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Journal 2012-Q3

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Stop and Frisk - 7 July 2012

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee set off a firestorm of shrill criticism from the leftists the other day when he floated the idea of instituting a "stop and frisk" program here as an anti-crime measure.

Nonsense, i say.  What patriotic citizen could possibly object to being stopped and frisked a few times a day as he went about his business?

Just don't call it "Frisko".

Meanwhile, Oliver's gigantic bird of paradise on Hancock Street is putting on quite a show.

giant bird of paradise

Foie Gras Ban - 8 July 2012

Many Californians have been following with great interest our new ban on the sale of foie gras that went into effect on July 1st.  Well, actually, foie gras itself is not banned, but rather the sale in restaurants of foie gras produced by gavage, the insertion of food directly into the stomach through a tube so as to force the bird to eat more than it would of its own volition in order to grotesquely enlarge the liver and make it tastier.

Animal rights activists argued successfully that this technique should be banned since its use on humans in prisons is widely considered to be torture.  Well, except in Guantanamo where it is routinely used on obstinate hunger strikers for their own good.

We don't seem to have a solution for Guantanamo, but it occurred to me this morning that we do have a way to ensure an bountiful supply of foie gras without force feeding the ducks.  I look around at our red states and see that half the population is obese, and yet they are not being force fed.  So all we have to do is start lacing Purina Duck Chow with high fructose corn syrup and let nature take its course.  Voilà.

Meanwhile, a Duboce Street pied à terre

Happy - 10 July 2012

I'm doing this on the website so i'll have proof that for the first time since i met him in 1959, i have remembered my dear old friend Dick's birthday....on the actual birthday itself.

Happy Birthday, Dick

Here are some recent photos of a Hancock Street artichoke with which i can see some parallels.  No no, to myself, being only a week younger than Dick but farther gone.

fall'n into the sere

Home is the Hunter - 11 July 2012

Umm, well, actually the Gatherer.  Just got in from the Seward Street slides, about which i've written on several occasions.  This time my objective was to try to catch those two plum trees when they were still covered with ripe fruit, bribe one of the surly teenagers who routinely hang around nearby smoking things to climb up in the tree and pick me a bagful of the plums so i can come back here and make, for the delectation of the multitudes, Wild Seward Street Plum Jam.

Got there too late last year, as the trees had been stripped, but oh, did i ever hit it perfect this year.  The ground was  covered with fallen fruit, almost all of which was mushy at best, but the bushes beneath the trees cushioned the fall of the fruit there and left it unspoiled.  So from them i got a couple of quarts in short order and stopped because i didn't want to be greedy and get more than i needed for a small batch of the jam, and yes, another factor in my stopping so soon was fear of being caught by the Wicked Witch, of whom i've also written.

To be frank, i don't think these plums are going to be winning any foodie prizes, but they're good, and i sure do like the idea of making a windfall jam of them.

Here's the tree.

Seward Street plum tree

And my haul.  BTW, they're only about an inch in diameter, and i got that shot above using the 20x zoom.

Seward Street plums

Gloria's arriving this afternoon for a few days, and won't she be excited to be put to work in the kitchen.

Note:  Actually, Gloria pitched in like a trooper and is largely responsible for the removal of the pits from the jam.  Since the little plums were so small, i decided it would be less trouble to pick the pits out of the jam once it was cooked.  I was wrong.  And if it had been left up to me, you'da hadta just spit the pits out as you were eating the jam.

Look for it in the 2012 Production Report under the code SFPAL on 13 July.

Food Festival - 12 July 2012

In preparation for Gloria's visit i poached a big filet of wild local sockeye and stuffed the refrigerator with fresh okra, large yellow crookneck squash, and superb yellow corn on the cob (from Glenn Tanimoto at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market).  Not to mention having on hand nectarines, heirloom tomatoes, and way more other stuff than we could possibly eat.

So of course a major agenda item for me was to show her some of the new restaurants i'd discovered.  Like Gilberth's, where we went for her first lunch.  She had the Chicken Salad, which i'd reviewed last May, i had the pork belly sandwich, which was delicious, and we split an order of their superb fried Brussels sprouts, about which i'd previously raved and of which i finally remembered to get a pic.  They taste much better than they look, as they are not burned.

Gilberth's Brussels Sprouts

The next lunch was at SoMa StrEat Food Park, which i was lucky enough to visit when they'd been open only a week.  It's taken off now, and perhaps thanks to glowing reviews in the SF Chronicle (and, ahem, here) there were long lines at some of the trucks.  We tried the Little Green Cyclo, and their truffle oil garlic noodles were the best. noodles. i. ever. ate.  Never thought i'd use "chewy" as praise, but they were and it is.

For one of the evening meals, i drove us down to Pacifica and we got a whole slab of pork ribs from Gorilla Barbecue, about which i've raved repeatedly.   It's take out only, but it's worth driving to Pacifica for.  At home, Gloria cooked some yellow patty pan squash from her garden with garlic and turmeric and something else delicious, and we made a meal on squash and ribs.

Eat at all three of these places, folks.

