We always enjoyed seeing Movies at the Bridge. With its seating capacity of 350, it had the feel of a neighborhood theater. Around twenty years ago, we went to see The Station Agent one afternoon. While waiting to buy popcorn, we saw my brother-in-law and his daughter were there for the same showing. Love that small-town feel.
It closed in 2012, having operated as a movie house since it was built in 1939. Now the former auditorium offers baseball batting cages. Landmark was the last company to operate the Bridge as a movie theater, just as it was the last to operate the Clay Theater.
Yesterday the internet was full of photos of the ominous red sky over San Francisco at day break. I snapped a few but couldn't improve on the ones I'd seen.
Around mid-day, I ventured downtown and saw all the street lights on. This is what Market Street usually looks like around 6:00 pm in winter, not in the middle of a summer day.
The red sky at dawn and darkness at noon were caused by high-altitude layers of smoke from California's wildfires. No fires are near the city, but their smoke covers the state. Throughout the day, ash and soot rained down on everything.
Of the ten largest wildfires in California history, seven have occurred in the past five years. Why? 1. People living further away from cities and demanding, 2. suppression of small wildfires, which clean up "fuel" that accumulates in forests. 3. Climate change making the air warmer and therefore drier.
On the right, you can see people sitting at outdoor tables inside a blue fence with lights strung over head. Across the street you can see people seated in a similar enclosure. Each of these occupies two or three parking spaces at the curb in front of a restaurant.
The City of San Francisco began issuing permits for these temporary outdoor dining rooms in June. Restaurants had been closed since March, along with retail stores and most everything else. The idea was to give the owners a way to pay the rent and keep a few employees on the payroll.
San Franciscans are as eager as anyone to pay someone to prepare a meal. These have proven very popular, despite the climate here, which is . . . let's just say it's not like Southern California. Most afternoons there's a chilly wind off the ocean. As you can see both of these outdoor dining rooms have tall heaters.
We took a walk in Dogpatch yesterday. It's a neighborhood on the east side of the city, facing the bay. Recently it was an industrial area with a neighborhood of little houses and some dive bars. Now, the factory buildings are lofts for small shops and apartments.
There are also new apartment buildings, and, as in the rest of San Francisco, there are no bargains. Let's just say incomes of less than six figures need not apply. This is one of those newish apartment buildings. As you can see, it cozies up to a ramp.
As my co-pilot pointed out, it's not a freeway ramp, but rather a connector of a surface street in Dogpatch to a surface street on Potrero Hill. So the traffic and noise may not be too intense. Still, the rule applies: no bargains.
I'll admit I didn't call the rental/sales office to check. At a certain point, one stops checking. I suppose the units whose windows look directly at the edge of the ramp may cost less than those facing the street but not by much, I'll bet.
The inscription reads: "Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial Park, 1814 1904. Mother of Civil Rights in California. She supported the Western Terminus of the Underground Railway for fugitive Slaves, 1850---1865. This legendary pioneer once lived on this street and planted these six trees. Placed by the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society."
The circumstances of her birth are unclear, but while still a girl she became a bonded servant to a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Through them she became involved in the abolitionist movement. Able to pass as white, she worked for the Underground Railway in the South, and came to San Francisco in 1850 to extend its reach.
She made her living managing restaurants in men's clubs and used information she overheard to invest and become a multi-millionaire. She built a house on this location. It no longer stands, but the six trees referred to in the inscription are still alive on Octavia Street. They are eucalyptus, now as tall as the four-story apartment building across the street.
This memorial is the smallest park in San Francisco, consisting of this marker and the six trees.
What is going on here? In the center of this jolly scene of people enjoying a day at the beach, a woman plays a guitar. Facing her is a man holding sheet music for her to read. Everyone else in the scene wears swimsuits or other light clothing, but he wears a dark business suit. Everyone else has a ruddy complexion, but his face is chalky white.
A closer look shows the man's eyes are closed. The guitarist isn't reading the music. She is looking at us from the corner of her eye, as is the harmonica-playing man behind her. No one else in the group looks out at us.
Who is the mystery man? Why has he joined these people on the beach? Why are the two musicians looking away from the sheet-music he's holding?
This picture is part of a set of frescoes in the Beach Chalet on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. The frescoes were painted by Lucien Adolphe Labaudt as part of a Works Progress Administration project in 1936.
If I remember correctly from the displays in this room, the faces of the people in this scene are taken from members of the artist's family. Also I think I recall the song on the sheet-music is "Red River Valley." Judging by the view of the Marin Headlands in the background, the scene must be on Baker Beach.
Please let me know if you have any ideas about what the artist meant by including this ghastly figure.
The Crocker Galleria is a privately owned public open space (POPOS). Built in 1982, it is an example of San Francisco requiring builders of tall buildings to provide places for relaxation open to the public. The bigger the building, the bigger the POPOS. For lots of info, including a map of their locations, visit the city's planning website
This one is in the form of a mall with casual food service on the first and third floors and retail on the second. It also features two roof terraces reached by stairways from the top level. The glass roof, inspired by Bernini, lets the place feel like it's outdoors.
In years past it was a bustling spot for strolling, lunch, coffee, and resting downtown. A few years ago the take-out food vendors started closing. The pandemic has accelerated that trend. But it's still a magnificent spot for recreation.
On a visit to San Francisco, we saw Seabiscuit at the Metro Theater on Union Street. As you can see, it's not a theater any more, and at the moment it's boarded up because of the pandemic.
