Christmas Safari

Ken Strongman Xmas 2014
Family Safari

A Christmas Safari is one of the few family traditions of the Christmas season I have consistently enjoyed. We really seldom go out into the wilds, it is usually the wild and crazy places in the City, though last year we came close.

It is a tradition from my youth. On a Saturday in December my family would travel into San Francisco for the day. We would shop but most likely never buy much of anything. My mother was proud of the fact that her Christmas shopping was done before Thanksgiving.

One of my earliest memories is of riding the Ferris wheel on top of the San Francisco Emporium. It was an adventure parking the car in a multi story garage, and then entering a massive store. It often took a while to find the escalators. As we rode each one up to the next floor they be came narrower and narrower. They also became much older based on their design. You could tell because the threads of the escalator became wider and made of wood. Finally at the top floor, we had to work around the Christmas stuff to find the door leading to the stairs to the roof. On the roof was a complete Santa’s Village with many different carnival rides. The Ferris wheel was at the edge of the building. It was impressive in that when you rotated to the top you could look down the side of the almost 10 story building. The building has long since been converted to the Westfield Mall and the Emporium no longer exists.

Next we would journey to see the City of Paris Christmas tree. Each year there was a new real tree installed in the rotunda of the department store. The decorations were different every year. There we spent time on each floor of the department store looking out on the rotunda checking out the tree. On the site of the City of Paris now sits Neiman Marcus. It is a new building, but because of historical preservation the rotunda remains. There is still a Christmas tree there each year, but it is now artificial with mostly the same decorations each and every year.

Leaving the City of Paris, the next annual pilgrimage was to Podesta Baldocchi Flowers. Normally, they were florists during the year. They were often used in Hollywood films as a traditional San Francisco location. The shop was featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 film Vertigo. At Christmas, they turned their shop into a Christmas tree wonderland. Each tree was decorated with different beautiful and expensive ornaments. All were for sell. It was a wonder to behold.

Then it was time for food. We had one tradition for many years of having cheese blitzes at David’s Delicatessen. We never ventured into Chinatown or North Beach. Those were adventures for different seasons.

We also never did the Nutcracker. I could never figure out what that had to do with Christmas. Of course, both I and my brother are guys. I still can’t. I have three sons.

We still make the effort though most of the old adventures are gone. There are now new ones to take their place. Now the trip is by BART. Sometimes we take the ferry. We never take the car anymore. It is still fun.

Merry Christmas.

Ken StrongmanAbout the Author: Ken Strongman ( has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

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