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The Ghoulish Statues of 580 California Street

The next time you are in the neighborhood of California and Kearny, look up.  You will see three ghoulish looking, grim reaper like statues appearing to stare out at this mythical city by the sea.  Were they put there like gargoyles to scare away evil spirits?  Are they a sign of human, and city mortality?

Unfortunately, the real answer is not romantic or whimsical.  These statues were created by Murial Castanis, and the formal title for these artistic statues is "Three Models for 580 California," but they are more commonly known as the "Corporate Goddesses."

There must be more story behind the creation of these statues, but at this point it has not been published, and the artist passed away a few years ago.  It does make you wonder what story future generations may attach to these medieval ladies.




The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

The By Bridge is the one you see snaking across the bay from San Francisco, to Yerba Buena Island, and then on to Oakland.  It is an icon of San Francisco, and present in most views of the bay.  After three and a half years of construction, the 8 1/2 mile long bridge was opened on November 12, 1935.  It cost the lives of 27 construction workers during it's depression era creation. 

The exact location of the bridge was dictated by a bedrock ridge that lies 200 feet below the surface of the bay on the line where the Bay Bridge currently sets.  On either side of this ridge, the water is quite a bit deeper. 

The Bay Bridge noteworthy facts include the following?

1.   The lower deck was originally built for electric train traffic only.  The upper deck was used for two-way vehicle traffic.  This changed in 1958 when the lower deck became refitted for eastbound traffic, and the upper deck was reserved for westbound traffic.

2.  The total coast was $77 million dollars.

3.  President Hoover, a graduate of the Stanford School of Engineering, took a personal interest in this project.  That's right, President Hoover was an engineer. 

4.  Halfway between San Francisco and Yerba Buena Island, it became necessary to build another island for support.  The depth was to great for divers to work from the bottom up, so they tried something different and built this cement tower from the top down, eventually securing it with large steel pipes once it reached the bottom of the bay.  The tower is the height of a 48 story building.

Residents of San Francisco are well aware of the troubles the bridge between Yerba Buena Island and San Francisco has had in the past 25 years.  During the Loma Prieta Earthquake, part of the upper deck crashed on to the lower deck during rush hour, and more recently the bridge was closed to repair a fissure that was discovered as they began construction on a new bridge that will span the length of Yerba Buena Island to Oakland.  They tried to repair the fissure in a brief amount of time, but when the bridge was reopened, the repair came crashing down on a vehicle during rush hour and caused the closer of the bridge for a week.  As you work your way across this old span of bridge, you can view the new bridge beside it which will replace this ailing section around 2013. 


San Francisco: Living on the Edge?

San Franciscans do not worry about tornadoes, hurricanes, massive flooding, damaging thunderstorms with destructive lightening, or ice and snow storms.  For the most part, the weather is very mild, and rarely dips below freezing.  Mother Nature leaves the tip of the peninsula alone and allows its residents to live in relative peace and calm.  Unfortunately, San Francisco is not totally exempt from disaster; there is always the threat of earthquake and the remote possibility of tsunamis.

One of the more powerful reminders of this underground threat occurred on October 17th, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. with the Loma Preita Earthquake.  The epicenter was near Aptos and did wide spread destruction to Santa Cruz and Watsonville, killing 67 people and damaging property in excess of six billion dollars throughout the Bay Area.  In the city, the earthquake caused a section of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge to fall onto the lower deck, demolished part of the 101 expressway, and lead to extensive damage in the Marina District.

At first people sighed relief thinking that they had just survived the dreaded "big one" that had been predicted for years, the one that is supposed to rival the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.  As scientists began to study this quake, they realized that this is not the catastrophic one that was predicted.  In fact, this one was fairly minimal when compared to the ones in the past and the predicted "big one" in the future.  For example, the 1906 Earthquake produced 30 times more energy and ten times more ground movement.  

In San Francisco, people don't talk about if there is going to be a big earthquake, it is a matter of when the "big one" hits.  Everyone knows it is coming.  It will be bad.  It will be catastrophic.  It will change the way this city looks, feels, and operates, but it won't be the end of the world.  Contrary to what some people think, San Francisco is not living so close to the edge that it is apt to fall into the ocean at the first sign of a substantial earthquake.  There will be no such dramatic event for the city in this lifetime.  An overwhelming majority will survive, clean up the mess, and rebuild.

