June 2012

Hancock Horticultural Report

Went out today to have lunch with my friend Dick and stopped on Hancock Street to pick him up.  Since i was across the street from Oliver’s floral abundance, i took some pics.

Here’s Oliver’s gigantic mutated version of the Bird of Paradise, taken yesterday morning.

Giant Bird of Paradise

And here it is this noon.  Those flower structure thingys are about a foot long, and notice that the lower one is just starting to open at the top!


We picked up sandwiches at Ike’s Place and retired to Dick’s place to eat them.  Here’s a Jatropha podagrica on his deck.  The diameter of the entire bud structure is only a couple of inches.

Jatropha podagrica

And here’s his Euphorbia milii (formerly E. splendens).  Each bract is about a centimeter across, with the whole bloom structure about three inches from left to right.

Euphorbia milii


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Another Gay Parade

Well, i did it.  I rode in the gay parade down Market Street carrying a sign.  I did this two years ago and found the affirmation thrilling, as i’d never before been applauded and cheered by tens of thousands of people.  Unfortunately, as described in the above link, i failed in my attempt to organize a parade contingent last year and did not attend.

But i decided to try it again by myself and this time managed to at least construct a semi-professional sign.  Bought stencils, spray paint, masking tape, and a 20″x30″ posterboard.  Composed an IMHO witty and moderately inflammatory message, laid it out on the posterboard indulging in even a modest amount of kerning, taped it all up, and sprayed it.  Little bit of bleed under the letters but not too bad for a beginner:

Then i taped the sign onto a 10 foot long 1″x2″ that i could rest on the platform of the Segway and keep upright with one hand.  Ta da.

Rode down Mission to Spear and over to Market, where i infiltrated the parade and rolled along for the entire route between two authorized contingents.  Didn’t fall and break the sign this time, so when i got home i put it in my front window for the delectation of passers by.  Here’s a shot taken by my friend Mark during the parade.  And yes, that is one of the original Act Up “Silence = Death” tee shirts from 1987 that i wear on special occasions.

So how’d it go? you ask.  Well, i got some laughs, and some applause.  But nothing remotely close to the acclaim i reaped the last time i did this.  The problem is that i was too subtle.  Yes, moi.  For once.  Very few people figured out i was addressing His Grace, George Niederauer. Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco and widely believed among gays in our generation in Southern California, where he’s from, to be gay but to be so consumed with desire to be made a cardinal that he mounted the vicious and mendacious campaign against gays that led to the passage in 2008 of Prop 8.  Well yes, nothing like a lying, homophobic campaign to win friends in the Vatican.  See, lies aren’t a sin if they’re in the service of a higher good, and what higher good can there be than advancing the cause of Church doctrine?

So i’m starting now, right now, determined to try again to find a dozen gay men with enough balls to form with me an anti-church official contingent in next year’s parade.  And nothing wimpy like the above sign but rather something everybody will understand.   For starters, stuff like “His Grace Is a Self-hating Queer.”  “Like Hoover, His Grace Has a ‘Companion’.”.  “Come Out Now, Your Grace.”  “Hey, Grace, Bless Us!”  And maybe some marchers in mitres.  Lavender mitres.  The sort of thing that’ll get us the screaming adulation of the crowd like i got year before last.

I mean, the Roman Catholic Church used to have enough power that the notoriously and voraciously gay Cardinal Spellman of New York was not outed during his lifetime even though he was well known in the gay community for the orgies on his yacht for assorted cupcakes plus selected closeted, right-wing gay friends like Roy Cohn.   We need to out Niederauer while the scumbag is still alive.

I need a few good men, here, guys.  And if there’s only one gay man with balls in the entire Bay Area, then he and i can do an infiltration by ourselves, swimming in a sea of sissies.

Oh, and here’s a bunch of sissies putting up the pink triangle yesterday morning.  First time i ever got a pic of it in progress.

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Can We All Get Along?

I defy you, if you’re not a Tea Party member, to watch this short video without crying.  Halting and stumbling owing to the concussions from the skull fractures, but so very eloquent here as he rose to the occasion.  Rest in peace, Rodney.

