November 2014

Giving Thanks

Let us.

Or at least most of us in the privileged countries, particularly me.

For what should i be giving thanks?  Where to start?

OK, i was born in America in 1941, immediately after the Great Depression that brought misery to much of the country and sparked Roosevelt’s New Deal that dramatically leveled the playing field and made possible the great expansion of the middle class that began in the late 1930’s and lifted millions of Americans into unparalleled prosperity in the booming 1950’s after we’d won The War, a war in which my father was not drafted since he worked in the oil fields that fueled our victory, so i had the advantage of both parents at home throughout my childhood.

Young people now may find it hard to imagine that in those days ordinary men with high school educations could hold jobs that paid well enough they could buy a comfortable house for twice their annual income, and tens of millions of Americans did so.  Most of our mothers didn’t work outside the home because Daddy’s income was sufficient.  The main reason my mother started teaching when i was in grade school was not from financial necessity but rather that she was bored stiff being a housewife stuck in an oil camp in the west Texas semi-desert thirty miles from the closest small city.

So i grew up in a financially secure environment (if fairly frugal owing to my parents’ impoverished childhoods) and except for a brief period when i had trouble finding a teaching job after i got my MA just as the teacher shortage ended, i’ve always had enough money to live comfortably.

I also grew up a white male, which was an even greater advantage in those days than it is now although again, i can believe young people finding this hard to imagine, not knowing some of the features of that society.

For example, a married woman could not open a bank checking account.  See, she didn’t need her own account because if it were necessary for her to write checks, her husband could allow her to be a cosigner on his account.

And of course outside of teaching and nursing, the jobs available to women were almost entirely menial.

Not that they weren’t far better than the jobs available to non-whites.  My father worked for an oil company, and not a single employee was anything other than Caucasian.  Nor were any of the teachers in any of the public schools i attended.  For that matter, the first time i attended a school of any kind in which there was a single black student was when Texas Tech was quietly integrated in the summer of 1960 between my freshman and sophomore years.

And when the old barber in the tiny oil town of Goldsmith, Texas retired, a Mexican barber came to town and tried with great trepidation taking his place, and much to everyone’s surprise the great majority of the men, including my father, went ahead and let a Mexican cut their hair….and their boys’ hair.  It helped that he was a better barber, and Ramon was the first Mexican worker in Goldsmith…and his kids were accepted in the elementary school!  Wow.  Radical breakthrough.  And look what happened when we gave ’em an inch.

So yes, thanks to being a white male born in the right place at just the right time, i’ve led a charmed life and have a lot to be grateful for.   I was just enough ahead of the curve that the growing economic inequities since the ‘eighties haven’t caught up with me.  And i’m old enough now that i’ll die before i’m priced out of gentrifying San Francisco or sunk to scavenging for squirrels in the upcoming economic meltdown, whichever comes first.

Hell, i even got invited to a Thanksgiving dinner by my friend Steve and gorged until i was nearly sick, but that was his fault for serving such good food.


Thanksgiving 2014

For all of which i give thanks.  Oh, and speaking of giving thanks, here’s William S Burroughs’ Thanksgiving prayer.

To graphically illustrate how low this country has sunk, the Swedes are now flying their flag on Market Street.  Can socialism be far behind?

Swedish American Hall







Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Success At Last

Got up this morning refreshed and discovered that the elevator had finally been repaired, so i was able to ride in luxury up to the fifth floor and write an eloquent appeal to Sonic suggesting that a long term customer such as myself who was subscribing to every product Sonic offered just might possibly deserve a visit from some of their technical staff to get me up and running before the 3rd of December, particularly since they’d killed the service at my old place before they’d got me running at the new place.

It worked.  Two hours later i got a response saying that they’d taken pity on me and would send someone over late this afternoon.

And then i got an email from the folks who were going to be picking up my white elephant TV at the old place letting me know they’d be there between 12:00 and 2:00, so i hadn’t screwed that meeting up after all.

