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Holding On To San Francisco

6 Feb

SanFranI’ve lived in San Francisco for coming up on ten years, which sounds kind of intense when I say it out loud. Ten years! That’s a while. That’s long enough to think of a city as home. I’m not sure I really do, but it seems long enough, is what I’m saying.

Sometimes when I’m in a cab, or meeting someone at a party or something, I’ll say, “I’ve lived here for ten years.” It feels kind of cool, like I’m one of those grizzled old-timers that I most certainly am not. Truth is, I love this city, but I still feel like a newcomer. I spent eight years as a musician and a teacher, working at a school in the Haight and running every day in Golden Gate Park, so I guess that part of San Francisco does feel like home. I’ve spent two more years since then as a writer, working too much and spending too much time indoors and exercising less often than I probably should. That part of San Francisco also feels like home, though perhaps a less pleasant (but more profitable) one.

Ten years is a long time, whether it feels like it or not.

***

People are always carrying on about how San Francisco has changed, and of course, this is the wont of people who live in cities, to talk about how their cities have changed. The New Yorker recently published this very funny series by Simon Rich in which he imagines an early 20th century New York immigrant named Herschel falling into pickle brine and awakening, perfectly preserved, in 2013 Brooklyn.

Herschel meets his great-great-grandson, who happens to be named Simon. Simon is a Brooklynite screenwriter who embodies pretty much every cliché about the peculiar sort of aimless leisure enjoyed by the possibly mythical Post-Hipster Brooklyn Creative Professional.

“Please,” I say. “I must know. What path have you chosen for your life?”

Simon smiles proudly at me.

“I’m a script doctor,” he says.

I shake my head with astonishment.

“That is so wonderful,” I say, my eyes filling up with tears. “I am so proud. I cannot believe my descendant is medical doctor.”

Simon averts his eyes.

“It’s actually just a screenwriting term,” he says. “ ‘Script doctor’ means I, like, punch up movie scripts.”

I stare at him blankly.

“ ‘Punch up’?”

“You know, like, add gags.”

“What sort of gags?”

He clears his throat.

“Let’s see.… Well, the script I’m working on now is about a guy who switches bodies with his pet dog? So I’m adding all these puns, like ‘I’m doggone mad!’ and ‘I’ve got a bone to pick with you!’ You know, things like that.”

A long time passes in silence.

“So you are not medical doctor.”

“No,” Simon admits. “I am not.”

In its opening moments, Birch’s piece hinges on a single joke: That if a man who arrived in New York city in 1912 saw it today, he’d be unable to cope with what it’s become. By taking a fish-out-of-water approach, Birch casts the life of a New York creative professional under a pitiless lens. (Of course, this is later turned on its head when the narrator’s very out-of-touchness eventually helps him become a hip, sought-after pickle vendor.)

While that makes for good comedy (“Are you a cilantro person?” the great-great-granson asks his perplexed ancestor), the crux of the piece–that the past was so different from our time that the only similarities are comical–is quite different from another recent article about urban change and upheaval.

***

Author Rebecca Solnit has written a well-observed and flatly depressing essay at The London Review of Books about the state of San Francisco in The Era of the Google Bus.

They make for a fine metaphor, those busses: Sleek, high-tech vessels that transport city-dwellers down to their tech-company campuses in Silicon Valley. It’s a harsh encapsulation of the transformation that San Francisco has undergone during the last five or so years, and of the parasite-like feeling of invasion and otherness that those companies can inspire.

Here’s Solnit:

The Google Bus means so many things. It means that the minions of the non-petroleum company most bent on world domination can live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley without going through a hair-raising commute by car – I overheard someone note recently that the buses shortened her daily commute to 3.5 hours from 4.5. It means that unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren’t much interested in improving public transport, and in fact the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train. It means that San Francisco, capital of the west from the Gold Rush to some point in the 20th century when Los Angeles overshadowed it, is now a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world at the other end of the peninsula.

The influx of what some friends of mine have come to call “app-money” has changed the city, to be sure. But while this phenomenon feels entirely current, Solnit also argues that these sorts of boom-time troubles are nothing new to San Francisco, and may even be an ingrained part of the city’s culture.

