Hidden San Francisco
Hidden San Francisco
“I Left a ‘Piece of My Heart’ in San Francisco”
No, it’s not some gruesome song mash-up, the ghost of dear Janis Joplin scrreaming over a poor crooning Tony Bennett, scaring him so badly that he’s losing that genial smile.
It’s a simple statement of personal fact. A bunch of us hippies spent a week in SF in the summer of 1970. When I came back East, a part of me stayed, and patiently waited my return.
In recent years I’ve been returning each winter, for increasing lengths of time. Every time I leave another piece of my heart.
Rain or fog, my California dreaming is always sweet. But so is the nightmare of housing prices, from which I can’t seem to wake. Even at the depths of the national housing crisis they’re still too rich for my blood. OK – that $1,000,000 house has fallen to $900,000. Big deal.
I’m back in the old, cold Northeast. Here’s my love letter: not to North Beach, or Fisherman’s Wharf, or Coit Tower, but those lesser known places, dear to my heart.
Alfred Hitchcock loved San Francisco and set much of his masterpiece “Vertigo” there. Just as the famous film director made cameos in his films, SF’s most famous sight, the Golden Gate Bridge, makes cameos in most of my hidden places, maybe to remind that she’s the most beautiful bridge in the world.
The sights form a trail you can follow without much backtracking.
- STERN GROVE
This green oasis in the middle of the city literally hides behind tall trees. Though it’s but a block from the apartment we’ve rented the last three years, it was only a month ago that I discovered what was behind those trees.
Down a steep Eucalyptus canyon (This is all I could get on camera) ,past an ampitheater where there are concerts in the summer, to a sylvan field,
usually overrun with dogs.
I feel a little naked without a dog for cover- like some park ranger is going to come up and bust me, “Son, may I see your dog? Step this way please.” At the end of the field is Pine Lake, one of only three natural ponds in the city, teeming with yakking ducks.
Here’s the Muses enjoying San Fran in another life:
2. MORAGA STEPS If you happen to walk down these steps, this is all you’ll see,
another set of steep steps negotiating another steep SF hill. Turn around and you see what’s hiding on the risers.
Nothing less than a map of the universe, in lovingly detailed mosaics.
From the bottom of the ocean, with fish,
to the sky, with birds,
and up to the sun:
The gardens to either side are almost as nice.
If you can stand another set of steps, you can ascend further to Grandview Heights above.
(1st View of the Golden Gate Bridge.)
3. MT. DAVIDSON –Highest you can get in San Francisco (without LSD.) The walk up isn’t too bad.
Great view of downtown.
This plain cross is a memorial to the Armenian massacre.
If you look very carefully through the trees, you can get glimpse No. 2 of the GG bridge.
4. GARDEN AT THE FAIRMONT HOTEL
You might remember this façade from some of the first shots in “Vertigo.”
Step through the lobby.
Peak into the Venetian room, where the Supremes and James Brown once sang, and Tony Bennet premiered “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Then sneak around either side to the back, and a roof garden you never would imagine exists here in the heart of downtown. Complete with palm trees.
5. REDWOODS AT LYON STREET STEPS
Redwoods, smack in the middle of town!
Lyon gets so steep that the road just gives up for two blocks of steps. Not for the faint of physical heart, no matter your love for the city. I am in pretty good aerobic shape, but was feeling a little sick by the time I made it halfway up. I felt sicker as a girl in a soccer jersey sprinted from bottom to top twice in the time it took me to get halfway up.
6. PET CEMETARY
Not to be confused with Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. It’s been the final resting place for pets starting in the 40s, when Presidio military families started burying their beloved pets here. Sadly, it’s fallen on hard times. Here the GG bridge’s cameo comes in the form of a new on ramp directly above the cemetery. During its ongoing construction, despite a sign claiming otherwise, the cemetery seems to have suffered greatly. I had to crawl through a fence to see it. I wanted to preserve what I could of the graves, so they will have their own post.
7. COLUMBARIUM. This doesn’t look like any cemetery I’ve seen.
(Credit: Hugh7 at en.wikipedia)
Check out the inside:
(Credit: Major Clangor)
Due to limited space, San Fran outlawed cemeteries in the city limits. This odd building is owned by the Neptune Society, which allows it to circumvent the law. Four floors house thousands of cremains of city residents. Very moving if you’re into such places.
8. LAND’S END –Paths at various heights, some of which wind steeply down to secluded beaches, all with spectacular views of crashing waves below, and the Marin Headlands across the water.
9. TENNESSEE VALLEY On Route 1 headed to Stinson Beach, down a narrow road right before the Dipsea restaurant.
The hike is 1 ½ miles down to the ocean. The canyon is filled with wildlife – my son saw a bobcat. Its walls as they unfold, form most pleasing shapes.
First you see a tiny lens of water, then a duck filled lagoon.
Finally a beach of smooth pebbles and a window through the cliff to the
10. MARIN HEADLANDS These wild hills to the west of the bridge tower over the pacific,
and are riddled with old forts
and gun emplacements.
Some date back to 1890. I guess San Francisco knew what a good thing they had and wanted to protect it.
The underground bunkers onced housed soldiers; now they are guarded by this guy:
(View No. 3 of the GG Bridge.)
The last fortifications were Nike nuclear missile sites, built in the early 60s. during the hottest part of the cold war.
Yes, that’s a nuclear missile. (Minus the payload, Thank God!)
SF-88 is the only Nike site in the country that ha been restored. It deserves its own post.
11. BONUS – McCLURE’S BEACH I covered this in the previous post.
All photos by John Manchester, except Columbariums and Tennessee Valley overview.
Go to San Francisco and maybe you’ll leave your heart, too.