And since there would be no way for Sonic to let me know when they arrive because the communication module at the street door won’t work until after they’ve got my phone line fixed, i needed to rush out and buy a new mobile phone so they can call me on that.  Because the elevator had been restored to operation, i could finally use the Segway again, and when i grabbed my pack discovered the missing mobile phone in it.

So i rode over to T-Mobile and for ten bucks got my mobile service restored.

Sure enough, the TDR Electronic Recycling guys were on time to pick up the TV and also took my 50 year old Wharfedale speakers and a half broken electric heater, leaving me plenty of time to get back to the new place to meet the Sonic technicians, who not only got my phone and Internet connection running but also volunteered to get me my old phone number back, which i’d not been able to retain owing to a glitch in the online software i’d used to set up the transfer of service.

So crushed under the burden of all this success, what could i do?

Well, i Segwayed four blocks to Woodhouse Fish Company and ate 18 raw oysters and a bowl of their sublime clam chowder.

And one success after another having left me limp with fatigue, went to bed at 6:00 and fell asleep instantly.  This morning i packed a box of jams, chutneys, and pickles to send to Saint Sonic in Santa Rosa.

Now, owing to popular demand, another shot at my new residence, this one from my window looking down at the interior courtyard.

Venn on Market, Interior Courtyard

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

The Pit Deepens

Could it get worse?  Well, yes.  When i couldn’t get the phone to work in my apartment, i naturally turned to my mobile phone, which i’d kept around for emergencies.  So wouldn’t you know, when i had an emergency and needed it, it sensed the opportunity and wouldn’t work.  See, because i kept it turned off so nobody would bother me by calling, i’d missed the text messages warning me that i needed to renew my coverage or lose the ability to make or receive a call, not to mention forfeiting  the hundreds of minutes i’d accumulated over the years.

Since the Segway was marooned in my apartment owing to the lack of elevator service,  i went off yesterday afternoon to the T-Mobile store in the Prius only to be unable to find a parking place within two blocks, and somehow in the middle of all that and racing to meet Sandy and David, i misplaced my phone and couldn’t find it this morning when i was ready to set out to the T-Mobile store again.

And then spent the day Skyping Sonic to try to get them to come to my apartment to get me phone/Internet service sometime before the damn 3rd of December as well as making a trip back to my old place to haul some unwanted stuff out to the sidewalk in front of the empty house next door for scavengers.

And somehow forgot that i needed to call the folks who’d agreed to go to Noe Street tomorrow to pick up that giant old white elephant TV to set up a time window so that by the time i got back here to get access to Skype to call them, their phone rolled over to a voicemail that was full.  So i frantically sent them an email begging for a time window of their choosing tomorrow.

And then had a final completely unsatisfactory conversation with Sonic which concluded with my accepting an appointment on the 3rd of December to get my service working.

At the end of the day, the elevator was still not working, so i climbed back down to my apartment in such despair that i’d have shot myself except that i was too bummed out to write the mandatory Farewell Cruel World note of sufficient eloquence, too exhausted to edit the note to bring it up to my standards, and most importantly because i’m the only expatriate Texan on the planet without a gun since i’d got rid of it several years ago when my health started failing and keeping a gun in my nightstand drawer made it entirely too handy.

For today’s pic, here’s a shot of the hall bookcase in the old place before i’d boxed up all those jams, jellies, and pickles for the move.  If the move had not been so spur of the moment, i’d have not made all that jam this last summer.

Matte's Jams and Pickles


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ground Down

Late yesterday afternoon David and Sandy met me at my old place on Noe Street to pick up a few items, and then afterwards they drove us down to Basil since they’re major fans of Thai food and David had taken me to the second location for lunch last week.  His first visit, and he was so impressed that it was imperative for Sandy to try it, too, and at the original location since he’d not eaten there and i thought the menu choices were marginally better.

Their food really is fabulous, and i’m delighted to once again know a fine Thai place, actually two fine Thai places since the menus are different.  We had that chicken and potatoes in yellow curry and the larb gai salad that i’ve loved on both my previous visits as well as a duck in red curry that was excellent.  We also had one appetizer, a duck and sweet potato  combination in a fried pastry crust that was way better than it sounds.  While they marveled at my voracity, i ate as much as they did put together because i’d been so busy all day long that the only food i’d had was two cups of coffee.  The dinner downside was that i was so totally wound up and stressed over all the problems that i couldn’t stop talking.  I’d catch myself and ask them a question about how they and their kids were doing, and then a moment later realize i was motormouthing again.  Thank goodness for dear friends who can be understanding in times like these.

Got up this morning and, no, still no elevator, phone, or internet service, which is starting to grind me down, but in between painful climbs to the Lounge here on the fifth floor where there’s a wifi connection, i’ve at least got some more unpacking done and am building an increasingly high stack of boxes to be hauled to my storage cage in the basement should the elevator ever be restored.

The major excitement today was going back over to the old place so Jeff could load up the washing machine and some other stuff i’m giving him.  And grab a few loose items to bring over here, plants and more of the contents of my refrigerator.

And while i was there, i put a few items out at the curb in front of the empty house next door for street scavengers.  Over the years i’ve picked up a number of useful items in good condition myself, so now it’s payback time.

OK, and folks have been clamoring for pics of my new building to go along with that exterior shot from last week, and i realized that i could just take some out of my camera and stick them onto this little notebook, so here’s the first one.


Well hey, without an elevator i’ve been spending too much time in stairwells.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Aftermath

After the move i was so exhausted that i crawled into bed at seven and slept until 6:30 Saturday morning, when i got up and discovered another complication: i found my coffee grinder, but couldn’t find the coffee maker or the beans, so i had to walk across the street for emergency coffee.  Alas, the elevator in my building wasn’t working.  Not that i can’t descend two flights of stairs to street level and climb back up, but the return is slow and painful.  And not that i can’t climb to the fifth floor to get to the Lounge for wifi access it i take it slowly, but a more serious problem is that using the Segway is way too tedious because i would have to let it down two flights of stairs to the ground floor on Waller Street, go on my errand, and then return to the other building entrance on Market Street, wrestle the Segway up ten steps, ride to the elevator for the Market Street building, go up to the fifth floor where there is a connection to the Waller Street building via the rooftop garden and the Lounge, let the Segway down two flights of stairs to my floor, and then roll down to my room at the end of the hall.  Grrrrr.

So i’m stuck using the Prius if i want to go anywhere, but of course to use the Prius i have to make the roundabout journey described above because the only access to the garage is via elevator, and only the Market Street elevator is working.  Sigh.

Not that it couldn’t be worse, as we’ve all read about the frequent outages of the elevators in some of our public housing where disabled old folks are trapped for days in their rooms….or worse yet, are stuck on the ground floor and can’t return to their rooms.  And besides, i can still shuffle along.  And besides, this ain’t Public Housing, so i have a feeling that, except for moi-même of course, the whole Venn complex is packed with highly entitled landed gentry or worse yet nouveaux riches who have been screaming bloody murder over not having an elevator, especially those on the upper floors.  So i expect a return of elevator service tomorrow.

The rest of the good news is that That Pig Jeff came over this morning and demonstrated that he has qualities even finer than being my favorite dinner companion. Turns out he has a highly developed spacial sense and was able to look at the chaos in my two overstuffed rooms and figure out a way to rearrange things so i hardly have to get rid of anything, well, after i’ve consumed the ton of food that formerly packed my old pantry and now crams my cabinets to be eaten top to bottom, front to back as i dig into it.

Sure is good to find that, properly arranged, the apartment seems nearly spacious.

And speaking of space, when i was an undergraduate i had my first experience as a lab rat by volunteering in a research project for the development of an intelligence test for the blind.  Not, of course, that i was blind in my youth but rather that they needed sighted study participants who could take a battery of existing intelligence tests against which to compare their scores on the new test for the blind being developed.  And to factor in other aspects of learning, we were given a variety of other tests.

