This weekend I got new contacts for the first time in 4 years. My old contacts were one month disposables. And I had been wearing them for 48 months. I said they felt like inserting small suction cups made out of sandpaper. Jeff guessed that they felt like putting scraps of frayed linen in my eyes. I was so flooded with relief and joy after my exam and putting those new lenses in, that I sent Jeff a text that said,
Let’s go to Boom Town!
After our St. Stupid’s Day experience, Fern had sparked a new interest in San Francisco history. Looking up photos of the Doggie Diner Head lead to photos of Playland at the Beach…
…the Sutro Baths…
and the Fleishacker Swimming Pool…
The city seems so permanent with its stone and steel, that curiosity sometimes needs to be provoked to wonder what came before? Before, in the days when the Richmond District and the Sunset, those suburban ticky tacky houses by the beach, didn’t exist and Sutro’s steam rail brought picnickers out to the gloomy dunes.
Or when the Upper Haight was known, not for its hippies, but for Chutes!
For a kid, nothing is previously known, and time has yet to harden conceptually. They don’t need to have “respect” for what has come before to be interested in the growing stages…be it garden, town or body. Sometimes I will tell Fern tales from “when she was a wish in my heart” and she makes sense of these stories by saying things like, So that when I was your mommy and you were a baby and I wasn’t here yet and neither were you.
Which kinda makes perfect sense.
And so, undeterred by stormy skies, we scooped everyone into the car and headed to GG Park and the Conservatory of Flowers.
As we made our way into the park, we did a non-sequitur by re-enacting inspiration from Japanese school kids.
Because when you play with time and space, you also play with character.
For those who don’t know, the Conservatory was built in 1878, a Victorian greenhouse that is the oldest of its kind in the country, and stands like a ghost in the park, whispering tales of days long gone.
Boomtown is housed in the exhibit hall, but to get there you “have” to walk through several different exotic climes and their botanical inhabitants.
Poor Fern was miserable because she couldn’t pick any of the flowers. Plus both kids were excited to “see the tiny trains and old houses!”
But first a little introduction to another one of the invisible secrets of San Francisco. The Barbary Coast.
The Barbary Coast (1848 – post-earthquake) was the receptacle not only for Sailors looking for a good time, but also for the hordes who came to seek their fortune in the gold rush. Several streets North of Market and down to Fisherman’s Wharf were considered to be a red light district of unparalleled notoreity, filled with dance halls, whore houses, cafes, hotels, performance theaters and…more whore houses.
From the Boomtown exhibit.
Business owners enticed customers in with “loose women” displayed in their storefront windows, and one business called The Necrophilia just cut to the chase…women to be had for the lowest of prices, any time of the day or night. Would you like to see some of these women? It’s quite shocking
The performers of the Barbary Coast included Little Egypt (one of the three, anyway, since the stage name was shared), who brought Belly Dance, or as it was known then, the Hoochee Coochee.
The Barbary Coast went strong until the 1906 earthquake. It was rebuilt in the rubble, but city government crackdowns and changing times meant that it never quite returned to its hayday.
(Did you know that the destruction of the city from fire was not a result of the 1906 earthquake and could have been prevented? Firemen, untrained in using dynamite, tried to create firebreaks to stop the spread of fires, which were contained and small at first…and just succeeded in blowing up the city…over and over again. Oh, also, residents were prohibited from putting out their own fires.)
So that’s a bit about the Barbary Coast. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ve already heard me spout off about the travesty brought to the original California inhabitants by the gold seekers, so all you need to know is that SF was the hub of all this crazy.
Now, it is celebrated through dwarf plants and whimsical miniatures! I don’t know who designed this exhibit, but they had a lot of fun.
After the Conservatory, we continued with the theme of All Things Doggie Diner and headed out towards the Zoo and Sloat Boulevard.
And with that my friends, I return you to the present. Here in SF we have the first blue skies in several days, a wicked cold wind, and wildflowers that I can hear calling my name.