Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Only in San Francisco
While attending Bouchercon, I went on a three hour long cable car tour of San Francisco. The cable cars we toured in had actually been turned into busses. We went everywhere you'd expect to go, Fisherman's Wharf, we had a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, Chinatown, lots of wonderful parks and classy neighborhoods and some not so classy neighborhoods. We visited Golden Gate Park and the ocean with surfers. We also drove through Haight Ashbury, which hasn't really changed a lot since the 60s and through the rainbow flag decorated Castro district contrasting a lot with the austere buildings in the financial district. Each of these places had distinct types of inhabitants as well as the tourists gawking at the sights and the people.
One place we passed that brought back old memories was the hotel I'd stayed in during the early 60s when I attended a PTA convention. Some things hadn't changed a lot, while others had definitely changed, one being back in my earlier visit cable car rides were free, this time it cost $5 one way.
I've reported about the actual Bouchercon in other places, but to make this mystery related, one thing I noticed were the many homeless people who parked themselves around the beautiful Hyatt Regency Embarcadaro where the con was held. Some, I'm positive because of their actions, were crazy.
One night, my roommate, Gay Kinman, and I went to a P.I. awards dinner in Chinatown. We took the cable car and the only way we knew it was time to get off was when I spotted all the Chinese lanterns decorating the very steep hill into the tourist part of Chinatown. After the great dinner upstairs in the old Empress restaurant which had been there long before my fist visit to San Francisco, we headed home. No cable cars were availabel though we waited in a marked cable car stop, and despite Gay's valiant efforts, no cabs wanted to stop for us. Finally, we decided to walk back to the hotel which fortunately was downhill, unfortunately, several very long blocks.
It was about 10 p.m. and there were others on the street, mainly young folks going into local pubs and dancing establishments. We also passed some of the aforementioned homeless. And no cable cars passed on the way downhill so it was a good thing we hadn't waited. Was it safe for us to be walking on the street at that hour? Probably not, but we made it.
My ride to the airport Sunday a.m. was also an adventure. I'd been told to wait in the street in front of the hotel. The valet said not to do that but to wait on a bench in front of the hotel. The van arrived early. He had a horrible time maneuvering around to get to his next pick-up because many streets had been barricaded because of a pending marathon race. Finally we arrived in front of a rather seedy hotel in Chinatown to pick up the next traveler, a young woman from Columbia who was here because of job training. While we drove, I spotted homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk in both good and bad parts of town. Next we parked on a very steep hill while the driver looked for an address--was glad when he got back in because I'm not sure I could have made it into the front seat to steer the van if the emergency brake hadn't held, in which case we would have zoomed down the hill to end up in a concrete wall. The passenger was waiting in front of a house at the bottom of the hill--a Chinese woman heading home to Seattle after visiting friends.
A note about Bouchercon itself, nearly 2000 people attended and a large percent were mystery writers (famous and not so), those who wanted to be mystery writers, and the largest group were readers and fans. The best places to find people to talk with was in hospitality room where refreshments were free, or in the bar where nothing was free.