A Grin at the End: Escape to San Francisco

August 2014 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Carl Sampson

I just got back from a long weekend in San Francisco, a city I hadn’t visited in 29 years — since my wife and I were there on our honeymoon. Oh, I’ve been through the airport a few times and took a quick trip through the west side of the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge, but I hadn’t had a chance to wander around it in nearly three decades.

And here’s the thing — I really like that city.

I like everything about it. Though I am certainly not a world traveler, it is by far the most handsome city I’ve ever seen. The brightly painted row houses stacked chock-a-block up and down the hillsides, the monumental public buildings downtown, the waterfront and the beach all make for a kaleidoscopic experience.

I know that politically San Francisco is off the scale to the left, but do you know what?

I don’t really care. During my three days in San Francisco, I enjoyed everything about it.

One of the things we did — my son Peter invited me along because he had some personal business to attend to — was walk nearly the entire waterfront from the Embarcadero to Fishermen’s Wharf.

It was a Saturday afternoon and the entire area was basically a street fair. Farmers’ markets, crafts, street cars, ferries — everything was crowded with families and people  getting a heaping helping of the city.

One thing that struck me was the lack of panhandlers. There were a few — one was a Buddhist monk, I think — but compared to Portland or Salem, not many.

I wonder how they keep those guys off the sidewalks. Maybe they put them all on ferries and ship them across the bay. Anyway, our Portland and Salem friends could learn a thing or two.

The other thing that struck me is how energetic people were. They were jogging, biking, laughing and having a good time.

Compared to Oregon, where people seem generally depressed — state motto: We bum ourselves out — it was really an eye-opener.

I realize San Francisco is not perfect. There’s, uh, well, no… Then there’s the… No that’s not really a problem, either.

I know — there’s those blankety-blank hills. They’re everywhere. Whenever we walked around town we ended up climbing another Mount Everest.

And, boy howdy, does that city have hills. I was worried that if I tripped I wouldn’t stop rolling for three blocks.

I guess there’s only so much the city fathers can do about hills. They did drill a tunnel or two to bypass the steepest hills, but we still ended up hiking over the summits.

We also discovered a secret.

When our feet started to give out, we took the bus. I’m not talking about the $40-a-day double-decker tourist buses. It’ll be a cold day on Alcatraz before I pay that much for a bus ride.

The city buses, however, were a deal. You could ride just about anywhere in the city for $2.

For that price, even getting lost was cheap. And it was easier on the feet.

Carl Sampson is a freelance editor and writer. His novels can be found on amazon.com.


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