Friday, May 13, 2011

Just Another Day

The parade of leather-bedecked S&M fans (including the domineering and the dominated) was just one highlight of a much-needed vacation day that turned into one adventure after another, including driving an amphibious vehicle in McCovey Cove, talking with another cancer survivor on a bench in Union Square and quacking like a duck. Wait – I forgot the Italian potstickers!

The day started with a plan – a trip to North Beach to soak up the atmosphere in the historic City Lights Books, a spot I first visited so long ago that I can’t remember when it was. In any case, the store has three floors of books, with three or four chairs in each room and signs that encourage customers to sit and read. In the Poet’s Room, another sign reads: “We’re sort of a library that sells books.”

Even though I got rid of 46 boxes of books before moving to San Francisco, even though I have (and really like) a Kindle, even though I have vowed not to bring home books, I bought one – Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “San Francisco Poems.” So be it.

Next I went to the Beat Museum ( to commune with the spirits of the people I used to quote in high school and college and still admire immensely. Owner and curator Jerry Cimino was there, and we compared Baby Boomer backgrounds and the influence the beat poets had on both of us.

Long live the works of Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Kerouac and Corso!

Cimino recommended Calzone’s, just up the street, for lunch – what a great idea. The owner has developed Italian potstickers – steamed wontons filled with Italian sausage, wild mushrooms and spices. Yum! The arugula salad with garbanzo beans, sun-dried tomatoes and Point Reyes blue cheese was good too. Then I popped into a chocolate shop for a free taste of fudge and bought a bear claw – pecans and caramel drizzled with dark chocolate. (It later melted in the sun, alas.)

Next I boarded a bus heading for Union Square, where I planned to catch the Muni train home – but the sun was shining and people were sitting out, basking in it, so I decided to join them. I eavesdropped on an elderly Indian gentleman telling fortunes (he had a line of customers waiting). Then I bought an iced latte and sat down on a bench near a man who turned out to be a classical music reviewer for the Berkshire Review. (See We talked about music, fashion, food and living in San Francisco – and we also compared Baby Boomer backgrounds and the influence the 60s had on both of us.

Then, with little advance planning, I bought a ticket and hopped on a “duck” ( because it was a perfect day to be on the water. It was the last trip of the day, and there were just three of us – a Canadian couple originally from South Africa and me. The driver was especially chatty, and we all compared stories. We headed into the water just south of the ballpark – and then the driver let us take turns steering the duck!

That was exciting -- but that was only the beginning.

On the way back to Union Square, Captain Duck Rogers drove us along the Embarcadero. He knows everybody and everybody knows him, so as we cruised (on land by now) in the open-air duck through the popular tourist area, people waved and smiled – but not just the Captain’s friends. He played “We Are Family” and got people on the streets singing, clapping, even dancing along. As we drove through North Beach, he played songs in Italian. In Chinatown, he played “I Will Survive” in Chinese. People at sidewalk cafes, people shopping in the markets, even people at bus stops, heard us first and then joined in. All along the route, Captain Rogers called out, “Happy Friday the 13th” to one and all. 

It was a rowdy ride, and that felt great!

The N Muni train was crowded – and considerably more sedate -- when I got on at the Powell Street Station. But just past the Church and Duboce stop, those of us looking north saw the S&M parade, which consisted of about 20 people. Maybe this is a regular event on Fridays, or maybe we were just lucky. No one on the N said a word, not even the people who were stretching for a better look. This parade took place just two days before Bay to Breakers (, a 12k footrace that is the talk of the town. “People run in costume. People run naked. And a lot of the people run drunk,” said Captain Rogers when he filled us in on things to do this weekend.

What a day!

My last Runaway Day was two weekends ago, when I spent much of Saturday driving in West Marin, driving through beach towns (one has a bakery and a Goddess Shop), driving through hilly pastures (wondering if cows ever blow over in the gusty wind), driving to Drake’s Beach on the Point Reyes Peninsula (home of a sand sculpture contest) and driving through redwoods in Samuel P. Taylor State Park (where green equals serene). I only drove 120 miles round trip, and it was a remarkable day, filled with unexpected pleasures -- including turkey vultures that swooped low over the car.

I live here! And believe it or not, I’ve been here almost 11 months!