Sunday, December 28, 2014

Crystal Blue Persuasion (San Francisco, 12/23/14)

For years I imagined taking a daytime walk from the Embarcadero to the Pacific Ocean, both for the visceral experience and the bucket list feat of traversing San Francisco from one end to the other. Last Tuesday the elements conspired in my favor. 

The tour started in the viewing area of the ferry terminal, at right in the image below.

From a glance I could see 
the back of the Ferry Building, 
Four Embarcadero Center, 
the clock tower, and

the waterfront sign which
greets ferryboat arrivals,
here in isolation,

here in concert.

Not far away was this 
seasonal San Francisco treat.
Ice skating rink? Check.
Palm trees? Check.  
60 degrees with sun? Check.
Welcome to California.

I wandered from the rink to the nearby cable car turnaround. 
This was my view from the back, facing the soaring 
buildings on California Street, while 

up front a small boy gazed in wonderment at the skyscraper canyon.

Working inland, I approached the Transamerica Pyramid 
on Merchant Alley, my field of vision shifting from   
the contrast between little brown buildings
and a white tower into

a concrete bank of off-white as I

passed a catwalk, 

the Pyramid now convening,

now become one with the azure sky.

Coming back down to earth, 
I found  Glenna Goodacre's "Puddle Jumpers,"
a sculpture at the base of the Transamerica Building, and

headed west, up Sacramento Street's precipitous incline to 
a block-sized plateau at the top of the hill where 
a treasure trove of landmarks and views
surround Huntington Park

In short order I glanced down Taylor Street to the bay,

walked the steps of 

Grace Cathedral, 

and swung by the entrance of the world-class Mark Hopkins Hotel, before

hoofing it down this Mason Street sidewalk.

I crossed Mason and Bush and

before long was in the Tenderloin, a rough neighborhood 
given to fits of beauty like this mural (at Eddy and Taylor)
by artists Darryl Mar and Darren Acora, a mural which

reflects the magical diversity of San Francisco and

makes me feel hopeful about the multicultural tapestry of America's future.

I continued along Eddy until I reached Boeddeker Park
another diamond in the rough, and hooked left on 
this charming Leavenworth crosswalk.

Some blocks on, at Leavenworth and Golden Gate, I caught
"The Gifts You Take Are Equal to the Gifts You Make"
by Catalina Gonzalez and Marta Ayala. 

My next major stop was a mile west, at Alamo Square, a popular tourist 
destination. The view below, with the "painted ladies" in the center 
of the frame and the skyline in the back, is the common one.

This time, I approached the iconic location 
from down below, on Grove and Steiner.

Moving in close, I saw 716 Steiner bathing in bright sunlight.

A few strides away was the simple elegance 
of 712 Steiner's porch and

the exquisite beauty of its window frames.

Reversing the typical perspective, I sat on 712's front steps 
and viewed two of countless thousands who have 
captured snapshots of the Victorian sisters 
from the hill across the way.

After leaving Alamo Square 
I saw this sidewalk stencil from
street artist Eclair Bandersnatch,

this door mural at Scott and Fell, 

and soon found myself in the Panhandle, 
on a winding trail which

cut through abundant green space crisscrossed with

lengthening mid-afternoon shadows.

The Panhandle took me to Golden Gate Park.
 I entered Hippie Hill from the back,

breathed in the glorious expanse at the ridge,

continued west through the AIDS Memorial Grove,

under the tunnels near the Academy of Sciences,

then along JFK Drive, 
on which I passed
a waterfall, 

Lloyd Lake,

and Spreckles Lake, where 
a seagull stood in repose while 

a duck paddled through the water, 
leaving a V in its wake.

Sunset neared as I closed on the ocean, trying to
keep up with the trails of sunlight which 
refracted through tree cover, 
moving west just ahead of me.

The Pacific was, 
as ever, 

The big ball in the sky hovered, 
its death glow growing brighter, 

casting orange as it dropped low to the water.




Other Truth and Beauty photo essays:

"It Starts with your Heart and Radiates Out" includes San Francisco 
street art, architecture, and miscellaneous city scenes 
in a stroll from the Mission to South of Market to downtown

"Gone but not Forgotten" is a tribute to a friend who left this world all too soon 

"A Sunny* Monday in San Francisco" is a day tour of the city, 
from Mission Street to the Pacific Ocean

"On a clear day you can see forever" explores Noe Valley, Ashbury Heights, 
the Inner Sunset district, microclimates, and street art on a pristine September day 

"Random San Francisco" has 46 photos which range from 
ornate architecture to vistas to murals to sidewalk messaging

"California in November" captures deep fall natural splendor