You may recall the somewhat abrupt ending to the posting “Days of Milk and Honey”. After having wallowed in alternative life styles all morning of 22 May, I decided to make a full day out of my visit to SF and spend the afternoon like an ordinary tourist, but with a twist: I would be getting well acquainted with the cable car, a venerable institution of this town, but would investigate it on foot, following one of the lines from its beginning to its end.
Before starting our hike, let us briefly linger at the Powell Street Terminal of the two turntable car lines. This was a busy part of town, lying just below Union Square, but not as busy by far as the other terminal, down in the harbor, where hundreds of people usually queue for the cars. At Powell, it was relatively easy for me to advance sufficiently for a good view of the turntable and its operation. For the aficionados of public transport among you, I have a little treat in store: have a look at the shortish video below, by double clicking on the address. If this does not satisfy your cravings, I am sure that Youtube will be happy to oblige you with many more of the same kind.
After this promising start, up I climbed on Powell Street, from time to time being accompanied and outrun by these lovely antique vehicles. The climb was steep, as you can see from the pictures, and could stand comparison with the climbing I had to do in Sunol and Briones (see “The green, green Grass of Home” and “[Not so] Wuthering Heights”). Indeed, you can take many a serious hike in San Francisco, providing ample training for the worst in mountain trekking!
After some twenty minutes’ upward labors, the crest of the hill came in sight. Thereabouts you can find the famous crossing of the cable lines, with the California line coming from the right, on California Street, threatening to clash with the other two, more sedate, lines, on Powell. Once up on the crest, rewards await you. Down yonder a vista opens towards the Commercial Centre, with all the skyscrapers, not above, but rather below your highnesses. But that is not all: harken, you lovers of fancy hotels, for to your right opens up a courtyard leading to the quintessence of elegant abodes, that of the Clark Hopkins International.
Although I had promised you to be a tourist among others that afternoon, I could not resist directing my thoughts to the famous novel “More Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin. In it he tells the story of a strange cannibal cult, with its main place of sacrifice on a platform just above the altar of Grace Cathedral. Lest you loose your appetite, let me emphasize that the cult members do not kill anyone. Instead, they “borrow” body parts from the city morgue, and digest them concurrent with the priest officiating the Holy Communion at the altar below. It appears that the cult takes the words “this is my flesh and my blood” more seriously than does the ordained priest with his bleak oblates and watered-down wine. But, enough of these sordid evasions from the main thread! I trust you understand that I had no cravings to pay the church a thorough visit.
I am glad I did, since the short hike showed me Oakland’s downtown in a much more pleasant light than I remembered it. It turns out that former Governor Jerry Brown was the city’s Mayor until fairly recently and managed to attract considerable funds for the refurbishing of downtown. Unfortunately, he tired eventually of his mission. An unfortunate incident may have contributed to his languor: Whilst he was hosting a party on the lawns of his official residency downtown, a gang war suddenly erupted virtually under his noses, even if outside the gates, with several killings as a result. Soon thereafter, Jerry announced that he had had enough and is now aiming at becoming Governor of California again. It may be so that it is easier to engage on a mission to save California, than trying to rescue Oakland. As Governor in Sacramento, the gangs are not as close to the residency’s gates as they are in Oakland.
But even with Jerry gone, we still can enjoy the results of his missionary efforts. The downtown looks more clean and orderly, no more pawn shops, prostitutes and other ne’er-do-wells in sight. Let’s see how long this lasts without Jerry being around and throwing money at Oakland’s problems.