Monday, May 07, 2007

Back from San Pancho

My darlings! I can't bear to be without you for this long. I had every intention to write to you from chilly, sunny San Francisco, but my whirlwind activities denied me the pleasure. I had forgotten what an interesting, lovely city it is. Lots of character and lots of characters. People in San Fransisco look at you in the eye and they talk to you. Waiters expound on every topic. Being from NY one is not used to such personable garrulousness. And it is not the ditzy kind, like in LA. It has bite.
A seasoned waitress at Washington Square Cafe in North Beach warned me that I was about to eat the best spaghetti carbonara I've ever had. I was skeptical, because I've had very good. It was good, but not the best. It was authentic -- no cream and real pancetta, and lots of egg. However, she was fearsome and I was afraid to contradict her. From what she told the other table I gathered that she used to be a hard drinker but she stopped. Then she told me that she should live in NY because San Francisco is boring and there is really nothing to do and if she lived in NY she would never have enough years to do all she wanted to do. She also swore with utter conviction that the next couple of days the weather would be in the eighties, even though at the moment it was cold and drizzling. I imagine that Calamity Jane was something like her.
First stop in my pilgrimage agenda, the legendary Swan Oyster Depot, where after a long wait we were finally able to sit at the marble counter and order a bowl of the Best Clam Chowder Known to Man, bar none. I defy anyone to show me better. After that, one of the always charming and flirtatious owners chose the most delicate kumamoto and miyagi oysters for us, because we asked for small ones. They were superb, so we had two dozen and then we had some regal crabmeat just with lemon. It was so good and fresh it didn't need smothering with anything else. A tall Anchor Steam ale and, really, it only takes this much to make me extremely happy.
Second stop: Tosca. To have one of their chocolate hot drinks that look innocent but are spiked with brandy and not daintily. I love Tosca.
Third stop: dim sum at Yank Sing. The best ever. Way more expensive than anything in NY's Chinatown, but also more luxurious and delicate. Shrimp wrapped with bacon and chives was unbelievable, as were the crabmeat dumplings, the shanghai soup dumplings fragrant of ginger and the crabmeat dumplings, and the scallop dumplings and the sticky rice, and the barbecued pork flat noodles and I wish I had more room inside. I didn't want to leave. Those pesky hills are great for digestion.
The nice thing about San Francisco is that compared to NY it doesn't seem to have changed that much. I think, however, that it is more expensive than NY. It's very expensive, but I found a great deal at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, where we paid Motel 6 prices for a perfectly swanky room (Orbitz, people). Frisco still has their old fashioned signs and the one neighborhood in America that heroically resists gentrification: the unbelievable Tenderloin. Since I hadn't been back in at least five years, I expected to find the Tenderloin yuppified, like our own very Bowery and our Lower East Side, painfully unrecognizable with insufferable hotels and expensive bars. Hell, no. Not the Tenderloin.

The Tenderloin is basically one block away from Union Square and from Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks, etc. From fancy hotels, and expensive restaurants and theaters and retail. But it is still a most honorable dump. How it is possible that given the market forces, the real estate value, the money, etc, the bums and addicts still make it their fiefdom? How come market forces disarm and flee at the unseemly sight of the Tenderloin? Who knows, but there it is, full of dubious transient hotels and a lot of ragged junkies sprawled on the streets and drug dealers and lost souls and rowdy addicts. Just baaaaaad to the bone, God love it.
In NY our lost citizens do not congregate in one place and they don't seem to have a neighborhood to call home. They are staunchly individualistic, but also, I don't think we have as many addicts or as many crazies. Perhaps because in NY the weather and the city are less forgiving, but our homeless look like Emily Post compared to the ones in Frisco.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:01 AM

    glad to have you back GE and glad you enjoyed SF (not Frisco)so much, especially the food.