Geary Boulevard: Beginning to End, and Back Again.

A while ago I got it in my head that I should walk Geary Boulevard and take pictures along the way, beginning to end … and back again.

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

Beneath an overcast sky, I got underway a little after 8:00 a.m. at Kearny & Geary, the street’s starting point, and made it to its west end on 48th Avenue a few hours later.  I then spent a couple more hours meandering the trails at Land’s End, hopping about the ruins of Sutro Baths, walking Ocean Beach to watch the fishermen and surfers, and using the bathroom at the Cliff House.

In the early afternoon, I reinitiated my walk on Geary, to head back 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 unseasonal summer drizzle turned to off-and-on rain and was no longer dismissible. Fortunately, at that moment I was standing in front of a church with open doors.

The Holy Virgin Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church, the largest of its kind outside of Russia. Over the last two decades, I’ve probably passed it fifty times, by car and on foot, and yet I’d never taken the time to go inside. Although certainly a structure that catches one’s eye on the street, its impressive exterior still belies the baroque beauty inside. And to my surprise, despite the unsettled weather, I had it all to myself. The only other person present was a lone attendant: a quiet, slight, older Russian gentleman, who was clearly happy to have a little company for a while.

After exiting the cathedral, I made it to Trad’r Sam’s, a well-known Polynesian bar I used to spend time in years ago, a half a block away. The rain had once again slacked off to a misty drizzle, yet it still seemed only prudent to have a drink, and wait for the weather to possibly pass entirely. Upon entering, I noticed the place was the same — not that I’d ever thought it would change. Before I had taken a seat on the nearest stool, Angie the bartender engagingly introduced herself and began preparing a mai tai for me, which I didn’t recall ordering. 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, positioned in the shadows next to a dark juke box at the opposite end of the bar. I found out about the meth addiction later during conversation.

Of course, as 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 settled in for some stories from the three of them, each about different times and places.

Photos taken August 4, 2017


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