Below is an excerpt from the following published works:
Best of San Francisco and New Orleans Condensed.
best of san francisco
excerpt from Best of San Francisco, Lonely Planet Publications (2004)
When the scratchy woolen blanket of fog recedes, San Francisco is flooded by pure, undiluted sunlight and a boundless blue sky. In the distance, a vermillion necklace bridge adorns the rugged Marin Headlands and San Francisco's thumb-shaped peninsula. From inside the city, uniform white boxes spread down 43 hills like a terraced flowerbed. Up closer, the boxes are elaborately colored Faberge eggs with gingerbread trim and buxom bay windows. This is a city of neighborhoods, not of skyscrapers, of possibilities not of privilege, of character not of pedigree. San Francisco was built by determined misfits -- gold miners, out-of-the-closets, hippies and Internet tycoons -- who have kindled an inextinguishable spirit of optimism.
From the finest restaurants to the grungiest bars, everyone is welcome to cast off the doldrums of Old World conventions and to reinvent themselves (even if only for a day). This wide-open freedom is hard to resist and more tempting when you see the fog creep over the hills like a stalking tiger, sneak a peek at the sparkling bay from a steeply pitched street or watch a makeshift parade claim a street-side performance space. And when you tire of sight-seeing, the easygoing restaurants will impose memories of intense and refreshing flavors assembled from California's endless bounty. Here's your chance to donate your heart, like so many others, to the City by the Bay.
In the northeastern corner of San Francisco, North Beach rises headstrong from the bay to the rocky peak of Telegraph Hill. It's a lively neighborhood cut from European cloth and sewn in the free-spirit style of California. On a sunny day people crowd the sidewalks and sip cappuccinos in Italian-esque sidewalk cafes. At night the neon lights eclipse the sky and revelers emerge to dance and drink with Gold Rush-era abandon. During the 1840s gold prospectors and vagabonds unloaded at the neighborhood's feet -- around the area bounded by Pacific Ave, Sansome, Washington and Kearny Sts -- with a lust for wealth, women and wine. Labeled the Barbary Coast, the pre-landfill shore dotted with red brick buildings was the city's primary red-light district of bordellos and burlesque shows. Subduing forces eventually built a working-class neighborhood referred to as the Latin Quarter for its large number of Italian and Spanish immigrants. The focal point of the transplant community and surviving generations is a dandy twin-spired Catholic church, Sts Peter & Paul, which served as the wedding picture background for baseball star and native son Joe DiMaggio and his new bride Marilyn Monroe. (The actual wedding was held in City Hall since both were previously divorced.) Bohemian artists and poets of the 1950s -- including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg -- found the cheap rents liberating from the nine-to-five routine, and in the coffee shops and bars they created a youth revolution known as the Beat movement. Their rebel yell took the form of poetry with the backup of avant-garde jazz music. With succeeding generations, counterculture migrated to the Haight, leaving North Beach to become a gentrified ghetto with bohemian sensibilities. Today the artistic undercurrent survives thanks to poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his City Lights Bookstore, the country's first paperback bookstore and publisher of Ginsberg's controversial poem Howl.
A steep climb up Telegraph Hill leads past a cascade of bay windows and light-colored houses reflecting the honest California sun. Standing sentinel on the hill is the 210ft-tall fluted tower known as Coit Tower, named after its financier, Lillie Hitchcock Coit. As a child in San Francisco, little Lillie loved the city's fire department and was an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Engine Company No 5. Adulthood brought Lillie a little money and a rebellious streak, resulting in a posthumous endowment to the city to build a beautifying monument. Despite Lillie's fascination with fires and the unarguable resemblance of the tower to a fire hose nozzle, the history books claim that the monument was designed merely as an observation point. That it does -- you can see Mt Tamalpais to the north, the graceful Golden Gate Bridge to the west and the masculine San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge to the east, but best of all you might catch a glimpse of an impromptu cocktail party on a nearby apartment roof deck.
new orleans condensed
excerpt from New Orleans Condensed, Lonely Planet Publications (2003)
At the crook of a powerful river, New Orleans is an island, if you twist the map the right way. In her isolation she follows her own code: honor tradition and live well. Simple and seductive tenets still evident today in the effusive parades and festivals, the brass bands of young boys, the debutante parties of Uptown society. Old ways dont die out here, they are worshipped like the parade of Catholic saints or voodoo charms and potions. The populous looks backwards, not out of sentimentality, but as a reflection. The present is only an inherited image of the past.
