Sunday

This was the morning of the San Francisco Marathon, and although I generally loath runners and their skinny asses, I felt lucky to see it. I rode the cable cars down to the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero to see the last of it, and had coffee while sitting and looking over the bay as the sun rose.

After that, I got followed for four blocks by a crazy homeless guy with whom I accidentally made eye contact. I finally caught the cable car, and as I did, he yelled “I knew you were gonna do that! I could get on that thing too!” Nice. There are more homeless people here than I’ve seen on the streets of any other city I’ve visited. I have read that they come here because the weather is at least survivable year-round, and the city itself is fairly tolerant of their presence. It’s incongruous, though, because this is an aggressively middle-to-upper-class city, full of stylish fashionistas, industrious shopkeepers, and businesspeople rushing to and fro. There are no poor here, as far as I can see – but lots of homeless. The homeless people themselves are much as they are everywhere in America: clearly insane. These are people who would have been (and probably were) in state hospitals before the reforms of the 1970s. They need food and shelter, but jobs and housing programs might not help them. One suspects that many of them would never “make it” on their own, and need institutional care.

The fog lifted by midmorning to reveal a brilliantly sunny and clear day. I sat in the plaza between Grace Cathedral and the Chapter House and watched elderly Chinese folks doing tai chi in the bright sun.

I attended the Cathedral’s 11 AM service, which was a lovely choral mass where even the prayers were sung. The cathedral itself is classically neo-gothic, except that it’s made of reinforced concrete. It is very lovely, though, with superb acoustics. I noticed the acoustics immediately when the equally superb men’s and boy’s choir chanted Psalm 145 as the ministers processed into the sanctuary.

I-Pods are requisite here. Everyone – and I mean everyone – has one on. All the time.

I finally managed to pick up a camera, but I’m sorry to say that the digital cameras cost more than I wanted to spend for an item that I already have (and simply forgot), so I’ll have to wait until i get home to post my pictures. After getting the camera, I stopped by Walgreens to pick up Pepcid (forgot mine at home, and this vacation involves some piehole-stuffing) and Aleve (Apparently, last night’s heroic hike all the way up Powell St. was ill-advised. Or that’s what my hips, knees, thighs, and ass say, anyway.).

After a quick stop back at the hotel, I went back to China town to a) stuff my piehole, and b) take all the pictures that I wanted to take yesterday. I ate at a place called “Silver Restaurant”, complete with ducks and smoked squid hanging in the window. Like most of the places in Chinatown, they had an assortment of dim sum for $2.50 or $3.00 a plate (2 or 3 pieces, usually). It’s easy to make a meal of just that, especially if, like me, you want to taste a million different things. I ordered two different dim sum: sweet lotus powder buns and Chinese sausage buns. Both were steamed; steamed Chinese buns are one of my favorite things in the universe, a soft, white, glutinous experience of East-Meets-White Trash – everything you loved about Wonder Bread, but better! I finally got to taste the mysterious Chinese sausages, which weren’t as exciting as I’d hoped. I don’t know why I was expecting them to like speak Chinese or dance for me or something, but they’re narrow air-cured sausages with a dusky, subtle flavor. Very nice.

After my dim sum, I tore into some Szechwan Duck, consisting of very thin, moist slices of duck mean that had been breaded and deep-fried, and then stir-fried in a slightly sweet (but very spicy) sauce with bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and a few other vegetables. Crispy + Duck = Good.

Sometime around 2 PM, the entire population of Europe arrived in San Francisco. Either there’s something specific going on, or this is just a really popular destination for Euro-tourists. Not that I blame them. There are a lot of them, though. There were long stretches of time this afternoon when I heard nothing but German, French, Italian, and various Scandinavian languages around me on the streets. On the whole, I would say that the population of San Francisco is currently about 60% tourist, and the streets were getting a little crowded (good luck cramming yourself on the cable cars), so I’ve come back to the hotel to rest a bit before venturing out again.

It is ludicrously beautiful here. I cannot imagine how anyone who could live here would live anywhere else.

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