This city has an unquenchable energy and vibe that continually powers its creativity and resiliency.  No matter what happens, people will continue to come here in order to freely love, create, and dream.  It has been, and always will be, the place for new beginnings and experiential living.  

"Somehow the great cities of America
Have taken their places in a mythology
that shapes their destiny:
Money lives in New York.
Power sits in Washington.
Freedom sips Cappuccino in a 
sidewalk cafe in San Francisco."
- Joe Flower


Hidden Concert

Impromptu Concert under a bridge in Golden Gate Park


Book Signing - Gail Carriger

Are you a fan of Lord Akeldama, Lady Maccon, Professor Lyall, or Miss Ivy Hisselpenny?  If so, then you will be delighted to hear that Gail Carriger just released her fourth book in her Parasol Protectorate Series.  Heartless has all the high society vampires, powerful werewolfs, and fabulous steampunk inventions that we have come to expect from this urban fantasy, romantic mystery writer.  If you haven't been turned on to this author yet, there is no time like the present.  March 1st, 2011, Timeless comes out, and this book will be the end of the saga.

The picture below shows Miss Carriger at her latest book signing at Books, Inc. in Opera Plaza.

Gail Carriger redone


San Francisco: An Ever-Changing City

If you attend Armistead Maupin's musical, "Tales of the City," you will see a very different San Francisco then what you see today.  The time period is the 1970's.   As you watch the show, visions of disco, plaid pants, hand sewn bean bags, tight jeans, moustaches, and flower children will dance through your head.

The 1970's was a time of sexual revolution, especially for the gay community.  For the first time in San Francisco's history, GLBT men and women found a place they could call home and express themselves with their body.  It wasn't just about sex, but that was part of it.  It was also about a growing community that decided they didn't want to be sad anymore.  Now was the time of gay rights protests and petitions for more gay friendly laws.  It was the time of Harvey Milk, the first gay supervisor in San Francisco.  It was a time of optimism for the gay community; an optimism they would need to tap into in the next decade.   

As you leave "Tales of the City" and are thinking about the greatness of the 1970's, one can't help but let their minds then drift to the horror of the 1980's, when the other shoe fell.  The 1980's brought the AIDS pandemic and an unsupportive president, Ronald Reagan.  How could we fight this disease when our president wouldn't even say the word AIDS in public until 1987?  San Francisco was hit hard by the disease.  With the absence of government and family support, the community came together and took care of its own.  The GLBT community realized it was strong, and growing stronger.  Now was not the time for the closet, but the streets.  "ACT UP! FIGHT AIDS."

The 90's and turn of the century brought with it the age of Google, Twitter, Mozilla, Yahoo, Zynga, and Facebook who are now shaping the landscape of San Francisco.  These companies have brought young software developers to the Bay Area with good salaries.  When the Recession hit, San Francisco maintained a little better than other cities simply because of it's proximity to the Silicon Valley.  For example, the real estate market dropped, but it did not plummet like in other areas.  In some ways, the tech industry saved San Francisco from a meteoric fall.  Even in the depths of the Recession, one can see new businesses and restaurants spring up that appeal to those in the tech industry.  This population has influence and will shape the look and feel of San Francisco.  For example, the CEO of Oracle is bringing the World Cup to the Bay Area.  Current tenants of the water front are already being evicted to make room for all the new development that will take place in order to host this worldwide event.  It will never be the same again.  Hopefully, it will be improved.

This is a city that has always changed based on times.   It grew overnight because of the Gold Rush, experienced vigilante justice, reveled in the Victorian age, and partied through the Roaring 20's.  Basically, San Francisco is always open to change and will throw itself into the present time.  Currently, it is the tech scene, but that will change.  No one scene dominates this city for too long.  It won't tolerate not being the center of the next movement.

The influence of all the different eras is still here in the city, some more noticeable than others.  For example, the Gay Pride Celebration is alive and well, although it has changed to include so much more than anyone could have ever expected.  In some ways, it is now a celebration for everyone to just appreciate and celebrate all of our differences. 

No matter what, this city will continue to evolve.  It may be through human intervention or even the occasional touch of Mother Nature in the form of earthquakes.  Enjoy the city the way it is now, but don't be surprised if in 10 years it is different.  Don't mourn and grieve the past, just cherish the memories.  Instead, embrace every form this city decides to take as you move through its streets in your lifetime.  San Francisco is NOT settled, and it will never be settled.  It is always in the process of becoming something. 




