Journal: 2007


This week we’re between rains and it’s warmer, so it’s really good Segway weather even though I’m not above riding in the rain if it’s not raining hard. See, I do much of my shopping on the Segway partly because it’s so convenient and partly because I get great joy out of being able to mention that I had to break down and put some gas in the Prius last week but that the previous time was over a month ago and a couple hundred miles south of here on my way back from Palm Springs.

There’s actually another reason to ride the Segway, though, and that came up today.

This morning I rode down to the gym and then went on down 18th Street to see if Jivano was there so I could inquire about how long he’ll be around. Yeah, that block is gentrifying, what with Delfina and then Bi-Rite and then Tartine and then the Delfina Pizza place and now the new Bi-Rite cafe and bakery.

So this investor has bought the building where Jivano lives in the back end of the ground floor and sharpens knives in his shop at the front, and after the deal went through before Christmas he told Jivano that he’d be evicting everybody after the new year to do something with the building so he can turn it over. Not exactly sure what yet, but it’s gonna be a major renovation and probably won’t be appropriate, that is affordable, for a knife sharpener any more.

But Jivano didn’t have his blinds open, so I didn’t ring and rode on down to Tartine, thinking maybe I could squander the day’s glycemic load on one of their astounding croissants. Luckily, the line was snaking around enough to boost my will power. So I went on down to Valencia and over to Casa Guadalupe at 25th and Mission, where I bought a stewing chicken for a Mole Poblano Gallina and also picked up some good-looking mangoes and Jalapeños for a chutney.

On the way back home I’m going up 24th Street, where the lights are timed real well for a Segway. So well, in fact, that I keep catching up to this guy my age driving a large bright black American luxury sedan. By the time I’ve passed him the fourth time, I realize that surely the energy equivalent of an entire barrel of Middle-Eastern oil could be generated if we could only somehow run through a turbine the steam venting at high velocity from his ears.

You know, just the inherent wrongness and downright unfairness of it all can get to a man whose very vehicle shows that he is far too entitled to be passed over and over and over by a whirring, obnoxious insect…even one that in no way impedes his progress.

But on a lighter note, how about some Petaluma hoppers on a gray day:

Petaluma hoppers

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I’m sitting here reading David Denby’s article about the future of Hollywood in the current The New Yorker. He wrote about the old downtown picture palaces with names like the Luxor, the Alhambra, the Roxy that were like cathedrals as opposed to the more casual neighborhood theatres where “sometimes we arrived in the middle of the movie and stayed on until it reached the same point in the next show.”

That’s what my mother did when I was a kid. Only when I was old enough to go to movies with other kids was I introduced to the concept of timing one’s arrival to coincide with the beginning of the movie.

In later years I had assumed that my mother’s approach was just one of her weirdnesses rather than something that was common behavior, but I recently checked around with friends and discovered that the parents of many in my generation did this.

Did you ever go to movies like that? Do they even let you do that nowadays?

Why would anybody want to start in the middle of a movie? Was the concept of plot totally alien to them? You go into the thriller when it’s three-quarters over and learn that the butler did it and pouf, there goes a great deal of the enjoyment of the first three quarters.

The answer, I suppose, is that they were going to the movies as an escape and that they gave not a fig about plot.

So strange now that it would have seemed so normal then.

How ’bout a yellow driveway around the corner on 21st Street:

yellow driveway

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The San Francisco Chronicle was too cowardly to print this one.


Regarding the Rev. Malloy’s letter denouncing Nancy Pelosi,   Since the Roman Catholic church is now advising us on political issues, shouldn’t it start paying taxes like other political advocacy groups? 

Matte Gray

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Eight Dollar Eggs

I arose this morning at 6:45, Rayteked the garden, and got readings from -1 to -3 in various locations. Celsius rather than Fahrenheit, of course, since I’m trying to get a better feeling for it so I can speak fluent Celsius in the rest of the world, but still…

So what did I then do first thing on the coldest morning in San Francisco for the last fifteen years? Pulled on several layers of my warmest clothing and headed down to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. In the Prius, because I barely survived the much shorter Segway ride to the gym yesterday morning when it was several degrees warmer.

