San Francisco - It begins ...

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mark Twain once said that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. I can beleieve it; it's bloomin' freezing here, real winter coat type weather. Trouble is, we've just flown in from SE Asia and we don't have any warm clothing. Never mind, lets go sight-seeing.
I've never been anywhere with so many suburbs, each so different from the last. There's North beach, home to espresso sipping, beat generation, Jack Kerouac types. On to Chinatown, just what we need after 3 months in Asia. Castro, a haven for queens and closet-queens alike. Fishermans Wharf, for pumped up tourists and home to hundreds of landlubber sealions. Union Square, packed with San Fran yupees and shopping-bag laden tourists. And last but not least, the Mission, for a vision of real-life Grand Theft Auto. 
I think the most enjoyable place was the Mission, it's full of harmless undesirables and a few lunatics. Every second person talks to themselves or shouts at passers-by unprovoked. On one corner we saw a woman selling turtles as pets. We made it down there on the day of the Carnivale and caught the back end of the festivities. Funnily enough, I felt a hell of a lot safer in Asia. Although the majority of people here are harmless, a few of them look like they would kill me for stepping on their shoe.
After we'd looked around the greater city we took in the sights of Fishermans Wharf. 'Ripley's Believe it or Not' is classic Americana. Essentially, it's a freakshow museum. What better way to spend an hour than gorping at the disfigured and having your mind blown by interactive magic tricks. Next we set sail for a ride under San Fran's most symbollic structure, The Golden Gate Bridge. The fog was hindering the photos unfortunately but we got the idea, it's some mighty fine bridge building, yes sir. With the cold, cold wind in our hair we continued to Alcatraz, home to some of America's nastiest (and deadest) scumbags. Sadly, it's memorial day weekend and tickets to step foot on the island have been sold out for weeks, so we're observing it from the seas with comedy narration.
Formerly home to Al Capone, the old prison had a reputation for being inpenetrable and unescapable. Even big Al himself had a hard time on the rock. He was bullied like any other man, his power rendered useless within the confines of the island. Eventually he went mad with syphilis. Another famous inmate was George 'Machine Gun' Kelly who supposedly wrote "Nothing could be worth this" on his cell wall. Life on the rock was hard. In fact it was so hard that many attempted escape. Most found out that swimming was useless and ultimately deadly and so the inmates had to think of other ways to find freedom. Hilariously, one inmate patiently collected army uniform over a ten year period (he washed uniforms on the top floor laundry), and calmly walked onto a delivery boat disguised as a soldier. Within minutes of being on dry land he was caught and quietly made to row the boat back to the island.
San Fran's been great. It's a pretty liberal city, home to America's creative elite and equally home to some absolute nutjobs.
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