‘Hi, My Name is Steve. …’
Amtrak service from Vancouver, BC, features a bus connection to cross the border. This, alas, required a five A.M. drop-off outside Vancouver Station by my accommodating friend, Gale. We were both in a fog, having been up past midnight to attend a show.
In Seattle Station I found myself humming ‘Nobody Cares About the Railroad Anymore,’ an old Harry Nilsson tune, but I do care. I think rail travel is romantic and adventuresome. Having said that, Amtrak did its best to disillusion me. As I settled myself into a compartment, a disembodied voice announced ‘Hi, my name is Steve and I’ll be your conductor. Our Parlor Car isn’t in service today. We hope we’ll have a Parlor Car the next time you travel with us.’ This set the tone of my journey south. Sadly, Amtrak feels like a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, seated service, but on the cusp of tacky. At $500 a day.
The scenery passing my compartment window was magnificent. I could only imagine what it would have been from the missing Parlor Car.
* * * *
San Francisco soothed my Amtrak pique. I stayed with friends in the beautiful Alamo District from which the whole city is downhill. On my first day there I cycled through Golden Gate Park to Ocean Beach, up past the Cliff House, and across the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a party atmosphere on the bridge, everyone smiling, laughing, and taking selfies – while cycling 300 feet above the cold Pacific Ocean.
Back home, I enjoyed coffee and bike talk at the Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Divisadero and ate full American breakfasts every day at Eddie’s Soul Food Cafe, an old school diner run by an immigrant Korean family. Across the avenue at Everlasting Tattoo, I reminisced with Olive The Artist about old time tattoo flash – Popeye, Betty Boop, and Felix the Cat. Lord, I love San Francisco!
Later, I walked through the Tenderloin District, the haunt of the city’s derelict population. How can there be such poverty and desperation in San Francisco of all places?
My beautiful Crocs had worn out and, unable to duplicate them, I bought a pair of Clarks sandals from a young man from Dublin. Clarks Shoe Store has a summer exchange program with its Irish counterpart. Nice work if you can get it.
I finished the visit with a reunion with John and Betty, pals from our shared youth in Greenwich Village. We wandered around the Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina District while talking about children and old times together.