I must be getting old. The “Norwegian Easy Jet” has just landed in Oakland and the customs guys have gone on a work to rule. Just what I needed. Two hours later, after 2 US airline flights have landed and picked up their bags we ESTA carrying foreigners finally enter an empty arrivals hall. Thank heavens the grand kids are still awake and rushing to greet us. I’m suddenly re-engergized.
After a stopover at Mama Pizza, to feed us all, we arrive at Portero. To my amazement the kids immediately disappear into the kitchen and yell out.
“Alexa, play the poop song.” And lo and behold the house is full of a young voice singing, “I poop in the morning. I poop in the day, I poop when I want to etc etc.” Of course, I’m bewildered but smiling. We get an explanation and I’m left with the information, “she is just our latest addition to the family.” I’m bemused. What self-respecting parent would allow, without a please or a thank you, such words and music on demand. I quickly learn that this song is just a small part of Alexa’s talent. She can hoover, instruct washing machines and switch on TVs etc. She can even go so far as to send instructions to the local “Trader Joes” to fill up the cardboard boxes with the weekly order for delivery within 24 hours.
Wow, I smile in bemusement, thinking of the mess Aldi and MEO will get into when they “bring it on” here in Portugal.
So, that little white pyramid lurking on the kitchen table is responsible, along with Apple and Google, for receiving voice signals and sending them to wherever instructed. You just have to be connected to the network of course. Everyone is. This apparent forward step into the future is the “big” rush in the States. No wonder Apple have just purchased “Whole Foods.”
They have recognised the obvious, domestic wives are a thing of the past.
It only took us a couple of days to get used to sharing the house with Alexa and getting our daily dose of the “Poop song”. After all mankind is adaptable. Alexa always did as she was told. What woman doesn’t you may ask? She even responded to my “Put on the kettle or make the coffee please.” So, robot home interference is now the State of the Union. The vibes of the US of A are now all broadband based.
Alexa doesn’t actually interfere, yet, with normal outdoor life. So, we can still enjoy a simple stroll to the bus stop at the top of De Haro. On this year’s first occasion I am astounded by the size of the phallic symbol thrusting skywards in the downtown area. This monstrosity promotes a reaction-- “How did they manage to squeeze “that” in there? Downtown was crowded anyway. It is simply horrendous.” This new sky scraper pushes skywards for 20 storeys above any other building. Amazing.
The nineteen bus arrives. It is our normal means of transport when in San Fran. It entertains as it runs from the “Projects” to Downtown and onwards to the Bay. It is a good measure of “how things are hanging”. Looking back towards the “Projects” it seems that they are now the subject of a big rebuild. So, folks socialism is alive in California if not in the other States. “However, unfortunately, we have to increase the rents in keeping with the trends elsewhere.”
Conversation on the old bus is pretty isolated. I could only catch two fellow travellers openly discussing their careers, “I’ve only been taken in twice for high-jacking cars.” Elsewhere nearly every other passenger is deep into their I-phones. I have never seen such fast thumbs. One “mobile” individual goes head over heels, tripping over bags, as he reaching one handed for the exit door rail. “I’ll sue, bags should be banned on buses,” is his scream. I sit there grinning. Well, in this forever fragmenting world it’s good to hear that his belief in American justice hasn’t changed.
The Bay still looks fantastic. Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge strike again my admiration. Wonderful I’m here, great. We decide that the Bridge deserves our presence today. So off we stroll over Black Point and along Marine Drive to Chrissy Fields. The I-phones have now disappeared and have been substituted with hundreds of tourists on electric bicycles. Nobody has the strength anymore to pedal an old-type push bike. Well at least they are having fun. The yacht harbour is still crammed and the dogs are still being run by their minders on Chrissy fields. A good 70 % of these animals are wearing coats. Crikey!!!
A hundred metre climb up the last section brings us to the Bridge walkway. It’s crowded but at least there is motion. No worries.
Wrong, there are walkers going over towards Marin and others returning after reaching their goal. OH and there are bikes going in both directions as well. The Bridge Company only opens the other pathway on the bridge for bikes on a weekend. How crazy. Today, Thursday is a nightmare. The traffic noise on our left is horrendous. After 15 minutes and some 600 meters of dodging and weaving on the 2 metre wide walkway I have had enough. We came for the views, the sea lions, the peninsular and all we got was cold shoulders, back sides and bike bells. So much for my homage to one of Man’s Firsts. The 1.6 mile suspension bridge that has been around since the nineteen thirties.
On our continuing daily trips I begin slowly to realise that collective buzz and harmony of San Fran is no more.
Believe it or believe it not Sea Lions are biting the swimmers in Marine Bay. A canoeist is now paddling back and forth when the “freezers” do their daily dozen. However, their 200 odd relatives still maintain the family tradition of entertaining the masses from their sleeping pontoons at Pier 39.
Clam chowder is still the lunch time special at 15$, along the whole Embarcadero. But these diet days only 10 % of the diners actually eat all of their bread bowl. What a waste.
A trip around the bay costs 20 bucks and a visit to Alcatraz nearly double.
Why do simple things always increase in price? Do prices ever go down? Yes, but you have to be there when its “Specials Day” and then only buy the specials. With the dollar at 1.35 to the pound there is nothing “cheap”.
When on Market street we pass the “Twitter” main building. I look to see if their biggest promoter is present. Fortunately, the President is not. Also, there are no birds flying around the building waiting to do business. Instead I find the “dwellers” are being ushered elsewhere as the hazard clean up squads get their hoses out. Of course, they, shopping carts tents and all, go to other addresses, under the 101 Highway or to Mission and Fourth, i.e. into the shadows of the “SalesforcePower” 56 story monstrosity.
As we wine and dine and visit with old friends around the Bay. I am somewhat surprised to find that comments about the Master Tweeter are rare. It would appear that Californians hope that the Tweeter will simply disappear. If not, they apparently intend, when asked, to build their section of the “wall” North- South rather East-West. Interesting. Ulbricht and Kruschev would do both.
The Mission district and Castro are more subdued then I remember. They are still a curiosity and for the first timer a must but for the seasoned visitor they appear to have lost their buzz. Shops don’t open until the afternoon but stay open to 10 pm. The busiest is the Apothocarium in Castro. Here you can now legally buy all versions of “weed”. Yes, the Californian legislature has legalised the sale of Marijuana. There are queues when the shop opens.
The city billboard adverts spout, “Marijuana is here, stress has gone. Visit eaze.com.” Where to next you may well ask?
The only place that hasn’t fragmented and still lives the true essence of a cosmopolitan USA is Chinatown. This 5 square block section behind the Dragon’s Gate is alive and well. Large frogs look up at passers-bye along with every other tasty oriental morsel that are for sale. Old ladies play Mahjong around cardboard boxes. The place is alive. The current estimation is that some 20,000 folks of Oriental origin live in this maze of streets. Well there were another 10,000 on the streets when we were there.
Occasionally we entertained ourselves at the Mall in Sierramonte followed by a beach stroll along Ocean Boulevard or in Golden Gate park. However, the shoppers paradise gives an old fogey an excuse to accompany the “buyer.” Why because it houses a “Dicks Sporting” goods store which allow customers to test their skills, or lack of them, on camera. Yes, the results of every swing and with the new Epic and M3, M4 clubs can be reproduced. These recordings show how good, sorry how bad, I am.
Anyway, Alexa does not play the game yet, but she still has the talent “to play the Poop song."