Different Cultures Strengthen a City’s Ethnic, Historical Tapestry

Posted By Mike Padgett

May 28, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO– Rolling stones on two feet, in suits or jeans and jackets, are part of the energy of San Francisco.

Some of this city’s free spirits and forever young carry children or groceries.

Others, full of youth, or not, tote backpacks and briefcases.

They make pit stops for coffee and bump BART turnstiles on their hustle to work.

They are the colorful threads of this city’s ethnic and historical tapestry.

They, along with Captain Hook and the Lost Boys this summer,

Energize the city with new sights and sounds and tastes.

They are a colorful kaleidoscope of peoples and cultures in one place.

Many strive to overcome language barriers, to ignore unkindness, to be friends, to welcome new ideas.

The Palace Hotel (center) in downtown San Francisco was reopened in 1909, after severe damage by fire in the 1906 earthquake. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

Seven floors up in the Palace Hotel at Market and New Montgomery,

A visitor to this historical city greets cloudy sunrises.

This out-of-towner doesn’t feel like playing tourist. Not this time.

No cable cars or killing time at Ghirardelli Square. No recharging at Point Reyes National Seashore, hiking Muir Woods National Monument or driving Highway 1 south along the coast to Point Lobos beyond Monterey. Done all that.

This time, the visitor is enjoying the ghosts of the Palace Hotel, first opened in 1876, destroyed by fire in 1906 and reopened in 1909.

When morning clouds and rains yield to azure skies,

He wanders the financial district’s streets.

He stops at coffee shops for breakfast, a deli for lunch.

Close up and through blocks-long vistas down concrete canyons,

He studies the city’s historic and contemporary architecture.

He monitors the city’s pulse at Market and New Montgomery.

His walks in downtown San Francisco, between light rains,

Resemble a child’s scribbles on a map.

He finds ethnic eateries and American business icons.

He hears different languages in crosswalks and in restaurants.

Heard and seen are motorists’ horns and angry eyes.

Streetcars and buses, loaded at rush hours, rumble past the Palace.

When rain begins, umbrellas are pulled from pockets and backpacks.

On the sidewalks, homeless fleeing personal sorrow unfold their cardboard marquees.

They sit cross-legged or stand in doorways of vacant businesses.

They crave eye contact, ask for change, thank you, have a good day.

“Stranded, robbed,” reads a sign held by a young woman with a dog.

Shuffling slowly on the sidewalk is a middle-aged Black man.

Grimy tennis balls on two of his walker’s four legs.

New cafes are opening, hoping to survive the economy.

Cabbies thank the rain for more customers.

Flower vendors add aromas and bright colors to concrete and asphalt.

The theater in the round at Clay and Drumm streets is busy this summer,

The threesixty Theater, in a circular tent near the Ferry Building,

Hosts the Darling family and the Lost Boys and Captain Hook.

They add new life to the play, “Peter Pan,” which is based on novelist JM Barrie’s original 1904 story.

Business conferences keep the Palace Hotel busy.

Hotel workers fill carts with coffee, pastries and sliced fruit for the meetings.

During breaks between conference meetings, the Palace Hotel’s hallways often are filled with attendees checking voicemails and emails. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

In the hallways off the lobby, suits are seated or wander back and forth.

They have laptops on their knees or mobile phones to their ears.

At a networking scrimmage, the suits fill the hotel’s Pied Piper Bar.

Between voicemails, glances at the menu, polite smiles and body language,

The suits block each other’s passes and tackle their competition.

They talk new frontiers and promote their technology.

They lock eyes, share ideas, make deals and shake hands.

Visitors stop to admire the bar’s namesake, the giant 1909 Maxfield Parrish painting.

The Palace Hotel’s Garden Court, under a dome of unique glass, is a rare dining experience. Copyright © photo by Mike Padgett

In the hotel’s elegant Garden Court, with its Austrian crystal chandeliers,

Is genteel dining mirroring the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The afternoon sun pours through the stained glass dome ceiling,

Creating sparkles on polished marble floors and columns and silverware.

On the hotel’s upper floors, housekeeping workers push carts

Loaded with towels and sheets, washed and dirty.

They check off the rooms emptied by visitors headed home.

They fluff the pillows and straighten the rooms of long-term guests.

They open the drapes and collect newspapers and room service trays.

They replace soaps and shampoos and used drinking glasses.

They wipe the sinks, showers and toilets.

They ready the rooms for tomorrow’s guests.

It will be another day, like any other, in other cities.

But just a short drive north, across the Golden Gate Bridge, are Muir Woods and Point Reyes. Next time, for sure.


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May 28th, 2010

One Comment to 'Different Cultures Strengthen a City’s Ethnic, Historical Tapestry'

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  1. Peggy Hodges said,

    What a tempting picture you paint of San Francisco! Poetry in motion! Your appreciation of the city and all it has to offer stands out in every line. Outstanding description!

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