March 2015

Amsterdam’s Bridges

Anthony Atkinson warns, “Every equation halves the number of readers.” Of course we here at Matte Gray have never printed an equation, not that doing so would result in the loss of all that many readers.


I speculate that the reason i’m so entertained by bridges is that i grew up in oilfields on the semi-arid plains of west Texas where, owing to a lack of both water and terrain variation, there was no need for bridges, so when i saw them elsewhere as a child, i found those strange things fascinating.  And have ever since.

And then i had so much fun on that expedition to Portland last August and in building the photo essay of its bridges that i was inspired to add a new Bridges menu and dig through my essay and photo files to create five sub-menu items about various bridges.  A couple of days ago i completed the latest in this series, Amsterdam’s Bridges, by far the longest of my bridge photo essays.

Meanwhile, not a bridge but kinda, a shot under I-280 from 17th Street.

Under 280 from 17th Street


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Culinary Updates

Regarding a ballot initiative calling for shooting gays put forth by a Southern California lawyer and for which qualifying signatures are now being gathered, i’ll suggest that it would be even easier to gather signatures for an initiative that proposed shooting lawyers.


Had lunch last Friday with Richard at Just For You, a pleasant little lunch place on 22nd Street in Dogpatch where i had a delicious Hatch chile cheeseburger and admired Richard’s enormous pile of gorgeous french fries. Had to admire them again before he offered to share them so i could review them.  They were as delicious as they were gorgeous.

When i was waiting for the glue to dry on my Dead Drop installation, i walked half a block down to 449 Castro Street and had a hamburger at Sliders Diner, which i knew was excellent but had not eaten there in so long that i didn’t realize it was slightly better than Burgermeister.  If you want a hamburger in the Castro, go there.

Took Jeff to Sushi Zone, which was the first time i’d taken anyone there, but no surprise that he loved it.  We both had miso soup and Sapporo.  I ordered the stuffed Jalapeño and the Spicy Hamachi roll.  He ordered the Baked Sea bass, Baked mussels, a delicious octopus and cucumber salad, and one of the rolls.  Whew.  We shared it all, so it was twice as much as i usually eat there, but it was excellent to try the sea bass, the mussels, and that salad because all three were superb. That place is a treasure.

Last Wednesday i went to the Castro Farmers’ Market and took Marie of Rodin Farms a tiny jar of my pickled sugar snaps. She loved ’em, and she’s such a sweetheart that instead of hiding the jar immediately she offered tastes to those nearby. After we’d finished discussing the excellence of the beans, she mentioned that she’d recently had a jar of pickled asparagus and wondered if i ever pickled that.

Asparagus! i wondered. And then realized that my favorite asparagus vendor was two stalls down. Thus this trial, which is awaiting her review next Wednesday.


And now the bad news. Now that i’m only a block away from it since it’s at the corner of Market and Laguna in that fine Art Deco building, i went to the Orbit Room.  I’m not into bars anymore, but since they offer pizza in the afternoons and evenings, i thought i’d give it a try.  Don’t.

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News Flash

When a picture is definitely worth a thousand words – Half Dome on March 19th of the last five years.


I’m working now on what is turning out to be a major addition to my Bridges menu and will be announcing its completion very soon.

But meanwhile, just to get a new post up, there’s great news:  I’ve learned that my number will be coming up very soon for an apartment in that senior housing complex for which i’ve been twisting on the waiting list for several years.

What’s happened is that when i updated my application and told them that my income has jumped quite a lot since i started having to take mandatory withdrawals from my IRA, i learned that, while my income is still low enough to get into the complex, the additional income has qualified me for one of the better units.

And since most people on the waiting list don’t have sufficient income for these units, i’m now very near the top of the list, which is an excellent thing since the luxury apartment i’m now in is gobbling away at my savings in a most horrifying fashion.

Meanwhile, here’s a lovely Leucospermum in a flowerbed near Castro and 21st Street.


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Dead Drop

I’ve been thinking of a move to Nova Scotia. No no, not for the weather but rather so i can be known as The Bore of Fundy.


I’m five years behind the times but so is The Guardian, which just the other day had an interesting article about the Dead Drop craze, which was begun by a Berliner named Aram Bartholl.

Which of course made me want to do my own dead drop, so i set out looking for a suitable site, one with a lot of foot traffic so folks might just spot the USB connector sticking out rather than having to go to the Dead Drop website database map and hunt down San Francisco drops.

