6th April  2004


San Francisco is a quite small city, about 10 Km (~6 miles) square, perched on the top end of the southern peninsular of San Francisco Bay.  It has a population of around three quarters of a million, of which about 400,000 are white (which includes about 100,000 Latin-Americans), 250,000 Asian-Americans, 50,000 are African-Americans, and the rest diverse minorities.  The region around San Francisco, which includes Oakland & San Jose has a population of seven million. of which 4 million are white, (including 1,400,000 Latin- American), and 1,500,000 Asians.  The mix is quite different to LA

Green Tortoise is an adventure company that operates a hostel south of Telegraph Hill (in Broadway, near Columbus) in San Francisco.  A bed is $19 and includes a couple of bagels and jam for breakfast. There are about 6 internet access computers (using a flavour of linux, which means at their tech level, no chat programs), but offering wireless access for those equipped to utilize it.  It is filled with travellers, mostly from Europe. (probably why they use linux rather than BSD).

San Francisco is a beautiful city.  The harbour is nearly as attractive as that in Sydney.  It has variety & character.  Variety exists in LA, but in SF it is distilled.  For instance, starting at the intersection of Columbus and Broadway, going east along Broadway is the red light district, (Larry Flint & Co).  Travel north along Columbus St and you are immediately in a streetful of good Italian coffee and Pizza places with streetside tables.  Travel west along Broadway and you will find a selection of Chinese produce shops.  To the immediate south are display advertisments for Tarot card readings and other methods of divination (Handy to the stock exchange, *snigger*).  Visible about 600 yards past that is a tall pointed pyramid building that marks the beginning of the CBD.  About five minutes walk through Chinatown in a south western direction is the beginning of the main retail shopping district.  The centre of the retail district is a park, called Union Square.  On one side is Macys, (they were having a mannequin fashion show as I walked past) on the opposite side is Sachs and Tiffany's.  Gucci and Chanel are nearby.  I was more interested in Borders bookshop which was on the NW corner of Union Square.

From Union Square a few hundred yards walk south-west will bring you to the intersection of Market street and Golden Gate Avenue.  Once again the ambiance changes.  This is an African American district.  I passed a pair walking the other way.  One ostentatiously spat to the side, and looked at me.  Further on, I came upon a collection of African-Americans who were homeless.  It looked as though, in this area, (just across from the YMCA, within sight of the civic centre), the police did not give too much aggravation to the homeless.  (I understand that California has a budget crisis, and that the penal system, being short of money, releases non violent criminals well before they have served their sentence.  So it makes sense that the police would not adopt too hard a line).

To date I have mostly drunk Starbux coffee, because my internet access is provided by T-Mobile wireless, and T-Mobile provides "hotspots" in most Starbux and Borders coffee shops.  In the few forays into other coffee shops I have invariably been disappointed.  I was tempted by the coffee served by Italian coffeeshops in Columbus, and found in Greco's (an Italian coffee shop on Columbus, just south of Stockton) the best (and most costly) soy flat white since leaving Australia.  In LA or SD I found nobody able to properly prepare that vital ingredient of civilized life.

After seeing a few chase films set in San Francisco I thought I was prepared for the SF topography.  As I went down steps on the East of Telegraph Hill, an overheard remark by a climber "Geez, now I know why all these San Franciscans are skinny".  Many hills have a 30 degree slope, and some seem to get to 40 degrees. Perhaps because of the dismal parking, the footpaths of San Francisco are well populated, (well better than LA).  Talk about those chase films.  The marks of a sump hitting the level street after a steep slope were scored in the bitumen where Kearney meets Broadway.


I have seen such score marks elsewhere in San Francisco, usually where there are traffic lights at the bottom of a steep hill.  I deduce that in the USA an amber light means "hurry up, I'm changing to red in 3 seconds".).   Looks as though it isn't only stuntmen who bounce their cars through those cross streets.

One of my walks took me to Haight Ashbury. (pronounced "hate"), the suburb where the beatnik (a precursor of the hippy) generation originated with the writings of Jack Kerouac.  It was full of flower children and hustlers, a few beggars (they seem ubiquitous in LA & SF).  The district known as Haight Ashbury probably gets it's name from the fact that Haight street meets Ashbury street in the heart of the region.  In Haight Ashbury a couple of street entrepreneurs attempted to sell me a bamboo didgeridu.  I told them that I had a quite effective didgeridu back at my hostel, made in approved fashion of whiteanted eucalyptus.  Unfazed, they pointed out that theirs was better because it was lighter.

There is a Starbux in a place called "Cow Hollow" in San Francisco.  There I struck up a conversation with an American woman, who bewailed the beggars and homeless.  Thinking to promote my Libertarian ideals, I entered proselytize mode.  She was unimpressed with my idea of collecting a tribal "land tax" and giving the proceeds equally to all citizens.  My explanation that the present problems related to the unreasonable (and unearned) escalation in the value of real estate fell on the deaf ears of someone who had worked for and profited from the ownership of real property.  Before I could continue, a desperate soul interrupted us, and he dominated the attention of my opponent.  I packed up and left.  I never did learn what her solution entailed, but I did learn that it did not entail giving money to the homeless.