Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.

~ Anais Nin ~

Feegs in San Francisco

January 20th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 50 secs

Thanks to its cable cars, San Francisco is unique.

Call them cable cars, trams, or light rail, but whatever you do, be glad they’re there. I love them. Not in a cuddly way of course. But cable cars and trams have a certain cuteness which draws people to them. Of course, they aren’t quite so cute when you get squashed by one. Cable cars, like trams, sometimes argue with cars and the results are inevitably messy.

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, trams were everywhere. Ours were ancient, even prehistoric, making each a marvelous antique. Clattarlongus Trammicus may have been unbelievably old, but they had charm. Polished timber seats, and canvas, each was presided over by a foot sure conductor with an appropriately Australian pouch (even the males).

So San Francisco’s cable cars seem like cousins forked from the same evolutionary tree of trams. Only these West Coast beasts are more fun. Standing on running boards on Melbourne trams went the way of the dinosaur long ago.

Mrs Feegs and I love these clanking critters, so we made a point of catching as many as we could. Their novelty and practical fun brings people together in a way few tourist experiences do. Perhaps because these historical gems are the genuine article. Give me the real thing over an airbrushed version any day.

That’s why I like real people. They have faults, strengths, and qualities they don’t even recognise. While “impress you people” paper over everything so much it’s hard to know who they are. In San Francisco we met plenty of both. But then people are like that most everywhere, aren’t they?

Maybe that’s why Mrs Feegs and I like cable cars so much. They are a great place for people watching. Little vignettes of life reveal, for just a moment, as you slowly rumble by. Street people, dowdy and disheveled, greeting each other with a weary wave or a half hug. Couples in cars, staring their way through the traffic, upright and motionless. Or shaking heads and faces, sneer out side windows, the result of unheard arguments. Having finished its piddling, a passing pedestrian pats her dog. Another rattling mesh door pulled up firmly by a hunched old woman reminds you that quaint Chinatown really means business. Whilst down in the financial district, a hummingbird flits amongst the foliage of a nondescript street planting. It is the first hummingbird we have ever seen.

Did the Feegs’ family discover San Francisco to be an fascinating place? Yes. It’s one of America’s treasures. Thanks to the visionaries who insisted on keeping their ridiculously ponderous old-fashioned cable cars, and trolleys, San Francisco has something truly special.


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