Aquatic Park Cove
At anchor Aquatic Park Cove, San Francisco
Wind: north west, F2 gentle breeze
Weather: mostly sunny, mild
Yesterday we motored four and a half miles from Richardson Bay to Aquatic Park Cove, where we now lie at anchor, rolling gently to the small swell that passes through the Golden Gate, works its way round the cove's wooden piled walls and in through its narrow entrance. We are close by San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The waterside is of course drowning in seafood restaurants, but my main interest is the maritime museum which has a number of interesting restored ships and small craft here. The most prominent of them, the 'Balclutha', an iron sailing ship (a ship has three masts and is square rigged on all masts) dominates the cove and is naturally of particular interest to me. But there are other vessels that look equally interesting, especially an old stern wheel paddle steamer powered by a cross beam steam engine (you can see the massive cross beam sticking high up out of its superstructure). I will report on these later after I have had the chance to explore them, camera in hand.
After making sure that Sylph had her cable and was not going to drag in the fresh north westerly sea breeze that had picked up shortly after our arrival, I rowed ashore to go in search of the public library (daily studies continue). The most direct route lay along Hyde Street, which was to be my first taste of the streets and hills that have so often been made the big screen setting for fast cars, generally cops chasing robbers. I had intended to catch one of the trolleys that are equally iconic, but a one way fare was seven US dollars, which I thought too expensive for a short ride on public transport, no matter how antique the vehicle. I decided to get some exercise and walk instead.
Hyde Street is mainly lined with residential buildings, small grocery stores, and coin operated laundries, but, after a couple of kilometres, rather all of a sudden, the shadowy narrow suburban canyon gives way to an open skyline, into a space where the State's need to make manifest its wealth and power take over from the more mundane motifs of roofs over heads, food in bellies, clean clothes, and architectural declarations of individual status. The individual gives way to the collective. Broad neatly paved boulevards are surrounded by sprawling public buildings. Domes, marble fascias and phallic pillars puncture the sky. A black marble plinth engraved in faded gold lettering lauding the rights of man (power and rights are forever masculine) stands in the middle of an open square. Camped around it are numerous dark skinned brothers selling cheap electronic and second hand goods spread out on blankets, while others sleep on cardboard, or crowd round in groups, perhaps of solidarity, under the shade of a stand of small spare trees rising up out of the neat geometric paving stones. To the eastern end of this carefully sculpted public space lies the more chaotic artistic district, theatres and galleries and museums, and one angular wall stands as if to mark the boundary between the two, between the machinery of state and the organic beings whose chaotic and unpredictable nature defeat the machine's resolve to serve them. On this wall, in black capital letters five meter high, on a plain white background, is painted a single word:
A small tree partly obscures the letter H.
I walk past this sign, it foreshortens with my changing point of view and disappears. A black and white police car, lights flashing in intimidating silence, pulls up onto the pavement, its two uniformed officers emerge all spit and polish, and stand unmoving, three meters on either side of a man lying beside an entrance to a subway station, who peers fearfully out from under his blanket. The expressions on the officers' faces belie an awkward situation. My imagination fills in the blanks. There had been a disturbance, presumably involving the out from under blanket fearfully peering man, who in all likelihood is mentally ill (there are many stray voices loudly and vociferously wandering the streets making no particular sense), and now the officers had to do something, but what, perhaps wait for a social worker. Force on one side, compassion on the other, helpless eyes meeting across the gap (these too are human beings, though perhaps they sometimes are required to, need to, forget), as in between them pieces of humanity crumble, dissolves, slips through their fingers, a heavy vapour into the fissures in the concrete, and disappears back into the earth, forever.
I move on.
OK, so my creative writing course is seeping into my blog. Nonetheless,
All is well.