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.

Adrienne Rich:
[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.






Artemisia said...

WOW! I finally got to see a real live acanthus plant! I've taught art history for years & told the stories about the origin of the Corintian Capital, but never saw the actual plant that inspired it. Thanks for that!

nina said...

Is this intended to make me feel awful about the weather here, in Wisconsin? Thanks, Chuck. It just so happens that our skies were clear as well. It's usually clear when the temp dips down to single digits, as it did today.

Beautiful shots.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Was the beach you were at part of the Presidio that used to be closed or the one by Fort Mason (I think?) that was always open?

I love the garden with the Papyrus from the River of the Nile in it.

Gorgeous Blue skies!

chuck b. said...

Artemisia: Acanthus is more interesting when it's flowering during the summer.

Nina: I would never taunt my readers with the superiority of coastal weather. I don't need to.


Christopher: Well, I started from the parking lot that's between Fort Mason and the Presidio and then walked west toward the Presidio and the GG Bridge. The area is called Crissy Field; part of it was probably closed when the army was still here if that's what you mean.

chuck b. said...

And I like the Papyrus too.

lisa said...

You are the coolest blogger ever! I really enjoy the photo tours...especially from a fellow gardener's point of view! (And because I can't afford to travel right now.)

chuck b. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chuck b. said...

I'm glad you like the pictures.

It's sooo much easier to take pictures than it is to find something hort-y that's interesting to read and fun to blog about!

I don't work in the hort biz, and the Garden Rant ladies are way more plugged into the hort scene than I am; there's always going to be someone else who can garden blog better than I can.

That's fine. I can show you my garden when it's interesting, I can show you what interests a gardener where I live (because observing your environment is fundamentally gardeneresque), and I can find other random bits that interest me and might have some distant relationship to horticulture--that's what I can do here.

Annie in Austin said...

Thanks for the tour ChuckB. It's probably the closest I'll ever get to seeing your city in person, and you seem to take photos of what we love to look at.

I've seen a few Acanthus planted by gardeners here in Austin, but they never seem to have any size to them - and don't last long. The tags didn't call them Acanthus, either - they said 'Greek Pattern Plant'.

Now I have an indelible picture in my mind, of ChuckB renovating the gardens of Alcatraz - it would really be The Rock garden once you were in charge!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

chuck b. said...

I guess the Acanthi would get too much heat and not enough water in Texas..? They're plants for Mediterranean climates; we were told not to plant it at all in San Francisco unless one wishes to have it forever because it cannot be eradicated once it gets going.

chuck b. said...

P.S. Annie, I've been to Austin! I visited a friend there and saw the "Hey, Loretta" third annual Loretta Lynn tribute show at the Broken Spoke (still have a t-shirt commemorating the night somewhere), and we road tripped to Fort Worth to see an art exhibit at the Kimball. We stopped for chicken fried steak at a truck-stop somewhere near the halfway mark. Mmm. Good times.

Annie in Austin said...

Hopefully, you'll come back sometime, ChuckB. My husband and I went up to Fort Worth a couple of years ago, spent a couple of days in the museum district, including the Kimball. There's also a wonderful newer museum called The Modern. The Cowgirl Museum was not only fun but illuminating.

We've tried out our share of Austin restaurants, and found I love Chicken-fried Chicken even better than the steak.

But I've never been to the Broken Spoke! The Loretta Tribute must have been so much fun.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose