Photo by Flickr user blupics
I've lived next to Alamo Square Park for the last eight years, and I feel a little foolish saying this, but it's taken me just about that long to actually appreciate it. There was never any denying on my part that it's a beautiful park with one of the most excellent views of San Francisco (those precious Painted Ladies sure are photogenic standing in front of that expansive view of downtown, just ask the 30 tourists who are taking that same photo right now), but maybe it was its obvious, unhidden, and oft-photographed beauty that made me take it for granted for so long. A diehard fan of the underdog, I was underimpressed. It just seemed so obvious, like having a crush on the pretty cheerleader in high school.
And actually, if I'm going to be totally honest here, my first five years living in San Francisco were pretty typical for someone in their early 20s -- a constant party. I didn't have any interest in a park except as a venue for my socializing (Ohhh, I guess I wasn't the only one to have that thought. Hello, people of Dolores Park!). Years ago, I lived three blocks away from a beautiful park in the Presidio that I never knew existed. It wasn't until a few months ago, when I was hunting out a story for The Bold Italic that I stumbled upon this quiet lakeview haven, aptly named Mountain Lake Park, via bike. I texted my old roommate and asked, "Why did we never come to this park? How did we not know it existed?" She wrote back, "We were 21 and it didn't have boys in it." Touche.
By the time I finally started to appreciate the natural beauty of the city in my mid-20s, Alamo Square still wasn't high on my list. If I'm going to be sitting in a park, I want sun and warmth, and Alamo Square is sometimes sunny, but rarely warm and usually windy. I'm talking about that cold wet wind that tricks so many tourists who bet on a warm, sun-kissed California summer into buying those ugly San Francisco fleece sweatshirts.
Photo by Sarah Han
Finally, I don't know how many times I had to overhear someone talking about Full House whenever I am walking through Alamo Square. Tourists will actually stop to ask, "Which one is the Full House house?" First of all, who knew that Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey were still making people laugh around the world today?! And sorry to burst your bubble guys, but I've done my research, and although Alamo Square appears in some of the 15-year-defunct sitcom's opening credits, none of footage actually implies that anyone (not even Kimmy Gibbler) lived in one of those Painted Ladies! I promise you; I wasted a full afternoon gathering evidence via YouTube.
So what made me finally change my attitude and appreciation for Alamo Square?
I finally let myself enjoy it. These days, I walk through and around Alamo Square on a regular basis. I work out there two days a week. I sit in the grass or read on a bench on the days when the wind isn't too bad. I stop and enjoy the view along with everyone else, and sometimes I even take someone's picture in front of that famous skyline. I listen for the wild parrots of Alamo Square (you can probably hear them squawking even if you don't see them). I stop and watch the dogs run free, happy as can be, in the leash-free area. I visit the hidden shoe garden near the bathrooms -- not merely as majestic as Golden Gate Park's botanical gardens, but pretty cool, nevertheless. I am stoked that there's an annual flea market that surrounds the park's perimeter every August. I tell myself that one of these days I'm going to take advantage of that tennis court (but never do).
And when someone asks me, "Which one is the Full House house?," these days I say, "That one" and point to whichever house it seems they most want it to be.
Photo by Sarah Han