Log in

No account? Create an account
Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Put Another Quarter In The Nickelodeon
I love San Francisco, but it's citizens are fucking whiners. They complain about a lot of things. In arguably the country's most gay-friendly city, we complain that about gay rights. Even though civil unions gave us a thousand times the political power of, say, gays and lesbians in Virginia, we complain that we want full marriage... but, be honest, on the state level, it's a change in name only. Or here is another example: last month my coworker was complaining that it was *cold*. In February. And I looked down, and he was wearing sandals. In FEBRUARY. And whining that he got cold walking across the parking lot to get into the warm office.


I love Fisherman's Wharf. But most people living in San Francisco never go there. *Never*. They complain that it's too touristy. Now, if the wharf was magically transported to any other major metropolitan city in American - say Minneapolis - it would be a marvel and the centerpiece of night life. Everyone would go there once a week. But in San Francisco, there are too many things for a gay guy to do: Castro, SOMA, a hundred other neighborhoods and restaurants and attractions. The wharf is ignored, even though it is a fantastic place.


For example, on Fisherman's Wharf, I love the Musée Méchanique. It's a penny arcade filled with wonderful arcade machines. It used to be underneath the Cliff House restaurant. I had a magical night when I was waiting for an hour for a table at the restaurant. I left my ex and my mom who were talking, and decided to walk around the grounds. I turned a corner and all of a sudden I was in an unexpected hall filled with arcade games. Not to mention the nearby "camera obscura" and the ruins of the Sutro Baths. I was suddenly in heaven, and it was all by chance. It's one of my favorite memories: not just a memory of San Francisco, but one of my favorite memories in my entire life.


The Musée moved a few years ago to the current place, a big warehouse next to Alito's and Fisherman's Grotto restaurants on the wharf. All your favorites machines are here (Skee-ball, movie reels, dancing puppets) as well as some new things (a Death Race videogame, vibrating chairs, love meters and biorhythms). The place is full of magic: I feel like Tom Hank's character in Big, or maybe the boy in Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes". The Musée Méchanique centerpiece is "Laughing Sal" a huge life-size female doll that rocks back and forth with scary laughter. Yes, there are a million nightmares here, just waiting for your quarter. Please let me share some photos with you.
























I put 50 cents in her and she gave me my fortune on a card:

"You have character and determination. Your powers of concentration are good. You will prosper in life. Keep your mind on the high things."

  • 1
(Deleted comment)
You jaded San Franciscoan you. Here are ten things that make Fisherman's Wharf a great place:

1. The sea lions. Sea lions! For free! And not just in a zoo... they're just... sitting there! And barking, and doing funny stuff. If you can be jaded watching sea lions, I fear for your soul.

2. Alcatraz. It's actually a good tour, and worth the time and money. If you are kinky (like me) there is ample opportunity on the tour to lock yourself in a cell and have some - um - "personal" time.

3. A hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli Square. Seriously. I know other places have ice cream... but not like that. Bonus points for an excellent seafood dinner at McCormicks beforehand with a brilliant view.

4. The cable car! What a great way to arrive. No need to park. What other city has a cable car? It's awesome, particularly when it almost sideswipes parked cars.

5. Street vendors selling fresh crab and clam-chowder-in-a-sourdough-bowl. Food while you are walking... outlawed in many US cities. Enjoy it here.

6. The view of the Golden Gate bridge. In fact, the view of the whole bay. When I lived in Colorado, I would have *killed* to hear the waves at night. The pedestrian walk is wonderful.

7. Proximity. All the things I write about above are within five minutes of each other. You can walk to North Beach for Italian food (and the excellent "City Lights" bookstore). Or turn right and walk to Chinatown. The Marina is close by. You could say Fisherman's Wharf is the heart of San Francisco, at least physically.

8. Buskers. Again, outlawed in many US cities. Some are good, some are bad, bad some you will remember the rest of your life. And all for a voluntary contribution.

9. Cheap tourist crap. Do you own *nothing* that says San Francisco on it? You need something. A paperweight. A flimsy t-shirt. Something. Otherwise, you have no past.

10. It's not Denver.

Edited at 2009-03-23 12:01 am (UTC)

>Thats the part that San Franciscans want to
>celebrate and show to their visiting friends.

Your guests don't want to see Coit Tower and the Ferry Building. Yawn. There is better architecture elsewhere in America.

Oh! And the Maritime Museum. Walking around the submarine is really kinky and got me aroused thinking of spending weeks at see with unwashed sailors. Angle Islans is beautiful, even after the fires last year. The Aquarium of the Bay is actually a pretty good aquarium. There was an immigration museum that was interesting in Pier 39, if I recall. Is that enough stuff to merit an afternoon away from the gay ghetto of the Castro?