All the subjects were quite interested in how we did on these tests, certainly i was, and i was of course gratified when my handler met with me periodically to give my my results since i scored fairly high on the intelligence tests.

But one of the areas in which we were tested was our grasp of spacial concepts since the intelligence test for the blind was to be based on them.  I should have suspected what was coming when my handler prefaced telling me my score on the spacial test by pointing out that it was a very short test, so every item was highly weighted and that just a couple of wrong answers would dramatically lower your score.

Ummm, yes, and then he dropped it on me that if i’d got only a couple more right, my score would have reached the average level.

Below average?  I hadn’t been below average at anything since high school PE class.  Well, OK and college calculus.

And the reason that Jeff is so much better than i at this is because this is one of the gay genes that i failed to get.  Yes, gays typically score much higher than average in spacial relationships, which is why they tend to make good interior decorators.  And my failure to get that gene explains the decor in the places i’ve lived.

So now i feel much better about my new place, and i’ll be a happy dweller as soon as my phone, internet, and elevator service have been restored.

Meanwhile,  another leftover pic from the handful stored on this laptop, a Fillmore Street window treatment:

window treatment

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

The Magnificent Move

The great move has taken place.  Bekins showed up this morning, 21 November, and as usual they were a marvel of professionalism and got me moved into the new place in something like five hours, including some extra time helping me reassemble that bed of mine with the drawers underneath.   That was the easy part, but after that, problems began to arise.

As usual, most of them self inflicted, like my having brought way too much stuff to stuff into a one bedroom apartment, so now i’m faced with the need to get a number of things hauled away.  The good news is that included in the rent is a big storage cage in the basement where all the boxes of books are now stashed and where i can stick a few more things until i decide how to dispose of them.

On the other hand, in the not-my-fault category is that when i plugged my phone into the wall jack, i got no dial tone, and when i plugged the router in it sat there like a stone.  And when i tried using my mobile phone to call in a shrill complaint to Sonic, i discovered that my minutes had expired, and since i let the renewal deadline pass i now have to go to a T-Mobile store the get the thing working again.

So the temporary workaround is to come up here to the fifth floor to the lovely Lounge  that bristles with amenities including wifi access, where i used Skype to call the Sonic Scum – formerly known as my Perfect ISP, Web Host, and Phone Provider – only to discover that it’ll be several days before they can get a thumb-fingered lout here to fix my damn jack.

Surely you don’t expect a pic today since i’m writing this on my little notebook and all my pics are safely stored on my desktop PC.  Oh, but wait, here’s one leftover on this notebook from last August.

Do Not Enter

The move itself was the easy part,

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lightening Ship

Ah, yes, i’ve been lightening ship for ten years and had already given away all my collectibles, all my silverware, almost all of my art, and half my books.

But that was only the start.  In the last couple of months i’ve given away my cassette tape collection and the player, my record collection and the player, half of my remaining books, my refrigerator, washer, and drier, several pieces of furniture, and even, gasp, a handful of never used items from my batterie de cuisine.

And i’ve still got too much stuff and am already planning on doing more weeding as i unpack in my new place.

What about all the things i’ve disposed of?  Second thoughts?  Regrets?  Well, yes.  One.  About ten years ago i gave away the Finca Vigia edition of the Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and immediately regretted it.  Still do although i just checked and found that it’s still in print so i could have it if i wanted it that much.

Other than that, no regrets, partly because i’ve almost always carefully targeted the recipients when i’ve given things away, so everything went to someone who could use it and appreciate it.  The main reason, though, is simply that, except for hoarding books, i never really got all that attached to my possessions, so letting go of them, even the books, has been easy.

The bottom line is that not being weighted down by all that stuff gives me an enormous sense of freedom, and i do love that.

Speaking of freedom, here’s some street art.  No, not in Ukraine but rather on Market Street.

