rama; and the bad guy, Ravana, king of the demons.

Ravana presents a special challenge to visual artists because he is often depicted with 10 heads and 20 arms. The tiered Thai masks wearing crowns with faces on them are depictions of Ravana.

Besides ancient and modern prints, paintings, and textiles, the exhibit has video clips from movies, TV shows, and dances depicting episodes from the story. 

The tour lasted almost two hours, so we closed the museum for the day.

We wanted to try someplace new for dinner, so we went to a place about a block away on Geary Street called the Daily Grill. We shared a pork chop that weighed almost a pound. It was tender and delicious

Made more so by red wine. I had a few glasses at the Grill, and later bought a bottle of cheap Chianti at a small shop on the same street.

I still have some of it left.

Saturday we had planned in advance. We were going to take the L line to a section of the city called Sunset to see Joanna’s aunt and several cousins.

That morning, they called and said they would pick us up at the hotel.

On the way back to their neighborhood, we went through Golden Gate Park to a place called Stow Lake, which has just about anything you can want at a lake—artificial waterfall, a Chinese gazebo, boat rental, and a man playing the accordion.

We didn’t rent a boat but did take a few snapshots.

Back at Sunset, we met more cousins and set out in a caravan to Diamond Heights for dim sum. The place seems to be authentic.

Just about everybody there was Chinese, and that’s always a good sign. We had chicken feet and duck tongues in addition to the usual variety of dumplings and fried rice.

After lunch we all went to Twin Peaks, a park overlooking the city and the bay. We strolled around there for a while to take more snapshots. 

We stopped back at the house to regroup and then headed to the beach. Actually, we stood on a bluff overlooking the surf. 

There was a pool down below, and according to a sign, it is part of the remains of an attraction called the Sutro Baths.

There is archaeological evidence that for thousands of years Indians used to fish and hunt seals at this place. I assume the Sutro Baths came later.

There is a steep trail leading down to the water, but we took another that, we were told, leads eventually to the Golden Gate Bridge. We didn’t go that far, but the trail offered some interesting views of a wind-blown grove.

Huge trees are bare all except for their crowns. The ocean wind prunes them and even shears off their outer bark.

We drove to the Golden Gate Bridge. We stopped at a lower part of the park there. 

We got a close look at the flora, which is a restoration of native plants. I don’t know what they are, but they are quite thick and beautiful.

We also watched people surfing in the bay.

Joanna suggested everyone go to another Chinese restaurant for dinner. 

We wound up at The Claypot House on Clement Avenue, in a neighborhood a little south of the Presidio that is a miniature Chinatown.

An interesting thing about this place is that it bills its menu as authentic Taishan cooking. Taishan is the district where Joanna’s family hails from.

I had never had the opportunity to try Taishanese cooking, so I was ready for anything. We wound up getting two claypots, one that included preserved vegetable with meat and another with chicken and mushroom. 

A third dish was rice with eel and frog steamed in a lotus leaf.

We also had a hot peppery soup with pig stomach. The waiter said it could cure indigestion.

Joanna and I came back to the hotel in a state of moderate exhaustion. I didn’t even want to go downstairs for a beer. I just tanked out.

Sunday morning it was pouring, but it was also our last chance on this trip to get to Angel Island and the immigration station museum.

There was a real downpour when we got downstairs, so we waited for five minutes till it passed. We got the No. 5 streetcar at Powell and Market and rode it to piers. 

We bought tickets for Angel Island, and were more than an hour early, so we went to a cafe for a snack.

On the way, Joanna stopped to take photographs the bay, so the photo of the day is “Joanna Goes to Alcatraz.”

We also saw a colony of sea lions near Pier 39.

We got back to the boat shortly before it shoved off, and passed close to the prison. There is an old sign painted on a retaining wall, “Warning. Keep Off.” Good advice. Those guys had guns.

Because of the rain, the boat to Angel Island was almost empty. We were among four or six people to land when we arrived.

A man on shore asked us if we planned to go to the immigration station.

Yes, that’s why we came to the island.

Another couple, whom we later learned came from Lancaster, Pa., also had come to see the station.

The park service guy went to get a van to take us there. 

We had come on the second boat. He told us that no one had gotten off the first boat earlier in the day. I think he was actually pleased to have something to do. 

We drove around the perimeter drive of the island. It’s the route that the tour tram takes, but that wasn’t running. 

Angel Island was a military base from before the Civil War. It later became the West Coast equivalent to Ellis Island, only its main job was to keep people, primarily Chinese, out of the country.

After the earthquake and fire in 1906, the Immigration Service asked the Chinese in San Francisco to come in and help restore the records that had burned up. Many of them were glad to do that, and at the same time invented relatives in China. 

The Exclusion Act was aimed at keeping Chinese laborers from coming to the States to take jobs. It did, however, permit immigration by the children of legal immigrants already in China. Those fictional relatives, mainly men, were brought over to the U.S. under fictional names, and were known as paper sons.

