June 2011

Pier 24 – 29

Carol and i have just had a marvelous adventure.  We went to Pier 24.  I’ll give you some links, but first, my version of the back story.

About six years ago a fabulously wealthy local investment banker named Andy Pilara more or less accidentally saw in a gallery window a photograph that so caught his eye that he stopped in his tracks and then went into the gallery where, for the first time in his life he was blown away by a piece of art.

So of course he bought it.  And then went back and bought others.  And more and more and more, learning as he bought and amassing a huge collection (he’s rich as Croesus, remember).  So then he realizes he sitting on this fabulous collection and wonders what he’s gonna do with it.  Elementary, let others also enjoy it.

So he gets a long term lease on one of the ramshackle piers left over from the days when San Francisco was a working port, shores up the crumbling structure, guts it, and creates an enormous temperature and humidity controlled display space for photography.  His photography.  The largest display space for photography in the country.

And throws it open to the public.  Free.  But only by reservation.  For something like a couple of dozen people at a time which guarantees unobstructed views and a quiet experience.  You can stay for only two hours.  But yes, that’s enough time because he’s presenting the collection in chunks of a few hundred at a time.  The current exhibition is the second, titled HERE, and is material mainly from local photographers and includes works such as Eadweard Muybridge’s 1878 panorama from the Mark Hopkins displayed just above Mark Klett’s 1990 panorama from almost the same vantage.  Not that any of this information is posted on the wall beside the photographs.  Oh no, the only data provided about the photographs is in the handsome, free brochure you are given as you enter, and that merely lists the names of the photographers (a maximum of three) represented in each of the 22 rooms.  Period.  Tough art love.  No spoon feeding.  Late note:  In November i went back to take Gloria, and now they have a brochure that lists the artist and title of every photograph.

And did i mention that it’s all free, free, free?  Here we have a sterling gentleman in the mold of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett who, having amassed a fortune comes to the understanding that there is something better to do with his wealth than follow the example of the Waltons and the Koch brothers and devote it to making certain that not a single cent escapes the family or worse yet, provides an amenity for the less wealthy.  A round of applause for Andy Pilara.  Three rounds of applause.

Here’s an article that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle last year before the first exhibition opened.

And here’s a link to the official website, which has more information including how to make that reservation.  You really must see this exhibition.  I’m sick at heart that i missed the first one, but for sure i’ll never miss another.

Carol and i were stunned by the show, and as we staggered out i noticed that my eyes had somehow been recalibrated and were seeing potential photographs everywhere i looked.  I was so completely enthralled that i whipped out my little Panasonic and started taking shots of the rusting rail line between the piers.  Then i heard a man speak behind me and turned to see this guy entering the door carrying a framed and wrapped object.  He was saying something jocular to the effect that i should send him a copy so he could display it.

Quick witted Carol asked, “Are you Mr. Pilara?”


And no, you’re not seeing any of the miserable shots i had just taken.  One of ’em had enough potential that i’ll go back down there on a nice day with my big Panasonic and try for the shot i missed.  And maybe then i’ll post it here…but you’ll have to promise to let it be our secret from Andy.  Wouldn’t want him pestering me.

bridge petalumaAnd for now i’ll substitute a pic i took of one of the eight bridges spanning the mighty Petaluma River, this one downtown and for pedestrians and bikes.   Trying to get in training for Amsterdam.

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A Weekend of Celebration and Confession

It’s the weekend of the gay parade in San Francisco, and the city is hopping with gay tourists, everyone all the more festive owing to the civil rights breakthrough represented by yesterday’s legalization of gay marriage in the New York state legislature.  Every day a few more old Christian bigots die, taking with them their homophobia, so it won’t be that many more years until all American gays get the rights of normal people.  Well, at least outside of Texas.

Meanwhile, i gotta continue the gay theme of today’s post by mentioning that last week not one, but two well-known lesbian bloggers – Amina Arraf, “A Gay Girl in Damascus” and Paula Brooks editor of “Lez Get Real” – turned out to be American men, both married to women and presumably happily heterosexual although one does wonder whether there might be something a little screwy about guys who make careers of pretending to be lesbians.

