Gum Wall in Seattle

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in Seattle. Where it rains. She’s here for the WritersUA conference, four days of technical writer’s heaven.

Undaunted by the dismal drizzle and the icy wind, the TC set off for a grand tour of the city. She wandered down Post Alley and spotted the Seattle Wall of Gum.

Would you believe that she stuck me to it? So humiliating. Take a look at the snap below and commiserate with me. Don’t laugh!

Travel tip

Chew every mouthful 32 times. “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate,” said Horace Fletcher the great.

The book I’m in

Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman.

This dude always manages to set your teeth on edge from the very first bite.

The photos

Me affixed inelegantly to the Seattle Gum Wall:

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum Wall in Seattle

Here’s another view of the glorious gum:

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum Wall in Seattle

The TC did not have any gum, so she donated a half-chewed Mentos that had kept me company in her bag all the way from Australia.

The story is that the gum started appearing on the wall way back in the early 1990s. People standing in line for the Market Theatre used the wall as a place to leave their gum:

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum Wall in Seattle

As an aside, I have to inform you that the TC noticed with glee the spelling of “THEATRE” in the sign above. One down for American spelling! As another aside, I have to apologise for the TC. She’s a technical writer.

The Gum Wall, a.k.a the Great Wall of Gum, is in Post Alley at the Pike Place Market. Here’s a view from the skyway over the alley, with the sticky stuff on the left:

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum Wall in Seattle

Here’s the other end of Post Alley, looking altogether less hard-bitten:

Gum Wall in Seattle

Gum Wall in Seattle

That’s all for today dudes.

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Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

A few days ago, me and the TC climbed up to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and saw the frescoes on the walls of the tower.

Later the same day, we had tea at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. This little restaurant introduced fortune cookies to the United States. There’s even a claim that fortune cookies were invented by Makoto Hagiwara, caretaker of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.

The fortune cookies and the frescoes are at opposite ends of town, so why write about them in one blog post? Purely for the sake of the alliteration. I could claim a philosophical juxtaposition of commerce and art, or of kitch and realism. But no, it’s the allure of the alliteration. That’s assonance, man.

Travel tip

Treat yourself to a chocolate. If you’ve never had a Hershie Bar, they’re worth trying.

The book I’m in

Managing Writers, A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation, by Richard L. Hamilton.

This bookworm is munching on the feast of quotable bits in this book. Here’s an appetiser from the section on “The Elements of Technical Writing”:

“Schedules are the closest thing to a ‘black art’ that you are likely to deal with as a documentation manager. The good news is that as a documentation manager, you will rarely set schedules; the bad news is that you will rarely set schedules.”

Tantalising? The explanation’s in the book.

The photos

Me with a fortune cookie in the Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

My fortune cookie says “You are next in line for promotion in your firm”. Look out, all worms, here I come!

Did you know that the origin of the fortune cookie is in some dispute? Some claim that Makoto Hagiwara, caretaker of the Japanese Tea Garden, created them. Others say that they were invented in Japan but the Tea Garden introduced fortune cookies into the United States:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Hopping over to the frescoes, here’s part of a wall inside Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, San Francisco:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Coit Tower was built in 1933 with money donated by Lillie Hitchcock Coit. Artists painted the frescoes and were paid as part of the Federal Government’s New Deal to help artists during the Great Depression.

Beautiful, huh? Yes, but take a closer look:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

The grimmer side of life is there in the painting too. A man has been run over by a car. Also, look closely in the first picture and you’ll see that someone is picking the pocket of the man in a white coat checking his watch.

Worried about imminent invasion by E.T. and his buddies? No need. The UFO Response Team is out in force, spotted here at the top of Haight near Golden Gate Park:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

And so it’s farewell to fair San Francisco. (Can’t resist that alliteration today.) Here’s me on Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background:

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Fortune cookies and frescoes in San Francisco

Me and the TC are off to Seattle. Where it rains.

That’s all for today dudes.

Cable cars in San Francisco

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC took a trip on a San Francisco cable car. That was the most fun you can have outside a book!

