Monday, December 8, 2008

Let's talk about... The Big City

I guess you never really understand how much of a small town you are from until you venture recklessly into a major metropolis. Compared to the central valley, San Francisco is as major metropolis as it gets, its Chicago or Tokyo or New York. Cluttered with vehicles and buildings and people, it’s a culture shock the likes of which you just don’t encounter in the tri country area. Wanting to visit an exciting new place to break the mundane routine of small town life, some friends and I took a trip to the city and decided we wanted to get a taste of what its like over there. So of course, the least San Franciscan place to visit is absolutely first on the agenda.

Pier 39 is perhaps the most nauseous place on earth and for 7 dollar an hour parking I am surprised we were able to spend two hours there. Basically once you step foot on the pier, unless you want to pay something like fifteen dollars to visit the aquarium, a glorified silent zoo underwater, there is nothing you can see on the dock that you couldn’t see in any middle America mall. The shops and food outlets are essentially the same with the bitter taste of sea water mist constantly flushing into your lungs and there is a hopelessness and despair amongst the people working in these places that is hidden a quarter of an inch beneath their phony smiles as they great each and every person that steps into their shops and looks at their overpriced wares. Then there are the tourists. Unlike every mall in middle America, there are hundreds of people from around the world packed into the pier all trying to take pictures next to restroom stalls and garbage bins to show their family back home. And for some of them, I understand. If I was from Japan and saw a certified American payphone, I’d be giddy with the lack of functionality too, but peppered among the legitimate foreign tourists there were Texans and Minnesotans taking photos posed in front of a Hard Rock Café or the Wacky Cap store. That was beyond my comprehension.

But this culture was not contained to this one pier. No, no, that would be far too convenient, instead it had overflowed all the way down the street to the Fisherman’s Wharf and down the entire street across. Everywhere one looked there was a souvenir stall that sported striped shirts poking fun at the island prison of Alcatraz and all the violent criminals that once had to be contained by an ocean to be kept away from society. There were veterans turned vagrants, charity donation collectors, and colorful street performers every five feet you walked along the main street all asking for the spare change you gave to the person before him that were full of contention once you informed them of this. Upon sitting on a bench watching the notorious Silver-man, we were asked up front if we smoked pot and if so whether we would be interesting in purchasing some. This surprised me as it was about eleven in the morning and they all seemed pretty open to committing a crime with police not far away, even going so far as to hold it out to show us how much they had and how good of a quality it was after we told them we were not interested. I’m sure this area of the city was not always this way but over the years of people visiting it has become a seedy, plastic version of what it once was. Even the seals looked complacent, boxed in from the ocean and laying on man-made wooden platforms floating lazily on the ocean.

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