When debating whether to extend my travels in America with my suitcase in tow, I decided that I simply had to amend my ticket and visit the city made famous by the lush, stunning cinematography of Hitchcock’s Vertigo: San Francisco. As far different as possible from LA’s boulevards and beaches, I arrived on a Saturday morning to the blistering cold that characterises the city. A worthy note for anyone who travels with United or American Airlines by the way before I continue, suitcase charges exist like they would for a budget airline in the UK, and you’ll end up paying them. Anyway, the first day, like my first in Los Angeles was difficult to adjust to, in such a grand city: alone, and I was given an unforgettable first impression of San Francisco’s major problem just merely by stepping off the subway: poverty. At 8:30 in Union Square, suitcase in hand, confusion in my face, I was approached by a woman who looked ready to speak to me. Her appearance was pretty poor from a distance, and up close was almost intolerable – her hair was caked in a blanket of dandruff, her skin was the colour of an old sticker imprint; a heady fusion of yellow and grey, and the smell emanating from her indicated that she hadn’t pulled on a clean pair of panties since Obama got elected. Looking at her as she snarled at me, I noticed she was preparing to produce some fresh spittle to fling in my face, as it were she just managed to dribble slowly down her (very) stained jumper: sad really.
If L.A. had a problem with race and integration, the city of the Golden Gate Bridge had major issues with poverty. Just two minutes of walking (slash running) from my least favourite hobo, I asked a guy for directions to a bank, the chirpy guy was really rather helpful because it was on his way, so he walked me to the bank. He then asked me to buy him a cake and a coffee for his troubles (and a generous compilation of drugs no doubt had I been stupid enough to say yes or if he were stupid enough to try and sour the ‘friendship’ we were creating). It was utterly ridiculous to me that people had such audacity and gave me a far greater respect for the homeless in the UK who obviously have a degree of respect and dignity to their name. The Americans I noticed straight-away are more vocal and brash… but this was something else. On that day alone I had my final homeless person, a black woman with bad teeth the colour of jaundiced skin, begging me for a buck (for food, naturally) with a spliff in hand – you get my message about these desperate addicts, don’t you?
Anyway, on that first day I was going through some problems. I needed to dump my suitcase first, then I had a technology nightmare as my kindle mysteriously died whilst I was tucking in to a much needed cake. With a ‘what am I doing here?’ question imprinted on my brain I decided to hit Pier 39 (via the famous trams taking me away from the sprawling Occupy movement). This pier is a famous tourist attraction for the area because it boasts the boat that takes you to the premiere tourist attraction of the city: Alcatraz (there was a whole gift shop for the famed prison alone with Alcatraz embossed on almost every item they could, from key rings to place mats and plenty in-between). Also there are numerous shops and retail outlets to buy souvenirs and expensive toiletries. Managing to leave my suitcase with the most annoying woman on this entire planet (a woman who fused a disturbingly nasal voice with a tendency to continue using it, often speaking whole monologues at a time without any need for interaction with the tourists asking the questions), I strolled around for a while (and had to because I was waiting for a couchsurfer to host me for the evening), realised there wasn’t a great deal to do and strolled upon a lucky break. Around Pier 33 is a chocolate factory called Cho (apparently chocolate is meant to be pronounced like chow without the w) where I was lucky enough to get on a free chocolate tour. Whilst the tour was a video and a walk around a literal factory, being surrounded by chocolate and then eating the samples with fellow tourists was, for a chocaholic like me, delightful. This tour was indeed a great way to round off the first day. Comically though, that wasn’t the end of that day (read ‘My Couchsurfing story for more info) but enough rambling because on the second day, I hit the Golden Gate park.