Finding the site was a bit of a problem, as San Francisco is not well supplied with public brick walls with a small hole in them into which a jump drive might be cemented, so i ended up just gluing my jump drive to a post on the bus stop at Castro and 17th.

Matte's dead drop location

And a closer view:

Matte's dead drop location

And finally, a shot with some background to fully identify the location.

Matte's dead drop location

And no, even though i was right there in front of Hot Cookie for some time, repeatedly pressing on the jump drive while waiting for the glue to dry, i exercised more will power than i knew i had by refraining from going in and buying one of their cookies.

Update:  Twenty-four hours after i installed that jump drive, it’s still there!  Not only that, but it’s now listed on the Dead Drop database map.

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The Spartan and the AK-47

We prefer to pay the enormous price of incarcerating a large percentage of the population than to spend the same amount on education and economic equity.


Close readers will have noticed that this and the previous post opened with my newest feature – a centered introductory statement at the top, but few would know how much work that took.

So i’ll tell you.

See, as we all know, i’m technically challenged, but even so, somehow over the years when i was acting as a content provider on my landlord’s NoeHill website,  i learned a handful of html elements so i could format the material before i gave it to him.  And then when i moved to my own site on Blogspot, those elements became very useful for sneaking around some of Blogspot’s limitations.  When i got a talented web designer, Geo Gaile, to build this website on WordPress for me, i no longer needed html.  [For those even less technical than i am, html is this stuff called “hypertrophied markup language” that consists of “elements” that control the appearance of your text, graphics, and links to other material on the Internet.  An example is “<em>text</em>”, which puts the word “text” into italics.]

Since i had blatantly stolen the idea of beginning my posts with an introductory statement from my friend CKM’s fine blog, Some Assembly Required, i figured the least i could do is use a different typeface to set mine off.

Not a problem because one of the html elements i remembered was the one to change typefaces.  Alas, after several hours of hacking and cursing, i demonstrated that WordPress will not allow miserable users to just stick in html codes to briefly change typefaces.  Oh no, WordPress uses this weird stuff called CSS (“Complicated Style Sheets”) to govern typefaces, even for little introductory comments.

I mean, i whined, why’d i go to the trouble to learn a bit of html if They were going to turn around and deprecate much of it on me.  The only good thing that’s come out of this is that i’ve learned the word “deprecate” in its high tech sense and am gonna start working it into conversations.  As in, “Deprecate you, you scumbag!”

Well, and that after a good deal of Internet surfing i managed to build a snippet of what i assume to be CSS that actually works.  Here it is:

<p style=”font-family: helvetica, arial, sans-serif; text-align: center;”>Things would have turned out very different if Adam had had the right to bear arms and just shot the serpent.</p>

Whatever that stuff is, it’s close to html but not the same. I feel like a Spartan who’s been given an AK-47.  Don’t understand how it works or whether i can get it to work again, but it sure did a good job the first time i tried it.

Flushed with success, i did some searching and found the CSS command for point size, tried it, and it also worked first time.  So now, if i ever want to insert something in a different typeface and/or point size, i know how.  ta da.

That said, i’m much better at cooking and will make an almond torte now.

Meanwhile, a lovely display titled “Agua” in front of the Exploratorium during Sunday Streets on the Embarcadero last Sunday.


Drink it while you got it.

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Things would have turned out very different if Adam had had the right to bear arms and just shot the serpent.


I’d already written about the first two installations discussed in a fine column by architecture critic John King in the San Francisco Chronicle, so i made a foray to the Twitter building to see the third.  Got rather more grist for a post than i’d expected.

I had wanted to see Chris Edmonds’ installation of salvaged post office boxes, but since i didn’t know where they were in the interior of the building, i elected to enter via the alley off 10th Street.

Well, in a display of its clout, Twitter has taken possession of the alley, landscaped it handsomely, and repurposed it as a private courtyard for the Twitterlings, so i got only a few feet into it on the Segway before i was hailed by a security guard.  I stopped, pulled off my pack, and extracted my papers, which were in order and consisted of my DD214 to confirm my status as a veteran, my California drivers’ license to establish me as a resident, my California handicap permit to confirm that i was using the Segway as a mobility assistance device, and a memo from the San Francisco Police Chief explaining that San Francisco welcomed use of the Segway by disabled citizens.  Together, they got me into the courtyard, a lovely space.