She quotes The Annals of San Francisco, which recalls the city in 1849 and the challenges posed by the California gold rush:

As we have said, there were no homes at this period in San Francisco, and time was too precious for anyone to stay within doors to cook victuals. Consequently an immense majority of the people took their meals at restaurants, boarding-houses and hotels – the number of which was naturally therefore very great; while many lodged as well as boarded at such places. Many of these were indeed miserable hovels, which showed only bad fare and worse attendance, dirt, discomfort and high prices. A few others again were of a superior class; but, of course, still higher charges had to be made for the better accommodation.

Sounds familiar. And okay, the gold rush has its share of differences from the current tech-boom (Solnit acknowledges this), but the similarities remain remarkable.

***

The San Francisco apartment-hunt woes reported by so many are in fact accurate, for what it’s worth. I’ve been searching for my own place off and on for the last four or five months, and the scene is grim. I began with my sights set possibly on the Haight or north of the Panhandle, only to gradually pull my scope back to include the Inner Sunset (where I currently live) until recently acquiescing to the notion that I’ll probably only find an affordable park-adjacent place closer to, or possibly in, the Pacific Ocean.

(And let’s not kid ourselves about “affordable” here–we’re talking about a decent, non-in-law apartment with working heat, a living room and hardwood floors, and we’re talking about $1,700 to $1,800 a month not counting utilities. A similar apartment in the Mission would cost a thousand dollars more.)

***

I was recently out at a bar in the Mission with some friends, both of whom work in video game development. It was a new bar, one of the ones cropping up in the large buildings east of South Van Ness, where they have a kitchen and good beer and lots of space to make up for the fact that you always worry a little bit about getting murdered while you’re walking there. The bar was crowded, and there appeared to be some sort of event going on. Young people wearing name-tags were tipsy and schmoozing, many of them milling around our table. I had several butts right up in my periphery. It was as though we’d stumbled into the middle of someone else’s two-year college reunion.

There was a dearth of available seating in the bar. We were guarding our spare chair with our jackets, which is about as territorial as you can get these days without actually sitting on two chairs at once. But lo, a fairly drunk young woman sauntered up and plopped down in our spare seat, assuring us that she just needed a place to sit for a moment while her cohort found her a chair. She gamely struck up a conversation.

“What do you guys all do?”

“I make video games,” said one of my friends. “You?”

“We make apps.”

Her friends signaled to her: They’d procured her a seat. She left us for, I have to presume, greener pastures.

So, you know. This sort of anecdote is one of those “perfect” stories that reduces a complicated social and economic phenomenon to a single sound byte:

“We make apps.”

It’s the bar-conversation equivalent of Solnit’s Google bus.

***

But yes, but yes; it’s a lot more complicated than that. Maybe some of those apps are amazing, maybe they help children learn or help the disenfranchised find enfranchisement. Maybe they help people in hospitals get better care, or help new parents monitor their baby’s health. And it’s not like video games are usually some high-minded artistic pursuit. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

When I tweeted Solnit’s article yesterday, I got a few responses from people ragging on “tech douchebags” who had invaded San Francisco. Those fuckers. Those douchebags. They make apps. Fuck them.

But of course, many of those douchebags are totally nice people; I’m friends with a lot of them. They’re not actually invaders from outer space or Utah or wherever. A lot of them have lived in this city longer than I have. Plenty of them grew up here, or in the Bay Area.

I put Solnit’s article on Facebook and my friend Jess, who takes a shuttle every day to one of the tech-boomiest companies around, left the following comment:

If you’re one of those shuttlers who grew up in the bay and deserves to live in San Francisco just as much as the next person, it comes off like she’s shaking her cane in your face and telling you to get the fuck out of *her* city. I get that its me taking it personally, but in the end it’s ABOUT me so I can’t help it. I lived here well before I obtained my South Bay shuttled job and it sucks to read people blaming those of us working there but living in SF for woes that could be blamed on 15 different factors if you research and investigate properly.

I certainly understand where Jess is coming from; if you work in the tech industry, I can imagine it’d be more or less impossible not to take Solnit’s article personally. If you make apps, it sucks to see someone categorically lambast all app-makers. (I do think Solnit’s article was more nuanced than that.)

