Multiple, Magical Microclimates
The Myraid and Multiple Microclimates of San Franciso
I may be in a bar called Amnesia, but I sure do want to remember this amazing day in San Francisco. It was a true representation of my experience here, which can only be described as a series of microclimates; variations of the climate within a given area, usually influenced by hills, hollows, structures or proximity to bodies of water. In San Francisco, the hills, bays, and city conspired to make microclimates all right, but of people and culture, in a way that quite impressed me!
First, I was staying in the Mission District, which is, for the lack of a better term, the working class and immigrant neighborhood of San Francisco. With a plethora of dive bars, laundromats, and thrift stores, all with signs in Spanish and English, it felt very comfortable and worn, like a pair of old jeans.
Just around the hill was the Castro District, which is arguably the epicenter of Gay America and has a much more upscale and male feel to it. In between the two, Delores Park, with its wonderful views of downtown and its levels of sunbathing, playgrounds, and tennis courts, forms the interactive link between the two communities.
A short walk away is Downtown San Francisco, with its office towers including the surprisingly small-in-real-life Transamerica building. Almost in its shadow is Chinatown, a sixteen square block of Chinese culture in the heart of an American city. While similar to Chinatowns everywhere, from Kula Lumpur to Sydney, to Washington DC, it’s the most vibrant and Chinese I’ve seen outside of China, (Granted, I haven’t seen NYC’s Chinatown.) and I was duly impressed.
Around the corner from Chinatown is North Beach, a sleepy town usually shrouded in fog and quite the little hideaway in the shadow of San Francisco. When Claudette and I passed through it, I felt like we were in a small village, not the beach next to a large American city. It was just a bit slower than Orinda, where my friend Matt lives.
There, just on the other side of the Berkeley Hills, east of the bay and Oakland, I felt as if I were back in retiree Florida. The city, in constant dry sunshine, was filled with grandma’s driving slow and enjoying their sunset years. Matt and I seeking, a bit more fun, would drive through the Caldecott Tunnel to Berkeley. The locals called it the “Cold to Hot” tunnel because of the temperature shift from hot Orinda and cold Berkeley, but I felt it was from dry boring desert to wet exciting tropics, for staid elderly would give way to wild youth as the moisture level climbed.
Even though Berkeley was hip and trendy, it still didn’t call to me. Of all the San Francisco microclimates, the Mission District, with its Papusa take-outs and Beauty Bars, enveloped me in a rhythm of life I enjoyed the most. Where else can I walk home from the BART and find an impromptu concert of local bands paying it loud on the sidewalk, join a tetherball game using an old street sign and start a bubble wrap popping party by opening a discarded shipping crate?