On September 2, 2014 fate ordained that I would handle a downtown delivery route. A downtown route is a high-stakes undertaking. The work is much more challenging than a residential route, but you’re rewarded with spectacular sights and a chance to ride the lightning by being a cog in the timeless, well-oiled machinery of one of America’s oldest running business districts for a day
The route began in the wonderfully preserved area east of Telegraph Hill abutting the wharfs. This is the true heart of San Francisco, the nearest natural harbor in San Francisco after entering the the Golden Gate. Ships arrived here by the thousands during the Gold Rush and were simply abandoned by the crews, as often as not being turned into the landfill that historic waterfront San Francisco is built on.
My delivery was on the 100 block of Green St. at the corner of Icehouse Alley, just one block away from the Green St. laboratory where Philo Farnsworth perfected the electronic television.
My next stop was in one of the Embarcadero Center towers. This delivery entails being directed by teamsters into the underground parking garage of a 30-something story skyscraper that looks like the spot where Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. There are no pleases and thank yous here, just a lot of move-its and c’mon- alreadys. With the specter of domestic terrorism and a bunch of people driving box trucks underneath skyscrapers, everyone’s on his best behavior here. This was no place to stop and take a photo.
For the last part of the day, I had nine stops along the first six blocks of California Street. On a street like California, with cable cars, taxis, lunch crowds, and tourists, it made more sense to just park the truck in one place and use the hand cart to make the deliveries.
I parked across the street from the Tadich Grill, San Francisco’s oldest continually running eatery. Tradition runs strong here. The waiters wear white jackets and black pants, and there have only been seven chefs since 1925.
My fourth stop on California St. was a building that had a really nice collage in the lobby of the iconic downtown street grid done in art deco tiles. Before I could even press the shutter on my Iphone camera the security guard came rushing out from behind his desk shouting “No pictures! No pictures!” I compromised and took just one.
A block or two up was the iconic four way crossing at the intersection of California and Montgomery, where you can cut across the intersection diagonally right in front of a cop car, as people are doing here.
Below is a close-up of a the building seen in the 4-way crossing shot.
The insides of the buildings are as historically eye-catching as the outsides, but after the first security guard yelled at me, I didn’t want to press my luck as a photographer. This shot of an ashtray in an elevator lobby was the best I could do.
After I made my final delivery on the 500 block of California Street, it was time to hop back in the truck and call it a day, leaving California Street to the cable cars, businesspeople and the lunch crowd.
The trip back to the warehouse took me onto the other side of the tracks, along Mission St.
I made a burrito stop along Mission between 18th and 19th at the flagship location of the celebrated Taqueria Cancun. The equally legendary, and even more notorious, Hunt’s Donuts, where cops and criminals lined up at the same counter to get 1 AM donuts still warm from the frier, used to be on the same block. The section of wall mural below is all that remains.
Due to a flight cancellation and a 2.5 hour delay, I got out of OAK much later than I like to. On the plus side, the early evening sun silhouetted the mountain ranges in both NoCal and SoCal nicely, providing great definition that even an iphone could capture. It was also a chance to enjoy magic hour above L.A.
It was an uncharacteristically muggy July in the Bay Area, and as I learned it was significantly more humid in L.A. I was startled but not surprised when on early sunday afternoon there was a nasty thunderstorm that discharged its electricity in the shallow water just south of Venice Pier. Where I was, the ground shook and car alarms went off. As I later sadly learned, one swimmer was killed by the lightning and more than a dozen others received injuries.
When I emerged from the CVS store on Shattuck last Saturday evening I was momentarily stopped in my tracks by the silhouette of my bicycle in the golden sun. It has been my primary form of transportation for probably five years now, and it still doesn’t have a name. How bad does that make me look?
Before naming it, I first had to figure out whether it was a masculine bike or a feminine bike. I quickly came to realize it has elements of both genders in evidence, and that its name would have to reflect that.
“Pat” was my first thought, but Pat is too, well, pat; a little too on the nose and frankly not very flattering.
Johnifer was my next choice, but that felt contrived.
The name that eventually stuck was Cornelia. It’s a feminine name, reflecting the bike’s elegantly light frame and the pink undertones of its paint scheme. But Cornelia is also a strong workhorse of a name, suitable for a mountainbike with a milk crate lashed to its rear rack that is used in lieu of a flatbed pickup truck.
The name is no doubt inspired by East German swimming sensation Kornelia Ender, who took Montreal by storm in the 1976 Olympics.
LIke Kornelia Ender, if my bike ever had to pee in a cup, the results might not be conclusive, and that’s the way I like it.
Above are the mountains east of San Jose in February. The brown color is typical for summer and fall, but not for winter, which is usually when everything is nice and green. The parched color is indicative of the record low rainfall for the winter months.
Below are the same mountains in April, after our recent spring showers. Still not fully green, but a definite improvement.