Saturday, May 24, 2008
I took the ferryboat from San Francisco to Vallejo on my birthday just to do something new.
The 12:40 boat was nearly empty and this gold-toothed young man looked at our unattended belongings on the back deck and said, "Man, you've got to keep this close to you. This is Vallejo. Somebody will steal it. Man, I would steal it."
Vallejo is a northeast bay city whose economy and lifeblood was the U.S. Navy, which pulled out in 1996, leaving what looks like a score of toxic waste dumps and rotting infrastructure along the shoreline and Mare Island across the waterway.
To add to the small city's woes, a long-simmering civil war between its greedy public safety unions (fire, police) and its mismanaged city government has come to an insane boil, and the day after we visited, the city declared bankruptcy, which as my Long Island municipal government friend Jay puts it, "is NOT good."
We walked through the waterfront downtown where every large building seemed to be "For Lease," and where there was virtually no traffic, either vehicular or pedestrian. It felt a bit like that scene in "On The Beach" where all the people are gone from the streets of San Francisco.
In luck, we stumbled across the Georgia Street Grill...
...and had a delicious lunch on the sidewalk where we were regaled with stories from our hostess...
...who had opened the place three years earlier with her Guamanian chef husband.
The restaurant is in an old Victorian two blocks from the ferry terminal on Georgia Street, and just serves breakfast and lunch. The place was also almost full, which was amazing, since we didn't see another creature stirring anywhere else.
The hour-long boat ride is a hefty $23 round-trip, but it's a fascinating ride and quite beautiful. And may poor Vallejo bloom again someday soon.