We had planned to take the advice of the Small Faces today and spend a “lazy Sunday afternoon” in the neighbourhood. The only thing we really had to do was some food shopping for the next few days. Otherwise, we would take it easy, have a traditional English roast dinner in the apartment and then settle down for the latest instalment of Celebrity Apprentice on NBC later in the evening. And, of course, there was the blog to write.
A slow morning began with my following my soccer team, Gillingham, on live text commentary on the internet as they attempted to enhance their promotion aspirations at Cheltenham. The 3pm kick off time back home meant that, with the additional hour from last night’s change to British Summer Time, that we were now 8 hours behind. Last night’s excesses prevented me from making the start at 7am, but I was ready an hour later to follow the second half (in bed with the laptop!). Gillingham had gone a goal down in the third minute, and that remained the likely outcome until four minutes before the end when they equalised. Even more remarkably, they scored again in the very last minute to secure a 2-1 win, a great start to the day.
After a leisurely breakfast in the apartment we wandered down to Grove and Divisadero to look at the Farmer’s Market. As we were planning to stay out for some time, doing our shopping at the Lucky supermarket on our way back to the house, we decided not to purchase anything at this stage.
I thought I had struck lucky when, as we sauntered along Divisadero to the intersection with Haight, a gorgeous young woman (ok, a sixty something harridan) rushed up to me to say how lovely my red hair was (yes, I do have some red colour in the naturally dark brown)! Taken aback by the complement I should have realised that this was the opening gambit to ask for money (our first beggar of the day). I advised her – mistakenly – that we hadn’t any cash at present and were actually on our way to an ATM, at which she reeled off the locations of all those in the immediate vicinity! Fortunately, she found someone more obliging and we managed to lose her by Page.
Turning up Haight we walked through Buena Vista Park with its fine views of the city and back onto the main street in the area. I have been disappointed with Haight-Ashbury on our last few visits, particularly those shops, for example Positively Haight Street and Haight-Ashbury T-Shirts, which focused primarily on retro sixties hippie culture. They seemed to have moved away from that era somewhat, providing more of a balance between freak and mainstream clothing and accessories. Indeed, today I felt that they had undergone a makeover even since this time last year – perhaps they were just cleaner and tidier now, which, in a sense, is out of keeping with the original design.
That aside, what struck me today was how many shops, including new ones, were open, and seemingly thriving. Since the onset of the recession it has been difficult to walk down any street in any town or city in either the UK or US without seeing a significant number of boarded up shops. This was frankly surprisngly not the case today on Haight Street, where I counted only two closed retail outlets. Yes, many had sales and there were the customary groups of residual “heads” hanging out on the sidewalks. It may have been the early spring sunshine and the fact that it was Sunday, but there seemed to be a renewed energy and optimism that I hadn’t witnessed in recent years and which was, especially, for this ageing hippie, very heartening.
The fact that Janet and I spent longer – around three hours – on the street today than we have for many years seemed to reinforce this feeling. I had seen some baseball fans during the 2010 postseason wearing Giants t-shirts with the Grateful Dead “steal your face” logo on, so was pleased to pick up one today. I managed also, seven years after first having the band recommended to me by a photographer on the slopes of Heavenly ski resort, to purchase a couple of live albums by String Cheese Incident at Ameoba Records.
Lunch was taken at the Blue Front Cafe, a middle eastern eatery serving up wholesome and tasty wraps, bagels etc. and strong coffee, and the warm afternoon sunshine later persuaded us to succumb to the ultimate modern day Haight-Ashbury tourist activity of indulging in a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at the famous street intersection. I also made a fellow Englishman’s day by taking a photograph with his own camera of him posing outside 710 Ashbury, the fabled early home of the Grateful Dead.
Our extended and enjoyable sojourn in the Haight delayed our planned shopping expedition to the Lucky supermarket just 100 yards from our apartment. After several sun-kissed hours wallowing in sixties West Coast nostalgia, we turned our San Francisco home into an English enclave by having our customary Sunday dinner of roast chicken, roast potatoes, carrots, peas, chicken stuffing, apple sauce and chicken gravy, washed down, of course, with a Californian sauvignon blanc.
The lazy Sunday theme was restored with a night spent watching America’s Next Great Restaurant (I don’t think so!) and Celebrity Apprentice (Dionne Warwick is still a “heartbreaker”!) on TV.
All in all, a lovely San Francisco Sunday with an English twist.