Occupying a sinking swamp where the heat chips away at paint and paper and other evidence of human endeavors, New Orleans is unconcerned with tomorrow. The mood is about halfway through the second martini: relaxed and untroubled. The third drink toasts the citys festival season from Mardi Gras to Jazz Fest.
You'll come with great expectations: perhaps no other place looms so large in the travelers bragging baggage as New Orleans. Youll find that the French Quarter reeks with the stench of permissiveness, the antebellum white black lines are implicitly obeyed, and nothing really gets done, especially according to an East Coast watch. But without realizing it, you've slipped into the rhythm. Look, you've ordered a drink at breakfast. Now you're saying hello to perfect strangers on the street. Locals call it the 'swamp thing', an imperceptible force that erodes even the most stalwart case. You won't notice it until you return home and feel a slight tug as if you belong elsewhere, in a place where you can get your beer to go and where the heat hangs in the air like a secret; it may be two weeks or 20 years, but you'll be back, maybe for good.
If you hate good food and despise a good time, then New Orleans is still worth it for the architecture alone. In the French Quarter, chipped stuccoed buildings with their lacy ironwork balconies pose like mantilla-veiled Spanish maidens. These were built during the Spanish occupation and bear the initials of their first owners in the balconies' detailed patterns. Huddled in the residential section of the Quarter, the simple shuttered Creole townhouses are more suggestive of the Caribbean than the American South with their coral-colored facades faded by the sun. The Creole cottages are constructed flush to the sidewalk, creating an impregnable fence and daring passersby to peek through the louvered shutters. Their eaves hang over the sidewalk, sheltering people from the sun and rain. During Victorian times the austere fronts were decorated with swirling lintels and gables as if a young girl were playing dress-up with her mother's jewelry. Equally interesting for a cottage connoisseur are the brightly painted Creole cottages of
the Faubourg Marigny.
The simple Creole domiciles seem like quaint garages
compared to the totalitarian Greek revival mansions in the Garden District and
Uptown. The nouveau riche Americans were as competitive in their house building
as they were in their businesses. Lofty columns, alabaster facades and etched
glass details were all assembled to create mini-castles for a people deprived of
a monarchy. Along the wide canopied avenues, the branches of the noble live oaks
match the arabesque of the Spanish style cast-iron balconies imported
from the French Quarter.
The brash sounds of brass instruments found an eternal home in New Orleans never to be deposed as more modern trends swept the nation. The post Civil War marching bands first introduced the populace to the powerful belch of the tuba, the blue cry of the trumpet, the heartbeat of the bass drum. Once the brass found their way into the hands of the city's African Americans, the result was jazz. Two native sons are credited with rearing America's indigenous music. Cornetist Buddy Bolden steered ragtime into jazz time and Louis Armstrong made it swing. A group of white musicians, called the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, smuggled the New Orleans sound out of the city to the rest of the nation in 1917. Some mark them as thieves; others are more sympathetic, realizing that white ambassadors were a conduit for jazz's voyage from obscure folk music to American classical music.
Jazz went on to meet other musical sculptors in Memphis, Chicago, New York and Kansas City. In its hometown it stayed true to the horns, which presided over funerals, parades and cocktail parties. Even today lanky kids outsized by their instruments play the songs of long ago with modern inflections: a little rap, a little R&B and a whole lot of soul. Other musicians and musical styles flourished within a local cult of celebrity with a few national exports. Professor Longhair rolled out popular good-times songs on his piano. Fats Domino crooned his way to Top 40 fame. The Neville Brothers became the first family of New Orleans R&B for many decades. As a man revisiting the streets of his youth, Wynton Marsalis brought the music back home with his post-Miles Davis jazz. But it's not the exports that define New Orleans vibrant music scene; it is the small-town darlings who make a living out of moving people to dance and sing.