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San Francisco: Oh shit, I knew I left my heart somewhere

From Los Angeles, I flew to foggy San Francisco! To remind all, I was turning 30 but mainly stalking the sites of the 1958 Hitchcock film Vertigo. Have we all seen Vertigo? No? Mm, maybe rectify that.


Vertigo is the shit. The first time I saw it at age 19, I didn't like it. I hated the ending. I made my friend rewind it and stop it at a different part so I could pretend that was the ending (...I do this with several movies). But then I watched it again. And again. And a few more times. EVERY time, I get something different out of it. The way I see it has changed almost 180 degrees in the last 10 years. And there's still a lot about it I don't understand, but I'm psyched to figure it out.

When I was 19 and first getting into it, all I wanted to do was go to San Francisco and visit the filming sites. But that seemed pretty impossible. This year, I suddenly went "Hey. You're a grown-up. You have money. You have the ability to get on a plane. And most importantly, you have a friend with an air mattress who basically has to take you in because she was part of your Inseparable Trio in high school."

I stayed in Berkeley, where plastic bags are met with nuclear-intense glares, all the ladies have decided to go grey naturally, and there is a long long line for corn pizza. My friend Becca lives a half hour walk from the train, which I did not realize until we got off said train and she told me. Told me it was not just a half hour walk, but a half hour walk uphill. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Illinois, but it is essentially the flattest flat place that ever flatted. I am excellent -- EXCELLENT -- at walking on a level plane. But add some hills and you have Becca glancing at me in alarm appx every 10 seconds and offering to carry my bag as I wheeze and wave her away. Here we have the end of that journey:

"I AM STRONG but also out of breath please let me sit down."

That night, I found my way into San Francisco via the BART system and met up with my college roommate Becky and her fiance Patrick. They started dating when we roomed together. I have a specific memory of studying in the living room for a paper on Lady Mary Wortley while they were being new-coupley on our couch, but now everyone's calmed down and I only bring up 18th century ladies--well, all the time, but nevertheless. Dinner was swell! We went to a place called E&O Kitchen and Bar, which was like Asian fusion or something. I got ahi tuna tartare with black sesame crackers. It was excellent.

Mmm. Sesame.

THE NEXT DAY Becca and I met Becky and Patrick again, this time Italian place I have forgotten the name of. And I drank Moscato, which made Becky make a face because some people do not enjoy the reapings of Candyland in their alcoholic beverages, and then Becca and I were off again! This time to walk to Coit Tower, a place mentioned by Madeleine in Vertigo as a landmark she could see from Scottie's apartment. (psst -- I realized later that you can see Coit Tower from pretty much everywhere in San Francisco, so this is a remarkably unhelpful landmark. It's mentioned in Vertigo because it represents a penis)

This was part of the walk up to Coit. Nope.
Nope nope nope. #Illinoisan


So then we walk to Scottie's apartment, which is at the bottom of Lombard Street, which is "the crookedest street in the world." This would've been a much better landmark, Madeleine. So, let's make it clear first that the people who bought this house not only were buying a house 100 feet from one of the most popular tourist destinations in San Francisco, but they were also buying the Vertigo house. And guess what. Guess what. After the place remaining almost exactly the same since 1958, in 2012 the owners said "fuck it, get off my lawn" and it went from this:

To this:

The brick chimney was stuccoed-over along with every
other damn thing

Those people suck -- they SUCK. An interview from 2012 had them saying that it wasn't history, it was pop culture history, so whatevs. YOU DON'T DESERVE THAT HOUSE, YOU DICKS. anyway, here's the view of Coit Tower from the apartment, which they were unable to stucco over:

It's that big phallic symbol in the middle

We walked to Fisherman's Wharf, because I had vague memories of seeing seals when I last visited at age 14, and thought there might be seals there. NOPE. There were people, though. Oh, so many people. And ice cream! I ignored the people and ate the ice cream. Becca and I walked back to the BART and watched Vertigo at her apartment.