“Can we all get along?  Can we get along?  Can we stop making it horrible for the old people and the kids?”

NepentheAnd ok, it’s not an arrangement of gladiolas, but here’s a floral tribute, a pitcher plant (i’m guessing Nepenthe genus) grown by the acclaimed horticulturalist Oliver Graves on Hartford Street.

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SoMa StrEat Food Park

Continuing the current food craze, i got down to the SoMa StrEat Food Park yesterday.  Just the second week it’s open so i’m not too far behind on this one.  Quite a good venue with space for up to ten trucks around a central plaza featuring a covered beer garden/eating area with a big screen for various entertainments.  The posting for last Wednesday said it would be Germany vs. the Netherlands.  Didn’t say what they’d be playing, but i’m guessing it wasn’t baseball.


For my first visit i decided to play it safe and cautiously had a small pulled pork sandwich at Smokin’ Warehouse.  Better than the last one i had at the Rib Whip but not as good as the Whip in its former glory.

Other trucks were very interesting. I cannot think of Queen Lili’uokalani without weeping, but so far i’ve not been able to get into her cuisine. Maybe at this truck, though.


Oh, and since i’d had only that tiny little pulled pork with coleslaw sandwich i went ahead and had a single abstemious scoop of the bittersweet chocolate ice cream at Three Twins.  My first taste of ice cream since May the 2nd, and it as almost as good as that at Smitten (in my faint memory from months ago) although with none of the drama.

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The Paragon of Vehicular Virtue

Since i reformed a few years ago and discovered that i didn’t need to get from A to B in the shortest possible time and that it was far more enjoyable to relax and cruise along in the slow lane at the speed limit and even allow myself to follow periodically at a prudent distance a vehicle going at less than the speed limit, i’ve somehow stopped getting those speeding tickets and started arriving at my destinations relaxed.

And somewhere along in there it got to be entertaining to properly signal every turn and to wave other drivers ahead when there was anything like a close call as to who had the right of way.

But then when i got the Segway i at first relapsed into some of my former type A driving habits and, i confess it now, started riding more like the local bicyclists.  That didn’t last long, though, and after a brief discussion with an SFPD traffic officer several years ago, developed the technique of bringing the wheels to a full stop atop the Stop stripe and allowing my body to pendulum forward, instantly catapulting the vehicle back up to full speed – a simultaneous demonstration of vehicular virtue and virtuosity and a double pleasure to a man who was already obscenely smug about driving a Prius.

And then as our San Francisco bicyclists over the past several years began to enjoy a worse and worse reputation for their rudeness (and more recently running into people and killing them), i’ve started after-you-my-dear-Alphonsing every pedestrian anywhere near a crosswalk and absolutely basking in the good vibes.  The next step was to ratchet my righteousness even higher by scrupulously signaling my turns.

So perched at this zenith the other day i went whirring at the max through the Costco parking garage and up the ramp to the second floor entrance radiating a mixture of joy and saintliness.  You can imagine my shock when, as i was chaining the Segway to a convenient post, i was approached by one of their security guards who pleasantly inquired whether i might have been exceeding the speed limit.

I don’t know.  What’s the speed limit?  i wondered.

And he pointed to this huge sign prominently proclaiming

Speed Limit 5 MPH.

Oops, i immediately admitted,  I was going way over that.  My bad.

Tried to weakly weasel that at least i was stopping for the stop signs, but dropped that line because that wasn’t the issue, and he was just too damn nice to open even the possibility of bristling defensiveness.  So i just shut up in abject embarrassment.

It wasn’t until that night that it struck me that since from the moment i’d got the Segway i’d thought of it, quite rightly, as being the slowest vehicle on the road, it had somehow never occurred to me that there might be someplace where it was capable of exceeding a speed limit.  So i’d been utterly oblivious to speed limit signs anywhere, most especially in the Costco parking garage.  So oblivious, in fact, that i’d found great pleasure in taking advantage of their ultra smooth surfaces so that whenever i wasn’t close to pedestrians, i could run at maximum speed, taking corners with my body at 45 degrees.

