August 27, 2012 by joshonthebay
After finding a room relatively quickly compared to everyone else I know, I spent the best part of a week seeing the sights of San Francisco. I used the time I had left at my hostel in Downtown to launch myself around many of the tourist hotspots. These included the North Beach area, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and the Mission District.
One of my first adventures was to the San Francisco Public Library at Civic Centre. Boring to some though it may be, I seem to have an addiction to used books. Every Wednesday the library sells second hand books on dozens of tables out front for a dollar donation and I wasn’t disappointed.
I picked up a copy of the ‘Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders’ (Kerner Commission) which was produced following the rebellions across the country at the end of the 1960s. It features some great shots of the conditions of the ghettos which caused the uprisings as well as action shots of riots taking place. A bonus is the ‘San Francisco Public Library’ stamp on the side of the spine which makes it a great memento. After browsing the numerous tables filled with books I headed across the plaza to City Hall.
The building is undoubtably impressive with beautifully decorated high ceilings and windows. The highlight for me was seeing the (in)famous grand staircase in the centre of the hall. Its been seen in numerous films across the decades from ‘Dirty Harry’ to ‘Milk’, but what it really reminded me of was the footage of students sliding down the stairs as SFPD officers armed with water hoses tried to arrest them during a protest against the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The action caused a stir and laid the foundation of the movement at Berkeley in the following years which would captivate the nation’s students. Check out the documentary here to see what I mean:
I met up with a comrade who kindly showed me the way to the best Vietnamese sandwich in town and got my first bargain at Amoeba Records! My favourite spot in the city so far is Coit Tower. Built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project and as a tribute to the firefighters of San Francisco. Its an impressive building with amazing views and murals by Diego Rivera dedicated to the international working class.
The second week has been a little more dull considering I’ve had to spend a big chunk of it on the SFSU campus listening to endless amounts of information being thrown at me. My favourite was the police officer they dragged-in to tell us how to cross the road and how to survive an earthquake.
The campus itself is massive compared to the ones I’ve been to in Britain and many of the buildings seem to have been recently built or in the process of being refurbished. It has a radical history which I hope to learn a great deal about and share whilst I’m here. I feel particularly inspired each time I walk past the murals of Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X outside the student centre, especially knowing the space is the result of a successful occupation by students in the late 1960s.
Other than the Sunset District where I’m now living, I’ve also been hanging out a lot in the Mission (mainly to warm up from the ocean winds/fog). The Mission has a great mix of taqueria’s, dive bars and clubs. I found myself with friends checking out the 1st birthday party of the ‘Photobooth’ shop (21st/Valencia) on Friday night. The exhibitions were interesting, especially one by a local photographer who is teaching young people how the ‘Instagram’ styles they use so effortlessly were originally created.
We later continued to a number of bars and a made use of a friend’s friend’s rooftop to enjoy stunning views of the city, I’m still hoping to recover from that night’s drunken exploits sometime before classes begin on Tuesday.
Finally, I was sorry to hear of Scott McKenzie’s passing. He’s most famous for singing ‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)’ originally produced to promote the Monterey Music Festival in 1967 and became one of the most memorable tunes to come from that decade. I can’t help but fear my arrival here was a bad omen for him…