I didn’t really need anything at the market since I’m going to drive to the Jack London Square Farmers’ Market in Oakland tomorrow to pick up some quark from Oakdale Cheese, but I wanted have coffee with Sybil and to express solidarity and sympathy with the farmers as last night’s weather forecast for the central valley was partly terrible to catastrophic, with record-breaking freezes predicted for many localities.

Got to the market a bit early because Sybil had finally got me curious about her passion for the eggs from Marin Sun Farms, and you have to be there early and get in line because they run out before they have served all the people in line when the market opens at 8:00. Yes, they’re a cult item now, and priced accordingly at $6.00 per dozen. That’s what I said, fifty cents apiece.

Sybil, normally a cautious and prudent shopper who serves as an exemplar, justifies this expense by pointing out that she uses them as a main course that is cheaper than meat. So she’d convinced me. Then I got in line and saw the sign announcing that the price was now $8.00 per dozen. Nonsense, I thought, I can be pushed only so far, especially now that I’m giving up some luxuries, and if that ain’t a luxury, I don’t know what is.

But then Sybil arrived and somehow her very presence re-convinced me and I bought a carton, which I immediately hid underneath the avocados so nobody would know I had committed such an extravagance.

As we went off for coffee, I took a pic of the folks in line and announced that for a mere dollar donation each I would refrain from showing their mothers evidence that they were now standing in line in the cold for eight dollar eggs. Not all were amused.

As we bought our fruit and vegetables after coffee, the farmers were stoic. Many citrus growers, already resigned to losing a good portion of this year’s crop, were hoping that the even colder temperatures predicted for tonight would not cost them too many trees.

I got in from the Ferry Plaza with my eight-buck eggs knowing full well what I was having for lunch – an old favorite consisting of a couple of slices of oat-nut bread oven-toasted to perfection while I sautéed a chopped strip of bacon and then scrambled in it two or three eggs seasoned with freshly ground black pepper. When I have green garlic, I also sauté a stalk in with the bacon, and luckily I had some extra already sautéed that was nearing the end of its refrigerator life, so I threw that in well before the eggs.

And as I was scooping creamy spoonfuls onto the toast, it struck me. Why in the world am I doing this with eight-dollar eggs? I should have made a plain omelet with a dab of butter and four grains of salt so as to get the maximum egg taste rather than covering it up with bacon and garlic and pepper.

Still, it was delicious, and there are ten more eggs, so that’s not the bad news, which is that when I got in from the market and unloaded the car, I thought I’d just go ahead and hop on the Segway and zip down to the Noe Valley market and pick up one of Smit’s cherimoyas and some sorrel since that woman at the Ferry Plaza not having brought hers today really confirmed for me that I am suffering from a severe oxalic acid deficiency that can be relieved only by the administration of a bowl or two of sorrel soup. (See the watercress soup in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol I.)

Alas, before I left the house I somehow managed to break the damn zipper in my only pair of warm pants. So now I’m faced with the prospect of freezing to death if I take the pants out somewhere to get a new zipper put in.

Then again, I’m not the California citrus crop.

On the way down Noe Street, I couldn’t help noticing this manhole tragedy:

manhole tragedy

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Miracle Plan

My big news of late is that while sitting there at the SAP Open (see the 2007 tale in Lobs and Volleys I had an intellectual breakthrough and am going to do some reprioritizing: Learning some more damn Dutch has moved to the top of my list. I want my improvement to blow my friends there away when I arrive in May. Besides, I’m in too deep now: my German has been destroyed or at least verschmutzt by my Dutch study and my Spanish and French, forgot.

That stack of books I haven’t read yet can just wait awhile. That list of books I haven’t bought or borrowed from the library can just get longer. Some of those magazine subscriptions can just expire. The tedious emails I’ve been sending folks are going to become less frequent, or at least shorter. Etc.

