December 2014

Sushi Zone

It was clear that i needed to get to Sushi Zone early so i could learn why it was always packed, so night before last i staggered across the street and arrived at 5:04, just in time to alight on the last seat at the counter.

That was the good news, but it also meant that when, fifteen minutes later after the staff had completed all the preparations for dinner and the waitress started taking orders, mine was the last.  I ordered a small Asahi beer, a bowl of miso soup, and the Mango-Hamachi roll, but it was another forty-five minutes before the roll arrived.  First come, first served.

It’s a three-person operation:  the waitress, the sushi chef, and a chef for the hot foods who doubles as the dishwasher.  A smooth machine with no wasted motions, and they turn out superb food.

The miso was excellent and the roll, sublime.  Got into a little conversation with a couple of couples at the bar who made some recommendations for my next visit and agreed that i was lucky to get a place since i’d arrived so late.

So last night i Segwayed over at 4:55 only to be confronted with a line of ten people.  Aargh.  There are eight seats at the bar and two tables for four, so there was a very real possibility that the bar would fill up when the door opened.

And it was windy and cold, a bone-chilling 40-something degrees (well, hey, this is San Francisco and we suffer readily), but i lucked out and four of those ahead of me took one of the tables, leaving two seats at the bar.  And good thing i got there when i did, since about a minute after i arrived two more couples joined the line.

I had the Asahi and soup again but this time went for the Hamachi-Avocado roll, which was every bit as good as the previous night’s version with mango.

Sushi Zone is a joy, and i recommend that to get a seat you arrive a bit before it opens.

But after i get there.

Oh, and here’s the location:

Pearl Street

 

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Holiday Feasting

At this time of year i always recall Herb Caen’s observation that Irish Coffee was the perfect Christmas beverage since it contained all four of the essential holiday food groups:  alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.

Well, i’ve been eating fairly cautiously after that showdown at my internist’s on Christmas Eve, which does not mean that i haven’t been eating well.  Oh no.

Last week i discovered that directly across Market Street from my building there are four interesting restaurants.  First, a little diner called It’s Tops that’s open only for breakfast and lunch and has been there since 1935.  Nothing gourmet, but solid diner fare and a wonderfully funky ambiance since the decor, like the food, has not been updated.  Then, clustered at the corner of Pearl Street, there are three restaurants new to me, all open only for dinner.

First, a place named Destino that calls itself a “modern Latino bistro” which translates into a tapas menu with tiny portions of exquisite food.  So far i’ve had only the seared scallops on a bed of avocado mousse flecked with Serrano ham, but it was splendid.  And then, right on the corner, an izakaya place named Roku where i’ve yet to have a single thing to drink but have had some absolutely delicious breaded and fried baby octopus and an excellent miso soup.  And finally, just around the corner on Pearl is a place called Sushi Zone that must be spectacular because every time i’ve looked in, it’s been packed.  Hmmm. Gotta hit this one just at opening time to see what the fuss is about.

On Tuesday of last week Andrew invited me for a lunch of rendang and prata.  I think his rendang was the best curry dish i ever ate, and i quite liked the prata, a Malaysian bread somewhat like pita that was also very good.

Last Monday i took Carol for her first visit to Basil, and sat there in delight as we marveled through the courses.  Bowls of excellent Tom Ka Gai, a seared skirt steak salad seasoned like the Larb Gai everyone loves, and a roast duck and silver thread noodle dish that was sublime.  I was going to have a glass of Thai iced coffee for dessert until we saw the dessert menu and decided to split a jasmine flavored chocolate mousse with a hazelnut cream topping.  Oh, my, goodness.  Eat at Basil soon.

Since i’m not quite ready to cook for others in my new place, on last Tuesday i took Ian, Stephen, Jeff, and Andrew to Hoffman’s for a fab feast.  First time there for Andrew and Ian, and of course they liked the place.  Karen’s mussels cooked in wine with bit of red pepper and drizzled with an aioli  were as fine as always, and i quite enjoy her take on a New England clam chowder.  It’s such a warm and wonderful neighborhood restaurant, and Karen smuggled to our table a sublime holiday dessert she’s experimenting with, an eggnog crême brulée.  Oh wow.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, i took Jeff to Beso for dinner, where we had a dozen oysters in a spicy escabeche, the seared duck breast, and the seared bavette steak.  For dessert, we split a chocolate brownie topped with two flavors of ice cream, salted caramel and chocolate.  And that not being enough we adjourned to Hoffman’s for a nightcap and enjoyed a really festive evening there.  Hoffman’s is currently my favorite restaurant, and everyone i’ve introduced it to has loved it.

