Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Castro Street’


I dreamt long last night of San Francisco,
As I have done on so many nights since
I left my heart there twenty years ago,
I trust these verses will you too convince.

I stood upon summer brown Bernal Hill,
Watching the golden city laid before me
Like a lover spread ‘cross a crumpled bed,
In no sweeter place would I rather be.

Standing astride the stunning Sunset steps
As Karl the Fog weaves his cool, wondrous spell,
Slicing Sutro Tower in half before,
In a heartbeat, it returns and all’s well.

Hanging for dear life from the cable car
I crest the hill on Hyde at dawn of day,
Siren song from all the foghorns moaning
As we hurtle down to the glistening bay.

Eating popovers by Pacific shore
Among the tourists and locals well dressed,
Humming to O Sole Mio on a Saturday
While wrestling a ristretto at Trieste.

Hailing Emperor Norton and his doting flock,
As they follow him on the Barbary Coast,
Waiting two hours in Mama’s breakfast line
For bacon, eggs benedict and French toast.

Hunting for tie-dye tees in Hippie Haight,
Paying homage to Harvey on Castro Street,
Reading a whole novel on the F Streetcar
As it clanks and clatters to a Market beat.

Drinking a cool, tall glass of Anchor Steam
With ghosts of Ginsberg, Neal and Kerouac,
In North Beach’s celebrated beat retreat
With Joyce’s peering portrait at my back.

Gorging on Gilroy’s garlic fries at the yard
As gulls circle above to claim what’s left,
Pablo slams a mighty walk off splash hit
To leave downhearted Dodgers fans bereft.

Sharing tales of shows at the Fillmore West
In Martha’s line for coffee and muffin,
The Blackpool boat tram glides past and waves
To Lovejoy’s ladies taking tea and tiffin.

The scent of jasmine on our Noe porch,
Sea lions honking on the wharfside pier,
Sourdough crust with Coppola chardonnay,
And that bracelet of bridges held so dear.

These and other images engulf my mind –
Painted houses, murals and gleaming bay,
Neighbourhoods full of music, food and fun –
I mourn the undue advent of the day.

Read Full Post »


One of the most endearing but infuriating features of San Francisco’s characteristically quirky public transport system are the historic streetcars that run along the F Line between the Castro and Fisherman’s Wharf via Market Street and the Embarcadero.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Redolent of a bygone age, they are fascinating historical constructs that appeal primarily to tourists because anyone, local or frequent visitor alike, who has travelled on one, knows that they are built neither for speed nor comfort. One journey my wife and I took from Church and Market to Fisherman’s Wharf last month took an hour and twenty minutes, admittedly extended due to roadworks on Market. 

But, at the best of times, expect a rough, cramped, hot ride that goes nowhere very fast. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whilst there are a number of home-grown, or rather home-built, cars, many have been imported from all over the globe, including as far afield as Tokyo and Melbourne. As I write this now, five and a half thousand miles and eight hours away, streetcars from the following cities are operating inbound towards Fisherman’s Wharf: Louisville Kentucky, El Paso Texas, Juarez Mexico, Detroit Michigan, Brooklyn New York, Boston Elevated Railway, Cleveland Ohio and Milan, Italy. Other cities to have “donated” vehicles from their collection include Birmingham Alabama and Cincinnati Ohio.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s even one from the seaside resort of Blackpool in the north west of England, one I may well have sat on in decades past! We first encountered it in its new San Francisco home whilst waiting for the gleaming, modern MUNI Metro J Church train a couple of blocks from our Noe Valley apartment!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Many “experts” opine that your best chance of boarding a cable car (which, by the way, costs three times as much for a single journey as a streetcar) is a few blocks away from the Powell Street and Hyde Street termini. That may well be true, but if you wish to ride a streetcar, your best chance of a) getting aboard at all, and b) finding a seat (though the likelihood of you feeling ill may actually be lessened by standing up), you would do well to start at either end of the route (especially alongside Walgreen’s at Fisherman’s Wharf), as the following photograph taken aboard the Baltimore bus at Church and Market would indicate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In conclusion, do NOT prise yourself onto one if you need to be somewhere any time the same week (sorry, I exaggerate to make a point). But if you have plenty of time on your hand, do not get stressed very easily and enjoy being part of history, go ahead, sit back and – ahem – enjoy the ride.

Read Full Post »


It may no longer be the political and social heartbeat of the LGBT community in San Francisco (so many have moved out to adjoining neighbourhoods), but the Castro still displays its roots proudly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Following lunch at the Church Street Café, we sauntered up Market to the intersection with 17th and Castro before turning into Castro Street itself. The number and size of rainbow flags seem to proliferate with every visit. And the full to bursting hanging baskets complemented them perfectly against a soft sky.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Few tourists intruded on what was a very businesslike atmosphere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But humour cohabits with commerce in the upscale  food, gift and clothing stores  that adorn the  main drag  (no pun intended) and adjoining streets.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It might not flaunt its roots nowadays quite as obviously as arguably Haight Street does, but you might still think twice about subjecting your maternal grandmother from Kansas  to the sights in some of the window displays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most striking building on the street remains the glorious Castro Theatre, which I’m assured by locals is even more spectacular inside. Well, finally, we will get the chance for ourselves to test that opinion by attending the double bill of  Romeo and Juliet (the Leonardo di Caprio version) and Strictly Ballroom on Saturday (escaping the predicted heatwave for a few hours).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is run a close second by the beautiful frontage of the Fork Café a few days away from the movie theatre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Setting off back down Market Street you might almost miss the brightly coloured mural commemorating those who have died of AIDS since the disease first began to decimate lives in the early eighties. The question in the segment of the mural highlighted above remains as poignant and pertinent today.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Exiting Castro Street at its western end onto Market Street, one cannot fail to be impressed by what I believe to be the largest rainbow flag on the planet, flying over the plaza that commemorates the legacy of the great Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to public office in the country. His influence continues to blaze where people are discriminated on the grounds of whom they fall in love with.

Read Full Post »