Journal: 2014

2013 Awards

So much for all that tedious Desert Tour stuff, now it’s time to get back to worthwhile issues, my awards for groundbreaking performances in 2013.

The first award goes to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for his seminal work in the promotion of gay marriage.  Now, i know you’re thinking that Scalia is a foam-spewing homophobe and indefatigable foe of any kind of justice for gays.  And yes, he’s voted against gays at his every opportunity, and in Lawrence vs. Texas (legalizing consensual sodomy) in 2003 and U.S. vs. Windsor (the DOMA repeal)  in 2013 he wrote scathing minority opinions declaring that, among other harms, these decisions would fling wide open the door to legalization of gay marriage.

How prescient he was.  Just before Christmas a federal judge in Utah struck down Utah’s prohibition of same sex marriage, quoting extensively from Scalia’s Windsor opinion and agreeing that Scalia’s logic was unexceptionable.  Thank you, Justice Scalia.

So now, in spite of the hysterical screaming of the Mormon hierarchy, gays are flocking to city halls all over Utah to get their marriage licenses while the Mormons are appealing to the US Supreme Court to preserve their God-given right to force gays to remain second class citizens.

And on a lighter note while we’re talking about gays, the Supreme Court’s takedown last summer of California’s Mormon and Catholic-sponsored Proposition 8 forbidding gay marriage was met with much local rejoicing, great and small, one of the small examples being reported by Leah Garchik.  There’s a new sandwich now widely offered in local shops – the GLBT.  It’s an LBT with guacamole.

And since my archives are unaccountably missing a photo of Justice Scalia in drag, i’m forced to submit this shot of the 2013 Gay Santa Run, featuring a number of Santa’s sisters.

 

Gay Santas and their sisters

 

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Edward Snowden

OK, now that we’ve lauded Antonin Scalia, let’s take a look at Edward Snowden, currently notorious for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s clandestine monitoring of the world’s communications.

Not that many of us would have a problem with our government’s recording the communications of foreigners since most of us think of that as the usual intelligence gathering that all nations routinely perform to strengthen their own security.  Nor would most Americans have been all that surprised to learn that the NSA was tracking their communications along with those of foreigners.  After all, we’ve all been reading for years accusations from various sources that we’re being spied on by programs like Echelon, Predator, and AT&T’s infamous Room 641a right here in their San Francisco offices on Folsom Street.  So Snowden’s revelations were not exactly news.

But Snowden did not simply accuse the NSA of spying on us, an accusation that when made by others has always been stoutly denied at all levels of our government.  No no.  What Snowden did was was release actual copies of NSA papers describing this surveillance, thus exposing all our government’s denials as lies and leading figures like James Clapper, our Director of National Intelligence, to describe his denial of NSA survaillance in front of Congress as responding in the “least untruthful manner by saying no”, which is utterly hilarious when we consider that the alternative to “no” is “yes” and that the truthful answer to the question he was asked was, in fact, “yes”.

And the revelations didn’t stop there.  After the CEOs of Apple, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo fell all over each other denying that they’d had any idea at all that the NSA was reaping a great harvest of their material, declassified  NSA documents demonstrated that the NSA had been paying these companies for mass releases of data.  Not, of course, that any of us were surprised to discover proof that these corporations were liars on the same scale as our government officials.

Next, Snowden went ahead and released NSA documents proving that RSA had been paid millions of dollars by the NSA to build back doors into its cybersecurity products.  Revelations that other companies had provided similar back doors followed, including details on how the CIA managed to download spyware onto the hard drives of computers before delivery to customers.

Where will it all stop?  Who knows.  In the meantime, both the New York Times and the Guardian published editorials proposing clemency for Snowden.  The one in the Times has a sentence in the ending paragraph that i must quote:  “When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government.”

Amen, but how about a pardon rather than clemency?

