Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Ferlinghetti’

My 100 Favourite San Francisco Quotes


If the number of views is the true gauge of success, then the most popular of the two hundred posts I have submitted on this blog has been “My 50 San Francisco Quotes”. I’m sure that it is pure coincidence that it happens to be the one that contains fewest of my own words.

Moving swiftly on, and building on that success, I have now expanded it to 100. And with no more ado:

  1. One day if I go to heaven…..I’ll look around and say “It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco”. (Herb Caen)
  2. San Francisco has only one drawback – ’tis hard to leave. (Rudyard Kipling)
  3. You know what it is? (It) is a golden handcuff with the key thrown away. (John Steinbeck)
  4. East is East, and West is San Francisco. (O. Henry)
  5. San Franciscans are very proud of their city, and they should be.  It’s the most beautiful place in the world.  (Robert Redford)
  6. If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco.  If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life……San Francisco is a world to explore. It is a place where the heart can go on a delightful adventure. It is a city in which the spirit can know refreshment every day.  (William Saroyan)
  7. Every man should be allowed to love two cities, his own and San Francisco.  (Gene Fowler)
  8. Of all cities in the United States I have seen, San Francisco is the most beautiful.  (Nikita Kruschev)
  9. I prefer a wet San Francisco to a dry Manhattan. (Larry Geraldi)
  10. The cool, grey city of love. (George Sterling)
  11. I never dreamed I’d like any city as well as London.  San Francisco is exciting, moody, exhilarating.  I even love the muted fogs.  (Julie Christie)
  12. I don’t know of any other city where you can walk through so many culturally diverse neighbourhoods, and you’re never out of sight of the wild hills.  Nature is very close here.  (Gary Snyder)
  13. I’m proud to have been a Yankee. But I have found more happiness and contentment, since I came back home to San Francisco than any man has a rigo deserve. This is the friendliest city in the world. (Joe di Maggio)
  14. San Francisco is 49 square miles surrounded by reality.  (Paul Kantner)
  15. The ultimate (travel destination) for me would be one perfect day in San Francisco.  It’s a perfect 72 degrees, clear, the sky bright blue.  I’d start down at Fisherman’s Wharf with someone I really like and end with a romantic dinner and a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge.  There’s no city like it anywhere.  And, if I could be there with the girl of my dreams, that would be the ultimate.  (Larry King)
  16. The port of San Francisco……is a marvel of nature, and might well be called the harbor of harbors….And I think if it could be well settled like Europe there would not be anything more beautiful in all the world” (Juan Bautista de Anza)
  17. Leaving San Francisco is like saying goodbye to an old sweetheart.  You want to linger as long as possible.  (Walter Kronkite)
  18. The Bay Area is so beautiful, I hesitate to preach about heaven while I’m here. (Billy Graham)
  19. San Francisco can start right now to become number one. We can set examples so that others will follow. We can start overnight. We don’t have to wait for budgets to be passed, surveys to be made, political wheelings and dealings…….for it takes no money……it takes no compromising to give the people their rights……it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression. (Harvey Milk)
  20. There’s no question this is where I want to live.  Never has been.  (Robin Williams)
  21. San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world…I would probably rank it at the top or near the top.  It’s small but photogenic and has layers…You never have problems finding great angles that people have never done.  (Ang Lee)
  22. When you get tired of walking around in San Francisco, you can always lean against it.  (unknown)
  23. It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time. (Jack Kerouac)
  24. There may not be a Heaven, but there is San Francisco. (Ashleigh Brilliant)
  25. I have done more for San Francisco than any of its old residents. Since I left there it has increased in population fully 300,000. I could have done more – I could have gone earlier – it was suggested. (Mark Twain)
  26. I find no objection to turning Hollywood into a suburb of San Francisco, the most photogenic city in the world. (Mayor Joseph Alioto)
  27. The City that knows how. (William Howard Taft)