Oh, and to be fair, here's a shot in the other bathroom at Gilberth's, both of which are open to everyone regardless of your sex, real or imagined.  

bathroom at Gilberth's

Cindy Sherman - 13 July 2012

Gloria and i went to the Cindy Sherman show at SF MOMA, and when we went into the first gallery i was highly entertained by a roomful of huge self portraits in which Cindy is made up and dressed as a wide variety of society ladies.  But then i was thinking, oh dear, this is going to get real boring very soon.

I was wrong.

The content of the galleries varied dramatically, and some of it was downright stunning.  A number of them quite funny and quite a few harsh.  If you're not going to be able to go to the show, here's a link to SF MOMA's presentation, but i'd suggest that you not look at that link if you can see the show because part of my enjoyment came from being jerked from one sort of photographs to the next.  And besides, looking at them on a screen cannot duplicate seeing them in their immensity on gallery walls.

And here's a little portrait at Flora Grubb.  If you haven't been there, go.  And take someone.

A Gym Breakthrough - 19 July 2012

Well, Matte made a major breakthrough at the gym this morning, leaving all the young dudes and dudettes abuzz, whispering among themselves, "At least the old fart is finally in fashion."

See, Becky sent me a package of those way trendy sockettes that everybody else is wearing, the ones that display the ankle owing to their lack of tops.  So i go prancing in this morning with my ankles cringing from the cold air, and heads turned at the sartorial extravaganza.

Il faut souffrir pour être belle.

Saratoga Springs - 23 July 2012

I drove up to Saratoga Springs for a birthday getaway, joining a group of men whose retreats i've enjoyed many times.  I hadn't gone in several years owing to general decrepitude and my falls off the Segway that kept me from being able to participate in the play, but back in January i decided that i owed it to myself to schedule a brief swan song during the middle of this year's retreat.  

Turned out to be way more fun than i'd imagined possible, as by napping on Saturday afternoon i conserved my energy and it had been long enough since my last broken bones that i was able to play well with others.  

Several of the campers are from the east coast, and of course they delight in making tart observations about the eccentricities of Californians, especially all our food fetishes.  Overhearing one of the campers inquire whether any of the food served was vegan, my friend Ken observed, "Hell, out here in California even the rabbits are vegetarians."  That one just gets better and better for me, especially as i envision those clawed and fanged New England rabbits.

The fringe benefit was that i picked up highway 29 just above Vallejo and followed it past Napa and through the Napa Valley vineyards to Calistoga.  And from there over the flanks of Mount Saint Helena (which unlike Mount St. Helens up in Washington is a totally dormant volcano, at least so far) through Middleton, Lower Lake, and Kelseyville, past Clear Lake and Lakeport to its junction with highway 20 five miles from camp, a lovely route i'd never taken and such a pleasure that i used it in return.  If you're ever going up to Clear Lake from the city, use this route for a change from 101.

Meanwhile, here's one of the pics i got at camp.  The water strider was a bonus.

And here's my other critter shot.  Damn little thing obstinately refused to look at the camera, and i pushed him beyond his endurance when i ran around in front of him and stuck the macro lens in his face.

And OK, one more flora pic because i couldn't believe my luck.  I was rolling along on the Segway and suddenly there at my feet was this.

Campaign Mendacity - 29 July 2012

Last week President Obama gave a speech in which he said:

We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

 We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently…We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more …

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me, because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business. you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together.  That’s how we funded the GI Bill.  That’s how we created the middle class.  That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam.  That’s how we invented the Internet.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for president – because I still believe in that idea.  You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.”

Then somebody at Republican Headquarters realized that if they took the two short sentences yellow highlighted above out of the speech and presented them as Youtube clips with Obama saying nothing else, it would obscure Obama's point that virtually no business in America could operate without help of some kind from sources paid for with public funds, such as our roads and highways.

And then Democrats countered by squealing that the two sentences were deliberately taken out of context in order to obscure their intended meaning, and much fingerpointing ensued on both sides.

And then the Wall Street Journal jumped into the fray by publishing an article by one Gordon Crovitz ostensibly refuting Obama's assertion that the Internet had been created by government research.  The problem was that Crovitz's account bore only a tangential relationship with reality, and you have to wonder why he thought he could get away with it since most of the men he discussed were still alive and could immediately refute him.  Which they did, the most entertaining of whom being Vincent Cerf, primary developer of TCP/IP, who observed that he could fertilize his tomatoes with Crovitz's account of his role.

But of course this hasn't stopped Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox from citing Crovitz's article as a definitive refutation of Obama.   Nor will this stop Crovitz and the Wall Street Journal from printing articles they know to be full of untruths since the game nowadays seems to be to shout mendacious propaganda at the top of one's lungs, confident that it will convince much of the public.

Look, i'm a liberal.  Worse, i'm a damn progressive, and this whole website displays my bias.  But what i don't do is post things here that i know to be false.  For that matter, when kind readers have called errors to my attention, i have immediately posted corrections.  I'm biased, but i'm not a liar, which is more than i can say about scumbags like Crovitz.

So if you see an error on this site, please email me and i'll stamp it out.  

Meanwhile, some more of the flora at Saratoga Springs

Tillandsia usneoides

Food Issue - 2 August 2012

OK, so much for the political rants.  Well, after i mention overhearing some visiting Louisianans complain about how we lazy Californians are allowed by our tax and spend socialist government to lie on our backs and suck in for free a surfeit of the nation's precious oxygen.  But now let's talk about something we can all agree on:  food.