Scenes from San Francisco's Gay Pride, 2011

Gay Pride in San Francisco is a time where everyone comes out and celebrates diversity.  GLBT and heterosexual people from all nationalities and all races join in the festivities.  Young, old, families, singles, rich, poor, all are welcome. 

S.F. Gay Pride 2011 36

S.F. Gay Pride 2011 29

S.F. Gay Pride 2011 33


Golden Gate?

Golden Gate I  6.14.11

If you have been around San Francisco for any amount of time, you will definitely see a reference to the Golden Gate, the most obvious being the Golden Gate Bridge.  You will also hear the term used in almost any song talking about San Francisco.  We now have restaurants, apartment houses, businesses, hobby clubs, etc. using the name to show themselves as local and loyal to the Bay Area.

The term Golden Gate refers to the entrance of the bay between Marin and San Francisco which is now connected by the bridge.  Before the bridge, the name was still used for that specific area.

Why Golden Gate?  Many think it is a term relating to the California Gold Rush.  It makes sense, but it is incorrect.  It was actually named by John C. Fremont after he first viewed the entrance to the bay.  It reminded him of the sea entrance to to Byzantium, now called Istanbul.  The entrance to that historic harbor is named Chryoceras (Greek for Golden Horn).  The geographical characteristics, as well as the possible commercial uses of this area, are what led Fremont to name this area of the bay Chrysopylae, or Golden Gate.



Reference:  San Francisco Memoirs 1835-1851: Eyewitness accounts of the birth of a city, by Malcolm E. Barker

bay 6.14.11


Views at the deYoung Museum

deyoung 5

deyoung 4

deyoung 7

deyoung 1

The Hanlon House, San Francisco

If you find yourself walking around the Russian Hill/Nob Hill neighborhood on Jackson Street, take a couple of moments to walk by the Hanlon House at 1659 Jackson Street.  It was built in 1881 and moved to its current location after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire.   

It is fascinating to reflect on all the life and conversations that have occurred in this residence.  The 130 year old home began its life during the Victorian Age, when women and men dressed elaborately and kept their parlors over decorated.  It was an age of showy excess, and this house looks like it belonged to that era.  Families continued to live in the house during the times of World War 1 & 2, McCarthyism,  poodle skirts, first moon walk, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Summer of Love, and the AIDS pandemic.  Most recently, this house witnessed the advent of accessible technology flood it's rooms.  It was built around the time that the phone was invented, and now cell phones, computers, laptops, and televisions are used on the premises.

From the looks of this residence, it is not going anywhere anytime soon.  Maybe in the future it will be cars, and not just planes, that the grand old lady will see flying above it's rooftop and chimneys. 





"Language of the Birds"

Barbary Coast Trail 13

The next time you are in North Beach, check out the art piece displayed at Columbus and Broadway. It is entitled "Language of the Birds," and is made up of 23 illuminated polycarbonate books hanging from electrical lines. On the sidewalk below the books rest many English, Italian, and Chinese words and phrases etched into the sidewalk. Standing underneath it, you get the feeling that the books have taken flight, and in the process lost some of their words and phrases which floated to the ground. At night the books are illuminated by power generated from solar panels housed on the roof of nearby City Lights Bookstore.

It was created by Brian Goggin and Dorka Keehn. Brian Goggins is also the artist who designed "Defenestration" at 6th and Howard.

"Language of the Birds" is the direct result of a city ordinance which puts aside 2 percent of capital improvement costs to fund Public Art Programs. Most of the money for this art piece came from private donations, but the city did kick in a generous amount to start the creative process. You have to love a city that recognizes the importance of art.



Barbary Coast Trail 12


Leland Stanford (One of the "Big Four")

Leland Stanford, one of San Francisco's infamous "Big Four," did not come from remarkable origins. He had seven other siblings, and was the son of an innkeeper. After a short time in the law profession, Leland came to California in order to work with his brothers to start up a grocery in Sacramento. His brothers moved on to other pursuits, but Leland stayed faithful to the small grocery store.

Opportunity Knocks!

One of his customers was struggling to keep his gold mine open and pay the grocery bill, so he paid Leland in shares of his mine. For whatever reason, Leland decided to accept these shares as payment for the bill. One must wonder if he was motivated by charity or greed. It turns out that this was quite possibly one of the two best business decisions Leland ever made in his life. The gold mine was successful, and it eventually made him half a million dollars. This was not a bad return for a few groceries.

