THE (STEEP) STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco, 6 October 2012

Readers of my generation will no doubt remember the 1968 film Bullit with the Great Immortal Steve McQueen.

I don’t suppose anyone remembers the story, it was a cops and robbers story of some kind. They only remember the car chase. What a sequence that was! It started on the steeper streets of San Francisco, with the cars suddenly racing up and down the hills and bouncing across the intersections as the baddies realized that Steve was on their tail (the sequence somehow ended on the highways but that is irrelevant to our story).

I was reminded of this car chase when on the first morning of our stay in the city my wife and I walked from our hotel to our son’s apartment. We had discovered that the two were on the same street – Taylor Street to be precise – and thought naively that it would be a nice walk. Bad mistake! There were sections of the street that were astonishingly – preposterously – steep.

At some points, I felt like we were scaling Everest or Annapurna.

And later, when we took a taxi along the same street, there was a moment, as we were going down a particularly steep section, when the taxi driver had to bend down to be able see out of the windscreen!

Town planning in San Francisco is a beautiful example of 19th and 20th Centuries human arrogance. Someone just draped a grid of straight lines over a very hilly landscape and traced the resulting streets, in complete disregard of gradient. The planners of the hill towns in Italy, Greece or Spain never did that; their streets respected the land’s morphology. They lived with their land, not against it.

Be warned. We ignore the physical limitations of our Earth at our peril.

___________
pix from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullitt
http://www.flickriver.com/photos/antman67/7768689852/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveglass    /527678270/
http://www.travelandtournepal.com/climbing-mount-everest/
http://www.sangimignano.com/sghomei.htm
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jan/18/trust-climate-models

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Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

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