August 2012

The Cordileone Files

San Francisco’s been all atwiz the past few days over the news about His Excellency Salvatore Cordileone, now Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland and currently awaiting his new title “His Grace” and his installation as Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco.

It seems that His Excellency was down in his home town of San Diego last weekend celebrating his recent reward from the Vatican for being an indefatigable foe of gays and originator of the infamous Prop 8 of 2008.  In collusion with the current Archbishop of San Francisco, George Niederauer, he launched the mendacious but effective campaign to deny gays the secular marriage rites they had been granted by the state supreme court.  And at the festive dinner last Friday night he guzzled enough good California wine that he failed a sobriety test at a roadblock near the UCSD campus and was hauled off to jail.

Which of course connoisseurs of Roman Catholic hypocrisy just loved and sent the news viral.  The Chronicle published one of my gay friend Louis’ letters pointing out that His Excellency has made a career of calling Louis a “grave threat to the family” even while His Excellency goes jovially driving around drunk as a lord.   Look, i relish my role as a threat to His Excellency’s thirteenth-century theology, but who’s the graver threat to the lives of his contemporary Californians?

Still, there were a couple of things that none of the letters pointed out.

First, the news accounts all agree that when the arresting officer asked for his occupation, Cordileone admitted that he was “a priest”.  How perfectly Jesuitical, “a priest”.  Just a run-of-the-mill, ordinary, altar-boy-groping priest.   Move along, folks, nothing to see here.   It was left to some nosy San Diego police department worker to out Cordileone as Bishop of Oakland, Archbishop-in-Waiting of San Francisco, indefatigable foe of gays and pushy nuns, and one of the most powerful men in the entire American Roman Catholic hierarchy.

So why was His about-to-be Grace so modest?  Could it be for the same reason that the Roman Catholic Church has routinely covered up the child abuse of its priests?  For the same reason Penn State covered up decades of sexual abuse by Coach Sandusky?  Could it be that protecting the institution is vastly more important than revelation of the truth?  That embarrassing truths must be concealed to the greatest degree possible to protect the revenue stream?

And second, the news accounts all mention that one of the passengers was Cordileone’s 88-year-old mother and that she was allowed to drive the car away from the scene.  Hmmm.  Yes, i certainly understand that there are many people in America who are 88 years old and still have drivers’ licenses, but i should think that even if she were not legally drunk, whatever modest amount of alcohol she had consumed plus all the difficulties of being 88 years old would not have made her the first choice as driver.

Well, unless she was the only passenger who had a drivers’ license.   See, in California to get a drivers’ license you have to pass both written and driving tests.  Oh, and you have to be over 18 years old.

No no, it may not as bad as we connoisseurs of Roman Catholic child abuse might think.  I mean, maybe word will leak out that the passengers were his mother and his two favorite love children.

But then, after i read this article in the gay newspaper Bay Area Reporter, i started to feel a sense of shame for mounting the above vicious personal attack on His Excellency.  I loathe the Roman Catholic heirarchy so deeply because of their continuing hateful attacks on me that i routinely lose perspective and write something nasty in an attempt to strike back against my persecutors.  I could be more effective as a warrior against that rotten church if i avoided the personal attacks and simply focused on the church’s abundant evils, reminding myself all the while (as i have mentioned before) that there are millions of Catholic worshipers who are appalled at the current teachings of their church and the actions of their heirarchy.  Do read that article i linked to at the beginning of this paragraph.

Meanwhile, enough of those fluffy flowers for a while

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A Great Capsaicin Adventure

it was such a lovely morning that i strapped on my ortho boot and Segwayed down to the HoC Farmers’ Market to pass on to three of my favorite vendors the bottles of red Thai chiles i’d discovered in the refrigerator the other day and pickled. They’re way too hot for me, but i love pickling them for friends.

But when i hit the last vendor, he stepped into his truck and produced a bag of yellow nectarines, the last of his crop and not really enough to put out in a display, especially since they were dead ripe and would just get pawed to a pulp, so he saved ’em for one of his good customers who he knew loved nectarines over peaches. Enter Matte, stage left.

