This week SFist's Tenderloin correspondent brings her journey through the neighborhood to a close with a final piece on the fickle nature of technology, the sleekness of our fern bar replacements and the lilting way one should pronounce "San Francisco."
That noted critic of urbanism and culture, Marelene Dietrich, wrote that “any special love for a city is invariably connected with emotions that have nothing directly to do with the city.”
Perhaps this is true. Perhaps when we fall in love with a city we fall in love with a song, or the sound of the city as it wakes, or the bedraggled looks of the place, bedtime long since past. Songs are sung for falling in love--we like those best--but what song do we sing when all love is lost?
Taylor and O’Farrell hardly seems the Tenderloin as we have known it. To the East, the old KNBC studios rise like a Deco ziggurat, anomalously smooth, fronted by artwork as excitable about radio as everyone was about the Internet when it was new. The tile mural depicts a giant hand turning a giant dial, radio waves connecting listeners with the world: Inuit and African, Mountie and Mandarin. What we wouldn’t give to see such a display outside Twitter. The impressive studio complex was a showpiece, meant to be open to public tours, but by the time construction was completed on the building, Los Angeles had become the center for broadcasting on the West Coast. Lesson learned: technology is a fickle mistress.
Across the street, the Hilton is as the Hilton does: it’s a big block indicative of the anonymous sameness of a large hotel chain. Its construction was timed with the 1964 GOP Convention, a fact that belies the seeming leftiness of the city. Not only is it the largest hotel on the west coast in terms of number of rooms (over 1900), it also is one of the tallest examples of very extraordinarily dull architecture.
To the northwest, Jasper’s Corner Tap is named after Jasper O’Farrell, he of Market Street fame (last mentioned here). It will take time to bear out, but we’ve a theory that concrete, glass, and roughed-over wood are all hallmarks of this century’s fern bar.
What else? A Dr. Thompson quote on the menu, Streets of San Francisco looping on the televisions (says the waiter, “When there are no sports, we play city-specific shows.”).
Food’s good, but it’s a bit of a shock when you receive your $4 half-pint. Were an economist to plot the pricing of a pint in the Tenderloin, hotels would be a factor. And such as it is, the patrons of Jasper’s are a mix, tourists (Europeans trying one of every beer) and locals (a pride of booming-voiced alpha males).
Just across the street, O’Farrell Liquors puts this intersection at odds with its Tenderloin brethren. This is a clean, well-lit place to buy a $2 pack of gum (see also: pricing of bars next to hotels). One can purchase a San Francisco-branded windbreaker here.
And this is where we'll leave you, armed with history, a sense of place, and hopefully the patience to understand this wrongfully misunderstood neighborhood. We'd every intention of forging onward, of covering those scant few blocks of Mason, if only for the Poodle Dog. But no, it's time we put an end to our wanderings. Our shadow has been cast lightly over this city for nearly 15 years, and jokes about greencards notwithstanding, this is a home no more. With wages that don't budge upward, and with a perennially leaky center of operations (aka, our apartment), not to mention a deepening divide between the very rich and the very poor, the offices of the Tenderloin Geographic Society will be concerning itself with other municipalities. We can't say when we'll visit next, but promise to write.
We may yet write of this place we've loved for so long, but must leave before bitterness sets in. So what will we remember?
San Francisco--the name--it rises and falls like poetry and hills, but only if you say it correctly, like in the famous song: San FRANcisCO. No wonder we were instructed never to give it short shrift, call it "San Fran" or worse, according to Caen. Say it like you mean it, like it took you a while to get here and now you never want to leave.
Nearly everyday, we ride a bus cresting Alamo Square en route to a windowless office in Civic Center. Some days, mist hangs in the trees, and wells up in the Bay, making the city a ghost of itself. On windy days, everything's sharp as razors, the 8:30AM shadows like a morning delight for those of us who don't have noses down into our phones. We've seen this city in every manner of dress and never failed to have our breath taken away.
Crane your neck the next time you take the 21, or any bus as it climbs up over the city. Look and try to remember what it feels like to love a place, whether it's more to do with the people or the shadows cast. But should you fall in love, take care to remember how this city loves to look at itself, a mirror facing a mirror: downtown’s cold glass giants reflect the ornamented marvels of the late ‘aughts and teens, edifices grown from optimism mingled with unmitigated lust to be great again, to be a Phoenix that rose, never to burn.
It has been the greatest of pleasures to take this walk with you, but you're on your own for the rest of the journey.