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SF (locale not genre)

Lots of fun! 

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley in Chinatown:
Tiny alleyway, tiny unimpressive entrance, much smaller inside than even the outside leads one to expect, but very cool to watch the cookies being made.  There is a sign saying to please pay 50 cents if taking a picture.  I wasn't sure if this was "each picture" so I gave the manager two dollars.  He bowed.  I bowed.  We smiled.  He went off and brought me back a handful of still-warm still-flat chocolate flavor cookie rounds.  We smiled.  I bowed.  He bowed.  I took some pictures.  I  bought two bags of mixed flavor fortune cookies and a bag of almond cookies.  He said that was $12.50, and I handed him $13.  He went off and brought me back a handful of still-warm still-flat regular flavor cookie rounds.  I bowed.  He bowed.  We smiled.  Transaction complete. 

The Cable Cars:
Definite must, and definite must do again before I go.  Impressive and a little scary watching how much of the control is manual, in the two huge shift levers the driver maneuvers to manage the hills, up or down, with much grinding and clanking.  And at the end of the line, watching while they shove the car onto a wooden turntable and manually (pedally?) push-walk the turntable around till the car can be shoved off onto the return track.  (If you're going, buy a Muni pass at the airport at the information desk next to baggage claim, lower level.  $24 for 7 days for all buses and cable cars, vs. $5 one-way on cable cars alone.)

The Golden Gate Bridge:
Wow. There it is.  Who knew there was that much rust-colored primer around?  Seriously, impressive views.

The Ferry Building:
Underused, semi-abandoned dock area turned into... tourist trap?  Not really though.  Entrepreneurial showcase and high-end farmers' market, with booths selling organic produce, artisan cheeses and breads, olive oils, herbs, a caviar bar (I kid you not!), and many food-service places, with ferries still docking outside.  Yummy fish tacos for lunch and Mexican Coke (with real sugar! in a glass bottle! but isn't there something very bizarre about paying a premium for an imported version of such a quintessential American product ?).  I was there with my brother-in-law, his wife, and their two small sons.   Silent blessings on the smaller, who walked at a speed my legs could still manage after too much walking through Chinatown and other areas the previous day. 

Local Color:
Panhandlers.  Lots.  Some with very sad stories.  Some very persistent.   I don't know what it says that I give this way, or give at all, but I'm more inclined to give to those who don't get in my face about it.   Not the one telling me all about his operation as I'm trying to get by him into a restaurant, but the one that says lightly as I go into the drugstore "Maybe some change on the way out?"

Local Music:
Internet searches turn up all sorts of places.  The Cafe Royale at 800 Post St., at Leavenworth, for instance.   Looked cool from the picture on their website, but reality seems 20 years more faded and only a couple feet larger than what that picture shows, i.e. very small.   Very local, too, of the "everybody knows your name" unless of course they don't, in which case you're ignored but not in a rude way.  The bar staff is friendly enough.   Generous servings and good variety of wine, beer, and sake drinks, and a couple of similar niceties like hard cider.   Some Yelp comments complain about the food but no one I saw was ordering food, so obviously not even the regulars consider it the reason for being there.  A pool table is available and used casually by people who are just killing time and having fun, no hustling.  The gender-neutral bathroom is relatively clean and won't give you claustrophobia either.  When they have music, the "sold-out" level still leaves room to walk around and the musicians are -right there- in the room with you.   I saw the SF Songwriters Coalition KFOG-related "Conversations with Renee" interview with a group called Pine & Battery.   Nice group!  Check out their myspace page!   The players were a little bit older than I'd expected from how recent the group is (about 3 years old) but the musicians were the more experienced for it.   Many of their friends were there, including girlfriends, and the mother of the lead singer/songwriter had come in from Philadelphia to hear them.  The lead guitarist's work friend (and her friends) were at my table and we talked about Boston and SF and how I'd found the place and that got passed along when people were catching up with each other after the set and eventually it came to the guitarist and his girlfriend chatting with me and then the lead singer coming by and asking "Are you Carol?"   I'd sent an e-mail about how to get a ticket for this ahead of time and apparently the inquiry was unusual enough that people had been wondering who knew a "Carol" from out of town.   So now I'm also signed up on the band's mailing list and they insisted on giving me a free copy of their CD.  And that's very fun.
(Edited to add links.)