I don’t have a recent photo hideous enough to be appropriate, so here’s a lovely ferocactus in Walnut Creek’s Ruth Bancroft Garden:

Ruth Bancroft Garden

 

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Best Comment Ever

Shortly after installing the Comments feature on this website i discovered the necessity of doing some kind of filtering because i was deluged with faux comments that were really just vehicles to carry links to websites selling cheap jerseys and other trash.  So i settled on Akismet, and have to say that it does a splendid job of screening spam-carrying comments.  Actually, only one of ’em has snuck through in the past couple of months.  But i figured i’d better check to make certain that it wasn’t quarantining any “real” comments, so i just now went scrolling through several pages of the trashed ones.  Yep, they were all carrying spam links.

Many make some innocuous comment to camouflage the link, and i found the following template designed to help them sound real.  Unfortunately, a spammer sent me the whole damn template by mistake when what he was supposed to do was go through it, pick one of the paragraphs, and select one of the choices between each set of curly brackets.   Hell, you could even write a little macro that would do this automatically.   ta da.   Life is sweet.

 

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In
my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever before.|
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.

{Very well|Perfectly|Well|Exceptionally well} written!|
{I will|I’ll} {right away|immediately} {take hold
of|grab|clutch|grasp|seize|snatch} your {rss|rss feed} as I {can not|can’t} {in finding|find|to find}
your {email|e-mail} subscription {link|hyperlink} or {newsletter|e-newsletter} service.
Do {you have|you’ve} any? {Please|Kindly} {allow|permit|let} me {realize|recognize|understand|recognise|know} {so that|in order that} I {may just|may|could}
subscribe. Thanks.|
{It is|It’s} {appropriate|perfect|the best} time
to make some plans for the future and {it is|it’s} time to be happy.

{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, I {log on to|check|read} your {new stuff|blogs|blog} {regularly|like every week|daily|on a regular basis}.
Your {story-telling|writing|humoristic} style is {awesome|witty}, keep {doing what you’re doing|up the good work|it up}!|
I {simply|just} {could not|couldn’t} {leave|depart|go away} your {site|web site|website} {prior to|before} suggesting that I {really|extremely|actually} {enjoyed|loved} {the standard|the
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Is {going to|gonna} be {back|again} {frequently|regularly|incessantly|steadily|ceaselessly|often|continuously} {in
order to|to} {check up on|check out|inspect|investigate cross-check} new posts|

{I wanted|I needed|I want to|I need to} to thank you for this {great|excellent|fantastic|wonderful|good|very
good} read!! I {definitely|certainly|absolutely} {enjoyed|loved} every {little bit of|bit of} it.
{I have|I’ve got|I have got} you {bookmarked|book
marked|book-marked|saved as a favorite} {to check out|to
look at} new {stuff you|things you} post.

{Hola|Hey there|Hi|Hello|Greetings}! I’ve
been {following|reading} your {site|web site|website|weblog|blog} for {a long time|a while|some time} now and finally got the {bravery|courage} to
go ahead and give you a shout out from {New Caney|Kingwood|Huffman|Porter|Houston|Dallas|Austin|Lubbock|Odessa|Humble|Atascocita} {Tx|Texas}!
Just wanted to {tell you|mention|say} keep up the {fantastic|excellent|great|good} {job|work}!

Greetings from {Idaho|Carolina|Ohio|Colorado|Florida|Los angeles|California}!
I’m {bored to tears|bored to death|bored} at work so
I decided to {check out|browse} your {site|website|blog} on my iphone during lunch break.
I {enjoy|really like|love} the {knowledge|info|information} you {present|provide} here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.

{Hi|Hello|Hi there|What’s up}, just wanted to {mention|say|tell you}, I {enjoyed|liked|loved} this {article|post|blog post}.
It was {inspiring|funny|practical|helpful}. Keep on posting!|
I {{leave|drop|{write|create}} a {comment|leave a response}|drop a {comment|leave
a response}|{comment|leave a response}} {each time|when|whenever}
I {appreciate|like|especially enjoy} a {post|article} on a {site|{blog|website}|site|website} or
{I have|if I have} something to {add|contribute|valuable to contribute} {to the discussion|to the
conversation}. {It is|Usually it is|Usually it’s|It’s} {a result of|triggered by|caused by} the {passion|fire|sincerness} {communicated|displayed} in the {post|article} I {read|looked at|browsed}.
And {on|after} this {post|article} Oh Good Grief.

