Occasionally I like to have a day sketching down in San Francisco. I don’t go very often; it’s a long (and not cheap) train journey, with a connecting bus from Emeryville, I spend a lot of time wandering about (and I get tired), and then I have to get the Amtrak bus and train home (which takes ages), and because I like to eek out as much possible sketching time as I can, I leave super early and come back super late. Every few years I might stay overnight, which makes me feel a bit more relaxed while marching about the city, not having to worry about getting back to the Amtrak bus stop near the Salesforce Tower, and then I might go to an interesting pub in the evening for a bar sketch. But then next day I am always a bit tired and always thinking, get the earlier train back, still a very long way, get home and have a Sunday rest, maybe colour in some of the sketches I’d done. Another thing about going to the City, I like to try and explore somewhere I’ve never been, or maybe have not been in a long time (places have change rapidly since I moved out here). On this occasion, a very hot day in the very hot early September of 2022, I started at the usual spot of the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – been getting these delicious bombolini there for years, a sugary way to start the day – and drew the panorama above. It was a good spot to draw the latest iteration of this skyline (click on it to see it larger, on my Flickr site). Lot of people out and about; I remember once years ago seeing Robin Williams here, just about a year or so before he died. I don’t usually recognize famous people, but I recognized him. Actually, no my wife pointed him out. I am terrible at recognizing famous people. If ever I became famous, I would instantly forget what my own face looked like.
When I was done with hanging out at the Ferry Building, I hopped onto the BART towards the Mission district, and got out at 24th Street for a long-ish walk uphill towards the Noe Valley neighbourhood. This was a place I had never been, but had heard was quite nice, and full of trendy types. Well maybe not trendy types, more middle-class professional types, young families with expensive strollers and small dogs, that sort of thing. I don’t know, yuppies. People with mobile phones and fil-o-faxes who go skiing and have pagers. I don’t know, I’m not very good at categorizing places, or remembering what decade it is. “That’s a cute neighbourhood,” is the sort of thing I think people would say when they come here. There are nice shops and little restaurants, but it’s not too much, or too few, it’s not full of every Starbucks or Peet’s that you can imagine, nor is it wall-to-wall hippies and grubby smoke-shops (it’s not the Haight, a street I almost never enjoy), and it’s not as edgy and colourful as somewhere like Mission (a street I almost always enjoy) but it’s a pretty nice place to spend a Saturday lunchtime. Sutro Tower rose above the nearby hills like an insectoid alien overlord, but I walked up to see if I could find a shop I wanted to sketch. I found Folio Books, which was a lovely little bookshop that I spent an unexpectedly long amount of time in. I love to visit these little bookshops in the City, they are my favourite places. I always want to buy loads of things, but I think I just got one book (can’t even remember what now! Probably a travel writing book) because carrying too many books around in my little bag all day gets heavy. I sat outside and sketched though, and that is always time well spent.
I had lunch further down the street at a little burger place, getting a nice chicken burger and about a million garlic fries, that would be me set for the day. As I ate I spotted a guy wearing a Spurs badge on a t-shirt, always love to see it. It had the signs of Haight Ashbury on it, so I asked him what that was. He said that it was for the fan group ‘Haight Spurs’, which meets regularly at a pub in the Haight to watch Tottenham matches (with those early kick-off times too), they had been up watching Spurs huff against Fulham that morning, a game I’d watched on my iPad on the train. I said ‘Haight Spurs’ sounds more like an Arsenal fan group than a Tottenham one, but I don’t think he got it. There are a few Tottenham fan groups in the Bay Area and beyond from what I understand, I know there’s one in Sacramento that I have never met up with (7am at a pub in midtown vs 7am on my sofa with a cuppa, not really a contest; I’m sure people would get sick of me shouting “Shuttup Lee Dixon, you dunno what you’re talkin’ about!” at the screen every three minutes like I do when watching on NBC at home). I remember Ossie Ardiles met with fans in San Francisco ahead of our game against the San Jose Earthquakes in 2010, I was at the game but not at the Ossie meeting; if he did another, I’m there. Anyway this Haight Spurs fellow seemed a bit reluctant to tell me too much more (I think it was more he wanted to go and eat now, please) but maybe one of these days I should look up where people are watching games in San Francisco and do that, but we all know I would actually just stay in my hotel and watch it in bed, where I can berate Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux’s co-commentary in peace. Anyway, suitably well-fed and ready to draw the whole world, I sketched the scene outside the burger place on 24th Street at the corner of Vicksburg, watched all the people go by, all those the middle-class professional dot-com yuppies and yummy-mummies with their Pagers and their Barbour jackets and Swatch watches, copies of the Financial Times tucked under their arms and poodles in their handbags (I’m such an observant people-watching urban sketcher), and then walked up and down a few more hills back towards the Mission district. I’ll post those sketches next.