THE NEXT AND FINAL DAY BEFORE MY DEPARTURE. It was the Tuesday after Memorial Day, and Becca had to work, so I was on my own (after bothering her at her job). Did you know Becca works at an antiquarian bookstore? Did you know they have a first edition Dickens and I got to touch it?


Then I was off on my own, and I had a mission. To go to a mission. I KNOW I'M SORRY that sentence wasn't even on purpose until I'd already typed it out. But ok, so early in Vertigo, Scottie is a private detective, trailing Madeleine Elster for her husband, because he's concerned about her well-being. Because he thinks she's nutso. And one place she goes is this old Spanish mission called the Mission Dolores. AND IT IS A REAL PLACE AND YOU CAN GO THERE. I think admission is like $5. The only problem is if you go during the day, there will be a hoard of screaming children, which somewhat defeats the "centuries old holy space" purpose, but if you wait 'em out in the chapel, you can take pictures after they leave and quiet once more reigns.

Mmm 18th century.

This is the scene in the movie. Madeleine runs out a door on the left, which you can see the outline of in my pic above:


At this point, I hadn't eaten all day and I'd been walking the hell all over San Francisco, so I called my oldest brother in New York and said "I'm on Valencia and 15th Street. Find me food." And he said "Turn right," like he was Tank in The Matrix, because that's the damn awesome age in which we live, and I turned right and I ran right into Pica Pica, which makes arepas. What are arepas? STILL NOT SURE. Something to do with cornmeal. But I got the shredded beef one, and I ate it with a fork like I saw the other people doing, and it was fantastic.

Plantains, I am fond of you

Then I kept walking up Valencia, because I had to make it to Market Street, which cuts diagonally across San Francisco. What no one had told me, because I had not asked, is that Market Street is 100% populated by homeless people. I had no social skills for that situation. So I called my ex-girlfriend (you guys remember Minnesota Girl? she remains delightful) and while I was mainly calling to say "THERE ARE SO MANY HOMELESS PEOPLE," she assumed some kind of more humanitarian impulse on my part and went into a talk about how we can Give the most, and are handouts a good idea when you can support shelters instead, and I am so sorry for misrepresenting, girl. I was really just calling to say there were so many homeless people.

I was heading to Sutter Street, because there were multiple Vertigo sites there. One of which was the old Empire Hotel, which then became the York Hotel, and is now the Hotel Vertigo. A thing online said they had a bar. I went in and asked. They do not have a bar. And when you ask if they have anything else having to do with Vertigo in the hotel, they will stare at you blankly and then say no. YOU WORK AT HOTEL VERTIGO. I just looked online! You have a staircase that mimics the bell tower! False! False information! anyway, then I went across the street and took a picture of the window Judy stands in.

From there, I walked down Sutter to the Argonaut Bookshop, which sooome people say is what the Argosy Bookshop in the film is based upon. Scottie goes there to talk to the proprietor about old San Francisco history. I went there, bought a book about Spanish missions, and the proprietor's daughter told me stories about old San Francisco history. Including Emperor Norton and how crazypants/revered he was. 

Awesome orange Vertigo-themed book

Then! (we are almost done) I walked down the street, turning right onto the street where Scottie first sees Judy. I stood outside the flower shop where he stands, and it suddenly hit me that I was being g.d. Scottie, following Judy like a giant creeper throughout the streets of San Francisco, only I was following a damn fictional character. 

Not that this deterred me any, because this -- THIS is exactly where she walked in 1958.

Right in the middle right there! Like so:

Ahhh! So exciting!!

After standing there for an embarrassingly long amount of time (but not as embarrassingly long as I stood outside Hotel Vertigo, staring at Judy's window), I went to Becca's shop, her boss gave me a huge discount on an 1879 edition of Henry James's The Europeans, we went back to Berkeley and ate corn pizza while watching the fantastic film Gross Anatomy, and I was back in Chicago the next day.

SUCH A PHOTO-INTENSIVE POST. In conclusion, Vertigo is the best, everyone should watch it, the end.


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