The blocks of Valencia Street between 14th and 24th constitute one of America’s finest strolling, shopping, eating, and people watching zones. It’s a boutiquey slightly freaky wonderland that no visitor to the city should miss. But I’ll admit to being slightly shocked when, on a post-prandial stroll last week, it dawned on me that people actual live in the midst of this scene. Sweet people, it turns out, people interested in contributing the the giddiness of their immediate surroundings and concerned about the larger environment. People with a topiary dinosaur named Trixie. Learn all about it, here.
Writer Jim Provenzano‘s latest novel, Every Time I Think of You, won a 2011 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance. It’s a coming of age/coming out story that also addresses the challenges of physical disability, without ever feeling didactic or issue-oriented. Former sportswriter Provenzano—perhaps best known for his wrestling novel, PINS—is also the editor of BARtab, the Bay Area Reporter‘s glossy monthly guide to GLBT arts and nightlife, making him an ideal addition to our rogues gallery of Insider Tipsters.
Given his recent fictional focus on a character with disabilities, Provenzano suggested that, in addition to his personal favorite spots in San Francisco, he’d like to share some useful websites for travelers with disabilities. We couldn’t be happier to facilitate that:
- The San Francisco Access Guide: A resource hub from The San Francisco Travel Association
- San Francisco On the Level: Wheelchair accessible tours of the city with no grades of more than 8%
- Ability Trip: San Francisco: SF section of a trusted global guide to accessible travel
And now, on with Provenzano’s picks…
What’s your favorite SF cultural institution?
Aside from the GLBT Historical Society, which Michelle Tea previously spotlighted in your blog, I’d have to say The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, at least the foyer— it’s architect Mario Botta’s masterpiece, and word is that it’s going to be smashed apart to make way for, I dunno, something else. Really a shame. See it while you can, the way it is now.
Treasure Island with a hot Army guy before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was abolished, on July 4, while holding hands. Sorry, that’s sharing a bit too much. Seriously, I’d recommend taking in the skyline while kayaking outside a Giants game in McCovey Cove; or from Angel Island; or from across the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands.
Provenzano’s tips continue, after the jump
It’s that time of year when the B-52s’ “Love Shack” makes its annual comeback, delighting some and annoying many at barbecues throughout the Bay Area. While I’m certainly in the latter camp , I’ve also been having a much more positive, free-associative reaction to the tune this season.
Whenever I hear croaky vocalist Fred Schneider bellow “I got me a car, and its as big as a whale” my mind flashes on a visit I paid to Año Nuevo State Park—about 90 minutes south of the city, in San Mateo County—and I want to go back.
While gray whales can occasionally be spotted off the coast of this windswept peninsula during the spring, its the extraordinary elephant seals—many even bigger than a car—that you’re virtually guaranteed to spot lounging on the beach all year round. These are gigantic mofos, with males weighing up to 2.5 tons and measuring up to 16 feet long. During breeding season, from late December through March, 2000 or so of these behemoths crash the beach, and you can only hike the grounds on a ranger-guided tour.
In the summer months, though, when the ellies return to molt in huge raggedy patches, visitors can walk amongst them unchaperoned. Just pick up a permit at the park’s entrance and after hiking a few easy miles over undulating scrub and sand, you’ll find yourself in the land of the giants. The elephant seals are remarkably unthreatened by strolling bipeds. But bipeds like myself feel humbled in their presence, marveling at their cyclical journeys to and from the northern California shore.
We also think the sound of the seals is pretty much on par with the B-52s.
In last month’s print edition of PASSPORT magazine, I chatted with a half dozen veteran GLBT flight attendants about what led them to pursue a line of work that often goes unappreciated by the traveling public. They also shared some recommendations on where to hang out in their favorite layover cities.
San Francisco’s Robb Growdon was one of the inaugural Virgin America flight attendants when the airline launched its SFO-hubbed fleet a few years back. He’d always wanted to be a crew member and, in fact, left a 25-year career in fashion retail to be part of VA’s start-up team. When his colleagues who live in other cities tap him for restaurant advice, Growdon points to a couple of personal standbys where early dinners can be followed by two of the city’s loveliest post-prandial strolls:
- The Balboa Cafe–where the deservedly renowned burger is served on a baguette and accompanied by super crisp shoestring fries–is a healthy five block walk from Marina Green, where you can stroll alongside sailboats as you take in the sunset
- Chenery Park serves up straightforward, impeccably fresh American cuisine, including a signature Andouille gumbo and a house smoked pork chop dressed with bacon and apricots. It’s around the corner from Glen Canyon, a steep-sided wildflower strewn natural wonder in the midst of the city. Keep an eye out for coyotes (Really!).
And here to read more about what makes flight attendants tick.
It was a year ago this month that I took my father to spend a couple of special days together at the Carmel Valley Ranch, just a couple hours south of San Francisco. It was a ‘just the two of us’ getaway that was a long time coming: in the more than 4 decades I’ve spun around on this planet, I’d never spent more than an hour or two of one-on-one time with Dad before. I wrote an essay about our experience that appeared in the April issue of PASSPORT magazine (I’ll add a link to this post when it becomes available online…but feel free to buy a copy at Books Inc. or another fine retailer!).
In any case, May is the start of bee season at the Ranch, one of the activities that makes a weekend getaway at this particular resort a little more special than the typical R&R experiences you can find at many spots throughout the Bay Area. John Russo—who runs Carmel Lavender, a nearby commercial flower farm—is the Ranch’s beekeeper-in-sorta-residence. He tends to over 60,000 Italian honeybees on the resort property,and harvests their wares for guests’ delectation. More importantly, guests are invited to join Russo every Saturday and Tuesday for hands-on lessons on bees and beekeeping.
You’ll get to don one of those crazy white suits like they wore in The Swarm and handle (with thick gloves) vibrating trays thick with hundreds of live bees. You’ll also learn lots of fascinating stuff about how honey can work as an allergy treatment, how bees communicate via pheromone emission, and the history of apiculture in California. Russo is a big, brainy, Brown-educated bear of a guy who will keep you thoroughly engaged for an hour or so, and then keep you thinking about his lore and lessons for days to come.