Jess also shared this Business Insider article by Owen Thomas, entitled “San Francisco Needs To Stop Apologizing For Being The Best City On The Planet.” It’s written partly as a response to Solnit and partly as a plea for San Francisco to change their zoning laws and “stop allowing companies to give employees free parking at work, and stop requiring parking in housing developments in San Francisco.”

Here’s Thomas:

Yes, San Francisco is getting expensive, and more so all the time.

But really—we’re going to blame Google’s buses for the city’s housing crisis?

That’s what writer Rebecca Solnit argues in an utterly ridiculous screed in the London Review of Books that pretends to be about the crisis of capitalism in San Francisco but turns out to be a handwringing diatribe about her search for a home to buy.

The reason why house prices in San Francisco are going up is because the supply is limited and the demand is insatiable.

The supply is limited because of archaic zoning rules and cultural attitudes toward growth.

Thomas’ article is a remarkably bloodless counterpoint to Solnit’s artful melancholy; he’s clinical where she’s emotional, practical where she’s nostalgic. I suppose that’s due at least in part to the different editorial parameters of Business Insider and The London Review of Books.

But yeah, sure: Solnit seems more interested in eloquently describing a problem than she is in offering solutions. Thomas is more interested in offering actionable advice than he is in figuring out what this means for the city’s soul.

***

While I did find that Solnit’s article resonated with me more than Thomas’, I have to admit my own personal stake in the whole thing is murky at best. I came to San Francisco fresh out of music school, excited to spend a few years here gigging and practicing before moving to New York. I eventually fell into teaching (and fell in love with my life here), and I spent seven or eight years playing jazz and teaching music at a private school in SF.

I’d love it if that meant those years were some ideal embodiment of the long-lost artistic side of San Francisco, but whatever, that’s not true. I taught at an insanely expensive private school, working with the children of tech millionaires whose very companies were driving the boom that would eventually make it so difficult for me to continue living here. They were paying my rent, even as their companies were indirectly increasing it.

Working as a musician in the city felt much the same–sure, it’s great to pack clubs and make money through ticket sales, but the very techies that are driving gentrification in the mission and indirectly getting rent-controlled musicians evicted are the young people in the audience, paying $8 for drinks and dancing the night away. It’s difficult to make a living as a musician in San Francisco without feeling at least somewhat sponsored–the $75 dive-bar gig I played may have been a fantastic musical experience, but it was the Oracle party later that week that paid $500 per man. It was Oracle that paid my rent, even as they were indirectly increasing it.

Now that I write for a living, I still feel like I’m in an odd in-between state. I spend pretty much every day being curious and being critical and making jokes and telling stories. But of course, one of the primary things I write about is video games, so I spend a lot of time doing what amounts to tech journalism. And beyond that, the very company I work for, Gawker Media, is at least partly transitioning into being a tech company. My overlords may be based in New York and not Silicon Valley, but if you go into a café in the Inner Sunset and see a dozen bespectacled white and/or asian people banging away on Macbooks, there’s a fair chance I’m one of them.

But then, a journalist isn’t one with his subject-matter, and it’s no different for me. I love video games, but I’m not a member of the video game industry. I’m fascinated by technology, but I’d never say I “work in tech.” I’m just a musician who landed a cool writing gig. I sometimes admire and sometimes resent Silicon Valley, but I’ll likely never be a part of it. If this whole thing falls apart, I’ll probably go back to playing and teaching music.

***

As you may have gathered if you’ve made it this far, I’m ambivalent about all this. I can’t claim expertise in economics, or culture, or history, or even in San Francisco, despite that much-ballyhooed decade of mine. I have lots of friends who work in tech. I don’t like gentrification in theory, but I also don’t like that the Mission feels unsafe. And I’m leaving out a ton of stuff about this city’s fraught relationship with race.

