Tangentially relevant to the eclipse that went down this morning across China & India, here’s a fascinating history of shanghai (as a verb).
Pre-eminent among all San Francisco crimps was “Shanghai” Kelly, a red-bearded boarding master who led his profession in both success and ruthlessness. Kelly’s three-story building stretched out on pilings over a section of the bay at 33 Pacific Street and featured boardinghouse rooms, liquor, women—and trapdoors that could be reached by skiffs at high tide. Most of Kelly’s departures were handled legitimately, save for whatever fees might have been paid when the men were safely aboard ship. But when scarcities arose, he resorted to drugged liquor or opium-laced cigars, and he was said occasionally to oblige downtown clients who wanted to dispose of personal enemies.
Kelly’s fame crested in 1875, when he was engaged to supply crews for three ships, one of them with an especially bad reputation, at a time of particularly low supply. On the pretense of holding a birthday picnic aboard a chartered side-wheeler, Kelly attracted guests from the entire Embarcadero. Drinks aboard the craft were free, as promised. They were also drugged. Kelly delivered ninety men to the three vessels, assuring the captains that they would be solid hands once sobered up.
It’s remarkable how markedly better life is when you have someone to do stuff with. KM’s visiting from Vanuatu and came in to the city tonight giving me a good excuse for touristy tourisms. It’s amazing how little I know about SF after four months here. Dinner at the Stinking Rose in North Beach? CNHB will likely disagree when she’s here but it’s surprisingly North End-esque (plus way more interesting topography). Riding the cable car back to Market St? Fantastic fun, a first time for me, and best of all unexpectedly free with a MUNI pass. No ice skating in Union Square but the Zamboni was cool. All in all a good night, am* happy.
It was a good first week, both for me at the new job and the quasify diaspora out there in the real world. The hetero-normative half of Team Echoplanar is getting hitched, and JP passed her quals with (I quote) ‘the highest recorded score in UT history’. I finally signed a lease here bringing a timely end to my homelessness experiment and so was relaxed enough to spend the rest of the morning on the shoreline playing tourist. Which, for all practical purposes, I am. Some new (snap)shots in my San Francisco set.
I can’t get over how steep this city is. I don’t know that I even want to get over it. Being from Kansas (remember? Or this?) you’d expect some level of psychological or physiological bias towards less extreme topography, but still, man, just wow. None of the photographs I’ve taken do it any justice (the one above is from patrick boury). Everywhere I turn here there are so many opportunities to stumble into waves of delirious vertigo.
Here’s a quick example to illustrate the kind of heights we’re talking about. This morning I caught a train to work, which drops me behind my building rather than on the street in front of it. So, one block away. Rather than climb the hill there’s a rather fortunate elevator, which takes us up to the NINTH (!?!) floor of the union (to level “I” – they use letters rather than numbers to keep your brains from exploding). Upon arriving there, you realize you’re not quite to street level yet – you have your choice of yet another elevator or a flight of stairs to go. Ten stories? One block? What planet is this?
From my office to the place I’m staying in Noe Valley is roughly two miles. Walking that distance yesterday took me up and over two ridges that are high enough to make you question why you’re even driving on them. If you click through to the large map, the darker topo lines here mark 200′ changes in elevation, the lighter ones 40′. On the walk yesterday I crossed by my count fourty-six (!) of these lines in the total round trip. If I weren’t moving out towards the flatter part of the city, I’d never need a gym. As it was, despite being a cool 65 degrees here I was sweat soaked clean through by the time I got home.
In brief, today we’ve seen salt, a lake, more salt, bonneville raceway, some flat desert, some mountainy desert, another flat desert, a dead coyote, a live horned ungulate eating some scrubby brush, more flat/mountainy desert, some sad looking casinos*, desert with completely illogical irrigation, Reno, CALIFORNIA(!), heavily wooded mountains, Sacramento, a gorgeous smoggy sunset, and finally San Francisco. Mikey and I are crashing with the neofuturists at the fanciest possible downtown hotel tonight before dealing with UCSF/homelessness issues tomorrow.
For those of you following along the last week, thanks for reading. It’s really been a great time getting out here, allowing me to reorient my perspective on a lot of mundane day to day problems that had been hanging over me recently. I’m starting the new job on Monday and am much looking forward to it.
States seen: UT, NV, CA.
Total/daily miles driven: 3690.9/938.6
Number of traffic violations in San Francisco: 17
Time spent in San Francisco before first traffic violation: 1 minute 58 seconds
*I won $0.75! And only had to spend $1.25 to get that.
Tomorrow is the first day of the spring we’ve all been waiting on – for this I am grateful. It was late spring seven years ago when I came from Athens to Boston, an act more random than conscious, fleeing a broken graduate program and a breaking relationship to the only city with which I was familiar (by proxy). The seven years prior to that unfocused & spontaneous choice I managed to spend aimlessly (by any objective estimation) in three different universities, failing all the while to acquire any appreciable employment skills or practical idea of what to do with life.
Since I’ve been in Boston I’ve scored a master’s degree, worked more or less contiguous chunks of time at three of the best hospitals in the country, made and lost some great friends and shot more than myfairshare of fantasticbands. My entire family has relocated here, grown, and grown, and grown again. Life, overall, has been kinder to me than I probably deserve. While I’m counter-intuitively a little proud that I can’t claim to be savvy in the way of career trajectory, I don’t want to be consciously dense when an opportunity arises. To that end, I’ll post without further comment a couple of photographs that have been looking at as a result of an interesting phone call this morning that’s got me thinking about the next seven years.