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
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
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
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.