Chinese arriving in San Francisco were essentially imprisoned, for weeks or months, at Angel Island. They were interrogated by immigration officials who hoped to find a discrepancy in their answers that would provide an excuse to send them back.

The officials wired the families and asked questions. Then, armed with those answers, they asked the immigrants: How many steps in front of your house? Who lives three houses away? What kind of flooring is in your family’s house?

A discrepancy could send someone home. Some of the paper sons were sent to the U.S. as representatives of entire villages, which would pool money to send someone to Gold Mountain.

Gold or no, there was economic opportunity in the West, and the people back home knew it.

As a little girl, Joanna met a paper son who was sent back to China.

There were cultural clashes that no one expected. Doctors during medical exams wore white. That’s the color you wear to a funeral in China.

As we were driving along, the man from Lancaster related a similar idea of culture clash. He knows a number of Amish, who belong the fire department. The Amish, for religious reasons, avoid having their pictures taken. 

They opt out of group photos at the department. They won’t hold still for tourists who want to take their pictures. Unless you know what’s going on, you can’t avoid a misunderstanding. 

The experience at Angel Island was frustrating for the people detained there, and the immigrants gave vent to their feelings through poetry, which they literally carved into the walls. You can see the characters, some faint, some distinct, cut into the boards. One has been restored.

I believe this is the English translation:

Detained in this wooden house for several tens of days,
It is all because of the Mexican exclusion law which implicates me.
It’s a pity heroes have no way of exercising their prowess.
I can only await the word so that I can snap Zu’s whip.

From now on, I am departing far from this building
All of my fellow villagers are rejoicing with me.
Don’t say that everything within is Western styled.
Even if it is built of jade, it has turned into a cage.

The place is all so moving and beautiful, both for its simplicity and its grief. If you go to San Francisco, you can wear flowers in your hair or not. But don’t miss Angel Island if you have any chance to get there.

We went back to the Daily Grill for dinner. This time Joanna had a chicken pot pie and I had steak pie.

If you find yourself hungry near Union Square, remember the Grill is on Geary, half a block west of Powell. I’ve had two meals there so far, and both have been fantastic.

So here’s to good food, better drink, and lasting impressions.

God bless us everyone.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Vertigo, or in the Footsteps of Jimmy Stewart

October 25-27

After I sent my last e-mail, we headed out to Foley’s for dinner.

We sat at the bar, and met a lady from San Diego who was watching the World Series. She was very happy. She comes from Cleveland and has lived in Chicago. So she was rooting for the Indians and the Cubs.

That was game one, and the Indians trounced Chicago six-nothing. 

I’m not sure how it came up, but I mentioned my connection to Mechanical Engineering magazine. Everything I know about engineering I have learned from Samuel Florman’s books and from working on the magazine.

She, however, has a technical background and has written computer software of different kinds. 

She told us, though, that when she started out there were few women engaged in information technology. There are fewer now, she said.

I was surprised by that at first and am not sure that she is accurate. But I remembered stories about women being driven out of jobs by the boys’ club atmosphere of many engineering and IT departments. I wouldn’t know first-hand if that was a widespread problem either.

She was drinking red wine and well ahead of me, so she was feeling no pain when she left.

A short time later, a business group of some kind took over the end of the bar.

One guy was not only uninhibited but also limber as hell. He wound up winning a blond away from a guy who just wasn’t as hip.

After a few minutes, they were doing dips and catches as if they’d rehearsed them. Maybe they had.

By that time, I was feeling reckless enough to try dancing. I had no idea what I was doing, but sometime well after I turned 40, I think, I learned how to move my knees to rock my ass. So I was able to fake it. 

Tried something that resembled a merengue.

Joanna really knows how to dance and could follow whatever I decided on the spur of the moment to do.

I may have faked it pretty well because we got a few fist bumps when the music stopped. I mean, how often does anyone get to see geriatric clinch dancing?

One guy even said he wanted a hair-cut like mine. I told him he’d have to stop cutting it.

I looked at the check the next day. I had signed it at about ten to one in the morning.

Wednesday we asked the desk for some directions. We walked a block up Powell to the corner of Geary and took the 38R bus toward Land’s End. 

The route went West on Geary, a trip that included an endless climb. It was like cable cars half-way to the stars and all that.

We got to see plenty of the city on the way. Churches and squares and confusing intersections. The Victorian wood houses known as painted ladies. Lots of cars and a few pedestrians.

We needed to change to the 28 line. I asked the driver about making the transfer. 

Bus drivers are very friendly here. He told me the cross street we needed was called Park Presidio (I had the name wrong). He also told me when we got there.

The second bus took us north through the Presidio to the visitor center at the Golden Gate Bridge. I was going to test my vertigo.