Opportunity Knocks!

After amassing a tidy sum of money that cemented his place as a wealthy businessman in the Bay Area, he attended a presentation by a railroad engineer named Theodore Judah.   He was a convincing orator, and Judah left that presentation with many commitments to buy shares in his idea to build a railroad through the Sierra Foot Hills to the mines. It was a successful business venture, and this was the beginning of the creation of Leland's fortune. He became known as one of the Big Four in San Francisco, and created an empire based on the railroad. He had come a long way from being the son of an innkeeper, a mediocre lawyer, and a modest grocery store owner.

As his influence grew, Leland became more interested in politics. He became the governor of California for two years during the Civil War era, and later served as a U.S. Senator

Things were going well for the Stanford family until their only son died of typhoid at age 15. The heir to the throne had passed away, and everything he had worked for seemed meaningless. In order to grieve the loss of their son, Leland and Jane founded the Leland Stanford Jr. University in 1891.

Stanford died in 1893, and the university almost went under. As it turns out, Leland had bankrupt his own legacy by spending enormous sums of money on everything from showplace mansions, a Palo Alto farm, an orchard, etc. In fact, he and his wife built Stanford University with five million borrowed dollars.

With the university on the brink of closure, Leland's wife came to the rescue and somehow figured out a way to keep herself and the university afloat after her husband's death.

What a remarkable life. After reading his story, one must wonder if Leland contributed his success to the direction of a divine higher power, hard work and business savvy, or just plain dumb luck.



Source: Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide, by Rand Richards



San Francisco Critical Mass on Van Ness Avenue


"Bicycle Race"
by Queen

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

You say black I say white
You say bark I say bite
You say shark I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don't like Star Wars
You say Rolls I say Royce
You say God give me a choice
You say Lord I say Christ
I don't believe in Peter Pan
Frankenstein or Superman
All I wanna do is


Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my


Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they'll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah
On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle
Bicycle bicycle bicycle
Bicycle race


You say coke I say caine
You say John I say Wayne
Hot dog I say cool it man
I don't wanna be the President of America
You say smile I say cheese
Cartier I say please
Income tax I say Jesus
I don't wanna be a candidate for
Vietnam or Watergate
Cause all I wanna do is


Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

Check out San Francisco Critical Mass at www.sfcriticalmass.org


Street Poetry

An aspiring poet wrote these short verses on pieces of tape and placed them on the sidewalk near Valencia Street.  This is definitely someone who wants to be heard.

Street Poetry 1







Essay: Who Remembers Us?

History is made by everyone who is born into this world. The moment you take that first breath, you become part of the story. Most everything you do will affect someone in someway, down to the person on the street asking for money. Everyone has a share in this story, but not everyone is remembered for their part.

Recorded history often forgets the little person's role in the legend. It doesn't seem to care about the man who worked hard and somehow played a small part in keeping civilization alive. History ignores the woman who had a family and worked diligently to teach them about compassion, ethics, and responsibility. The teacher, garbage collector, nurse, bus driver, sales clerk, small business owner, construction worker, minister, and day laborer all have an impact on our society. Unfortunately, they are not all remembered.

While researching the history of San Francisco, it becomes apparent that those who made the most money are the ones who are remembered. The ones who were the biggest scoundrels and scammed the most people are the ones who are remembered. Often they are self-memorialized in a structure they built with their name on it to remind everyone of who they were and that they made a lot of money. These buildings are like giant, ornate tombstones scattered throughout the city.

Those who were supposedly the biggest saints are also the ones who are remembered. It is interesting to note that sometimes a figure can go from being the biggest scoundrel to the most pious of saints based solely on how they lived their life after they made their fortune or how they wrote their will.

But what about the common person? They are remembered on in their families for a couple of generations, and then they are a short sentence attached to a photo in a dusty album. Where is the museum to the men and women who really built this country with their hands and not their pocketbooks?

It is fun to read about the "great" people in history and marvel at all the awesome things they did and structures they built, but not at the moment. Instead, let's try to draw today's inspiration from the ordinary people who have gone before us. The common men and women who contributed to the story and legend that is history but never got their name in the newspaper. The ones who made it possible for the "historic" characters in history to achieve their goals and build great buildings.