All I know is that I love living here, and I’ve been privileged to be able to. And I mean, I have had some fairly iconic San Francisco Moments in those ten years. I played “Where the Boys Are” with Connie Francis to a sold-out crowd at the Castro theater. I took a group of high school kids backpacking in Yosemite and spent the entire time talking about Star Wars. I performed at the Bay to Breakers post-race shindig in Golden Gate Park, and was featured on their poster all over town the year after. Once Joan Rivers berated me on stage at the Herbst and another time I played flute while Petula Clark played finger-cymbals and danced. I got ordained and performed my sister’s wedding in a meadow overlooking the Bay. I got stoned with my best friend and sat on the bench atop Grand View Park. Those are all pretty San Francisco things to do, I think.

It’s gotten more difficult to keep it all going in recent years. It’s gotten harder to live here. But I know that I plan to stay, at least for a little while, and that while I find myself envious of those whose six-figure salaries make living in this city (or indeed, any city) a foregone conclusion, I’m also okay not being one of them.

I wish San Francisco could live up to its funky, romantic, Tales of the City image more often. Solnit’s version, the “city that poets can’t afford,” is the one we’ve got at the moment. I’ll likely feel forever stuck between those two San Franciscos: One that might never have existed, and one that does, but of which I’ll never quite be a part.

For now, I think I’ll keep looking for a decent apartment. Something near the park. And I’ll remain a San Francisco barnacle, holding on to this beautiful leviathan for dear life and enjoying the view while I can.

GGBridge

I Want To Ride My Bicycle

1 Oct

I want to ride my biiiike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

Two weeks ago, I began to ride a bicycle. It was a long road up to that point – I’d been talking about getting one for what seemed like forever, but the time to finally go for it came only recently.

I started teaching a new course on music notation down at Academy of Art University on New Montgomery. The class sounded fun, I needed extra money, and it fit in my schedule – but only barely. My wednesday rehearsal at Urban gets out at 11:30 (in the Haight) and my AAU Sibelius class starts at noon (down at Third and Market). It was a doable commute, but only if I rode a bike. My cousin Mark, to his eternal cycle-loving credit, turned out to have three bikes, one of them a sweet mountain bike that he let me borrow. Overnight I went from a regular dude with two legs and a bus pass to a bona-fide San Francisco cyclist.

I haven’t written a “Things I am loving today” post for a while – I guess I ran out of household things to which I could convincingly write loving odes? But my dear god, I am loving riding my bicycle around town! LOVING. IT. Why haven’t I been doing this for years?

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my
bicycle bicycle bicycle

The first time I rode it was early on a Tuesday morning, heading to Urban from my Inner Sunset place up the 9th Avenue hill. It was… bracing. My first action, of course, required me to cruise straight down the  hill, riding the brake the whole way. Huge, terrifying vehicles shoofed by on my left, while on my right every parked-car door felt primed to explode open, clotheslining me straight into the emergency room.

The wind! There was so much wind. I hadn’t felt the wind like this in a long time – I was probably doing 115 miles per hour down the hill (note: estimate) and let me tell you, San Francisco’s cool morning air takes on an entirely different character when it’s whipping into your face and hands at 320 mph (note: I have also also estimated the wind’s uphill speed and combined them).

But I made it; I survived. The next day I biked from Haight to my AAU class on New Montgomery and I made it in fifteen minutes. Woah. Fifteen minutes for what would’ve taken MUNI thirty at best and a car anywhere from twenty to thirty, depending on parking. It was a piece of cake, fast as hell, but more than anything else… it felt exhilarating, better than anything I’d done in ages.

After that, I was hooked. I’ve been riding everywhere - I can get to school in twelve minutes, I’ve mastered The Wiggle, I can get my bike onto the front of the 6 Parnassus without a hitch, I’ve even gotten my own groovy Nutcase Helmet that both keeps my brain safe(ish) and looks pretty kickin’. Mark has been awesome enough to let me continue to use his bike until I get my own hybrid or road bike, to which he assures me the transition from his mountain bike will feel like going from a pickup truck to a sports car. I can’t wait.

Although I check SFBike.org daily and have hugely benefited from their online maps, I also find that every time I ride, I fall in behind other riders and learn new things. I’ve learned how people use the curb to put their foot up and push past cars on Market street, that there is a killer route up market to the Castro Safeway that shunts you around back and comes out by Duboce Park. I’ve figured out how to signal with my left hand, which let me tell you was not as easy as I maybe would’ve thought it would be. I’ve learned that no matter how unsafe I feel rocketing down the road, there is always some guy around the corner who has elected to replace his helmet with an iPod that makes me feel like the picture of sensibility.

