David Landis, trusty LCI President, here with my thought for the day.
I fondly remember my very first trip to Italy back in 1983. Landing in Venice (my first trip outside the United States ever) was like a jolt. What a difference from the American culture I knew. It wasn’t just the delicious food, the amazing art, the local wines that tasted like they were priceless or the historical architecture. It was – first and foremost – about the people.
I think we all would love to be Italian on some level – aren’t they the most convivial, passionate and social of all? And the most emblematic of their good nature was the 5 p.m. passeggiata – the daily walk around the piazza where you mingle and socialize with friends and neighbors. I was always touched at how considerate Italians were. I attributed it not just to their good nature, but to the fact that part of their daily ritual includes this ongoing meeting of people – no matter what your mood.
Fast forward to 1993, San Francisco. We decided to get a dog, Shasta – and then a year later, another dog, Whitney (American Eskimo dogs named for the white-capped California mountains). Daily walks to the dog park became a part of our habit and – lo and behold – it occurred to me that what the piazza is to Italy, the dog park is to America.
Day in, day out, you have to mingle with your neighbors in the park. Even if you don’t like the conservative flag-waver or the dottery old geezer or the Chinese woman who doesn’t speak a word of English – you have to figure out a way to be courteous. It’s called living in society and instead of getting in our single-occupancy vehicles and detaching ourselves from our fellow man (and woman), we are forced to do what makes us human: relate socially every day.
So why am I writing about this now? It occurred to me over lunch that the Italian piazza – and the American dog park – are the great precursors of that monumental new movement of social media. Social networks are all the rage now – Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace.com, Teebeedee.com – you name it, there’s a social network for everyone. And they do bring us together. With one great exception. It’s only virtual. And there’s nothing to beat firsthand human contact.
I still vote for the dog park. Or better yet, the Italian piazza.
Here is my list of Buzzworthy dog parks in San Francisco:
1. Alta Plaza Park – where you’ll see Shasta & Whitney walked every day, 3 times a day. With beautiful views of San Francisco Bay and downtown (and only a block from trendy Fillmore St.), it can’t be beat. (Steiner St./Jackson St.) –
2. Alamo Square – Shasta’s first dog park, with the picture-postcard view of San Francisco’s famous Victorians and the skyline behind. (Steiner St./Hayes St.)
3. Crissy Field – a great place to take out-of-towners. Right on the beach, with a drop-dead gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. But watch out if you’re dog is a swimmer, you’ll be mopping him up for days. (Marina Blvd at the north end of San Francisco)
4. Union Square – the great intersection of humanity — and San Francisco’s own version of Rodeo Drive, with all the best shopping and dining. Plus, you can sit outside with your pooch and have lunch Italian-style at Emporio Rulli. (Geary St./Powell St.) http://www.unionsquaresf.net/
5. Fort Funston – At this great park, you can walk you dog and see dozens of hang gliders at the same time. The coastside venue gives you a panoramic cliffside view of the Pacific Ocean, but watch out for your deviant dog: that first step is a doozy! (Great Highway near Sloat Blvd.)