  28. San Francisco is the only city I can think of that can survive all the things you people are doing to it and still look beautiful. (Frank Lloyd Wright)
  29. You wouldn’t think such a place as San Francisco could exist.  The wonderful sunlight here, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes.  Beautiful Chinatown.  Every race in the world.  The sardine fleets sailing out.  The little cable-cars whizzing down The City hills….And all the people are open and friendly.  (Dylan Thomas)
  30. (San Francisco) is a rich, lusty city, rippling with people, with movement, with girls in summer dresses, with flowers, with color; one of the great and wonderful cities of the world….the great seaport of the Pacific now, one of the great naval bases. Through it have poured a million men…..And the sea is always just on the other side of those hills. (James Marlow)
  31. I certainly was surprised to be named Poet Laureate of this far-out city on the left side of the world, and I gratefully accept, for as I told the Mayor, “How could I refuse?” I’d rather be Poet Laureate of San Francisco than anywhere because this city has always been a poetic center, a frontier for free poetic life, with perhaps more poets and more poetry readers than any city in the world. (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
  32. In all my travels I have never seen the hospitality of San Francisco equalled anywhere in the world.  (Conrad Hilton)
  33. San Francisco! Is there a land where the magic of that name has not been felt? (Clarence F. Edwards)
  34. Your city is remarkable not only for its beauty.  It is also, of all the cities in the United States, the one whose name, the world over, conjures up the most visions and more than any other city incites one to dream.  (Georges Pompidou)
  35. It’s a mad city, inhabited by insane people whose women are of remarkable beauty (Rudyard Kipling)
  36. Somehow the great cities of America have taken their places in a jythology that shapes their destiny: money live sin New York. Power sits in Washington. Freedom sips cappuccino in a sidewalk café in San Francisco. (Joe Flower)
  37. I was married once – in San Francisco. I haven’t seen her for many years. The great earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed the marriage certificate. There’s no legal proof. Which means that earthquakes aren’t always bad. (W.C. Fields)
  38. It is a good thing the early settlers landed on the East Coast; if they’d landed in San Francisco first, the rest of the country would still be uninhabited.  (Herbert Mye)
  39. What fetched me instantly (and thousands of other newcomers with me) was the subtle but unmistakeable sense of escape from the United States.  (H.L. Mencken)
  40. The City of San Francisco (the metropolis of the State) considering its age, is by long odds the most wonderful city on the face of the earth.  (G.W. Sullivan)
  41. Any one who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me. (Anthony Boudain)
  42. There are just three big cities in the United States that are “story cities” – New York, of course, New Orleans, and, best of the lot, San Francisco. (Frank Norris)
  43. You have in San Francisco this magnificent Civic Center crowned by a City Hall which I have never seen anywhere equalled.  (Joseph Strauss)
  44. A city is where you can sign a petition, boo the chief justice, fish off a pier, gape at a hippopotamus, buy a flower at the corner, or get a good hamburger or a bad girl at 4 A.M. A city is where sirens make white streaks of sound in the sky and foghorns speak dark grays – San Francisco is such a city. (Herb Caen)
  45. Caen’s San Francisco may not be the city we remember, but it is the city we want to remember. (Mayor Willie Brown)
  46. Of all American cities of whatever size the most friendly on preliminary inspection, and on further acquaintance the most likable. The happiest-hearted, the gayest, the most care-free city on this continent.  (Irwin S. Cobb)
  47. No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does.  Arrival in San Francisco is an experience in living.  (William Saroyan)
  48. God took the beauty of the Bay of Naples, the Valley of the Nile, the Swiss Alps, the Hudson River Valley, rolled them into one and made San Francisco Bay.  (Fiorello La Guardia)
  49. I always see about six scuffles a night when I come to San Francisco.  That’s one of the town’s charms.  (Erroll Flynn)
  50. San Francisco is a complex town that lets you be yourself, that accepts you even if your family doesn’t. No matter how uncomfortable your own skin feels, you can move to this city, discover who you really are, and plant your feet on the ground.  (Jack Boulware)
