Sunday, January 9, 2011

San Francisco 1977

     Hauling our first Christmas tree up to our fourth floor apartment my Love and I were laughing and filled with smiles.  The needles from our tree left a trail up the stairs to our door since it had been another drought year for California leaving  Christmas trees dry and brittle.  No trouble!  It was Christmas!  Just a few needles left behind for our landlord Mario to vacuum up.  We had gone to the Delancy Street Foundation's tree lot down from where we lived and found our perfect tree.  A trip to Cost Plus led us to small wooden painted ornaments and the nearby drug store where we picked up lights.  We placed it in the corner between our windows in the living room to sit and admire as we cuddled on the the sofa.  Our first year together was like being on a honeymoon all the time.  We were far enough away from family to be really on our own but close enough when we were asked to dinner or a gathering. 

     My Love and I had lived in our  San Francisco apartment since June, the month before we wed, in 1977.  I had found this place while driving up and down the streets looking for 'For Rent' signs once we knew we would both be attending San Francisco State University for the Fall semester.  It was directly across from Golden Gate Park, with a view of the ocean and the biggest down side was living in the fog most of the time.  Still on quiet nights we could hear the fog horn blowing.  It reminded me of times out sailing on a calm socked in fog night when all you would hear was the lap of water on the sides of the boat while listening for the deep 'BUUUUAAAAAA!' sound of the fog horn letting you know how far land was.  

     Of course this perfect apartment would be on the top floor with no elevator.  We had a front row view from our bedroom windows as well as from the huge bay window in the living room of  Golden Gate Park.  We gazed at trees that stood strong and inpenetrable as though looking out on Sherwood Forest from the times of Robin Hood.  Yes, there were Merry Men amongst the growth below those trees.  I was warned by an officer on horseback while out jogging that it was not wise of me to do this as women had been raped or robbed in the hidden trails that wove in and out of the roads that ran through the park.  My Love and I tried jogging together, or attempted to try,  but he with his long legs ran circles around me.  Our dear Arleen and Clark had let us use their lovely Oriental carpets on the hardwood floors which as much as we enjoyed using them we would have rather that they had not moved away prompting a need for a place for them to be stored.  We had a charming breakfast room with a  built in hutch with glass doors and the tiniest kitchen with oddly plenty of cabinets.  I had a large old-fashion gas range that kept it cozy warm in there and was wonderful for cooking on.  Unfortunately I was not the best cook for my Love.  We did the laundry along with what felt like everyone else up the street at the nearest laundromat while we read the Sunday paper hopefully finding a place to sit while we waited. 

     Up the street from us was the home of Jefferson Airplane.  We never happened to see them even though they still owned the house.   It stood out due to the faded black paint color and oddly covered windows while we lived in the neighborhood giving it a forlorn and rundown look.   We were close to the Haight which was a pretty seedy neighborhood in the 70's so we rarely ventured there.  Our neighborhood was called the "Richmond District" with many small and unique ethnic restaurants and shops.  It was so cheap to eat out for two that we spoiled ourselves often by trying them whenever we could.  From Russian food at the "Miniature Bakery" we tried Borshcht and Pelmeni where the Babooshka who waited on us scolded me for not eating all my food.   

Jefferson Airplane home

We went to Chinatown often to browse the shops and bakeries but for us our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant  was Henry's Hunan Restaurant.  Small, with just a few closely placed tables, we chose to sit at the bar which filled the length of the place, while Henry himself helped cook and made suggestions of what to try.  Hot, fiery peppers made the dishes tasty as well as cleared your sinuses that only subsided the heat for me with a 7-Up and a beer for my Love.  If we sat at the end of the counter we could watch the help making the dumplings or chopping chicken with a cleaver knife.   My Papa came to love this food and it's proprietor whom opened a larger restaurant several years later.  Our personal all time favorite was the Smoked Ham dish that is unlike any Hunan or Chinese dish I have ever had.  To this day we always order it.  No argument over it except there is never enough.  Oh yes,  their Steamed Dumplings are simply the best we have ever tasted!

Henry's Hunan Restaurant

Henry Chung and his fantastic cookbook
    Occasionally on a Sunday morning my Love's sister and her family as well as his parents would come over to go for Dim Sum in the heart of Chinatown.  We often went to Asia Garden and sometimes to Yank Sing for some incredible dishes.  Chinese ladies would stroll up and down the aisles with metal carts covered with small plates or steam baskets singing out to the customer what dishes they had.  We never understood anything they said but we would stop them and they would lift the lid for us to see and pick.  A lot of great fun and adventure having Dim Sum as there was so much noise, talking, smells and sights to see.  Many tables were crowded with Asian families of all generations as well as folks like us clicking away with our chopsticks.  Afterwords we would walk the streets of Chinatown looking at the windows of Peking ducks hanging upside down or Tea Eggs in large glass containers, to Herbal shops, cookware, bakeries, and large stores filled with Chinese ware.

Dim Sum
Peking Duck

   Another haunt we had enjoyed for years was Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store where we could get a great authentic Cappuccino served in a real cup no less with a small biscotti to dunk in it.  In the back was a foosball table that you could play on for free.  It was always crowded with all sorts of people from old Italians from the neighborhood to young folks like my Love and I, all there to warm up in on a  cold  San Francisco evening.  San Francisco was an easy place to explore and parking was cheap once upon a time.   We could park in the Police lot  that  straddled the old Italian area and Chinatown for a buck an hour. Perpendicular to these neighborhoods was the raunchy area of strip clubs, hawkers yelling for you to come in for the shows, flashing neon lights and streets often crowded with Sailors on leave for the night.  Amongst them were the folks who lived in the apartments above this jungle.  Such contrasts in such a small area.

Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store

     My Love's brother found this crazy place called Cafe Sport that was also in North Beach.  The inside of the place was as much a feast for the eyes as the food was for our stomachs.    Every dish was filled with garlic and their specialties were seafood dishes.   We always went with a large group so we could order as many dishes as possible.  We would get so excited thinking about what the dish would taste like as we scanned the menu.  Wine would flow as we waited for the waiter to come.  There dinner times were seatings so everyone had to sit down before the food frenzy would begin.  The standing joke however was that once we would start telling the waiter what we wanted he would often say they were out of it.  We would pick another dish and it could be available or it too could not.  What ended up happening was the waiter would tell us what we were getting!  It didn't really matter because the food was so good the mood jubilant that we just waited till each dish arrived to devour.  We would walk out of the place reeking of garlic for the next several days.  

Cafe Sport
    Those days are so vivid in my mind and I guess I wrote a lot more than I thought I would...and realized this is a subject that still has more to go Part #1 be continued!




Sara Louise said...

What fantastic memories of your first year together. And what an amazing place to have lived!
Your post full of love and memories made me smile this morning :-)

Maggie May said...

such heart, a life being well lived!

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

makes me wish i was in the city today...i just LOVE it there so much...would LOVE to live there...but you know how that goes....

what town do you live in now? have you ever been to san luis obispo?


Ellen said...

Sara....that year in the city was an amazing time for us both. I will always have such fond memories of our honeymoon year there.

Maggie was lived!

My Farmhouse Kitchen...when I go back there from time to time it is so different. I could not live there now but a visit is fine. We live across the bay now in Danville which I adore. Small town feel...SLO is next door to where the dearest of friends live so yes I know and have been in your neck of the woods many times.


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