North America trip day 2: buffaloes and hippies

The second day in San Francisco was super interesting. We started from a hipster cafe called ‘Phil’s’, where local hipsters hang out. I noticed that hipsters in Europe dress by far more colorfully than in the US. The coffee was really good for americano.

Next, we went to Castro, the historically gay-friendly neighborhood. There was a women’s center that helps battered women and immigrants, and the GLBT History Museum with very interesting exhibitions about how the LGBT movement fought for visibility and eventually started embracing other identities within itself, such as ethnicity, migrant status, disability, body type, etc. We went into a vintage gay store and I told its friendly owner about various issues in Lithuania. In fact, my friend and I chatted with the owner for quite a while. In most superficial interactions I told people that I was from Europe, and the shop owner was the only one to ask me to specify. I told him about the recently publicized archives of the ‘Naglis’ magazine in Lithuania, which started in 1993, when homosexuality was still criminalized. I told him about how much police was needed to protect the Baltic Pride three years ago. Funnily, he guessed that homophobia stemmed from the fact that there were ‘still many communists’. I told him that these days it mainly comes from politicized Christian fundamentalists, and he said, “then it’s like here”.

Next, we took the cable car to the Fisherman’s Wharf (built in the 19th century, the cable car still has to be turned around manually at the end of the line) and, having seen some ships, took a bus to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It was a great view of the ocean and the Alcatraz island. Tourists around us were mostly Chinese. We then reached the Golden Gate park, which is huge. When we tried to figure out how to get to its other side and tried asking a bus driver, he shouted at us for wasting his time. Having found the bus and crossed huge meadows with warnings “watch out for flying discs” (lots of people play frisbee), we made it to the bison paddy. I had never seen anything like that. The animals were shedding, and pieces of fur were hanging down their bodies. They had plenty of space to roam around. It was probably THE American experience for me so far.

Buffaloes are not the only unusual animals in Golden Gate Park. There are also wild turtles – for real!

Next, we went to a party at the Mission district. As we drove a few blocks on the bus, the driver announced: “I’m finishing service, I’ll stop at the next stop, and you can either wait here or go with me to the stop for number 38.” His shift simply finished in the middle of the route! But this gave people a reason to talk and interact. One lady complained how difficult it was to get around after she sold her car and started relying on public transport.

Having difficulty to find the right street, I went into a fast food place to ask for directions. One guy buying his meal suggested that he could take us there. It turned out that he was homeless and expecting money for it. Finally in the right place, we found ourselves in a newly established pop-up community center, where people were experimenting with various crafts and foods. There were various people: a young mom, some random hipsters, some punks and transgender people. As J. was grabbing some cold soup, a group of around 15 people suddenly came together and started a Shabbat prayer. They passed around a cup of wine and distributed three home-made loaves of chala. At the same time, there was a screening of experimental movies outside.

So I finally got to see what I expected of San Francisco 🙂

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