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Friday Slide Show: Ascending Arguello Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 June 2018

Sometimes we hop on a bus and let it take us to some other part of the city almost at random. The 43 Masonic is a good option, stopping just a block from the bunker and winding its way through the historic gorge below Twin Peaks, though UCSF Medical Center, into Cole Valley, along Haight Street, passing quickly through the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park, skirting the Western Addition into the Presido and ending up at Fort Mason.

There isn't a bus in the city that isn't the best show in town. And when you've had your fill, just get off anywhere and start shooting. That's the ticket.

Last weekend, on a warm and sunny Sunday, we did just that, thinking we'd go all the way to Fort Mason and take in the breeze off the bay. But when we got to the Transit Center in the Presidio, we hopped off.

There was a huge picnic on the parade grounds green with lots of food vendors including a Sam's Chowder Mobile from Half Moon Bay (which saves a lot travel). Those pleasures were for another day, though.

Instead, we wandered up near the Officers Club intending to investigate the archeological digs. But the digs on the parade grounds were covered up, foiling our plans.

Where plans end adventure begins.

And our adventure, we realized much later, resembled the ancient poet's journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.

Hell started with the Birgen de Barbaneda cannon that posed for us without smiling.

Cast in Lima, Peru in 1693, the Birgen de Barbaneda bears the coat of arms of Don Melchor Puertocarrero Laso de la Vega, 27th Viceroy of Peru. In 1793, the cannon was brought to the Castillo de San Joaquin to fortify the San Francisco Bay. It remained in service until 1846, when it was "spiked" (rendered inoperable) by Fremont's men during the Bear Flag Revolt. Later that year, Captain John B. Montgomery of the U.S.S. Portsmouth successfully re-vented the cannon to restore its firing capabilities.

The nearby cannon balls were welded together, burning in the hot sun. So there was no threat of firing these monsters.

We marveled that mankind had ever thought to contain so much power in a metal casing only to heave a heavy blow at some wall. Today we have so many more sophisticated ways of visiting damage on each other.

Now the old cannons look more like works of art than weapons of war. Guardians of the Inferno, they seem more like those roarless lions perched at the gates of expensive homes.

We continued our climb up to the Officers Club to have a look at the foundations of the old chapel, another site uncovered by the archeologists. They lie between the current chapel and the Officers Club.

Like most digs, they aren't much to look at. A pile of adobe bricks. Some stone walkways. But we took a couple of shots anyway.

More interesting were the flora, particularly the aloe succulents. They had some personality, some hope of redemption. We were leaving the Inferno.

We decided to walk up Arguello Blvd. toward Arguello Gate. It's a steep climb with former officers' quarters overlooking the bay on one side and forest on the other. You have the sense of being in a wealthy neighborhood one moment and in the wilderness the next. Purgatorio, in short.

At the top of the hill just off Arguello, is Inspiration Point, the overlook where you can admire Alcatraz beyond the Palace of Fine Arts. We grabbed a spot on one of the benches and rested our Nikon D300 on the bag we'd swung onto our lap.

It wasn't Alcatraz we cast our gaze on, though. Nor the Palace of Fine Arts.

Far more amusing were the tourists parking for a moment on their way somewhere else to run over to the overlook, pose and take a few snapshots. Or just to kiss.

We took a few photos of them. Compared to the Birgen de Barbaneda, they were cavorting in Paradiso.

And then we resigned ourselves to the bus ride home, resolved that next time we'd visit Sam's Chowder Mobile for real taste of Paradise.

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