May 2012


I didn’t discover Gilberth’s until last week, when i rode over on the Segway for lunch, which is maybe a bit more dramatic than it sounds because the place is located at 2427 3rd Street between 20th and 22nd (21st being unaccountably absent), almost precisely due east of me all the way over the top of Potrero Hill and then down nearly to the bay.  Here’s Patty Untermann’s review, and as usual, she’s spot on. The fried brussels sprouts looked burned when they came to the table, but no, they were perfectly caramelized and sprinkled with little curls of Manchego.  Astonishingly good.  What they called “Chicken Salad” was a small breast, flattened and briefly broiled, napped with the house chimichurri, and resting beside a big heap of arugula with chunks of avocado.  Some of the Yelp reviews have criticized the service, but the lunch waitress who helped me was both efficient and friendly. That lunch was so delicious that i went back last Monday for dinner and had the superb fried chicken livers, tender and creamy inside and crispy on the outside, with a spectacularly thin batter.  I was in such rapture over them that i can’t remember what that sauce was even though i did dunk some of them.

fried chicken livers

I couldn’t resist ordering the quinoa-crusted alligator cakes although i suspect they were on the menu as a concept item and were so highly seasoned that they could just as well have been water moccasin.  I mean, you need to order them once, but that’s enough.  The sauces were more interesting and the plating was great.

alligator cakes

They also brought that bread plate Patty mentioned. Excellent sourdough and tasty sauces. Oh, and to drink i had a Trumer Pils, from Trumer Brauerei, of Salzburg and Berkeley, “seit 1601” although i think the Berkeley brewery came along a little later. And finally, highest marks for the restroom decor.

restroom decor


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Dietary Timing

I sure do have poor dietary timing. Why in the world, i ask, would any sane man go onto a highly restrictive low carbohydrate diet just as our legendary San Francisco farmers’ markets are featuring smiling vendors proffering samples of their exquisite blood red Chandler strawberries so flavorful that you can smell ’em at ten paces, winy Brooks cherries so big you can barely get a whole one in your mouth, golden apricots including fabulous new Afghan varieties with names like “Candycot” to hint at their sweetness, and now, the yellow nectarines, the finest fruit on the planet and just teeming with carbohydrates.

And it’s not just farmers’ markets. I recently discovered that San Francisco enjoys just a few blocks from me the only urban beekeeping store in the country. Not all that surprising, actually, that we’d have such a store, considering that you can buy neighborhood honeys at farmers’ markets and trendy groceries all over the city. I’ve pretty much given up trying to talk Becky into keeping a few hens, but surely there’d be nothing wrong with a few thousand quiet, odorless, and industrious bees helping her neighborhood stay fully pollinated.

Meanwhile, on another front San Francisco is positively buzzing nowadays with new high tech companies opening their headquarters in the city and stocking them with well paid employees that swarm over the city looking for trendy new eateries. And where there’s a demand, supply cannot be far behind, at least for restaurants, so they’re opening all over the city.

And even though most of ’em have few things on the menu i can eat, i’m hitting as many as possible. First, i got all excited over a recent Chronicle article discussing the wave of new barbecue joints opening here because my discovery last year of Gorilla Barbecue in Pacifica reawakened my Texan craving for barbecue, it being the best barbecue i ever ate outside of Texas and to be honest, better’n some i ate in Texas. I mean, this is a place so damn professional that they automatically give you the sauce in a little container on the side, knowing full well that like all good ‘cue, it doesn’t need any sauce. On the other hand, they’re way off down there in Pacifica in the first place and worse yet are takeout only.

So i’m gonna be working my way through the local places listed in the Chron. I mentioned a month or so ago trying the Dancing Pig on Castro and saying i’d go back to try the pulled pork even though the spare ribs were dried out and dreadful. I haven’t yet. I got all excited over the news in the Chron that Big Nate’s had been bought by an enterprising young couple mainly to get the enormous brick built in smokehouse that Big Nate sure didn’t take much advantage of. The newcomers renamed the place “Cat’s Head“, which made me a little nervous, but i tried it anyhow. The pulled pork was OK, not all that exciting but good enough that i ate it all with enjoyment. Actually, i ate all the spare ribs, too, but that was only out of gluttony, as they were rather dry and coated with this strange, not all that flavorful powder. And oh, if you try this place, be sure to ask for the sauce on the side because they seemed shocked that anyone would ask this, and when i got home i sure was happy none of either of them sauces got anywhere on my plate.