Still, that would be an utterly hypocritical statement if i didn’t immediately confess that i was just kidding in all those posts i made last winter about my supposed transition to the body of a 160 pound mountain lion.  Yes, that was all just a fantasy, and i apologize for deliberately misleading my readers.  Actually, i might as well take this opportunity to make a clean breast of it and admit that i’m not really a seventy-year-old retired gay foodie but rather a 400 pound Samoan lesbian whose insatiable appetite for turkey tails has fueled the erection of that tower of deceit known as “Matte Gray in SF.”

So how did i celebrate Gay Day in San Francisco?  I was so crushed over the lack of response to my attempt to organize an anti-church parade contingent that i just didn’t feel up to doing it again by myself, so i bailed out of the gay celebration completely and caught the second day of Mission Chinese Food’s reopening after their return from China.  See, Danny had responded to two glowing articles by Mark Bittman and Abby Aguirre in The New York Times during the last week in May by closing the restaurant and taking all the employees to China for three weeks.  I just love folks who march to their own house drummer.

I had one of the new things on the menu, the Mongolian Onglet.  Delicious…and plenty piquant.  You know those little pepper symbols on certain items?  He means every one of them.

Some new street art on Market:


market art

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Matte Makes The San Francisco Chronicle

I got an email this morning from my friend Carol telling me i’d made the San Francisco Chronicle.   What!  i wondered, having heard of neither awards nor indictments.

Matte at the Liberty StepsSo i frantically flipped through to Section D, where sure enough, John King, our superb architecture critic, had a little piece about those Deco buildings flanking the Liberty Steps, and there i was, headed home on my Segway in the foreground.

And i’d decided years ago which was my best side, but how’d he know?

And yes, i joined a gym at the beginning of February and have been working out with increasing fervor, but no, i am not on steroids.  That bulge on my right leg that looks like the quadriceps of a soccer player is actually my camera in the side pocket, and the reason i seem to have 20 inch guns and monster delts is because the wind is coming in the front of my shirt and blowing it up like a balloon.

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Planking Santa Rosa

Today i drove up to Santa Rosa to see Gloria on her birthday, and to celebrate it she first let me play in her cherry tree and followed that treat with a delicious lunch of boneless pork ribs and new potatoes braised in sauerkraut.   To keep it from being too German, she served it with French onion soup.  Fresh cherries for dessert.
plankingAnd then we went off to this big discount grocery store where we both love shopping, and since we were passing through downtown, we went ahead and planked Depot Park.  Best i can tell from googling, this is the first time anybody’s planked Santa Rosa.  Thanks to Anneke in Nijmegen for introducing me to planking.

Aw, you’re just jealous you didn’t do it first.

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Amsterdam Again (Nog een keer)

Last year i’d decided that i had to be honest with myself and admit that i was simply too old and tired to make another trip to the Netherlands.  And then yesterday noon Rina called me up with the news that i could stay with her, which somehow put an entirely different spin on things since my Segway can be left just inside the street door, thus solving the major problem.

So i went online to see about ticket availability and got my friend Jeff to make sure i was doing everything right, and although it was much too late to use frequent flier miles, we managed to find an opening on KLM’s non-stop flight to Amsterdam that was less than i’d paid in 2008.

So i’m going back to Amsterdam 25 July – 25 August.  And this time the focus will be on learning Dutch, so i won’t be carrying an extra suitcase full of locally unavailable food.  Don’t worry, i’ll take the necessary chile powders and such for chile con carne and mole poblano.

The impact on my life is immediate – instead of spending the summer making jams and jellies and chutneys, now i’ll be frantically studying Dutch before i leave.  To begin, i’ll start reading all the Facebook posts of all my Dutch friends, looking up every single damn word i don’t know.

The rest of the good news is that Jeff is between apartments and will stay here while i’m gone, solving problems for both of us.

It’s astonishing to me how, after i’d completely given up on another trip to Amsterdam, one fell into place easily in a matter of hours.  Sometimes things work.  Click on “2011 – Amsterdam Revisited” under the Amsterdam Tales menu in the left gutter.

artichokeHere’s a neighborhood artichoke, working hard on Hartford Street:

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Rabble Rouser

I am an ineffective organizer.

