Asha Trip to San Francisco, October 13th 2001
There were about 25 of us, Asha oldies and newbies together, as we set off from the Palo Alto Caltrain station heading north for the city. Caesar’s digital camera clicked incessantly, Ashish combed his luxuriant mousch, Madhav giraffed over all, and a sundance day beckoned. Caltrain passengers probably cursed India’s teeming population, such was our kupamondak chattering.
From the Caltrain terminus at 4th & King we took a bus along the Bay-hugging Embarcadero to near Pier 39. Being rather sad creatures, our first activity was lunch. Most of us went off to the Boudoin place to have sourdough bread and clam chowder (here’s some trivia: the bacterium which makes the bread sour is peculiar to this place and is called lactobacillus sanfrancisco), although some of us couldn’t escape the charms of junk food. After that we boarded one of the barges of the Red & White Fleet (no, not the cigarette company) for a cruise. Seagulls roamed around in splendid flight. The Bay gleamed and speckled in shades of deep blues, and a great many oh-so-pretty white sailboats strutted about on it. The Golden Gate Bridge loomed ahead, then above, a hunk of rusted poetry. Oakland and Berkeley shimmered on the horizon. We rounded Alcatraz, which looked far less forbidding than the stories it has given rise to.
Next, off to watch the sealions by the side of the Pier 39 mall. Hundreds of them lay in stupor in front of wide-eyed, shut-nosed tourists. Then we did the rounds of the Pier 39 mall, eyeing all the trinkets and clever marketing: Puppets on the Pier, We Be Knives, Sea Charms, and so on. As we walked on towards Ghirardelli Square, our last stop, we walked quite through a section of the city’s famous sidewalk life. Portrait painters of different persuasions, gilded & silvered human robots, the drag queen and punks earning a quick buck through posing for photos, the black band with the amazing drums, the Hippie remnant bead-people, and of course the more pedestrian hawkers. A few of us went via the Cannery, playing around with some of the musical instruments in the amazing music shop there.
Ghirardelli Square was next, a classier version of Pier 39. In the open courtyard, relaxing at the patina-beautiful mermaid fountain, we listened to the breeze-filled tunes of an Andean band. The Ghirardelli Factory shop had a python line, but some of us managed to sneak through and taste the real ambrosia. Overhead, a smiling sun.
On the way back to the Caltrain station our group was split through voluntary and involuntary truncations, but most of us met up at the train. The bus wound its way through the Italian area of North Beach, through Chinatown, and a part of the Financial District. We experienced the up-up / down-down layout of the city’s crazy roads, with the Bay Bridge (the unfairly ignored cousin of the Golden Gate) peeping routinely at us between blocks.
At the train station, and further on the train itself, the Asha oldies (Pankaj, Sraboni, Madhav, Caesar, Suraj) tried to dish out the propaganda in healthy doses, mostly avoiding the mozzarella. The unsaid aim of this trip, it was not to be forgotten, was to strengthen our group relationships, to encourage new volunteers, to enjoy working together, and in general to create greater awareness of & support for Asha.