Why San Fracisco’s Embarcadero is like a guitar neck.

Just as I have traveled the neck of a guitar too many times to remember, so too have I driven or walked SF’s Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf. You wouldn’t think that roads so well traveled could offer up anything new by now, and yet they can.

For example, not long ago -- in fact, just before a slew of headaches laid me low for a few weeks -- I made the trek from the Ferry Building to home on a sunny afternoon. Not far from the Ferry Building I noticed a sign saying something about public access and so I turned left into the pier buildings and toward the water.

I found myself on a path behind some the buildings that line the waterfront. It wasn’t long, maybe 50 yards, but what it lacked in scale it made up for in grandeur. To one side water, on this day calm and blue, and filled with an eclectic collection of boats, ranging from a ship-shape tug boat to a faux paddle ferry that would be more at home in New Orleans and has clearly outlived its useful life (unless you consider ferrying people around the bay to nowhere in particular so they can take in the view and imbibe a bit useful, which I do). To the other side were patios, all protected from the winds and cold by plastic and glass, yet needing no protection at all on this particular afternoon. As I thought about how nice it would be to cruise on that old ferry boat or have a sip of wine or coffee in one of the waterfront restaurants, I muttered to myself, “How have I missed all this?”

Emerging from the path back onto the noisy concrete of the Embarcadero sidewalk, I noticed that I was at a pier I have always admired. Built solely for the purpose of letting people stroll out into the bay and enjoy the view, it is a structure built for the ages. Wooden planks form its walkway, and along the sides low, simple iron rails mark its lines. I walked past it, for I have been down it many times, and then I came across something almost entirely new: Tcho chocolate. From the road, I had noticed this business before, but I had never realized it was a tasting room. In I went, and the surprises continued. Among all the chocolate were “beta” packs, version A and version B of a milk chocolate Tcho is developing. The idea is you buy your beta packs, head home, try them, then enter your favorite along with a few notes into a browser. Presumably, Tcho will use this data to make the best milk chocolate possible. How very dotcom!

After Tcho, I made the rest of the trek home without seeing much new of note. And that’s exactly how the guitar neck is. Mostly, it doesn’t surprise me much, as I travel from fret to fret, voicing various chords or plucking out single note passages. But every now and then, just like that recent walk down the Embarcadero, I notice something I have just never noticed before and therein lies the magic, the reason I will always strive to travel old roads with new eyes.