{Hi there|Hello}, I enjoy reading {all of|through} your
{article|post|article post}. I {like|wanted} to write a little comment to support you.|
I {always|constantly|every time} spent my half an hour to read
this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site}’s {articles|posts|articles or reviews|content} {everyday|daily|every day|all the time} along with a {cup|mug} of
coffee.|

I {always|for all time|all the time|constantly|every time} emailed this {blog|weblog|webpage|website|web site} post
page to all my {friends|associates|contacts}, {because|since|as|for
the reason that} if like to read it {then|after that|next|afterward} my {friends|links|contacts} will too.|
My {coder|programmer|developer} is trying to {persuade|convince} me to move to .net from PHP.

 

And OK, Matte here again. This is completely off topic, but here’s some great street art….seems like it was off 24th Street near Mission. Or should i say “off {23rd|24th|25th} Street near {Mission|Valencia|Guerrero}”?

 

There Is So Much Love In This City

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Before It’s Too Late

We’ve all noticed over the last several months Republicans declaring that we must defund Obamacare “before it’s too late”.

Well, what does “before it’s too late” mean? I Googled obamacare + “before it’s too late” and got a long list of hits. I read a number of them and found that most argued that if allowed to remain operative Obamacare would cause untold misery, escalating costs, lack of choice, etc – none reasons that seem all that plausible. Only a couple that i read mentioned that if Obamacare were not stopped now, the benefits it offered would become viewed as entitlements, and then it would be too late to stop it.  Now we’re onto something.

None of them mentioned that the entitlements they were thinking of were Social Security, Medicare, and President Bush’s prescription drug coverage. Nor did they mention that these programs became thought of as entitlements because they worked so well and were thus overwhelmingly popular with the people, or at least with the people who weren’t rich. Nobody nowadays, except the most rabid Tea Partiers and the Libertarians, wants to end Social Security and Medicare. There were widespread anecdotes last year about elderly Tea Partiers waving signs demanding that the government keep its hands off their Medicare although these are so ludicrous that they may have been left wing plants.

Social Security and Medicare were vociferously damned by the right when they were first enacted and, like Obamacare, their rollouts were marred by initial difficulties. But now they are great success stories and thus it’s too late to stop them.

Medicare has served as the most powerful force in holding back the escalation of medical care costs since it has constantly bargained with the medical industry to reduce costs. Squealing that it’s socialistic only pretends that it’s not working superbly.

The great fear of the right is that Obamacare will be a similar success once it’s fully operational. That’s why it’s necessary to stop it now, before it becomes as successful as Medicare.

And speaking of successes, here’s a neighborhood institution on Market Street. I just love the signage.

Joe's Barbershop

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Food Issue

It’s been too long, so i want to catch up on my culinary adventures.

♦ Gaylord’s.  Yep, Gaylord’s.  I was reading reviews of new Indian restaurants even though i’m so happy with Aslam’s Rasoi that i don’t want to go anywhere else, and something made me think of Gaylord’s, which i had discovered in the late seventies when it was perched up in the northwest corner of Ghiradelli Square with spectacular views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.  The decor was in restrained good taste, unusual in those days in an Indian restaurant, and it was a sumptuously comfortable place with soft, upholstered chairs that i could have sat in for hours.  And the food?  By far the best saag gohst i’d ever eaten.  Hell, i’d never eaten any of the dishes better elsewhere.  And then it moved to One Embarcadero and was still a comfortable place with great food.  But somehow i got so busy discovering other cuisines, and cheap Indian restaurants, that it slipped off my Go-To list for thirty years.

But having thought of it again, i became curious, checked, and sure enough it was still in the Embarcadero Center.  So i made reservations for Mark and me.

Well, you can’t go home again.  It had moved to a much smaller location inside One Embarcadero and didn’t seem to be anywhere near as well appointed.  And the food?  Well, nothing was actually wrong with it, but there was nothing exciting about it, either.

