From Charlie 15 to San Francisco

Night has fallen here in the city by the Bay.  Indeed, it is now early Saturday morning in Ohio.  My body is still somewhat on Eastern Daylight Savings Time, so I alternate between bursts of energy and a draggy, exhausted feeling.

No complaints about the flight here from Columbus via Atlanta.  While in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta between flights, I was irritated enough to post on Facebook, “Why does everyone on the loudspeaker here sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher?”  From the responses I’ve received, I see that I am not the only person who has experienced this.

The transition from one flight to the next was seamless.  I worried about someone–either Southwest Airlines or me, or a combination thereof–dropping the ball and causing me to be stranded somewhere.  Not to worry, I left Atlanta around 8:30 a.m. and landed in San Francisco just before 11.  This was the first time since I had lived in Boston in the early 1980s that I hadn’t flown on a direct flight, so I was biting my nails until we were actually airborne.  (We boarded at gate C15, hence the title of this entry.  The flight attendant used the NATO phonetic alphabet.)

I was a little haunted from a story Susie told me about when she and the rest of the youth group from First UU flew to Romania two years ago.  The entire trip had gone without a glitch until they landed in Poland.  Just as they were leaving their plane in Warsaw, the announcement came over the P.A. system that the flight for Bucharest was loading right there and then.  Everyone had to make a mad scramble across Warsaw Chopin Airport to get to the right gate in time.  (Were I writing this 30 years earlier, I would have said they did an O.J. Simpson.  That had a radically different meaning than it does now.)

I am writing at the Green Tortoise Hostel on Broadway St. in North Beach.  My shuttle bus arrived here with a grand tour of the Mission District and Chinatown, and I was glad to come to the hostel.  The building and the rooms are Spartan–two bunk beds and a bed in the bay window that faces Broadway.  A young couple are across the room from my bunk–she’s from Las Vegas, he’s English.  The woman whose bunk is above mine is Swedish and currently lives and work in Sydney.  The couple have gone out to take nighttime pictures.

Bathrooms, which are in the hallway, are shared.  They’re painted yellow, and contain a shower stall, a sink, and a toilet.  There are lockers (rent a padlock for $5) in the rooms for valuables, and a common computer room (where I am typing away).  They served a free vegetarian dinner in the ballroom at 7 p.m.  I came in to eat just after returning from Walgreen.  I had to buy a jug of distilled water for the CPAP machine.

This is my third trip to San Francisco.  After just an hour of walking these narrow, steep streets, and marveling at the beauty and cleanliness, I wondered why I never seriously considered living here.  Then I remember that I rent a two-bedroom townhouse in Columbus for $700 a month.

My big walk was to and from Fort Mason (about two miles each way) to pick up the necessities for Bay to Breakers Sunday morning.  (I picked up a running bib, which has a bar-coded chip for my official time, a gray T-shirt, and a transparent bag for anything I might want to bring with me.  The latter is a result of the Boston Marathon bombing.  The Exposition Center at Fort Mason looked like a flea market writ large.  In addition to the long tables where I picked up my registration envelope, there were vendors selling everything from sunglasses to water bottles to gym memberships.  I was glad that I had the foresight to pick up everything today, because tomorrow I’m sure the place will be sheer chaos.

One of my “bucket list” items is to read Jack Kerouac’s prose poem “October in the Railroad Earth” at his grave in Lowell, Mass.  Since that has yet to come to pass, I stopped in City Lights Books and also The Beat Museum, both no more than a few minutes’ walk from here.

I don’t think the temperature reached 60 today, but nevertheless I was comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans.  I am not sure if I’m venturing out of doors any more tonight.  The hostel is in a rather sketchy section of town, including several strip clubs and restaurants that look like the Health Department will close them soon.  There is no such thing as cheap real estate in the Bay Area, but I am sure that this hostel is able to charge the reasonable prices they do because the neighborhood is not the greatest.  And it is possible to be on the streets of San Francisco without Karl Malden and Michael Douglas.

My picture of the Green Tortoise Hostel, taken across Broadway.

My picture of the Green Tortoise Hostel, taken across Broadway.


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