With some comments on that Washington dinner of the Prostitutional Mediacracy
First my walk on the sunny side. Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous here in Baghdad by the Bay--more than one could probably ever say for that other Baghdad, the one by the Tigris, in the desert.
Since the Alliance Française on Bush as well as the Positive Resource Center on Market, where I usually commit my graphic sins are closed on Sundays, I only quickly check my sabbatical mail at the SFPL where the quick service computers give you 15 minutes with a short waiting period. That's not good for committing electronic peccadillos, which require several hours per session to be able to blossom forth like so many flowers of evil--that's what some of my critics might call them, anyway.
So, after listening to Manon Lescaut and her Chevalier des Grieux sing Puccini's heart out for the Met in the morning, I got up, took my shower and headed out on the street.
Across from me, or rather across from the California Culinary Academy a block down from me on Polk, an attractive new little eatery opened recently, a hole in the wall called:
The place must be good, for there was a long line going out onto the sidewalk--and from all appearances, most of the hopeful gourmets in the queu seemed to have been students or teachers at the California Culinary Academy, housed in an impressive northern renaissance style building that used to be known as Das Deutsche Haus.
I wound my way past the skyscraper of the heavily fortified Federal Building a block further down, and across Civic Center Plaza next to that, flanked by the beaux art style edfices of SF City Hall on the west--infamous as the location of the Milk and Moscone murders and the subsequent White Night Riots, then the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on the south, the ornate California State Office buildings on the north, and on the east the Asian Art Museum next to the new Main Branch of the SF Public Library, where I was going to check my email.
Meanwhile, you can inspect the following links to the places I mentioned:
San Francisco Public Library Home Page The outside is kind of lame, certainly not the greatest example of urban architecture, but the inside makes up for that--you have to take my word for it since I could not find a single decent image of the interior. But it is a very open, flowing space that feels very comfortable and functional, even homey--except I wish more of the stacks would be open to the public--some are, but the larger portion is actually underground below the Bill Graham auditorium and not open to public browsing. Unfortunately, they have moved most of the excellent Dutch literature collection there to make room for the more important Farsi, Viet-namese and Russian collections--since those populations have of course more recently jumped up in SF. We Dutch still have some space where we can browse, but not like we used to have.
Fortunately I have had many years to catch up with the latest and possibly greatest flowering of Dutch and Flemish post war literature, which truly came into their own only after I had left the old patria in 1960--so I have been taking a break from that anyway. Here's a picture of the outside of the new library building. The old one was converted into that magnificent Chong-Moon Lee Asian Art Museum
Now to continue with the additional links:
This California State office building has an attractive curved modern design. It complements the architecture of the San Francisco Opera House and Civic
Don't be deceived: there are two connected structures--the one fronting the Plaza is old and sort of Beaux Arts like, the more recent one behind it is indeed an attractive curved modern design that towers over the older building as a sort of unassuming backdrop that doesn't detract from the architectural style of the Civivc Center nealy as much as the uninspired exterior of the new Library.
Asian Art Museum of SF and also: 42 reviews and more »
The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco—holding nearly 17,000 Asian art treasures spanning 6,000 years of history—is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art. Once located in Golden Gate Park, the museum opened its new, expanded facility at Civic Center on March 20, 2003. An architectural gem featuring a dynamic blend of beaux arts and modern design elements, the museum’s new home is the result of a dramatic rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of San Francisco’s former main library building by renowned architect Gae Aulenti (designer of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). The new building serves as a showcase for the museum’s acclaimed collection and exhibitions, and allows the museum to better demonstrate its long-term commitment to preserving, protecting and promoting Asian art and culture.
Here are some snapshots:
And nota bene, let wel: the first Tuesday of every month most SF museums are free.
OK, I am ready to continue my walk on the sunny side. First I cross over to Market Street, a block south of Civic Center Plaza and making a left turn, I head downtown. Note: Civic Center is not considered Downtown, or Uptown for that matter. It could be called Midtown, but we don't say that here. Even 'uptown' for the upper Market area of the Castro is a bit pretentious. Downtown is where all the tall sky scrapers are as well as the financial district, which actually is kind of wedged in between Downtown and Chinatown. But that is an entirely different ommegang or walkabout.
As you head downtown along Market to the clattering sounds of the refurbished vintage street cars from different cities in the US and Europe (like Milan--but why none from Amsterdam?) you pass a number of theatres, among them Golden Gate and the Warfield:
What is so great about walking down along Market Street, which cuts through the SF street plan like a ruthless diagonal and can be awfully hard to cross by car, is that on a sunny day and especially on the sunny side of the street of course, there are tons of very colorful people, in a large variety of venues where you can encounter or simply observe them in all their glorious humanity--like at the twice weekly farmers' market on UN Plaza, a few blocks down from the library: Zoomie Station: UN Plaza Farmer's Market It may not be the best farmers' market in town--for that you have to go all the way down to the Foot of Market: San Francisco - Best Of - Best Farmers' Market - Ferry Plaza ... --but they each meet on different days, so you can easily go to both.