Next time is was in Costco i spotted my nemesis, rolled up to him, at the speed limit, and told him about my aha experience.  He laughed.  And my goodness, is he ever handsome when he does that.

Meanwhile, here’s the gateway to everywhere beside the 4th Street Bridge.  The spikes on top provide extra security.

gateway to everywhere

And here’s Escher on drugs in Clarion Alley

Escher on drugs

Note how our taggers respect the art and (mostly) tag only in the margins.  Am i living in at the zenith of civilization  or what?  And before you answer that question, yes, i know the vandals destroyed that magnificent giant xylophone in the new kids’ playground in Dolores Park when the playground had been open only a week.  This is why we invented public floggings.  The city could charge admission and use the proceeds to finance repairs.  Problem solved.

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Well, it was just as i predicted, when i walked up to the hostess at Mozzeria and signed, “A table for two, please”, she responded by waving back at me so rapidly i couldn’t even see her hands, but luckily she could hear me when i begged for help…aloud.

The first thing you notice in the restaurant is how quiet it is.  Well, yes, since the great majority of the diners are using ASL rather than shouting at each other over the din, it’s the quietest restaurant in the city, at least until all those talkers and shouters discover it and ruin it.

While i was waiting for Jeff to arrive i decided i’d go ahead and use some of the ASL i’d studied, so i waved the waitress over, signed “want”, “drink”, please” and pointed to a Duvel beer on the menu.  While she was getting it, it struck me that i could have communicated the same thing by simply pointing at the beer, but no, since i went to the trouble to learn those three signs, i’m for damn sure not gonna waste them.

The hostess also served as our waitress, probably because we’d been tagged as talkers, and after Jeff and i had negotiated the dishes, i grabbed the menu from him so that i could use my pitiful collection of signs to order as appetizers the roasted Japanese eggplant Parmesan and ricotta crostini and the crispy pork with white bean, rosemary, and garlic aoili.  For pizza, the margherita and for pasta, the fava leaf parpardelle with pork sugo, tomato confit, burrata, and asparagus.  Every bite was delicious.

For dessert they brought us a dish we hadn’t ordered, but we were both so pleased with the rest of the dinner that there was no possibility of complaining that they hadn’t asked us what we wanted.  So we both speared a piece immediately.  Not sure what it was, balls of something that seemed like a seasoned nut mixture fried and floated in a thin chocolate sauce.  Good enough that we scraped the plate, but the weak point of the evening.

The only hearing staff member on duty that evening was the young hostess who’d also taken our order, but the rest were all pleasant and friendly and better yet, all understood immediately every ASL sign i used.

And speaking of ASL signs, i noticed that in a deaf restaurant everybody’s constantly looking around the room, and then i realized why.  You can eavesdrop on ASL at far greater distances than you can hear a spoken conversation.  That said, i’m guessing that etiquette in deaf society requires that if you’re not in direct conversation with someone, it’s impolite to stare at her hands.

And well, maybe it shouldn’t be called eavesdropping because the bartender was clearly keeping the entire bar spellbound with his witty ASL, and i guess everybody in the room wanted to see what he was joking about.  I sure did.

Good food, great fun.  I’ll go back for the food, and i’ll also look harder for a local introduction to ASL class.

mystery plantAnd hey, i was so entranced by the newness of my first deaf restaurant that i didn’t think to photograph a single dish, so as a substitute we’ll have to make do with this piece of Noe Street fauna.  My friend CK has taken to inserting every day a nature photo into  Some Assembly Required, his fine political/economic blog, and this has encouraged me to try emulating some of his techniques.

And OK, in my defense i’ll squeal that he actually had a class in photography.  And in his defense i’ll admit that it wouldn’t have made any difference if i’d had one since nobody can tell me anything anyhow.

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I’m cramming for tomorrow’s dinner at Mozzeria.

No no, everybody who knows me understands that i’ve always been about holding my own in restaurants, so this is not some variation on Scarlett O’Hara’s tray. No, what i’m cramming is ASL since i’ve given up on Dutch, German, Spanish, and French because i’ve always had a tin ear and now it’s getting worse.

