Sunday, November 16, 2014

Telegraph Hill

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Ok, here's another set of early 90's tourist photos, this time from the little park on top of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, home of the famous Coit Tower. Because I was new to traveling solo, I had the idea that I would just walk everywhere, instead of trying to figure out the local mass transit system. I did not realize at the time that San Francisco city blocks are substantially larger than Portland city blocks, so there was a bit more walking than I expected. I was also coming down with a major head cold at the time but didn't quite realize it yet. So I basically just sat resting my feet and spacing out while I was here.

I do recall overhearing a couple of random tour guide anecdotes from passing tour groups. First, in the first photo of the slideshow, there's a building on the right, with a big flag on top. The story is that this building was controversial when it went in; people thought it was too tall, and protruded into the view. So in a burst of early Tea Party-ness, the builder/owner put a giant flag on top, protruding even more into the view, but in a way that marked you as a commie sympathizer if you objected. This tactic probably wouldn't work in SF anymore, but at this point the flag is an expected part of the view.

Second overheard tour guide anecdote: The Coit Tower was built with with a bequest from Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a local socialite and patron of the city fire department. A widely-told apocryphal story suggests the tower is designed to look like a fire hose nozzle. The tour guide let his charges in on a "little secret", namely that the tower was actually a memorial to Coit's late husband, as the design reminded her of him. (This story is almost certainly untrue, since the tower was designed after her death and she only left vague instructions on what to do with the money.) Still, a knowing look was given, and the tourists snickered on cue. I probably just rolled my eyes, as it reminded me of a certain classic Monty Python sketch. Undoubtedly the tourists would relay this entendre to their friends back home in Peoria, after showing their blurry slides of driving down Lombard St., and before the story about how amazing it was to eat clam chowder out of a loaf of sourdough bread, and how the whole city looks just like the Rice-a-Roni commercials. Honestly, the entire SF tourist industry is just the worst. In 2014, SF locals go on about how the city is being ruined by gazillionaire tech bros, and I'm sure that's true, but bottom-feeding, mouth-breathing slackjawed tourists were ruining it for decades before that, with the help of an entire industry built up to cater to them. At least they finally banned the organ grinder monkeys that were at Fisherman's Wharf when I was a kid. That was creepy as hell, and the tourists loved it.

Of course now those tourists can't afford to visit SF at all, and I'm afraid they're coming to Portland instead. In place of the sourdough chowder thing, they want entendre-laden donuts from the novelty donut shop that shall not be named, and a photo of the Keep Portland Weird sign across the street, and Mill Ends Park, and the rest of some "Top 10 Portland's Weirdest" list from the Travel Channel or Food Network or whatever, and pestering locals to say or do something weird so they can tell folks back home in Peoria all about it. Perhaps what we need to do is fund some cable shows explaining that Boise is the new Portland. Or maybe Anchorage, or Oklahoma City, or Des Moines, or some other midsized city that could use the extra tourist dollars. Just don't tell people we funded the shows with a Kickstarter, since that would look hip and weird and bring in even more tourists.

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