A few days ago, I was at a cafe late in the afternoon, sipping a coffee and reading. I glanced over at a table nearby, and saw a vaguely familiar face. A dignified looking older man, sitting by himself , a suitcase next to him, sipping a glass of wine. But I couldn’t place him. I kept thinking about it, would glance up occasionally, and … Continue reading The Glass Of Wine
Last week, Urban Ambles wandered down to the Transbay terminal for one last time. The terminal has been , for years, the terminus of transit to and from the East Bay, and the terminal is slated for demolition. In its place is planned a spectacular new station that is hoped to be a nexus for not just East Bay commuters, but Peninsula trains, in-city passages to Bart and Muni, and the coup de grace; high speed rail from Southern California. They were giving tours of the station, and I joined in. It was an odd mix; a small horde of camera toting enthusiasts set against the usual commuters for whom it was just another day, and the “residents” who call it home.
Commuting via Muni or BART for us means walking down from Nob Hill to the Powell Street BART Station. Descending to the station, one passes through a dense neighborhood of retail with apartments above, and interspersed amongst these buildings are a collection of noble brick buildings that are almost civic in their character; modern-day urban palazzi. They differ from their neighborhood brethren in their absence of retail at the street, or apartments and lodging above. These buildings look as though they might be libraries, banquet halls, or even theaters. Well, to varying degrees , they are all of these, they are, in fact, private clubs. My dear reader, we bring you Clubland.
The private club is largely of English origin, initially for men only, and many were centered in the St. James area of London. These “gentlemen’s” clubs served as a place of social(and no doubt business) interaction for the like-minded elite of London. In a certain era, one could see these clubbers dashing about with walking stick and bowler hat . (Urban Ambles spotted a couple, as though in search of a rare yellow-breasted Scottish warbler, on a recent trip to London). Over time, the tradition spread to the United States, and in our aforementioned district, there are a number. Set amongst the otherwise retail bustle and eclectic mix of tourists, local denizens, hip art students, and, well, just plain crazy, they are understandably discreet.
Weaving Spiders Come Not Here
Unlike what we saw in part 1, Christmas in the city is a study in contrasts. At Thanksgiving, I walked through the streets en route to dinner, and the streets were delightfully quiet, revealing both sights of joy, as well as desperation. A similar experience could be seen on Urban Amble’s mad dash through the streets, though this time, the purpose was to find some last minute stocking stuffers. But unlike Thanksgiving, the sidewalks were full with shoppers and eccentrics. And the contrasts are great- luxurious window displays one minute, a bread line the next.
We’ve come to the end of 2009, a year I shall never forget. It too has been filled with joy, plenty of pain, but in the end, perhaps most of all, much promise. I leave you with photos of my holiday amble. Happy holidays.
Ambling through the city on Easter Sunday. Much to marvel at- no words necessary. Continue reading Easter in the City