Red Star on Market Street


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Chukar Episode

Talk about boxing yourself in.

I’ve been packing madly, nonessentials first, and yesterday found a flaw in the master plan.  I’d packed all my books, and once i’d devoured all the periodicals on hand, there was nothing to read.  And since i’m exhausting myself in all the preparations for my move, i need to sit down and read periodically to get some rest.

But then i realized that, wait, i’d not packed my cookbooks, and there was the Larousse Gastronomique, 1100 pages of double column 6pt. type.  That ought to last me ’till the 21st.  Ummmm, no.  Too much like reading a dictionary straight through even though i do have the English translation.

And then i spotted Harold McGee’s spectacular On Food and Cooking:  The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, the great revised second edition of 2004.  Oh yes.  I’d been leafing around in it for years but had not actually read it, so i started.  A hundred pages into it i got to the section on game birds and read about the chukar, which prompted a memory.

Along about 1986 i read that Hoffman Game Birds up in Sonoma County grew chukars and thought, hey, i’ll drive up in my new blue Honda CRX and get a couple for Allen and me. So i went up to their place way out in the country near Sebastopol and crunched up the gravel driveway so the farm dogs could do their watchdog thing and come barking up to the car while this guy comes running out of the house to call ’em off.

Turned out it was Bud Hoffman himself, and when i told him i wanted to buy a couple of chukars, he got this worried look and asked, “Did you order?”

When i responded that i hadn’t, he told me that if i’d ordered, he could have had ’em dressed for me.  I told him i’d just take ’em as they were, and he led me down to the pen.  By a coincidence, i’m sure, to get to the pen where the chukars lived, we had to go through his collection of breathtakingly beautiful show pheasants, all of which he identified proudly as we passed their cages.

I refrained from describing a single one as looking good enough to eat.

When we finally got to where the comestible birds lived, he called out to his wife, “Net a couple more for me, Marg.”  Which she did and clipped off their beaks this little thing he explained was to keep ’em from fighting.

He put them in an onion sack, i paid him, and returned to my car and put them in the back.  No sooner than i’d got up to highway speed, they started fighting inside the bag like unruly kids.  So of course i just reached back and slapped the bag, which quieted them down by giving them something else to think about for the remainder of the trip, a technique i learned from my father that still worked.

By the time i got home, i was too tired to, ummm, process them, so i just stuck ’em in this old laundry sink on the back landing and laid a piece of plywood over the top.  Well, after putting a cup of water in there for them since i didn’t want ’em to suffer, which would have degraded my karma and their quality.

Went on to bed before Allen got home, but when he did, he noticed through the window onto the porch the plywood over the sink and was curious.  Went out there and took a look, only to find two little birds looking up at him.  Somehow, he sensed that i’d not bought them as pets, so the next morning over coffee he casually mentioned having seen a couple of adorable little birds in the sink, and sooooo cute with their gorgeous breast plumage.

Didn’t work.

So when he was safely out of the house, i steeled my heart and a large chef’s knife, and gently, gently carried them one at a time into the kitchen and, over the sink, whacked their little heads off.  I hope i die so fast.

And then hung them for a few days by the feet in the cool, shady passageway beside my building, out of Allen’s sight and out of reach of the frustrated cats prowling below.

I dry plucked them, gutted them, braised them gently with turnips, and served them with fresh haricots verts and a nice Chablis. They were sublime.  This was only the second time in my life i’d eaten them, and they’re like giant quail.

Coda:  Some years later, after Mr. Hoffman had died of a surfeit of fried game birds, Margaret Hoffman opened a stall at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market where her birds, including chickens but not, alas, chukars, were so popular that you had to get there in the first couple of hours the market was open or she was already sold out and gone.  She retired in 2007 and turned the business, by then located in Manteca, over to her children, who now sell exclusively to the restaurant trade. She died in August of this year, a delightful woman.