And then as i cruised slowly along, peering into the interiors on either side, i spotted the installation in the building that fronts on Market Street and rolled up to the doors, where i was stopped by another security guard and dug out my papers for his perusal.  He was very nice about it, but letting me inside the building on the Segway was above his pay grade, so he called his supervisor, who arrived shortly and inspected the papers.  Hmmmm.  After a close examination of my documents he stepped aside and called a Higher Power, and after much muttering on the phone returned and said i could go in but cautioned me to be careful.

I reassured him i’d been on the Segway for ten years, was an expert in its operation, and, being 75 years old, had no need to go flying around at high speed.  So i entered.  Quite a handsome atrium.

Twitter atrium

And once in the atrium i noticed that to the left was the back entrance to The Market, the overpriced food emporium i’d checked out the other day. But been there, done that, so i glided slowly across toward the art installation on the far wall.  Before i could get there, though, i was stopped again, this time by a security guard who’d seen me down the short hallway to the front door and come running to accost me.  I showed her the paperwork and explained that it had been sufficient to get me past the first three security guards plus whoever the third guard had spoken to on the phone, and this satisfied her.  So i moved on to the installation.

Artist - Chris Edmonds

As i was photographing the installation, arranged in a pair of two 18×15 foot box grids on the walls flanking the entrance to the central atrium from the Market Street entrance, a woman who identified herself as the building manager and another security guard approached, talking over each other proclaiming that i couldn’t be in there.

So i pulled out all my paperwork again, explaining that i’d been lured into the building by Mr. King’s Chronicle article about the public artwork in front of which we stood and was wondering over his failure to explain that this publicly funded artwork could be enjoyed by all citizens except for disabled veterans, still keeping a light tone although by this time my smile was stretched a bit thin and i perhaps put a tiny bit of stress on the word “public”.  Once again i passed muster.

Then i spotted a huge painting at the end of the hall to the right and rolled down to examine it.  Turned out to be not all that interesting up close, but still, my eye was caught by an entertaining rustic wooden wall treatment on a hallway to the left.

rustic Twitter wall

Then i rolled down that hall only to find myself in a lobby fronting on Market Street which had good sculpture on its main wall as well as a free standing sculpture worth a photo.

Twitter lobby sculpture

But as i was photographing it, i heard a voice to my left saying “No no no.”  He being the seventh person to accost me, i was muttering “Yes yes yes” as i rolled over to the guard at the desk and pulled out all my papers, explaining them as i went.  When i got to the letter from the Chief of Police, the guard growled something to the effect that she wasn’t here, to which i responded rather loudly in an aggrieved tone, “What?!”

This drew another guard spouting something about how if i wasn’t nice to the guards they’d kick me out, to which i responded in my most patient tone that i was a bit shocked at being told by this guard, pointing, that the San Francisco Police Department did not have jurisdiction here and that this memo, brandishing it vigorously, made it clear that disabled folks could use Segways instead of wheelchairs if they were able to stand.

Some confusion ensued.

Which was ultimately cleared up when it was explained that what the guard at the desk was saying “No no no” about was not, like the first six, my using the Segway but rather my photographing the sculpture.

I was so gobsmacked by this ludicrous restriction that i had no response and just rolled off back down the hall i’d come up, back to the atrium, and then, still somewhat in shock, out the other hall toward the other Market Street entrance.  The lobby there had a fine mural on the wall, but i’d barely got the camera out of my pocket when the guards there said i couldn’t take photos of it.

Worn down, i just left, marveling over the dichotomy between Twitter’s attitude toward photography of the art in its lobbies and Andy Pilara’s construction of a museum in which to display his art free for the public.  Not only that, but Pilara has no objection to your taking photographs of the works he displays.

Twitter is in that building because they cut a sweet deal with the mayor, who’d been trying to get high class tenants into buildings on that rather seedy stretch of Market, so Twitter had enough leverage to get the mayor to exempt them from city payroll taxes on the multimillion dollar payouts to the employees when the company went public.  Well, yes, can’t have the .001% paying taxes now can we?

And now, their knowing that they’re totally entitled makes them want to exercise that entitlement by preventing the public from taking pictures of handsome artwork in the lobbies  After all, that artwork would be enjoyed more by the employees if it were not shared with the masses.  The only reason they don’t stop people from photographing Chris Edmonds’ installation in the atrium is that it was paid for by a grant with taxpayer money.

The bitter irony here is that i was almost certainly the only person in either of those lobbies who did not have in his pocket, if not in his very hand, a smart phone capable of taking excellent photos.  Do they shout at folks who look like they might be pointing their smart phones at the art?

