Mt. Rainier and Lenticular Clouds - Dec. 2008 copyright: JMM

August 18, 2008

Fog City

When I left home for SeaTac Airport on Friday afternoon, it was about 90 degrees, somewhat humid and very uncomfortable. Because you have to endure an extremely long walk thru the parking garage, then the post 9/11 travel joy of submitting to a retina scan, full body cavity search and then the looooooooooooong walk to the Alaska gate, I was soaked with sweat. OK, so I lied about the full body cavity search, but any one of you who has flown lately knows how sucky it is. And why does it seem that every time I fly, with the exception of Logan Airport, I have to walk a friggin country mile to get to my damn gate? When I looked up at the Departure Screen it said I was at Gate 20. Out loud I even muttered, "of course it's Gate 20...." So I purchased some outrageously expensive food and had a quick lunch, then hung out and watched the planes. Eventually when a gate attendant showed up, I went up and asked if there was any chance of upgrading to first class. For the first time in my life, my inquiry paid off. For $50, I was able to have the luxury trip. The trip was on time and uneventful. I had an aisle seat so I didn't see much in the way of aerial scenery. I can't really remember the flight so I must have fallen asleep for a little while. Got to SF on time and man alive, that airport has REALLY changed. It's been nearly 10 years since I flew out of there, and it was under major construction. Well, it's done now. But despite how much expansion they've done, not to mention the addition of a BART stop and an "air train" that takes you from the terminals out to the BART stop, long term parking and the rental cars, it was surprisingly easy and intuitive.

The weather in SF was exactly as I expected: waaaay cooler, sunny near the airport, and a thick fog bank clinging to the hills to the north and west. The fog always stops at the tops of the hills, and then will pour down the slopes. The City was clearly completely socked in. A common mistake people make is thinking that SF is foggy in the winter, just because that's the rainy season. It's not. Summer is peak fog season.

I was too tired to do anything or go anywhere except to my hotel and grab some dinner. But I did see the beautiful full moon out of the window near the elevators.
By the way, you can click on all of the pictures to see the detail.
This is the view out of my window, on Sat. morning. It's hard to tell, but the fog is standing right on those hills.

Of course I took Lucky with me on my trip. My rental car was a Nissan Sentra.

There are 2 different highways that come into SF from the peninsula, Hwy 101 which enters The City in the downtown area, and cuts right through The City on Van Ness and Lombard Streets, till it crosses the Golden Gate for points north. Our preferred way into SF, however, has always been Hwy. 280, which enters the City on 19th Avenue in the Sunset District. Right smack in the "fog belt".

This one is especially for AXE!!!!! This is a home that is owned by someone named Chris Isaak, who was born in 1956. Awhile back, Axe told me that Chris Isaak lived near the beach because he liked to surf at the beach in San Francisco. She also told me that he was 52. I used a different search tool and looked up his name. I found a Chris Isaak, born in 1956, who lived on 38th x Moraga, which is not at all far from Ocean Beach. So on the way into The City, I went down into the Sunset District to find the house. This is it. I have no idea if it's the musician's home or not, only that someone named Chris Isaak has used that address at some point.

After I left Chris Isaak's House, I bopped on down to the Great Highway, which runs along Ocean Beach and went up to the Cliff House. The restaurant is highly over rated, you are paying for the name and the view. But it's City institution and you have to eat there at least once. The Cliff House has undergone a few changes since it first opened in the late 1800's. It used to be a brothel, and it used to look like a castle. We have a poster of the old one on the wall in our family room. That one survived the '06 quake, but not an ammunitions ship that exploded when it ran into Seal Rocks. It was rebuilt in this less interesting design. I'll do a blog post w/ better pics about that part of The City another time, as it's extremely interesting and rich.

