Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Time Machine

I have always been fascinated with History, especially when looking at old films or photographs. Or walking through old neighborhoods or historical districts. My interest was piqued recently when I watched a Ken Burns series on the National Parks. He used an enormous collection of old photos and Super-8 movies of families vacationing in Yosemite and other parks. I immediately related to the kids in those old movies, in the backseat of their parents car, then walking around in wonder, because I could have been one of those kids back then in the 60's.
But some of these were from way before, like in the 40's and 50's...even back to the 20's and beyond! Every time I see an old photograph or old film footage, especially in color, I wish I could magically step into that picture, go back in time and see for myself how it really was....
Or better yet, I wish I had a Time Machine, not a big clumsy contraption like H.G. Wells would have written about, but a small convenient one, about the size of a cel phone. But I'd make sure to prepare, to have all my bases covered...The first place I'd want to visit is San Francisco in the 1940's, maybe 1947...but before I went, I'd put on an old vintage suit that I own, from about that era, to blend in...then I would go to San Francisco present-day, probably to Golden Gate Park to a secluded spot in the bushes where I couldn't be seen, and then punch in the date, and make the leap!
I would appear in that same spot, hopefully still hidden, but it would be 1947!... After emerging from the park, I think that much of the city would look the same, as far as the buildings and houses, but the cars and the trolleys and the people would be out of an old photograph, but I would be There! I think I would walk downtown, rather than take a bus or taxi, just to soak it all in...I would probably be nervous as hell, almost paranoid in thinking that I stood out somehow, an ultimate outsider, someone from the Future...but I'd be nonchalant as I strolled down Geary St. toward Union Square, nodding hello to passersby, peering in to storefronts and listening to peoples' conversations, picking up any nuance in their speech, but I don't think it would be very different. No different than Bogart and Bacall, who filmed 'Dark Passage' there in 1947...and I've seen plenty of Three Stooges and Little Rascals movies to know how they spoke back then, but that was Hollywood, this would be regular people in the street.
Before my 'trip', I would make sure to bring along a lot of faded one dollar bills, that denomination hasn't changed much since the 30's, but the 5's, 10's, and 20's have a new design, and that would be an obvious giveaway, they would think I was a nutcase or a counterfeiter if I tried to use one of those. And besides, things were way cheaper back then, I could probably walk into a diner and buy lunch for less than a dollar, and a newspaper for a nickel. Upon arriving downtown, I imagine Union Square would also still look basically the same, but with different storefronts and not as many highrises, but the cable cars would be there, Lefty O'Douls would be there, and maybe Tad's...
There would also be the St. Francis hotel on Powell, curiosity would take me there first, with its ornate lobby and piano bar, I wonder how different it would be. I'd gather up the nerve to go sit at the, I've seen movies from the 40's and bars haven't changed much, but still, I would glance and see what others were drinking...I'd probably order a beer, and pay for it with change that I got from buying the newspaper, I'd be too nervous about using a dollar bill from 2009, bartenders can be pretty sharp about that stuff. Not that he's looking out for money from the future, just bills that don't look quite right...
After having perused the paper and sports page just to catch up on local current events, I'd probably be prepared for any light conversation, should a bar patron decided to chat...I'd say I was from San Jose, which I was...though my historical knowledge of San Jose would only carry me so far...they might ask if I was in the war, and given my current age I would say no, I was too old by then...I would never tell anyone I was from the future, because a) they wouldn't believe me, and b) I wouldn't want to say "buy IBM stock in 1956, you'll make a fortune!" because it would 'alter the future' and that could get, I'd just be an observer.
I think I would want to explore most of all, to ride the cable car to Fisherman's Wharf, when it really WAS a fisherman's wharf, with the original restaurants catering to the fishermen themselves, and Pier 39 was really a working pier. Ride taxis, visit the Sutro Baths...
Feeling a kind of wanderlust, I'd want to venture all over the City and East Bay, northward to Santa Rosa, and walk around my old neighborhood as I did not long ago, and again, all the houses would still be there, but different colors perhaps...the trees would be smaller...I'd walk down McDonald Avenue where 'Shadow of a Doubt' had just been filmed, and I think it would look the same, again except for the cars. I'd go downtown and look around, and see how things were then...I'd see all the fields and orchards where houses and new neighborhoods would soon be...There'd be so much to see and explore, like a living history museum. It would be fun to stay overnight at a local hotel, or back in the City...though no tv, ha!
That would be only one trip in my Time Machine, I think I would take many such trips, to many places...I would take a trip to August 21, 1955...the date of my parents wedding in San Jose, maybe sit in the back, since I have a family resemblance to my uncles, they would wonder who I was...I'd dare not go to the reception...
As my time travelling got 'easier'...I would go back to the 30's...the 20's...and beyond!
New York City, 1923, the opening of Yankee Stadium and watch Babe Ruth play ball...the list is endless.
Of course, this is all just one big fantasy, see how far it takes me? haha! There will probably never be such a thing as time travel, at least in our lifetime...but if there ever was, I'd want to be ready.

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