Presidio National Park: A Tale of Two Cities

GG Bridge (All photos my own)

(all names are fictitious, and bear no resemblance to any actual individual, rather an amalgam of societal shittery)

The drive up from the Tenderloin to the Presidio is a wonder. Head north east up to the headlands of the bay, and watch the scenery and houses change rapidly. In just a few minutes it goes from scuzzy downtrodden apartment buildings and tents to faded brick grand Victorians, suave and debonair modern architectural dark wood and concrete monstrosities that must have cost enough to make one of the tent dwellers weep with the unfairness of it all, rocking huge doorways and children called things like Jacques, Gertrude and Lucien staring out next to 10 foot teddy bears that take up the entire sweeping bay windows, and my favorite whimsical painted wooden San Franciscan style houses built on inclines with white entrance steps and darling details almost like dolls houses made real.

Can you imagine Lucien and Gertrude playing with a miniature version of their architectural wonder, complete with tiny orange tents to put outside, just far enough away that their parents can imagine the people inside are on grand adventures instead of being bled out by the inequality of society and the unfair arbitrariness of the have and have nots. I expect they have micro needles and baggies of crack to put inside the tents, incy wincy buckets for unmentionable realities, and unrealistically neat sleeping bags and lanterns that really light up.

This is not the dolls house you are looking for…

Lucien might try and pull them closer, further towards their house, fascinated by the way the other half die instead of live, and be scolded by his nanny who tells him that this puzzle piece doesn’t belong there. This is a round hole. Those are square pegs. They are not like him. He might take out a tiny wizened crackhead and make him lurch down the street, throwing porcelain baguettes and resin brie at him as some kind of sacrificial offering to the God that made Lucien rich, and Charlie the crackhead poor. Then at night, when they have put the good children, and pater and mater to bed, the dog in the dog house, the cat out for the night, they leave Charlie sleeping in his tent.

Lucien, being a tender hearted boy, has been known to get up in the night and put Charlie in the kitchen of the house instead. Don’t worry, they will beat the kindness out of him by the time he gets to school, using $100 wrist bands and $500 baseball bats, and the steady and deep knowledge that he Lucien Wright-Smythe is owed all the riches and life on easy mode that comes to him, sneering at the boys who live life on Nightmare mode, like it is all a game he knows they cannot win.

The Presidio is unusual in that there are residential houses within the park that are occupied. It is quite far away the benefits of the city, but if you can afford a house in the Presidio, then you can afford a car and parking too. It has it’s own non metropolitan, small town vibe to it, a little like Bainbridge Island does, over near Seattle, except it is not divided by water. Might as well be, it truly is a tale of two cities. There is no shit on the street of SF. The only human excrement seen was encased in a diaper that had been discarded near the beach – more slovenly than desperation and drug abuse. No discarded needles. No ‘heads’ of any kind lurching around threatening people. The streets are clean, and the air smells of pine, wealth and money. I can’t say I would live there if I had the chance. If you are going to do that kind of lifestyle with that kind of money, you might as well do it further away from the city. I would rather live in a more urban area, but with less danger sport vibe than the T.L. Good job, really. The Presidio is beautiful, but would spit me out like a rotten peanut, fundamentally reject me. Which is a shame, as I really love palm trees.

Palm trees always make me feel reassured. I have no idea why. Their shape is somehow geometrically satisfying, their shade superior. They stand there bending and swaying in the breeze so gracefully. Perhaps it is because I like pineapples so much, that I somehow draw tenuous links of affection based on shape alone.


Walking along the water, seeing Alcatraz look closer than ever before, the bridge looming up right there, the water meeting the sand in the nicest little beach I have ever seen in a city, the civilized BBQ-ers, dog walkers, and a particularly bold heron, who stood there unflinching while dogs, people and bicycles passed her by

It is not that this is not the city, it is just that this is the city available to those that can get up to it, those that can live there, those that do not have to live down here, deeper into the concrete sprawl have to ever face outside of a safe car, or a restaurant. I wish I could say life is probably dull for the people who live up there, I suspect it is gloriously easier and safer and altogether nicer. You can’t blame them for it. I don’t even envy them, but Lord, does it all have to be quite so hard?

Passing the day amongst rocks and trees, dirt and sand, sea and sunlight made a vast difference from the usual thud of bass from cars and buildings, fireworks and gunshots, screams and sirens. I felt almost relaxed. Vaguely safe for five minutes. I day dreamed about pulling up in front of one of the houses and opening the door…then closing it again on the world. Safety should not be a luxury.

People should not be allowed to vote for systems that don’t prosecute crime unless they spend at least part of their time dodging death in the city. It is churlish to vote for compassion for those that repeatedly commit crimes, whilst not risking being a victim of the crimes committed. I am starting to see how hatred takes hold. All people want is peace and quiet, safety and a job. A home, a way to educate their children and provide a future. All people want is a chance. Except chances are locked away from the reach of most of us, as is safety.

Rare Green
Presidio looking out over to the City. From a point of relative safety to one of uncertain dangers.
Sky hearts and sails


  1. Time Traveler of Life

    What beautiful pictures! When we are young and foolish we love the city! Lots of hustle and bustle is music to our ears. When we are older we long for the “burbs” where we can have a garden and breath fresh air. It is no wonder that the whole country is on the move.

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Glad you enjoyed them. More to follow! Unfortunately those particular burbs are very expensive. One day, when I have all my issues fixed and I don’t need the city’s resources and support, I hope to live somewhat more quietly! I don’t blame people for moving who are able to do so, not at all….it’s getting far too dangerous out here.

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