Today I had to make a run down to OfficeMax to pick up a printer. Trying to minimize the mundaness of this task, I decided to make a stop over at Haight Ashbury. I'd passed the neighborhood by car before but hadn't yet had an opportunity to walk around. Accompanying me was my 5D and Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2.0 manual focus lens. The Voigtlander pancake is one of the best street photography lenses ever. 40mm is a near perfect focal length for this task- wide enough to capture some streetscapes or buildings, but with enough reach to keep faces visible. It's a really small lens but has a nice heft to it. When you hold it, you feel like you're holding something solid. The manual focus ring has a nice steady twist to it, not the slippery slide of modern autofocus lenses like the Canon 50mm f/1.4.
Here are my brief observations, which San Franciscans might find a bit of a yawn- can't help being a newbie. I like the neighborhood. In contrast to other legendary neighborhoods (e.g., Greenwich Village), the Upper Haight has maintained its bohemian character. As a coffee addict, I was particularly pleased with the large volume of coffeeshops- my neighborhood as a lot of coffeeshops, too, but not as pleasant to sit in as the ones along Haight Street. Haight Street stretches from downtown near Hayes Valley on till Golden Gate Park, but the touristy stretch is only a few blocks. It is definitely commercial in the sense that it has a lot of stores but it hasn't been overtaken by the big chains like Starbucks and The Gap (there is a Ben and Jerry's prominently parked right at the intersection of Haight Street and Ashbury Street). I had an espresso in a very delightful old European style cafe, Cafe Cole. Being close to downtown- and some of the main thru streets to downtown- Haight Street is a busy area, definitely bustling all the time. A regular number of police patrol cars seemed to drive past. There was a predictable number of tattoo parlors and head shops. Anyone looking for vintage clothing would find themselves in a small paradise. Though I found the Haight to be pleasant, I didn't sense a real cultural depth to the neighborhood. I wouldn't call it a place with a "music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air" (referencing of course, a different street...) I didn't think to pay pilgrimage to the Grateful Dead House- that will have to wait for another occasion. I'm sure 45 years ago the Haight must have been an interesting place.
From there, I carried on to OfficeMax, where they unleashed the most annoying sales clerk on me ever. What, are they trying to become the new Best Buy? In order to buy a $59 printer, I had to listen to all the better qualities of the various $200 printers, be told why I needed to buy a wire for my wireless printer, and receive multiple solicitations to purchase the Office Max warranty protection program. I took my chances.
More streetscape photos from the Haight Ashbury neighborhood: