Thursday, November 2, 2017

SF meander, crepes, city recycling

Palace of Fine Arts, the only set of structures surviving from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo held in San Francisco.

The above photo was shot on a day that I inadvertently locked myself out of the house & was forced to roam the streets of SF. I had taken my car in for a tune-up one morning, and, thinking I'd have the car returned to me in a couple of hours, neglected to take my house keys with me for the day. As it turned out, the car wasn't ready for pick-up until 4.30 in the afternoon. This fact led to my taking a series of bus rides around town, going on a few sweaty walks along the Embarcadero & through the Marina, and taking this shot of one of my favorite spots to visit here in San Francisco.

None of the structures built for the Expo were meant to last, and, indeed, all but the above ones were demolished after the Expo closed. I can't recall why the Palace of Fine Arts was spared the same fate, but I can tell you that the building materials purposely did not withstand the test of time, and the Palace and attendant structures were rebuilt using more robust materials in the 1960s. The grounds of this place are both a favorite wedding spot & a place to have wedding photos shot. Women in white gowns and tuxedoed men are to be seen here pretty much every weekend throughout the spring months. There's a sort of 'fairytale' feel to the place during that time.

Rebekka, making a galette.

Over the weekend, I worked with a dear friend of mine at her crepe stand at a local farmers' market. One of her workers couldn't make it to work, for some reason, so I was able to jump in & help. All in all, it was a mellow day with just enough custom to keep things interesting. We were sandwiched between a ramen joint & a dude selling goat meat tacos, I think. The ramen guy, an American married to a Japanese woman, was super cool, and, as I had just visited Japan in August, we traded stories about what it's like for a gaijin visiting Japan.

Watching Rebekka work can be mesmerizing. When she's slammed, the three griddles are going at once. She's cracking eggs, sprinkling toppings, folding and turning crepes at such a pace that it can all look very complicated. I work the cash box, but she'll have me salt and pepper the galettes when needed. Patrons usually stand in front of her watching, commenting, and, sometimes, taking pictures. It's good fun.

Working with her also reminds me just how many French folk live here, and, of course, how many crepe-happy Americans & Francophiles as well.

The owner of this wheeled cart is out of shot looking through the bins. The woman in the background is performing some sort stretching exercise. 

Current stats show that the Asian population of San Francisco is around 35%. Of that number, approximately 21% are Chinese. A rather visible number of elderly Chinese would appear to be desperately poor. Well, those who scoop recycling out of the city bins in my neighborhood look very poor. I sometimes wonder where they live as this area is not one with any fixed-income housing. Are these recycling collectors living with people who expect them to earn their keep, as it were, in this way? I don't know.

I do know that nearly a third of the Chinese in San Francisco's Chinatown live below the poverty level. Chinese from Hong Kong & the mainland somewhat regularly arrive in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's the 'first stop', if you will, for those of limited means. Those who can afford to, move out of Chinatown. Those who can't afford to move out, simply stay put. Two-thirds of the residents of Chinatown live in SROs, or single room occupany hotels. SROs are not fancy, the rooms measure around 8'x10' and the amenities are usually shared with others living on the same floor. Although SRO rooms were originally intended for single folk to inhabit, as the name would imply, families are often crowded into one room.

It boogles the mind a bit to think that one of SF's most visited tourist areas is, in many respects, a slum.


  1. I suspect that many popular and picturesque areas are the same. Picturesque - until living there is your only option.

  2. Sad thought. But I guess many of the -towns were meant to be a slum to keep various ethnic groups together.

    1. After the 1906 earthquake there was a push from prominent San Franciscans to have Chinatown relocated to the city's outer edge in what became, if I've rememebered correctly, Hunter's Point & the shipyard area. I think, though, that Chinese business owners were able to 'push back', for lack of a better expression & the plan collapsed.

      Chinatown is certainly prime real estate these days.

  3. Very interesting Bea. I always wonder where the 'help' lives in places like SF and Santa Barbara etc. Must be really awful where they came from. I like my crepes barely done. Still eggy and melt in your mouth. I never get them and made them at one time. My daughter liked the ones in Paris with Nutella and sliced bananas. Those pictured look huge. I bet that was a fun day.

    1. Nutella-banana is divine. Nutella-strawberry is too. Anything with nutella on it tastes good to me!

      I know that there are some Chinese help organizations here in town. I don't know how poor immigrants access said organizations, however.


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