2014 President's Brunch

January 12, 2014

Sometimes you just get lucky. Saturdays drizzle gave way to sunshine on Sunday. The Club met at the Pacific Rod and Gun Club for coffee and doughnuts and then made our way over the river and through the woods to the Golden Gateway Parking Garage on Clay Street where we met our guide, Mr. Russell Chinn.

After introductions we boarded our shuttle bus and traveled a few short blocks to the Cable Car Museum. We had a few minutes to roam the Museum before Russell led us on a very interesting walk down Washington Street through Chinatown. Russell pointed out buildings that were built with the brick ballast from early sailing ships. He showed us the market where the locals buy their food and explained the types of vegetables that are most used in Chinese Cooking. We stopped at several historic sites including the alley where women had been sold into slavery, where the Spanish had lived, and where you could buy Fortune Cookies. He talked about his role in movie production in Chinatown and the actors and actresses he had met along the way.

We studied the Chinese characters on street signs and we learned that Grant Avenue is actually called Dupont Street. We learned that there are Chinese family associations and social clubs whose members must have the same family name. We learned that the Chinese Pagoda is always painted green, yellow and red and that their cornices turn up to deflect the bad spirits coming from the sky.

We now know that Portsmouth Square was named after the sailing ship that brought General Fremont to San Francisco in the late 1850’s and that the city developed around the square. Today the square is where the old and young come to relax, play, and perform.

We visited a Toast Temple and learned how prayers are offered to the gods and how a small wooden cylinder filled with wooden sticks shaken in just the right way can influence how the gods reward the worshiper.

Just before lunch at the Four Seasons Restaurant we visited Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral. A Sunday Mass was underway so we remained uncharacteristically quiet. This old building was once the tallest building in San Francisco. Much of it was lost during the earthquake in 1906 but those portions that survived have been incorporated into the new structure which is an almost exact reproduction of the original building. The building houses a large collection of pictures of San Francisco following the earthquake.

After a great lunch and a short acceptance speech by your president, we drifted off in small groups to shop; revisit some of Chinatown, or just to head for home. It was a great day made better by our walk through Chinatown with Mr. Chinn.

Photos by Scott Williams