The other breakthrough I had at the Open I already mentioned, the intention to return to the gym. And this morning my resolve was still firm, so I Segwayed down there.

After suiting out, I approached the scale with some trepidation, wondering just how bad it was going to be. What? I reset the scale and tried again, but got the same result. A third try confirmed it. I’ve lost weight.

How the hell is this possible? I mean, could I have maybe lost a dozen pounds during that three weeks of illness before the Open and then gained only half of it back during my week of gluttonizing in between watching the matches.

I was thrilled. I was ecstatic. I had been emotionally prepared to grit my teeth and get through the workout on sheer shame. Instead, I hit those machines like a galley slave who’s just been told he can get time off for extra effort. It’s been ages since I had so much fun at the gym although the giggling did attract some disapproval from the devout. But then, it always did in church, too, didn’t it?

And while I was pumping away on the step machine it hit me: I must have burned a lot of calories at the Open while I was wriggling around so much during crucial points that I rubbed the skin off the backs of my thighs.

Hmmm. Can I maybe market this? Coach Bryan’s Miracle Weight Loss Plan: Squirm Your Way to Thinness.

Here’s a red doorway I like:

red door

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First Date

Today I carefully prepared for a first date. 

I showered and shaved with extra care and smeared some deodorant in my pits. I thoroughly brushed my teeth with extra toothpaste. Hell, I even trimmed my nose hairs. 

I’ve been dressing much better than usual this past week to go to the SAP Open, but today I put even more effort into it. Like the newest pair of Dockers in my closet with my best belt and my finest LL Bean shirt, which I buttoned at the wrist (both buttons) and tucked in. 

I allowed double the estimated driving time, which was a good thing because there was enough traffic that the trip took longer than I’d estimated. I parked a block away and waited until two minutes before nine to pull up in front of her place. 

A lot of the things my parents tried to teach me just rolled right off my back, but I did for sure pick up on the importance of first impressions in establishing relationships. After all, I want Colleen to do my taxes for the rest of my life.

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Why, if it came down to it, I would live in a Tenderloin SRO before I would leave San Francisco was explained in Leah Garchik’s column in today’s The San Francisco Chronicle:

Probably the biggest showstopper in “Legally Blonde” is the song “Gay or European?” which asks the question about a suave gent with an accent. Before the show set out for New York, Emily Nozick attended a performance at the Golden Gate Theatre that included what she calls a “true San Francisco moment”: 6-year-old Sarah Graup asking her mother, “What’s European?”

Which reminded me that thirty years ago when Allen had joined me in San Francisco and started working down the peninsula and attracting this mob of co-workers with his combination of radiant personality and great talent, his friend Laura started coming to the City to hang out. After she’d met a few of our San Francisco (i. e. gay) friends, she remarked to Allen how much she enjoyed them, as they all seemed so……. and she paused to think of just the right adjective, ” European.” Which immediately became a code word among us.

That one. Whaddya think?

Oh yeah, European. Definitely.

And now, a cute little balconette on 21st Street:


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Since May will be my fifth visit to Amsterdam, I’m trying to do some serious language study so as not to embarrass myself quite so much this time with my lack of command of the language.

I’m sitting here peeling lots of outer leaves off some Brussels sprouts that I had forgotten in the bottom of the refrigerator while they got rather tired. I didn’t live on tulip bulbs in the winter of ’44 like Rina did, but my parents were both from poor families, and they sure didn’t believe in letting food go to waste, which rubbed off on me and my sister.

While I’m prepping the sprouts, I’ve got Donaldson’s Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar open to the chapter on verbs, and I’m looking at the ablaut series charts, tearing my hair out because I noticed something perplexing: Instead of three columns of words like in English (sing, sang, sung/ thrive, throve, thriven/ seethe, sod, sodden, etc. for the infinitive, past, and past participle), there are four columns, and I just spent half an hour combing back and forth in the chapter trying to figure out what they represented because Donaldson doesn’t mention this in the neighborhood of the charts.

