Sunday, April 16, 2006

we should take a walk but you're such a fast walker

One of my favorite things to do when visiting a new city is to walk it. Pick an area and explore it, block to block. It's the kind of thing I tend to do on my own, mainly because I like to set my own pace and follow whatever whim hits me as to where to go, where to stop in for a spell...

I've been here 10 months and planning to stay a long time, so I'm not a visitor. Still it was, then, that I decided today to take advantage of the cancellation of the Sunday soccer league game to spend the afternoon wandering the Mission District, scoping out where I want to live, getting a sense of the character of the area. A mostly sunny day punctuated by the odd rain shower, it was a good day for meandering.

Starting from the 16th & Mission BART station I went up to Valencia and then up towards 25th Street. The highlights of Valencia are of course the numerous book stores, thrift shops, furniture stores and places to eat and drink. Stopped in Community Thrift and poked around a bit.

The best part (for me) was the selection of used books, and I picked up The Year of Living Dangerously and Jay McInerney's Model Behavior for $1 each. I'm already 70 pages into The Year, which is one I've been wanting to read since seeing the Peter Weir film adaptation (with Mel Gibson, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hunt doing a gender-bending turn as a male photographer). In a similar vein I need to get around to reading The Quiet American (and more Graham Geene for that matter)...something about that period of Southeast Asian history and the intersection of post-colonialism and the West's fear of communism spreading throughout the region has long intrigued me. Way back I enjoyed Bright Lights (though the movie version was crap), but nothing McInerney's done since has realy grabbed me. This one is supposed to be pretty good.

Though my goal at the outset was to sample a taqueria or three, I ambled into the Javalencia Cafe and got a very tasty smoked turkey sandwich. The bread was fresh and flavorful, and the honey-mustard dressing worked well with the tomato and sprouts.

After working my way up and along the main streets and side steets, I got to Dolores Park just as the sunshine was at its best of the day.

Unfortunately for the kids, the effects of the rain were still evident...

...though some kids did manage to play on the puddle-enclosed slide and jungle gym.

After some time in the park, I worked my way up Guerrero from 18th to 24th, stopping in at Cafe Que Tal to escape a brief rain with some coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.

The Mission reminds me in many ways of the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires...

Clearly the Latin influence has something to do with it, but beyond that it was the edgy but natural energy of the neighborhoods, the sense that the people who live there are happy to be in a place with some character, and make an effort to maintain that vibe. It's also because of the mix of San Telmo, the Mission isn't (well, yet anyway) a bunch of's really an "from all walks of life" kind of area.

The effect of the day is to confirm my suspicion that the Mission is where I want to live, preferably from about 18th-25th, between Valenica and the park. The side streets like San Jose and Fair Oaks are especially appealing...close enough to the action but not right in the middle of it. Now the fun part...actually finding a place to live.

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