By RS Rodriguez
I was raised and grew up in the relatively small town of Oxnard, California. Nestled between Malibu and Santa Barbara on the Pacific coast, it was and continues to be a blue collar town with agriculture, construction and two military bases as the primary driving forces of its economy. With argueably the best weather in the world, I was a small town kid who longed for adventures and new experiences in a big city regardless of our town’s splendid climate. After graduating from high school and attending a community college, I applied for and was accepted to university in “The City” and subsequently spent most of the 80s living in and thoroughly enjoying San Francisco. After so many years living in San Francisco, the small city kid began to long for the tranquility and the slower pace of the small city (and, yes, its marvelous climate). So I returned to Oxnard. However, during the 20 years or so since I left the Bay area, I consistently made trips back to San Francisco (at least three trips annually) during the majority of past two decades. I still love San Francisco, marvel at its charm, beauty, architecture and people.
When I do return, I often find myself visiting the places I enjoyed most when I lived in San Francisco.Golden Gate Park (though I do my best to avoid it on weekends, as it is innundated with cars, locals and tourists) is one of the places I enjoy visiting. It’s such a wonderfully conceived park with mini-meadows, many species of plants, flowers and trees, winding paths to stroll, museums within the park and the Japanese Botanical Gardens. The park is always on my itinerary.On weekend morning, I enjoy having breakfast at the “Seal Rock Inn” in the Richmond district. As I did when I lived in The City, I periodically patronize the restaurant, enjoying their freshly made muffins and perhaps a plate of their eggs benedict. After the meal, I often walk across the street to “Sutro Heights Park” and absorb the spectacular views of the ocean, Ocean Beach and the Cliff House.
“SoMa” (south of Market street) is an area when I lived in The City which was a place one didn’t wander into at night. It was deserted, somewhat dangerous and not one of the happening places to be. Since I left, however, it was experienced an incredible upswing and is now considered one of the hot spots of San Francisco with many offering for clubbing, dancing entertainment. I’ve driven through it a few times to experiencs the changes first hand, but I’ve not parked to soak it in. On weekend nights, I still find myself wandering to those places I enjoyed when I lived there. North Beach and Washington Square were often at the top of my list.
North Beach still buzzes with activity on weekend nights, as it did back in the 80s. There are so many restaurants and pubs to enjoy (Calzone’s, Vesuvio’s, North Beach Pizza and the Washington Street Bar and Grill- the late great San Francisco Chronicle’s columnist Herb Caen, who wrote daily about all things San Francisco and the Bay area, often frequented that joint). My trips back to San Francisco are not complete without at least one Friday or Saturday night spent strolling about and socializing in North Beach. A word to the wise, however: take a bus, a cab or pay for parking on a weekend night. For finding parking in North Beach is as difficult and rare as meeting a local referring to The City as “Frisco”.