Day 2 in San Francisco had another inauspicious start, beginning as it did with our first marital tiff. The contentious issue was what to do first. Vincent wanted to head back to Fisherman’s Wharf for a boat trip; I wanted to go on a walking tour of the city. So by 10am sharp, we were patiently waiting at Union Square for the beginning of a “Wild SF” walking tour.
“Wild SF Tours” is a small company set up by two college friends and they run free, alternative walking tours of the city. If you ever get a chance to go San Francisco I HIGHLY recommend going on one of their tours, because they were fantastic. The tour we took on Friday covered the history of the city from the gold rush in the mid 19th century, up to the mid twentieth century by which time San Francisco had almost completely rebuilt itself following a devastating earthquake and fire in 1906. I don’t want to give too much away in case anyone actually does go to SF and goes on the tour, but I’m going to mention a couple of my favourite bits.
Part of the tour took us into an art supplies shop, which seemed a bit random until we went downstairs to find the entrance to an underground network of tunnels, used during the 19th century to smuggle illegal items in and out of the city. These items included people, specifically sailors, who were “Shanghaied” out of the city, meaning that they were tricked into taking opium, and then kindnapped when they fell asleep and forced to work on ships leaving for China. I think it's absolutely fascinating that such an extensive network of well engineered tunnels could have existed without the knowledge of city officials.
Another part of the tour took us past some beautiful murals. If you know where to look, San Francisco is full of poetic murals, many of which have very striking and significant stories. The murals in the photos here are actually outside the famous City Lights Bookstore, which was founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and, in 1956, published Allen Ginsburg’s poem “Howl”. The publication of this poem was a seminal moment in American history. The poem describes people in the “beat generation” – people who were being stifled by the conformist era that they lived in. It also describes heterosexual and homosexual acts in graphic detail and for this reason Ferlinghetti was arrested for publishing what the police claimed was an “obscene book”. Ferlinghetti won the subsequent trial and this was a watershed moment for literary censorship in America. In the UK, the obscenity trial for D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, took place just a few years later in 1960.
I was also really pleased to see a quote from Maya Angelou engraved onto the pavement near these murals. I now know the Maya Angelou was born and grew up in San Francisco and it’s great to see that the city celebrates her work. I tried to take a photo of the engraving, but the light wasn’t quite right, so here is the quote: “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency”.
You also might have noticed that these pictures seem to have been taken in the sunlight, so where was all the fog I was complaining about last time? Well it turns out that the fog rolls in for the evening and stays over night and into the morning until about 10 or 11am when the sun manages to burn it off. So we did have good Californian weather in San Francisco and here is a picture of us in the sunshine to prove it :-)