(California, USA; December 2014)
Once upon a time there was a street so squiggly that people came to see it from far. To drive down it was sightseeing. To walk down it drunk was daring. To photograph it was expected.
And yet the roses did not mind. They thrived, covering every spot of earth in between the zig-zagging road. Because they had the most beautiful view of the Bay. Because for them, what was crooked to most people was normal.
(Lombard street at night, San Francisco, USA; December 2014)
Back to 1852 and the gold rush. When saloons were rowdy and smelled of sawdust. When bourbon was cheap. When paintings of half-dressed beautiful ladies on a picnic was considered daring art. When there was no plastic and no need for 4 “cash only” signs.
Last time I was here I drank cheap port out of a scotch glass. I debated with a bartender who looked like Dr Phil and had been banned from Canada. I listened to gray-haired hippies with cobwebbed trumpet sleeves singing blues.
This time I drank GT out of a proper glass. I was scolded by the bartender, a lady in her 60s. I listened to a fantastic gray-haired blues band and there was not a single hippie in the saloon. Life goes on. The saloon survived the 1906 earthquake. I wonder whether it will survive the next big earthquake. If that happens during my lifetime I will be back. Perhaps then it will be time for a bourbon and some more blues.
(The Saloon on Grant, San Francisco, USA; December 2014)
There was a day of fog and rain and flood. Roads welled with water as we drove into wine country. Leaf-stripped vines stood in cold muddy foot baths as we navigated through closed roads to a winery spared of seas of water.
And then there was a swirl of crisp grass and apple in the glass. And another swirl of plum and raspberries, with a hint of chocolate. Chatter among strangers from all across the world, gathered around an old wooden table. There was an Australian couple celebrating 10 years of togetherness. A Hawaiian couple globetrotting their retirement days away. Two Finnish ladies who stole a day off from work. And a Californian winemaker spinning hilarious stories from that cold little country up north, from another life.
And there was wine. Bottled poetry. A whisper of a dream in a glass. Before long, there was sunlight and blue skies, too.
On the edge of fog city stands a chocolate factory. Built out of red brick and with shining blinking lamps, it is just like Charlie’s chocolate factory. Amidst the ice cream and chocolate fountains and heaps of chocolate bars one blissfully forgets that the buildings are only a charming but thin shell. No chocolate has been made at Ghirardelli’s for years, and after extensive googling I still am no wiser as to where the chocolate comes from.
Perhaps I must heat myself a cup of mint cocoa and consider the possibility that Ghirardelli’s chocolate is shipped from outer space – and is literally heavenly.
That wonderful moment when there is just enough space for a stretch and just enough cuddle for warmth? Someone will push you into the chilly water. That moment when you have proclaimed yourself as the king of the bachelor pontoon? A seagull will bomb you.
And yet there are those huge, mature individuals who find a spot, carefully balance their heavy heads vertically over their necks, point the muzzles toward the sky and never mind the world that turns.
And as I stood by the Pier 39 I realized that zen finds sea lions when they feel secure about their place in the world. Oh how wonderful it would be to dive into the minds of these characters of extreme.
(Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco; December 2014)