Go to Aslam’s Rasoi instead.  Have the saag gosht, the chicken korma, the tandoori lamb, the tandoori chicken.  Then you may try something else.

Pesce – I never got around to eating at Jake’s, the restaurant that succeeded 2223 at that address on Market Street, and clearly hardly anyone else went there because it died a quick death.  And was rapidly followed by Pesce.  Oh hell, i thought, does the Castro need another seafood place when we already have the justly legendary Anchor Oyster Bar and Woodhouse Fish Company and the good enough Catch all within two and a half blocks?  Well, yes, we do.   It’s a bustling, handsome, happy place with very good food.  And yes, it bills itself as a sort of Venetian tapas venue, which means the portions are small and you can run up a very serious bill if you’re not careful.  Go there with Jeff when it’s his turn to pay.

Mission Beach Cafe – I love this place.  It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s one of the very best buys in the city – cuisine that rises to the Zuni level at prices that are affordable, even for pigs like Jeff and me.  There’s always a crowd out front waiting to get into their legendary weekend brunch, so  i mainly go for their weekday breakfast/lunch, which is almost a bargain, especially if i obey my internist and abstain from their utterly divine chocolate cream pie or their equally superb chocolate pecan pie.  The real reason i’m plugging the place today is a new dish on the dinner menu, a rabbit gumbo that is not blistering with peppers like some gumbos can be although there’s a significant capsaicin count.  I may have had gumbos as good, but i never had one better.  Oh, and whatever you do, don’t order the truffle/parmesan fries – if they put a big enough pile of those in front of you, you could kill yourself since they’re so good you can’t stop.

Anchor Oyster Bar.  Go, but go early or there’ll be a long wait.  Anything on the short menu is very good, but have the cioppino or the crab cakes.  I have never heard anyone say they had a better version of these dishes anywhere.  Certainly i haven’t.  And hey, during crab season they routinely have a pot of cioppino base in the kitchen even when it’s not on the menuboard.  Don’t tell ’em Matte told you since not everybody is supposed to know this.

Woodhouse Fish Company.   The best New England style clam chowder i ever ate outside the Ft. Devens Officers’ Open Mess in the early sixties although the cioppino is not as good as the Anchor’s.  An absolute delight is the do-it-yourself lemonade which consists of a glass of crushed ice, a flagon of water, a carafe of lemon syrup, and a handful of lemon wedges.  Mix it exactly the way you like it.  Oh, and if you eat a cracked crab there, you’ll discover that every other crab you’ve ever eaten, including those you steamed yourself, was overcooked.

OK, the pic has gotta be something to eat, so here’s a shot of some baby kiwi fruit from back in October.  When they’re an inch long like this, the fuzz hasn’t developed and you can eat them whole.  They’re not very sweet when they’re this young, so you can have them for a tart treat…not to mention the bragging rights.

 

baby kiwi fruit

 

 

 

 

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Barry LeBlanc

I regularly Segway north on Noe Street and turn right onto Market when i’m headed downtown or to the gym, and perhaps as long as ten years ago i noticed that every time i crossed 17th Street, a homeless man with brooms sticking out of his shopping cart would be standing at the northeast corner.   He was always there.  A fixture.  Well, during the day.  They disappear somewhere at night.

At some point i waved at him as i went past, and he waved back.

I started paying a little more attention and noticed that frequently someone was talking with him.  No, not brushing rapidly past him to avoid being panhandled, but standing there talking.  Hmmmm.

Look, i’m not one of these comfortably housed people who bristle with hatred at the very sight of a homeless person, but i admit that i’d never actually sought one’s company, preferring to donate to organizations that help them rather than getting all that close myself.  Still, for whatever reason, just a few years ago one winter day i stopped and spoke to him.  Asked him how he was doing.

He was not drunk, and i’ll jump ahead in the narrative here and mention that on none of our subsequent hundreds of encounters did he give the slightest impression that he was under the influence of anything stronger than coffee.  And he was articulate, and a keen observer, and had read extensively.  So i became one of the people who talked with him, and managed to extract from him that his name was Barry LeBlanc although he was not at all generous with biographical details and came back with a strong negative when i asked if i might write about him or take a picture.