I've written about my discovery of Gilberth's and going there with both Sybil and Gloria.  My new restaurant discovery, if i can call it new since it's been around practically at my doorstep since 2006 even though i'd never eaten there, is Aslam's Rasoi on Valencia off 21st Street.  My friend Mark took me there the other day for the best Pakistani/Indian food i've had in many years, maybe ever.  We had an appetizer of the Bengan Pakoras, slices of battered and fried eggplant, that was quite good and followed that by the best tandoori chicken i recall eating, wonderfully flavorful, moist, and tender.  Our charming waitress upsold us from the Saag Gosht to the evening's special of marinated lamb chops with a side of spinach curry, and yes it doubled the price but oh my goodness was every bite sublime. The lamb chops were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the spinach was divine.  We skipped rice but shared an order of excellent naan. 

And yes, sitting here writing about that visit got me so fired up that i  started thinking about it this afternoon while i was at the nearby Bartlett Street Farmers' Market, where i picked up some of Arata's wonderful little extra potent nectarines that gradually ripen on my laundry porch without getting all squishy and got into such a good rap with Mr. Arata that i totally blew off grabbing some of those truly fine pink Brandywines from his handsome neighbor although i did fit in some schmoozing with Cynthia at Dandelion Chocolate.   And stopped at Aslam's on the way home for the Saag Gosht and a piece of naan.  Oh good grief.  saag gosht is my favorite Pakistani/Indian dish, and i've never had it better...even when eaten under Charmazel's wing.  Eat at Aslam's Rasoi, folks.

Meanwhile, to keep this post from running on, i'll save the rest of the food news but mention that i'm gonna give you a little rest from all the flora pics now and focus on other things.  Like this new trend in urban security that amplifies the tendency of folks living on streets with a lot of pedestrian traffic to erect barred gates in front of their entryways.  Now they go ahead and extend the entryway by building a cage out to the foot of the steps:

Or this one, also on 18th Street in the gentrifying block between Guerrero and Dolores.  That light colored stuff on the tips is the curare.

Meanwhile, in a related theme, some low income housing on Capp Street.

Isadora Gray - 6 August 2012

Everything was going fine.  I'd cruised through the Sunday Streets closing of Valencia Street having a wonderful time soaking up the good communal vibes of  a few thousand happy people out in the middle of the street on a sunny Sunday.  Like these folks doing their collective dance thing.

As i rode along i couldn't help noticing that Aslam's Rasoi was open for lunch in honor of the street closure, so i went in and had their full strength (i.e. "hot") Saag Gosht and a piece of naan.  Then pleasantly stuffed i continued toward home and realized i could stop in Safeway for the wheat germ i'd been wanting.

And yes, in the back of my mind there had bubbled to the surface the idea of perhaps grabbing a pint of high quality vanilla ice cream to use up some of that chocolate sauce made with Tcho chocolate the other day that something went wrong with so that sugar crystals formed and i was reluctant to give it to folks, it being second quality and all that.

I was probably thinking of a mountain of that ice cream surmounted by a lava flow of crunchy chocolate sauce, thus causing me not to notice that my field jacket, which i'd doffed owing to the warm afternoon and had hanging on my right handlebar, was slipping a bit so that the leading edge of the bottom, rather like Isadora Duncan's scarf, finally dangled low enough that it could be trapped between the right tire and the street, thus causing that side of the Segway to come to an immediate halt.  The other side and i continued briefly in our previous trajectories until somehow i spun around and my left foot got entangled in the field jacket as we all crashed to the ground, twisting my ankle into a highly unnatural position before it finally yielded and ripped itself half in two.

No no, the jacket.  The ankle remains tenuously attached.  And yes, i know i'm lucky it was my foot that got caught rather than my neck like poor Isadora.

I sincerely wanted to lie there in agony but of course as usual with my accidents there were lots of witnesses, all of whom had dropped everything and were converging on me from every angle so i had to immediately stagger to my feet shouting, "Nothing harmed but my pride, people.  I'm fine, i'm fine.  No prob.  Everything's OK.  Move along folks, nothing to see here."

Luckily i can ride the Segway with just one foot on the platform, so i went ahead and picked up two pints of the ice cream and some wheat germ in Safeway, using a shopping cart to bear my weight so i could get around in the store.  The expedition will continue until the last man drops.

Back home i got the shoe off and jury rigged an ice pack while i made a supper of the ice cream (yes, both pints) and wrapped the ankle with an Ace bandage.  Got through the night with some left over vintage 1995 Demerol and called my doctor first thing this morning.  She took one look at my foot, poked it experimentally ("Yipe!") and sent me off for x-rays, which revealed a fracture, and so now i have an appointment in the morning to see an orthopedist who specializes in feet and ankles.

This is great although i might not be ready for another week or so to emulate these rollerbladers at Sunday Streets as they skate twenty yards to build up maximum speed and then leap into the air and slide all the way to the end of that pipe on the edges of their skates.

