July 2006


I had taken every precaution.

I’d made sure there was only five bucks in my billfold, and I’d Segwayed over to the SF County Fair Building there in front of the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park rather than taking my car so I wouldn’t be able to carry boxes full of pots home.

See, it was the semiannual show/sale of the SF Cactus and Succulent Society, and we know how I do love my Haworthias…and Faucarias and Gasterias and Euphorbias and all the Mesembryanthemaceae, many of which in a massive reorganization of the taxonomy are now called something difficult to remember

It was a gorgeous ride over there through the Haight, during which I discovered that the parking lot for Amoeba Records, of which I had not known the existence owing to it being at the end of a slot canyon between Amoeba and its neighbor building, is a treasure trove of street art. Some pretty entertaining stuff, actually:

Amoeba Alley

And then the park. How can it be that I so rarely get into the park on my Segway, it being the perfect park vehicle? Somehow, as soon as they enter the park, cars and even SUVs become calmer, in less rush, and thus more generous to smaller and slower vehicles. (I return this generosity by trying keep that ecological grimace off my face when I see an SUV.)

So anyhow, I glide up to the Fair Building and chain the Segway to a convenient bike rack at the door and walk in as I’m shucking the helmet. My heart goes pitter-patter as I take in a roomful of cactus and succulent fanciers hovering over long tables of specimens and murmuring in delight.

Not me, I’m here only to admire the plants and take pics. Well, maybe kick a planter or two while reminding myself that I’m broke and have too many plants at home to take care of as it is.

And of course what do I see on the first damn table but a handsome Lithops the size of a medium egg. I didn’t know they got that large! L. pseudotruncatella v. groendravensis.

Lithops pseudotruncatella v. groendravensis

And only $4.00!!! Sigh. And then right beside it another Lithops, but this one disguised as a Conophytum, L. aucamptae v. Jackson’s Jade.

Lithops aucamptae v. Jackson's Jade

At $3.50. I mean, together that’s less than I paid for my bargain lunch yesterday!!!!

See, I’ve killed many Mesembryanthemaceae: Lithops, Dinteranthus, Pliospilos, Pseudolithos, Fenestraria, and other genera I can’t remember. But I always wanted a Conophytum….and a Conophytum look-alike will do.

And then in the next aisle, the Haworthias. Omigod. There were many that I have, and many that I’ve given away, and lots of less lovely ones that I don’t have and, since I have room now only for the handsomest specimens, can easily pass up. But oh, there were really nice-looking ones that I wanted badly.

Like, say, the H. cooperii

Haworthia cooperii

and the H. blackbeardii,

Haworthia blackbeardii

both of which have larger translucent areas at the leaf tips than any I’ve ever seen, and check out those awns on the blackbeardii! What a deal at $16 for the two.

Alas, I had neglected to remove the credit card from my wallet.

And see, I had to buy all four so they would fit snugly down at the bottom of the pack so that when the pack was on my back they couldn’t tip and I could make it safely home.

Need I mention that the return trip was made with excruciating caution? Wouldn’t do to fall with my babies on my back.

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It started out this morning as I was sipping coffee and reading the paper and planning the work I’d be doing today. But then I got an email from my friend Dick that reminded me that, hey, today I deserve a break. Well, maybe deserve is too strong and I should just say that I stopped thinking about all the things I needed to do and started planning a day of recreation and treats.

So I made myself some more coffee and relaxed over the paper and then Segwayed down to the gym and had a nice little workout which I ended by knocking the last 45 seconds off the final stage on the Stairmaster. What a luxurious little treat

And then I jumped back onto the Segway and headed out toward the Civic Center/Hayes Valley for lunch, thinking at first of one of the pastrami sandwiches at Max’s Opera Plaza but then remembering their chopped chicken liver, which made me think of the fried chicken livers at Powell’s. Alas, even though I knew Powell’s had been forced to move a few blocks off Hayes by a huge rent increase when the area gentrified after the old freeway stub was torn down, I couldn’t remember exactly where it had gone.