  51. San Francisco, open your Golden Gate, you’ll let nobody wait outside your door, San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one, saying I’ll wander no more. (Gus Khan, Bronislaw Kaper, Walter Jurrman)
  52. San Francisco! – one of my two favorite cities.  There is more grace per square foot in San Francisco than any place on earth!  (Bishop Fulton J. Sheen)
  53. I don’t think San Francisco needs defending.  I never meet anyone who doesn’t love the place, Americans or others.  (Doris Lessing)
  54. There are a thousand viewpoints in the viewtiful city. (Herb Caen)
  55. San Francisco has always been a haven for misfits and weirdos. I’m both of these, which is why I came here. (Michael Franti)
  56. I think San Francisco is the best place in the whole world for an easy life. (Imogen Cunningham)
  57. San Francisco is perhaps the most European of all American cities. (Cecil Beaton)
  58. San Francisco is Beautiful People wearing a bracelet of bridges.  (Hal Lipset)
  59. I have always been rather better treated in San Francisco than I actually deserved (Mark Twain)
  60. It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attraction of the next world. (Oscar Wilde).
  61. Every city on earth has its special sink of vice, crime and degradation, its running ulcer or moral cancer, which it would fain hide from the gaze of mankind…..San Franciscans will not yield the palm of superiority to anything to be found elsewhere in the world. Speak of the deeper depth, the lower hell, the maelstrom of vice and iniquity – from whence those who once fairly enter escape no more forever – and they will point triumphantly to the Barbary Coast, strewn from end to end with the wrecks of humanity, and challenge you to match it anywhere outside of he lake of fire and brimstone. (Colonel Evans)
  62. If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, if you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there. (John Phillips)
  63. San Francisco is the greatest…the hills…fabulous food…most beautiful and civilised people.  (Duke and Duchess of Bedford)
  64. The old San Francisco is dead. The gayest, lightest hearted, and most pleasure-loving city of the western continent, and in many ways the most interesting and romantic, is a horde of refugees living among ruins. It may rebuild; it probably will; but those who have known that peculiar city by the Golden Gate, have caught its flavour of the Arabian Nights, feel it can never be the same. It is as though a pretty, frivolous woman has passed through a great tragedy. She survives, but she is sobered and different. If it rises out of the ashes it must be a modern city, much like other cities without its old atmosphere. (Will Irwin)
  65. I love San Francisco.  It would be a perfect place for a honeymoon.  (Kim Novak)
  66. San Francisco is a breathtakingly beautiful city, with lots of great contrasts between dark and light, often overlapping each other. It’s a great setting for a horror story. (Christopher Moore)
  67. Now there’s a grown-up swinging town.  (Frank Sinatra)
  68. Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word “Frisco”, which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of High Misdemeanour, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars. (Emperor Norton)
  69. If civil disobedience is the way to go about change, than I think a lot of people will be going to San Francisco (Rosie O’Donnell)
  70. I don’t like San Francisco.  I love it!  (Dorothy Lamour)
  71. “Queen of the Pacific Coast! Fair city whose changing skies for half the year shower down mist and rain, and the other half sunbeams of molten brass! Metropolis of alternate sticky mud and blinding dust! In spite of these and more thou art a city of my heart,  O Ciudad de San Francisco!” (T.S. Kenderdine)
  72. Two days in this city is worth two months in New York.  (Robert Menzies)
  73. I’m just mad for San Francisco.  It is like London and Paris stacked on top of each other.  (Twiggy)
  74. I fell in love with the most cordial and sociable city in the Union. After the sagebrush and alkali deserts of Wahoe, San Francisco was Paradise to me. (Mark Twain)
  75. San Francisco is poetry.  Even the hills rhyme.  (Pat Montandon)
  76. San Francisco itself is art, above all literary art. Every block is a short story, every hill a novel. Every house a poem, every dweller within immortal. This is the whole truth. (William Saroyan)
  77. I love this city.  If I am elected, I’ll move the White House to San Francisco. Everybody’s so friendly.  (Robert Kennedy)