Movie theaters were already declining before the pandemic. The Metro turned into an Equinox gym in 2014, according to San Francisco Theatres, an excellent blog on the subject (Thank you, Carol Ann Riordan!).
Seabiscuit was an entertaining movie based on an entertaining book about an unlikely champion thoroughbred horse. Seeing it here had special resonance because one of the three principal characters, Charles S. Howard, played by Jeff Bridges, started out in San Francisco.
We saw the movie with Ann's parents and her sister and brother-in-law. Afterward we walked up the street and had dinner at a restaurant. It made a nice family outing. I suppose in the future we'll be making memories such as: We all went to my uncle's house because he had the largest flat-screen and after the movie we had food delivered.
The Cliff House sits on on the western edge of San Francisco, just around the corner from the Golden Gate straits, and just below Sutro Heights Park. Beyond it is Seal Rock (actually a collection of rocks), on which there used to be sea lions (not seals). Beyond that is the Pacific Ocean.
The building you see here, completed in 2003, is the sixth to occupy this site. The previous five were also called the Cliff House and, like this one, were restaurants in which to enjoy a meal and the view. At low tide, diners sometimes see people with fishing poles walk out to the rocks and stand on them while attempting to catch fish.
The Cliff House in all its incarnations has a storied history as part of a one-time entertainment district that included Sutro Baths and Playland at the Beach. Since 1977 it has been part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Back in 2003, on a visit to San Francisco, we saw School of Rock at the Alexandria. I enjoyed it. A lot of the scenes had a real heartbeat, even though overall it was the familiar story of the eccentric teacher/coach/captain who leads his students/team/crew to victory or at least personal growth.
The Alexandria is NOT a victim of the pandemic. It has been closed since 2004 after operating since 1923. A year ago, the city's Planning Commission approved a plan to turn it into a center for after-school programs, including a swimming pool. No action so far.
The twenty-five years during which I have visited and lived in San Francisco have coincided with the decline of movie theaters. I'm photographing those that are left.
Painting houses black is recommended by realtors and house-flippers as a way of making a quick sale. The architecture critic for the San Francisco Chronicle hates it, and it has called it a sign of gentrification.
Three weeks ago, I posted a photo of a row of Victorian houses in which all but one are painted in in traditional light colors with contrasting trim. One of them is painted black . . . almost.
A closer look reveals it is really dark gray with black trim and some silver and gold highlights. These variations give the house a sense of proportion, but the overall effect is still black. As a long-time friend remarked, it looks like the Addams' Family's home.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Boarded-up Windows, San Francisco, and featured some of the murals that have appeared on the plywood used to cover the windows of stores and restaurants since the State of California ordered them closed. Some of these are casual, painted by uncredited artists. Others were commissioned and the artists have signed them.
Since that post, this mural has appeared on the corner store shown at the top of that blog post. It is now on the plywood facing the bus-stop in that picture. Apparently it was work for hire, because the inscription on the lower right says "copyright Friends Liquor," the store pictured.
The humor and the pathos are universal but especially apt for San Francisco where the average apartment size is 747 sq. ft. and the average rent is $3629 according to rentcafe.com. Rents are dropping as people are leave the city due to job-losses, but no one expects this to bring rent on a decent apartment within range of an individual who works for a living.
It's always delightful to reach the northern end of Van Ness Avenue, turn right, walk through Acquatic Park, and see these historic vessels tied up at the Hyde Street Pier. The tall ship on the left is the Balaclutha, a steel-hulled cargo ship built in 1886. The three-masted ship on the right is the C. A. Thayer, a lumber schooner, built in 1895. There are four other vessels, including a paddle-wheel steamer for passengers and a rare paddle-wheel tug built in England.
Delightful as it is to see them, it's even more fun to go aboard. The National Park Service (NPS) does its usual excellent job of making them accessible and providing all the information you need to understand what you're seeing. There is also a visitor center, an indoor museum, and a library.
In years past, I have seen announcements that the Balaclutha goes out for a sail around San Francisco Bay and that the interpretive rangers lead passengers in singing sea-chanteys. Truly they are among the greatest teachers we have.
Plywood started appearing on store-fronts and restaurants as soon as the shelter-in-place order was announced. That was scary. Was there really reason to think people would start breaking in and taking things? Early on there were a few burglaries, mostly wine and liquor taken from bars.
In this dark moment, artists came to the rescue. Even though they were declared "non-essential" they made our lives a bit brighter and more bearable. For instance, these mousies started popping up around town, saying and doing different things each time.
Some stores have let art happen. Others have hired an artist to make the streetscape more bearable:
I thank the health-care workers. I thank the governors. I thank my neighbors who wear masks. I thank the artists.
San Francisco's Victorian houses are usually painted in color schemes that emphasize their ornamental woodwork. When a house is being painted, you usually see a sign for the color consultant along with a sign for the painting contractor.
Recently some home owners have taken the opposite approach and painted the whole house black---walls, windows, trim, everything. Usually, there is just one of these on a block, as you can see here.
There is a certain appeal to this look, but our local architecture critic, John King, has started sounding the alarm. In a recent column, he writes, "I can now state emphatically, without reservation, that the black house craze has gone too far." He particularly objects to other architectural styles being painted black: bungalows, Spanish revival. mid-century modern.
When I walk by one of these, I enjoy the surprise and the dramatic impact. But I agree with Mr. King when he warns against taking this too far. Two or three of these in a row or a whole block of them would be overwhelming.