Oh, and another pic from Sunday Streets.  I had the shot of the three young women against that wall framed, but then folks kept walking past as i tried to squeeze off a shot between them.  Look, Dude, you walked into my frame...which was not about you but rather the women behind you.

Late Note:  Turns out my injury was worse that it first appeared.  There were two fractures and a bunch of stuff torn loose.  At least this is something new, as i've never had leg surgery before.

Crutch City - 10 August 2012

I sure have done a number on myself this time.  I mangled my foot so badly that the orthodoc tells me he can't do the surgery now because the hemorrhagic fracture blisters on both sides and the top present too great a risk for runaway infections and other hideous complications, and i'd just as soon keep this foot for a while longer, as curious as i am about Oscar Pistorius' Cheetahs.

Warning:  if you Google "hemorrhagic fracture blister", don't look at the images as they're disgusting.  Even more so when they're at the end of your own leg.  

The good news is that he did more x-rays yesterday and was pleased that i had somehow managed to do something right so that the fractures had not expanded.  So now he's dangling the possibility that if i can stay off that foot and keep it elevated until the blisters resolve and the traumatized tissues heal, the fractures may have closed on their own and surgery won't be necessary.

Woulda tapdanced out except i knew it would hurt too much.

So now i'm learning how to use crutches and and to keep that leg elevated when i'm reading or writing or watching the Olympics.  Well, or sleeping, but mostly reading.  Today i'll begin Quicksilver, the first volume of Neal Stephenson's massive (900 pages each) three volume Baroque Cycle.  The perfect thing to read during a time of enforced idleness.

Meanwhile, some local flora.

Crutches, Smutches - 14 August 2012

Those who know me will probably not be all that surprised that i've again indulged my penchant for high tech, ecologically benign vehicles.  Here's my latest acquisition.  It's called a "knee scooter".

To get around the city i can tow the knee scooter behind the Segway uphill and then tow the Segway behind the knee scooter downhill.  Why the double vehicle thing?  Simple.  Going uphill, you can go a lot faster on the Segway because the knee scooter is powered only by your good leg.  For going downhill, the Segway has a governor that prevents it from going over 12 MPH in balance mode, but if it's turned off and towed behind the knee scooter, you can coast down the hill at much greater speeds.  Ahh, the best of both worlds.

Yet Another Language Moment - 18 August 2012

OK, i'm moving on from writing about my damn leg because it struck me that if there is anything more boring than sitting around watching your bones knit, it's reading about somebody else's bones knitting.  So let's have another Language Moment, this one from my sordid career as a minor partner in a limousine company in San Francisco 1980-1984.  I listed myself with the company as a speaker of French, German, and Spanish even though i was far from fluent in any of them.  Nevertheless, i was good enough to give tours in those languages, which was almost the only reason any client wanted a bilingual driver.

One exception was two northern Italian couples who got through customs successfully at SFO and then discovered that the alpha male, who had fancied himself their English speaker, was unable to understand anything anyone said to him, nor could they understand him.  So i happened to be standing within earshot when he was thrashing around helplessly with the airport porter who had this great pile of their luggage on his cart.  I tried French, and suddenly four light bulbs burst into great radiance and they all started talking at once.  They were wealthy northern Italians, indifferent students, and chose to study French since it was so vastly much easier than English.  But it was a second language for all of us, so could cut each other plenty of slack.

They were so relieved at being able to communicate with someone that they hired me as their guide for their entire four day stay.  They were fun-loving, delightful people, and we all had a good time.  And of course i made oodles of money since they were so traumatized by their airport encounter that wanted me around all their waking hours.

The only downer (and it was just for me) was owing to one of those little cultural quirks that sometimes get in your way.  They wanted a fine Chinese dinner, so i recommended the Mandarin, opened by Cecilia Chang in 1968, still at its peak in 1982, widely acclaimed as the best Chinese restaurant in the city, and universally rated as the most expensive.  Still, my clients had plenty of money, so what could go wrong?

Well, when we were seated and i was describing the menu to them and recommending dishes that we order, a tiny little warning bell went off.  After a couple of them had said something to the effect, "I'll order that one." i realized that they were thinking of ordering individual dishes, so i carefully explained that at Chinese restaurants, you ordered bowls of a variety of foods so that everyone got to taste everything and then  have larger amounts of his favorites.  Aghast looks were exchanged.  Polite demurrals were issued.  And then one of them explained that they didn't eat "that way".  And i realized that in their culture family style dining was something that one saw only in movies showing Sicilian peasants eating supper together, still smeared with dirt from the fields.

They were relatively young, happy people, eager to see new things and experience America.  But there were some things too barbarous to contemplate.  So we ordered separately.  And at some point the headwaiter drifted over and saw what was going on and tried to explain that they were supposed to share.  And i manfully translated.  And pointed out that the other well dressed patrons were sharing their food.  And still, they could not bring themselves to violate this cultural taboo.

You owe it to yourself.  The next time you're in Europe, cast aside your silly American culinary taboos and eat a delicious horse cutlet.

Meanwhile, a treat i made for myself the other day.

green salsa

What's that green stuff?  OK, just some salsa i made of tomatillos, jalapeños, and scallions.  The white stuff is Laura Chenel's acclaimed chèvre.  The red stuff is Brandywine tomatoes, people.  It's a good combination, just taste it.  C'mon, just a little taste.