I had thought it would be so much fun to get together a group of like-minded individuals and march as an anti-religion contingent in the gay parade at the end of this month, so did my homework on how to register a contingent, wrote an eloquent letter soliciting fellow marchers, and sent the letter in an email to every gay male i know who lives in the Bay Area.

OK, admittedly the number of addressees was not all that large since i’ve added hardly any new gay friends in the past twenty years and the great majority of my gay friends died of AIDS in the eighties and nineties, but still, there were twenty-something people on the list.

The majority of addressees did not respond.  Of those who did, only three committed to join me, the others pleading prior commitments.  And no, this was not because my gay friends are deeply religious people.  Oh please.  They all had the sense decades ago to realize that worshiping a god who hated them was a waste of both their time and the god’s.  So no, they’re just apathetic….or cowards.

So i guess i’ll just go by myself as a renegade, unregistered marcher like i did last year.

Last year?  Well, yes.   On Sunday 27 June 2010 for the first time in my life i fought back against my persecutors of the past seventy years.

I marched (or actually rolled on my Segway since i’m too lame to walk very far) in San Francisco’s gay parade carrying a sign reading


Aside from the stink eye from the cops, who we suspected all along were also religious fascists, i basked in the greatest affirmation i’ve ever experienced in my life. Thousands of people lining Market Street gave me thumbs ups, laughed, applauded, shouted encouragement, and filmed me…and that’s just the ones i could see at the front of the crowd lining the street.

The high point was when a couple of young men shouted rhythmically “FUCK THE CHURCH, FUCK THE CHURCH” and were immediately joined by dozens (hundreds?) of bystanders around them.

Thrilling?  You be the judge.

His Lying GraceSo what if i can’t organize a polite, legal contingent in the parade.  Maybe i can incite a spontaneous demonstration instead.  Something like the White Night but without the arson component and focused on St. Mary’s Cathedral and the lying closet fag who runs it.

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Just a Taste

I’ve written before about the male tendency to grab stuff off the ground and put it into our mouths for a taste before the women with us can slap it out of our hands.  I realized that this guy behavior was universal when i was working at Oracle and was talking with an Indian programmer whose wife was a consultant on an assignment back east for a month.  She’d just called him up and ranted about how she did not want to come home and find him dead on the kitchen floor, poisoned from some food he’d let develop pathogens and then eaten anyhow.

This came up again for me recently when i was experimenting with some more green strawberries that Poli Yerena had given me, this time trying for a salsa that i could seal hot in jars so it would keep.  See, i don’t worry about poisoning myself, but i do want to take good care of my friends.  Besides, it’d be harder to give the stuff away if word got out about fatalities.

I’d picked up some first-of-the-season little Thai peppers, thinking i’d use them in the salsa, so i chopped up a couple.  And realizing i needed to test their “hotness”, i picked up one of the disks about a millimeter thick and put it in my mouth.

I did not chew it up.

Oh no, there was not time to chew it.

The instant it hit my tongue, the pain blossomed.  And alas, in order to spit it out, i had to close my mouth around it, which allowed it to contact the roof of my mouth and my gums, spreading the pain.

I leaped to the sink and guzzled water from the tap, and when that didn’t work, i stuck a fingerful of peanut butter in there in hopes of soothing the shrieking tissues, but what that got me was peanut-butter-flavored pain.  So, hell, i just went back to work, trying to focus on making the salsa to take my mind off my mouth.

The next day i was in Star Stream and mentioned this adventure to Remi’s excellent counterman, Alec, who it turns out could sympathize because a few years ago he’d gone to Panama and was sitting out in a lovely garden beneath a cashew tree and noticed that it had fruit on it.  He picked one and sampled it but found it unappetizing, so he fished the nut out and bit into it.  And was in agony from the acid burns from the raw nut, which seared his mouth and left it inflamed for days.

The green strawberry salsa?  It turned out tasty but totally wimpy since i’d made it with Pasilla chiles while my mouth was still burning from the Thai peppers.  Next time i’ll compromise and make it with jalapeños.  We live and learn.  Well, sometimes.

yellowSome posts across the street from Star Stream:

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