Finally, I spot in his discussion of the formation of the imperfect that the student had to memorize the singular and plural forms because the plurals are sometimes irregular, so obviously the extra column is for the imperfect plural. Grrrrr. Yet another needless complication in Rina’s language.

But while I’m speaking of Donaldson, OK, he’s a pedagogue, but he does have a sense of humor. Well, I hope he’s intentionally being funny when he writes, regarding Dutch v’s and f’s: “The distinction is a difficult one for foreigners to make and not one worth trying to make: by pronouncing all v’s as f’s you will sound perfectly (northern) Dutch, whereas by trying to make the distinction there is a good chance that your v will sound like an English v, and this must be avoided at all costs.” (Italics mine)

So now I can go back to peeling and trimming Brussels sprouts with one eye on my book while I chant, from series III: delven delfde delfden gedolven/ drinken dronk dronken gedronken/ dingen dong dongen gedongen.

And yes, drinken is drink and delven is delve, but to keep me from getting cocky, dingen means compete.

And not to change the subject, but here’s some Victorian dentals I like over on Scott Street:


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A Taxonomy of Motor Vehicles

On a recent trip to southern California, I whiled away those hours on I-5 in the Central Valley by examining the names of the other vehicles. I found the connotations in these names highly entertaining, but lest I be accused of casting stones from a vulnerable location, I’ll admit that the name of my own vehicle, the Prius, suggests nothing to me more than it does insect genitalia.

And OK, I’m throwing in a few not yet seen, but you can pick the real ones.

Aviator, Bombardier, Commander, Gunner, Mariner, Navigator, Pilot.

Cavalcade, Excursion, Expedition, Iliad, Odyssey, Quest, Saga.

Caliber, Crossfire, Cartridge, Gatling, Magnum, Nitro, Revolver.

Braggadocio, Bravada, Elan, Poise, Verve.

Decoupage, Entourage, Frottage, Sabotage, Sportage.

Armada, Carrier, Cruiser, Cutter, Destroyer, Fleet, Galleon.

Avalanche, Lahar, Rockslide, Torrent, Tsunami.

Chinook, Foehn, Hurricane, Mistral, Sirocco, Tornado, Typhoon, Zephyr.

Denali, Niagra, Rainier, Sequoia, Sierra, Tahoe, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Yukon.

Cinnabar, Cobalt, Mauve, Puce, Sienna, Taupe.

Jupiter, Mercury, Neptune, Saturn, Titan, Uranus.

Arrow, Dart, Javelin, Kris, Lance, Scimitar, Spear, Tomahawk.

Barracuda, Orca, Pike, Shark, Sting Ray, Trout.

Bushwhacker, Deerslayer, Explorer, Forester, Mountaineer, Pathfinder, Ranger, Raider, Trailblazer.

Apache, Cherokee, Comanche, Karankawa, Mohican, Sioux.

Highlander, Inlander, Lowlander, Outlander, Uplander.

Bruiser, Crusader, Crusher, Eviscerator, Shredder.

Inquisitor, Interrogator, Investigator, Terminator.

And OK, while I was down there I took a few pics I liked. Here’s an early morning flower bed shot in front of the public library:


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Dutch Pronunciation

Oh, there was a wonderful moment this noon.

Rafaël is visiting Amsterdam for a couple of days and staying with Rina, and they decided to take advantage of this opportunity and Skype me on her computer, which she has set to speaker mode. So I got to talk to both of them at once.

During the conversation, I was using as much Dutch as possible since I’m in major language study mode now, and besides, I managed to entertain them with a few of my creative coinages. But that’s not why I’m writing.

I have bragged a bit here and there about having finally more or less mastered a couple of the difficult Dutch phonemes, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. At one point, my pronunciation of a word was so egregious that for the first time in the conversation, they both interrupted to correct me.

Luckily, they didn’t speak exactly simultaneously, so I was able to hear quite clearly that, Rafaël being from way over on the eastern border and Rina from Amsterdam in the west, they were saying the offending word very, very differently.

So then I was off the hook because they turned on each other.

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