A Great Capsaicin Adventure - 26 August 2012

it was such a lovely morning that i strapped on my ortho boot and Segwayed down to the HoC Farmers' Market to pass on to three of my favorite vendors the bottles of red Thai chiles i'd discovered in the refrigerator the other day and pickled.  They're way too hot for me, but i love pickling them for friends.

But when i hit the last vendor, he stepped into his truck and produced a bag of yellow nectarines, the last of his crop and not really enough to put out in a display, especially since they were dead ripe and would just get pawed to a pulp, so he saved 'em for one of his good customers who he knew loved nectarines over peaches.  Enter Matte, stage left.

But since they're dead ripe, i need to make a small batch of jam with them today.  So i doubled back to my favorite chile vendor and picked up some red New Mexicos.  Actually, when i had first looked at those chiles it crossed my mind that they might be Italian sweet peppers since the two can look much alike.  So i asked to make sure.  Yep, New Mexico chiles.  I bought lots of 'em.

And then when i got the nectarines simmering with the sugar and apple pulp, i juiced the lemon and seeded and pureed the New Mexico chiles.    See, i had a dialog with my nectarine vendor about capsaicin, so i'm trying a new technique, pureeing the chiles and the lemon juice in the blender and adding it to the jam during the last few minutes of cooking, hoping in that way to keep the piquancy level up.  

So with great expectations, i took a cautious taste of the pepper puree.  Aarrgh.   i've been taken advantage of by a new clerk at an old vendor.   Not a trace of capsaicin.  And since i'd promised the nectarine vendor a jar of the jam and he's a major capsaicin lover, i was trapped.  Thank god i hadn't taken the damn boot off, so i rode down to Casa Guadalupe and bought four of those hot yellow chiles i remembered having found very hot many years ago.  Got them back here, cut up the first one, and took a tiny taste.  Sigh.  Wrong damn peppers twice in a row, but this time it was my fault for not asking.  So fuck it.  I went ahead and threw in some perfectly ripe French plums, and i'll call it a Nectarine and French Plum Jam with Totally Mild Peppers.

Oh, and Gloria got back to me that i really ought to mention that i did all this hopping around on one leg, so yes, even though i'm labeling them NFPNM, they're really OLNFPSIMY  One Legged Nectarine French Plum Sweet Italian Mild Yellow Pepper Jam.

On the other hand, some things are coming up roses:

The Cordileone Files - 29 August 2012

San Francisco's been all atwiz the past few days over the news about His Excellency Salvatore Cordileone, now Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland and currently awaiting his new title "His Grace" and his installation as Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

It seems that His Excellency was down in his home town of San Diego last weekend celebrating his recent reward from the Vatican for being an indefatigable foe of gays and originator of the infamous Prop 8 of 2008.  In collusion with the current Archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer, he launched the mendacious but effective campaign to deny gays the secular marriage rites they had been granted by the state supreme court.  And at the festive dinner last Friday night he guzzled enough good California wine that he failed a sobriety test at a roadblock near the UCSD campus and was hauled off to jail.

Which of course connoisseurs of Roman Catholic hypocrisy just loved and sent the news viral.  The Chronicle published one of my gay friend Louis' letters pointing out that His Excellency has made a career of calling Louis a "grave threat to the family" even while His Excellency goes jovially driving around drunk as a lord.   Look, i relish my role as a threat to His Excellency's thirteenth-century theology, but who's the graver threat to the lives of his contemporary Californians?

Still, there were a couple of things that none of the letters pointed out.  

First, the news accounts all agree that when the arresting officer asked for his occupation, Cordileone admitted that he was "a priest".  How perfectly Jesuitical, "a priest".  Just a run-of-the-mill, ordinary, altar-boy-groping priest.   Move along, folks, nothing to see here.   It was left to some nosy San Diego police department worker to out Cordileone as Bishop of Oakland, Archbishop-in-Waiting of San Francisco, indefatigable foe of gays and pushy nuns, and one of the most powerful men in the entire American Roman Catholic hierarchy.

So why was His about-to-be Grace so modest?  Could it be for the same reason that the Roman Catholic Church has routinely covered up the child abuse of its priests?  For the same reason Penn State covered up decades of sexual abuse by Coach Sandusky?  Could it be that protecting the institution is vastly more important than revelation of the truth?  That embarrassing truths must be concealed to the greatest degree possible to protect the revenue stream?

And second, the news accounts all mention that one of the passengers was Cordileone's 88-year-old mother and that she was allowed to drive the car away from the scene.  Hmmm.  Yes, i certainly understand that there are many people in America who are 88 years old and still have drivers' licenses, but i should think that even if she were not legally drunk, whatever modest amount of alcohol she had consumed plus all the difficulties of being 88 years old would not have made her the first choice as driver. 

Well, unless she was the only passenger who had a drivers' license.   See, in California to get a drivers' license you have to pass both written and driving tests.  Oh, and you have to be over 18 years old.

No no, it may not as bad as we connoisseurs of Roman Catholic child abuse might think.  I mean, maybe word will leak out that the passengers were his mother and his two favorite love children.