But while I was looping around hunting it I spotted Citizen Kane, where I had previously eaten only their astonishing desserts, and stopped there. But as I was chaining up the Segway I got into conversation with a couple sitting out front; and it turned out that while they were waiting for another couple to have lunch at Citizen Kane, they also liked soul food and thought this other place that they couldn’t remember the name of over on Haight up from the Duboce triangle had better chicken livers than Powell’s.

Now really wanting my chicken livers, I got back onto the Segway and headed over to Haight Street but didn’t see any place that looked like it served soul food before I smelled delicious barbecue; but while I was following my nose hunting that, I spotted Raja and remembered their fabulous curried spinach with garbanzos and their excellent marinated roasted chicken and their fine naan and other good things on their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

So that’s what I ate…for the price of a dessert at Citizen Kane. Thirds on the spinach so as to balance out the last quarter of the naan.

And then on the way back here I stopped at the convenience store at Noe and 19th and admitted to Sami that his wife’s hummus, which I only recently discovered, is, like her baba ghanoush, the best I’ve ever eaten, and since I was right there, picked up a tub of it

Back here, for dessert, a high-acid nectarine with a spoonful of dark agave nectar and a slug of half-and-half.

When I got up from my afternoon nap, the weather had turned a bit hot; so I opened a 1.5 liter bottle I’ve been saving in my refrigerator for over a year for a Special Occasion when there were a bunch of people around to appreciate it – “Spa & Fruit lemon-cactus. Zonder Toegevoegde Suikers, Verrijkt met Vitamine C, Minder Calorieen met fruitsap en mineraalwater.” Yes, the famous “cactus sap” that I started writing about in my first Amsterdam tale. Without those added sugars, it’s not cloyingly sweet. Light and tart and delicious over ice on a hot afternoon.

To make up for not serving it to a bunch of people, I had several glasses as I listened to Gilbert Rowland playing Soler harpsichord sonatas while I surfed the Internet into the evening, scooping up much of the baba ghanoush with sesame corn chips.

And now it’s good and dark and the house is rapidly cooling off; and so I can complete the day without accomplishing a single thing, I’m going to bed early. Well, after another glass of cactus sap, this time with a shot of tequila in it. To help me sleep.

Tomorrow, back to my oars….and taking advantage of now being able to ride Muni for fifty cents, having beyond my wildest expectations somehow achieved sixty-five years of age.

Meanwhile, an arrangement for gym shoes and overhead wires:

gym shoes

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An Occurrence on California Street

This morning on the way to the farmers’ market from my optometrist’s, where I dropped several hundred dollars on new specs and sunglasses owing to the good news that my eyes have improved so much than I need a new prescription, I caught the attention of a handsome motorcycle cop with too much time on his hands by performing a U-turn across a double yellow stripe.

I fear that my generously waving him ahead before I pulled the turn was misinterpreted as a form of arrogance rather than courtesy. So having nothing better to do, the cop elected to perform a U-turn himself and swoop upon me.

My fervent prayer that a masked man would choose this moment to run out of the bank next door holding in one hand a sack and in the other a gun which he was firing over his shoulder came, like all of my prayers, to naught. My pointing out to the cop that we had both performed U-turns was not taken well, and he issued me an invitation I could not refuse to a special meeting at the Hall of Justice.

Actually, his personal belief, which he articulated in what I felt was a gratuitously judgmental tone and also recorded on the ticket, was that my particular turn was an especially egregious example of one of the forbidden sorts.

When I eventually got to the market, Poli Yerena told me that I can expect justice to be dispensed at a cost of approximately two hundred bucks, his son having recently had a similar infraction. Surely he exaggerates. I mean, dude, the whole thing was over in five seconds…the turn, that is.

In any case, I lucked out at the market. This has not been a good year for tayberries, but Yerena’s pitiful crop has hung on for a few more days, and I grabbed a flat. I boiled ’em down with the pulp of an apple and the juice of a lemon, and they’re draining in a sieve while I write this.

Here’s a device on Sanchez Street that I found interesting:


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