REID MCNALLY PHOTOGRAPHY

A WORD SITE …

Geary Boulevard: Beginning to End … and Back Again.

A while ago, it had become imperative that I walk Geary Boulevard and take pictures along the way, beginning to end … and back again.

For out-of-towners, 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 all 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 often break down even further.

Beneath an overcast sky, I got underway a little after 8:00 AM on the corner of Kearny & Geary, the boulevard’s point of origin, and made it to its west end on 48th Avenue just shy of the Pacific, a few hours later. Along the way, I took pictures here and there of this and that, because even though I’d been thinking of doing this walk for some time, expressly for the purpose of taking photos, it seems I never had anything particular in mind when it came to what to shoot.

After quickly polishing off a lunch I’d brought with me, 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 ruins of Sutro Baths, walking Ocean Beach to watch the fishermen and surfers, and using the bathroom at the Cliff House.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I resumed 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 strange summer drizzle turned to real off-and-on rain, and was no longer to be dismissed. Fortunately, at that precise 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. Although certainly an eye-catching structure when seen from the street, its impressive exterior still belies the baroque beauty hidden inside. And to my surprise, despite the unsettled weather I had it to myself. The only other person in the building was a lone attendant: a quiet, slight, older Russian gentleman, who seemed happy to have some company for a while.

After exiting the cathedral, I walked another half a block to Trad’r Sam’s, a well-known Polynesian bar I used to frequent, but hadn’t visited in years. The rain had once again slacked off to nothing more than a mist, yet it still seemed sensible to have a drink, and wait for the weather to possibly pass entirely. Upon entering, it was clear the place was the same … not that I’d ever imagined it could change. Before I had even taken a seat on the nearest stool, Angie the bartender engagingly introduced herself and began preparing me a mai tai, 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, who was all but concealed in the shadows at the far corner of the bar, leaning against a dark jukebox. 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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