“Wait a minute; how can a city on America’s West Coast even have an East Coast?!”
Not easy, by any stretch of the imagination; San Francisco sits at the very tip of a peninsula pointing roughly north and water surrounds it on the west, north and east sides. What’s truly odd is “East Coast;” as far as I know, yours truly is the only person in San Francisco who uses that phrase. Other folks prefer the names of specific neighborhoods: Mission Bay, the Embarcadero, Bay View, Dogpatch (yes, we have a Dogpatch). For this, my final escape during my vacation and final response to this week’s Challenge, a collection of shots focusing on Mission Bay and the Embarcadero.
San Francisco–the world leader in obsolete modes of public transit (and what else can one expect from one of the planet’s citadels of high tech?)–boasts a huge collection of colorful vintage streetcars from across the country and around the world, but none of them can surprise even the natives like the Blackpool.
Our only open-air streetcar, the Blackpool makes so few appearances that it arrives at a stop, people don’t get on. They assume it’s some kind of private car for a private party, and the operators have to encourage people to board. It only rides on exceptionally warm weekend days (and perhaps Fridays), making it about as often seen as a Coelacanth. Should you ever seen it, cancel all your plans and board it faster than immediately. The Blackpool has pleasant rumbling vibration and combined with the salt air, has the feel of a open boat on a calm sea.
Even on a midweek afternoon, the East Coast becomes a hub of human activity:
Two of San Francisco’s great hangouts, the Hi-Dive and Red’s Java House, sit very close to each other just south of the Embarcadero and just north of Mission Bay, the home of the San Francisco Giants’ ball park.
- Hideousness: “My tax dollars paid for that?!”
- Landmark: “Meet me by the hideousness.”
- Acceptance: “I love that piece of hideousness!”
On that note, say hello to Claes Oldenburg:
How can someone, anyone, play a brass instrument and tap dance at the same time?
This might be a good time to advise you to stop reading this post, plan a trip to San Francisco, buy tickets to visit our Exploratorium in its new home, and then return to reading.
Ah, you’re back. Good.
The new Exploratorium has stunned, amazed and impressed visitors since its opening. So important that the New York Times covered not only the opening, but also the science of the move to the new home at Pier 15. The designers, architects and landscapers created its new home with photographers in mind. For example, the Aeolian Harp used to sit on the roof of the old home, rarely seen. Today, you have to work to miss it.
Hundreds of different versions of the above picture must already exist online. It can’t be an accident that someone put the Harp at this specific location. With a city view like this, it can’t be accident that someone put the entire Exploratorium at this specific location:
The Embarcadero remains a work in progress ever since the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989 forced the destruction of the Embarcadero Freeway. Civic leaders and citizens alike took one look at the new vista and realized that tremendous potential existed here, and we’ve worked on improvements ever since. I don’t know if the area will ever become “finished,” whatever that means; one still sees construction cranes everywhere.
I chose The Magic Hour for yesterday’s escape (approximately one hour before the sun sets). Photography in the Western United States poses interesting challenges for both digital and film cameras. The light in California and the High Desert of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah seems more intense than elsewhere; I can think of no other reason why photos turn out bleached and faded. Working around this is tough. For the pictures taken with my DSLR (I also used my point-and-shoot and my iPhone, I affixed a polarizing filter over the lens. The result produces rich vibrant colors, but as in the above picture, they can also become a little too intense. But as a matter of personal taste, I like the results and keep them.
My explorations yesterday ended with a pretty darn good meal at La Mar (Zagat food rating = 24), a better-be-pretty-darn-good-because-it’s-pretty-darn-expensive Peruvian restaurant at Pier 1 1/2 with sensational views of the San Francisco Bay, and yes, we have a Pier 1 1/2. I do recommend the place, especially the sea food, but bring your credit card(s). After dinner, I walked past the Ferry Building, in front of which a couple had placed a portable speaker and engaged in ballroom dancing on their rollerblades to the sounds of ADELE and for the entertainment of all.
It’s official: San Francisco is magic.
With a sampler of additional shots below, I conclude my series of San Francisco Escapes. My vacation was supposed to be an escape from work, but I have worked so hard on this vacation getaway that I need to escape to work to getaway from my vacation escape.
Or something like that.
Vonn Scott Bair