I should also mention that he never panhandled me, nor did i ever see him panhandle anyone else.  How the hell did he survive? i wondered.   So i started slipping him a buck sometimes, at first when it had rained the night before while i was snug and warm and dry at home in my soft bed, and then later even on nice days.

And then a couple of years ago the police started hassling him and made him move away from “his” corner at 17th and Noe.  Someone had complained.  And yes, one of our rights as Americans is to know our accuser, but this requirement is waived for the homeless.  Still, since it was clear he wasn’t panhandling and was even sweeping a section of the sidewalk, the cops let him stay at the corner of 15th and Market during the mornings and across from the library on 16th Street in the afternoons.

And somewhere along in there i started trying to do a little delicate outreach, hoping to get him to apply for one of the city’s homeless assistance programs for some housing or shelter or at least a goddam bath, since he was absolutely filthy even though he kept his beard and mustache neatly trimmed.  But no, he liked his independence.  And people regularly spoke to him and slipped him money, so he had enough money for food, coffee, and cigarettes.  BTW, nobody was ever able to talk him into applying for any kind of public assistance.

As the years went by, I kept slipping him dollars and trying to help him some way, but even just feeding him was an issue since his teeth were all ragged stumps, so he couldn’t chew anything.  I could barely even get him to take any of my jams and jellies except the raspberry, which had been a childhood favorite.  I joked with him about how i’d never met anyone else as stubborn as myself, and that i could see some irony in my advising him to get help while i very much cherished my own freedom to ignore the advice of others.

When Rina was here last November, i introduced her and he managed a greeting in Dutch that he’d remembered from a stay in Amsterdam in his youth.  Afterwards, she observed that he was handsome.  What!  i wondered. And then the next time i saw him i looked at him objectively and realized that she’d been able to see through the dirt and was right.  He was not displeased when i told him Rina had found him handsome.

But then last week we both came down with colds or something.  On Wednesday the 15th, we were both dragging, but he looked worse, and i brought him some coffee.  On Thursday he hadn’t moved from the spot on 16th Street across from the library, and he seemed sicker.  I suggested it was time to go to the hospital and he said no, but he did let me bring him a turnover from Rosenberg’s.  On Friday i felt so bad that i wouldn’t have gone out if i hadn’t been concerned about him.  Got there in mid-afternoon to find a homeless man named Jimmy fruitlessly hectoring him to go to the hospital.  I seconded the motion, but he was adamant.  He let me bring him a pack of cigarettes, and i stood there looking at him and saw that i was facing an ethics problem, that if one of us who knew and liked him didn’t call an ambulance and have him hauled off to the hospital against his will, he could very well die on the street that night.  And as i stood there in front of him, the realization swept over me that i was not going to be the one to deny him the freedom to die on his own terms.

So i laid my hand on his shoulder and said goodbye and rode back home to bed.

I felt too sick to leave the house on Saturday, and maybe i just didn’t want to know, but on Sunday i got dressed and rode down there to discover that everybody who knew him had made the same decision i had and that he’d been found dead about 3:00 Saturday morning.  Were we right?  The Church would disagree because the Church will force its rules on you whenever it can.  But i know what Barry wanted and that’s good enough for me.

 Barry Leblanc

 

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Their New Pope

Pope Francis sure has been stirring up controversy almost from the moment he fought his way up to the Papacy last year.  Or rather, from the moment his peers were directed by God to look among themselves and choose the one who could best lead the Church into the future.  Whatever.

But my goodness, listen to the man!  What mixed messages!  Last summer he issued his first encyclical, largely written by his predecessor, which maintained the traditional Catholic hard line at the same time his American bishops were exhorting the Senate not to approve the Employment Non-Discrimination Act protecting gays in the workplace because they were gay and would thus likely be having sex with each other, of which the Church disapproves although the bishops failed to explain what this has to do with the workplace.  Then, in a dramatic reversal a month later, the Pope was saying who is he to judge gays?