If i were decades younger and an organizer, i’d get together fifty friends into a flash mob, infiltrate the lobby, and then at a signal have forty-nine of them start taking smart phone pics of the lobby art while the remaining one videoed the scene.  As it is, i’ll just take a Valium and go to bed…and have a pleasant dream about someone else doing the mob thing.

But i don’t think i’ll take up Twittering.  Not after being hassled by ten Twitterers in the course of a brief visit.  And to be fair, the second guard i encountered was damn nice.  While we were waiting for his supervisor to arrive, i told him that i was not so lame that i couldn’t park the Segway outside and walk as far as the installation on the opposite side of the atrium.  He insisted that i wait for the supervisor, saying that i had every right to go in there on the Segway.  So we played the Alphonse and Gaston game until the supervisor arrived, my insisting that i knew he was just doing his job and he insisting that i should go in on the Segway.  And to keep being fair, none of the others was rude, and certainly they were not making up the rules they were hired to enforce.  Oh no, the rules came from on high, from the ones who’re getting the free ride on taxes.



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Food Updates

Some culinary tidbits:  First, i finally got around to stopping in at the new The Market in the Twitter building on Market Street, but after all the hype – as in the previous link – i was seriously underwhelmed.  Best i could tell, it was a Whole Foods with higher prices, owing to which i cannot imagine anyone but overpaid Twitter employees frequenting, not that i stayed in there all that long, the decor being so utterly sterile, cold, cavernous, and uninviting.  Go ahead and see for yourself.  That little background murmur is me muttering “I told you so.”

New restaurants are sprouting like high tech startups in San Francisco now, but i already have so many favorites that i haven’t tried any new ones since my last food column.  Well, except for lunch today, when Mark took me to Griddle Fresh on 24th Street.  He had the corned beef hash with poached egg, and the taste i took was probably the best corned beef hash i ever ate although, since that’s not a favorite dish, i wouldn’t order it for myself even though the fries accompanying it were excellent.

Corned beef hash with poached egg

I was seduced by the fried chicken special on the cover of the menu, and it turned out to be two rather large breast filets pounded flat, heavily breaded, seriously fried, and smothered in a very rich gravy with lots of bacon in it.

Fried chicken with bacon gravy


Whew.  Fairly good is as high as i’ll go, but i’ll return to try one of their several Benedict variations.  Their forte seems to be the pancakes, which read off the menu and looked on the neighbor’s table to be superb…and to contain a week’s worth of carbohydrates in one dish.

And yes, speaking of carbohydrates, i buy sugar (both brown and white) in 25 lb. bags for my jams/jellies/chutneys/marmalades and for chocolate sauce, which is so popular that it’s snatched up as fast as i can make it.  Much of my output goes to my favorite vendors at the farmers’ markets, and i’ve discovered that what most farmers really love, although they certainly enjoy products made from the fruit they’re hip deep in, is something they don’t grow….like a cacao bean product.

I eat almost none of the jams i make, and although i certainly love it, i consume only the chocolate sauce contained in the last, partially full bottle at the end of every batch.  But oh, my love of sweets is so great that i have to grit my teeth to pass San Francisco’s fine bakeries, patisseries, confiseries, etc.  And just yesterday morning after i’d bagged up a dozen of those fabulous, healthy, nearly extinct, old sour Marsh grapefruits at Hamada’s and was killing time until St. Benoit yogurt opened, i swung by Alfieri’s to get some nutritious low-carb almond butter and foolishly, foolishly took the proffered sample of a new product – a salted dark chocolate almond brittle.  It was so delicious that i couldn’t resist buying the smallest bag, which i swore i’d ration out over the next week.  It didn’t last the day.  The first line of defense is at the store.  Hell, that’s the only line of defense.

Oh, and one day last week i got a haircut, which would have been a lo-carb experience except that Lisa, my wonderful Vietnamese barber, is located next door to a shop on Castro called Hot Cookie that sells, guess what.  So i had their milk chocolate chip, whole Macadamia nut delight which, even though it’s so thin that the nuts stick up, is four inches in diameter. The only thing that saves me is that experiences like these take place about once a week rather than every day.

Meanwhile, here’s a self-effacing selfie with BikeShare bikes and the Ferry Building

BikeShare bikes and Ferry Building

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Gender Issues

One of the delights of living in San Francisco is our abundance of genders.  Not only do we have the usual sexual orientations ranging from the heterosexual to the bixexual and then the homosexual, with lots of shading and grading within those categories; but also we have the various flavors of transgenders – MTF and FTM at least and hell, this being San Francisco, perhaps others i haven’t heard of.  So the bottom line is that San Francisco is the perfect place for me.

