September 2012

Good Deeds Repaid

Late this morning i had the idea that i’d take advantage of my increased mobility now that i can go short distances without a crutch, so i hopped on the Segway and rode down between the 3rd and 4th Street drawbridges with the idea that i’d sit there in a pleasant spot reading Pinker and watching the bridges until a sailboat came along and they were opened so that i could get photos of them in the open position as the boat was passing through.  Been wanting to do that for some time.

But no sooner than i’d got settled comfortably, a thought struck me.  I normally ignore them, but this one was persistent and finally got through.  What kind of sailboats use Mission Creek? the thought nagged.  Ahhh, yes, those moored by the houseboats at the farthest navigable point.  And when, on a gorgeous day like this, would those boats be passing beneath 3rd and 4th Streets?    Well of course, as they are setting out in the early morning and returning in the late afternoon.  So i’ll be sitting here waiting until at least five this afternoon.  Oh please.

But it was a pleasant ride and i realized that since it was lunchtime i could swing by SoMa StrEat Food Park on the way home and maybe catch the superb garlic noodles from the  Little Green Cyclo truck.  Alas, they weren’t there, but i spotted a gyros truck (not on the StrEat Park’s vendor list) and gave them a try.  Very good.  Maybe the best pita i ever ate, but the meat was merely good.  Not that there was a shred of it left.

The best part of the meal, though, was not the food.  Shortly after i started eating, the table next to me was occupied by a young mother with a toddler.  And they’d barely started eating when the little girl needed to go to the bathroom.  The mother sat there looking around in indecision, and i intuited the problem, so i offered to keep watch on their food and the stroller while they took their bathroom break.  Nice to be able to help.

They returned as i was finishing my sandwich, and i wished them a good day and Segwayed off.  Decided to stop at Safeway, so i took the sidewalks and parallel streets along Duboce, and was approaching Guerrero when i realized i’d left my pack beside my table.  Nothing of value in it except my good Segway lock, which would be useless to anyone since it was locked.  But still, on the off chance i could retrieve it, i whirred back down Duboce at top speed. Screeched into the StrEat Park and sure enough, they’d finished their meal and the woman was wondering what to do about my pack.

Just wonderful when good deeds are repaid almost instantly and a reminder that i must seek opportunities to do them.

Meanwhile, speaking of opportunities, i caught a glimpse of this photo op last July as i was merging into a FastPass only lane at the Bay Bridge toll plaza.  Risked life, limb, and the lives of my fellow mergers to get this shot:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mr. Do-It-Himself

I went to my beloved Luscious Garage a few days ago for routine maintenance/oil change, and as i came in the door i noticed there, basking the afternoon sun, a photo opportunity. So i took it.

Nice play of light and all that, but what is it? It’s about the right size and shape for a first generation Prius battery, but this one looks a bit Daliesque.

Well yes, it seems that Mr. Do-It-Himself decided he could save the three hundred bucks and just drop a new battery into his Prius at home.

Alas, Something Happened, and the damn thing exploded on him. Well, actually, the good news is that he was standing at the opposite end of the car, so it luckily didn’t actually explode on him, and he was uninjured.

At least until he had to have the car towed into Luscious and, in the process of telling ’em what happened, sustained third degree burns over 85% of his pride.

And Luscious? Oh no, they didn’t exactly rub it in although they did park the damn wrecked battery right at the front door where everybody and his dog can see it, wonder what’s going on, and ask.

Me, i was gonna put a new bulb in my dome light but decided i’d better go ahead and leave it to nice people who know what they’re doing. After all, i’m planning on this thing getting me to Vancouver and back in a couple of weeks.

And for the want of a dome light…..

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Peruvians

One day back in the early eighties when i was working as a chauffeur in a limousine company, i was waiting out at the airport for potential customers and the woman at our main desk in the United terminal called me to say that she had some Spanish-speaking customers for me.

I went rushing over to the desk and, seeing no likely candidates, asked her where my customers were waiting. She indicated an elderly Chinese couple standing nearby. Well yes, i reminded myself, this is like that time i got an order for a German speaking driver and my clients turned out to be two women in saris. While you sometimes guess accurately, someone’s appearance is often no indicator of what language he speaks.

So i introduced myself, and we understood each other’s Spanish perfectly. They told me they wanted to go to Lafayette, which was $90, but they agreed and i loaded their considerable luggage and we set off.

Enroute, i learned that forty years ago, the couple had emigrated from Canton province to Peru, that his brother had immigrated to the Bay Area about the same time, and this would be their first meeting in all those years.

The address they gave me was in a subdivision so new that it wasn’t on my relatively new map, but there was a fire station near the first Lafayette exit, and firemen could always be counted on to know places that weren’t on the maps yet.

Still, my having to inquire made them a little nervous, and when i pulled up in front of an imposing brand new house in an upscale subdivision, they were reluctant to leave the car until i could produce the brother. So i walked up and rang the bell.