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah

But more than anything, I’ve learned that I love biking. Shit, people, I love it to tiny pieces. I’ll even make a pledge: as long as he lives and works in this city, Kirk Hamilton will get there on two wheels.

When we were driving to and from a Urban School recent backpacking trip to Yosemite, I got to spend a lot of time talking with Sarah and Scott, the two (very cool) outdoor-program educators who organized the trip. They’re both bikers, and they were both excited to hear that I was about to start riding.

“You’ll love it,” said Sarah. “It’s the best of everything – it’s fast, you’re outside, you’re getting exercise, and it feels amazing!” And man, was she right. It’s hard to describe the things I notice, the feelings that accompany biking. I feel so free and so light, it’s almost existential. The Enjoyable Lightness of Biking. I move everywhere of my own volition, consuming only what power I put out, using my body to travel great distances in a short amount of time. I sweat more, I work more, I breathe more, my heat beats more times per day.

I am The Benign Mover. As fast as a car, but people walking around don’t react to me the same way as they do a vehicle – there isn’t a sense of “Okay, that guy is currently capable of killing me with his vehicle.” When I pull up to a stoplight on a bike, people waiting to cross strike up conversations, they make eye contact. I’m not of their world, but also not a threat to it. When traffic jams and pedestrians must wait, I thread in between.

On your marks get set go!
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

There is a moment that I hesitate to even attempt to describe, a feeling that I could never hope to put into words. It’s that first five seconds after I climb to the seat and start to pedal; the ground seems to fall away as the light clicking of the derailer blends with the wind in my ears…

I catch my balance, center my frame, and I’m flying.

Because I’m Such An Expert

22 Apr

After my two posts detailing my hot-and-cold romance with San Francisco’s NextBus system got featured on Muni Diaries, Wall Street Journal reporter Geoff Fowler tracked me down and interviewed me for a WSJ piece he was writing. So now I’m in the Journal, opining about how Nextbus works and stuff.  Because I’m such an expert.

Seriously, though, it’s a good article, and I do think that NextBus is doing a good job helping mitigate our unreliable, nonscheduled Muni system. The article is here.

Next up: getting an interview in The National Review!

The Awesome Side Of NextBus

15 Feb

Okay, honestly. That last post was pretty lame. Even when I was writing it, I kinda knew it – like, I was basically saying, “Waaa, I have this amazing technological innovation in my life that allows me to literally save days of waiting per year, but my time management skills suck so hard that I can’t get it together to use it effectively, so I get stressed.”

Blerg, me! In penance, and in honor of Michael Smith, the director of engineering at NextBus who was cool enough to write a funny comment (and not tell me to stuff myself like I probably would’ve), I thought I’d list the ways in which NextBus makes my life way better. They are as varied as they are numerous.

1) Just yesterday, I was rolling up to market on the 71 and thought I’d catch an N to get around to the Embarcadero.  At Van Ness , I checked NextBus on my Phone, saw that there was an inbound N train underground in 3 minutes – I jumped off the bus, bounced down the stairs, and was at Hi-Dive ten minutes later. That kind of Muni-Ninjary is only possible thanks to the reliability of NextBus.

2) A week ago, I was taking a cab home from downtown, already sweating the climbing fare-counter. When I came to Cole Valley, I checked NextBus, and saw that a 6 was coming to Cole and Parnassus in two minutes.  I had the driver pull over, jumped out, and rode the bus the last mile and a half to my door.  The Cabbie didn’t wind up stuck out in the avenues, and I saved four bucks.

3) When I’m at school practicing, I’ll frequently finish, pack up, then check NextBus and see that I have 17 minutes or so until my next bus arrives. So I’ll use that time to play piano, rather than walking out and waiting on Haight with the British tourists and the pee and the Road Warriors.

4) When I go anywhere that requires meeting someone on the way downtown, we can use NextBus to coordinate our schedules, and they can get onto a bus that I’m already on. Very cool.