  78. I like the fog that creeps over the whole city every night about five, and the warm protective feeling it gives…and lights of San Francisco at night, the fog horn, the bay at dusk and the little flower stands where spring flowers appear before anywhere else in the country…But, most of all, I like the view of the ocean from the Cliff House.  (Irene Dunne)
  79. San Francisco is really fun and liberal, and it’s my kind of politics. It’s like being Jewish in front of Jewish people. (Elayne Bossier)
  80. I love San Francisco and Brighton has something of San Francisco about it. It’s by the sea, there’s a big gay community, a feeling of people being there because they enjoy their life there. (Brian Eno)
  81. We’re crazy about this city.  First time we came here, we walked the streets all day – all over town – and nobody hassled us.  People smiled, friendly-like, and we knew we could live here……Los Angeles? That’s just a big parking lot where you buy a hamburger for a trip to San Francisco……And the beautiful old houses and the strange light.  We’ve never been in a city with light like this.  We sit in our hotel room for hours, watching the fog come in, the light change.  (John Lennon and Yoko Ono)
  82. The extreme geniality of San Francisco’s economic, intellectual and political climate makes it the most varied and challenging city in the United States (James Michener)
  83. But I would rather be with you, somewhere in San Francisco on a back porch in July, just looking up to Heaven, at this crescent in the sky (Robert Hunter)
  84. I have seen few things as beautiful as a 6.30 am lift-off from San Francisco International Airport in the autumn. From above, the rippled fog layer laps against the shores of the foothills like a voluminous cotton ocean (Eric Chang)
  85. San Francisco is a city with the assets of a metropolis without the disadvantages of size and industry.  (Jack Kenny)
  86. Isn’t it nice that people who prefer Los Angeles to San Francisco live there? (Herb Caen)
  87. San Francisco is one of the great cultural plateaus in the world….one of the really urbane communities in the United States…one of the truly cosmopolitan places – and for many, many years, it has always had a warm welcome for human beings from all over the world.  (Duke Ellington)
  88. The Golden Gate Bridge’s daily strip tease from enveloping stoles of mist to full frontal glory is still the most provocative show in town (Mary Moore Mason)
  89. No visit to the United States would be complete without San Francisco – this beautiful city, center of the West, very well known for its beauty and the place where the United Nations was born.  (Queen Sirikit of Thailand)
  90. To a traveler paying his first visit, it has the interest of a new planet.  It ignores the meteorological laws which govern the rest of the world.  (Fitz Hugh Ludlow)
  91. Cities are like gentlemen, they are born, not made.  You are either a city, or you are not, size has nothing to do with it.  I bet San Francisco was a city from the very first time it had a dozen settlers.  New York is “Yokel”, but San Francisco is “City at Heart”.  (Will Rogers)
  92. God! I loove this city! (Herb Caen)
  93. This is the first place in the United States where I sang, and I like San Francisco better than any other city in the world.  I love no city more than this one.  Where else could I sing outdoors on Christmas Eve?  (Luisa Tetrazzini)
  94. The San Francisco Bay Area is the playpen of countercultures (RZ Sheppard)
  95. I have seen purer liqors, better segars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier women courtesans here in San Francisco than in any other place I have ever visited. (Hinton Helper)
  96. San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories. (Jack London)
  97. San Francisco may soon become the first fully gentrified city in America, the urban equivalent of a gated bedroom community…..Now it’s becoming almost impossible for a lot of the people who have made this such a world-class city – people who have been the heart and soul of the city for decades – from the fishers and pasta makers and blue-collar workers to the jazz musicians to the beat poets to the hippies to the punks and so many others –to exist here anymore. And when you’ve lost that part of the city, you’ve lost San Francisco. (Daniel Zoll)
  98. San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home.  (Benjamin F. Taylor)
  99. It’s the grandest city I saw in America.  If everyone acted as the San Franciscans did, there would be hope for settlement of the world’s difficulties.  (Frol Zozlov)
  100. To this day the city of San Francisco remains to the Chinese the Great City of the Golden Mountains.  (Kai Fu Shah)

