Saturday, August 20, 2011
Riding a streetcar named desire in San Francisco (or intending to)
Everyone knows about San Francisco's cable cars, which, of course, only the tourists ride. But most people outside the Bay Area, when asked under cross examination, would not know about the city's vintage trolley cars.
Nearly 16 years ago, San Francisco began regularly running historic streetcars from various cities around the world along Market Street toward Castro and later, along the Embarcadero waterfront. We have streetcars from the early-mid 20th century hailing from Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, Boston, Milan, and Australia. And yes, the locals ride them.
As with most things from the mid 20th century today, these streetcars are both anachronistic and essential. They operate at a much slower speed than most people today would prefer, but they move you from point A to B with charm and style. Though I hate getting stuck behind one of these streetcars due to their narcoleptic pace, I love to see them swanning down the street.
And wouldn't you know it, we have one of New Orleans' streetcars named Desire. It was built in 1923 and ran for decades in New Orleans until the city no longer needed it and cast it aside (kind of like Blanche DuBois, the heroine of that great Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire.) Today the streetcar runs from the Ferry Building to Fisherman's Wharf.
Unfortunately, I've yet to ride this particular streetcar, either during my visits years ago to 'Nawlins' or here in San Francisco. But wouldn't it be fun to rent the streetcar named Desire for a Mardi Gras party? Fill it up with your friends and ride up and down the Embarcadero drinking hurricanes and eating king cake? This being San Francisco, you could even have a drag contest, The Battle of the Blanches.