We’ve also ventured onto buses and trams and various other forms of transport. You know what? Everyone chats to everyone in San Francisco.

My impressions? Public transport reveals San Francisco as a friendly city full of cheerful, or if not cheerful then vociferously expressive, people.

Even the gripman on the cable car had a big smile for the TC. Check out the photograph below. Gripmen are a fascinating breed.

Travel tip

Not only do the Americans drive on the wrong side of the road, their light switches are all wrong too: Push up to switch on the light. (This is an especially useful tip when it’s dark. And after all, that’s usually when you’re trying to turn on the light.)

Another tip: City blocks in San Francisco are long. Don’t try to walk too many of them.

Recommended restaurant

Zazie, a French bistro in Cole Valley. The food is divine. The TC had braised steak Marseillaise. It was so tender it fell apart at the touch of a fork.

The book I’m in

Managing Writers, A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation, by Richard L. Hamilton.

A very well organised book with plenty of information for a bookworm to get his teeth into.

The photos

Me on the Powell & Mason Streets cable car:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Did you think “cable car” meant a car that hangs from an overhead cable? The TC did, bless her cotton socks. So she was surprised to see something that looks more like an ornate tram:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

The cable runs underground. It’s a set of steel strands wrapped around a rope core. The cable moves at a speed of about 15km per hour. The car grabs onto the cable and is pulled along the track. When it reaches the end of the track, the car runs onto a turntable:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Now people have to turn it around by hand so that it can go in the other direction:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

The star of the show is the gripman. This is a highly skilled and physically superior being. The competition to become a gripman is strong and the training is harsh. This bookworm has read somewhere that only 30 percent of trainees pass the course. Undaunted to find herself in such illustrious company, the TC smiled at our gripman. Just look at the smile she got in response:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Behind the gripman you can see the impressive array of levers he has to manipulate. He is the dude who makes the car grab or release the cable. He also has to judge the gaps across intersections, where the cable does not run. And he has to watch out for unaware motorists and pedestrians and other mere mortals who don’t know just how out-of-control a cable car can be.

Here’s a closer look at the levers and handles:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Want to go for a ride on a San Francisco cable car? Try these videos:

Here’s the gripman dude in action:

Do you have a head for heights? Here’s a very short video of the cable car starting at the top of a steep hill:

The trams in SF are special too. Some of them are heritage models, and some are even imported from other cities around the world. Here’s a golden oldie from Milan, that we spotted in Market Street:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Even the buses in SF have something to say for themselves. Many of them are powered by overhead cables. This can get a bit ugly at intersections:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

But hey, it means the buses can have “Zero Emissions Vehicle” proudly emblazoned on their sides:

Cable cars in San Francisco

Cable cars in San Francisco

Bus seats are roomy, unlike in Sydney where the TC can be heard to complain that other passengers sit on her rather than next to her. This worm is feeling magnanimous today, so here’s another tip. (This is the third one in a single blog post. Feel privileged!) To request a stop, you pull the cable that runs along above the windows. It’s not an emergency cord.

That’s all for today dudes.

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have been in San Francisco for a couple of days now. Yesterday we encountered the World Famous Bushman. When he’s not lurking behind a bush, he goes by the name of David Johnson.

My impressions? This Bushman dude knows where it’s at. Dollars roll in.

Photos and a video below.

Travel tip

Oscar Wilde is said to have said, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” It’s neither summer nor winter here right now, but it is cold. And very windy. I tremble in trepidation whenever the TC waves me around in search of the perfect photographic pose. If you happen to spot me blowing willy-nilly through the Californian streets, please catch me and put me into a good book.

Recommended restaurant

On the Bridge restaurant in Japan Town presents food yoshoku style. That’s western food but with a Japanese influence, as eaten by the people of Japan. The restaurant itself is energetic and cheerful in yellow and green with touches of pink, orange and blue. Garfield and other more cuddly toys watch over you as you eat. Anime rules. “Beware the attack chef.”

The book I’m in

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.

Yep, still the same book. The TC has not had much time for reading recently. This makes for a restful life for me, except when I’m hauled out for the occasional celebrity photo shoot.