Well, and because tomorrow i’m meeting Jeff at Mozzeria, which has been open only a few months and has been getting good reviews except for a handful that have complained mostly about the service because their waiter couldn’t seem to hear them. Duh. Stands to reason since the owners and most of the staff are deaf. Here’s a long interview from the television program iDeaf News, which is the only tv program i ever watched that had noticeable periods of silence.

The greatest insight i got out of that interview was that in spite of what our mothers tried to teach us, in this restaurant it’s perfectly acceptable to talk with your mouth full. Hell, you can even keep chewing while your fingers fly.

I’ve found an online introduction to ASL and am discovering that since my right hand has been smashed so many times, mostly from falls off the Segway, i can’t form some of the shapes quite right. So just as in all the spoken languages i’ve tried learning, i’m going to have a thick accent.

Stay tuned for my report on the visit although i already know in advance that when i walk up to the hostess, smile, and sign “a table for two, please”, she’s gonna fire back a bunch of hand wiggling that’ll be so fast her fingers will be blurs. Not a prob, though, because the next phrase i learned after “thank you” and “please” was “I don’t understand.”

And since we’re talking about food, here’s Christine, the founder of the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market, where i went yesterday.


And did you ever see such gorgeous mulberries? As delicious as they looked.


Thank you, Christine, and thanks for thirty-something years of my favorite farmers’ market.

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My Life as a Protester, Part II

Today was the big day.  I showered, shaved, pulled on fresh underwear and dressed in the most conservative manner.  Whirred off to the plaza there in front of the Federal Building, and sure enough, as i approached saw a line of vans labeled “National Police”.  Hmmm, when did we get our National Police?  Somehow as we swirl down into totalitarianism it had escaped my notice that we now have our own Gestapo in addition to all our other layers of law enforcement.  And just this morning, in case i was even thinking about any potential civil disobedience, i read in the paper about how Big Sister herself, our own Senator Feinstein, reiterated her longtime support for closely monitoring the words and deeds of all 300 million of us potential malefactors and troublemakers so that an immediate stop might be put to any dissent.

So what was the demonstration like?  Well, about a hundred Roman Catholic fanatics were gathered, all holding 1’x2′ glossy blue posters of which the organizers must have printed thousands, as men were circulating constantly offering them to anyone who wasn’t waving one.


And right on time, the MC mounted the stage and started alternating prayers and carefully selected quotations from our founding fathers, references to the bill of rights, lines from the Declaration of Independence, and criticism of Satan’s handmaiden, Barack Obama.  I finally got so bored that i left.

But what about the counter-demonstrators?  You ask.  Well, in a city of 800,000 the event drew less than a hundred demonstrators, so i suppose i should just be gratified over that pitiful showing and not be surprised that as best i could determine the total number of counter-demonstrators was one.  Me.   Sitting there holding my little 9″x12″ sign.

I have to admit that there’s been a great deal of improvement the past few centuries.  I was not set upon and torn to pieces, i was not stoned to death, i was not burned at the stake, i was not stretched on the rack until a miraculous visitation from God stimulated my conversion to Catholicism.  I was studiously ignored.  I sat there with my sign for ten minutes before the program started and for the interminable first twenty minutes of the festivities, and not a single person said a word to me.  Just flicked their eyes away as soon as they read my sign.


Well, yes, i figure they were thinking that while i didn’t look dangerous, i was clearly deranged and was probably wearing a suicide vest under that bulky coat or at least packing.

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My Life as a Protester, Part I

I learned last night that the mendaciously named Roman Catholic front group called Stand Up For Religious Freedom was planning a demonstration the next day in San Francisco against the federal policy requiring groups accepting federal funding to offer reproductive (and counter-reproductive) services in their health plans.  By the byzantine twisted logic we’ve come to adore in the Roman Catholic Church, they call it an infringement on their religious freedom to not be able to force non-Catholics in their employ to follow Roman Catholic religious rules.

Since when does religious freedom include the right to force others to obey the rules of your church?  I guess all leaps of faith like that are easy once you’ve swallowed transubstantiation and can no longer trust your senses of sight, smell, taste, and touch….much less reason.  Me, i think alligator tastes better.