But then, after i read this article in the gay newspaper Bay Area Reporter, i started to feel a sense of shame for mounting the above vicious personal attack on His Excellency.  I loathe the Roman Catholic heirarchy so deeply because of their continuing hateful attacks on me that i routinely lose perspective and write something nasty in an attempt to strike back against my persecutors.  I could be more effective as a warrior against that rotten church if i avoided the personal attacks and simply focused on the church's abundant evils, reminding myself all the while (as i have mentioned before) that there are millions of Catholic worshipers who are appalled at the current teachings of their church and the actions of their heirarchy.  Do read that article i linked to at the beginning of this paragraph.

Meanwhile, enough of those fluffy flowers for a while

Food, Glorious Food - 6 September 2012

Just a grab bag of San Francisco food recommendations from the past month.  In order of my discovery, they are:

Olivier's Butchery backs up to Gilberth's, and they supply a good deal of the meat served at Gilberth's.  Their door, alas, is on Illinois Street, which runs only a few blocks parallel to 3rd Street, so it goes from nowhere to someplace uninteresting and nobody's ever heard of it.  I blundered onto Olivier's because they were clever enough to put a sandwich board up at the corner of 22nd and 3rd, and i saw it as i Segwayed away from Gilberth's on my first visit.  Mostly out of interest in getting a photo op of the industrial wasteland to the east, i rode down the block and around the corner.

What a pleasant surprise to find a boucherie with traditional French cuts of beef and an assortment of American cuts of other meats with charming and helpful clerks.  Didn't really feel like planning a menu around one of the meats, but i picked up a pound of merguez to express solidarity.  May have been the best merguez i've ever eaten.  I took Sybil and Gloria in there after our visits to Gilberth's, and they liked it, too.  I've also eaten their chorizo and found it excellent.   

And while i'm talking about new butchers and sausages, i have to mention that i'd read some of the hype on 4505 and tried two of their sausages from their booth at the Bartlett Street Farmers' Market.  Their other meats may very well be good, but neither of their sausages was even close to the two i've eaten from Olivier's.

Commonwealth is Anthony Myint's wildly acclaimed upscale place next door to Mission Chinese Food.  For the high end foodies who might be a bit nervous about leaving their Lexuses on the street in that gritty section of Mission, they even have a small parking lot, and their front door opens off the parking lot rather than directly onto Mission Street so as to avoid the ambiance of the street bums.  Jeff took me there for my birthday, and we had the tasting menu, which was a great bargain considering that much of the food showed the influence of Ferran Adrià and was highly technical and shockingly good.  That said, my favorite dish was sweetbreads of lamb, which i'd never had.  Wow.

And speaking of innards, i repaid Jeff by taking him to Incanto, where we shared a number of courses including lamb's tongue, which was alas, too much like beef tongue, but the rest of the meal was as good as i'd expected.  Highly recommended, and like Commonwealth, a place i'd been wanting to go to for years.

Both Incanto and Commonwealth are a bit pricey for me now, so my next discovery, Eureka Restaurant and Lounge, was an enormous pleasure.  The restaurant is in the old Neon Chicken location and has been open for several years, but i'd given up on finding a good restaurant there again since nothing has succeeded in that spot since the Chicken's legendary run.  Fortunately, i read an article about fried chicken livers that mentioned Eureka's version favorably.  And since it's right down the hill from me and easily accessible, i Segwayed down there yesterday.

Oh, my goodness.  I'd planned to just have a couple of their appetizers as a light supper, so i ordered the fried okra and the fried chicken livers for eight bucks each.  Then i noticed that i could have a side of garlic mashed potatoes for five bucks more.  They asked if i wanted them all at once and i said, Sure.  Fairly small plates, but piled high.  And all three were absolutely delicious.  Since i knew i couldn't eat it all, i went ahead and finished the okra and potatoes and took about two-thirds of the livers home.  And yes, i skipped dessert.  This is a place where for sure i want to eat my way through the menu.

When my ankle heals i'll go back onto a low-carb diet but for now i need some food that will fight my depression, and numerous medical studies have confirmed that the best way to kill depression is to smother it beneath a thick blanket of saturated fat and carbohydrates.

Speaking of killing things, i thought i'd killed this Phalaenopsis that Jeff had given me, so i threw the carcass out onto the laundry porch last spring with the idea of salvaging the pot.  Was out there doing my laundry last month and noticed that i'd botched the murder, so i went ahead and brought it back into the office.

You behave yourself, and you can stay inside.

East Texas Girls - 8 September 2012

Back around 1996 or so my East Texas cousin Suzanne paid me a visit accompanied by her good friend Barbara, the wife of the DA in their little town.  When she called me to set up the visit, i eagerly agreed since she's great fun and immediately started thinking of things we could do.  And then, a week before they arrived my friend Brady invited me to a party set for the night of their arrival.  Of course he was delighted that i could bring my out of towners to give them a taste of the real San Francisco.

So that simmered on my back burner as i realized that ummm, i'd be taking a couple of conservative East Texas women to a party at which probably half the guests would be gay men.  Not that that would be a problem since i was long since out with my cousin.  No, the problem was that i knew very well that at some point, or points, during the party funny smelling cigarettes would be passed around and that my visitors would certainly be offered to share in this refreshment.  In those days, at least in the circles i ran in, joints were routinely passed around at parties.  Besides, my friend Brady was a total stoner, so marijuana was guaranteed to be present at a party of his.