Read Full Post »


Many who have read my pieces on San Francisco will have concluded that Haight-Ashbury is my spiritual home, and they are probably right, principally because of the music that exploded out of there in the mid-sixties. But it is the cultural movement that pre-dated the hippies by a decade and more that most plays to my sensibilities.

The Beats, with their emphasis on free expression in literature, poetry, music, theatre and lifestyle (sex and drugs), were, whether they knew it or not at the time, the major inspiration for those young people in London and other urban areas in Britain who flocked to coffee bars and folk clubs in the late fifties and early sixties, just at the time that I was becoming aware of wider societal issues. Moreover, many of the rock stars that, a decade later, I worshipped, for example Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Jorma Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane, learnt their trade in the coffee houses of the Bay Area, heavily influenced by the events a few miles away.

Although the Beat Generation originally emerged in New York with the early works of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, it was San Francisco’s North Beach, the “Little Italy” neighbourhood nestling beneath Telegraph Hill and rubbing shoulders with bustling Chinatown, where it arguably took root.

And, although North Beach may not quite be the Italian enclave it was half a century ago, the influence of the Beats remains to this day. Certain landmarks are place of pilgrimage for both my generation and anyone who believes in free expression and alternative perspectives on the issues of the day.

My walk begins at my favourite San Francisco watering hole, Vesuvio, interestingly still called a café rather than a bar, and not just because it is where Neal Casady, inspiration for the character of Dean Moriarty in Kerouac’s classic Beat novel On The Road, first met the writer at a poetry reading in 1955.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A few groggy steps across Jack Kerouac Alley stands one of America’s most famous and important bookstores, City Lights, which celebrates its sixtieth birthday this year. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, now 94 and San Francisco’s unofficial poet laureate, and Peter D. Martin, first opened its doors at around the time of the coronation of the new Queen, Elizabeth II, across the Atlantic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I never leave San Francisco without visiting the bookstore and coming away with at least one book. Many of the more interesting and challenging books on the city’s past, present and future are published by City Lights and they are not easy to get hold of elsewhere. Two and counting at present on this trip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the addition of The Beat Museum on Broadway in 2003, the devotees’ experience of the area has been enriched still further. Aside from the fascinating exhibit in the museum itself, the adjoining shop sells an amazing collection of books, DVDs, posters, t shirts and other Beat memorabilia. Whilst I managed, at least on my previous visit, to resist the blandishments of a signed book by Wavy Gravy at $45 (but there’s still another trip), I still bought another. If distance makes visiting the museum itself out of the question, they run an excellent online store too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although I am not qualified to say whether Broadway, which cuts across Columbus, has the same caché as it once had (though I think I do know the answer to that), there can be no question that the days of Lenny Bruce’s risqué comedy act at the hungry i and Carol Doda’s historic breast baring at the Condor are long past.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P1020235

North Beach is still awash with coffee houses, many of which were haunts of unemployed writers and musicians in the heyday of the Beats. Café Trieste is perhaps the most prestigious with its live opera, oh so cool attitude and blisteringly strong espresso. Seats are hard to come by for all those reasons – well, at least inside! 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think it’s only fitting that we should finish back at Vesuvio – I hear that Bob Dylan has dropped in for an espresso.

And I’ll leave you with an image that describes the Beat’s relationship to polite society like no other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read Full Post »


Anyone with the merest acquaintance with this blog will observe a strong bias towards the city of San Francisco in it. If the heading of “A Golden Gate State of Mind” and accompanying photograph did not immediately give it away, the preponderance of posts on the city certainly will.

So what, you ask, is the attraction of what San Francisco based Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti called “this far-out city on the left side of the world” to a cricket loving, warm beer drinking Englishman?

Well, that is a very good question (I do wish you hadn’t asked it).  It’s not sufficient to say it is because I “love” it.  After all, there are many things that I love – my wife, my father, my football team, my favourite rock band, skiing, fish and chips, and the BBC Breakfast presenter, Susanna Reid (I’d be grateful if you didn’t tell my wife about that one) – the list goes on.

But “love” – like “great” – is an overused – or rather over abused – word today. In fact, I may have proved this conclusively in the preceding paragraph. Everyone will have places that they “love”, whether it be Paris, Rio de Janeiro, New York or even Leysdown-on-Sea. Few of us would deny “loving” their favourite holiday haunts, particularly if they return to them time and again.

So I think you deserve a more substantial explanation than that. After all, it took me nearly 43 years to finally feast my hungry eyes on the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, even though I had venerated the city from afar for nearly three decades before that. So what do I find so special about it now?

Before I answer it – and I’m not prevaricating, honest – I think it is worth considering what it is about a place that makes us become attached to it. After all, isn’t it nothing more nor less than a collection of natural features and man-made buildings?

I suppose that many of us, including myself, claim that we “love” the place in which we were born and / or raised. It is this emotional attachment, linked to childhood memories, that, I believe, is the crucial factor here. And the acknowledgement of that attachment may not manifest itself without the aid of age and distance.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “there’s no place like home” may be cliches but they still have a sturdy ring of truth. James Joyce – that incomparable chronicler of place – could not, as he himself admitted, have written so profoundly or entertainingly about Dublin had he stayed there instead of leaving it to work and live in Trieste, Zurich and Paris.

My last post (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2012/02/08/walking-with-our-mutual-friend/) conveys my affection for my own home town of Rochester in Kent, and an earlier one (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/to-my-home-county/) describes the pride I have in being a Man of Kent, a grateful product of its rich embrace of coast and countryside.

So our attachment to place begins, as with so many of our passions, with our childhood experiences.

But I digress. We’re not in Kent(as) anymore, Toto. You want to read about why I “love” San Francisco. Well, I presume you still do or you would have given up by now. So here goes.

I could cite the stunning beauty of the bay and its glittering “bracelet of bridges”, the gorgeous skies, the cute, clanking cable cars, the abundance of fresh seafood in its classy restaurants, the diversity of its music and theatre scene, the richness of its ethnic neighbourhoods, the thrilling exploits of the Giants and 49ers, and, of course, its renowned tolerance and reputation as a haven for the otherwise discarded and disaffected – all of these are part of it.

However, thousands of other visitors have been equally captivated by most, if not all, of these qualities. It is not for nothing that many leave their heart in San Francisco.  But their “love” is invariably on loan, perhaps until the next trip or another geographical gigolo snatches their affection. Mine is permanent, organic, forever.  