Of course that’s a considerable softening of tone since 2010, when he denounced an Argentinian bill that would permit gay marriage, saying:

“Let us not be naive: this is not simply a political struggle, but it is an attempt to destroy God’s plan. It is not just a bill (a mere instrument) but a ‘move’ of the father of lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

Then Last November he issued his Evangelii Gaudium, a papal exhortation that immediately got worldwide attention for its radical shift in tone from the previous papacy.  Most of the attention was owing to its opposition to trickle-down economics and to the expanding economic inequality in the world, with passages like section 56:

“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”

Yow!  So of course Fox News went ballistic over this socialism and Rush Limbaugh called him a “pure Marxist”.  So he’s clearly doing something right, and my heart thumped with joy as i read him.

In the same exhortation he also wrote with great compassion about the need to extend a little generosity to the less fortunate, joining other religious leaders like Rich Warren in noticing that Jesus sure did spend a lot of time talking about the poor.  And good for His Holiness for mentioning this.

But then, later in the exhortation, he turned around and revealed that he’s still Catholic by declaring that there can be no compromise on abortion, section 214:

“the Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to alleged reforms or “modernizations”. It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

Ummm, yes, so when a fourteen year old girl is raped by her stepfather, we must wring our hands over her “painful situation” but still force her to carry to term the precious gift of God and her rapist.  Well, at least the Pope’s saying he’s moved by her “profound anguish”.  That’s a step, albeit a damn small one, especially when we consider that he’s wanting to force this on not only Catholic girls, but rather every girl on the planet.

And yes, i cheerfully admit that it’s also a step that the leader of the Roman Catholic Church has backed off slightly on screaming hate at gays.  Maybe the next step will be to stop fighting all the way to the Supreme Court efforts to end discrimination against gays, which the Church was doing as recently as last spring and summer and then again in November when our hate-spewing archbishop sent yet another letter to the Senate demanding that gays not be protected against workplace discrimination.

What i’d like to see is moderation of actions to go along with the nice words.  I mean, recently Francis has been saying lots of nice things about Catholic women, but he has yet to give the slightest indication that he might be willing to give an inch on allowing them to be ordained as priests or otherwise treated as equals.  Still, in that case he is at least setting rules that apply only to Catholic women rather than all women on the planet.

Actually, i wouldn’t really mind it if he forbade Catholic women to have abortions and didn’t allow Catholics to have same sex marriages if he’d just leave the rest of us alone.

The bottom line here is that non-Catholics sure would like it if the Church stopped pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns for legislation forcing all of us to obey Roman Catholic rules.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world?

Peace, a mural by Reka.

 Reka

 

 

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Company

Mark took me to Company  last Tuesday night, and it was a wonderful experience.

Since it’s perched at the corner of 22nd and Guerrero, a block off the bustle of the Valencia corridor, it’s already more relaxed as you stroll up to the front door, and the moment i stepped inside i knew i was in the kind of restaurant i love most, a casual neighborhood place with a friendly staff that operates at a comfortable pace, never rushing you and letting you calm down from the cares of the day as you settle in, study the menu, look around, and enjoy the art – mostly California coastal theme posters, including a huge, stunning one of the Getty that is subtly augmented by stripes painted on the wall beside it.

But no, don’t worry.  I’m here for the food.

The first good news is that among the wide variety of aperitifs, there was my favorite, Lillet blanc, which is not found just everyplace anymore and which i took as the second good omen, the third being the relaxed and friendly bartender.  And then Mark came in and we started negotiating over the menu, not that he’s a difficult negotiator since he likes almost everything and is eager to try the things he hasn’t tasted yet.  My kind of eater.

We started with an off-the-menu appetizer of the chef’s own Levain bread, an artichoke tapenade, and a breathtakingly creamy warm house ricotta.  I coulda made a meal off a large bowl of that ricotta accompanied by nothing but a spoon.  A large spoon.  And then, his Crisp Kale Chips, which were listed as dressed with cashew and garlic but which it seemed to me also had an exciting smoked paprika taste.  By far the best roasted kale i ever ate.

