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Barry Pollack's "Going Places"

The Argent Hotel, San Francisco


I made a trip to San Francisco recently to visit my twenty year-old son. He made the trip to visit a place that Wolfgang Grajonza built. Wolfgang Who? Well, I'll leave that to later.
I love San Francisco. Its people are exotic. The chic trek Market Street alongside the hippies. Even its beggars have charm.
"Spare change," one pleaded. "I need to buy a new hat."
"A little help here, please, for the ugliest man in the world," another pitched.
"Can you spare thirty-five cents?" one requested, having calculated the perfect amount to beg for, more than just a quarter, less than a buck.
San Francisco's setting is dramatic - rolling hills topped with skyscrapers, sprinkled with colorful Victorian homes, on a beautiful bay with the Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge pointing the way to Oakland, the Peoples Republic of Berkeley, and Napa wine country. You can crisscross the city aboard exotic transportation - on cable cars, yellow electric trolleys, or underground on BART.
After you take in San Francisco's standard tourist attractions - Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, check out SOMA, the "South of Market Street Area." It's the hub of the new San Francisco.
Until the mid-1990's, the area south of Market (SOMA) was a San Francisco slum. Since then, starting with the construction of the Museum of Modern Art, it has become the center of San Francisco's renaissance, home now to the Moscone Convention Center and the Giants new Pacific Bell Ballpark. It has also become the premier location for San Francisco's grandest new hotels with the Four Seasons, the Marriott, the W, and The Argent clustered together.
I stayed at The Argent Hotel (877-222-6699), a wonderful 40-story building on Third Street just off Market. Easily accessed from major freeways, The Argent is perfectly located amid the city's business, arts and culture, shopping, entertainment, and children's centers. Moscone Convention Center and the Museum of Modern Art are across the street. It is just a few short blocks from the Powell Street Cable Car and from Union Square and Post Street upscale shopping areas.
Adjacent to The Argent are several children's destinations. There's the Sony Metreon Complex with an IMAX movie, a Discovery Channel store, and a Playstation area. And, there's Yerba Buena Gardens. There you can relax or jog in a park-like setting, or take your children to visit the Zeum, a kid's learning center. There's also a carousel there and an indoor ice skating rink.
If you're a baseball aficionado, you can walk about six blocks toward the Bay to Giants' stadium. The hotel offers a morning guided run. If you take it, ask your guide to show you the walkway along the marina where you can catch a view of the infield through the gates. Or, you can buy the hotel's Baseball Bargain Package that includes a deluxe room and two tickets to the game.
There are 667 guest rooms and 26 suites in The Argent. Rates start at about $200 with about $50 more to upgrade to their concierge level on the 34th and 35th floors. The rooms have beautiful modern art deco style furnishings. There's the tasteful touch of fresh orchids in the bathroom. And, down the hall, there's an executive lounge that serves a daily complimentary breakfast, afternoon appetizers and cocktails, and evening desserts and cordials. All rooms have floor to ceiling windows, many with views from the Bay Bridge to the tip of the Golden Gate.
Past the marbled entry lobby with mahogany pillars, you'll enter Jesters lounge, the perfect place for an evening of cocktails, jazz, and conversation. Jesters is also the name of the their first class restaurant, serving euro-pacific cuisine created by one of only fifty French master chefs in the U.S.
The Argent is a place where business and comfort converge, where adventures in entertainment, sightseeing, and shopping begin. While I spent my first night in San Francisco there, I spent my day about 35 miles south of the city. I went there to meet my son, to bond a little at concert at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Shoreline is a rock venue that regularly hosts 20,000 fans. The stage is under a great peaked tent surrounded by tiered seating and a large grassy knoll, all set on sixty scenic acres in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Shoreline opened in 1986, the creation of that famous San Francisco rock impresario, Wolfgang Grajonza. Born in Berlin, he is better known by his American name - Bill Graham. In the '60's, Bill Graham opened San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, the site of the earliest rock performances by artists like the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.
While I went to Shoreline to visit with my son, I also enjoyed the Bridge School concert there, an annual benefit for the handicapped children's school that Neil Young's child once attended. Neil Young performed, along with Dave Matthews, Ben Harper, REM, Billy Idol, and Tracy Chapman. It was a wonderful concert, with thousands of people swaying to the music from early afternoon to late in the night.
During my last day in San Francisco, my wife, my son, and I wondered through Haight-Ashbury, exploring the vintage clothing stores as well as the designer ones. My son, Josh, took us off the main street to show us a particular San Francisco home. There on 710 Ashbury, he pointed out with some awe, was the home of The Grateful Dead.
For the young or young-at-heart, from the elegant Argent Hotel off Market to the nostalgic home of Jerry Garcia off Haight and Ashbury, there are lots of glorious places to visit in Wolfgang Grajonza's San Francisco.