...... previous day next day ......
San Francisco Ipswich

8th September 2010

My Last Morning Spent Down on the Wharves Savouring the Bay

    The morning started with an interesting exercise in how to distribute all my belongings into one suitcase and one backpack. I knew the suitcase would be weighed, so it was a case of stowing all the heavy items into my backpack: laptop, electrical items, books etc. In the end the backpack was bulging and weighed almost as much as the suitcase.
Hyde Street Pier under Watery Autumnal Skies
    Breakfast was at the Chinese cafe that I frequented, and had got to know the owner. As I left, I shook hands with the man, explaining I was leaving for England, and left him a goody bag of blank CDs, CDs with music on, torch, batteries and other items for him to pass on to the school kids that used his cafe. He was delighted with this gesture.
    Due to time restraints, I had limited options of what I could do in the morning. I took the simplest and walked down Van Ness to the Aquatic Park and strolled along the breakwater, savouring my last glimpses of Hyde Street Pier with its historic ships, Alcatraz, and also the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito which were partially visible under the cloud base.
    I stopped to watch the bread makers at the famous Boudin bakery, where they had been making and baking San Francisco Sourdough ever since 1849, according to the Boudin family's time-honoured methods. The secret was the mother dough, an ancient method of making bread rise using only wild yeast present in the local environment, "caught" from the air and cultivated with a mixture of water and flour. Surviving only in the San Francisco fog-cooled climate, the mother dough imparted a flavour and texture unlike any other bread in the world. A faourite dish in the city was a round loaf of Sourdough hollowed out and filled with clam chowder.
Boudin Baker
Baked Breads
    A slow walk down to Pier 39 followed, where a couple of female rangers were working their way across the pontoons with a big net (for what purpose I'll never know), and had succeeded in driving a lot of the seals to a pontoon nearer the pier. To get across the pontoons the rangers were having to crawl on hands and knees, and it looked so comical, they appeared to be mimicking the seals. At the entrance to the pier was a guy playing a 12 stringed musical instrument that I'd never seen before. The electrical device had a fret board similar to a guitar's, the neck was much wider than a standard guitar, the strings were longer, and was a member of the zither family. The notes were produced by tapping the strings against the frets instead of plucking them. For this reason, it could sound many more notes at once than some other stringed instruments, making it more comparable to a keyboard instrument than to other stringed instruments. This arrangement leant itself to playing multiple lines at once and many Stick players had mastered performing bass, chords and melody lines simultaneously.
Chapman Stick with Player
    I chatted with the chap playing the instrument, who informed me it was a Chapman stick, named after Emmett Chapman who invented it in 1974. The bass strings were arranged down the centre of the fret board, and the lighter strings were on the outsides. The tuning was such that on one side of centre fourths tuning was applied, and on the other side fifths. The chap had been playing it since 1976, and was fairly accomplished. While I was there he switched effortlessly from Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" to Hendrix.
Sports Car Being Unloaded
    Alas, time was running out. I turned around and made my way back to my hotel to catch a shuttle bus to the airport. The bus driver seemed an intelligent guy. He deciphered I was English straightaway. "Aussies don't have accents like the English do", he said. He also knew East Anglia covered Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, and went on to tell me that Puritans from East Anglia had settled in America, bringing place names with them, and he reeled off a load. I noticed on the floor near to the driver a book he was reading, "Contested Will - Who Wrote Shakespeare" by James Shapiro, all about a conspiracy theory concerning who the real playwright was that wrote Shakespeare's plays, the premise being that how could such a wonderful set of works be produced by a chap who grew up in the back-of-beyond at the time. As I parted company with the driver, I asked him who did write the plays. He reckoned the theory was all bull. "Shakespeare did", was his firm, adamant response.
    Check-in and bag drop at the airport was efficient and quick. However security was a real pain. I must have some metal object in my body since I set off the alarm every time I pass through a detector system. I ended up being frisked today.
    To kill time, I took a window seat which by chance was overlooking the plane I would be flying back on as it was being unloaded. I was amazed to see a complete sports car supported on crates (to provide extra suspension in case of bad turbulence I guessed) being unloaded from the plane's hold. It started me thinking as to what percentage of the income from a flight comes from freight as opposed to passengers.
    Take-off was on schedule at 16:55, and California was slipping away underneath me, soon to be lost under an endless bank of cloud. The couple I sat next to were not very talkative, they just wanted to sleep. I tried to sleep, but to no avail. My mind was still active and I was looking forward to seeing my kids again, and at the same time wondering how I would cope with returning to "normality".
...... previous day next day ......
San Francisco Ipswich

Uploaded from Ipswich on 10/09/10 at 20:55

Last updated 10.9.2010