Meanwhile, no pics of chukars, but here’s some heirloom tomatoes on sale at the Serendipity Farms booth in the Castro Farmers’ Market.

Serendipity Farms heirloom tomatoes





Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses

Lovely New Place

I’m moving to my lovely new place during Thanksgiving week!  The more i learn about it, the better it gets.  I’ve already raved about some of the advantages, but there are more.

In the first place, i’ve never lived anyplace anywhere near as gorgeous.  The apartments are deliciously handsome, and the public areas, which are extensive, are if anything even lovelier, beautifully appointed and landscaped to death, inside and out.  And of course there’s free wi-fi for the tenants in the public areas so you don’t lose connectivity when you’re out of your apartment.  There’s ample storage space downstairs for my books and music system while i get the bookcases installed/built.

I’m totally jazzed about this move, as the location is far superior, at least for my tastes, since it’s much more convenient for my shopping and is not at the top of a steep hill.  Of course there’s no view, but after twenty years where i am now, the magnificent view has become just wallpaper.  Although that may change after i don’t have it:-)

Meanwhile, speaking of lovely new places, our Congress sure is about to turn this country into one, what with all the new committee chairmen who’ll be taking over in January.  In charge of Environment, there’s Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who calls global warming a “great hoax” sponsored by Barbara Streisand and will redirect attention to more important matters.  Taking over in Energy and Natural Resources is Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who’ll open Alaska’s offshore fields and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling as well as pushing to restore the United States to world leadership in coal production.  Alabama’s Jeff Sessions in Budget will tackle expensive programs like Medicaid and food stamps in order to balance the budget without raising taxes.

Agriculture will be led by Kansas’ Pat Roberts, who’ll slash all the wasteful spending on food stamps for the poor and healthy lunches for school kids.  Leading Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will be Alabama’s Richard Shelby, who’ll push for the deregulation of banks and Wall Street as well as reining in the vociferous Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.  Utah’s Orrin Hatch is pledged to cut funding for our lavish Obmacare.  Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander will help by modernizing the FDA and the NIH and will also be working on reforming Obamacare.  And Georgia’s Tommy Isakson will focus on privatizing Veteran’s Administration health care.

With leadership like this, once again we’ll be in the forefront of nations, and we won’t even have to sit and wait for long.

sitting and waiting


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Matte’s Moving

OK, folks are wondering how come i didn’t tell nobody about this before it was a done deal.

Well, hell, if i’d done that, i’d have given people a chance to talk some sense into me…like all my friends with lots of money who’ve been strenuously advising me to just stay where i am.

But hey, i’d been getting tireder and tireder of twisting in the wind waiting for my number to come up for the senior housing i’m on the wait list for, and a week or so ago i was rolling down Market Street and saw a sign advertising rentals at one of the new apartment buildings that are sprouting like mushrooms.  Hmmm, i thought, why not go in and ask.

And yes, it’s expensive, but i’ve done the math and have enough money left to stay there for a few years.  Actually, the problem may be that i’ll like it too much because the more i learn about the place the better it seems.  I’m going into a one-bedroom apartment, but the rooms are large and that’s plenty for me, especially since this place is starting to echo because  i’ve been lightening ship for ten years.

One expense i hadn’t anticipated is that i’ll need a new car.  What!!!??? Get rid of my beloved Prius with only 42000 miles on it and it only eleven years old in December and barely broken in?   Well, see, the problem is that the place has a garage, and it would hardly make sense, would it, to garage a vehicle that had never been in one.  Probably make it sick with claustrophobia or something.

Anyhow, the official move in date is 28 November, but the progress i’m making in packing everything that i’m not getting rid of suggests that i’ll be able to move on the 21st, the day after it becomes available.  Fair amount left to do, though, and i need to do some more measuring to make sure the furniture i’m planning on taking will fit without crowding.  That and arranging with friends to haul off the stuff that’s not going.  But still, i’m excited about this move, whenever it happens.

And here’s the building.


Venn on Market



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Responses