Bil Browning

31 Days: Alcatraz & Chocolate

Filed By Bil Browning | August 21, 2011 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Meghan Stabler, Pier 39, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay

This photo's story is after the jump.


I'm doing a series of posts for 31 days that will feature a photo from my personal collections and the backstory behind the picture. I'm trying to stick with shots that have not appeared on the site before. I'm using the stories as a writing exercise to help me prepare for writing a book. You can find the rest of the series posts here:

Jerame and I were excited about visiting San Francisco for the first time. Queer Mecca, after all, is where rainbows abound, glitter falls spontaneously from the sky, art blooms like flowers, and you can smoke pot walking down the sidewalk. In other words, paradise.

Turns out only one of those is true, but that's a different story.

Our first full day was reserved for sightseeing before the Victory Fund conference began. Excited about being in the city, I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions on where to go. To my surprise, reader and activist Meghan Stabler answered, said she was in town too, and asked if we'd like a personal tour guide to some of the sights.

Of course, we agreed in a heartbeat. I'd met Meghan for the first time at my birthday party right before the National Equality March; we'd spent a long time sitting and talking - so long, in fact, that I neglected to notice that the room had filled up with people while we'd chatted. Jerame, literally, had to come remind me to mingle with everyone else.

Meghan met us at our hotel, the Sir Francis Drake, and we rode a trolley up the hill toward the waterfront. She pointed out the curviest street I've ever seen and Chinatown as we passed by on the lumbering mechanical cart. (Jerame and I returned to Chinatown later that week to eat lunch and buy trinkets. We had the best Chinese food ever in the basement of a building an older Chinese woman drug us into when she realized we were looking for a place to eat. We could barely read the menu, the server didn't speak English very well, and it was the best food of the entire trip.)

Arriving at the bay, we had lunch at a fantastic little restaurant that served clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl; I still drool a little thinking about how good it was. Afterword, we checked out the Ghiradelli chocolate factory, Pier 39, and the spot where sea lions and seals congregate to sun themselves and bark at tourists. Sadly, the wet banks were almost deserted except for a few stragglers who seemed more interested in sleeping than entertaining visitors. We talked enough that I'm sure we made up for the lack of volume from the seals and we enjoyed every minute of it.

Before we headed back to the hotel, Meghan snapped this picture for us. Whenever I see it, it reminds me of clam chowder, chocolate, and Meghan's enchanting accent.

I giggle at the combination each time too since the infamous Alcatraz prison is in the background. Dark humor, I suppose.

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This can't be San Francisco Bay -- you guys don't look cold enough!

A friend and I took the ferry (the ferry -- not the fairy!) to Sausolito once. It was a fun day, but we froze our tails off each way on the boat -- it was windy and there was just a bit of rain spray in the air. As I remember, on the way back we were almost fogged in.

If/when I ever get back to SF, I'm making a bee-line for Chinatown -- for some reason I have developed a finer appreciation for great Chinese food in my old age, when I was younger it was just OK.

Um *cough* San Francisco actually has 5 separate 'Chinatowns'... which one?

Oh, hell. I dunno, Gina. It was the one that had the big signs that said, "Chinatown!"