To my great relief, the door was answered by an older Chinese man, who when i told him that his brother was here to see him, burst into a great laugh and ran past me out to the car for a joyous reunion with much excited Cantonese conversation. When i’d finally got all that luggage to the door, i gently interrupted the reunion so my client and i could settle up.

As i was thanking him and wishing them a wonderful visit with his brother in his beautiful new house while he thanked me for being able to get them there safely, i happened to glance at the American brother.

No inscrutable Oriental here. He was standing there in slack jawed amazement that this white driver and his brother could be chattering away like magpies in front of him, and he couldn’t understand a word we were saying. Wrong, wrong. Somehow all wrong. Shoe doesn’t fit on this foot.

So of course i wished him a happy visit with his brother. In English.

And then said goodbye to the couple in Spanish.

Sunday morningHere’s a Sunday morning newspaper shot:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jim Gaither. February 11, 1944 – July 25, 2012

My friend Jim had the poor taste to lie down for his afternoon nap last July 25 and not get up.  The minor tragedy is that while he had finished teaching me how to choose cameras, he had not completed my instruction in how to use them.  All too often, goaded to exasperation i suspect not entirely feigned, he’d just grab my camera from my ignorant hands, call up a menu or set a dial and say, “There.  Like that!”

And sure enough, i’d be kicked up to a higher plane.

He had the patience to do this on many occasions, and i sure do hope i had made it fully clear to him how indebted i was for his instruction.

Of course his own photography was sublime, and i’ve learned a lot just looking at his photos.  Here’s his Flickr site, now being maintained as a memorial by our mutual friend Stephen.  Note his scrupulousness in tracking down the genus and species of all the flora and the precise location of almost everything else.

I’d started joining him, his partner Roy, and Stephen for breakfast sometimes on Saturday mornings at Le Zinc, and am saddened that i’d not started sooner so as to get to know him better.

Stephen and Rowen hosted a memorial gathering for him last Sunday, an occasion for those who knew him to salute him, learn more of his background, and marvel at prints Stephen had made of some of his work.

And there’s no way i’d have the balls to put one of my pics in here today.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

East Texas Followup

That tale about my East Texas cousin raised enough eyebrows that i figure it needs a followup.  Here’s my version from memory of an article in a Houston newspaper a couple of years ago.

This poor single mother with a little kid at home has worked hard for two weeks in her dishwashing job at a restaurant and is given her paycheck when she gets off work.  She cashes it at an ATM, but as she turns away from the machine, she is knocked to the ground by a mugger, who grabs the money out of her hand.

She’s an East Texas girl, remember, so she just rolls to the side, pulls her gun out of her purse, and puts six slugs into the robber, who expires on the spot as she is retrieving her money from his hand.  The police come, and since it was clearly self defense, she is released on her own recognizance and instructed to go to the DA’s office in the morning.

The DA explains that under the circumstances he’s not going to bring charges against her, but one aspect did present a bit of a problem for him, and he asks her:  “How come you had to go and shoot him six times?”

“Because the last time I pulled the trigger it just went, ‘Click’.”

Meanwhile, talk about digging yourself into a hole:

And OK, it’s not as bad as it looks because at the top of the excavation just out of the frame to the left stands the crane that will lift the earthmovers out when their job is done.  The men will remain until the end of their shift.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


My friend Peter’s son is now visiting Strasbourg, which reminded me of my own visits there in the sixties when i was stationed in the American army in Germany but was far more accomplished in French than German.

My German friends had warned me before my first visit that the Strasbourgers were notorious for their penchant for speaking German to French visitors and French to the Germans.  What an amusing story, i thought.

And then there i was on my first trip to Strasbourg speaking French to a shop girl when she switched to German in mid-transaction.  I deduced that her first language was French when she did not switch back to it upon hearing my German responses.

PUC buildingHere’s our new green Public Utilities Commission building at Polk and Golden Gate.  The wind turbines are on the other side.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

East Texas Girls

Back around 1996 or so my East Texas cousin Suzanne paid me a visit accompanied by her good friend Barbara, the wife of the DA in their little town.  When she called me to set up the visit, i eagerly agreed since she’s great fun and immediately started thinking of things we could do.  And then, a week before they arrived my friend Brady invited me to a party set for the night of their arrival.  Of course he was delighted that i could bring my out of towners to give them a taste of the real San Francisco.

So that simmered on my back burner as i realized that ummm, i’d be taking a couple of conservative East Texas women to a party at which probably half the guests would be gay men.  Not that that would be a problem since i was long since out with my cousin.  No, the problem was that i knew very well that at some point, or points, during the party funny smelling cigarettes would be passed around and that my visitors would certainly be offered to share in this refreshment.  In those days, at least in the circles i ran in, joints were routinely passed around at parties.  Besides, my friend Brady was a total stoner, so marijuana was guaranteed to be present at a party of his.

And this got me more and more nervous, so on the way home from the airport, i delicately broached the subject, telling them about the party invitation and reassuring them that we didn’t have to go and that in any case it was always in good taste to politely decline unusual cigarettes.  They reassured me that they’d love to attend the party and wouldn’t be freaked out at seeing the joints.

