Tourists (not unlike techies) are the people San Franciscans hate to love and love to hate. We need to embrace them because they keep the city solvent, and they make us feel so utterly adored, but they’re also—well, underfoot and in the way. Tourists are like that tired joke about women: can’t live with `em; can’t live without `em.
Tourists ruin all of our loveliest views—the crookedest street, the Victorian painted ladies, Fisherman’s Wharf. They don’t know how to dress for summer in the city. Their belching tour buses clutter already clogged, torn-up streets. And they only visit the most obvious sights—Pier 39, Beach Blanket Babylon, the Castro, Sausalito, Top of the Mark, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Chinatown, and Cliff House—all the predictable attractions.
While feverishly dashing about to see the city, visitors miss the point of much of San Francisco’s historic past. So here’s a new 49-mile drive for the more adventurous tourist:
1. Le Central, onetime seat of the city’s political power structure, where visitors can still view venerated and beloved antiques of Willie Brown, Wilkes Bashford, Rose Pak, Stanlee Gatti, Harry DeWildt, Charlotte Shultz, and other knights of the luncheon roundtable.
2. Macondray Lane, the original compelling site where Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City—the novel that put San Francisco on the map to stay, and ignited the rise to power of the mighty ruling gay class—is set.
3. Twitter Castle, at Ninth and Market Streets, former home of Ye Olde Furniture Mart, where the new royalty, made up of tweeting young people, has settled after conquering San Francisco in a bloodless coup. The palatial mansion is considered San Francisco’s answer to Downton Abbey.
4. Chez Panisse, the majestic Berkeley dining hall where the Great Restaurant Revolution of 1980 was first fought in the Bay Area and where, it is rumored, a statue will soon be erected of Alice Waters, beloved and benevolent Queen of the Foodies.
5. San Francisco City College, now threatened with extinction, rivals Oxford University in its extensive array of ESL classes and courses in dental assisting, restaurant management, and aircraft maintenance.
6. The Tenderloin, a vibrant district on Eddy and Ellis Streets where indigenous peoples ramble freely in the wild, their native habitat, dressed in exotic garb.
7. John’s Grill, where the intrepid Samuel Spade the First lay down his arms between pursuits of dangerous evildoers and dreaded Maltese falcons. Historians claim he often feasted, between bloody battles, on such medieval delicacies as lamb chops and baked potatoes.
8. Lowell High School, The Hamlin School, and University High, hallowed centers of learning for the privileged offspring of the city’s wisest and wealthiest ruling order.
9. Mel’s, one of the city’s oldest surviving drive-in grease pits of ancient days (the 1950s). Enterprising tourists can still visit Mel’s sites, on Lombard Street in the Marina and on Mission and Fourth Streets, to mingle with the colorful peasants dining there, as in olden times.
10. City Lights Bookstore, onetime spiritual home of the beatniks, a prehistoric tribe of primitive artists who once roamed the city’s rugged North Beach terrain. It is also a classical representation of a “book shop,” at one time a prevalent part of the urban landscape.
11. The Double Play Restaurant, a virtual baseball museum at 16th and Bryant Streets, and onetime hallowed ground of Seals Stadium, the historic field where the antiquated warrior, Joseph of Maggio, once fought invaders from the East, the ruthless Oakland Oaks, as well as club-wielding marauders from Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
12. Candlestick Park, a decaying ruin from the last century that is due to be torn down in August 2014. Tourists should make haste to view this celebrated relic—our very own Stonehenge—before it’s too late. It was once the site of battling gladiators known as the Niners—and also the sacred spot where legendary rock formations (identified by archeologists as The Beatles) once stood.
Gerald Nachman is a former SF Chronicle columnist and critic, and the author of Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s, Raised on Radio, and Right Here on Our Stage Tonight!: Ed Sullivan’s America.