TillandsiaMeanwhile, i took advantage of my recelled batteries the other day and Segwayed all the way over to the Bayview to Flora Grubb, when i was unable to resist this Tillandsia. Brought it home and dropped it into this wonderful graduated cylinder Gloria gave me.

And aren’t we happy i finally got a little better at using the macro zoom?

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Food Issue

Let’s talk about food.  And start with last month when i saw my fabulous internist and she looked up from my lab report and held her thumb and forefinger about 1/32nd of an inch apart to graphically represent the distance between me and the onset of diabetes.

Well, she’s been after me for a couple of years to cut back on my sugars and starches, thinking that this will postpone the diabetes until i can die of something else, and i’d been trying to hold myself back, but obviously not enough.  So since i last saw her i’ve been trying to ease into some serious carbohydrate restriction.  Well, consistent with going ahead and eating up all the carbohydrates in my pantry except for the 25 lb. sacks of sugar that are strictly reserved for the jams and jellies that i make to give away.  I’ve been solving the chocolate sauce problem by not making any.

It hasn’t been easy to give up all my favorite foods, and i’m still cheating enough that i have not yet driven myself into ketosis, which i understand to be a condition in which your brain, desperate for glucose, turns to the fat in your body for sustenance, or something like that.

I was telling Sybil about my efforts the other day, and she delicately suggested that perhaps i ought to run this master plan past my doctor before implementing it, but i reassured Sybil a second opinion was not necessary because i’d go ahead and drink a carton of chocolate milk as an antidote if my breath started smelling like paint thinner.

A neighborhood bicycle in ketosis

A neighborhood bicycle in ketosis

Besides, i thought about it and realized, naw, go for the spectacle of my internist glancing up from my next lab report,  heaving a great sigh, fixing me with That Look, and inquiring, “How did you do this to yourself?”

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Well, folks, i’ve won the lottery.

No no, don’t worry. Nobody has to start being nice to me owing to my fabulous new wealth as it wasn’t that kind of lottery but rather one getting me onto the waiting list for a studio apartment in senior, low-income housing. I spent a couple of years flailing around on my own, visiting these senior housing places, and discovering the waiting list closed for every single one i tracked down.

Then last winter i finally got smart and found an organization called Open House that helps gay seniors find housing. The way it works is when a housing complex decides to open their waiting list, they mention quietly to one or two people that tomorrow between 10:00 and 11:00 AM, they will open their doors to applicants for the list. When Open House learns about this, they send an email to their clients, and we join the swarm of applicants.

Then the complex conducts a lottery among the applicants to determine position on the list.

A month ago i followed up on an email alert, got to the complex in time, and filled out an application. Out of 179 applications, mine was the 9th chosen, so that’s my number on the list.

Other waiting lists will open, and i’ll try to get on them, but at least i’m finally on one. The bad news is that with the current rate of turnover at this complex, it’ll be maybe three years before i can get in. Who knows, though, i might get into another one sooner.

The two main implications, though, are that first, i need to escalate my program of dispersal of my non-essentials and second, this complex is nothing but studios, which means that i’d love to have my friends come visit me here while i have room to put them up. So think about it, and let’s make plans.

And yes, things are coming up roses, or in my case, Aeoniums. Like this two foot tall A. arboretum atropurpureum inflorescence on Sanchez Street.

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I got in touch with my roots yesterday afternoon by going to the movie Bernie, which is set in deep east Texas in a town named Carthage close to the Louisiana border.  It’s actually a documentary describing completely real events although it feels like an utterly surreal, very black comedy (in the sense of noir, there being only one black person in the movie and he having a very minor role).

A wonderfully strange movie with some moments of hilarity.  Unfortunately, i’d read too much about the movie and thus lost the element of surprise, so i’ll say nothing about the plot here.

The movie was made in Carthage, and many of the actors playing townspeople are actual residents whose confidence was won by the director and who simply told their side of the story, which was plenty.

I was born about thirty miles from Carthage, entered public school about forty miles from Carthage, and buried Mother about fifty miles from Carthage.  So i know Carthage, and yet this movie, showing a town largely composed of decent people, gave me better feelings for them than i ever expected to have.

