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Entertaining Crazy Uncle Charlie
Jess Horrible

Inn 1890
photo: Jess Horrible
Your uncle Charlie lives in a trailer in New Mexico with his girlfriend, who is beautiful, intelligent, and a hell of a masseuse. Charlie has forgotten more about music, art, philosophy, and being cool than you will ever know. When he comes to see you in San Francisco, he doesn’t want to go to a snooty restaurant, and he sure isn’t down for a dance club. No, he wants to see the real city, through the eyes of a local… after all, he spent a few years here in the ‘60s. How are you going to entertain someone who’s seen it all before? Easy: take him on this guided tour of the coolest spots in SF. As long as you show up on time and recently showered, he’s guaranteed to be impressed.

First of all, book the man a room at the Inn 1890, just off Haight Street. This Victorian bed-and-breakfast was built in the same year as its address (1890, see) and offers a little bit of old-fashioned solace. It is also within walking distance of numerous head shops, and features an all-night kitchen. Charlie can kick back by the fireplace (in his room for $119+, or in the house library if he’s got a tight budget). Plus, they’ll feed him breakfast in the morning, which gives you time for that shower I mentioned earlier.

Pick Charlie up at 10ish and walk with him through the Haight. He’s been here before, sure, and he couldn’t visit SF without stopping by. But it’s been a while. He’ll bemoan the loss of his favorite establishments and grumble about the traffic. When you get tired of listening to his griping, stop in at Rockin Java for a fresh cup of joe, and then gently direct Charlie toward Amoeba Records.

Amoeba Records
photo: Jess Horrible
Amoeba, a real Bay Area icon, holds every piece of music your uncle Charlie thought was lost to the ages. He can peruse the vinyl section for hours, pulling out lost gems and entertaining you with air guitar riffs. He’ll most likely have pulled a wakeand- bake, so he ought to be particularly excited about vintage Dead or Zeppelin vinyl. When he offers to buy you a record, say yes! Then respond by purchasing something rockin’ for him. Amoeba, after all, isn’t just a vintage store; they’ve got a huge selection of all styles of music. Charlie will be flattered that you’re sharing what inspires you…as long as it isn’t emocore or top-40. Not sure what to pick? Ask one of the store clerks; rest assured, they know exactly what you need.

Once you’re finished reliving the golden years, head up to The Alembic for a sit-down lunch. Make sure you pick up the tab! The prices are a little much, but the food is fanf’intastic and the bourbon selection ain’t bad either. Who cares if it’s only noon? Offer Uncle Charlie a drink, and see if you can’t get him to tell you a San Francisco story that he never told his sister (your mother). Once the two of you have gorged yourselves on rich French cuisine—and knocked back a few—you might suddenly find that you’re getting along better. Amazing!

This is the moment for action: once Charlie’s cheeks turn rosy, waste no time shuttling him into a cab. Where to? Why, the Legion of Honor, of course. This museum is small enough that you can pace through the entire
thing in a couple of hours, but generally has enough variation in the exhibits that Charlie’s bound to find something he likes. In fact, he’s likely to have some insight into the ancient Egyptian collection, and he’ll be fascinated by the 300-year-old decorative furnishings. Did you know he apprenticed to become a craftsman? No you did not. Does Charlie know which 1958 movie featured the Legion of Honor? Yes, that’s right: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Bonus points for both of you.

Land’s End Trail
photo: Jess Horrible
As the sun approaches the horizon (and as long as it isn’t raining), suggest a hike out to Land’s End. Charlie’s a desert dweller, and it’s been a while since he’s seen the Pacific. So walk out behind the Legion of Honor and look for the Land’s End trailhead. It’s only about half a mile to the coastal trail; from there you can explore any of the hundreds of paths, or continue on the main trail past several breathtaking viewpoints. Once you’ve reached a suitably isolated vista, Charlie will smoke a jay while contemplating the scene; you can sit back, fold your arms, and watch the fog roll through the Golden Gate—or, if it’s a sullen gray day, curse the wind and watch the choppy waves tussle in the Bay.

Phew! It’s getting cold, and that was a lot of activity for two young bucks. The coastal trail extends for miles in either direction, but there’s only so much walking Charlie’s going to want to do in one day. No, it’s time to get yourselves back to civilization and have a good leisurely meal. So call a cab, and hike back out to the Legion of Honor to meet it. Ask the cabbie to drop you at A La Turca at Geary & Larkin. This family-run Turkish restaurant serves up authentic food, along with real Turkish coffee and tasty Efes beer. Don’t expect quick service; this may be America, but that doesn’t mean you have to pack away an entire meal in one hour. Instead, make yourself comfortable! Take advantage of your hosts’ hospitality, shoot the shit with Charlie, order a round of Efes and some baba ghanouj. Ask Charlie if he’s ever lived in Turkey. He has? Why are you not surprised?

By now, Uncle Charlie should be showing signs of wear and tear. And rightfully so: he’s traversed the city, walked a few miles, taken more than a few hits of SF dank. But he still might be up for a little more. And if he is, you’re in luck: the perfect destination lies just a block and a half away.

Great American Music Hall
photo: Jess Horrible
The Great American Music Hall, one of the most beautiful and historic venues in San Francisco, is just over on O’Farrell. Convenient, no? The two of you can meander through the Tenderloin and check out who’s playing (though if you’re a thoughtful tour guide, you’ll have bought tickets just in case—and you’ll also have brought a knife to ensure safe Tenderloin travel). Acts at GAMH are generally beneath rock-star status, but with a high level of musical integrity. In short, the show’s likely to be very good. And GAMH’s interior décor eases the strain of any less-thanawesome moments: the hall was built in an opulently artistic style, with frescoes, gilt, and looming columns. Grab a seat in the upper balcony if you can, and soak up the stage lights where acoustics are best.

Ah, but all tours must come to an end, and by now you’re probably sick of all this acting cool. Charlie, for his part, must be exhausted. But you’ve made it through the day, and actually enjoyed yourselves a little, and avoided most of the tourist traps. No matter what he thinks of that collared shirt or your tendency to make dorky jokes, Uncle Charlie is bound to appreciate the obvious love you have for your city, and all the time you put into showing him around. Someday, you might even find he’s left you something in his will. But right now, he’s going to take a cab back to the Inn 1890, put his feet up by the fire, and settle back with a tired smile…only to pass out with The Complete Works of Plato still open in his lap.

You’re a hell of a tour guide, kid.

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