8.9 miles. 18,880 steps. 60 flights. My circles on my activity app were spinning and I had absolutely no idea where I was. But Janice did. Dennis and I just followed along. I really wasn’t planning on writing another column about San Francisco. I was here about this time last year. I walked the city. With Janice leading the way, we walked a part of the city I had never been to, the Presidio. And then some. The plan today was just take it easy before I head out tomorrow, rest up and relax before I head into the undiscovered country. With Janice and Dennis (and Zepp of course), it turned out to be one of the better days of my journey.
Today felt as close to normal as I have felt since the pandemic started. Just walking with friends, hoping that Janice understood it was my sense of humor saying “there better be a damn cup of coffee at the top of this hill!” Dennis has traveled the world with a film companies doing production and photography. Very unassuming, I don’t think he realizes he is one of the more accomplished people I know.
Dennis and Janice moved out here to San Francisco I guess about the same time I moved to Miami, in 1991? They are about as San Franciscan as it gets.
Many people had warned me about this place. Both times I was here. Human excrement all over the place and tent city empires filled with homeless, illegals and other undesirables. I didn’t see it. I could have, just like in any city, but I didn’t feel like getting an armed escort into the Tenderloin.
This bastion of liberalism that accepts the dregs of society as actual people and wants to help them–and has them flown in by other cities and states–Hawai’i and Vegas were sued for giving homeless people tickets to come here–just has a different feel to it for me. It is as if the ideology that created America is actually real here. Give me your poor and tired and let’s give them a hand up. It’s what built America. People looking for a chance. But anyway, I digress.
The Coffee Guy: Life at the Fillmore! –if you are too young to understand the reference, look it up and listen to a few old albums.
That was one of the last stops before heading back to my hotel. In Janice, I think I found someone that MIGHT be able to out walk me. She would definitely get to anywhere we were going first, but she’s had all of the training on the hills of San Francisco. Everybody knows that the hills of San Francisco are notorious. It’s just unfair. Every other place I have walked, you walk up and then you walk down. San Francisco is the only place where you really do walk uphill in both directions. And none of it really makes sense to me. Just say you are walking up a block and come to an intersection and look left. Huge hill. The next block, it’s level. The block after that might be going downhill. Dennis told me some people studied it and there is a path that does along his street that follows the most level way in San Francisco for bikers. They built the city on the grid system but just placd the grid over top of everything that existed.
The day actually began walking to the Presidio, someplace I wasn’t at the last time. Looking at the map now, I’m not sure how I missed it. It’s just a huge wooded area. I think I walked the western edge the last time I was here as that’s the way I must have gone coming from the Golden Gate Bridge to the sea cliffs.
They just wanted me to see different things in the city so we wandered there to something that I didn’t even know existed. Dennis kept calling it ILM. As if I would know what that was? I finally did look it up: Industrial Light and Magic. It’s in the Presidio, the campus that George Lucas built. Yes, that George Lucas. There is even an (apparently) famous Yoda Fountain.
And then just a lot of walking with some great views and interesting sights. We walked up one street where the sidewalk was actual steps. It was steep, but I was informed not the steepest in SF. Dennis was telling me that one street he lived on that had steps and was even steeper but was also a big tourist place because of the view at the top (I’m pretty sure I passed it last time). About 3-4 times per year, there would runaway cars because people would forget to put the car in park at the top so they would roll back down taking out a bunch of cars along the way.
But it was just a really great day wandering around an awesome city with an old friend and a new one. About 30 years had passed since I’d last seen Dennis. I don’t feel like arguing with Janice over whether me met before or not. I think we did, at a campus party in Maryland, but she says no and everybody knows what is like arguing with somebody from Brooklyn.
I think one of the best parts of the day was hearing about Dennis’ life. I don’t know how he feels about it, but outside looking it, it seems pretty incredible. I’m forgetting many of the details but he did have an office right by the Yoda statue while working for ILM. He’s been on photography shoots around the world, including the arctic circle. He seems happy and Janice (who I did meet before long, long ago) is just as amazing. In this era of masks and social distancing, with a hush on the world and cities, and a distancing among friends and family as everybody tries to get their feel in the new normal, it just felt great walking and chatting with the new barriers we place between ourselves and the rest of the world as non existent as the judgement here in San Francisco.