Ferry Plaza also has a statue of Ghandi (behind the Ferry building) and a great view of the Bay from the terrace of the Ferry Building, where you can sip your Chablis while munching on brie--if you are in that elitist democratic mood--or just have a cuppa joe, if you are one of those folksy publican billionnaires of the people. Here's that Great Soul, Mahatma Ghandi:
Of course UN Plaza itself is a monument to the founding in our town of the United Nations--here is a picture of the Plaza, with its stone slabs that have chiseled in them all the names of the signatories with the dates they signed the UN Charter.
You can also Click on 60th Anniversary of the San Francisco Conference to hear Kofi Annan's speech on the occasion.
One time a few years ago I bought some fresh farm produce on UN Plaza from a farmer from just outside the Bay Area (or just inside it perhaps) whom I engaged in a conversation because he had a Dutch name. There is a fairly sizable rural population of Dutch-Americans in the Bay area--though not in The City itself. But this guy was from Vlaardingen, my hometown for the five years I lived in Holland, and where I attended gymnasium at the Groen van Prinstererlyceum.
We were both quite surprised--as surprised, well almost, as that time when Nina and I flew back from Stockholm by way of Amsterdam after our wedding--and found ourselves seated next to another East Indies Dutchman, so far so good--who used to have the same dentist I had in Palembang, that Srivijaya of old, where I was born and where I tried to have some dental work done to repair a chipped front tooth. I was ten or eleven then and had smacked against the tile floor of our dining room after a round the table chase. Like Charlie Rose in his recent encounter with a sidewalk curb, I lost.
Dr. Oei in Palembang was a fine dentist but his instrumentation, so short after the war, was stil, shall we say, primitive? I mean, he had no electrical drill when he did the root canal operation on my broken front tooth and this opus moderandi--by which I mean of course his work to moderate my pain while executing his modus operandi, his way of working by means of a Singer sewing machine like foot peddle he operated while drilling as if for oil into my most sensitive areas. He might as well have drilled in Anwar. I passed out from the pain, for there were no alleviating medications available then either, not even laughing gas. I certainly wasn't laughing when I regained consciousness. I am not making this up. Nina will remember the airplane encounter, if not my dental experience with Dr. Oei.
That chipped tooth eventually caused the loss of more and more dental area over the years. I've had so many bridges in my mouth that I used to give them names like the Brooklyn Bridge, the Tribrorough Bridge, The Washington Bridge, etc. Several of them had to be replaced over the years--at great expense.
Anyway--by now I am pretty much what the Indonesians call ompong, toothless, tandeloos--having just enough teeth left to bite with but only on one side--the left of course! Thank God, for I hate dentures and simply can't stand wearing them, even though I have tried many times. Everytime they promise: our dentures will be better! I ask routinely, yes but can I eat with them? They say, But of course! But no, they never are. As time marches on I will probably have to switch to hearty soups and dips--both of which I like--but what about pizza or stuff like that? That would hard to gum. Come to think of it--I'd better try that Brenda French Soulfood place real soon, for I love that crusty French bread as much as pizza.
All right I am walking down, looking, checking, evaluating and enjoying everyone in sight, even dancing to some of the street music--there was an electronic violin (!) on the corner of 5th and market--I just know my sister in law Andrea, who teaches cello, will shudder--but the guy did all right--and walking on to settle down at the Alexandria Cafe, a little hole in the wall where I know the Hispanic counter lady recognizes me because I used to come there more often--even though it is not on the sunny side of Market.
I pretend to read my little paperback, Le dernier des Camondo, but watching people in San Francisco is so much more interesting than reading about the faded flowers of a long gone era in Paris. It always takes me a while to live myself into any book I pick up. It doesn't always work either. This one happened to be something I bought from the Alliance Française when they were still thinning out their collection--which took a number of years, during which I picked up a fine little library of literature française--for next to nothing. But I'm not sure I will be able to work up the enthousiasm to actually read the whole thing. We'll see. Something about that world is definitely intriguing, though, which is why I did pick it up, I guess. And I am also working on a Malcolm Noel's short history of Bosnia which fell out of a forgotten corner of my bookshelves just the other day and which also deals with the Ottoman empire--a part of the world les Camondo hailed from.
