S.G. Browne

A Shelter-In-Place Hangover in North Beach

This morning I woke up in North Beach. Not because I had a blackout drunk from the night before, but because I spent the night there. Although I do admit to having a couple of glasses of red wine to go along with a dinner that consisted of salmon, cauliflower, and a fresh spring salad with tomatoes, peppers, and goat cheese.

A nice, normal evening in.

But in San Francisco, as well as in more than a dozen other California counties, a nice normal evening in has taken on a whole new meaning.

That new normal gets weirder when you go to sleep after 11pm on St. Patrick’s Day and aren’t woken up once by the drunken revelry of tech bros shouting and staggering their way back home from the North Beach bars. Instead, there’s eerie silence.

In the morning you wake up and walk outside and wander along Grant Avenue and look West along Lombard Street all the way to the crooked part that crests the opposite hill and there’s not a single car for seven blocks. There are signs for Take Out Only or One Customer At A Time and a virtually empty Green Street and you know that there won’t be a line outside of Golden Boy Pizza tonight.

You stand on an island at Green and Columbus and see a single car waiting at the stop light. When you get down to Broadway and Columbus, you walk out into the middle of Broadway at 7:30am and the normal morning commute traffic is non-existent. The restaurants along Broadway and Columbus are closed until further notice. Even the strip clubs are dark, The Condor and The Garden of Eden and Little Darlings–the most obvious casualty of social distancing when it comes to financial transactions–and you wonder why no one is talking about the hardship this economic shutdown is going to cause for the strippers.

A few places are open for business, even if they’re not open yet–such as Portofino Seafood Co. on Grant, Lush Gelato and Caffe Greco on Columbus, and Liguria Bakery on Stockton–but they only offer take out and ask that you respect social distancing.

As you head back, you stop on the Northwest corner of Broadway and Columbus, which is your favorite corner in San Francisco because it offers a view North along Columbus into the heart of North Beach, a view South down Grant into the shopping heart of Chinatown, and a view East down Broadway past all of the strip clubs–the juxtaposition of sex for sale bumped up against the family friendly tourist attractions of North Beach and Chinatown. This has always amused you.

Finally, as you head back up Columbus to start your second day of this new normal, you notice three humans taking their dogs out to play in Washington Square Park. While the humans are practicing social distancing, the dogs remind us of a simpler time when we could all run around and play together without having to worry about a pandemic. Either that or they’re all just channeling their inner honey badger because they don’t give a fuck.