Union Square with Tree and Skaters
Breakfast was scrambled eggs with onion plus hash browns; I just love American breakfasts. Soon I was visiting all the art galleries down the south side of Geary Street with Marcia. It was refreshing to get her critical eye of the works displayed. Works on display were mainly by American artists with the occasional sprinkling from old masters such as Rembrandt. Some of the paintings really fired my imagination in the inventiveness of the design, or the sheer technical excellence. Indeed one large and delicate sculpture was beyond words, and had Marcia enthralled. I was indifferent to most of the works, and some made me think, "Come on, who are you trying to kid with those amateurish smearings?".
Marcia with the Blue Santa
Hundreds of camera flashes added to the magical effect. Swarms of skaters circled around an artificial "ice-rink"; I think the surface was silicon based, but the skates looked genuine. Umpteen Santa Clauses peppered around lit up the faces of young kids, including Grinch, the Grinch that stole Christmas in the Dr Seuss story. This "bad" Santa stood out from the others; he had a green Grinch head and green leggings. Marcia had to explain to me that Grinch stole all the presents from the little people, but turned good in the end, and the story ended with a "happy ever after". In some ways Grinch behaved liked British politicians, expect they never gave anything back.
The atmosphere was marred a little by a huge mob of animal rights protestors on the square, right next to the skating rink where they would have the most impact. They waved banners and posters displaying horrific scenes of animal cruelty. I'm not sure what the young kids would have made of the huge contrast between the jovial Santas and these awful banners. I wondered if that was the cause for the huge police presence around the square; a bomb squad vehicle also stood by. Crumbs!
We needed to get 3-day travel passports for the MUNI streetcars, busses and cable cars, so we walked down Powell to Market. The pavements were absolutely heaving. Buskers pumped out music on every street corner, and these guys were good, very good. Halfway down Powell, Marcia was accosted by a blue Santa, all in good fun. The atmosphere was infectious. The one thing that struck me last year and today about San Francisco was the friendliness of the people. It was as if the city was one big happy family. Everybody laughed and joked with each other as if they were all best friends, but I guess most of them were strangers to each other. Even many of the street beggars seemed to have a sense of humour, though statistics dictates that out of the many hundreds, some ought to have.
Armed with our travel passports, we caught a streetcar down Market that would take us along the waterfront to Pier 39. As the old, ornate, Italian streetcar trundled along, we passed a long protest march, accompanied by a fleet of police vehicles. The protestors were very vocal, echoing the same concerns shared by the rest of the world regarding the financial gloom and doom crisis, and the mismanagement by the fat cat financial managers. I could now appreciate why there was a large police presence in town. Down by the Ferry Building, a large tent city had been erected by the protestors, similar to that in St Pauls, London, and countless others across the globe.