The City by the Bay and a 35 Foot Polar Bear Made From Smashed Car Hoods.

I’ve spent a lot of time in cities from Belgrade to London to New York, but last weekend in San Francisco I noticed things I’ve not seen in other cities.  We were in San Francisco for a memorial service and celebration of the life of a friend, but we had two free evenings and an afternoon to explore a little.  We hadn’t spent any real time there since 1989, almost three decades ago.  That was just before the earthquake that brought down the Embarcadero freeway.  I particularly wanted to see what they had done to the waterfront.

We rode the BART (subway) into the city.  (By the way, BART has the most confusing instructions on their automatic ticket machines I have ever seen.  Several of us out of towners were standing around trying to figure them out.  When we finally got tickets the machine was supposed to give change, it didn’t, at a loss to me of 15 cents.)  On each train, near the doors, there are bench seats reserved for people with mobility issues.  These seats were taken up by guys laid out sleeping.  When we got off BART we saw a man sleeping along the station wall cuddling a large teddy bear.   As we left the station a guy approached me, with my longish white beard, and yelled “who do you think you are f@#king Santa Claus?”  About 20 minutes later the same man came up to me and asked “can you spare some change?”  I was tempted to answer “who do you think I am….” Brian suggested I tell “Sorry I’m out of lumps of coal.”  Instead I just said “The BART machine took my spare change.”

The main thing I wanted to do in San Francisco was to ride the cable cars and historic street cars (see separate post.)  We got our day pass money’s worth in only a few hours.

We enjoyed the National Historical Park, which has a fine visitor center and a several historic ships on display.  The exhibits were great but it was nice just to sit by the bay and watch cruise ships and container vessels pass through the Golden Gate.  After our sit we enjoyed a walk and then a trolley ride along the water front.  Our dinner and wine at a Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant, Capurro’s, was good until the bill came.   The bill was $95 and the computer helpfully printed bill suggested tips, 15% – $22.50, 18% – $27.00 and 20% – $30.00.  Do the math.  But remember normal rules of math do not apply to areas this close to Silicon Valley.   Or perhaps this is new math?   I think the restaurant was trying to trick us into leaving an excessively large tip,

But it was a pleasant afternoon and a beautiful evening.  Going back to the motel I made my first attempt to negotiate Uber all by myself.  It worked — kind of.  I waited where the app told me to wait, by the 35 foot tall polar bear made of smashed automobile hoods in front of the Ferry Building.  The Uber pulled up a block away at the foot of Market Street.  The driver called and asked where I was.  I asked where he was.  I ended up walking across a park to find him.  For my effort I had a 29 cent “car waiting fee” tacked onto my bill.

And why is there a 35 foot polar bear made of smashed car hoods standing in front of the Ferry Building?  It is a bit of conceptual art erected to welcome the “Global Climate Action Summit” held last week in San Francisco.  Apparently and endangered polar bear is more comforting to San Franciscans than a depiction of the ferry building under water.

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