One man and his dog

January 5, 2010

I went into San Francisco today with my mum and my sister. I took my camera but only took two photos because, well, it’s a little bit faulty. Not SF. My camera. Both pictures were off  a man and his dog.

This pic was taken just after the man and his dog had been moved on by the police in Union Square, San Francisco’s swanky shopping area full of upmarket department stores and just a dog’s stick’s throw away from the Tenderloin area; a part of SF that is just as it sounds. If you’re not sure what that means, join the club. I’m writing things I don’t understand myself. I once wandered into the Tenderloin during daylight hours. I saw desperate people. I saw a man push another man into a bin. Not shove him towards it, but actually stuff him headfirst into a big metal dustbin.

The policeman was kind, the man and his dog no trouble. The policeman took his time and during the conversation held his hand out for the dog to sniff. Once dog and cop were happy, patting took place.

I wanted to get a photo of that, but I was too slow. I think I was too slow on purpose. I’m uneasy taking photos of strangers. I feel unqualified to do it. So, I fumbled, and only got on with snapping once they were walking away. I feel, with a photo like this, that I am not violating the soul of the man or his dog. I may be wrong.

Here’s a touristy pic from a couple of years ago.

“Hmm, I wonder where the American Institute of Nose Disease is?” How many of you have pondered that in a spare moment? I know I have. Well, I found the answer on my recent trip to America. It’s in San Francisco, in Chinatown. And it’s open.

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Hopper’s Hands.

December 27, 2008

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So yesterday we stood beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It looks in pretty good shape considering only the other night me, my niece and nephew saw it ripped from it’s moorings and carried across the bay to Alcatraz by Magneto in X-Men 3. What? It’s just a film? It wasn’t true? Next you’ll be telling me that our Christmas day treat, Elf, was all made up.

As you walk by Fort Point, along the thick chain fence that stops you falling into the sea…

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… but failed to stop Kim Novak in Vertigo

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…it’s a good job Jimmy Stewart was on hand to jump in… as you pass this Point, you eventually reach a chicken-wire fence. Here, you can go no further. And on the fence is a plaque, showing Hopper’s Hands. Who is Hopper? And why does every jogger who reaches this point touch the hands before turning and heading back?

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The best way to find out? Ask a jogger. The place is full of joggers, running up to the plaque, touching it, then stopping to catch their breath, have a drink, do a few stretches. And most of these joggers are very attractive women in fancy pastel outfits and sun visors who somehow or other seem to run in slow motion. Either they’re the only ones I notice (likely) or they are running in slow motion because they are damned lazy (unlikely).

So, let’s ask a jogger. We approach one who is midst touching her toes. We being me and my niece. When talking to strange women (as in women you don’t know, or, come to think of it, women who are intriguingly strange) always be accompanied by a child. This way they’ll talk to you, rather than think “who’s this weirdo with the funny accent?” The downside? Once they’ve talked to you, they jog off.

So… she stands up, takes out her earphones and we ask her why she touched Hopper’s Hands. Hopper once talked a potential suicide down from the Bridge. And now joggers touch his hands. It’s a tradition, a superstition. And dogs touch the paws below (as in the photo). Thank you. A smile and she’s off.

There’s more to this story. Ken Hopper works on the Bridge. He has stopped over 30 people from jumping to their deaths. And, sadly, on a couple of occasions, he has seen people fall. You can find out more on this wonderful page.

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p.s. There wasn’t a plan to make my photo of the Golden Gate Bridge mirror the still from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. If there was I would have been more exact. I’ve only just noticed, a few hours down the line, how similar they are. Doh!

p.p.s. Nor was there a plan to make this look like The Birds.