November 2010

His Holiness Strikes Again

Didn’cha just love this morning’s news that after the AIDS epidemic had raged for 35 years and killed millions of people, God finally whispered in the Vicar of Christ’s ear that using condoms to prevent the transmission of AIDS was a lesser evil than giving somebody the disease, not only for male prostitutes like His Holiness had said in his recent book, but also for straight faithful Catholic couples in which only one spouse is HIV+ but both are devoutly screaming “Babyyyyyyy!” during their orgasms.

I fear that all those accidental contraceptions will fan the flames of the firestorm of underpopulation that’s currently sweeping the planet, causing uneaten food to stack up and rot in warehouses, unused farms to revert to forest, reservoirs to overflow with excess water, world energy use to collapse, global cooling to accelerate, glaciers and icecaps to grab more and more of the world’s waters, and coastal cities everywhere to be abandoned as the oceans retreat miles out from their current shorelines.

Oh relect, reflect, Your Holiness, and reverse this untimely decree.

No, no. Wait! I’ve got it. It’s the Apocalypse, and Satan himself has taken control of the Vatican.

Just speculating. Actually, it’s only life as normal in the Holy See. The Pope says something stupid and howls of protest from all over the globe spark a series of increasingly ludicrous clarifications that end up displaying the utter schizophrenia of the One True Church. First they say that condoms are the foreskin of Satan and are never never never to be used, so they devote their hideous strength to blocking the distribution of condoms to third world countries, causing millions of needless AIDS infections and deaths. Then it’s ok to use condoms if you are a male prostitute (but apparently not if you’re a female prostitute since His Holiness explicitly said “male” and we can only speculate why). Then they say oh no, the teachings of the Utterly Perfect Church have not changed in two millennia and never will and it’s still totally evil to use a condom except that as of yesterday morning you must commit this sin if you’re HIV+ and your Catholic spouse is negative.

Clearly a communicable mental illness is epidemic in the Vatican. Well, either that or Satan took control at some point not long after Christ’s death, which is actually more reasonable because only Satan could believe it better that millions die of AIDS rather than use condoms. Well, only Satan and (before yesterday) His Holiness, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, and Servant of the Servants of God.

His friends call him “Ratzi”. Rhymes with “Nazi”.

On the local front, i’m thinking that maybe after the full horror of his church having caused millions of needless deaths of AIDS sinks in, His Excellency George Niederauer, Archbishop of the Diocese of San Francisco and gay hate monger, may very well genuflect himself to death during an orgy of penitence in his private chapel. Well, better yet, he’ll die of an erotic auto-asphyxiation.

brainiacWith his favorite rosary.

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Here’s a little tale i’ve been considering writing about since it happened.

About ten years ago a wealthy couple i’d known for decades flew into San Francisco in their private jet and alit here for a couple of days before continuing their trip. I was eager to show them around a bit because they had not visited San Francisco since well before i moved here, so i picked them up at their hotel and drove them around town for the afternoon, taking them places they wanted to go and showing them newer places i thought they would like.

The next morning bright and early i took them to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. This was in the days before it moved into its current location at the restored Ferry Building, so it was at the Embarcadero between Union and Green. Still, it was already legendary as one of the very finest farmers’ markets in the country, and i was excited to be able to introduce them to something so wonderful.

The day was gorgeous and they were immediately impressed with the market, exclaiming at the delicious free samples offered by the vendors. When we neared the end of the third side of the quadrangle i pointed out Capricious cheese at Achinhada, where they tasted a sample and agreed that it might be the best cheese they had ever eaten.

In those days, the girls in the stall used a giant, two-handled knife to slice the wheel of cheese into approximately equal wedges, which they sold for five dollars. When i asked for a wedge, the girl used a waxed paper square to pick up the next available wedge for me and wrapped it tightly. And then my friend told her he wanted one, also.

But when she started reaching for the next wedge, he shook his head and pointed to a different wedge that appeared slightly larger.

I don’t think i’d ever been quite so gobsmacked in my life. There could not have been a quarter’s worth of difference in the value of the wedges, but he could not be satisfied unless he got the biggest piece of cheese in sight.

I was so shocked that i couldn’t speak as i tried to process the implications of what i’d just seen. I had watched a fabulously rich couple eat their way through the market, stuff themselves on every bite of free food they could see, and still be so hideously greedy that he could not allow a quarter’s worth of cheese to escape his grasp.

He will never be satisfied. He will never never have enough cheese.

I finally managed to stutter that i had suddenly been taken ill and had to take them back to their hotel. And that was no lie.

I was certainly nauseated.

And saddened that this voracious plutocracy focused entirely on getting more more more for themselves regardless of the impact on society has, during my lifetime, offshored our manufacturing, outsourced our jobs, and taken over our government.

A monument to Christian charity. A church on Valencia Street

A monument to Christian charity. A church on Valencia Street

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Andyyyyyyyyyyyyy’s Back

My interest in celebrities is zero, and i don’t care who was spotted eating where, what, or with whom. So consequently i should have no interest in Leah Garchik’s column in The San Francisco Chronicle. Well, other than the delicious Public Eavesdropping pullquote featured in every column that captures perfectly our infamous San Francisco Values. Sample: “I was going to give it to a homeless person, but you can never find one when you need one.”

However, mixed with all the blather about actors and actresses whose faces i’ve never seen (or at least never paid any attention to) Ms Garchik frequently tosses in something about the art scene, so i routinely skim her articles. To give her full credit, it was she who informed me that Andy Goldsworthy was completing his Spire in the Presidio in October 2008, and i wrote then about chasing him down on my Segway and stuttering out my admiration, which got me a huge grin and the most memorable handshake of my life. Why memorable? Well, i guess you’ll have to go to the 2008 Journal and read the tale:-)

And now, in her 17 November column, she’s done it again, writing about Andy’s new project in the Presidio, Wood Line.

