Going, going...back, back...to Cali, Cali

Actually, I've gone and returned at this point, but I thought I'd share some pics of my recent trip to Cali. I think I can, for the most part, say that I don't really miss California. Portland, and the Pacific Northwest in general, seems to fit alright with me. However, there are some things about home that I do miss; namely the magic and energy of San Francisco. As you can see on the left, there is something beautiful about the fog, the bustle, and size of the City. It has been called Baghdad by the Bay, as well as drawing comparisons to Paris. Either way, it is a city of extremes that captures both the good and bad of urban experiences. Beyond that, though, it is a city that has a storied history (as far as West Coast cities are considered) that includes cultural revolutions, a stable, yet always changing face, and the inspiration for many authors, poets, and movie producers. The picture above was taken from North Beach, where the Beat Generation gained much of its attention, as well as the arrival point for many Italian immigrants back in the day. Now it is at the crossroads of Chinatown, the financial district, the Italian community, and the Broadway strip, filled with its numerous strip clubs and swanky bars. The picture is looking toward downtown, with the TransAmerica Pyramid taking center stage.

Below are pictures that represent the constant change the City finds itself enduring. On the left are two buildings, dating back some 90+ years. While the financial district is littered with remnants of the rebuilding that took place after the 1906 Fire and Earthquake, more and more San Franciscans are finding whole neighborhoods transformed overnight with new skyscrapers and various redevelopment projects. The picture below and in the middle is of a tower that will be the tallest residential building west of Chicago (it won't be the tallest overall building in SF, but for comparison, it will be 100 feet taller than the largest skyscraper in Portland). I think there will be 15 more stories added to what you see there (only partial viewing, as the pic is taken from a roof top). To the right is Mission Bay, a brand new neighborhood that is replacing what used to be dilapidated warehouses, homeless encampments, and a train yard. It sits on the edge of the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood, just across from where the Giants play (I've spent many days and nights at the park nestled in the corner there). Speaking of cultural revolutions, I spent a little time in the Haight, which still exhibits much of the counterculture the hippies drew attention to in the 60s and 70s. As you can see (pic on the left), it is still a place where you can buy pipes and bongs ("tobacco paraphernalia"). There is an abundance of rehab centers, drug clinics, and half-way houses in the neighborhood, so naturally, coupled with the head shops, it attracts a lot of transients and drugs much like it did in the 60s and 70s. Despite the abundance of drugs and street culture, it also attracts a lot of tourists and hipsters. The mix creates a funky vibe that fosters an open spirit, artistic expression, and a constant reminder of the neighborhood's past. The Haight is also home to one of my favorite record stores, Amoeba Records. Here, you'll find a lot of vinyl (not that I'm hip enough to still buy records), hard to find music, and a good support for local, independent, and underground artists.

It may seem like I just went home and did the tourist thing. Not quite. Yes, I did have my camera, but mostly I just soaked up the City's energy. I chilled on
Market Street (pictured to the left), where the business men of the financial district walk side by side with the homeless, tourists, drug dealers, chess players, hob-nobbers, and out of town shoppers, while trying not to get hit by a MUNI bus or crapped on by the millions of pigeons that make their home there.

More than that, though, I got a chance to see some old sights (including the old neighborhood in the Sunset pictured above and to the right), forget about my ulcer-inducing job, and visit with family. The kids, Julianne and Christian, on the left are my niece and nephew. They live in the North Bay, just outside of Petaluma. To the right are my cousins, Kyle and Darcy (we're on her roof).
As always, my dad and I got together for a few pints at our favorite pub, O'Reilly's. And as usually is the case, my dad had a few more pints than he probably needed. We were also lucky to find our friend, and owner of the pub, Myles there (interesting tidbit: Myles' brother went to school in Belfast with the owner of Kells). Myles (pictured with my dad) sat with us for a while, inviting his friend Bobby Lavery to join us as well. Bobby was visiting from Belfast, where he used to sit on the Board of Council as a representative for Sinn Fein. He shared a ton of stories with us and we all had good craic (a good time in Irish).
No trip would be complete without getting together with old friends. Mara and Matt are pictured on the left. Aren't they good Giants fans? They were nice enough to feed me, drink with me, and house me for a couple nights. We also got a good game of wiffle ball in.

The scums in the picture to the right are Tony and Ophir. Those two, along with
Matt (a different one...to my left, here, with the gorilla jaw) are my oldest friends...more like brothers. Doesn't Ophir (on the right) seem like a happy bloak? His smile and generous belly rubs are infectious.
Anyway, that about does it for my California trip. It wasn't as eventful as the length of this blog would indicate, but I did have a good time.

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