We arrived Friday afternoon and checked in to our hotel down by the ferry terminal. We could hardly wait to toss our suitcase into the room before setting off for a walk. Bubba gets to the Bay Area a lot, but generally his trips are confined to the airport, taxis, and office buildings of clients, so he was eager to explore, too. We found excellent coffee, quirky shops (Bubba's favorite is one whose slogan is "tasty salted pig parts"), and some pretty impressive people-watching opportunities. I love the flavor of San Francisco: thin twenty-something men in their skin-tight yellow or red jeans, aging hippies in their Birkenstocks and dreadlocks and tye-dye, joggers in outfits carefully chosen to showcase their body ink.
It wasn't until we got to Fisherman's Wharf that I found disappointment. Fifteen years ago, it looked like a wharf. Planked walkways, the scent of sourdough bread as much a part of the air as the barking of sea lions, and local artisans hawking their handmade goods against the backdrop of masts and sails and Alcatraz in the distance. Today, it could be anywhere. The shops are those of Anymall, USA; Dreyer's, Hard Rock Cafe, Crazy Shirts and GNC. As we walked, the buildings rose around us on both sides so that we couldn't even see the water beyond the stores.
This is where globalization is too much for me. I want to visit a place as a tourist and find the meat of that place. I want it to stand out and be different. I want to be able to think of that place and have its trademarks spring instantly to my mind. I don't want to find Starbucks and Build-A-Bear in every town I land in. I want to know where the best local stuff is. Who are the individuals that make up this place and why do they make it special? What have they taken from their history here that speaks to the evolution of this place?
We got out of there as quickly as we could. Back to the grittier, dirtier, less homogenized part of town. We saw homeless, street performers, tasted cheese from a local artisan dairy, and found a little authenticity. I don't want to pretend I'm not a tourist, I just want to know why I ought to come back and visit this place. What can I get here that I can't get from my own space on the planet? Thanks to globalization, I can find San Francisco sourdough in my local grocery store. I could order a t-shirt for the National Champion Giants online. But to walk the sun-warmed planks of the piers and listen to the sea lions bark and watch a feather-boa clad drag queen rollerblade by on a Saturday morning - that is a trip worth taking!