Next, the Winter Chopped Salad with romaine, radicchio, pickled beet, sunchoke, red quinoa, pomegranate and croutons, dressed with a golden balsamic vinaigrette.  I’m not a big salad eater, but for this one, i made an exception and left no scrap.

After all that rabbit food, we were ready for some animal flesh, the Vietnamese-style Roasted Pork Belly which, when i saw it on the menu, made visions of Babi Pangang dance in my head.  No, it was not quite New King’s incomparable version, but that’s a continent and an ocean away in Amsterdam, and this one is plenty good.  Besides which, it’s accompanied with some exquisite juliennes of pickled daikon that set it off beautifully and were so exciting that i may have to order a side of them next time.

And finally, the Harissa-Braised Lamb Shank with semolina puree, roasted sunchokes, carrots, and pomegranate reduction.   How many times have you had a lamb shank that would have been so much better if it had only been cooked a while longer so that every last bit was fork-tender?  Not here.  This one was so perfectly cooked that it disintegrated at the touch of my fork and i wondered how the chef managed to get it out of the pot onto my plate intact.  And marvelously flavored, the harissa used with such a light touch that it merely accented the other flavors and the semolina being a pleasant change from the usual polenta even though i do dearly love polenta.  The sunchokes were an inspired accompaniment to the carrots.

We were stuffed and were going to just split a bittersweet chocolate pot de creme until Mark fortunately wanted to try the quince tarte with ginger ice cream, thus leaving me the lion’s share of the chocolate.  I might have hogged it all except that i needed to take a taste of the tarte, and it was so good that i needed a second taste to make sure, which gave Mark an opportunity to get his spoon into the pot early and even  get a second bite before i could finish it.

That was Tuesday the 28th.

The next afternoon Jeff called saying he was going to be in town and did i want to be taken to dinner.  Well of course.  And where else but back to Company?  I managed to beat him there by a couple of minutes and tried one of their specialty cocktails.  I’m not nearly as adventuresome in cocktails as i am with food since specialty cocktails tend to either have combinations of really weird stuff or a week’s quota of sugar in one glass, but several of the ones listed here seemed tryable, and i settled on the Gin Refresher, a house-infused gin soju with bitter lemon tonic.  Yow!  tart and delicious.

And then Jeff swarmed in and was in one of his everything-on-the-menu moods, so the gorging began immediately, starting with the Warm House Ricotta Cheese with poached pear, sauvignon blanc reduction, and toasted Levain.  That ricotta is too good to be believed.  And since i’d also raved to him about the Crispy Kale Chips, we had those, too.

What i hadn’t had yet was the Winter White Bisque of cauliflower, parsnip, and celery root with an attractive swirl of a port reduction across the top, which made for a beautiful presentation but also was such a delicious complement to the creamy mouthfeel of the soup that you had to steer your spoon carefully so as to get a dab of the reduction in every spoonful….well at least for the first half of the soup, pig that i am.

Next, the Confit Chicken Wings.  These are not your damn Buffalo Wings, folks.  Not those gooey stewed wings swimming in a slimy Tobasco sauce reduction dished out in sports bars.  These were crispy to the point of crunchy with a subtle crust flavored with pomegranate, rosemary, and cracked black pepper.

And finally, the Roasted Brussels Sprouts with farro, capers, and breadcrumbs.   The sprouts were good, and if i failed to be excited by them it may have been because that pig Jeff had stuffed me so full of appetizers that i no longer had an appetite.

The real problem, though, was that the waiter then delivered our two full orders of the Steak Frites.  It’s a tribute to the chef that the steak was delicious since i was already stuffed when i first tasted it.  Slices of hanger steak medium rare as ordered and drizzled with a flavorful wild mushroom and Madeira reduction.  The Parmesan frites were perhaps not quite as good as the truffle fries with parmesan at Mission Beach Cafe, but then coming at the end of a monstrous pig out like that, it’s hardly fair to compare them.

We abstained from dessert tonight.  Hell, Jeff had to take a bunch of food home.

Three stars, folks.  The chef is Jason Poindexter, and i beat you to him.   I’m gonna eat up Becky’s inheritance in here.