Not to get too academic about it, though, since the above introduction is intended merely to allow me to out myself in yet another way.  Not of course that i’m an exception to the usual case in which the person outing himself discovers that his great secret was actually common knowledge or at least the subject of wide speculation.

So anyhow, i’ll go ahead and admit it even though everybody has probably already figured it out.  Still, i’m doing this because i’ve grown tired of carrying the burden of not being honest with everyone, especially my friends and relatives.

Why, oh why, i wonder, is it so hard to confess this, perhaps because there wasn’t even a name for my condition until recently and you have to look in my pants to confirm it.  Oh, the hell with it.  I’m cisgender.  There, i’ve said it.

Yes, me.  Totally, absolutely, irrevocably, 100% cisgender.  You’ll have to look it up yourself, as it’s embarrassing to explain.

I’m just hoping my friends will continue to accept me and my readers remain fans.

Meanwhile, some cisgender construction at Front and Mission last Saturday.

Front and Mission

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Fat Experiment

Last month i decided to stop taking my statin for a couple of months to see if this would help with muscle function, and it sure does feel like the experiment is working.  Not that it’s without danger.  After all, my next regular appointment with my internist is coming up in about a month, and my fear is that she’ll look up from my lab report, give me That Look, and ask, “How did you do this to yourself?”  So as a countermeasure, i’ve been trying to cut back my fat intake.

For example, a couple of years ago at Whole Foods i found a proffered taste of Smári yogurt so utterly delicious that i reached for a tub of it in the dairy case only to recoil in horror on examining the label and discovering that it was not real yogurt at all but rather a fat-free isotope.  Still, my taste buds don’t lie, so it became my “yogurt” of choice.

Then i discovered Fage yogurt at Rainbow and became an instant convert, finding it a bit better than Smári because it’s full fat.  Another plus is that the owners have a sense of humor since FAGE is an acronym for Filippou Adelphoi Galaktokomikes Epicheiriseis”, i.e., “Filippou Brothers Dairy Company”.  It is also the word φάγε (pronounced fa-yeh), the singular imperative verb meaning ‘eat!’

I was in Rainbow a couple of days ago and noticed that Fage offered a low fat version, so i bought it.  Alas, not as thick and creamily delicious.

So now that i’m cutting back on fat, i’ll go back to Smári since i can buy it at Rainbow rather than a national conglomerate owned by a foam-spewing right wing Texan.

The folks at Smári are  good marketers.  On their Facebook page they say, “We are the brave yogurt of Iceland. It’s Thykk. It’s Organic. It’s Icelandic.”  I do like my yogurt brave, but Icelandic my ass.  The company is in Petaluma and the yogurt is actually made in Wisconsin.

Their website explains that “thykk” means “thick” in Icelandic, but they don’t explain that it’s properly spelled “þykk”.

Oh, and perhaps another reason to switch back to Smári is that i just discovered that in 2012, Fage demonstrated its patriotism by moving its headquarters from Greece to Luxembourg to obtain “more favorable tax conditions.”  Yeah, we taught ’em how, but still.

Meanwhile, in a total change of subject, here’s a handsome 26-story mixed-use red granite flatiron tower at 388 Market Street that i’ve quite enjoyed since it went up in 1987.

388 Market Street



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Noe Valley Chamber Music

I’ve been a Noe Valley Chamber Music subscriber since i met Tiffany Loewenberg at the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market several years ago.  Tiffany is their executive director and combines a great love for chamber music with the organizational skills to provide it to the public.

They arrange approximately a dozen chamber music concerts every year, most of which are at the Noe Valley Ministry, which has also distinguished itself by providing its parking lot for the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market and facilitating the sale of that lot to the public to provide the Noe Valley Town Square.

While all are devoted to chamber music, their programs are eclectic, ranging from favorite trios by the greats to a concert featuring a virtuoso performer on the didgeridoo.  Yes, the didgeridoo.  Here’s a sample.

The most recent concert i attended featured pianist Jeffrey LaDeur playing works by Debussy, Szymanowski, Chopin, Aminikia, and concluding with Schubert’s finger-breaking Sonata in G major D.894.  A breathtaking performance although not quite as well attended as Dolores park that lovely Sunday afternoon.

Dolores Park on a Sunday in February

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