Socialism in the City

When you visit Coit Tower, spend some time looking at the murals surrounding the hallway inside the structure.  At first glance, you may just bypass them and concentrate on the views and getting into the elevator, but the murals themselves are an amazing attraction.  Created in 1933 as one of the first public works projects, the California School of Fine Arts faculty and staff worked hard to create paintings that would reflect life in California.  There are cowboys, 49ers, fruit pickers, industrial workers, etc.

During this time, Rockefeller Center removed Diego Rivera's artwork because he had painted in an image of Lenin.  The artists who were working on Coit Tower protested and painted in several leftist images to show solidarity with Rivera.  These paintings created quite a stir, and one of the pictures entitled "Workers of the World Unite" was removed before the opening.

Today, you can still see the socialist influence in the murals that line the hallways of Coit Tower.  You can see it in the man who is pulling Karl Marx's Das Kapital off a bookshelf, or the man who is portrayed reading a newspaper with the headline talking about Rivera's artwork being removed from Rockefeller Center.  It is also in the painting of a man who is reaching for the Daily Worker from a newsstand, and in the scene of a poor family panning for gold as a rich family looks on.  In addition, closely check out the industrial paintings, especially the one showing a sea of diverse workmen joining together.

It is definitely worth going to Coit Tower for the phenomenal views, but also take some time to really study the murals.  You won't be disappointed.



Coit Tower Murals, May, 2011 5


Bay to Breakers: The Event

Bay to Breakers is definitely something you have to experience to believe. It has to be the largest costume party in the world. Thousands and thousands (55,000 plus) showed up to run and walk their way across the city from the bay to the ocean. Costumes included Angry Birds, I'm with Charlie Sheen girlfriends, underwear gnomes and regular gnomes, witches, Scooby Do, Napoleon Dynamite, fairies, etc. It is so San Francisco, and absolutely fabulous. Happy 100th anniversary to the Bay to Breakers 12K race. 


Bay to Breakers

Wikimedia Commons:  Geoffrey Weber

It is finally here. The 100th anniversary of Bay to Breakers will be this Sunday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. This is a 12k race from the San Francisco Bay to the ocean breakers, and it was established as a way to raise the city's spirits after the tragic 1906 earthquake and fire. It is the oldest foot race in the world that has never changed its course. During W.W. II, attendance dropped to below 50 participants, but it has continued to grow. This year they are expecting 55,000 registered entrants and an untold number of bandits who "crash" the race. In 1986, the race had 110,000 participants, enough to make into the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest footrace in the world.

This is not your mother's footrace. Over the years it has evolved with a San Francisco feel and vibe. When you go and view the race tomorrow, don't be surprised by the large number of runners/walkers/drunk crawlers who are wearing costumes. You may see Egyptian princes, super heroes, pink gorillas, spacemen, and any number of people dressed up. In addition, you may also see those who declined to wear a costume, or a running suit, or anything at all for that matter. Yes, they must be cold.

Stay tuned to this blog for pictures of the event. G-rated pictures of course.




Mary Ellen Pleasant: The Mother of Civil Rights in California

Mary Ellen Pleasant
Before coming to San Francisco, Mary Ellen had a very eventful life. This African-American activist was a financial backer of the Abolitionist movement and played an active role in the Underground Railroad. 

Her second husband, James Smith, was an African American man who was passing as white. He had already freed his slaves, and the two of them worked hard in the abolitionist movement. After his death, she began a marriage/partnership with John James Pleasant which eventually led them to New Orleans where she became fast friends with Marie Laveau's husband and often took advice from the great voodoo priestess herself.

The California Gold Rush is what eventually brought James and Mary Ellen to San Francisco. The possibilities for wealth were limitless.  When she stepped off the boat at Yerba Buena Island, she registered herself as white, and as such landed jobs managing some of the more exclusive eateries in the city.  While performing her duties, she often overheard tidbits of financial gossip and used them to invest wisely and grow her personal wealth. By 1885, Thomas, who found success in quicksilver, and Mary Ellen had created a 30 million dollar fortune. Unfortunately, Thomas did not live long after this, passing away in 1887 of diabetes. Instead of staying at home and mourning the death of her husband, Mary Ellen hit the trail with John Brown and for the next two years worked tirelessly to attain civil rights for African Americans.

San Francisco called her back in 1879, and this time she came out as a black woman. The African-Americans in San Francisco knew of Mary Ellen's true race all along, but very few white people knew this secret. When she came back and declared herself black, there were some who were very shocked.  After her return to the city, She fought a series of court cases around civil rights for African Americans and often won.