5) Whenever Jaegle and I go to get burritos at Papalote, we check to see when the 43 is coming by so that we time the run – we’ll grab our burritos, hop the bus, and be back to her place in time for Idol. It is a flawless system, and we have it down to a science – all of which would not be possible without Nextbus.

6) Ever since the corner store on my block closed, my roommates and I have to go down to Kirkham and hit Roxy whenever we need snacks, beer, or other groceries.  It’s three blocks downhill, and not really that convenient – however, thanks to NextBus, I can pull off the following move: Check the outgoing and ingoing 6 schedule, do the math (a beer/chips/tomato run requires about 4 minutes between buses). I’ll then hop the bus down, pick up what I need, jump out the door and, with a minimum of waiting, catch the 6 going back up.  Thanks to Nextbus, Grocery runs can take about eight minutes total – it’s like having a chairlift running up and down our hill.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Please disregard my previous complaining. Technology can make us more scattered, and mastering it can be stressful, but on the whole, it is a wonderful thing. As my friend Anne pointed out, knowledge can be dark, horrible fruit – I’d add that it can also greatly expedite the purchasing of delicious burritos.

The Dark Side of NextBus

11 Feb

Or at least, sometimes it FEELS like this...

I swear, I’m no longer certain that NextBus is an entirely good presence in my life.

For those who don’t live in SF, NextBus (or, NextMUNI), is an online service that lets users know when to expect the next bus on a certain line to arrive at a given stop.  You can access it on your computer or your cell phone, and the site even comes with a map that tracks buses via GPS.

It’s all very slick and convenient, particularly when you’re out and about on the town – when I first got an iPhone, mobile access to NextBus made the phone worth the purchase price all by itself.

But even if I disregard the times when the service doesn’t work properly, I’m starting to see how constant access to bus arrivals isn’t an entirely positive thing. Don’t get me wrong – on the whole, I still think it’s great, but I’ve also noticed that it’s adding a lot of stress to my daily routine.

I’m a regular MUNI-rider – I work odd hours, and most days find me doing things in various places around the city.  So, I get a hell of a lot of mileage out of knowing exactly when and where the next bus will be arriving.

But I’ve begun to notice that having that knowledge divides up my day into ten-to-fifteen minute chunks (the average length of time between buses), and that knowing when a bus is coming but being powerless to change that arrival time can be as stressful as it is convenient.

Example: I’m at home, getting ready for school, banging out a few emails and working on some  project or another. I have to run a rehearsal in 30 minutes, so I’ll check Nextbus, and will see that there is a bus coming in 3 minutes, and one in 11 minutes.  The 11 minute bus will get me to school on time, so I sit back and continue my work for a few more minutes. However, I now have that 11-minute deadline in the back of my mind, so I’m also calculating how much I can get done before I have to gather my things and get to the bus stop.

It’s a little thing, but it is also constant, and starts to add up. Say I’m at school, making some copies, and need to get downtown in a half hour. I check and see that I have 2 minutes and… 38 minutes. Shit!  I grab my things and haul ass up the hill to the stop, barely catching the bus.

Or I’m hanging out at a friend’s house and it’s getting late. Instead of letting the conversation run its course and wind down naturally, I check my phone and see that unless I want to get home at 1:30, I need to leave like NOW.  I stop mid-sentence, apologizing and saying “I gotta catch this bus,” grab my things and book it. My friends nod understandingly.

There are countless other examples of this kind of thing happening, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to notice how stressful it can be.  I’ve been living my life via NextBus for over three years now, and it’s really getting wearying.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten out of the shower, looked at the screen, seen “3 minutes,” and spent the next 2.5 minutes of my life whirling about my room like a harried Tasmanian devil, throwing on shoes and combing hair and grabbing computers and instruments and sprinting out the door.

And I know that it’s really on me – NextBus is just giving me information, and I’m the one who has to figure out how to use it. And without it, I’m sure I’d wind up standing on the corner, waiting for a bus to come, cursing under my breath and stressing out ten times more than I would if I just knew when to one was coming.

But as with many time-saving new technologies, I can’t deny that for all the waiting it saves me, the little tolls it takes on my mind can really add up.

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

This year, for the first time ever, I’m spending Christmas in San Francisco. My folks are flying in today, and Jaegle and The Genius got a tree and everything.

