The majority of my interest in San Francisco is, of course, one sole resident and her family, but by nature of my exploratory personality, I must admit I was looking forward to visiting this city not simply for the dozen or so people I'd be meeting and/or spending time with once I arrived here.
The City itself, ie the busy, bustling sector that houses the commerce and the high finance the City offers, was not my first view of the City. Quite the opposite, in fact; Kaia lives in a section of the City known as the Marina, which -- without being overly obvious -- is less than five blocks from the Bay. The plus side is that the view from her roof deck offers a wide expansive view of San Francisco Bay, the fog as it barely separates from the water, Alcatraz, the Presidio, Pacific Heights and a memorable view of Marin County, which, of course, is right beyond the most notable landmark of them all, the Golden Gate Bridge. From her roof, seeing the Golden Gate is as impressive as seeing the GW Bridge or any other New York landmark; it also serves to remind me how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
The other side, of course, is that her neighborhood is not "City-fied" -- the tallest structures in this neighborhood are three or four stories, which gives the neighborhood a very cozy, town-like feel. In fact, as I mentioned (several times, to Kaia's mock chagrin) to her is that this part of the City reminds me of the main thoroughfare(s) of Ridgewood, New Jersey; small buildings, very basic in design with facades and roof design that suggest Spanish or 80's Socal. The colors are bright, happy, relaxing and beckoning, and nothing here screams "Leave, you do not belong here." That, of course, is largely the antithesis of even the most welcoming, cozy New York neighborhoods -- which, even as I write these words, seems like an oxymoron in and of itself. My neighborhood in NYC features lots of green and small stores; but suddenly, spending time here is anything but forbidding or presumptuous. It's very comfortable, like a new, perfectly-crafted pair of Cole Haan loafers.
As for details, we've been spending a lot of time out and about. On my first day, we got some lunch at a Mexican uber-cool restaurant -- nothing hoity-toity and not Taco Bell (leaning a bit closer to the former, but not really). Subsequently, we did some napping and some exploring, and I must admit the City is really a nice, homey, comfy place. It actually reminds me, on some level, of a more exclusive version of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Everything is tailored to creative, new, and inviting. The bars are cool but mellow; the restaurants are cool but mellow; and the shops are most definitely cool but mellow. Just like Soho, the only universal here is that everything and everyone seems hip and most places are not cheap -- and they all seemingly give off the "c'mon in and bring plenty of cash" vibe. I could see living here, no question about it.
My batteries recharged, we did some running around Friday as well -- we saw the Presidio up close. I was a bit taken aback, as I always had the vision of the Presidio as one large building with a supporting base (it's been awhile since I saw the movie of the same name) and I was amazed at how clean and how powerful seeing the water up close would be. I have my Nikon and plan on going through a few memory cards' worth of snaps before I return East, so I'll be sure and post some of the pics here. But without actually experiencing it, it's hard to get the true flavor of how crisp and easy-going this area is.
We hit a bar/restaurant near Kaia's place to wind down the evening; Kosmo's offered a creative, unique menu replete with Pottery Barn/W-esque decor, relaxed cool jazz, and a resplendant hour with my other half. We retired for the night and I've since found it hard to wipe the smile from my face.
Yesterday we ran some errands, I got a pair of low boots, and we grabbed some lunch from a local Italian deli -- far different than its counterpart in NYC but nonetheless amazing -- and then we cleaned up and headed out. We first visited the Masonic Temple in the heart of San Fran's downtown and saw an exhibit called "The Universe Within: The Human Body Revealed." Without graphic depiction, the exhibit was the result of a variety of actual human corpses plasticized -- depicting the skeletal, cardiovascular and nervous systems in various guises. It doesn't sound very interesting or exciting, but seeing the exhbit up close was macabre, interesting and a bit disconcerting. Every organ, every muscle fiber, and every strand of tissue, including veins, arteries, nerves, etc., were depicted (most in some type of dyed color, to facilitate viewing). The most memorable aspect of the exhbit -- and there were many -- was seeing an entire human corpse dissected horizontally. Essentially, it's as if a person was lying flat on his back and someone took a giant hard-boiled egg slicer and pulled it down over said individual. All told, there were about 50 one-inch dissections of the human body, all arranged with a two-inch gap between each preceding and following piece. Seeing vertebrae, lung tissue, the bones of the arms and legs, even sex organs, dissected and displayed was stirring. The other interesting part of the exhbit was the depiction of the kidneys -- which resemble, well, kidney-shaped masses that could fit in one's palm -- and the blood vessels running through them. I apologize for not being able to do justice to the wonder of this exhibit. It was something I've never quite seen before in three dimensions, although my childhood encyclopedias did an admirable job at depicting the variety of systems we saw yesterday, albeit in two-dimensional clear, "flip-over" vinyl pages.
Last night we did some quick running around and shopping and made our way through the Mission district -- not the prettiest section of the city -- before we wound up at Prego on Union Street for tasty italian. Thereafter, we finally made our way to the movie theater across the street (one of the four remaining projection theaters in the City of San Francisco) to see The 40 Year-Old Virgin. We were howling for the majority of the movie and were spent by the time we made it home.
Today's plans include some sight-seeing, some napping, some shopping and some walking around.
Oh, and I get to meet Kaia's parents tonight for the first time.
I like California :)