So i went over there this noon to try to find it. Stopped at the parking lot for the inspirational view point east of Spire and saw nothing, asked a young man who was focused on his sandwich but was left with the impression that he’d never heard of Goldsworthy, asked a guy closer to my age and BINGO. He not only knew about the project but gave me directions. (Wood Line runs parallel to Lover’s Lane and is best seen from West Pacific Avenue at a point about a hundred yards northwest of the Presidio Gate.

Down Lover’s Lane closer to the sculpture there was a charming young docent who was very knowledgeable about Goldsworthy and refreshingly frank that one of her main duties was to discourage folks from interfering with his work by wanting him to chat, pose for pictures, etc.

wood lineBest time to see Goldsworthy and the crew of volunteer lumberjacks at work is mornings. Here’s what it looks like so far:

The Master Plan now is to return every sunny morning to photograph the progress.

Better yet, there’s a screening of the stunning 2001 Goldsworthy documentary Rivers and Tides at 7:00 PM in the Golden Gate Club at 135 Fisher Loop on December 1, and an event called “Walk and Talk: From Spire to Wood Line” at both 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM on December 11, but you have to RSVP for the latter by emailing

And oh, if you ever get a chance to see Rivers and Tides, do it.

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Star Stream

Don’t usually do restaurant reviews since there are blogs and sites like MUS-e-YUM and No Salad As a Meal that describe the food, the chefs, and the ambience far better than i could…and take gorgeous photos of it all.

But for Star Stream i’ll make an exception. My friend Mark clued me in to Goodie Goody, as he does most of my culinary adventures now, and last week i walked up to the window there at 1246 Folsom and bought from Mary a traditional chocolate chip cookie and a cocoa nib with ground olive wafer.

My goodness. Everybody’s right. The chocolate chip cookie is what Mrs. Fields was unsuccessfully trying to do 25 years ago, and the wafer was deliciously bizarre in that i’d never imagined a combination of cocoa nibs, olives, and sugar (and very little else) could be so good.

Mary mentioned that she and Remi had just opened a little cafe/restaurant called Star Stream that you could actually walk into at 1830 Harrison, so last Friday i swung by there on the way to Costco. Had a cup of Blue Bottle drip coffee and the Schiacciata pizza – which had Bellwether Crescenza cheese, arugula, and San Daniele prosciutto – and was superb.

One of those chocolate chip cookies visually assaulted me as i passed the display counter, so i had to eat it in self defense.


Today i made up an excuse to go to Costco so i could have lunch at Star Stream again, and this time i had the Pork Conserve sandwich (shredded pork, fennel citrus salad, and candied fennel seeds). Every bite was a symphony of flavors, and accompanying it was a tiny carrot that i at first thought was merely a garnish but which blew me away by being lightly, perfectly pickled.

To balance the review, though, i’ll mention a minor complaint: they really should put those damn chocolate chip cookies somewhere else other than in a glass jar at eye level right beside the cash register where you’re confronted by them every visit.

Note: I keep going back. On my third visit i had the Stratiatelle sandwich – prosciutto, roasted fig, and mozzarella with three basil leaves sitting on it there looking like decoration but actually providing a perfect counterpoint on the palate.

I realized last summer when Todd was back in town cooking at The Anchor Oyster Bar for a couple of months that if there were anything i enjoyed more than feeding friends my various preserved foods, it was feeding them to chefs. So i’ve been taking things in to Star Stream. The jar on the left is some peppers i pickled.


I took my friend Richard there for coffee this morning and had a nice chat with Remi, confirmed that i remembered the names of Andrea and Alex, and realized that every bite i’ve eaten in there has been perfect.

Since then, i’ve been in and eaten the Pizza Verde (arugula pesto, roasted fingerling potatoes, red onions, toasted pine nuts, and egg), the egg salad sandwich, and a special sandwich not on the menu of mortadella graced with a fried quail egg. Every bite continues to be perfect.

My ambition is to eat everything on the menu. No no, not at one sitting.

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Tipping Point

I knew it would come to this.

When i moved to San Francisco from Midland, Texas in June of 1975, i joked that during the three days it took to drive here in the UHaul truck i transformed from radical leftist to stodgy conservative….at least so far as how i was viewed by the other residents of my home city.

And then over the years i noticed that unlike normal people who grow more conservative as they age, i was growing more liberal. The only group in which i’ve ever noticed this is supreme court justices, not that they all do and not that i have anything else in common with them.

In any case, i’ve been gradually moving left for the last forty years, and this morning as i studied the San Francisco election results for all the state and local propositions i realized that the tipping point had been reached.

Stop me before i vote again: I am now to the left of San Francisco.

Well, not entirely. On some issues i was more conservative, but in any case i am definitely out of step. I see nothing wrong with asking city employees to pay a bit more toward their pensions and health insurance, so that puts me in the too conservative camp. On the other hand, making it a crime to sit on the damn sidewalk anywhere in the city between the hours of 7:00 AM and 11:00 PM strikes me as something out of an ultra-Orwellian dystopia, so that makes me too liberal.

Well, i never did fit in nowhere.

solarHere’s a shot from my Electricity of Strangers series. What you can’t see in the pic of this SolarPump is the awning covered with solar panels. Blew me away to see that the company that makes this thing is in Austin, a tiny island of progressive thought in the middle of darkest Texas:

This solar charging station is in the Hayes Valley Farm, a wonderful project transforming the land formerly occupied by the Fell and Oak freeway ramps into a public garden swarming with hardworking young volunteers. Do pitch in. A hand or a donation or something.

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