Golden Gate Bridge (copy)

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge fairly glows in this just-after-sunset view from Battery Spencer at Fort Baker in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

It had been almost 15 years since Sandy and I had been back to the city we fell in love with on our honeymoon.

That first trip was back in 1968. Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" was still quite popular, but it was giving way to another song titled simply, "San Francisco."

"If you're going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

If you're going to San Francisco

You're gonna meet some gentle people there."

A visit to Haight-Ashbury was a must, where we saw the gentle people with flowers in their hair protesting the Vietnam War and living the new hippie lifestyle we all came to know and love.

We stayed at the historic Palace Hotel on Market Street, where sitting President Warren Harding had died in 1923 and the first session of the new United Nations was held in 1945. We ate at Alioto's where Joe DiMaggio dined, spent money on Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf and, of course, rode the cable cars everywhere.

Over the years we had been back several times, sometimes for the heck of it, other times for editors' conventions and the last time, in 2004, to see a Cubs vs. Giants game in then SBC Park, which was just four years old and already hailed as one of the best in baseball. Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux won his 300th career game the day we were there.

OK, I'll confess, our trip back this year included three Cubs-Giants games. SBC Park is now Oracle Park and just as scenic and fan-friendly as always. With brother-in-law and his wife, Dave and Lori Holz, we stayed at a brand new boutique hotel called the Via, directly across the street from the baseball park (very helpful for an old guy who now uses a cane). We once again visited Haight-Ashbury — there are still remnants of its golden days in the '60s and '70s, but the atmosphere is quite different.

We rode over the Golden Gate bridge, took a boat tour of the harbor, ate on the Wharf, visited city hall, spent money at Pier 39, and enjoyed dinner at Tadich Grill on California Street, a place we discovered years ago. But, no jumping on and off cable cars for these old people.

In many ways, this was the San Francisco we discovered more than 50 years ago, but in many ways it has also changed.

The sight of the hundreds of homeless people on the streets in the Tenderloin District was mind boggling. The city has spent millions on programs to reduce the numbers, but nothing has worked. Some place the blame on San Francisco's outrageous housing costs, where even people with jobs can't afford the rent.

We talked to several bartenders, wait staff, cab drivers and workers at the ballpark and heard some sad stories. Many of these young people are working two or three jobs just to make enough money to pay for housing.

One of our waiters said he lives in a 9-by-12 room and shares a kitchen and bathroom down the hall with several others. He pays $1,400 a month. Many have moved as much as 60 miles away from the city to find an affordable apartment or condo.

The housing costs have soared thanks to all the high-tech companies in nearby Silicon Valley as high-salaried techies have moved into the city, willing and able to pay the high rents and causing them to rise even further.

Several of the hotel workers told of simple apartments renting at $4,500 a month or paying close to a million dollars for a two-bedroom, two-bath condominium.

A guide on a tour we took to the city's divergent neighborhoods remarked that he and his wife have an affordable two-bedroom apartment and they make sure they don't bother the landlord. Something breaks or plumbing goes bad, the couple pays for fixing it themselves. There's always a fear that a landlord could find a way to break a lease and re-rent it for much more than you're already paying, he said.

Still, San Francisco has its charm and was definitely the place to be when the heat index here in Wisconsin soared to 100. During our week there, the temperature never reached 70.

The only bummer was the Cubs lost two out of three to the Giants.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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