TIO CA.: Sausalito & San Francisco
In a world where so many politicians are thought to prostitute themselves for power and money, the question on the table is this: Would she be a viable candidate for public office today?
Born Mabel Busby in Baker, Oregon in 1903, the woman who became Sally Stanford (also Marcia Owen and Marcia Wells) enjoyed a storied (and very prosperous) career as a bootlegger, madam, restaurant owner, philanthropist – and mayor of Sausalito.
We learned about Stanford and her exploits from Teri Goldstein, a colorful local, historian, and writer, who offers private walking tours of her home town dense as Christmas cake with history and insider factoids about that little resort town across the San Francisco Bay.
The signs are blowing by in the wind, Ferraris, Telsas, etc, along with high-priced moms pushing spendy strollers. The Googlization of Sausalito is just around the corner because the tech heavy opened an office there. But as the saying goes, the more things change the less they change. Sausalito has always been about following the money – and revenge and vendettas, according to Goldstein, adding that in the early 1900s, the town boasted 25 saloons and 18 billiard parlors, earning the town the handle, “Monte Carlo of the West.” (With its 25 brothels, San Francisco became known as the “Paris of the West.” (Some upper crust denizens insist Sausalito never ever had brothels. Goldstein’s counter: they exist under the radar yet today.)
Sausalito was at one point home to Janis Joplin, whose white house at 501 Bridgeway still stands. (It is now a rental). Baby Face Nelson was also a former resident. William Randolph Heart tried to build San Simeon in Sausalito, but was rebuffed. The famous American pop and folk group of the 1960s, The Kingston Trio once owned the Trident Club, the former site of the San Francisco Yacht Club, and brought major music talent to town. Robin Williams lived in nearby Tiburon, but was considered a local: Sausalito was his regular hang.
On another day, we took a tour of the Golden Gate Bridge (and Park) offered by City Guides, a nonprofit which, since 1978, has offered free walking tours of the San Francisco area, including North Beach, Ferry Building, Pacific Heights, Japanese Tea Garden, Presidio, Fisherman’s Wharf, Haight Ashbury, Victorian San Francisco, etc.
The free tours (donations gratefully accepted) are led by volunteers, who love the city, its history, lore, and legends. Our guide, Chris Giordano, a former teacher (like Goldstein, highly recommended) was deeply knowledgeable, warm, and enthusiastic, sharing the story of The Bridge largely through the larger-than-life personalities who drove its construction: The Dreamer, Joseph Strauss, a small man with an outsized ego; The Banker, Amadeo Gianninni, who funded the project (and also founded the Bank of America and had a major presence in Sausilito); and The Engineer, Charles Alton Ellis, a professor, structural engineer, and mathematician who, because of a dispute with Strauss, was not recognized for his work when the bridge first opened in 1937.
If you are hungry after the 1 1/2-hour City Guide morning tour, a beautiful coastal drive to Point Reyes, west/northwest of San Francisco, for lunch might be an idea. We binged on local (Tomales Bay) mussels, plus grits (a creamy polenta topped with local Toma cheese and scallions) and greens (a local chard), washed down with a local white wine.
And while in Point Reyes Station, stop by Cowgirl Creamery and check out the yummy (and nationally famous) local, artisanal cheeses, including our new fav, Mt. Tam. (Story here.)
Established in 1977 as a community-based, inner-city mural arts organization, every weekend, Precita Eyes Mural Arts & Visitors Center offers several different guided walks, featuring different sections of the district. All tours are conducted by muralists.
Our guide Jorge walked us through the Mission District, highlighting the murals of 24th Street, (Main Street in the District); Cesar Chavez Elementary School; and Balmy Alley, where it all began back in the 1970s. We got to see the beautiful Elephant mural of the Hindu deity Ganesha, remover of obstacles, the deva of intellect and wisdom. That mural is an example of a commission, this one painted by Xavi Panneton, one of a number of outstanding muralists we learned by name on the tour, which also included painting techniques and local history. The trompe l’oeil “Carnival” on 24th is another spectacular (and enduring) work. Turns out most murals are spontaneous creative projects, approved by the community, but here today, painted over tomorrow.
If you find yourself in and around San Francisco/Sausalito, also check out Heath Ceramics, founded in 1948 by Edith and Brian Heath, then bought in 2003 by Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey, a couple who saw the potential for integrating design with making and selling.
Heath Ceramics offers tours of its original 1959 factory building, where the clay is made that gets transformed in world-famous tabletop wares.
Working tour is every Friday; weekend tours Saturday and Sunday when the factory is quiet.
Recommended eats in Sausalito: Sushi Ran, some of the best sushi in the country (per locals and we concur); Le Garage (bistro French, sceney and tasty); Poggio (Italian trattoria in the classic Casa Moderna Hotel); Copita, (upmarket Mexican); Fish, (very fresh seafood, served near the water (and local houseboat scene), local hang, cash only).
Recommended hike: Morning Sun Trail. (Info here.)
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