Here are some links I found on these two book if you want to check them out:
After having seen enough I stroll on down Yuerba Buena Lane--and my attention is captured by a kind of a huge black cube, looking a bit like the Kaaba in Mecca turned up on one corner, and about to fall over and crush the old brick building of St. Mary's Catholic church--one of the few places in the city where you can still hear the Latin Mass once a week--if you can stand the overpowering smell of Filipino food that usually permeates the narthex these days. If you can't--it was a bit greasy last time I went--then you can find the Tridentine Mass in San Francisco -- What is the Tridentine Latin Mass?
But for now let's move on. That Jewish Kaaba threatening the Catholic Church happens to be part of the design of the new Contemporary Jewish Museum - San Francisco California that is scheduled to open next June. The architect was that same love child, or lovely child, Daniel Libeskind who did the design for the new building at the site of the World Trade Center.
On quiet Yerba Buena Lane, a promising name that means Goodweed Lane, even though it's the wrong place to look if that's what you want, for it is just a walkway lined with some great arts and crafts shops that connects Market and Mission. But don't be disappointed it is worth a visit. I sat down where I could contemplate the impending trilateral collision and was graciously allowed to listen in on a cellphone-dialed audiotape explaining the museum's architecture. The phone was held by an older white man and his younger Chinese companion--who were both able to appreciate my own comments regarding the Jewish Kaaba and its threat to St. Mary's culinary experience--in the basement there was indeed another feast going on. Behind us was Beard Papa Sweets Cafe SF Center--a strange place I have not yet dared to risk my taste buds on. Maybe some day.
OK, now I cross Mission itself, a part of the old Camino Real, or King's Highway that was established by the Spanish in the 18th century to enable the work of missionaries in making native Indians into believing Christians.
The grand missionary of them all was probably Padre Kino, who had worked with the Pima Indians in the 16th century and was the first to discover that California was not an island....
His statue is in Statuary Hall in Washington DC,
but Louis and I saw his bones in Magdalena de Kino,
a tiny hamlet in the Mexican State of Sonora, where we a long, long time ago, got stranded in this place far, far away, when our old, old and rickety Rambler Ambassador sprang a radiator leak in the desert. We first got stranded in Palm Springs and the mechanic who used to care for President Ford's car did his best to fix ours--but failed to do so properly--and we got the same trouble again upon crossing the border near Nogales. After picking up a young commuting hitchhiker and manipulating our power by rolling downhill with the engine off whenever we could, we were guided to the house of Señor Gomez, a relative of our young and handsome hitchhiker, who invited us to stay for the night, for it was getting dark. In fact, their hospitality was so great we were given the only bed in his son in law's annex, while the family slept on the floor.
The radiator repair was expertly done that night by this local part time mechanic, using candle light and chopsticks, an oeuvre that took much of the following day day as well--while we toured the little pueblecito and discovered them bones right smack in the center of the town square, still being excavated.
Padre Kino was actually an Austrian by the name of Pater Kühn who really had dreamt of going to China, back in the late 17th century, but was ordered by the Pope to go to Mexico and the Pimeria instead. Pobrecito! But he did well, este padre.
Louis and I found out that Senor Gomez, our overnight host, nuestro anfitrion and inventive mechanic had actually been the head of the town committee that was set up after a renovation dig in the town center had revealed the skeleton of the padre. The town center was subsequently organized around a shrine to this holy man--and the hamlet of Magdalena was renamed Magdalena de Kino in his Austrian honor.
Back in the eighties I actually wrote an essay of our trip for a Spanish creative writing class at City College of San Francisco, for professor Alfredo Jordan from the Universidad De Salamanca--himself a colorful character and wonderfully crazy teacher--but I'm not sure I can still locate the typewritten story--that was before the days of computers and even word processors. Damn it all--I am really getting old!
Anyway, my walk on the sunny side continues into the wonderful experience of Yerba Buena Gardens, which would have made King Nebuchadnezar envious with its many levels, its abundant flowers and greenery, its stepped terraces and waterfalls, including those at the magnificent Martin Luther King memorial in the very center, and its walkway underneath:
I can go on and on, of course, and would muizekens, but the lovely receptioniste at the Alliance Francaise just announced they are about to close a bit early, so I'd better pack up and get going. From the looks of it she may have a heavy date.
Oh I almost forgot, what can I say about that prostitutional mediacracy attending the White House Correspondents dinner? Well, I heard three funny people, of whom I thought Cheney, believe it or not was the funniest, trailed, if only a little, by one of my favorite late night talk show hosts, that crazy Scotsman, Craig Ferguson--but I was far less impressed with Mo Rocco, whom I had never even heard of and whose humor seemed stilted and artificial.
