Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life in the Castro--A San Francisco Album

If we had stayed anywhere else but the Castro neighborhood during our San Francisco visit last week, we would have wanted to go there all the time.  It turned out that we didn't spend most of our time there anyway, and so in that way, it felt more like a home base.  Staying in a Victorian house in the middle of the Castro was as close to an authentic experience of living there as I could have hoped for.

That first afternoon Mark and I conditioned our legs on the hills as we walked around a six-block radius of the commercial district, Castro St, 18th St. and Market St.  Right away we encountered Harvey Milk's Castro Camera shop, which is vacant now, but in the windows are posters that describe the significance of the storefront, and Harvey himself.  In spite of "Milk", I suspect that many younger residents don't get that special feeling of belonging just sitting there on the window ledge, looking out at Castro Street as Harvey might have seen it.  Me?  I was inspired.

We visited local shops and read menus for the many cafes, for future dining adventures.  We also purchased our weekly BART pass...the public transportation system....which allowed us on to streetcars, buses, the subways, and the Registered Landmark Cable Cars.  Along the way we stopped in the Human Rights Campaign store, and were greeted by Colton, whose friendly inquiries and sincere interest made us welcome. 

The Village Inn looked just like any house you might find in the neighborhood.  A locked front gate took us to a 12-step staircase, and as we first entered the front door, Duke, the owners' Basset Hound-Golden mix, greeted us with wagging tail and busy nose.  To the left was the Mix Bar, a lively neighborhood hangout, and Up Hair, much quieter, but the proprietors were outside a lot, and friendly.  To the right was Poesia, a charming newer Italian restaurant with a Poetry Lounge and a wall on which Italian movies were projected. 

The lobby of the inn was decorated by owner Paul, in an eclectic mix of Victorian furniture and colors and European vases and paintings and other artifacts. Deon, his partner, did the day-to-day management of the rooms and public areas.  Both of them were warm, interesting people who have become new friends. Our room was to the back of the second floor. It was rather plain but cozy, and well away from the noise of 18th street, although the dull roar of patrons at the Mix lulled us to sleep.

In the afternoon, the front of the building was in shade, and one afternoon I sat on the top step with my journal and recorded what I saw, and what I thought about it.  As the warm breeze embraced me, I gazed down at the traffic and the variety of people who passed by and barely noticed me writing furiously.  There was a noisy but manageable buzz in the air, the sound of anticipation of fun yet ahead on a Saturday night.

The historic Castro Movie Theater beckoned right around the corner.  On our first day as we walked past, the marquee told us that a tribute to the recently-deceased actress Patricia Neal featured a series of her films.  I stopped in excited surprise..That night only, they would show 1968's "The Subject Was Roses".  Mark kindly agreed to go to the movies that night so I could have the experience of viewing on a big screen a movie I had never properly seen, and view it in the confines of a city landmark with much significance to the gay community.  I'll write more about the film very soon....


No comments:

Post a Comment