So we went.  And everybody seemed to have a good time.

A couple of days later i called Brady up and thanked him, saying that my visitors had had a good time and laughing at myself over how i’d been concerned that they’d be freaked by seeing the joints passed around.

Brady burst into laughter and explained that my guests had both cordially thanked him for a wonderful time and that they didn’t seem to him to have been the slightest bit freaked.

On the other hand, he said, the remainder of his guests had had the most memorable party they’d ever attended.


He explained that while i had been deeply engrossed in conversation with someone else, the subject of a lady’s need to be able to protect herself had come up in the circle in which my visitors were conversing, and Barbara had opened her purse to display her little pearl-handled 25, the perfect ladies’ handbag gun, leaving the San Franciscans aghast and horrified.

Which perhaps explained why my guests were treated with such elaborate courtesy, and why in any case it provided the San Franciscans a truly memorable party since many of them had probably never been in the same room with a gun, much less having had the opportunity to chat with an armed guest.

city hallAnd i can’t segue from that one to any of my photos, so here’s some art behind City Hall last spring:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Food, Glorious Food

Just a grab bag of San Francisco food recommendations from the past month.  In order of my discovery, they are:

Olivier’s Butchery backs up to Gilberth’s, and they supply a good deal of the meat served at Gilberth’s.  Their door, alas, is on Illinois Street, which runs only a few blocks parallel to 3rd Street, so it goes from nowhere to someplace uninteresting and nobody’s ever heard of it.  I blundered onto Olivier’s because they were clever enough to put a sandwich board up at the corner of 22nd and 3rd, and i saw it as i Segwayed away from Gilberth’s on my first visit.  Mostly out of interest in getting a photo op of the industrial wasteland to the east, i rode down the block and around the corner.

What a pleasant surprise to find a boucherie with traditional French cuts of beef and an assortment of American cuts of other meats with charming and helpful clerks.  Didn’t really feel like planning a menu around one of the meats, but i picked up a pound of merguez to express solidarity.  May have been the best merguez i’ve ever eaten.  I took Sybil and Gloria in there after our visits to Gilberth’s, and they liked it, too.  I’ve also eaten their chorizo and found it excellent.

And while i’m talking about new butchers and sausages, i have to mention that i’d read some of the hype on 4505 and tried two of their sausages from their booth at the Bartlett Street Farmers’ Market.  Their other meats may very well be good, but neither of their sausages was even close to the two i’ve eaten from Olivier’s.

Commonwealth is Anthony Myint’s wildly acclaimed upscale place next door to Mission Chinese Food.  For the high end foodies who might be a bit nervous about leaving their Lexuses on the street in that gritty section of Mission, they even have a small parking lot, and their front door opens off the parking lot rather than directly onto Mission Street so as to avoid the ambiance of the street bums.  Jeff took me there for my birthday, and we had the tasting menu, which was a great bargain considering that much of the food showed the influence of Ferran Adrià and was highly technical and shockingly good.  That said, my favorite dish was sweetbreads of lamb, which i’d never had.  Wow.

And speaking of innards, i repaid Jeff by taking him to Incanto, where we shared a number of courses including lamb’s tongue, which was alas, too much like beef tongue, but the rest of the meal was as good as i’d expected.  Highly recommended, and like Commonwealth, a place i’d been wanting to go to for years.

Both Incanto and Commonwealth are a bit pricey for me now, so my next discovery, Eureka Restaurant and Lounge, was an enormous pleasure.  The restaurant is in the old Neon Chicken location and has been open for several years, but i’d given up on finding a good restaurant there again since nothing has succeeded in that spot since the Chicken’s legendary run.  Fortunately, i read an article about fried chicken livers that mentioned Eureka’s version favorably.  And since it’s right down the hill from me and easily accessible, i Segwayed down there yesterday.

Oh, my goodness.  I’d planned to just have a couple of their appetizers as a light supper, so i ordered the fried okra and the fried chicken livers for eight bucks each.  Then i noticed that i could have a side of garlic mashed potatoes for five bucks more.  They asked if i wanted them all at once and i said, Sure.  Fairly small plates, but piled high.  And all three were absolutely delicious.  Since i knew i couldn’t eat it all, i went ahead and finished the okra and potatoes and took about two-thirds of the livers home.  And yes, i skipped dessert.  This is a place where for sure i want to eat my way through the menu.

When my ankle heals i’ll go back onto a low-carb diet but for now i need some food that will fight my depression, and numerous medical studies have confirmed that the best way to kill depression is to smother it beneath a thick blanket of saturated fat and carbohydrates.

PhalaenopsisSpeaking of killing things, i thought i’d killed this Phalaenopsis that Jeff had given me, so i threw the carcass out onto the laundry porch last spring with the idea of salvaging the pot.  Was out there doing my laundry last month and noticed that i’d botched the murder, so i went ahead and brought it back into the office.

You behave yourself, and you can stay inside.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment