Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Hustling for a Home in Carmel

As a massive Kerouac fan, I was excited to visit Big Sur, the setting of Kerouac’s book of the same title. Kerouac’s epic descriptions of crossing Bixby Bridge had me captivated. And even though Kerouac was in the last stages of his surrender to alcohol when he wrote his last book, his appreciation for the natural landscape shined through all his episodes with DTs.

I thought I would make the trip to Big Sur during my time in Seattle. But my months there filled too quickly with hiking day trips, and work and personal trips out of town. As a birthday treat, Jeannine booked us a cabin there and some flights. Although I assumed this would be a trip I would take on my own, it’s clear I thought no one would have interest in joining me rather than a wish for solitude. The number of other Kerouac fans that I’ve known can be counted on one hand. And the intersection between close friends and Kerouac fans yields exactly one.

We flew into San Francisco for a couple of days. Since we have both been there often enough to have exhausted all the typical tourist destinations, we took leisurely strolls across the city looking for some delicious food and enjoyable parks. Food find of note: Tartine is not to be missed.

We declined the entrance fee to the San Francisco Mission, but the outside of the old church was anachronistic in The Mission and worth a look. We were lured away by the people walking by with free Noosa yogurt. Our desire to seek this out was admittedly silly. Unless eaten immediately the yogurt would have gone to waste in our bags without refrigeration for the duration of the afternoon. This low-key vacation was made for following random impulses though, so the Noosa distraction led to a street fair.

The only mildly tourist activities we engaged in were visits to The Beat Museum and Visuvios. The Beat Museum was, well, beat. It was rundown and lacking in much paraphernalia apart from a number of Allen Ginsberg’s photographs that I have seen reproduced numerous times. Yet I was surrounded by a period and culture that has fascinated me for much of my adult life, so I was pleased none the less. With Visuvios just kitty corner to the museum , it felt wrong not to stop in.

The AirBNB place that we stayed in was super. Matt and Jeff were lovely hosts. Give them a look if you are ever travelling there.

San Francisco

This was the view from our Air BNB room. Even with an overcast day it was sublime.

Picture of a do not poop here sign on Vulcan Steps in San Franciso

Vulcan Steps are lovely and should be explored. This is among its gems that appeals to my inner five year old.

Delores Mission. We could have paid 5 bucks to get in here. But I didn't think The Pope needed my money. We bought pastries instead. I still feel good about out choice.

Delores Mission. We could have paid 5 bucks to get in here. But I didn’t think The Pope needed my money. We bought pastries instead. I still feel good about out choice.

This is opulent. The signed on the door say no trespassing. Opulent and off limits.

This is opulent. The signed on the door say no trespassing. Opulent and off limits.

Picture of mission delores basilica

Weird to have that monster right next to the humble Spanish mission.

Abandoned bike locks. The key gets lost or the bike gets incapacitated. Then what?

Abandoned bike locks. The key gets lost or the bike gets incapacitated. Then what?

Picture of a door in The Mission.

But it looks so inviting.

A picture of the women's building in The Mission

El edificios de mujares indeed. A building of women, directly and poorly translated.

The women's building in The Mission

Yep. That’s a woman with a baby in her baby-maker up top. I am a feminist. I’m just not so sure we need to be so explicit about it.

Picture of Delores Park, San Francisco

Delores Park. Yes. It’s lovely.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz boardwalk is like Coney Island but more bright and sparkly and less used needles and grime.

The Peter Pan Hotel in Santa Cruz

Oh, hey 50’s motel. THEY HAVE TV!! Which of course you need when you vacation at the beach.

The Pacific Ocean of California's Highway 1

Some random beauty from one of the many pull-offs on Highway 1. Seriously, it looks like that about half the time. When you aren’t seeing that you are seeing verdant hills and pastures.

We stayed at a wonderful cabin south of Carmel. It’s a little ramshackle place tucked into the side of a hill, filled with color furniture and fixtures that captivated the child in me. After we hiked up the hill, we were treated to a couple of days in this.

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Cabin south of Carmel, California called The Rainbow House.

The Pacific coast close to Big Sur.

What can I say about Big Sur that the pictures don’t? Nothing except it was everything and nothing that I thought it would be. It was just as intoxicating and raw as Kerouac described it. Like Kerouac I expected this pilgrimage to be a reaffirmation of the ways in which I am alien in this world. What a wonderful surprise that I found this place full of awe and gratitude and shared it profoundly with Jeannine, as though it was always to be so.

Cabin south of Carmel, California called The Rainbow House.

This was right off Highway One. I am standing about five feet off the road.

Bixby Bridge

This is the bridge I have been looking for… for years.

image

Caught at work.

Since this song… Since Big Sur

Bixby Bridge Highway One California

Bixby is just gorgeous.

Bixby bridge

Kerouac marvels at this bridge in Big Sur. He talks about the sheer power of nature, and how he felt insignificant against it.

Bixby bridge

I understand what he means exactly. But where he felt insignificant, I feel comforted that we humans aren’t so powerful after all.

Bixby Bridge

That time when you are trying to figure out how the timer works on your camera.

Bixby bridge

That time when you give up on making the timer work on your camera.

Bixby bridge

I wouldn’t have made it here without this one.

Big Sur, Pacific Ocean

The Pacific just passed Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.

View from Nepenthe in Big Sur

The Pacific from the deck of Nepenthe. I don’t know what voodoo they worked on their burger. I just know it was heavenly.

pfeiffer beach big sur california

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California. The pictures adequately show the raw beauty of the beach. It doesn’t show that the winds were driving sand up off the beach and blasting my face with it. My face was very soft after the sand and salt scrub.

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California. That kid was brave. It was very cold.

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

Pretty…

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Seattle was my Magic and Faraway Tree

Through a complicated turn of events, I found myself flying into San Francisco and flying out of Seattle. Seattle was my desired destination. I managed to Planes, Trains and Automobiles on this trip and threw a boat in there for laughs.

After evaluating my options, I decided to take The Starlight Express Amtrak train from San Francisco to Seattle. Given that the trip spanned twenty-two hours, it’s obvious the trip was neither solely by starlight nor express, at least by any definition that I know. I was curious about train travel, and it was half as expensive as a flight. Choo Choo!

When I landed in San Francisco, I took the BART into the city. I was thinking I would grab brunch at Mamma’s. I was thinking that because it was Thursday, Mamma’s wouldn’t be extremely busy. Perhaps by San Franciscans’ standards a line of fifty people out the door isn’t busy. To this Cincinnatian, that was some bullshit.

Breakfast plans thwarted, I settled for a slice of pizza and people watching in Washington Square. There’s a gorgeous church there, and by a freak accident I noticed that I could walk up to Coit Tower. I am fit. But before I whine about climbing up to Coit Tower, let me point out that all personal items that I would need for the next week was strapped to my back, including my delightful but extremely heavy DSLR camera. After some cursing and sweating, I climbed all those steps for some gorgeous WPA sponsored murals and a marvelous view of San Francisco. Winging aside, it was worth the effort.

I stopped in at City Lights Book Store and Vesuvio’s because I love them, and I was close. I enjoy both of those locations mostly because I love Beat Literature. Lawrence Ferlinghetti was a co-founder and was put on trial for obscenity for publishing “Howl”, Alan Ginsburg’s arguably most famous poem. I could blabber for days about how I like inhabiting the spaces that those authors did, but my passion on this topic is obscure to ninety-nine percent of the population. So, reader, I will shut myself up.

Afterward, I settled down to an afternoon coffee. There I learned that San Francisco establishments like to play the greatest hits of the 80’s and 90’s. I had heard this music emanating from nearly every establishment I entered, but I didn’t take full notice of it until I was fueling up with a latte in the afternoon. Turns out, 80’s and 90’s hits could be called the musical theme of my vacation.