So i thought, sure, i’ll join the counter-demonstrators, and so early this morning i started making my plans for the day.  I even went so far as to print out a sign to wave and taped it onto a cardboard backing for improved brandishment.

And then went ahead and double checked the demonstration location and threw a library book in my pack to return on the way.  And since i wanted to be there in plenty of time, decided it would be a good day to pick up a Deluxe Burger at Pearl’s Deluxe so i could nibble it while the demonstrators and counter-demonstrators gathered.  Well, if “nibble” could be used to accurately describe consuming a Deluxe Burger.

Stopped at the gym on the way because i wouldn’t want to die in a hail of police bullets unbuffed, returned my book, grabbed the burger, and Segwayed up to the site ten minutes early.

Omigod.  Where is everybody?

Where is anybody?

The only people present were folks on the sidewalk walking purposefully toward lunch.  Hmmm.  So i sat on a bench eating my hamburger wondering whether i could possibly have not looked closely enough at the address to see that it was on Ninth Avenue instead of Ninth Street?

Decided that must be it and came home.  Started working on the flat of raspberries i picked up yesterday from the Ortiz boys, and then it struck me.  Today’s Thursday.

The demonstration’s tomorrow.

Green CabMeanwhile, more How Green Art Thou? evidence in San Francisco.  Priuses are becoming a larger and larger percentage of the cabs in the city now.  Stands to reason.  Tough little cars, the highest gas mileage, and the locals love ’em.

And since i’m talking about Priuses, i realized today that there’s a name for the overweening pride that Prius owners take in their vehicles – hybris.

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Mission Bowling Club

Last Tuesday i met Mark at Mission Bowling Club, 3176 17th St, between Shotwell and South Van Ness.  It’s been open for over a month now, and neither of us had managed to fit in a visit.  It’s Anthony Myint’s fifth food adventure:  Mission Street Food (a popup that started in a taco truck and then moved into Lung Shan one day a week but shut down so he could do Mission Burger three days a week inside Duc Loi with Danny Bowein, and then closing that so he could do Commonwealth.  Then backing Mission Chinese Food at Lung Shan (which was more Danny Bowein’s show until Danny was lured off to New York), and now Mission Bowling Club.  Here’s Alex Hochman‘s review, and he vies with Patty Untermann for a fine combination of entertaining writing and accurate assessments.

Mark’s scooter wouldn’t start when he set out for the restaurant, but luckily by drawing on motorcycle experience acquired during my misspent youth, i was able to give him a tip that worked.  While i waited, i had great fun talking with Michelle, the delightful hostess, while i sipped a St. Bernardus dubbel from Belgium.  Nice bartender, too, as was the waitress later.

We were seated on the mezzanine, where the tables give delightful views out over the bar and the bowling lanes. Quite a fun vibe in the place owing to the happy bowlers, but Mark and i were not there for the bowling but rather Myint’s food. Both of us had planned to have the Mission Burger, Myint’s legendary creation at Mission Street Food that won every burger award in the city during its short reign.

But then we looked more closely at the menu. Oh my. To help us decide, we ordered beers from their excellent list, and this time i tried the La Chouffe, a Belgian pale ale that contrasted dramatically with the dark St. Bernardus in every way but the alcohol content, and i was already pleasantly buzzed from the St. Bernardus.

But not too buzzed to engage in a spirited negotiation with Mark over the menu. We settled on splitting everything: a superb ceviche that we were both too hungry to photograph followed by the Crispy Pork Belly with avocado, hominy, cabbage, pickled carrot, and jalapeño.

pork belly

The Mission Burger, which is even better than the Deluxe Burger at Pearl’s Deluxe. There is no higher praise.


And then, just to demonstrate that we were real foodies marching to our own deep fryer, for dessert we had the fried chicken, almost presented to death but every bite as delicious as everything else.

Mission Bowling Club fried chicken

The actual dessert was riding home on the Segway as darkness fell, without my lights, quite drunk (for me) on two Belgian beers. Such an adrenaline rush that i was almost sober by the time i got back here.

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