The biggest laughs: Ferguson saying to President Bush that it was wonderful that there had been no sexual scandals during the visit of Benedict XVI, except a minor incident when Barney began to hump the Pope's legs. At first I thought he was making fun of Barney Frank, our first openly gay Congressman but then I realized that Bush has a dog named Barney--et le voila:
Barney, the President's Scottish Terrier, was born on September 30, 2000. Although just six years old, Barney has starred in nine "films" and has lived quite an exciting life...
At first Bush didn't quite get it either but then an aide rushed in to whisper an explanation into his ear--upon which he burst out laughing in that unique shoulder shaking presidential manner you are all familiar with by know--much to the relief of our Scottish joker.
I wonder how Barney Frank took the joke, probably quite well, for we gay people are so used to being made fun of. And the Pope? Well, what can I say about him? I'm sure he took it in stride as well--after all he did recently pontificate: "freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility toward the less fortunate." (Pope Benedict VI in NYC) and part of that grand vision is tolerance of course, even if the joke is on you.
Certainly making fun of dogs and gay people or others 'less fortunate' helps them shrug off the many worse things society has bestowed on them. And for a Pope to be made fun of--well that's just part of his job, like it is part of the President's job, or the theologians' job, or the homosexuals' job, or the job of black people or Jews, or Chinese, or of women, or even the men, or of parents and childrens--being made fun of is even part of the job of God and his Devil--or for that matter the job any presidential hopeful, like that Caspar the friendly Ghost, that cackling Hillary or elitist Obama and his low bowling scores. Comedians who cannot mine those rich fields of human weakness rarely can get a laugh. Some of the funniest people are insult comedians--as long as they are equal opportunity insultators, there is nothing wrong with that--check this:
In case you missed my little bit of harmless fun with Caspar the Friendly ghost, which some people seem to have taken exception to--here it is again: http://forthuyse.googlepages.com/ontheevenofpennsylvania%27s2008primary --just take it all granocum salis, with a grain of salt, or a even with a jalapeño or tjabeh rawit: what would life be like after all without some spices from the spice islands, where I hail from myself. Check: menu Tempo Doeloe Indonesisch Specialiteiten Restaurant
My mouth is beginning to water! But back to that dinner party and all the fun they were having: Cheney was a hoot--and as an old member of the Toastmasters Club at the The University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, I have to compliment him. One of his best quips: "Lets keep the dirt within the family, cousin Barack". Il faut laver le linge sale en famille, after all--and another: "Hillary was confused when she spoke about being under fire in Bosnia--she was actually thinking of that time she went hunting with me" Cheney said. Yup, that cousin Cheney can be real funny when his isn't snide and nasty, or dropping bombs on the wrong places--or much worse, shooting straight in your face with a beebee gun: Cheney's shotgun Here is the Veep on tube: YouTube - Cheney Has a Gun . So what more can I say about that Prostitutional mediacracy of Washington itself--they have already done so much self-indictment--anything I could add would be minor.
You all heard the latest incident: when the media 'allowed' or consented themselves to be hoodwinked by a defense department orchestrated operation to train and utilize a bunch of retired generals to conduct a secret media campaign to influence the media after a wave of public criticism? Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand - New York Times
It is notable that neither the New York Times nor the Democratic presidential hopefuls deigned to attend the White House dinner of the Prostitutional Mediacracy. That says a lot, and who can blame them. So they missed a few jokes.
I just hoped that my comments on Prostitutional Mediacracy will serve as my jalapeño, or worse, my tjabeh rawit to make this walk on the sunny side just a bit less bland. I can't resist sharing with you my recipe for a cheap and easy snack: get two slices of bread, toasted or not, spread creamy peanut butter on one side, cover the other with a very vinegary hot sauce(I use Cristal) add some sugar (I use that finely powdered stuff that comes in the pink or blue baggies) then slap the two sides of your sandwich together--and it is munch time for the sweet and sour crowd. This is a modification of what my cousin Peter taught me after the war: put Sambal Oelek on your peanut butter sandwhiches--he should probably also have added some gula djawa, or Palm sugar - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I may come back again to this jalapeño and add more tjabe rawits in the mix. for there is much more to be said on this score. On n'a pas tout dit--that's actually the name of a program I watch on the French Comcast channel 252 showing TV5-monde with Laurent Ruquier on We haven't said it all: "On n'a pas tout dit" (2007).But we can always keep trying until we have tried everything, "On a tout essayé" (2000) another program with Laurent Ruquier.
Bon soir les muizekens. By the way, my roommate, that muis muizeken, mousy mouse, mus musculus the house mouse has wandered off to greener pastures--and I didn't even have to use glue paper or a hammer.
By the way, if you haven't read my adventures with my temporary roommate mus musculus, muis muizeken, the house mouse, or huismuis, go and click on http://pages.google.com/edit/forthuyse/frompadmasambavatobarackobama