But since they’re dead ripe, i need to make a small batch of jam with them today. So i doubled back to my favorite chile vendor and picked up some red New Mexicos. Actually, when i had first looked at those chiles it crossed my mind that they might be Italian sweet peppers since the two can look much alike. So i asked to make sure. Yep, New Mexico chiles. I bought lots of ’em.

And then when i got the nectarines simmering with the sugar and apple pulp, i juiced the lemon and seeded and pureed the New Mexico chiles. See, i had a dialog with my nectarine vendor about capsaicin, so i’m trying a new technique, pureeing the chiles and the lemon juice in the blender and adding it to the jam during the last few minutes of cooking, hoping in that way to keep the piquancy level up.

So with great expectations, i took a cautious taste of the pepper puree. Aarrgh. i’ve been taken advantage of by a new clerk at an old vendor. Not a trace of capsaicin. And since i’d promised the nectarine vendor a jar of the jam and he’s a major capsaicin lover, i was trapped. Thank god i hadn’t taken the damn boot off, so i rode down to Casa Guadalupe and bought four of those hot yellow chiles i remembered having found very hot many years ago. Got them back here, cut up the first one, and took a tiny taste. Sigh. Wrong damn peppers twice in a row, but this time it was my fault for not asking. So fuck it. I went ahead and threw in some perfectly ripe French plums, and i’ll call it a Nectarine and French Plum Jam with Totally Mild Peppers.

Oh, and Gloria got back to me that i really ought to mention that i did all this hopping around on one leg, so yes, even though i’m labeling them NFPNM, they’re really OLNFPSIMY One Legged Nectarine French Plum Sweet Italian Mild Yellow Pepper Jam.

rosesOn the other hand, some things are coming up roses:

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Yet Another Language Moment

OK, i’m moving on from writing about my damn leg because it struck me that if there is anything more boring than sitting around watching your bones knit, it’s reading about somebody else’s bones knitting. So let’s have another Language Moment, this one from my sordid career as a minor partner in a limousine company in San Francisco 1980-1984. I listed myself with the company as a speaker of French, German, and Spanish even though i was far from fluent in any of them. Nevertheless, i was good enough to give tours in those languages, which was almost the only reason any client wanted a bilingual driver.

One exception was two northern Italian couples who got through customs successfully at SFO and then discovered that the alpha male, who had fancied himself their English speaker, was unable to understand anything anyone said to him, nor could they understand him. So i happened to be standing within earshot when he was thrashing around helplessly with the airport porter who had this great pile of their luggage on his cart. I tried French, and suddenly four light bulbs burst into great radiance and they all started talking at once. They were wealthy northern Italians, indifferent students, and chose to study French since it was so vastly much easier than English. But it was a second language for all of us, so we could cut each other plenty of slack.

They were so relieved at being able to communicate with someone that they hired me as their guide for their entire four day stay. They were fun-loving, delightful people, and we all had a good time. And of course i made oodles of money since they were so traumatized by their airport encounter that wanted me around all their waking hours.

The only downer (and it was just for me) was owing to one of those little cultural quirks that sometimes get in your way. They wanted a fine Chinese dinner, so i recommended the Mandarin, opened by Cecilia Chang in 1968, still at its peak in 1982, widely acclaimed as the best Chinese restaurant in the city, and universally rated as the most expensive. Still, my clients had plenty of money, so what could go wrong?

Well, when we were seated and i was describing the menu to them and recommending dishes that we order, a tiny little warning bell went off. After a couple of them had said something to the effect, “I’ll order that one.” i realized that they were thinking of ordering individual dishes, so i carefully explained that at Chinese restaurants, you ordered bowls of a variety of foods so that everyone got to taste everything and then have larger amounts of his favorites. Aghast looks were exchanged. Polite demurrals were issued. And then one of them explained that they didn’t eat “that way”. And i realized that in their culture family style dining was something that one saw only in movies showing Sicilian peasants eating supper together, still smeared with dirt from the fields.