On Thursday, i drove over to Jeff’s in Marina Bay, where he’d cooked a Christmas dinner of Brussels sprouts picatta, potato salad, broiled stuffed mushrooms, and a chicken cordon bleu.

Today i just nibbled around on healthy refrigerator food, some of last night’s mushrooms Jeff sent home with me along with a scoop of hummus i’d made last week and the last of a smoked salmon.

Whew.

And hey, it’s not as bad as it sounds because i weighed 140 lbs at the doctor’s office on Wednesday.  Smaller portions of food have led to smaller portions of me.

I just love this city in the winter between rains with the air crystalline and the sun coming in sideways.  Here’s Dolores Park on Christmas Day.

Dolores Park on Christmas Day 2014

 

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Merry Christmas

What is it about Christmas?

The religious aspect means nothing to me, i shudder at the commercialism, i’m tired of the carols by the first of December.

And yet, as always, i get caught up in the Christmas Spirit.  I’ve been taking advantage of some beautiful weather between our much needed rains by riding around this end of town on the Segway giving money to my favorite homeless people and passing out jars of my preserves to folks.

Yesterday i rode off to my internist’s for a routine checkup, where i got busted for an incident the day before my last blood draw when half a cheesecake followed me home and then turned up on my lab report.  You’d think i’d have learned from all those drug addicts who behave themselves for a few days before they’re tested, but no.  At least i ate the cheesecake rather than going ahead and mainlining it, which would have probably killed me from an overdose.

While i was there, i gave jars of jams and jellies to my doc and all her staff and then rode off to the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market to pass out preserves to my favorite vendors, this time including a couple i’d not yet given anything to.  While i was there, this new Latino cop i’d not seen, so new he was on the Christmas Eve shift, inquired about the Segway and delicately suggested that i be careful about mowing down pedestrians even though i was as usual moving cautiously at walk speed.  I whipped out my handicap documentation as he protested that he’d take my word for it and then blew him away by handing him a jar of jam.  They don’t get that a lot.

This morning i went out to my old neighborhood to give some jam to Tom and Jerry to celebrate their legendary Christmas decorations on 21st Street.  I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s by now, like their decorations, a tradition.  While i was over there, i stopped at the NoeHill Market and gave Sami a jar of still warm Rangpur Lime Marmalade, specifying that it was not a Christmas present, he being a practicing Muslim, but rather something for the solstice, which everyone celebrates.  People just love it when they wrap their hand around a jar so fresh it’s still hot.

Oh, and speaking of the old neighborhood, on Christmas Eve i passed by the house i used to live in and discovered that the neighborhood has already been significantly gentrified by my absence.  Yes, the insultingly minimalist Christmas decorations that i put up for years in the front window of the lower flat have been replaced by a full fledged tree.

Noe Street Christmas trees

 

 

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Fully Accénted

Ahh yes, my old desktop running Windows Vista (remember that?) ground slower and slower and then started behaving irrationally, so i decided it was high time for a replacement while it was still running well enough to salvage the files i wanted to keep.  So i sprang for a new HP running Windows 7, being a creature much too sensitive to subject myself to the horrors of Windows 8 where i can’t even find the Start button.

Ahhhh, lovely new machine.  All it was missing was the OED, and that problem was resolved by upgrading to their new 4.0 release that not only has the last eight years of updates but also will run on Windows 7.

And well, the new computer was missing my foreign language keyboards, but fór ðat i hæd to ùpgràde the öperating syßtem to “Ültimäte”, but ït was worþ paying ëxtra to gèt my acçents and strañge léttêrs.  Dontcha think English could use a little decoration?

And since it’s the Christmas Season, here’s a holiday vacation time share on Duboce.

time share on Duboce

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The Vale of Tears

Well yes, everything gets harder as we age, and this wears us down.  No wonder that a usual component of aging is asking, “Where are we going and why are we in this handbasket?”  and then providing the obvious answer.

Alas, this is all too often accompanied by an increase in irascibility to the point of such irrational behavior that when we really need friends, we drive away our former dear ones.

One of my best friendships goes back to the late seventies when i was new in San Francisco and met a delightful woman with whom i immediately clicked.  The friendship gradually grew closer as we aged and finally found ourselves living alone, so even though she now lives in a nearby city,  we’ve been enjoying visiting each other frequently.

She’s introduced me to several of her neighbors, all of whom i’ve found delightful, particularly a frail older couple who gave me fruit from their trees while i gave them jams and jellies i’d made.  So i was saddened in June when i learned that my friend was angry with the old couple.

When i was up there in July i asked my friend for their house number so i could drop them off some jam, they having had some serious medical problems.  However, my friend refused, saying she didn’t want me to contact them.

I thought this was ridiculous.  Yes, when we were children and had arguments with playmates we quite naturally wanted our other playmates to stop playing with the offenders.  But at some point we matured and realized that trying to restrict our friends’ relations with others was not a part of real friendship.

So i told my friend that it was just fine for her be angry with the old couple, but that since they had done nothing wrong to me, it was best that she and i not discuss them any more.  And that was that…i thought.

Then in August i wanted to take a load of lumber up to a different neighbor of my friend’s and arranged to take her to lunch after i’d dropped off the lumber.

So i drove up there, but before i delivered the lumber i figured out which house the old couple lived in and stopped there briefly to give them a jar of blackberry jelly.  Afterwards, i went to my friend’s house to take her to lunch.

But when she answered the door, she looked distraught.  And revealed why when her first words were a demand to know whether i’d had “any contact” with the old couple.

I don’t think fast enough anymore.

What i should have realized from her look was that she’d been stewing for a month over whether i might extend some kindness to a sick old couple with whom she was angry, so i should have simply told her no.  Alas, i told her i’d given ’em a jar of jelly.

Which sent her into a screaming rage at my disloyalty, and when i couldn’t calm her down i just suggested that when she felt like my taking her to lunch, she should let me know.

That was August.  And yes, after the furor of the holidays is over, i’ll write her and extend a fresh invitation to lunch.

I find myself increasingly cranky as i age, having to work at not expressing my negative feelings, and i’ve adopted some mechanisms that have been, i think, largely successful in keeping myself on an even keel.  At least so far.

What i want to make sure i don’t do is drive my friends off…or try to govern to whom they give jars of jelly.

No appropriate pic for today, so here’s a shot of some Hayes Valley flags.

Hayes Valley Flags

 

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The Torture Report

I”ve been highly critical of Senator Feinstein for her absolute support of NSA surveillance of the American population, even using the epithet “Big Sister”.  But today’s news makes it clear that whatever you do, you must never, never piss off Big Sister.

See, for several years now Senator Feinstein’s Select Committee on Intelligence has been investigating reports that the CIA had overstepped its mandate and indulged in illegal and inhumane activities in pursuit of intelligence on international terrorism.  Of course the CIA dragged its feet and made gathering any information on this subject as difficult as possible, but our Senator could forgive all that.

Their fatal mistake was hacking into the Senator’s staff’s computers, and even though the senator is just fine with the NSA and CIA recording every syllable i utter, every character i type, she was outraged over similar spying on her own staff.  So it’s payback time.

Today she released a 499 page, heavily redacted executive summary of the full 5000 page report, and of course the right wing went ballistic.  Goodness, i ask, what are they angry about?

All the executive summary does is prove in 499 fully documented, copiously footnoted pages that starting in 2001 the CIA embarked on an illegal program of torturing suspected terrorists they’d captured, consistently lied about the scope and very structure of the program, continued it even after clear demonstration that the program was not turning up any evidence that had not already been gained by more civilized methods, and nevertheless maintained that the program was effective.  That’s all.

But wait.  I thought the conservatives were in the anti-government camp, that they’d seize on any opportunity to expose government waste of money.  Well, yes, they hate funding for school lunches, environmental and consumer protection, minimum wage legislation, and gun control.

But they’re all for torture.  It’s the American way.

Here’s a link to the report.  At least you can read the seventeen page introduction.  All the remaining 482 pages do is provide the proof.  Meanwhile, the right wing screams to the media the same statements that the report has disproved.

Here’s a little street sight in San Francisco that says it all:

Broken

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Food Alert!

I’ve gone on and on about the wonderful restaurants of San Francisco, just one epicurean delight after another, and all the little tasty places where you can get satisfying, if less ethereal, fare like the wonderful Belly Burger on Howard Street with its signature pork belly burger.  I”m not kidding – the patty is ground up pork belly perfectly grilled.

And when i’m less than pleased i normally just say nothing, but sometimes i get something so bad that it deserves mention.  I’d call it tough love except it’s not love.

It was raining the other day, so i was out in the Prius running errands and feeling a bit put on as i circled around blocks near my destinations hoping, hoping to reduce the distance i’d have to walk.

So of course the appointed minute of my appointment with my barber drew closer and closer and i was reduced to parking a block and a half away, downhill.  Made it on time but it nearly killed me. So afterwards, it struck me that i might as well stop to rest at the halfway point of the return journey at Gyro Express, that new place on the corner of 18th and Castro.

I love good gyros, but haven’t had a really good one since the fine ones at Zorba’s in Hayward in the eighties.  Thought this new place might be in the running.

Alas, it isn’t.  Hell, it’s not even close.  I wish i could say the meat was tasteless, but it wasn’t.  No, it was so bad that i didn’t even eat much of it, nor of the tired lettuce and pitifully thin yogurt sauce.  The best i can say is that nothing was wrong with the pita.

I was curious enough to look at the Yelp reviews and astonished to see that while many reviewers shared my opinion of the gyros, something like half them liked the restaurant.  Well, yes, the servers are nice, but that’s not enough when they’re serving dreadful food.  I’m thinking the owners have been writing their own reviews under assumed names.

Don’t go.  You owe it to yourself.

For today’s pic, an interesting door treatment on 14th Street, the back door for that pre-qualifying bar i discovered a few days ago.  I particularly like their providing a speaking tube so you can get down on your knees and beg for admission.

14th Street door treatment

 

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The Critics Have Spoken

When i was moving, i stuck out in front of the empty house next door various items that neither i nor any of my friends wanted.  My plan was that i could later put  the stuff that wasn’t taken by scavengers into either the recyclables bin or the trash bin, but to my surprise everything was taken.  My landlord told me that he thought that the city might have harvested a bunch of it on the night i put the bulk of it out there, but still, in the worst case scenario, scavengers got a lot of it.

But one item they didn’t carry off in the 24 hours it sat there was a rectangular tray made of a solid slab of aluminum.  I’d have thought that somebody would have taken that for the value of the aluminum, but obviously everyone thought  it was so ugly that it didn’t get a second look.

P1020587

 

Not that they’d have snapped it up if they’d known it was a precious antique, made by Matte’s dear friend Louis in a crafts class in 1953.

And in Louis’ defense, the only reason he still had this hideous thing that only a mother could love is that she carefully preserved it for nearly half a century.  After her death he’d reclaimed it, and it sat buried deep in his stuff until it resurfaced when he and Matte were packing for their recent move.

But the critics have spoken, and Matte will be personally handing it over to an aluminum can scavenger since it’s got dozens of cans’ worth of aluminum in it.  Scores? Hundreds?

Ahhhh, sweet completion.

Update:  When i finally got around to taking that tray out to give to a scavenger, the situation got even funnier:  he didn’t want it.  Turns out that the collection points scavengers go to accept only cans.  So i stuck the tray into the blue recycling bin in front of my building.  Checked Recology’s website and see that they use magnets to separate ferrous metals from things like aluminum cans and pie pans.  If they can take pie pans, they can damn sure take my tray.  Surely they don’t expect me to cut it into small strips and stuff them inside aluminum cans:-)

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You Appeal

Shortly before i started to work at Oracle Corporation in 1992, a palace coup occurred in the upper reaches of the Applications Documentation hierarchy, and the new regime dictated that writers insert more “you appeal” into their user manuals, the end result of which i found as ludicrous as the phrase itself.

So i issued my own proclamation, “Using Your “You Appeal” in Your Essays”.

You use your “you” and your “your” as often as possible in your essays because you want your maximum You Appeal.  Your readers want you to constantly address them in your work, just as your brief paragraphs here continually address you.

