Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Glen Park neighborhood: Small-town San Francisco at its best

We wanted to throw a going-away party for my friend Bob last Sunday, so we decided to go visit my son Joe in San Francisco where he was house-sitting for a friend.

It wasn't a very large going-away party -- just me and Bob and Joe and my daughter Ashley and Joe's daughter Mena, but that's all the people that my 1990 Toyota Tercel hatchback could hold. "I'm hungry," I whined. "I didn't have any breakfast -- and now I'm about to miss lunch as well." Some going-away party this has turned out to be.

Then we all piled into the Toyota, crossed the Bay Bridge, took 101 south to I-280 and got off on Alemany Blvd -- except that we took the wrong exit and almost ended up in Stonestown. Then we back-tracked a few miles, finally located Alemany Blvd, turned right onto Joe's street and parked. It was a cute little neighborhood. It was a cute little street. And Joe lived in a cute little house.

"I designed and built this house myself," said a man standing out in the front yard and clipping the hedge. The inside of the house was all Architectural Digest, with hard-wood floors, a kitchen to die for, a view of Twin Peaks out the rear window and a private secret garden in the backyard. Joe had a room. Mena had a closet. Someone had a dog. "I'm scared of dogs," I complained, "and I'm hungry. Let's roll."

The Glen Park area of San Francisco where Joe house-sits is like a jewel of an American small town -- carefully hidden inside of a big city. You really get a sense of neighborhood here. I kept expecting to run into Mr. Rogers or King Friday. Today was sunny and lovely and everyone was out walking their dogs. I've never seen so many dogs. We walked about six blocks over Diamond Street, Glen Park's main street -- asking everyone who we ran into on the way if they had any recommendations for good places to eat.

"Go to Tyger's for brunch," a man walking his dog (and his baby) suggested, but there was a long line outside of Tyger's so we crossed the street and got a table outside at a place called "Higher Grounds: A Nice Little Place to Eat." on the corner of Diamond and Chenery. It was nice. It was little. I had a chicken-spinach crepe. I took photos of my crepe. Mena played with a dog.

Walking back in the sunshine to Joe's temporary home, it occurred to me that I could write a story about Glen Park and how it was such a sweet little neighborhood and such a friendly place to take a stroll -- but then I decided not to. "Writing about this would be too easy," I told Bob. "I would start to feel like I was sluffing off, selling out, getting lazy, going commercial." There are just too many life-or-death stories out there in the cold hard real world, waiting to be written about right now. Between the disaster in Gaza, the one-in-50 homeless children in the United States, the "wars" in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the other debris floating around from George W. Bush's political and economic fallout, I'd feel guilty just writing about a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon in a small town inside San Francisco.

"Go ahead and write about anyway," replied Bob. "Just think of it as taking some journalistic R-and-R."

PS: We finally got Bob onto the train to Los Angeles on time. And his going-away party was a big success.