And this got me more and more nervous, so on the way home from the airport, i delicately broached the subject, telling them about the party invitation and reassuring them that we didn't have to go and that in any case it was always in good taste to politely decline unusual cigarettes.  They reassured me that they'd love to attend the party and wouldn't be freaked out at seeing the joints.

So we went.  And everybody seemed to have a good time.

A couple of days later i called Brady up and thanked him, saying that my visitors had had a good time and laughing at myself over how i'd been concerned that they'd be freaked by seeing the joints passed around.

Brady burst into laughter and explained that my guests had both cordially thanked him for a wonderful time and that they didn't seem to him to have been the slightest bit freaked.

On the other hand, he said, the remainder of his guests had had the most memorable party they'd ever attended.


He explained that while i had been deeply engrossed in conversation with someone else, the subject of a lady's need to be able to protect herself had come up in the circle in which my visitors were conversing, and Barbara had opened her purse to display her little pearl-handled 25, the perfect ladies' handbag gun, leaving the San Franciscans aghast and horrified.

Which perhaps explained why my guests were treated with such elaborate courtesy, and why in any case it provided the San Franciscans a truly memorable party since many of them had probably never been in the same room with a gun, much less having had the opportunity to chat with an armed guest.

And i can't segue from that one to any of my photos, so here's some art behind City Hall last spring:

Strasbourg - 9 September 2012

My friend Peter's son is now visiting Strasbourg, which reminded me of my own visits there in the sixties when i was stationed in the American army in Germany but was far more accomplished in French than German.

My German friends had warned me before my first visit that the Strasbourgers were notorious for their penchant for speaking German to French visitors and French to the Germans.  What an amusing story, i thought.

And then there i was on my first trip to Strasbourg speaking French to a shop girl when she switched to German in mid-transaction.  I deduced that her first language was French when she did not switch back to it upon hearing my German responses.

Here's our new green Public Utilities Commission building at Polk and Golden Gate.  The wind turbines are on the other side.

East Texas Followup - 12 September 2012

That tale about my East Texas cousin raised enough eyebrows that i figure it needs a followup.  Here's my version from memory of an article in a Houston newspaper a couple of years ago.

This poor single mother with a little kid at home has worked hard for two weeks in her dishwashing job at a restaurant and is given her paycheck when she gets off work.  She cashes it at an ATM, but as she turns away from the machine, she is knocked to the ground by a mugger, who grabs the money out of her hand.

She's an East Texas girl, remember, so she just rolls to the side, pulls her gun out of her purse, and puts six slugs into the robber, who expires on the spot as she is retrieving her money from his hand.  The police come, and since it was clearly self defense, she is released on her own recognizance and instructed to go to the DA's office in the morning.

The DA explains that under the circumstances he's not going to bring charges against her, but one aspect did present a bit of a problem for him, and he asks her:  "How come you had to go and shoot him six times?"

"Because the last time I pulled the trigger it just went, 'Click'."

Meanwhile, talk about digging yourself into a hole:

And OK, it's not as bad as it looks because at the top of the excavation just out of the frame to the left stands the crane that will lift the earthmovers out when their job is done.  The men will remain until the end of their shift.

Jim Gaither.  February 11, 1944 - July 25, 2012

My friend Jim had the poor taste to lie down for his afternoon nap last July 25 and not get up.  The minor tragedy is that while he had finished teaching me how to choose cameras, he had not completed my instruction in how to use them.  All too often, goaded to exasperation i suspect not entirely feigned, he'd just grab my camera from my ignorant hands, call up a menu or set a dial and say, "There.  Like that!"  

And sure enough, i'd be kicked up to a higher plane.

He had the patience to do this on many occasions, and i sure do hope i had made it fully clear to him how indebted i was for his instruction.

Of course his own photography was sublime, and i've learned a lot just looking at his photos.  Here's his Flickr site, now being maintained as a memorial by our mutual friend Stephen.  Note his scrupulousness in tracking down the genus and species of all the flora and the precise location of almost everything else.  

I'd started joining him, his partner Roy, and Stephen for breakfast sometimes on Saturday mornings at Le Zinc, and am saddened that i'd not started sooner so as to get to know him better.  

Stephen and Rowen hosted a memorial gathering for him last Sunday, an occasion for those who knew him to salute him, learn more of his background, and marvel at prints Stephen had made of some of his work.

And there's no way i'd have the balls to put one of my pics in here today.

The Peruvians - 24 September 2012

One day back in the early eighties when i was working as a chauffeur in a limousine company, i was waiting out at the airport for potential customers and the woman at our main desk in the United terminal called me to say that she had some Spanish-speaking customers for me.

I went rushing over to the desk and, seeing no likely candidates, asked her where my customers were waiting.  She indicated an elderly Chinese couple standing nearby.  Well yes, i reminded myself, this is like that time i got an order for a German speaking driver and my clients turned out to be two women in saris.  While you sometimes guess accurately, someone's appearance is often no indicator of what language he speaks.  

