Sunday, March 1, 2015

Falconry in San Francisco

Took my first "solo trip" on the BART to San Francisco today and met Ira, Liz, Jim and Denise (as well as Steve and Robin) in the city to go on a walking tour - led by Ira and Liz, in character as Sam Spade and his loyal secretary Effie. . .

We visited the sites in the city relating to Dashiell Hammett and especially The Maltese Falcon.

Had a great time and got my membership card in the Historical Eating And Drinking Society from Ira and Liz, Co-Grand Poohbahs.

My BART station surpasses in beauty anything that the NYC Subway system or even the Long Island Railroad has to offer, with - of course - a stunning view of Mt. Diablo:

Upon arriving at the Embarcadero BART station in SF and climbing up to the street, I saw the Ferry Building Clock Tower:

Of course, being a non-pro photograher I made it look more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa than the beautiful building it really is.  As shown in Wikipedia:

Proceeded down Market Street (at first - before whipping out my cell phone and using the GPS - in the wrong direction) and finally found California Street - where we were to rendezvous.Noticed a few other folks wandering the streets with heads down, staring at their cell phones, too, and thought "Gee, I'm not the only one lost. City life sure has changed."

Liz, Denise, Ira and Jim showed up about 10 minutes after I got to our meeting spot, outside a Starbucks, . .

. . .and we all then proceeded around the corner to wait for a cable car that was in service.

 My fellows well met.  L to R: Liz, Ira, Denise, Jim

While I and the gals took seats, the fedora-topped Ira/Sam Spade and Jim grabbed hold-bars and rode "in the style". . .

Tho this was the third time I've ever been on a SF cable car, I was still impressed and became cognizant of the reason why the cable-car system was built when we topped the first hill:
It reminded me a lot of the opening of the movie when I saw the Oakland-Bay Bridge down the hill.

I couldn't resist taking this photo of a place near where we debarked from the cable car:

Bye cable car.  Thanks for the ride!

Looking uphill from another spot in the city again helped me realize how far-sighted the city's forefathers were to have built a cable car system:

Here's a pic of one of the hotels mentioned in the book and movie. In the movie it was The Belvedere, where the creepy character Joel Cairo - played by Peter Lorre - stayed. The Alhambra-style architecture was impressive. . .

We strolled uphill and downhill.  Good that Ira knew the way; I didn't want to climb uphill - especially any steep ones - after going down one hill in particular.

We arrived at one of the sites where Hammett resided:

I was impressed with a few other sites along the way.  They say the Hotel California that the Eagles song is about is actually in Todos Santos, Baja del Sur, Mexico - not far from where James, Jess, the boys and I vacationed in December - but of course there's more than one:

We went by other hotels.  I do believe I heard of The Drake before having moved to the Bay Area. The nice doorman outside it didn't mind my taking his photo. . .

I was also impressed with some of the things I saw in stores along the way:

An Irish store. . .

An art gallery. . .

A pizzeria. . .

A certain ubiquitous department store. . .

I was also impressed with a lot of the architecture in the city. . . 

There's a Union Square Park in San Francisco.  Brought back memories of many years ago when I stolled thru Union Square in NYC on my lunch hours.  The monument to Admiral Dewey in the center of SF's tho is a lot more impressive than anything in NY's. . .

We did lunch at John's Grill, meeting Steve and Robin there:

The food was great, and I think we all enjoyed it quite a bit.  I know I did.  Upstairs there was a huge reproduction of the Maltese Falcon.  I didn't climb up the stairs tho. . . .  my knees were feeling a bit soft.

After lunch, we went to another location where Hammett had lived, an alleyway now named for him.

And across the street another blind alley, which Hammett chose as the site of the murder of Sam Spade's detective partner Miles Archer.  (SPOILER ALERT!  Don't look at the next photo if you haven't seen the movie nor read the book yet or you'll have found out who the murderer was!)  :-)

Name of the alley/street murder site is Burrit.  Some wizen-heimer has added a cute touch tho:

Our final stop of the day was The Palace Hotel.  In the movie it was the place where "The Fat Man" - Kaspar Gutman, played by Sydney Greenstreet - resided.  VERY impressive exterior, lobby and bar.

We had a drink or two there.  I admired the painting over the bar, which I first thought could have been an N.C. Wyeth, but was told by our waiter that it was by Maxfield Parrish and had a very interesting history. . .
Here's a close-up of it that I lifted from the 'net.  A beautiful work, saved from being auctioned-off by local San Franciscans who saw something worth saving in it, in its present location. (One of the websites I looked at says it dates back to 1909, was commissioned as part of the revival of the city post-Great Quake, and is appraised at three to five million dollars.)

We topped-off the day going next door to The Palace to a Ghirardelli Chocolate shop.  I just browsed, but of course took them up on the free samples!

Caught the BART back to North Concord/Martinez right outside the hotel and got back home at a reasonably early hour for a Saturday night!

It was a great day.  Many thanks to Ira and Jim, and Liz and Denise!

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