We started walking at about eleven, after buying some nectarines at the North Beach Farmer’s Market. It was a perfectly sunny day, and not too chilly. We climbed up Taylor Street to enjoy the views from Nob Hill (elev. 341 ft.) — we could see Alcatraz Island, the waterfront, and sailboats on the bay, but haze kept us from seeing across the bay. We passed Grace Cathedral where a man in a black cassock was showing off the Ghiberti doors to a knot of three or four people, down the hill, and over to Alamo Square. In the Alamo Square park, a young woman held out a camera asked us to take a picture of her and her two friends in front of the famous row of “Painted Ladies.” As we walked away, Carol said, “I didn’t even notice them until I turned to take the picture.” They were behind us as we were walking. “Neither did I,” I admitted.
There were swarms of people at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. We decided not to go in, so we went across the way to the DeYoung Museum. There were swarms of people there, too. Why pay all that money for admission fees (thirty dollars at the Academy of Science!) if you’re not going to be able to see anything because of all the people? We walked over to Haight Ashbury. I wanted to visit Forever After Books, but it was gone. I had never been to Haight Street before.
Except for the half a dozen stores selling drug paraphernalia, Haight Street would be just another upscale shopping district, thronged with upper middle class young people. A scruffy-looking white kid with a beard and a knapsack walked by us; from his knapsack hung a bright metal coffee cup and a red teflon-coated frying pan. He looked kind of dirty and a little bewildered. He had a cane, and he decided to hold it in front of himself, balancing it on his outstretched hand as he walked through the crowds. It tottered, he moved his hand to keep it balanced, and it almost hit the face of a girl with perfect hair and a fashionable tank-top. She gave him a look, part sneer, part scorn, part anger that he would intrude on her physical space. I didn’t blame her one bit. This poor neo-hippie kid was trying to go back to a mythical time when Flower Power ruled Haight Street, when guys could balance canes on their hand and girls would think it was cool. Today, being a hippie is just another consumer lifestyle choice that involves buying stuff at head shops.
On a quiet side street of Haight, a young woman was having a garage sale — really a sidewalk sale since her apartment didn’t have a garage. For months, Carol has been looking for a basic sewing machine that she can use to make some basic skirts — and there was a sewing machine, barely used, and still in its original box. For months, Carol has been looking for a duffle bag with wheels, so when she’s going to promote her books or work on composting toilets she has a big piece of luggage to carry what she needs — and there was the perfect duffle. She bought both for twenty-two dollars, put the sewing machine in the rolling duffle bag, and with the sewing machine rolling behind us we went over to Duboce Avenue to catch the trolley back to North Beach. It was the perfect ending to a ten-mile urban hike.