These are the ruins of the old Sutro Baths. It's deteriorated so much since I last saw it 10 years ago. As mentioned above, this section of The City deserves it's own post b/c of the history of what used to be here. I have better pics of it as well. That terrace in the middle was where they shot part of "Harold & Maude", when she's demonstrating against the war and pisses off Harold's military uncle.

Seal Rocks

Seal Rocks below the Cliff House

Camera Obscura is a really cool live camera that rotates in that cone on the top, and reflects what's going on outside onto this huge white dish (looks like a satelite dish) inside, where it's really dark except for what's shown on the dish. You slowly walk around the dish as the camera moves. Except at sunset, they focus on the ocean and the sun. It was there in April, 1992 that I saw the green flash with my own eyes, on the dish. It was an exceptionally clear night and instead of sinking into the fog bank off shore, it was going down into the water.

Ocean Beach. Oh how I missed the fog. I miss it so much. I stood there, in my short sleeved shirt, inhaling the salt air and let the wind blow the wet fog in my face and hair.

After leaving the beach, I drove down to our old neighborhood in the Richmond District, at 20th x Geary. When we moved into this building it was a mustard yellow color. They repainted it after we left. Our apartment was in the back. The top floor is Grace's, the landlord. She still lives there and we still exchange Crissmiss cards with her sister Donna & husband Bruce, who live right below Grace. For $800 a month, we had a 2 bedroom, 1 bath place, with 3 skylights, off street parking, and a washer & dryer in the building. We had a non-working fireplace in the livingroom too. It was such a wonderful place to start our new lives together when we moved in on August 1, 1989, just a few days after arriving in SF.

This is looking down 20th Avenue from our old apartment building. I was glad that there was a MUNI bus pulling through the intersection because that was my old bus, the 38 Geary. It dropped me off right in front of my office building on Market Street, downtown. One straight shot, door to door.

Looking west down Geary Boulevard (towards the Beach), from the corner of 20th Ave. If you click on this picture, you will see the graffiti on the side of the Martell's awning, trash, homeless guy in front of the store...There were a few homeless guys when we lived here, but the neighborhood didn't look run down at all back then. It was so pretty and cute, lots of stores and restaurants. It was a comforting and safe place to be; we loved our neighborhood. It bums me out to see it like this now.

Looking east down Geary Blvd. (towards downtown), from the other corner of 20th. Gaspare's Pizza was another fave place to eat. I was sad to see that they, as well as other businesses, now have locked gates covering them when they are closed. The whole neighborhood is so run down now.

Best produce market EVER. We'd walk out of there w/ bags and bags of fresh veggies for like $5 for all of it. We never bought vegetables at the grocery store w/ Richmond Produce right around the corner. The graffiti on the truck also made me sad.

Brian must've visited this store at least 3x a day. To get the paper, chips, beer, milk, whatever. In California, hard liquor is sold alongside wine, beer, and groceries.

Another fave place, the 24 hour Video Cafe. You can eat and/or rent a video 24/7. The inside has lots of movie posters and cardboard cutout promotional pieces. When we lived here, the sign on the building was painted as pink as the heart. When you get home from a Dead show at 1:30 am, starving to death from dancing all night, this was the place to go. Their mushroom burgers were to DIE for. All their food was great. Because I had actually scored a parking place on 20th Ave, and it was still early, I decided to have breakfast here. It was yummy.

After I left the Richmond District, I drove up to Haight Ashbury, and decided to see if by some chance, the top of Twin Peaks might be above the fog. It wasn't. Visibility couldn't have been more than 1 foot. So I headed back down to see my favorite Victorian homes on Waller Street. When you ask people what they imagine when they think of San Franciscan Victorian homes, and they'll all probably think of the "famous row" of houses in Alamo Square, a picture of which is farther down.

But I prefer this set of Victorians on Waller Street because they are way more colourful and contain more detail than the ones on Steiner Street in Alamo Square. Click on the pictures to see the fantastic detail. Marble steps, gingerbread trim and swirly bits.....I would give anything to own one of these.