You can add your You Appeal to your essays easily.  First, you can recast most of your sentences to begin with “You use” or “You can.”  You can further increase your You Appeal by frequently adding “your” to your text.  You can usually replace “the” with “your,” and you can almost always stick “your” in front of your nouns and your noun  phrases.  In most of your cases, you can be confident that your meaning will not change, as you can see from your following example:

Before:  Use AutoZap to purge retired transactions from the history file.

After:  You use your AutoZap to purge your retired transactions from your history file.

When you use your You Appeal well, you are assured that your readers will share your pleasure in your increased friendliness of your writing.

Couldn’t find a recent pic with You Appeal for you, but here’s a Phoenix canariensis at the corner of Waller and Octavia that sure is enjoying itself.

Happy Phoenix canariensis

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Shrill Complaints

Taking my cue from those folks who move in next door to a disco, wait a week to be decent about it, and then start complaining about the noise, i’ve been here in Venn on Market for the requisite week, so now i have my litany of shrill complaints.

Well, not that the place isn’t perfectly situated for me, what with much better access to public transit and being closer to most places i go.  And not that it isn’t a very handsome building with a lovely fifth floor lounge/kitchen with wifi access as well a gorgeous rooftop garden complete with gas grills for barbecues.  And not that the apartments don’t feature a host of amenities.  And not that the employees aren’t all friendly and totally competent.  And yes, each floor has a trash room with three chutes for compostables, recyclables, and trash.  And yes, there’s a gym down in the lowest basement that turned out to be good enough that i immediately canceled the extra benefits package in my medical insurance because i no longer need no steenkeng 24 Hour Fitness.

But still, a few glitches.

Like for example that the kitchen sink is equipped with that appliance of the devil, a garbage disposal that i suspect most tenants use to grind up kitchen waste to unnecessarily consume electricity and precious water in order to overburden our municipal sewerage and waste treatment facilities.  But of course i don’t use it since i can put my kitchen waste down the compostables chute, where it can do some good for society when it becomes compost.  So this one’s not a problem for me.

On the other hand, i was frankly shocked at the absence of an exhaust fan in the bathroom to suck all that steamy air out of the room after my shower.  However, this is partially mitigated by a vent in the ceiling that i tested with a piece of paper to determine that it at least has negative pressure sufficient to hold the piece of paper to it, which means that if i remember to almost close the door, the steamy air will very gradually escape and not turn my whole apartment into a greenhouse.

And i’m just crushed that there are only three windows in my apartment that will open, one about three feet square in the bedroom that, if you remove the screen, will permit you to actually stick your head out.  The other two, in the living room, are the kind that have a hinge at the top so that you can push the bottom out four whole inches to get a trickle of air.

I discovered the worst problem yesterday when i was unpacking and found my laundry detergent, which i immediately put to use on the pile of dirty clothes using the little apartment-size washing machine, and then threw the load in the dryer only to find that the damn thing isn’t vented.  Oh no, the hot, wet air just fills the laundry closet and pours out into the apartment which has the additional feature of making the dryer run three times as long since it’s sucking in all the wet air that it just emitted.  What the hell was the architect thinking?  Yes, over the oven there’s a hood, and when you push “Vent” it makes a lot of noise and sucks the greasy cooking steam in and then spews it out into the room at the top of the hood, and that was awful enough but nowhere near the problem of the unvented dryer.

In my youth there was a nationally syndicated cartoonist named Hatlo who drew a series of imaginative punishments that those guilty of minor but annoying crimes would suffer in hell.  I want the architect who saved a few bucks by leaving the building’s dryers unvented to spend Eternity chained in my laundry closet.

And hey, the bottom line is that i still love the place, and all i have to do is buy twenty feet of that expandable flexible exhaust tubing and run it from the laundry closet up and across my bedroom ceiling and then down in front of the window so that i can stick it out the window when i’m drying my clothes.

Either that or collude with the apartment directly across the courtyard to string one of those clotheslines on pulleys between our apartments so we can air dry our clothes.

As i explore my new neighborhood i’m finding the closest of a variety of establishments, a little convenience grocery store across the street on Market up near Laguna at the end of the block, a little no-frills, plain old American food restaurant directly across the street on Market, and the nearest bar just a couple of blocks down 14th Street.  It pre-qualifies the clientele.

P1020571

 

 

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