San Francisco Marathon Without the Tablecloth
After leaving our yurt in Big Sur, we stopped in Mountainview to visit Jeffrey, Sarah’s friend from UPenn who works at Google. He couldn’t have been sweeter. The weird thing we noticed immediately, however, was that the Google campus appeared to be inhabited almost entirely by Asian and Indian males. Recent WSJ articles have addressed the lopsided staffing demographics of technology companies. Our brief visit supported their observations. It was disconcerting to see such a large company with few staff from huge segments of the workforce in their employ. Mariah, Sarah, and I posed in front of a Google Street View Car with Jeffrey, visited their Beta Visitor Center, and pretended to ride the bicycles Google employees use to move around the campus. It was an interesting and also a little cult-like environment. (Think Stepford Wives, but replace the Caucasian wives with Asian and Indian husbands.)
From Google we drove to San Francisco to stay two nights at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square, a beautifully located, grand, and historic hotel. (It is decidedly unyurtlike.) Our first stop in San Francisco, based on Betty Penn’s recommendation, was The Walt Disney Family Museum, located in Presidio Park. We stayed at the museum for several hours and were still unable to absorb all of the information presented about Walt’s incredible life. The exhibits traced his story from birth to his early drawings and animation, through his lifetime of countless brilliant ideas, projects, and ahead-of-his-time ventures. There were more than 200 video screens within the museum, and, as you would expect, the innovative use of state-of the-art-technology was incorporated throughout the exhibits, vividly depicting his life’s work. A 13-foot model of Disneyland as Walt originally envisioned it was particularly interesting, as the park was constructed in accordance with his original design. Notably, the museum did not shy away from several exhibits which presented Walt’s challenges and mistakes. This curatorial decision added considerable credibility to the overall presentation. Before leaving the Presidio, we made a point of photographing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, as required of all visitors to the City by the Bay.
We then visited the Cable Car Museum, which I liked much more than Mariah and Sarah did. As Sarah pointed out, I had dragged the family previously to the New York City Transit Museum. And once again, no one found this transportation museum nearly as interesting as I did. Located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse, the Cable Car Museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. We looked at their exhibits quickly and left.
We concluded our jam-packed day in San Francisco with an early evening ferry ride to tour Alcatraz Island. It was fascinating, creepy, and very educational. We were glad to go, engaged during our two hour visit by their audio tour, and pleased to leave. The conditions in Alcatraz were miserable for inmates until its closure in 1963. The most interesting thing to me was the juxtaposition between this horrific maximum-security federal penitentiary and the employee housing sitting adjacent to it, on the same rock, for the men who worked there and their families. It was also fascinating to see the graffiti left behind from the 19 month occupation begun in 1969 by Native Americans. Before heading back to our hotel for the night, we stopped at the Chinatown Gate and tried to avoid the traffic as we took an especially touristy photo in front of it.
Today we are departing San Francisco and driving to Sequoia National Park. It might be tricky getting out of town, however, as tens of thousands of runners are competing in the San Francisco marathon to obtain shiny blue and white souvenir tablecloths, so many streets are closed, and there are detours everywhere.