Click on this one and check out the gryphons on either side of the top window. The detail is amazing.

This is my favorite store in Haight Ashbury, Positively Haight Street. If they had been open, I would have gone in.

The Masonic Street side of Positively Haight Street.

It never ceases to amaze me, but I always manage to have really good parking karma in Ess Eff. I scored a great spot on Hayes Street, at Alamo Square. After you've lived in San Francisco for awhile, you become really good at parallel parking! I was parked in front of this fantastic house. I would love to own an old Victorian with a turret room.

Ok so here's the obligatory "famous " shot of the Steiner Street Victorians at Alamo Square. These are nice and all, but I still prefer the ones on Waller Street!

Next I drove out to Pacific Heights to one of my other favourite places, the Lyon Street steps. It was here that I caught my first whiff of eucalyptus from the trees on the far left (which are inside the Presidio boundaries). It was also here that I could hear my Bridge singing to me. To the right of the steps are huge mansions. Fans of Vincent's movie "Dying Young" will recognize these steps as being where the guy who had cancer lived and Julie Roberts lost her heel or shoe or something on it. It was standing in for Nob Hill, but I recognized the steps as Lyon Street in Pacific Heights right away.

Saw lots and lots of joggers and walkers going up and down these steps, which go pretty far down to one of the streets way below the hill. Now I remember why I was in such good shape when we lived in SF....we walked A LOT and I took lots of people to see these hidden jewels like the Lyon Street steps, and the Greenwich Street steps on Telegraph Hill.
This artwork was in the garden.

Heart attack city. Yes, going down to see the pretty garden has it's have to go back UP to get back to the car!! There are lots of streets in SF that turn into steps here and there. I have a book "Stairway Walks in SF" and I went to see a lot of them.

I had to go listen to the fog horns up close, so I went to the Golden Gate Bridge for a little bit. This is the Bridge Cafe. I seemed to be the only person unaffected by the cold, wet wind and damp fog.

Toll Booth. You only pay going into SF.

There's my bridge, buried to the deck in fog. That's Fort Point down below.

Bricks were sold to raise money for the 50th anniversary sprucing-up & hoopla in 1987, and someone donated this brick.

After I left the Bridge, I cut thru the Presidio and Sea Cliff to Lincoln Park. I wanted to see if the Bridge was at all visible from there but it wasn't. As I was passing by The Palace of Legion of Honor, I spotted a Chihuly piece and whipped in to take a picture of it. Fans of "Vertigo" will remember that Jimmy Stewart followed Kim Novak here, where he watched her stare at the portrait of "Carlotta".
"Sun" by Dale Chihuly.
This is one of only 5 (I think) original sculptures of Rodin's "The Thinker".

Off to the side of the parking lot is this Holocaust Memorial. It's very moving.

It was about 11:30 by the time I was ready to leave for the wedding, and all in all, I was happy to get to a few of my favorite places in The City.
Things I forgot about, that were a part of my every day life in the early 90's:
The fog blowing down the streets, and pouring over hills and trees
The sweet, resonant sound of the fog horns that always made me feel safe
The smell of eucalyptus trees
Garage sales in the Richmond District (oh how I wanted to stop!!)
Ice plant, which is considered a noxious weed but I still think it's pretty
Bottle brush trees
Next up, I will bring you the wedding photos.


  1. Lovely photos. I'm glad you had a good time on Memory Lane. I too love that victorian architecture.

  2. GREAT PHOTOS! You really make me miss the place, esp Geary St, which was my bus route to work on Fisherman's Wharf.

    Interested to know what one of those incredible houses is worth? I can't imagine. I remember thinking the rents were high back in 81! :P

  3. I know! Esp. when you think that those Victorians have been divided into large flats now. I can't imagine what it would be like to have one whole house to myself!!

  4. It's like London : a lot of "smog"...

  5. Anonymous3:05 PM

    Whoo hoo, a new Jojo-Travelog!