I had dinner at Rogue’s Tasting room. In keeping with the reviews, the atmosphere and beer was excellent; the food was mediocre at best. I tried a marionberry brew, that I’ve not seen in bottles. It was nice but only in tasting-sized quantities, as it was very sweet. I found that my bar stool neighbors were also cyclists, and we talked quite a bit about cycling, beer, and the qualitative differences between our cities. They pointed out the very thing that turns me away from San Francisco; the cost of living means that an enormous percentage of one’s income is eaten by housing costs. They were annoyed to find that Ohio gets a great selection of Colorado, Oregon, and Washington beers, topping their own. They were equally jealous of our easy access to some of the Midwest’s best brewers like Founders, Bell’s, Jolly Pumpkin, New Holland, Great Lakes, etc.

After a pleasant couple hours of chatting, I headed to the Amtrak station. The station was just off Jack London Square in Oakland. It was not terribly convenient to get to via public transit. Luckily, I packed light. The station was clean and well equipped with bathrooms and vending machines. The poorly crafted PSA looping on the big screens must have been made to terrify any potential passengers. The highlights include the dubious suggestion that throwing my personal belongings at terrorists is a path to success. If the choice was between bodily harm and throwing my DSLR, I would pick bodily harm. I wondered at the suggestion of throwing things at terrorists as though they were failing comedians, especially when the PSA was showing all train security personnel in riot gear. If the choice is between bodily harm, throwing my DSLR, and letting riot gear dude handle it, I would pick riot gear dude.

The terrifying PSA made more sense when I boarded the train. The security precautions were limited to the attendant validating my ticket. It took three minutes for me to board. There were no riot gear dudes to be seen… for the entire duration of the trip. There was a very nice woman who vacuumed our car.

I really liked the train. I liked that I had more space, freedom to walk around at will, unrestricted use of the bathroom and lounge car. Aside from the fact that traveling by train takes significantly more time than flying, I loved it. I had several nice conversations with my fellow passengers. Talking to your neighbors when flying is fraught with danger. Unlike air travel, if you need to escape your neighbors, you just head to the lounge car. It’s a considerably lower risk that you will get cornered by someone obnoxious, given that you have freedom of movement. Twenty-two hours is a long time to be travelling, but the train was fun.

Upon arrival in Seattle, I was most grateful for a familiar face, a home-cooked meal, and a shower. It was great to catch-up with Stef and David, and I haven’t seen much of them in the last few years. I was also happy for a quiet night in after my sleep deficient train experience.

In the span of four days I (and sometimes we) saw Bainbridge Island, Pike Place Market, a burlesque show, Pioneer Square, Gas Works Park, a short glimpse of Mt Rainier, Ballard Locks, the Fremont Troll, Fremont Brewery, Fran’s, Seattle’s underground, The Mystery Book Store, Cherry Street Coffee, and Goose Ridge winery (and actually at least two other wineries, names escape me and not due to drunkeness). Holy Washington state wines batman. They are in general excellent. Stay away from the pinots though.  We went on a hike, and I made excellent use of Seattle’s public transportation.

The most unexpected part of my trip was my impression of the city vs my impression ten years ago. I still love Seattle. But Cincinnati has changed immensely in the last decade. I found that on this trip weather, public transit, and nature aside Cincinnati is approaching Seattle in terms of amenities. In fact, during all my travels of the past year, I find Cincinnati food and beer culture to be on par or better than other major cities’ offerings. Cincinnati’s music scene, although missed in favor of Columbus by many major acts, has a vibrant indie rock scene.

So Seattle, you’re pretty great. And if I get a good career opportunity that requires me to live in you, I wouldn’t say no. But Cincinnati you are changing so fast. I’m content to see and participate in what you will be when you grow up.

I don't understand who is supposed to be quiet. The cars?

I don’t understand who is supposed to be quiet. The cars?