Mary Ellen worked hard all her life for human rights and a better life for everyone, but she did not have a spotless reputation. There were always rumors surrounding her, including that she was the daughter of a voodoo priestess and a Virginia governor. Her relationship with Thomas and Teresa Bell did not help. Teresa was Mary Ellen's friend and business associate. When Teresa got married, Mary Ellen built her a huge $100,000 mansion as a wedding present and then lived in it with the wedded couple. The ornate residence and formal gardens occupied a large space at 1661 Octavia Street between Bush and Sutter. The exact arrangement of their living conditions was not openly discussed, but it appears that Mary Ellen ran the household, including all of the financial obligations. Soon, Thomas and Teresa had a falling out, and on October 15th, 1892 while Thomas was suffering from an illness, it is reported that in the middle of the night he called out "Where am I?" and crashed to the basement floor from a second story landing, dying soon after. At the time, it was believed to be an accident.

Shortly after the death of Thomas, Mary Ellen and Teresa found themselves in court fighting over his estate. The peculiar circumstances of the marriage and relationship were alluded to in court, and the rumors started to fly in the newspapers. Teresa set out on a campaign to destroy Mary Ellen's name by calling her a voodoo priestess, a baby stealer, a baby eater, and a multiple murderess. Teresa was successful in her smear campaign and eventually won the house and evicted Mary Ellen.

Probably most disturbing to Mary Ellen about the whole ordeal is that Teresa was able to tag her publicly with the title of "Mammy."  For the rest of her life she was often referred to, especially in the press, as "Mammy" Pleasant, a title which she abhorred.

She passed away on January 4th, 1904.  She was a great woman of action who used her success to help many people.  RIP Mary Ellen Pleasant, 1817 - 1904.  

Source: Wikipedia & Historic Walks in San Francisco, by Rand Richards


105 Year Anniversary of the San Francisco Earthquake & Fire

A few weeks ago, San Franciscans may have seemed a little more solemn as they remembered the victims of the 1906 earthquake and fire.  It is said to have been more destructive than the Chicago fire of 1871 and the London fire of 1966.  Fortunately, the city and its citizens have taken countless measures to ensure that damage and death do not occur on that scale again.

Below you will find some of the facts of that fatal day in 1906:
  • It occurred at 5:12 a.m.  
  • The first tremor lasted 40 seconds with a ten second rest followed by a very strong 25 second shake.  
  • It has been estimated as a 7.9 on the scale of 10 Richter scale.
  • It was almost 30 times more powerful than the 6.8 quake in 1989.  This was the quake that caused a section of the Bay Bridge to go down, and did fatal damage to highway 101 and structures in the Marina District.
  • It came from the San Andreas Fault, which was just discovered by Andrew Lawson in 1893.  It runs under and is named after San Andreas Lake.  It does not lie directly under San Francisco.  Instead, it goes through Daly City, out into the ocean, and back to land at Reyes Point.  
  • The epicenter was offshore, a few miles South of Golden Gate.
  • It created quite a bit of destruction along a 200 mile stretch from Monterey Bay to Fort Bragg, but it did little damage to Oakland and Berkeley.  They have their own fault line to worry about on that side of the bay.
  • In S.F. cemeteries, hundreds of tombstones were knocked over, all towards the east.
  • The ground in San Francisco went through a series of waves as high as two or three feet.
  • Most of the damage did not come from the earthquake, but the uncontrollable fire that spread through the city during the aftermath. 
San Francisco will never know this level of destruction again because of an earthquake.  City officials have instituted a series of earthquake proof and fire prevention building codes that will really pay off if an earthquake of that magnitude hits the city again.  All you have to do is look at the difference between the 2010 Chile earthquake (8.8) and the 2010 Haiti earthquake (7.0) to see how good planning and technology can save lives and structures.  Chile used many of the earthquake proof procedures developed in California, and there was a lot less destruction and loss of life.

In 1906, San Francisco was caught unaware and with little planning in place, but all of that has changed now.  If a quake this size does occur again, there will be a certain amount of death and destruction, but nothing near the 1906 carnage.  All San Franciscans pray it won't happen, but if so, they all have earthquake kits and several plans to help them survive and rebuild this great city by the sea.