So what is it about this place that has lured this individual into spending what time he can’t reside in it dreaming and writing about it?  Why has this place gotten hold of my heart” where other cities I delight in visiting, such as Venice, Florence, Barcelona, Dublin and New York have not? And why, with relatively little time left, and  just as I am about to resolve to go somewhere else, does it sing its siren (or is that sea lion) songs to me, steering my boat back into the dock of the bay?

For much of my life it was a platonic, long distance affair.  It started with the Summer of Love (1967) when San Francisco snared the imagination of many people across the globe, including one 14 year old English schoolboy an entire continent and ocean away. Intrigued by the love and peace mantra, he was inspired by Scott McKenzie and the Flowerpot Men to commit fashion suicide by wearing paisley shirts and, on at least one occasion, flowers (almost certainly plastic) in his hair, to football matches that year – fortunately, it pre-dated the skinhead era or he may not have been given such an easy ride!

Three years later, the music of the Bay Area, in the form of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service began to fill my head. “Everyone’s favourite city” had become the epicentre of my cultural universe. However, another two and a half decades passed before I set foot on San Francisco’s ever shifting soil.

And, for me, Haight-Ashbury, from whence that dazzling music came, still represents, more than any other location in the city, MY San Francisco, and where I gravitate to on every trip, however short. Free concerts by the Dead on flat bed trucks in the Panhandle and Golden Gate Park, tie-dye shirts and the pungent waft of marijuana smoke remain enduring images of that time.

And there is just enough of that atmosphere – at stores like Positively Haight Street, Haight-Ashbury T-shirts and Pipe Dreams, as well as Sami Sunchild’s Red Victorian (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/great-san-franciscan-characters-14-sami-sunchild/) – to keep me enthused as I saunter down Haight Street today.

That is not to say that other parts – the Tenderloin and Civic Center no less than the trendy neighbourhoods and tourist honeypots – are not equally “real” embodiments of the modern city, all too real some might say. Though I embrace them all, the Haight remains the heart of my San Franciscan experience. Its only failing is that it does not aford bay views!  Or does it? I really must check on my next trip!

Another earlier post (www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/my-san-francisco-top-ten/) summarises those parts of the city that captivate me most, so I will not bore you by repeating them here.

It’s not just the physical sights and sounds that appeal, but the literature (Armistead Maupin, Jack Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Dashiel Hammett, Jack London) and history (the Barbary Coast, the earthquake and Great Fire, the cultural movements of the fifties and sixties) that fascinate me too.  And has there been a better chronicler of a city anywhere than Herb Caen(www.tonyquarrington.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/great-san-franciscan-characters-6-herb-caen/), renowned columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle?

Indeed, it was Caen who wrote half a century ago in one of his many ruminations on what made a San Franciscan:

I don’t think that place of origin or number of years on the scene have anything to do with it really. There are newcomers who become San Franciscans overnight – delighted with and interested in the city’s traditions and history. They can see the Ferry Building for what it represents (not for what it is), they are fascinated with the sagas of Sharons, Ralstons, Floods and Crockers, they savor the uniqueness of cable car and foghorn. By the same token, I know natives who will never be San Franciscans if they outlive Methusalah. To them a cable car is a traffic obstruction, the fog is something that keeps them from getting a tan, and Los Angeles is where they really know how to Get Things Done.

I like to think that I fit into Caen’s San Francisco “newcomer” category, though I’ll settle for being the “sophisticated tourist” who is “charmed and fascinated” by the city.

I have used the word “home” in a number of features on San Francisco, and that, I think, is the key here. That is not to say that it replaces the town in which I was born and raised – though, equally, it might – but rather that the city engenders those same feelings, not just of comfort and security but also of confidence and pride that allows me to engage with it on all levels. Venice and New York do not. Nor even does “dear, dirty Dublin”, despite my Irish ancestry.

Back where we started then.

And my wife and I have deliberately fostered this feeling in recent years where, by staying in apartments in different neighbourhoods – Hayes Valley and North of the Panhandle, and for our upcoming (ninth) visit, Noe Valley – we aim to “live like locals”, whilst continuing to take in the traditional tourist sights too (our stays are still too short to omit them, even if we wanted to). It is another of San Francisco’s virtues that we can do both.

How many of us can say that anywhere, at least beyond the place in which we live, that we can call it “home”?

Do you have any place that exercises that same grip on you?

I’ll end with Herb Caen again:

thank God or Allah or whoever it was that blessed this small, special, annoying, irresistible place at the tip of a peninsula and the end of the world.

Read Full Post »