Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Strange Bird Of San Francisco

I'm in San Francisco for the week.  Actually, staying in Millbrae at my usual "home" at the Fairfield Inn off of El Camino Real but working in the city.

The reps I'm working with live in East Bay and so they had asked me to rent a car and I dumbly went on-line to book, not even thinking of arguing.  For some odd reason, every rental car place from the aiport to here was booked and there was nothing available except a 12 passenger van, which I didn't much feel like tooling around in.  So, my original option was to rent a car near the BART as my Millbrae hotel is about a block from the Millbrae station.  So I hopped the BART out to Civic Center and then got the message from my rep tomorrow that I'm meeting her by Fremont and I'll be dog gone if the BART there isn't right across from the hospital.  I was all the way to Enterprise and I thought - why am I wasting the money and the time and hassle its going to be to have a car?  I'm going city!

This is what I love about public transit, you totally get to know a city not only logistically but holistically -- how do you like that alliteration... :)  Truly, you have to figure out the grid of the city and then as you travel, you see all kinds of people on public transit, not to mention when you get out and have to walk to your final destination.

Taking the BART today as I did, I was reminded how eclectic and crazy San Francsico is.  Its so diverse - and so strange.

I boarded my first train at Fruitvale to go to Civic Center.  Fruitvale is primarily latino and so that was the mass of people boarding there.  I believe I was the only white person on the train that I could see.  But then we went down a stop or two and a lot of black people started getting on.  And then I started noticing that there was a a pretty good group of Asian people sitting in a pocket by themselves.  The thing that everyone had in common was - young and old - they all had out some type of media.  Some laptops, a few Ipads and a majority of cell phones which were being used as internet and game devices.  I saw one Asian girl with an actual book and a highlighter -- I liked her best... :)

Then I get off the train at Civic Center and I'm walking through an area that looked a little questionable.  A lot of homeless, or at least people who looked stereotypically homeless.  At one point, I was walking past a little alcove in a building and there was a small jut out ledge that a man was sitting on.  He was rocking back and forth and he was doing something with his nose that I couldn't quite make out, until I got closer and saw that he literally had the nozzle of an aerosol can stuck up his nose.  I've heard you can do that, but call me naive, I've never actually seen anyone doing that!

And then there were the goth-dreadlocked people hanging out at the corner of Market and 8th.  She had on red and black striped tights and everything else was black including her massive head of dread locks. Which, she must have shared her dread-lock potion with her boyfriend who had the same mass of matted hair plus enough piercings to sink a steamer.  There were vegans and transvestites and pajama clad latino women running down the sidewalk yelling at their fleeing boyfriend.  Its all normal and everyday here in San Francisco.

After my decision to ditch the car and go local, I walked back to Civic Center to take the train to Millbrae.  Our second stop on this train brought a rather large blind man with his cane who entered the car and swung his cane around at every seat while people shrank back trying to avoid sure injury until one kind man finally stood and just took the blind man's arm and directed him to a seat.  I might have done so, but he and his cane were still a few rows in front of my seat.

The bay area brings a lot cooler weather.  The fog will still be creeping over the city at noon and then the sun will finally get the strength to break through in the late afternoon and then the air starts to warm up.  In the meantime, drive 5 minutes west and you immediately go from 60F to 90F with bright blue skies and piercing rays of sun blinding your unprepared eyes.  Its such a drastic difference.  As I took the train from the city to Millbrae, the track rises up quite a ways above the road and overlooks the bay area.  You could see the pockets of fog that were still lingering around 1:30.

Millbrae itself, off of El Camino Real, is highly Asian, primarily Japanese, but interspersed with other races.  There are about 10 Japanese restaurants in walking distance and about as many Thai.  I'm sitting at Thai Stick right now, one of my favorite places to go because its very near my hotel and has good food.  Its funny that last week I was eating Mexican in San Antonio until it was coming out my ears, but here, I'm sitting on El Camino Real and eating Thai food.

I've never had a lot of extra time in Millbrae, but this week I've got 4 days that I'll be here and am primarily working mornings so, I'll have a little extra time to spend on running or blogging or catching up on email.  I figure I'll go out running a little later on and get to know the back streets of Millbrae a little better.  I'm out to find a good coffee shop that I can pop into in the mornings before I head to the BART to see some more of wild and crazy San Francisco.  Its always an adventure when you're in the Bay area!

No comments: