Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Walking with Loki

I have a sick fish, a Rotkeil who lost a battle for supremacy with his mate in a 40 gallon community tank. He is now exiled to a 10 gallon holding tank until the 60 gallon tank finally has an acceptable ammonia level. I don't want to discuss that. But this fellah keeps getting ill in his isolation tank ... not eating well, all that. So I had to take the dog down to the Polk area where my aquarium dealer of 15 years, Justin and Ady of Ocean Aquarium, hold court. Justin says not to worry, just watch and wait. No meds.

But that means that Loki and I get to walk in the Polk area ... along Polk to Pacifc and then back via Hyde to California.

The Polk area is just plain filthy these days, and the city seems to ignore it. It has always been a pretty scummy area, but it is getting worse in a lot of ways. Back in the 70s and 80s, it was one of three known gay areas of town ... probably the oldest of the three, though not the original in any sense. When I moved here, it was famous for its hustlers who pretty much lined the street ... always on the east side. Back in those days, long before the Internet, and even before pagers and ads and all that, there was every kind of whore ... from the real skanky drug addicts to nervous amateurs testing the waters. Now it is only the real desperate drug addicts, and it is hard to tell if they are really whores. Walking down the street at 6 in the evening on a weeknight, you really don't want anybody to touch you.

Once we left Polk Street and went east to Hyde Street, we're in an extension of Chinatown, and not the upscale part at all. Cheap restaurants and what feels like wall-to-wall nail shops ... nail shops ... call me out of touch, but I missed the memo on nail shops. And how a neighborhood can support a couple dozen of them escapes me. Need to spend a little more time thinking about that.

Wide array of folks walking the groceries home ... Asian of all ages, young white guys, middle aged office worker women, plenty of rough looking types. The usual mad traffic of the incompetent tank-driving types running stops signs and roaring around tight corners. Still, an eyeful.

We find a mural on the side of an African restaurant at California and Hyde. Seems like a metaphor for global warming and all the fun flooding we will get to swim in. Had to step around various garbage and organic compounds to take the pic. One of lots of crazy eateries hidden in the back streets ... a couple of French type bistros, one Italian place that looked good, and lots of cheap Chinese places that allure for romantic reasons but probably would deliver more heartburn than hearty good eating. This African place is right on California, so probably gets some foot traffic. You get the sense that most of these places, though, survive off locals in this dense urban mélange.

Down the road is the John Barleycorn pub that will probably be closed because it lost its lease. Click on the link for the save the place site. They write: ”The John Barleycorn, one of San Francisco's hidden gems for nearly 40 years, is being forced to leave. Luisa Hanson, the new owner of the property at 1500 California Street, the building which houses the Barleycorn, refuses to discuss any renewal of the lease, which expires in June. At issue is not only the continuance of the Barleycorn, a center of the community and an asset to the city as well, but the economic future of the neighborhood of Lower Nob Hill. The Barleycorn, with its cable car benches, church pews from Old St. Mary's and other historic furnishings, is the right size and scale for this neighborhood. Its replacement will be resented, and perhaps shunned, leading to the economic demise of any subsequent business, particularly for a proprietor who turns a blind eye to neighborhood tradition."

Just down the street is a boarded up place ... that is what happens when you kill John Barleycorn and put in a fly by night restaurant bound for failure. Growl.

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