Saturday, October 18, 2014

Lombard Street, San Francisco

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So here are some old tourist photos of San Francisco's Lombard Street, taken sometime in the early 90s. To be more precise, these are of the famous steep one-block stretch of Lombard St. with the switchbacks. Tourists inexplicably come from far and wide to drive down this street, while other tourists gawk at them. This is possibly the world's most idiotic tourist attraction. It's a steep, narrow, windy street. Drivers often have to line up and wait to drive down it, and then they're too busy steering and riding the brakes to enjoy it, whatever enjoying it might entail. They do get to tell the folks back home they did it, though, for whatever that's worth. It's a cheesy tourist trap, and there isn't even a gift shop at the end that sells you "I Survived Lombard Street" t-shirts. Or at least there wasn't one the last time I was there. So it isn't even a tourist trap that makes money.

When I was a kid, we lived in the Bay Area for about a year, and I recall we made the trip into the city to drive down Lombard St. at least once. I went back as an adult I suppose just to confirm that it was what I remembered: Nothing but a steep windy street that people feel compelled to drive down for some reason. I also had the idea I was going to be all meta-ironic and get photos of the gawkers, because I was about 22 at the time and it seemed like an original idea that probably nobody had ever thought of before. As far as I know nobody was taking photos of me while I took these, but that possibility only occurred to me much later. There is probably a fun art project, or at least a Tumblr, in taking photos of smug hip people visiting Lombard St. ironically and thinking they're at the top of the meta-irony food chain.

Anyway, evidently I'm not the only person who thinks this is dumb. Due to complaints by area residents -- probably many decades' worth of complaints -- beginning in summer 2014 the city began closing the street on weekends as an experiment. If it's not too disruptive, they may eventually close the street on a permanent basis, or at least on a regular basis, and tourists will have to find something else dumb to do, like buying overpriced trinkets at Fisherman's Wharf, or taking selfies with a Haight-Ashbury intersection sign. Those two will probably never go away.

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