Visiting San Francisco gave me a chance to hang out and see daughter Marina’s cool apartment in the Mission neighborhood (Bay window in the bedroom, solar powered mood lights in the bathroom, diner-style corner booth in the kitchen.)
Yesterday we meandered down 24th street and then turned right on Valencia and over to Mission, reveling in the unique atmosphere of this neighborhood. There are painted ladies and wonderful Victorian architecture everywhere. And nearly every wall bears a mural –which is why we took a walking tour of the Mission Trail Murals on Saturday, an incredible experience I intend to write about next. Everywhere you look, including on this playground, are images referring to the hopes, aspirations and beliefs of the many ethnic groups who have made Mission their home.
The stores sell everything from Day of the Dead candy skulls and skeletons of every kind (including Michael Jackson), to tarot readings, very cool vintage clothing, antiques of every nature, lucha libre masks, and the world’s best donuts (at Dynamo).
Today we had breakfast at St. Francis Fountain (SF’s oldest ice cream parlor) that features such items a “Nebulous Potato Thing” and “Chef’s Mess.” (We split the latter. It was delicious.) They also sell vintage gum—the kind that came with trading cards of your favorite TV program.
But last night, after shopping our way down to Mission, antiquing at “Gypsy Honeymoon”, buying 1950’s style stools at “Stuff” on Valencia, watching people have their tintype portraits taken at Photobooth and admiring the art exhibited everywhere, we forged on through the cloud of marijuana fumes to have a drink at the roof-type “Sky loft” at MedJool on Mission Street atop the Elements Hotel (which offers dormitory-type hotel rooms.) From the roof we could see the sunset and the now boarded-up movie theaters that once offered porn films in glamorous surroundings.
Soon it was dark and Marina made plans for us to meet with her friend Kristen and Kristen’s year-old daughter at the nearby “Radio Habana Social Club.” We walked into a place the size of a large walk-in closet. Its walls and ceilings were hung with bizarre “art” including mangled figures . I decided the wall art was tributes to authors and rebels, many of whom died tragically, especially with the help of alcohol.
In the back of the small room, a trio of Cuban musicians were playing at an ear-splitting level, while to one side drinks and sangria were being served at the bar.
“This is no place to bring a year old baby” I shouted into Marina’s ear over the din.
But by the time Kristen and baby arrived, I was completely under the spell of the music, the warmth and enjoyment of everybody in the room, which heated up to the point where the tall, dark man to my left busted out with some incredible break dancing moves—not easy in such a limited space.
Finally we tore ourselves away from Radio Habana and walked over to the “Foreign Cinema” restaurant—unassuming from the outside, but very large and up-scale on the inside. We sat in a giant covered courtyard where classic foreign films are project on the giant screen. Last night it was “The Shadow of a Vampire” about the filming of one of my favorite old-time films, Nosferatu.
We ate Opa fish, kalamari, pork belly and a vegetarian plate for Kristen followed by pumpkin cheesecake and roasted pear profiteroles.
By the time we got back to the bedroom with the bay window view, I felt transported back to my youth, when I graduated from Berkley in 1963 and headed for New York and the rest of my classmates hung around to nurture the Free Speech movement and wait around for the Summer of Love. Wonder where we’ll go tonight?