The photos

Peg has been making a perfect pest of herself over the last couple of days, because she wants everyone to know she’s here too. So, to pacify Peg, here’s me and Peg perched on the TC’s pouch:

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

Now that’s Peg out of the way, let’s move on to the World Famous Bushman. Your typical tourist does not even notice this bush:

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

Yikes, lookee here — the horror, the horror:

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

The World Famous Bushman skulks behind his branches on Fisherman’s Wharf. Every now and then, he leaps out and scares the unsuspecting passers-by. Funnily enough, they don’t even notice the circle of other tourists around the Bushman, waiting with drawn cameras to film the scare.

Would you believe that the TC paid him $5 for a photograph and a gag? From the comfort of my book buried in her bag, I heard her engage him in conversation. Uh-oh, thinks me, here we go. He asked her where she came from.

“South Africa.”

“Oh,” says the World Famous Bushman, “then you know what a real bushman is!”

That’s when she handed over the $5. Bushman dude, you rock!

Here’s a short video of the Bushman in action:

While we’re in the area, here’s a picture of Alcatraz taken from Fisherman’s Wharf just behind the Bushman:

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

We had a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, also near Fisherman’s Wharf:

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

World Famous Bushman in San Francisco

That’s all for today dudes.

Arriving in San Francisco

This is the blog of a 25-year-old bookmark. I proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have arrived in San Francisco, on the first leg of our two-city American tour.

My impressions? Space, light, beauty, calm. But don’t despair, adventure lurks just below the surface.

As we touched down at San Francisco at the end of our 14-hour flight from Sydney, the pilot announced that we were perfectly safe, everything was normal. He went on to tell us that we were perfectly safe and everything was completely normal. They had had to switch off the port engine, but it was a completely safe, normal procedure which happened sometimes in flying. So we should not worry about the fire engine appearing at our side, nor the fact that we had stopped some distance from the terminal in case we might set it on fire. It was a perfectly normal… You get the gist.

The TC was not terribly concerned, since we had already landed. But she did Google our plane as soon as Googling was possible, to see how many engines a Boeing 747-400 has. The answer is four. So we probably were perfectly safe.

The adventure continues…

Travel tip

Count the number of engines on your plane before you set off. Even better, count the number of working engines.

Recommended restaurant

Juban restaurant in the Kinokuniya building. It’s a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Japan Center, where you grill your own food over a flame. This is a good place to find fresh vegetables. The TC is fond of her greens.

The book I’m in

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.

A good read. This worm is glad there’s a sequel I can bury myself in next. Books are safe, normal and cosy places to be when travelling.

The photos

Me at the Crowbar on east Broadway — please excuse my less-than-sharp appearance, but it’s perhaps not unsuited to the general feel of the neighbourhood:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

Here’s more of Broadway. Across the road from the Crowbar a variety of delights are on offer, including “ShowGirls” and “Naughty Laundry”. The TC wandered into this area by mistake, as is her wont. I don’t think she would have chosen it for a stroll:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

Me and the TC arrived at the Embarcadero in the middle of an anti-war demonstration. This is Saturday 21 March, our first day in San Francisco. Demonstrators were demanding the freedom of Palestine and Gaza and an end to the war in Iraq, no war in Iran, and basically just “no war”. This video shows some of the crowd setting out and the SFPD following on motorbikes:

Later we heard on the news that there were a couple of scuffles with police and eight people were arrested. But we just saw some concerned citizens. Here’s the statue “La Chiffoniere” by Jean Dubuffet, with demonstrators including a masked demonstrator in front of the statue:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

The SFPD arrived on foot, on bicycles and on motor bikes. They were a sturdy bunch, but smiled and chatted to the crowd while waiting to set off. Here are some of them:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

Here’s one of the demonstrators who opted for a colourful display rather than joining the march. This worm approves of the orange-coated dog:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

To finish off, here’s a San Francisco cityscape. It’s a view from Telegraph Hill, taken from the climb up to Coit Tower:

Arriving in San Francisco

Arriving in San Francisco

San Francisco is a beautiful city. I’ll blog about it some more soon!

That’s all for today dudes.