Who needs fiction when we’ve got Texas?

Meanwhile, in case of showers, we’re prepared on 17th Street in San Francisco.  And yes, it pivots nicely in the wind.

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The Turing Test

Reading about the Reverend Worley preaching that gays should be rounded up and put away permanently in concentration camps made me think of the Nazis doing exactly this, and then i thought of poor Alan Turing.  I just glanced at the Wikipedia entry on him and was bitterly amused to see all the photos of memorial plaques and statues all over England, and then lists of recognitions and tributes to him that required a good deal of scrolling to display, starting with a clandestine Order of the British Empire in 1945 for his work too highly classified at the time to even describe.

Oh, please.  The bastards knew he was gay all along but they needed him to decrypt German codes and save his country from the Nazis, so they waited until the war was over to start the prosecution for his crime.  They secretly slapped that OBE on him and then proceeded to very publicly persecute him until he had the decency to man up and kill himself.  Next i’ll discover that the Roman Catholic Church canonized Giordano Bruno after his ashes had cooled.  OK, and not a perfect analogy since Bruno offered no benefit to the Roman Catholic church, so it had no reason to postpone burning him at the stake for his heliocentric heresy.  Thus, they didn’t use him and then, when they’d finished, discard him like a soiled wad of Charmin, but you get my drift.

Late note: 23 June was the hundredth anniversary of Turing’s birth, and this sparked numerous articles pointing out that his contributions to the development of the computer were vastly more important than merely saving his ungrateful country from the Nazis. Oh, and there’s now a Turing website.

Meanwhile, i spotted this building on 17th Street the other day, and if that’s an elevator device, i definitely want to ride in it.  I’m thinking it blows you up to the middle with a blast of warm air, spins you around and over,  and then puffs you the rest of the way up on the right side.  Quite a lift although there is a small sign over the door.  Couldn’t read the whole thing, but managed to pick out the words, “all ye who enter here”.

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Back in the Saddle Again

I crowed a bit prematurely the other day when i announced that i’d be tearing all over the city on my recelled batteries because i woke up the next morning sick.  Grrrrrr.  But now i’m recovered and this morning rode down to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market to deliver some thank-you products to the Hamada crew and leave a puddle of tears in front of their gorgeous Brooks cherries since i’m not gonna spend my carbograms on anything but nectarines.  Well, and my niggardly one damn cup per day of hot chocolate.

But it’s wonderful to be back in the saddle again, and i got full confirmation of that this morning after i pulled up on Market Street beside a bright black Escalade that had been unfairly caught by the light at Sanchez.  As he roared past me down Market when the light changed, i couldn’t help noticing that his mufflers had been enhanced to more adequately herald his horsepower, but even so, i somehow slipped quietly past him in the bike lane as he sat there at Church Street, throbbing at the light.

When the light changed, i started immediately while he was trapped behind an idiot waiting on damn pedestrians to turn right, so i got halfway up the block before he was finally able to roar past me again at somewhat fuller throttle, only to have to skid to a stop at Dolores, where i caught up to him again as he sat at the light.  This time he was the lead car, so he roared past me again even louder until he had to stop to wait for the green right arrow at Duboce, which was unnecessarily red even though there was not a single pedestrian using the crosswalk.

I smoothly purred straight on down Market on the green light, catching his eye in his side mirror as i passed him for the fourth time.  He seemed to be reflecting upon the radiant injustice in being passed repeatedly by a whirring insect, and it looked as if he’d mistaken my ear-to-ear grin over being back on the road as some kind of twisted Schadenfreude or something.

Another reason it’s wonderful to ride down Market is seeing all those sites that had sat as empty holes for several years now bustling with renewed activity.  Of course that damn Obama’s just doing it because there’s an election coming up.

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A Language Moment in Germany

My German reached its peak in January, 1988. I’d got to the point that i could limp along in it while i was stationed there in the mid sixties, and then i took two semesters of it at the university in the late sixties while i was sitting there blocked on my master’s thesis. Then in the early eighties when i was driving a limousine, i listed myself as German-speaking because i spoke it well enough to give tours and got a good deal of practice that way.