I went digging thru my files looking for a recent food photo, but all i could find was this gingerbread cake up in Santa Rosa last December.

Santa Rosa gingerbread

 

 

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Barry’s Memorial

Barry’s memorial was this afternoon.  There on the sidewalk on 16th Street at the spot where he died in January a modest crowd gathered, enough to fill the wide sidewalk for some distance on either side of the makeshift shrine built there by his friends the day he died.

As Barry’s friends go, i’m a relative newcomer, since some of them go back decades.  At least two people besides me have written about him on their websites – Paul Quin and Roy McKenzie.  I found the comments on McKenzie’s first post on Barry wonderful, partly because they showed the different views many of us had of Barry while at the same time they highlighted the aspects of his personality that we all saw.

It was also interesting to compare the written accounts in the above links with my own experience.  In both of the accounts (including the comments) a mention was made of Barry having died with a fistful of money that people had stuffed into his hand as he lay dying, and on first blush that sounds rather horrifying.  But let me explain.

One thing i got clear on from reading the links and that was reinforced at the memorial was that all of us knew, with varying degrees of certainty, that Barry was dying and all of us desperately wanted to do something to ease his passage.  I hadn’t yet understood that he was too sick to move on Wednesday, but it was clear he was real sick when he agreed to let me bring him some coffee from Peet’s.  Extra sugar, of course.  And on Thursday i talked him into letting me bring him a Mediterranean wrap from Rosenburg’s.   And then on Friday when he’d refused coffee and food, he said he could use some cigarettes, so i brought him a pack of his favorites – Red Marlboro 100’s.  And when i brought them to him, he had money clutched in his hand and tried to peel some off for me.

I wrote in a previous post that it was just then that i had my Aha moment over being clear that he would soon die and that i was not going to defy his repeated demand that no ambulance be called.  Later i realized that he was probably at that point too sick to even open the pack of cigarettes but that my need to do something for him, anything he would accept, was so strong that i had to bring him the cigarettes.  And after reading two accounts about how he died with nearly a hundred dollars in his hand i realized that in the hours between my last visit and his death, others who visited him had been so profoundly struck by the same need i felt that they stuffed money in his dying hand.  Every bit as useless as my cigarettes, but it let them do something.  And we need that.

One thing i discovered at the memorial was that a couple of people had broken down and called 911 behind Barry’s back and had watched at a discreet remove as he drove the medical crew away, fully articulate and rational, saying he didn’t want them.  Good for you, Barry, and rest in peace.  A man should be allowed to pull his own plug, and it is my ambition to pull my own as effectively as Barry did his.

I know most of my friends would not have believed this, but there is clear evidence that until January 18, 2014, a man who was as stubborn as i am walked on earth.

Here’s my floral tribute to him:

Pyracantha....or something like it

 

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Aux Barricades

OK, time to slip back into my leftist agitator mode. I got an email a couple of days ago asking me to slip a little piece of code into my website that would display this banner soliciting others to add the banner to their websites.

Well, i’d have been happy to stick their code in, but unfortunately i can’t find the damn closing </body> tag, it being tucked away somewhere safe from my meddling fingers.  So you’ll just have to click on that link in the previous paragraph to see what i’m talking about.

Or not, since it’s just more whinging about the NSA’s intelligence gathering, against which we all should be putting up some resistance.  And that said, in some breaking news yesterday it was revealed that owing to the tremendous increase in cell phone traffic the past several years (as evidenced by the virtual absence of pedestrians and bicyclists in San Francisco who do not have a cell phone in their hand), the NSA has recently been able to gather only about 30% of Americans’ phone conversations.

Senator Big Sister (Stasi – CA) has not yet had a press conference on this subject, but i expect her to shortly to announce that this failure on the part of the NSA has left Americans only 30% safe and that the NSA budget should be increased by 300% so they can return to gathering 100% of our calls, thus keeping us 100% safe.

And yes, do go ahead and click on this banner link.

Meanwhile, here’s a barricady sight down near Rainbow Grocery.

 

red shirt and dumpsters

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