REID MCNALLY PHOTOGRAPHY

A WORD SITE …

Geary Boulevard: Beginning to End … and Back Again.

In the span of about a month, what started as a silly notion swelled into a necessity: it had become an intention of vital importance that I walk Geary Boulevard and take pictures along the way, beginning to end … and back again.

For those unaware, Geary is an east-west, six-mile stretch of road that starts at the southwest edge of the Financial District in San Francisco and stops just short of Land’s End/Sutro Baths/Ocean Beach/Cliff House, landmarks which exist in a contiguous, communal cluster alongside the Pacific Ocean. Between these two points, the thoroughfare runs straight through the heart of The Tenderloin, Japantown, and the Inner and Outer Richmond, neighborhoods locals break down even further.

Beneath an overcast sky, I got underway at 8:04 AM on the corner of Kearny & Geary, the street’s point of origin, and made it to its west end on 48th Avenue just shy of the Pacific a few hours later. By the time I had reached the edge of The Tenderloin, (a distance of only a few blocks) my focused, almost martial approach to the operation had broken down into complete insouciance, because even though I had been thinking of this walk for a while, I had never put any real thought into the shooting part. So, I took pictures of this and then that, here and maybe there, and kept that up with increasing enthusiasm until I reached the beach.

After polishing off lunch which consisted of five chocolate chip cookies, I made my way to the ocean and spent the next couple hours meandering the trails at Land’s End, hopping about the Sutro Baths ruins, walking Ocean Beach to watch the surfers and fishermen, and using the bathroom at the Cliff House. It was all very pleasant.

Sometime in the early afternoon, from the beach I made my way back to Geary, to resume my walk which would return me to downtown San Francisco, six miles to the east. Even though it was early August, it had begun to drizzle.

About twenty minutes later, the strange summer drizzle grew into real rain, and without a cover for my camera, it could no longer to be dismissed. Fortunately, at that exact moment, I was standing in front of a church with one open door.

The Holy Virgin Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church, the largest outside of Russia. Although certainly eye-catching from the street, its impressive exterior still belies the beauty hidden away inside. And to my surprise, despite the weather, I had the place to myself. The only other person in the building was the lone attendant: a quiet, slight, older Russian gentleman, who seemed okay with having some company for a while.

After exiting the cathedral, I walked another half a block to Trad’r Sam’s, a locally famous Polynesian bar I used to frequent, but hadn’t visited in years. The rain had once again slacked off, yet it still seemed only sensible to have a drink or two, and wait for the weather to possibly pass entirely. Upon entering, it was clear the place was exactly the same … not that it could ever change. As I took a seat on the stool nearest to the front door, Angie, the bartender, engagingly introduced herself and began preparing me a mai tai, which I didn’t recall ordering.  After a few rounds of quick small talk, she then formally introduced me to Jerry, the 83-year-old Korean War vet seated to my immediate left, and Rick, the recovering meth addict, who was concealed in the shadows at the far corner of the bar, leaning against a dark jukebox. I found out about the meth addiction during later conversation.

Of course, beautifully photogenic as my three new friends were, I didn’t get a shot of any of them, as Jerry was instantly convinced I was CIA, and because of this conviction, he strictly prohibited the use of my camera, which at this point I had propped on the bar to the right of his brown, feathered fedora, a hat which he seemed to be using to protect his double-whiskey. So, I put the camera in my backpack to put Jerry at ease, ordered another mai tai from Angie, and then settled in for some stories from the three of them, about different times and places.

Photos taken August 4, 2017.

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