September 2017

A Church Street Chortle

Today i went down to Mona Caron’s Market Street Railway Mural at 15th and Church because i’d got word that a talk was being given about its restoration and that Mona Herself might be there.

Yep, she was, and she gave us a great explanation of the work that was being done to restore the mural, it having survived thirteen years of San Francisco weather, baked by the sun in the mornings and then cooling off by forty degrees at night, being rained on, etc. to the point that some of the paint was fading badly and, worse yet, the wall itself was cracking and blistering.  The restorers are doing a fabulous job and she is touching up areas where the acrylic paint was damaged beyond repair.

Better yet, she gave us a great explanation of the mural itself, and i am horribly embarrassed that even though i’d admired this mural for a dozen years, i had never examined it closely enough, so my understanding of it was woefully inadequate.  However, the man who videotaped her talk told me that he’ll send me a link when it’s available.  If that happens, my plan is to write an explication of the mural that i can supplement with closeup photographs.  Stay tuned.

The high point, though, came after her talk when i got to tell her that i’d been a fan since about 2005, had photographed all her San Francisco murals, and was an avid follower of her website.

Then i hung around until everyone else in the crowd had got a chance to talk to her and told her about the time i went to take photographs of her Tenderloin mural.   As i approached Jones Street on Golden Gate, i found myself rolling past a crowd of Black men hanging out at the corner.  They called out at the Segway, so i stopped and told them what i was about to do, at which point they swarmed me, escorted me across to the mural, and acted as a pack of docents eagerly explaining various aspects of the mural and identifying some of the people depicted in it.  This is their mural, and they adore it.

She gave a great chortle, in which i basked.

Here she is, speaking in front of the Railway mural.  The panel along the right side depicts the 1934 San Francisco General Strike in which two strikers were killed and dozens injured by the police.  That’s not discoloration at the top of the panel, it’s tear gas.


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Home Again

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed” – Dwight Eisenhower, 1953


Turns out, Wolfe’s wrong.  You can go home again although being gone only two years is hardly a fair test.  I’ve been in San Francisco a month now, so here’s a capsule version of what’s been going on.

The move itself was not without drama since when i raced the moving truck here from Petaluma, i found a car parked blocking the unloading zone, and in my dither to get the Segway out of my car i managed to smash my forehead hard enough that i was bleeding all over my shirt while i ran around trying to open up space for my movers.

Worse yet, i rang my own bell loud enough that when i went into the building, which i knew very well from numerous visits, i got totally lost and had to sit down and think hard about where i was, how i had got there, and where i was trying to go before i could reorient myself and start laughing at the absurdity.

At which point i looked up to see a couple of my new neighbors standing there with horrified expressions watching me sitting there covered in blood, laughing my head off.  Am i off to a good start or what?

Since the movers were able to somehow shoehorn the truck into position for unloading, the rest of the move was uneventful.

Once i got my bed made, my computer connected, and a fork, a spoon, my knives, and a handful of dishes unpacked, i was in no rush to unpack the rest and started exploring my new neighborhood and revisiting old haunts.

On Thursday i hit the neighborhood Safeway (one block away) and Walgreen’s and Good Frickin Chicken (two blocks away), about which i remembered reading very favorable reviews but had never got over here to try.  Walked in to try the chicken but Sam, the owner, suggested that instead of carrying out the chicken, i walk around to the other door that led to the dining room so i could sit and enjoy the meal.  Took a closer look at the menu and realized i needed to try his falafel and the baba ghanoush.

While waiting for my order, i was entertained by watching a scruffy individual see my Segway propped against a planter outside, look both ways, and try to push it away. His discovering that my locking cable concealed in the shrubbery secured the Segway to a steel post was almost as delicious as the falafel and baba ghanoush.

On Friday i rode out north on Valencia and dropped off my two dullest knives at my sharpener on Guerrero & 18th, went down 14th to pick up some Guittard cocoa powder at SF Herb Co., and then pushed on to Rainbow Grocery at Folsom & Duboce for an Acme sourdough baguette and other essentials.  On the way home on Valencia i stopped at Tacqueria El Toro at 17th Street for a burrito of carnitas, frijoles enteros, y salsa piquante (sin arroz) of which i can eat only half nowadays but the remainder nukes well the next day.  Next stop was Lucca Deli at 22nd Street to pick up some San Daniele prosciutto for little openface sandwiches with heirloom tomato on the Acme.  Oh, and in all of these places i encountered workers who remembered me and welcomed me back.

On Saturday, it was the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market to see the delightful manager, Liz Crane, and my favorite vendors, starting with the Herrs, a Hmong family that used to be my primary source for, among other things, the snow peas and sugar snaps i pickled.  That night i went to Hoffman’s for dinner, and it was like old home week for me and all the staff.  Food’s as good as ever.

The next week i took a break and ran up to northern California and Oregon to take photos of bridges and experience the eclipse.

And since then it’s been digging my way back into the city, checking back on favorite haunts, exploring my new neighborhood, and connecting with old friends.

One thing.  I mentioned at the beginning that you can go home again.  Ummm, not entirely.  The first few days i was here the maximum temperature never got over 65, which was a bit of a shock for a man fresh out of Petaluma, and i felt like i’d jumped out of the frying pan into the freezer.  But i quickly readjusted to proper temperatures, just in time, alas, to experience the hottest day in San Francisco history – 106 scorching degrees.

And how did i celebrate this?  Well, by riding out onto the northern foot of Potrero Hill and cruising up and down both 16th and 17th Streets looking in vain for the huge kitchen supply store that i used to buy gear at before finally realizing it must have been gentrified away while i was gone.  No prob, i thought, i’ll just ride through the blazing canyons over to Howard Street, where there were a couple of big kitchen stores across the street from each other along about 10th St.  To make sure, i started at 8th and Howard and rode slowly south.

At 12th Street it became clear that both these stores had also been replaced, either by spiffy new condos or shops catering to spiffy new condo residents.

It also became clear that i was profoundly thirsty, and i started reviewing the symptoms of heat stroke.  Fortunately, my gym was only about ten blocks away, and i went there for a long, slow workout.

Well, see, the workout area is refrigerated to a pleasant 65 degrees.

With a whirlwind of activity like this, is there any surprise that i’m still sitting here surrounded by boxes i’ve yet to unpack?

I’ve been running around too much to stop for photos here in the city, so here’s one i took of the Pacific last July from the lower slopes of Mt. Tamalpias.

The Pacific from Mt. Tam


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