Apologies for posting about serious issues. The usual frivolous nonsense will resume shortly.
On our last night in San Francisco, for now, as we return here in a month’s time before flying out, we took the street car to the end of the line at Castro. This is best known as the gay village and we were talking last night about the film ‘Milk’ where Sean Penn won an oscar for best actor playing Harvey Milk who had a massive role in establishing gay rights in San Francisco and throughout the US.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay American to hold a prominent elected office, served on the San Francisco City Board of Supervisors alongside Dan White, a Vietnam veteran and former firefighter who acted as a City Supervisor. In November 1978, Following a disagreement over council policy, White assassinated Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
He entered City Hall through a side door to avoid a weapons search. Moscone’s secretary let White into Moscone’s office, where White shot him four times, the final two shots fired in the head as Moscone lay on the floor.
White then walked down the hall to Milk’s office and asked, “Harvey, can I see you a minute?” Milk followed White into his former office, where White shot him five times, again finishing with point-blank shots to the head.
When the news was announced, 40,000 walked through the streets and held candlelight vigils at City Hall.
The murders were to become infamous when the killer was adjudged not guilty of murder and given a light sentence for manslaughter as a result of what became known as the egregious “twinkie defense.” His attorney claimed that White had eaten too much junk food on the day of the killings and thus could not be held accountable for his crimes.
We found the camera shop formerly owned by Harvey Milk and the plaque outside. The Castro, in fairness, is pretty scruffy and appears even more so due to the presence of so many homeless people. Like many other cities, San Francisco has a ‘homeless problem.’ We talked on the streetcar with a man who’d arrived from Detroit when the steel industry collapsed. He came here because the mild climate allowed him to sleep rough all year round. He now has a job as a security guard and the City found him accommodation in a shared apartment.
‘How long were you living on the streets before you found a home?’ Marigold asked.
This man was bright, clean and approachable, but most of the street people here are best avoided. Alcohol, drug abuse and mental issues mean the several fights and violent disputes we witnessed are common. Cities like San Francisco have always attracted a transient population and the issue of homelessness is a problem everywhere, but as for a solution, who knows where the answer lies?
Normal service is now resumed. Oh, apart from...
I saw a sign in a shop window in Castro, ‘everything we sell is handmade. No manufactured goods here,’ or words to that effect. If I’m not mistaken – I haven’t bothered to check this – the word ‘manufacture’ with its derivative roots in the Latin word for hand, used at one time to signify an item had been made by hand whereas it now seems to mean precisely the opposite. I mentioned this to Marigold, en passant, and she rather rudely suggested I was in danger of turning into Jacob Rees-Mogg.
We rode the streetcar, not named Desire, back to the waterfront to view the bridge at night. Our driver was a son of the Deep South and made us all laugh with his comments about passengers as they got off. We all stopped laughing when he turned round to speak to his ‘audience’ and knocked over a pedestrian. In fairness, the man shouldn’t have been walking right next to the rail tracks, but it was quite a nasty bump. The driver got back on, said, ‘now see what you lot keeping me talking made me do’ and carried on to the end of the line.
The bridge looked great, all lit up. We sat and had a cool drink outside a bar (it was still over 90 degrees after another day of 100 plus temperatures and fire engines roaring in all directions) and watched the parade of skate boarders, fashion victims and stretch limos going past.
Back at the hotel, there’s about fifty people, mostly young and flamboyantly dressed in the lobby. Marigold discovers they’re all from India and are here for a dance contest. We spend a few minutes demonstrating exactly why we’re never likely to win any dance contests as several of them try and teach us a few moves. We’re pathetic, but they tried their best. We wish them good luck and head off to bed.
‘They were great, weren’t they?’ Marigold says and I agree. She had a very different opinion at four o’clock in the morning when a group of teenage girl contestants decided they’d rehearse their routine in the next room to us.
We’re off to Monterey first thing tomorrow, along the Ocean Road. It’s Labor Day (US spelling – when in Rome, so to speak) weekend and very hot so the roads and beaches will be packed. I’ve found a map as the sat nav has tried to kill us several times now. I looked up the best route to get us across the city this morning on my phone using Google Maps and all seemed pretty straightforward.
When we entered the details into the sat nav in the car it tried to send us up blind alleys and one way streets again so Marigold shut it down. It kept on talking, despite several attempts to shut it down so she banished it to the back seat under a pile of clothes.
When we were walking around the supermarket a voice said, ‘make a u turn and then in thirty yards, turn left.’
My phone, zipped away in my pocket, had been talking the whole time, not the poor, banished sat nav machine.
Even worse, I’d looked up the directions while on the hotel wifi and had probably used up about a million gigabytes of ‘roaming’ data by now. Phone is now in permanent ‘Flight Mode.’