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Friday Slide Show: The Filbert Steps Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

23 February 2018

One has one's secrets. Oh, not the embarrassing kind. The kind that provide a competitive advantage. Trade secrets, if you will.

As a kid in an all-boys high school, we were obliged to take very little time to make a good impression on our date. Taking a cue from the devil himself, we endeavored to show them a view of the city they would never forget.

We would pilot the old Plymouth Sport Suburban up Laidley St. and park in front of what looked like a deserted lot running uphill. The street was dark but there was one fixture that provided some sense of legitimacy to the scene. A street sign that said simply, "Harry."

We'd open the passenger door and help our date out to the sidewalk where, once our eyes had adjusted, we could see a set of wooden steps.

Life that once consumed so many little steps shoots by on skates.

If she were game (and she always was), we would climb them hand-in-hand for safety and at the top turn around to see the jewel of San Francisco in the distance, bright and shiny -- and unforgettable.

So you can see we have a certain fondness for the staircase streets of San Francisco. There are quite a few (one reputable source insists there are over 600). With homes and gardens alongside them, too. But no garages.

You could imagine yourself tucked away in one of those little cottages with all the comforts you most prize and being left alone to enjoy them come rain, shine, fog or quake.

Alas one grows up and takes Uber or Lyft to places Uber and Lyft can get to and forgets all about romance and beauty and comforts. Before you know it you are talking about mysterious ailments, the doctors that diagnose them and the treatments they recommend.

Life that once consumed so many little steps shoots by on skates.

We couldn't go back to any photographs of Harry St. But in 2002, we did take a Nikon 990 digicam up the Filbert steps. We still remember the occasion because a crew was filming The Hulk in the neighborhood and we saw them setting up a crash scene.

The Hulk. No accident they used a Volvo.

And the walk up the concrete steps onto the wooden sections of the steps is itself unforgettable too. Whether you go alone or with someone you care about, you won't turn into salt when you turn around to admire the views of the bay behind you.

In fact, contrary to advice given to steady people ascending heights ("don't look down"), we'd recommend you not look up. There are a lot of steps.

But enjoy the gardens and the cottages on either side and look back at the bay. And as you reach the top and see Coit Tower aspiring even higher, pretend you live just off the steps, happily every after.

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