The road towards the bridge was enveloped in thick fog…. I could see nothing in front of me but white wisps enveloping my hands and feet, then wafting away like ghosts. Suddenly a tall red ladder tower rose in front of me out of the miasma. I wondered what strange sights would pop out at me from behind the curtain of haze. A little nervous and excited I ventured further into a city where anything might happen. My adventures were about to begin.
The White Queen once told Alice that she should practice imagining six impossible things before breakfast. In San Francisco, I do not have to imagine them. Tucked into various corners of the city I can be lost in a Wonderland of machines, walls alive with color, and even a giant looking-glass that shows me an upside down world. If ever there was a town where imagination came to life it is here, where crooked streets zig zag down steep hills, giant sundials tell time, and gardens sprout on rooftops. In my explorations of San Francisco I am, like Alice, going to hunt for ways to play with logic in this Californian port.
In the Land of Toys
I find myself in a gigantic warehouse filled with the sounds of laughter and clanging of contraptions. Animated gadgets surround me on both sides as I walk through narrow paths. It is a forest of mechanical games, some of which hold out their hands for me to shake or snicker as I walk past. A group of dolls behind a glass case begins to sing while a tiny silver ball zips and zings its way down through a maze of obstacles. I approach a red masked, muscular torso which promises to arm wrestle me if I pay him a quarter. I oblige and test the strength of my endurance, unwilling to lose to an automaton. Thankfully I win and am allowed to move onwards to watch an old man repeatedly drink from his tankard of ale, tiny figures come to life at a miniature carnival, and an orchestra of monkeys playing a Herb Alpert song. The maniacal chortling from a six-foot tall, gap-toothed doll mixed with the clanging of the mechanized gizmos was producing a weird effect on me. It was time to try to get out of this hectic toy land.
Walls That Talked
I was transported to a neighborhood whose building facades and walls leaped out at me with images of mythical creatures. Their garish demeanor indicated unexplained powers which might at any moment be real. I stared, transfixed at the lively scenes before me. They were harlequin reminders that death, crime, and hardship were ever present in each life cycle. Fearsome eyes glared back at me, some in pain or sorrow or anguish, pleading for me to listen to their plight. Pages from age-old stories appeared in front of me, reminding me that I was in a land of stories: about people, about cultures, and about beliefs. It was a marvelous and yet frightening world, and walking alone among these illustrated panels made me feel the angst of the modern city.
In a Dark Room
So I headed out towards the ocean where the horizon stretched towards infinity and even the waves were taking a holiday from crashing into shore. It was here that I stumbled upon one of the most curious instruments I had ever seen. A box twice as large as me stood facing the Pacific, on its head a peculiar cylindrical chimney topped by a triangle. I was intrigued so I wandered into this container to discover how it worked. Inside, on a bowl-shaped bed was the giant photograph of blue-green waters splashing against a group of rock islands. It was an image of the view outside, cleverly repeated in color and tone inside the receptacle. I stood there admiring the image, safely hidden from the outside. While I prefer to gaze at the outdoor scenery, I could see the appeal of this apparatus. There was a definite magic in the device’s ability to project the wilderness in all its moving parts onto a blank page indoors. It sparked my creative imagination and made me yearn to go back out where I could watch the real waves curling in on the real rocky shores.
Six Impossible Things
It is easy for me to pretend that San Francisco is a Wonderland in which I, another Alice, can let my imagination wander freely. The metropolis is full of quirky places that are rabbit holes leading to a world of play and creativity. San Francisco’s capricious nature, made audacious by its weather gives rise to a sense of mysterious fun. This is a city in which I can shed my grown-up clothes and turn again to the playful fancies of childhood.
San Francisco has always embraced the eccentric side of life. With unique landmarks such as the Camera Obscura, Ingleside Sundial, and colorful murals in its Mission district, San Francisco is a haven for those looking to experience their own story in Wonderland. Guided ghost tours, neighborhood walks, and unconventional hangouts in the city make for an exciting immersion into San Francisco life.
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