We oriented ourselves at the visitors’ center, where we bought a refrigerator magnet shaped like the bridge, and then we went for a walk.

There was information posted in a concrete pit that once held a large antiaircraft gun. There were also three model suspension bridges on a table. 

Each model had towers of a different height. You pull on a handle to test how much pressure you need to apply to tighten the cables. The taller the towers, the less pressure. 

When the bridge opened it was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge and also had very tall, maybe the tallest, towers. The design allowed the safe use of a lighter cable.

The bridge starts over land, indeed soars above an old fortress, and by the time you get over the water, it must be several thousand feet high. I say that because the altitude made me light-headed.

This walk wasn’t as bad as the time Jack T. and I crossed the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos in a high wind. That day, I expected to be lifted up and dropped a million or so feet into the river.

Crossing the Golden Gate, though, every time I stepped to the railing, to take a snapshot or to look at the birds and boats in the distance below us, I got wobbly.

I had to walk a few feet away from the edge. I felt better when I took my hat off instead of trying to hold it on my head. There was no heavy wind, but a stiff breeze up there.

But it was well worth the effort. The bridge crosses the strait at the head of the bay. On one hand you see the City of San Francisco and Alcatraz, and on the other the Pacific Ocean.

This was my second visit this year to an Alfred Hitchcock shooting location. I was at Mount Rushmore in July.

Appropriately enough, the Golden Gate Bridge appears in “Vertigo.”

We got as far as the first tower and decided it was time for lunch. There is a cafe back on solid ground. Not much to choose from, but I had a hot dog so big and full of sauerkraut that I had to eat it with a knife and fork.

Joanna had more clam chowder. The stuff is everywhere out here, and so far has always been very good.

It was terrific to sit by the window and watch the soaring bridge and the traffic on the water. The small boats get quite a rocking when they pass the strait under the bridge. 

The supports of the bridge may have someting to do with that. But it’s also the narrow where the ocean meets the bay.

Besides ferries and small sailboats, there are windsurfers and container ships crossing each other’s paths.

When we got back to the Union Square neighborhood, Joanna remembered a nail salon on Powell Street, so she went there to have her nails done.

I killed some time with an IPA at Bartlett Hall. It was the house brand called Tropical Yacht. 

It reminded me of Lagunitas, with a hint of fruit sweetness, probably from the choice of hops rather than the addition of fruit to the brew.

With her freshly manicured fingertips, Joanna was ready for dinner. We went to Cesario’s, a short walk from the hotel on the corner of Mason and Sutter.

Joanna had penne with Bolognese sauce. I had penne with a sauce that included spinach, eggplant, and olives.

The wine was also good. I had a Chianti and a nero d’Avola. I also finished the last half of Joanna’s nero.

After half a glass of wine and a plate of pasta, Joanna was starting to get drowsy. We walked to the hotel where we said good night and I went down to Foley’s for more wine.

I was trying to behave. At least, I made it back to the hotel before 11.

Thursday was a day of frequent drizzle, so we sheltered at the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park.

There’s a transit hub a couple of blocks from the hotel at Powell and Market where you can get trolleys, buses, or subways to take you anywhere. You can also get a cable car if you want to waste time standing in line.

The route to the museum, in the Golden Gate Park, was easy. The No. 5 or 5R bus takes you directly to the park. You get off at 10th Avenue and stroll a short distance into the park to the museum.

Cars here actually stop for you when you come to the crosswalk. So crossing the park road was not dangerous.

The museum has several collections, including a Mesoamerican section and another on the art of Oceania. 

The first floor has an exhibition of sculpture, much of it glass. One piece is the figure of a woman wearing a simple dress. It’s a little smaller than the Infant of Prague.

The entire figure is translucent and under the folds of her skirt are the hints of legs. I have no idea how that illusion was done. 

Some of the others were downright funny, like a scowling giant in a multicolored suit.

The largest area that we visited is devoted to American art from Colonial times to the present.

Most of the Colonial painting is portraiture. Landscapes take over in the 19th century. Many are the Romantic scenes of towering trees and mountains with tiny people somewhere in the foreground. I love that kind of thing.

The later 19th century and early 20th show the influence of the Impressionists.

There are Copleys, Whistlers, and Homers. But the big hit of the painting galleries is a take on Rembrandt Peale’s portrait of George Washington. 

The painting is very similar to the Gilbert Stuart portrait used on the dollar bill. It is hanging on the wall near the elevator on the second floor.

Next to it is something much newer, by an artist named Ray Beldner. It is a reproduction of the Peale portrait rendered in stitched-together dollar bills.

We took some minestrone in the museum cafe and stepped outside briefly in the drizzle to look at some of the installations on the lawn.

We came back to the hotel for a breather. We didn’t want to walk far in the rain, so we went downstairs to Foley’s for dinner. 

Nothing spectacular: crab cakes, bangers and mash, a few familiar ales. 

Life is good.

Love to all.