Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

29 Dec 2001, 9:51 a.m.

Yesterday I tried to "show San Francisco" to a cousin,…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Yesterday I tried to "show San Francisco" to a cousin, Anand-from-Michigan. Of course, that went miserably, because the wonder and loveliness of San Francisco is the many little neighborhoods with distinctive characters, and the bookstores, and the restaurants, and the open and friendly people, and the value people place on freedom of expression, and the geographic unity of the city that enables mass transit as a plausible transit option (cough, cough, LA), and the beautiful views, and the sights and sounds of a million people living their everyday lives. And we were in SF for about four hours on a cold and rainy Friday night between Christmas and New Year's.

So I did the chicken pseudoreality tourist thing and we took the cable car to and from Fisherman's Wharf. We had to wait in long lines for both trips, and on the way there, the car stopped for long intervals for no discernible reason. The windows got so fogged up that we could hardly see the storefronts, much less fabulous views of the Bay. And aside from restaurants and souvenir shops, none of the tourist-trap Fisherman's Wharf stuff was open. We ended up walking around and waiting a lot in the rain while I expounded on my theories of San Francisco vs. Los Angeles (unity vs. fragmentation, togetherness vs. aloneness, joy vs. despair, etc.)

But before Anand and I took the BART back to Berkeley, I took him with me to a nice viewpoint in South San Francisco. In the BART on the way there, between two stations, the car halted, and a voice said that we would have a power outage for about a minute whilst power was shunted from one doodad to another. The car's lights went out, systems audibly powered down, and everything went dark save a light mounted inside the tunnel. I had never seen the inside of a BART tunnel before. It seemed a holy moment, and that we should match its silence with our own. (Anand, however, did not perceive this, and persisted in making conversation.)

(Exit the Balboa Park BART station via the south stairs, turn left, cross the overpass, choose any of the first four or five streets to turn left, go to the top of the hill, look down from both sides of the street.)

The city spread out beneath us, a thousand lights only slightly twinkled by fog and rain, stars above us and stars below.