Source:  Historic San Francisco:  A Concise History and Guide, by Rand Richards


San Francisco: Home of the Creative Muses

If you spend any amount of time in San Francisco, you will feel the creative spirit that is a part of everything around you.  The architecture, murals, fashion, festivals, and music all give testimony to this drive that entices everyone who lives here or visits to make something unique and genuine.  For example, All you have to do is visit a few restaurants before you come across that delectable combination of ingredients that San Franciscans like to call California Fusion.  Local chefs take traditional recipes from around the world and experiment in ways that make it a whole new dish.  A perfect example is all the ways that calamari is prepared in the city.

In San Francisco, everyone also seems to have a hobby, and there is a large focus on people doing something outside of the normal work day.  Several individuals may introduce themselves as writers, designers, or musicians who are just posing as teachers, bankers, clerks, etc.  It is the work-life balance that many places in the United States talk about, but San Francisco puts into practice.

Everyone has a creative spark that lies in them.  Here in the city, you can find all sorts of courses that will spark your interest and help you to court the muse.  There are numerous community education organizations and businesses devoted to such things as sewing, knitting, sailing, drawing, blogging, writing, making music, design, programming, gardening, pottery, photography, stained glass, etc.  If you can dream it, you can make it.

What causes this city to be driven by such a strong inventive urge?  Maybe it is the ghosts of all the movies and books that refer to San Francisco locations.  You don't have to go far to recognize a place that was used in a novel or on the big screen.  For example, some may say that Michael Toliver and Mary Ann Singleton still lurk around the corners of the Castro and Russian Hill districts.  Maybe this urge arises from extreme beauty of the hills, ocean, and bay that at times borders on too much for the senses to take in.  Being around such a wealth of natural beauty stimulates a person's imagination.

There are a few other places like this in the United States.  All you have to do is visit Santa Fe and you will feel this same inspiration.  This city, like San Francisco, encourages one to sit down and write a novel the quality of "Death Comes for the Archbishop," by Willa Cather.  Of course, not everyone can succeed in this task to that level of excellence, but that is not the point.

It is often the act of creating that is more important than the actual product, especially here in the city.  The real product is not the vase, but the insights and knowledge the artist receives in the making of the vase.  Some of the best artists with the most innovative spirits will never be famous.  These are the hobbyists that eventually learn that they are the art piece, not the vase.  San Francisco promotes the idea that we are at our best when we create and invent.  Maybe, just maybe the meaning of life is to discover yourself and your relationship to others by using your imagination and engaging in the art of creation.  All you have to do is look at the art pieces of ancient civilizations to realize that there has always been this human drive to create something even if it is on the most menial of objects, such as a water bowl.

Come to San Francisco, spark your imagination, and get in touch with your primal urge to build, design, and innovate.  Soon you may be one of those people who introduces themselves as a musician that happens to sell houses during the day.   




Maiden Lane

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Have you been to Maiden Lane yet?  No?  Well, then hail a cab and head down to this quaint little alley near Union Square where high end fashion lives.  Retailers like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Marc Jacobs all have cozy little stores nestled away in this posh alley.  In addition, you will find the Xanadu Gallery which is housed in a space designed by the infamous Frank Loyd Wright.

Before the 1906 earthquake and fire, this little street was known for its "red light" activity.  One can only imagine all the whoring, opium dens, and general crime that found it's home in these short blocks.  The fire destroyed all of the buildings and left piles or rubble, but a jeweler saw potential in the mean little alley and transformed it to its current glamour by first changing the name from Morton to Maiden, and then courting businesses that would help the little lane to compete with the Maiden Lanes in both New York City and London.

Get up, catch a cab, and go window shopping in Maiden Lane.  While you are down there, you might as well stroll over to Union Square for some light shopping, and then you can end the excursion with a cup of tea in Chinatown.  



Source:  Wikipedia

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"The Granite Lady" San Francisco's Old Mint

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Located in Soma (South of Market) on the intersection of 5th and Mission sits the Old U.S. Mint.  Constructed in 1874 and designed to keep out tunneling robbers, this stone building actually survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.  One of the features of the building which helped to save it from ruin was the central enclosed courtyard that houses a well that was used to defend the structure.  The windows melted from the heat of the surrounding fire, but the building was not engulfed in flames.  Good thing because at the time it was housing a third of the U.S. gold reserves.

In 1937, it was replaced by a newer structure that is perched on top of a hill overlooking Market Street.  The Old Mint was open to tourists until 1993, and just recently has been slated for a remodel to make it a museum by 2012.

-  Source Wikipedia

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