Have a great holiday, everyone! May your travels be safe and your destinations warm, and may they feature at least one loving animal, perhaps a bit older and creaky-er than the last time you saw him, but still very excited to see you.

I Love You, San Francisco

19 Sep

The Marina
Giants Stadium

City CarShare

Music In The Park

Stow Lake

Alcatraz

Feet In The Presidio

Just sayin’.

Jumbotronic

15 Sep

Kirk National Anthem ATT Park Jumbotron

Well, guess I can check that one off.

Dude, MUNI Totally F’ed Up Your SUV

4 Aug

Yesterday, two F-line trains collided with an SUV on Market with a fairly spectacular result. My friend Youky took this picture on her way home:

F Train Crash By Youky

No one was killed, but several people were hospitalized, and everyone was pretty freaked out – I mean, can you imagine?  One minute, you’re chilling in your SUV, listening to Talk of the Nation and waiting to turn left, and the next A GIANT FUCKING TRAIN rear-ends you and slams you forward into ANOTHER GIANT FUCKING TRAIN.  Dude.  Emotional distress!  It’s one of those things that you can’t really imagine happening until it does, and then your reaction surprises the hell out of you.  Like, you make bird sounds and pass out or start talking to Jesus or something.

And this is the second time something like this has happened in only a couple weeks (not to mention other reports that have gone unexplained)?  Sheeit.  I’m usually one to defend MUNI operators from the scorn and frustration that is constantly heaped upon them, but damn, guys, maybe it’s time to step up the training and make your protocols more strict.

Some further thoughts on MUNI – pros, cons, etc:

Pro: My Phone tells me where to catch a bus, and when it’s coming, but Con: sometimes it’s lying, leaving me not only stranded, but feeling betrayed (notoriously with the 6 at the start of the line, and with the 43 anywhere).

muni_logo_4229Pro: MUNI has a really cool logo, but Con: the bus interiors are usually so marked up by sharpie-weilding middle-schoolers that the asthetics of my bus-riding experience are, on the whole, pretty negative.

Pro: 90% of the time, it works every time, bus drivers are totally attentive, stop when they should, and even wait a sec for me if I’m running to catch the bus, but Con: 10% of the time, they act as cruel arbiters of fate, leaving me in the dust, or worse, once  I’m aboard, ignoring my requests to get off and depositing me a mile and a half from where I requested a stop, groceries and saxophone in hand.  (It was the 44, the driver pulled onto Laguna Honda, it majorly sucked).

Con: They just raised the fare by 33%, but Pro: the monthly passes are pretty colors.

Pro: MUNI gets me from home to school (and downtown) really quickly, but Con: sometimes it kills people.

Hmm, pretty much a wash? Trending negative? I’m beginning to think that my rosy relationship with the 6 Parnassus is making me view MUNI much more favorably than I probably should – the fact that I never have to ride the trains, commute during rush hour, or deal with huge double-buses like the 38 or the 49 hopelessly skews my view of SF public transportation towards the positive. Maybe I’ll just get a bike and try to ride in the park as much as possible.  I don’t think that the buses go down there, so I’ll be safe.

My MUNI Passes

For all your online MUNI-related needs, I highly recommend checking out the outstanding MUNI Diaries.

Midwestern Summer Night’s Dream

28 Jul

Don’t worry, this post isn’t devoted to the content of my dreams last night or anything (though they were pretty crazy – copy-editing was involved), just a reflection on the absolute gorgeousness of summer in the midwest. Today I’m returning home from my second summer trip through/over America – from the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn to the quiet breeze of west St. Paul (sheesh, sounds like a Jeffry Eugenides novel or something) and I thought I’d reflect for a sec. For all the words spilled on the grandeur and beauty of the Pacific Northwest, there really is no more beautiful place than the midwest in the summertime.

Minnesota Sky

Long, rolling landscapes stretch as far as the eye cares to see, the sky full of huge, puffy clouds, windows thrown open to allow the air in… aah! Long evenings spent outside in short sleeves are something we experience with a depressing infrequency in San Francisco, and they make me profoundly nostalgic.