They were relatively young, happy people, eager to see new things and experience America. But there were some things too barbarous to contemplate. So we ordered separately. And at some point the headwaiter drifted over and saw what was going on and tried to explain that they were supposed to share. And i manfully translated. And pointed out that the other well dressed patrons were sharing their food. And still, they could not bring themselves to violate this cultural taboo.

You owe it to yourself. The next time you’re in Europe, cast aside your silly American culinary taboos and eat a delicious horse cutlet.

summer saladMeanwhile, a treat i made for myself the other day.

What’s that green stuff? OK, just some salsa i made of tomatillos, Jalapeños, and scallions. The white stuff is Laura Chenel’s acclaimed chèvre. The red stuff is Brandywine tomatoes, people. It’s a good combination, just taste it. C’mon, just a little taste.

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Crutches, Smutches

Those who know me will probably not be all that surprised that i’ve again indulged my penchant for high tech, ecologically benign vehicles.  Here’s my latest acquisition.  It’s called a “knee scooter”.
To get around the city i can tow the knee scooter behind the Segway uphill and then tow the Segway behind the knee scooter downhill.  Why the double vehicle thing?  Simple.  Going uphill, you can go a lot faster on the Segway because the knee scooter is powered only by your good leg.  For going downhill, the Segway has a governor that prevents it from going over 12 MPH in balance mode, but if it’s turned off and towed behind the knee scooter, you can coast down the hill at much greater speeds.  Ahh, the best of both worlds.

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Crutch City

I sure have done a number on myself this time.  I mangled my foot so badly that the orthodoc tells me he can’t do the surgery now because the hemorrhagic fracture blisters on both sides and the top present too great a risk for runaway infections and other hideous complications, and i’d just as soon keep this foot for a while longer, as curious as i am about Oscar Pistorius’ Cheetahs.

Warning:  if you Google “hemorrhagic fracture blister”, don’t look at the images as they’re disgusting.  Even more so when they’re at the end of your own leg.

The good news is that he did more x-rays yesterday and was pleased that i had somehow managed to do something right so that the fractures had not expanded.  So now he’s dangling the possibility that if i can stay off that foot and keep it elevated until the blisters resolve and the traumatized tissues heal, the fractures may have closed on their own and surgery won’t be necessary.

Woulda tapdanced out except i knew it would hurt too much.

So now i’m learning how to use crutches and and to keep that leg elevated when i’m reading or writing or watching the Olympics.  Well, or sleeping, but mostly reading.  Today i’ll begin Quicksilver, the first volume of Neal Stephenson’s massive (900 pages each) three volume Baroque Cycle.  The perfect thing to read during a time of enforced idleness.

Meanwhile, some local flora.

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Isadora Gray

Valencia Sunday StreetsEverything was going fine. I’d cruised through the Sunday Streets closing of Valencia Street having a wonderful time soaking up the good communal vibes of a few thousand happy people out in the middle of the street on a sunny Sunday. Like these folks doing their collective dance thing.

As i rode along i couldn’t help noticing that Aslam’s Rasoi was open for lunch in honor of the street closure, so i went in and had their full strength (i.e. “hot”) Saag Gosht and a piece of naan. Then pleasantly stuffed and buzzing on capsaicin, i continued toward home and realized i could stop in Safeway for the wheat germ i’d been wanting.

And yes, in the back of my mind there had bubbled to the surface the idea of perhaps grabbing a pint of high quality vanilla ice cream to use up some of that chocolate sauce made with Tcho chocolate the other day that something went wrong with so that sugar crystals formed and i was reluctant to give it to folks, it being second quality and all that.

I was probably thinking of a mountain of that ice cream surmounted by a lava flow of crunchy chocolate sauce, thus causing me not to notice that my field jacket, which i’d doffed owing to the warm afternoon and had hanging on my right handlebar, was slipping a bit so that the leading edge of the bottom, rather like Isadora Duncan‘s scarf, finally dangled low enough that it could be trapped between the right tire and the street, thus causing that side of the Segway to come to an immediate halt. The other side and i continued briefly in our previous trajectories until somehow i spun around and my left foot got entangled in the field jacket as we all crashed to the ground, twisting my ankle into a highly unnatural position before it finally yielded and ripped itself half in two.

