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San Francisco

  • That was old San Francisco, the gay, young, wind-swept, fog- shrouded city scattered about on seven times seven sand hills; a city ringed with dunes and with steep cobbled streets going down to wooden piers, and masts and hulls, and the blue waters of the bay.

  • ... on the eighteenth of April, 1906 ... at twenty minutes past five, with the sun just up, and the birds singing, down came the chimneys, down crashed china obscurely in dark kitchens, out went lights, and the world had gone mad.

  • Rebuilt in enthusiasm and courage and love, again her great buildings shadow decorous downtown streets; again flowers bank Lotta's Fountain, and green lace balconies, blooming dimly with gilded fretwork and great paper lanterns, hang above the crowded, narrow, odorous, enchanted streets of Chinatown. Again soft summer fogs wreath the French bakeries, the blanchisseries de fin, the steep cobbled streets where grass spurts between the stones, and the long line of the piers.

  • ... San Francisco ... manages, mysteriously, through all the years, to preserve the romantic, the dramatic attitude of her younger days. She is still as surprising, as fascinating, as original as ever she was in the first days of all, when a hundred ships, deserted by gold-mad sailors, rotted in her harbor, and bells rang in the old Mission of Our Lady of Sorrows out on Dolores Street.

  • ... San Francisco always is and always will be the youngest at heart of all the cities in the world ...

  • Nearly everybody in San Francisco writes poetry. Few San Franciscans would admit this, but most of them would rather like to have their productions accidentally discovered.

  • ... whatever San Francisco is or is not, it is never dull. Life there is in a perpetual ferment. It is as though the city kettle had been set on the stove to boil half a century ago and had never been taken off. The steam is pouring out of the nose. The cover is dancing up and down. The very kettle is rocking and jumping. But by some miracle the destructive explosion never happens.

  • Perhaps after all the most breathtaking quality about San Francisco is these unexpected glimpses that you are always getting of beautiful hill-heights and beautiful valley-depths. ... City lights, like nests of diamonds, glitter and glisten in the depths of those valleys.

  • As I turned down Ross Alley, everything around me immediately becomes muted in tone. It is no longer the glaring afternoon sun and noisy Chinatown sidewalks filled with people doing their Saturday grocery shopping. The alley sounds are softer, quickly absorbed, and the light is hazy, almost greenish in cast. On the right-hand side of the street is the same old barbershop, run by Al Fook, who I notice still uses electric clippers to shear his customers' sideburns. Across the street are the same trade and family associations, including a place that will send ancestor memorials back to China for a fee. And farther down the street is the shopfront of a fortune-teller. A hand-written sign taped to the window claims to have 'the best lucky numbers, the best fortune advice,' but the sign taped to the door says: 'Out of Business.'

  • ... if there is one place in the United States where private styles make up for public images, it is San Francisco, where all lapsed lovers of America, even loyalists like me experiencing spasms of disillusionment, should be taken for refresher courses. The tides of all-American conformity beat vainly against the San Franciscan rock.

  • I did not love them overmuch / Till I had turned away, / But now they glimmer thro' my dreams, / They haunt the summer day — / The low brown hills, the bare brown hills / Of San Francisco Bay.

    • Ella Higginson,
    • "The Low Brown Hills," When the Birds Go North Again ()