Friday, May 23, 2014

Chris Isaak -- "San Francisco Days" (1993)


I'm heading for that Golden Gate 
Hoping I won't be too late
San Francisco days, San Francisco nights

Let's get right to it:


Is there any more irresistible sight in the world?  Not as far as I'm concerned.

I was in San Francisco recently for my sister's wedding, and took that photo from a spot known as Land's End, which is a park situated in the extreme northwestern corner of the city.  It's just outside the Golden Gate, the strait that connects San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean, and which was at last spanned in 1937 by the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here's another view of the Golden Gate from Land's End:


Here's a very different view of the bridge, this time from the Marin County side:


There are a whole bunch of songs about San Francisco, but I've decided to feature Chris Isaak's 1993 song, "San Francisco Days," in this post.

I thought about featuring the Lucksmiths' song, "The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco," which includes these lines:

Should it one day come to pass
That you sit down to your memoirs
Where will this go,
The chapter in your life entitled "San Francisco"?
It's not a great song, but that line about "the chapter in your life entitled 'San Francisco'" intrigued me.

The chapter in my life entitled "San Francisco" wouldn't be all that interesting to most of you, I suppose.  But I have vivid memories of the 18 months I lived there some 30-plus years ago.

I spent a fair amount of time trying to write fiction while living in an apartment on the top floor of this apartment, which stood on the corner of Washington and Divisadero Streets in Pacific Heights:


I found all my handwritten manuscripts from those days a few years ago.  That writing is nothing special as fiction.  But since my stories were for the most part thinly-disguised autobiography, they are of considerable value to me when it comes to jogging my memories of the San Francisco chapter of my life.

After moving back to Washington in 1982, I didn't return to San Francisco until last year, when I spent four days there with my family.  I was thrilled that my sister's wedding gave me a good excuse to visit the city again this year.

I took a 6:00 a.m. nonstop to San Francisco to give myself as big a margin of safety as I could.  That meant getting up at 3:30, but what the heck -- I only have one sister, and this will likely be her only wedding.  

I had made a reservation at a crazy little hotel in San Francisco's Japantown, which covers only about six square blocks, but is the largest Japanese enclave in the United States.

The most noticeable feature of Japantown is the Peace Pagoda, a five-tiered concrete stupa that was constructed in 1968:


There are a number of these signs on the streets of Japantown, which enable you to work on your vocabulary while shopping for a nice kimono, or picking up some takeout sushi:


My hotel had a Japanese pop-culture theme, with anime cartoons playing on big wall-mounted televisions in the lobby:


I stopped at one of my favorite joints in the neighborhood -- the original La Boulange bakery on Pine Street -- for a Croque-monsieur and a chocolate croissant:


(A snooty friend of mine pointed out that my chocolate croissant was actually a pain au chocolat.  Excuse me all to pieces for my faux pas, but the bakery called it a chocolate croissant, and most of the slobs I hang out with would think pain au chocolat was something requiring Pepcid or a couple of Advil.)

After my déjeuner, I put on a tie and hailed a cab for the short trip to San Francisco's magnificent Beaux-Arts City Hall, where my sister was getting hitched:


Here's a dramatic nighttime shot of City Hall:


City Hall was completed in 1915.  It was built to replace the building that was destroyed in the famous 1906 earthquake, which destroyed 80% of the city and resulted in some 3000 deaths.

The building's magnificent dome is one of the tallest in the world.  It's quite a bit taller than the dome of the U.S. Capitol.

The weddings at City Hall take place in the rotunda at the top of a magnificent staircase:


After filling out some paperwork, I was qualified to serve as the official witness to my sister Terri's marriage to Julie.  Julie's nephew, who lived in San Francisco was the other witness.

Terri and Julie just after their wedding
After the ceremony, the four of us walked to a nearby joint for a celebratory drink, and then drove through Golden Gate Park to the Beach Chalet, a restaurant in a historic building overlooking the Pacific, for dinner.

Chris Isaak, a northern California native, is a very interesting musician.  His most famous song is "Wicked Game," which was featured in David Lynch's 1990 film, Wild at Heart.  It's an absolutely spellbinding song -- I've never heard anything like it.


Lynch also used Isaak's music in his 1986 cult classic, Blue Velvet.  Isaak acts from time to time, and also had a significant role in the Lynch-directed Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a 1992 movie that was sort of a sequel to the Twin Peaks TV series.

Here's "San Francisco Days":



Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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