You do have to wonder about people who complain about being cold, yet refuse to dress appropriately as if flip flops, shorts are year 'round clothing when it gets downright cold where they live.

When I was growing up in Sacramento, and my family would make occasional trips to San Francisco, the Musee Mechanique was my absolute favourite destination. I never got tired of the old penny arcade devices, and I am so glad they were saved and re-located to their new home.

You are so right about Fisherman's Wharf. Yes, it is touristy and sometimes tacky, but some of the best things in life are just that way.

There is still some special magic to be found by having a nice meal at the wharf as the sun sets over the Golden Gate, then wandering around the waterfront as the fog rolls in, then boarding a Hyde Street cable car and hearing the clang of the bell and smelling the burning pine from the wooden brakes as the moon rises over Coit Tower.

I'll never forget those sights and sounds and sensations as log as I live and no matter how far I roam from the City by the Bay.

Thanks for conjuring up so many wonderful memories for me.

silly boy. We whine because we can. We whine about silly things because we're spoiled. We can't very well whine about endless snow, or sweltering heat, or plagues of locusts or some local version of Fred Phelps. We whine about the Wharf because we have to be snobby about something, and so we can make our tourist friends feel inferior and unknowledgeable during their visits. Next, you're probably going to say we need to walk up Lombard to the Coit Tower just because it looks like a giant penis. Meh.

i've noticed that. They wine like spoiled rotten brats.


NYers on the other hand are closeted tourists. We live for freinds to come in from out of town to play tourguide so they get to see what they want to see. We just make sure they get there as smoothly and effeciently as possible. We were also smart enough to make some of our biggest tourist attractions also functional. Just because something "touristy" just happens to be where we need to shop/on the way to work is a pure accident :)

There is some nifty early 20th C. advertising art there...

Laffing Sal is one of my favorite things! I can't afford to buy a vintage one, so I'm making my own!

Here are pics of her inner workings, and her pedigree: http://www.laffinthedark.com/articles/sal/sal1.htm

What *is* Virginia Woolf avoiding?

Oh, I used to have Pong. good times.

Great photos!

I wanted to see what every married woman must avoid, but I ran out of quarters.

Don't listen to the haters. They're all over LA too. "Don't go to the Santa Monica Pier - it's touristy! Don't go to Hollywood & Highland or CityWalk - they're touristy!" Well, duh!

If you can't enjoy an uncomplicated good time eating junk food, people-watching and looking at all the gaudy, cheap crap, what are you doing living in America to begin with? Move to Sweden and spend the winters reading Kierkegaard and contemplating mortality or whatever.

Tourist attractions in SF or elsewhere, have their attractions. The Musee Mechanique would be an attraction anywhere- the Wharf location is a temporary home.

It's one of the last places on the West Coast where you can get a sense of what the early days of sail must have been like. The Wharf is not all fake.

As for Ghirardelli Square, it was the first mixed-use redevelopment project in the US. It's gotten very tired in the past decade, but from the perspective of urban redevelopment, it's where it all began.

Nice pics. And thank you for the reminder of something else I should do while I'm not working and have some time. True, Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 are loaded with tourist traps, but there's still plenty to see and do around there.

That looks amazing!!! My first trip to New Orleans had a stop in Hannibal, where Mark Twain lived, and my friend and I spent time in a Diorama of Tom Sawyer! The next trip to NO included a History of New Orleans...again in dioramas - nothing like cheesy kitschy museums to make the trip! This just means I have one more reason to travel out there.

Generally when I'm in SF, my focus is biker stuff, perving out, or both.

That said - my "do not miss" attraction in SF is the Exploratorium in the Palace of Fine Arts.

I haven't been to the museum since they moved. I see they expanded quite alot, which is great. I could see myself as their electro-mechanical repair/restore person there, but I never asked.

Would you like to take me there when I get to San Fransisco, because that's something that I know I'd find REALLY interesting! :-)


If you liked Musee Mechanique, you'll love Playland-Not-At-The-Beach:


It's run by a couple of square dancing friends of mine, and it's a museum dedicated to San Francisco's Playland amusement park, as well as attractions such as a hand-carved miniature circus.

More the worth the drive to El Cerrito.

Oh wow! I want to go there! So many incredible relics! I wish I could have gone.

(Deleted comment)
Good post.
I think some of the post proved yer point.

Nice to see you're discovering the magic of our fair city. We sometimes need to see things with a fresh eye.

What a wonderful set of pictures!

It IS like BIG!

Have you ever been to the Glen Echo Park outside DC?

It's a Victorian Amusement Park that's been preserved, booths and all, with a dance hall that hosts live Zydeco and Swing bands!

It's COOL to walk through the spooky park to the warmly lit central building, and I want to really thank you for posting your great pics that reminded me of that!

  • 1