No no, the jacket. The ankle remains tenuously attached. And yes, i know i’m lucky it was my foot that got caught rather than my neck like poor Isadora.

I sincerely wanted to lie there in agony but of course as usual with my accidents there were lots of witnesses, all of whom had dropped everything and were converging on me from every angle so i had to immediately stagger to my feet shouting, “Nothing harmed but my pride, people. I’m fine, i’m fine. No prob. Everything’s OK. Move along folks, nothing to see here.”

Luckily i can ride the Segway with just one foot on the platform, so i went ahead and picked up two pints of the ice cream and some wheat germ in Safeway, using a shopping cart to bear my weight so i could get around in the store. The expedition will continue until the last man drops.

Back home i got the shoe off and jury rigged an ice pack while i made a supper of the ice cream (yes, both pints) and wrapped the ankle with an Ace bandage. Got through the night with some left over vintage 1995 Demerol and called my doctor first thing this morning. She took one look at my foot, poked it experimentally (“Yipe!”) and sent me off for x-rays, which revealed a fracture, and so now i have an appointment in the morning to see an orthopedist who specializes in feet and ankles. At least this is something new, as i’ve never had leg surgery before.

This is great although i might not be ready for another week or so to emulate these rollerbladers at Sunday Streets as they skate twenty yards to build up maximum speed and then leap into the air and slide all the way to the end of that pipe on the edges of their skates.


Oh, and another pic from Sunday Streets. I had the shot of the three young women against that wall framed, but then folks kept walking past as i tried to squeeze off a shot between them. Look, Dude, you walked into my frame…which was not about you but rather the women behind you.

i c u


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Food Issue

OK, so much for the political rants.  Well, after i mention overhearing some visiting Louisianans complain about how we lazy Californians are allowed by our tax and spend socialist government to lie on our backs and suck in for free a surfeit of the nation’s precious oxygen.  But now let’s talk about something we can all agree on:  food.

I’ve written about my discovery of Gilberth’s and going there with both Sybil and Gloria.  My new restaurant discovery, if i can call it new since it’s been around practically at my doorstep since 2006 even though i’d never eaten there, is Aslam’s Rasoi on Valencia off 21st Street.  My friend Mark took me there the other day for the best Pakistani/Indian food i’ve had in many years, maybe ever.  We had an appetizer of the Bengan Pakoras, slices of battered and fried eggplant, that was quite good and followed that by the best tandoori chicken i recall eating, wonderfully flavorful, moist, and tender.  Our charming waitress upsold us from the Saag Gosht to the evening’s special of marinated lamb chops with a side of spinach curry, and yes it doubled the price but oh my goodness was every bite sublime. The lamb chops were melt-in-your-mouth tender and the spinach was divine.  We skipped rice but shared an order of excellent naan.

And yes, sitting here writing about that visit got me so fired up that i  started thinking about it this afternoon while i was at the nearby Bartlett Street Farmers’ Market, where i picked up some of Arata’s wonderful little extra potent nectarines that gradually ripen on my laundry porch without getting all squishy and got into such a good rap with Mr. Arata that i totally blew off grabbing some of those truly fine pink Brandywines from his handsome neighbor although i did fit in some schmoozing with Cynthia at Dandelion Chocolate.   And stopped at Aslam’s on the way home for the Saag Gosht and a piece of naan.  Oh good grief.  saag gosht is my favorite Pakistani/Indian dish, and i’ve never had it better…even when eaten under Charmazel’s wing.  Eat at Aslam’s Rasoi, folks.

Meanwhile, to keep this post from running on, i’ll save the rest of the food news but mention that i’m gonna give you a little rest from all the flora pics now and focus on other things.  Like this new trend in urban security that amplifies the tendency of folks living on streets with a lot of pedestrian traffic to erect barred gates in front of their entryways.  Now they go ahead and extend the entryway by building a cage out to the foot of the steps:

caged steps

Or this one, also on 18th Street in the gentrifying block between Guerrero and Dolores.  That light colored stuff on the tips is the curare.

caged steps

Meanwhile, in a related theme, some low income housing on Capp Street.

low income housing

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