I wonder if there’s a place in the world where the climate combines the temperateness of San Francisco with the summer evenings of the midwest? And then, after wondering that, I roll my eyes and kick myself, because jeez, dude, way to just never be satisfied.

Anyway, today marks the return to San Francisco; back to regular blogging, preparing for the big Rickshaw show on September 3rd, starting work on a music video, writing charts for the kids for next year, and probably a whole slew of other things as yet unanticipated. Heeeeere comes August!

MInnesota Flower

The Many Bowls of 1778 9th Avenue

7 Mar

It’s a common problem: large groups of people cohabit, roommates come and go, and after a few years, dish accumulation reaches mind-boggling levels.  It can be confusing for everyone – which bowl goes where?  How should they be washed? And which one is best used for pasta?  For cereal? How about ice cream?

Here at Richie’s Field Guides, we feel your pain!  That’s why we’ve written this, our 2009 Field Guide to the seventeen distinct species of bowl indigenous to the kitchen at 1778 9th Avenue.

bowls

1. Small Red Bowl, Asian Design.

  • # in Cupboard: 4
  • Primary Uses: Small fruit salad, Crackers or nuts for party.
  • Identifying Characteristics: Small, Plastic, Ethnic, Part of larger set

2. Inverted Pyramid Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 2
  • Primary Uses: Medium fruit salad, Asian noodle dishes
  • Identifying Characteristics: Odd shape, Not good for cereal

3. Standard White Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 2
  • Primary Uses: Large Cereal Bowl, Soup Bowl
  • Identifying Characteristics: Good shape, weird yellow ring in basin

4. White Saucer

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Veggies, Non-liquid materials
  • Identifying Characteristics: Not exactly a bowl

5. Large Brown Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 3
  • Primary Uses: All-purpose, Cereal, Popcorn, Soup
  • Identifying Characteristics: Sturdy, Gets really hot in microwave

6. Standard Bowl (Purple)

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: All-purpose, size between #3 and #5,
  • Identifying Characteristics: Origins unknown, Sort of tulip-shaped

7. Wide White Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 3
  • Primary Uses: Cereal
  • Identifying Characteristics: Wide base, sturdy construction

clear-scalloped18. Scalloped Glass Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Small cereal bowl, small soup bowl, Ice cream
  • Identifying Characteristics: Fits with #11 and #16, Unique design

9. Wide Brown Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Salad, Stews, Meat Loaf (never used for this)
  • Identifying Characteristics: Recent immigrant; Shows real promise

10. Large Scalloped Glass Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Dinner Salads, Popcorn
  • Identifying Characteristics: Origins unknown, Possibly came in with #8

blue-bowl11. Small Blue Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Small cereal bowl, Small soup bowl, Small yogurt bowl
  • Identifying Characteristics: Fits with #8 and #16, Has strong moral fiber

12. Small Bowl, Plastic

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Small bowl ideal for fruit, seasonings, or chopped veggies
  • Identifying Characteristics: A plastic doppelganger of #15

13. Wide Glass Baking Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Medium-large salad, pasta, pot pies (never used for this)
  • Identifying Characteristics: Origins unknown, has lid somewhere

14. Large Green Salad Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM
  • Primary Uses: Mixing Dry Cookie Ingredients, Large Salads
  • Identifying Characteristics: Strangely sad, rarely used because of #10

white-ceramic115. Small White Ceramic Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 5
  • Primary Uses: Small bowl ideal for fruit, seasonings, or chopped veggies
  • Identifying Characteristics: A ceramic doppelganger of #12

16. Small Glass Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: 5
  • Primary Uses: Small cereal bowl, small soup bowl, small yogurt bowl
  • Identifying Characteristics: Fits with #8 and #11, shifty personality

17. Large Wooden Bowl

  • # in Cupboard: UNIQUE ITEM, not in cupboard
  • Primary Uses: Sits on table, holds fruit and garlic until it becomes rotten
  • Identifying Characteristics: Wooden, needs washing

line

At Richie’s Field Guides, we’re dedicated to giving you a quality field guide experience. We hope that this guide has been helpful!  Just keep it on your person whenever you venture into the kitchen and you’ll be spot-identifying “Small blue bowl” and “Large green salad bowl” in no time!

bowls-close-21

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