When Allen died in August of ’87, a friend at the time suggested that we take a trip to Germany, and in preparation for that i took a conversation class at the Goethe Institute.

The trip was interesting, if for no other reason than that Germany had changed dramatically since i’d left it, and in the 22 years i’d been gone, most of my favorite places in Frankfurt were altered beyond recognition. The IG Farben building, that Bauhaus marvel where i’d worked, was now behind a tall fence with gate guards unpersuaded by an American passport.  The Kafé Konditorei Stark, acclaimed for its ineffable Sarah Bernhardt Torte, was now a Mexican restaurant.  The Kafé Wipra was now a McDonalds.  Gasp.

Still, there was a moment so boffo that it made the whole trip worthwhile.  I was innocently walking down the street – well, more or less innocently since i had just come out of a gay bar – when i was accosted by a Japanese man who blurted, “Do you speak English?”

Hmmm. Hadn’t known i was carrying a sign. And then realized that he was inquiring plaintively rather than accusingly and moreover, that he was desperate.

When i cautiously admitted to having some English, his relief was gratifying, and he poured out his woeful tale. He was in town for a convention with a group of fellow businessmen from Japan. And being Japanese, everything was arranged for the group. Unfortunately, he had certain needs that could not be satisfied with the group, so he’d given them the slip by claiming to be ill, letting the rest go off on some tour while he supposedly rested in hopes that he could rejoin them for dinner.

And as soon as they were out of sight, he made a beeline for an area noted for its gay bars.

Alas, there was one problem he’d not taken into consideration. He spoke no German. And his English was strongly accented. So nobody could understand him, nor he, them. Meanwhile, as the clock was behaving in the most inexorable fashion, his desperation increased.

So out of charity i took him back to my room.

I have to say, it’s rather nice to be totally, thoroughly, and overwhelmingly appreciated.

And besides, he was quite handsome.

room with a viewMeanwhile, a room with a view onto Noe Street

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OR7 Update

Many of us had been wondering what’s up with OR7, California’s first wolf in nearly a century, who’d attracted some attention by wandering over two thousand miles through Oregon and into California in search of a mate. I mean, you have to give him credit for trying, as damn few of us were that desperate during our own hormoney youths.

Alas, the news is not good. He’d gone back to Oregon for a while but then decided to give California one more try. And did we welcome him back with open arms, maybe even tossing him an occasional lame raccoon? Oh no. Leo Bergeron, of the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors, has written an ordinance that would, and i quote Mr. Bergeron, “prohibit the presents of wolves in Siskiyou County”.

Now is that cold or what? How can OR7 have any hope of getting a mate unless he’s able to give her a little present or two? Nothing all that grand, just a freshly killed rabbit would probably do the trick.

And as far as the rest of us go, the ordinance is unnecessary because our parents told us as children not to accept candy from strangers, and that warning goes back to antiquity, when the Trojans were advised to beware of wolves bearing gifts.

Meanwhile, so much for the fauna. Here’s some local flora on 15th Street near Guerrero, easily 50 feet tall. Maybe a kind reader can identify it.


And the closeup


Turns out that Friends of the Urban Forest has planted a couple dozen of these things on the east side of Church Street between 18th and 14th.


Not that any of my talented botanist friends have deigned to click on the convenient link below and provide us the name of it.

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Sunday Streets

Today, i finally got it together to attend one of San Francisco’s Sunday Streets events.  Check out the map in that link.

I started by stopping at the gym for a workout until 11:00 and rode down 14th Street to the north end of the designated fair area at Valencia.  Clearly i was ahead of the pack and should have waited until later, as many businesses were not open and lots of booths were still being set up.  Still, it was marvelous to Segway down the middle of Valencia Street with the families and little kids, everyone having a great time.

Of course my hidden agenda was to nibble my way down Valencia on street food but there were hardly any street vendors open, and none of the restaurants looked exciting except this Indian place that had saag gosht on the menu but wasn’t serving it today. So i made do with a tiny little school bake sale muffin made with very healthy ingredients.

I’d passed by two excellent ice cream parlors in previous blocks and couldn’t go in Arizmendi, which was just across the street, because i was still chewing that muffin, so it turned out to be a healthy day in spite of my plans.

Surely you didn’t expect photos of cute little kids running around squealing in delight.

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