Like a lot of people who live in tourist destinations, I rarely think to visit the beautiful places that make my city famous. The beauty doesn't just belong to me as a San Franciscan or a Californian. It belongs to everyone.
In that spirit, on this MLK Day, would you like to come along for a visit?
You recognize this place, don't you?
Alcatraz. My dad's godmother's father was a sign painter on Alcatraz during the entire time it operated as a prison. They lived on the island. My dad's godmother frequently took my dad and his twin brother to stay with her family on Alcatraz for weekends. There are endless family stories about the trouble they got into there.
My grandfather worked for the Department of Public Health when he first came to California. As the county doctor, it was part of his job to operate on Alcatraz prisoners when they needed surgery. I've had all kinds of behind-the-scenes tours of over the years, including the surgery suite where my grandfather operated. The operating tables are still there.
The Garden Conservancy has taken custody of the gardens on Alcatraz and hired a gardener to renovate them. They were once quite beautiful. I would give my eye teeth to have that job some day!
Angel Island. My aunt was a docent there for awhile.
San Francisco Bay's version of Ellis Island. The government kept Chinese immigrants here for months, years while determining whether or not to grant them entry to America.
[N]o icon lifts a lamp here
history's breath blotting the air
over Gold Mountain a transfer
of patterns like the transfer of African applique
to rural Alabama
voices alive in legends, curses
poems on a weary wall
And when light swivels off Angel Island and Alcatraz
when the bays leap into life
views of the Palace of Fine Arts,
when sunset bathes the three bridges
old ghosts crouch hoarsely whispering
under Gold Mountain
My own San Francisco story is a cliche. You've probably heard it before. I first moved here as a runaway when my father chased me out of the house after finding out I'm gay. I went from being a runaway to being a homeowner. How's that for the American dream?
The dunes at the beach went into restoration in the mid-1990s when the park service took custody of the land from the military after base closures some years before. Volunteers planted coyote bush, lupine, artemesia and coast strawberry. Once upon a time, this was what a lot of San Francisco looked like.
I love the old military buildings.
The big container ships sail in and out all day long.
Other kinds of ships sail in and out all day too.
I highly recommend the bay cruises offerred by the various ferry lines at Fisherman's Wharf. One goes just outside the Golden Gate; it's quite thrilling.
Another time we'll go across the bridge. But this is as far as we're going today.
I want to visit the Palace of Fine Arts too.
Surely San Francisco's most exquisite landmark.
Acanthus mollis planted beneath Corinthian columns!
This is the plant whose foliage inspired the Corinthian capital.
Coprosma repens, Mirror Plant. Popular with the Victorians. There's a lot of it in Golden Gate Park.
Maytenus boaria, the lovely Maytens tree.
Around the park, beautiful homes with some nice front gardens, all professionally done I'm sure.