  6. As always, I LOVE the pics!! Glad you had a great time :-)

  7. Webradio - Hey there, welcome to my blog! SF does have smog problems, but usually you don't see it till the fall when it gets hot.

    Thanks guys!

    On my prior blog post, someone commenting as "anonymous" asked me not to put the pics of Chris Isaak's house on my blog...but I read their comment(s) too late. I don't know who it is.

    And besides, they are my pictures and my blog, and I will post what I wish. If celebrities have their addresses on line, and live in regular neighborhoods (not gated) then it's hardly my fault if the public are able to find their homes. Nor shall I refrain from putting the pictures up. It's not as if Axe is going to track him down and camp on his front walkway.

  8. ok, so when i win the lottery, i'll buy you one of those victorian houses on steiner street.
    the pix are beautiful and i'm glad to find another person who loves the ice-plant AND a love for an icon.

  9. Fen - I love ice plant!!! It wasn't in bloom when I was there though. The flowers are so pretty. I'm surprised we don't have it in Washington; our climate is similar to the Bay Area's.

  10. Love your photo! The moon! Wow!!! That's a fantastic one.

    And are those seals on the rocks? That's a fantastic photo.

  11. Oh Jojo, THANK YOU SOOO MUCH for the effort you put in to find HIS house (whether it IS his or not)

    All that fog! I HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO live there one day!!
    The Victorian houses are STUNNING!!
    Thanks for the guided tour and the beautiful pics, babe. WOW!!

  12. Ah, the painted ladies. You certainly packed an enormous amount into a short space of time.

    Anonymous, we might take a little more notice of your opinions if you gave some indication of your agenda.

  13. Anonymous, while I appreciate your concerns, comments and point of view, the fact is, A LOT of celebrities live in SF, and SF is a very tiny city, land-wise. When we lived there, we knew which houses belonged to Paul Kantner, Robin Williams & Danny Glover. We even saw Paul Kantner in Safeway at the beach once. My blogging friends are all sweet, lovely people, and I promised to do this for my dear friend, Lady Axe.

    Drowsey - Yes, those are sea lions on the Seal Rocks. Thanks for the compliments on my pics. :) I'm a bit of a shutter bug. Last year I went to Vancouver Island for 4 days and come home with nearly 600 photos. lol

    Axe - It was no trouble at all; I know the City like the back of my hand and it was just a quick detour thru the Sunset District. I'd give my eye teeth to own one of those painted ladies!!

    Val - The City and County of SF are only 49 square miles. It's really easy to see a lot of stuff in just a short period of time, esp. if you know your way around as well as I do.

  14. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Love your pictures - when I finally get to SF, you can be sure I will have you prepare my itinerary!

  15. the grateful dead didn't like being stalked, either. in fact, many felt that it contributed to jerry's addiction/paranoia/hermit-like behavior.he really hated being bugged. yeah, that's part of being famous, but harassment is just that.

  16. Anonymous5:32 PM

    Love your pictures - when I finally get to SF, you can be sure I will have you plan my itinerary!

  17. Thanks El! I LOVE to give people tips on the best stuff to see and the quickest ways to get there. We really did see and do everything that The City had to offer when we lived there.

    Annie - Yeah, I know, Jerry was so reclusive and when we met him at a benefit, we watched him break out into an uncomfortable sweat as this Deadhead was saying, "C'mon Jerry, why won't you have lunch w/ me? We share the same birthday!" Jerry was trying to be polite and cordial but the guy wouldn't let it go. No wonder Jerry never showed himself in public. Except when he was wrecking his BMW on 101in San Rafael. lol

  18. If there's one place in North America I haven't been to (and there are plenty) but would love to visit, it's SF. Must be an ageing hippie thing....


  19. WR - The Haight's a real pit now, but the hippie spirit still lingers. You just have to know where to look. ;) I hope you get to see SF someday, it's worth the trip.