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I never get bored with cable cars, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, and the buzz around bernal heights sf viewUnion Square.  And of course great restaurants. But there’s a lot more to see and do in the City by the Bay. I make new discoveries every time. Bernal Heights, for example, not exactly unknown, but south of Mission and seldom visited by tourists. A steep climb takes you up the hill to a park with a million-dollar view. You’re  overlooking all of San Francisco, the bridges and bays, Marin County, and East Bay. Fabulous. bernal heights view to east bayThe park has scrubby grass, a few trees, and paths winding around the hillside. Also lots of dogs, because it’s an off-leash area. The “Illegal Soapbox Derby” soapbox derby bernal heightstakes place here in the fall, when riders in makeshift vehicles race wildly down the hill.

The Bernal Heights neighborhood is fun to wander, with its cafes, quiet streets, small houses, and gardens. Trendy shops, too, and quite a few artists. It was considered dangerous and crime-ridden in the 1980s, but that’s past and it’s cleaned up now. And that view alone makes it worth the drive or bus ride.

Here’s another bit of SF that’s new to me: the Marrakesh Magic Theater on O’Farrell, a few blocks from Union Square. Peter Morrison is amazing, a magician extraordinaire.   In top hat and tux, he stands in a tiny theater that holds only 30 or magician san franciscoso people and performs feats of prestidigitation and mentalism that are baffling. His show is hugely entertaining as he pulls in members of the audience and keeps up a running patter of humor that’s clean enough for all ages. How did he know that lady was thinking of an Ace of Hearts? Or make a coin appear in a man’s closed fist? (Yeah, I read that Scientific American article about how illusion works on the brain, but I’m sticking with magic.)

Peter sets the mood before the show by having everyone gather in the Sultan’s Oasis for drinks. He does card and coin tricks at each table. Then he ushers us into the theater and seats us according to height and whatever agenda he has in mind. He’s a peter morrison magician sfmaster at this, having done more than 3000 performances at various places, including the famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, during the past 15 years. Now it’s a San Francisco treat. I’ll be back and watch his dexterous hands more closely next time. Or not.  Maybe I’d rather just be dazzled.

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 We prowled the gritty streets and alleyways of San Francisco that Sunday, searching for an infamous black bird, or at least the ghost of Bogey. Don Herron led the way, in his snapbrim and wrinkled trench coat. We never found the Black Falcon, though we saw a replica in John’s Grill, but we felt a few ghostly shivers and learned a lot about Dashiell Hammett and his noir detective stories set in The City By The Bay. Well, Don ought to know every detail of the author’s life and books, he’s been doing this tour for 33 years. We paused for a beer during the 4-hour walk, in a bar with ripped vinyl stools and photos of boxers on the walls. Very Continental Op. Later we saw the alley where Sam Spade’s partner, Miles Archer, met his end in the night fog, betrayed by a treacherous dame. The tour cost a measly tenspot, worth every cent. Next time I’m wearing a cool ’40s hat.

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