Jesus and stuff.

Jesus and stuff.

They have all their trash cans fitted up with space for recyclables and trash. One day will happen to the Midwest. One day.

They have all their trash cans fitted up with space for recyclables and trash. One day will happen to the Midwest. One day.

View from Coit tower, The Golden Gate Bridge is over there shrouded in clouds.

View from Coit tower, The Golden Gate Bridge is over there shrouded in clouds.

View from Coit Tower

View from Coit Tower

View from Coit Tower

View from Coit Tower

Leaving a trail.

Leaving a trail.

One of the many beautiful scenes out the train window.

One of the many beautiful scenes out the train window.

Flip-top bridge.

Flip-top bridge.

There were tons of crows.

There were tons of crows.

So you say...

So you say…

I don't know if I would equate that to a million bucks, but it is very pretty.

I don’t know if I would equate that to a million bucks, but it is very pretty.

Moss and nature and stuff

Moss and nature and stuff

Friends!

Friends!

What do they eat? There was little to no insect noise in the woods.

What do they eat? There was little to no insect noise in the woods.

This slug was about 3 inches long *SHUDDER*

This slug was about 3 inches long *SHUDDER*

This slug was about 2 inches long. *shudder*

This slug was about 2 inches long. *shudder*

Frog!

Frog!

Historic crapper.

Historic crapper.

Those windows were once at street level. Not so much now.

Those windows were once at street level. Not so much now.

There chiropractors in the early 1900's?! This might not be authentic historic trash.

There chiropractors in the early 1900’s?! This might not be authentic historic trash.

More historic trash. Interesting that they've named a mission after a city in The Bible that Joshua annihilated.

More historic trash. Interesting that they’ve named a mission after a city in The Bible that Joshua annihilated.

Historic trash.

Historic trash.

When they closed off the underground they built in natural "lights" in the over-head sidewalk. Hooray for thinking ahead.

When they closed off the underground they built in natural “lights” in the over-head sidewalk. Hooray for thinking ahead.

Most haunted location of Seattle's underground. Also most tilted. This was the original teller's cage of a bank.

Most haunted location of Seattle’s underground. Also most tilted. This was the original teller’s cage of a bank.

Most of Seattle burned in fire in 1907. Here's some structures that were spared. It's not obvious from the picture, but the building on the far left dates back to the 1860's.

Most of Seattle burned in fire in 1889. Here’s some structures that were spared. It’s not obvious from the picture, but the building on the far left dates back to the 1860’s.

The Fremont troll. I guess this was Seattle's answer to people using this secluded spot to shoot up and buy drugs. I like this answer.

The Fremont troll. I guess this was Seattle’s answer to people using this secluded spot to shoot up and buy drugs. I like this answer.

Gas works park. Without using the internet we deduced that the only way a prime piece of real estate like this wasn't sold to contractors was that it's a brown site. I'm still refusing to use the internet to look that up.

Gas works park. Without using the internet we deduced that the only way a prime piece of real estate like this wasn’t sold to contractors was that it’s a brown site. I’m still refusing to use the internet to look that up.

The market had a nice selection of goods. It's considerably more touristy than just a space to buy food, but it's nice.

The market had a nice selection of goods. It’s considerably more touristy than just a space to buy food, but it’s nice.

There's something satisfying about this sign, given that print media is dying. My appreciation for tangible things is growing.

There’s something satisfying about this sign, given that print media is dying. My appreciation for tangible things is growing.

Fruits and such at Pike Place Market

Fruits and such at Pike Place Market

I don't know why it's a thing to put gum in this alley at Pike Place Market. Apparently, they cleaned it off a couple of times before giving in to the masses.

I don’t know why it’s a thing to put gum in this alley at Pike Place Market. Apparently, they cleaned it off a couple of times before giving in to the masses.

Yeah. That's massive amounts of chewed gum.

Yeah. That’s massive amounts of chewed gum.