San Francisco

by Jonah

San Francisco, CA

On Monday, we took the commuter train from San Jose into San Francisco. The ride is about an hour and a half, twice the time it would take driving, but you don’t have to drive in traffic, you don’t have to park, etc. Unfortunately, you do have to walk quite a ways to the part of San Francisco that people visit.

We squeezed onto a cable car that took us to Chinatown, then found the grittiest Chinese restaurant we could. It was about ten feet wide and thirty feet deep. The downstairs was all kitchen (where you could see the cooks carefully slicing raw fish and chicken), which you had to walk through to get to the stairs. I don’t know how many floors up the dining rooms go; at four p.m. only the second story was open, with a chain across the staircase leading even higher. A sign posted said, “COKE, 7UP, PEPSI, FOOD OK. NO MILK, NO COFFEE, NO BS, NO JIVE, NO ‘FORTUNE COOKIE.'” A man with a mustache plopped a teapot and two cups down in front of us. Then he yelled at the waitress to take our order, but she never did, so he took it himself. We had spring rolls, Mongolian beef, and a plate nearly overflowing with chow mien noodles and duck. Everything was great, nothing fancy, but good food.

We took the cable car back to where we had caught it and walked over to the museum of modern art, but it was closing in less than an hour. So we took the cable car all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Our driver was a Sikh wearing a blue turban to complement his brown uniform. We walked around the area for a while, had a couple of brews at a bar that advertized 85 beers on tap, bought a pint of clam chowder and a round of sourdough from a sidewalk stand, and ate them on the curb. Then we wandered back to the cable car.

While we were waiting to get on, we noticed a man shouting advice to someone walking away from him, “…it’s five dollars and really fills you up…a great place to eat!” He was carrying a big knife. He approached the line of cable car passengers muttering loudly but a little slurred, “I had a string break earlier…took me an hour to take it off.” He plopped a couple of milk crates down in front of us and sat down on one with a small, silver guitar. His muttering became even louder when he began speaking into a mike, “…and then it took me another half hour to put one on.” He strummed a wildly out of tune chord, then tightened the high G way past G until the string snapped. “Aw, man, what is with me today? I apologize for the short show, folks.”

By then we had hopped on the cable car, in the best seats, up front in the open air. The Sikh was our driver again. As we passed Chinatown, two Canadian girls hopped off as we passed slowly through the intersection. “Please!” shouted the Sikh in a thick accent, “If you want to get off, just ask me! I will stop the cable car, and then you get off!”

“We’re sorry!” shouted back the Canadian girls, clearly contrite.

“I do not want to be taking anyone to the hospital!” the Sikh continued. Everyone on the cable car laughed. “I am serious!!” he shouted even louder.

We rode the cable car back to the other end and caught a bus the several blocks to the train station.

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