So i introduced myself, and we understood each other's Spanish perfectly.  They told me they wanted to go to Lafayette, which was $90, but they agreed and i loaded their considerable luggage and we set off.

Enroute, i learned that forty years ago, the couple had emigrated from Canton province to Peru, that his brother had immigrated to the Bay Area about the same time, and this would be their first meeting in all those years.

The address they gave me was in a subdivision so new that it wasn't on my relatively new map, but there was a fire station near the first Lafayette exit, and firemen could always be counted on to know places that weren't on the maps yet.  

Still, my having to inquire made them a little nervous, and when i pulled up in front of an imposing brand new house in an upscale subdivision, they were reluctant to leave the car until i could produce the brother.  So i walked up and rang the bell.

To my great relief, the door was answered by an older Chinese man, who when i told him that his brother was here to see him, burst into a great laugh and ran past me out to the car for a joyous reunion with much excited Cantonese conversation.  When i'd finally got all that luggage to the door, i gently interrupted the reunion so my client and i could settle up.

As i was thanking him and wishing them a wonderful visit with his brother in his beautiful new house while he thanked me for being able to get them there safely,  i happened to glance at the American brother.

No inscrutable Oriental here.  He was standing there in slack jawed amazement that this white driver and his brother could be chattering away like magpies in front of him, and he couldn't understand a word we were saying.  Wrong, wrong.  Somehow all wrong.  Shoe doesn't fit on this foot.

So of course i wished him a happy visit with his brother.  In English.

And then said goodbye to the couple in Spanish.

Here's a Sunday morning newspaper shot:

Mr. Do-It-Himself - 29 September 2012

I went to my beloved Luscious Garage a few days ago for routine maintenance/oil change, and as i came in the door i noticed there, basking the afternoon sun, a photo opportunity.  So i took it.

exploded Prius battery

Nice play of light and all that, but what is it?  It's about the right size and shape for a first generation Prius battery, but this one looks a bit Daliesque.  

Well yes, it seems that Mr. Do-It-Himself decided he could save the three hundred bucks and just drop a new battery into his Prius at home.

Alas, Something Happened, and the damn thing exploded on him.  Well, actually, the good news is that he was standing at the opposite end of the car, so it luckily didn't actually explode on him,  and he was uninjured.  

At least until he had to have the car towed into Luscious and, in the process of telling 'em what happened, sustained third degree burns over 85% of his pride.

And Luscious?  Oh no, they didn't exactly rub it in although they did park the damn wrecked battery right at the front door where everybody and his dog can see it, wonder what's going on, and ask.

Me, i was gonna put a new bulb in my dome light but decided i'd better go ahead and leave it to nice people who know what they're doing.  After all, i'm planning on this thing getting me to Vancouver and back in a couple of weeks.

And for the want of a dome light.....

Good Deeds Repaid - 30 September 2012

Late this morning i had the idea that i'd take advantage of my increased mobility now that i can go short distances without a crutch, so i hopped on the Segway and rode down between the 3rd and 4th Street drawbridges with the idea that i'd sit there in a pleasant spot reading Pinker and watching the bridges until a sailboat came along and they were opened so that i could get photos of them in the open position as the boat was passing through.  Been wanting to do that for some time.

But no sooner than i'd got settled comfortably, a thought struck me.  I normally ignore them, but this one was persistent and finally got through.  What kind of sailboats use Mission Creek? the thought nagged.  Ahhh, yes, those moored by the houseboats at the farthest navigable point.  And when, on a gorgeous day like this, would those boats be passing beneath 3rd and 4th Streets?    Well of course, as they are setting out in the early morning and returning in the late afternoon.  So i'll be sitting here waiting until at least five this afternoon.  Oh please.

But it was a pleasant ride and i realized that since it was lunchtime i could swing by SoMa StrEat Food Park on the way home and maybe catch the superb garlic noodles from the  Little Green Cyclo truck.  Alas, they weren't there, but i spotted a gyros truck (not on the StrEat Park's vendor list) and gave them a try.  Very good.  Maybe the best pita i ever ate, but the meat was merely good.  Not that there was a shred of it left.

The best part of the meal, though, was not the food.  Shortly after i started eating, the table next to me was occupied by a young mother with a toddler.  And they'd barely started eating when the little girl needed to go to the bathroom.  The mother sat there looking around in indecision, and i intuited the problem, so i offered to keep watch on their food and the stroller while they took their bathroom break.  Nice to be able to help.

They returned as i was finishing my sandwich, and i wished them a good day and Segwayed off.  Decided to stop at Safeway, so i took the sidewalks and parallel streets along Duboce, and was approaching Guerrero when i realized i'd left my pack beside my table.  Nothing of value in it except my good Segway lock, which would be useless to anyone since it was locked.  But still, on the off chance i could retrieve it, i whirred back down Duboce at top speed. Screeched into the StrEat Park and sure enough, they'd finished their meal and the woman was wondering what to do about my pack.

Just wonderful when good deeds are repaid almost instantly and a reminder that i must seek opportunities to do them.

Meanwhile, speaking of opportunities, i caught a glimpse of this photo op last July as i was merging into a FastPass only lane at the Bay Bridge toll plaza.  Risked life, limb, and the lives of my fellow mergers to get this shot:

Port of Oakland