Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Snow in the park and a jungle in Noe.

On my way to the weekly skating event in the park last Sunday, I spied what appeared to be a wide strip of packed snow on the grass. Nobody seemed to be using it for sledding/sledging purposes save for a few dogs. Instead, people were milling about just sort of looking at the snow as if it were going to start performing tricks. Who put the snow there? It certainly didn't come to the park naturally. The last time it snowed in SF was 1976, if I remember correctly.

The above house is one I walk by in Noe Valley on a fairly regular basis. It makes me think of Rousseau & I so enjoy looking at it. The other day, I finally snapped a picture of it to show you all. Apropos picture, I never ever see anyone out front taking photographs, so I suppose this lovely house is not yet in any of the SF guide books. When it does make the guides, there will probably be hoards out front snapping pics like they do in front of the houses on Steiner aka the Painted Ladies. Or maybe folk don't dig Rousseau as much as I do?

Saturday, December 9, 2017


My cousin sees a therapist & raves about her. He knows that I've been looking for therapy services since moving home from Europe, so he gave me her phone no. I think he thought I would be able to see her professionally, but, of course, that would be a conflict of interest. I thought, maybe, she'd be able to refer me to someone in the area, so I gave the therapist a call.

It turns out my cousin's therapist is based in Marin Co., and has very few contacts here in the city. She knew of one guy here, but other than his working where I live, I couldn't figure out why she gave me his info. His specialty is addiction & that is not my problem. I called him anyway. We chatted briefly before getting around to how much he charges. Anyone wanna take a guess?

He charges $250.00 per session. The guy made sure to stress twice that he's been 'doing this' for thirty years. Okay, but that doesn't make you good at it, and I'll certainly never know.

There was a woman who my cousin's therapist thought would be a good fit for me, but she works in a city that is about 30 miles from where I live. It's a long drive made longer by our now constant traffic snarls, and made more annoying by a seven dollar bridge toll. I love the Golden Gate Bridge, but fuck that toll.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Mental Map

When I was a study-abroad-student in Germany some twenty years ago, I took a German culture class. One of our student exercises was to create what the teacher called a 'mental map' of Germany based solely on what we thought we knew about the place. We were discouraged from attempting to draw an accurate map with city and state boundaries, but instead were told to focus on illustrating our preconceived notions & ideas. Most of the students created maps that included drawings of sausages and huge glasses of beer.

Our teacher, on the other hand, was a 68er & had come of age during a time of great political and social upheaval. Her map included the RAF, not to be confused with the Royal Air Force, a Swastika, and the former DDR replete with a drawing of a wee Trabbi.

Demo in Hamburg, 1968. 

A couple of years back, I found myself at an art show at the Oakland Museum of California. There was a gal there selling prints of her watercolors and oils. I was particularly taken with her rendering of Australia, a country where my English ancestors moved to before coming out to California in the 1910s. The Australia piece was meant as a gift for her mother who hails from Australia and contains all the things that her mother holds dear about the place in which she grew up. I thought it looked like a 'mental map' of sorts and was immediately reminded of the exercise from 20 years prior. I bought the print.
Here it is--

I just spent about 3 minutes, and it shows, on drawing a mental map of my homestate of California. Don't laugh! (Well, not too loudly...)

If you're up for the challenge, then I'd be keen to see what sort of mental maps you all could come up with regarding where you're from or where you live now. Nothing is out-of-bounds save for a lack of imagination. :)

Monday, November 20, 2017

Bison in San Francisco?

Our gals in the park, 2017.
Bison skulls to be ground into fertilizer.
Yes, there are bison in Golden Gate Park, but why? In the 1890s, the buffalo were brought to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for captive breeding purposes. By the 1880s, wild bison were nearly extinct as they had been hunted for hides, meat and export purposes. It was estimated that the number of bison had dwindled to approximately 1000 by 1889. The captive breeding program at Golden Gate Park helped to boost their numbers. Over the ensuing decades, various conservation efforts have brought the North American bison population back into the hundreds of thousands. The breeding program at Golden Gate Park ended some decades ago, and the current bison residing at the paddock are all female. I'm told that they're a calm bunch, but I'm glad to visit them with a fence separating us. 

Here's a picture of the park bison grazing with deer 'al fresco' in 1944. -wonder if my Dad or Uncle remembers visiting them?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Working with wee ones

I subbed as an Assistentin in a German class for younger children this past week. It was my first time working in that capacity & I was both thrilled and nervous at the prospect.

Fortunately, the class was taught by a seasoned teacher who had a fairly tight lesson plan to carry us through the day. My only challenge was when it came to 'game time'. I was slated to play a couple of different games with the children. I should have taken time during the lunch break to read over the games' rules, but hadn't thought to do so until it was too late. One of the games played is, I think, found only in the German language game market (so wholly unfamiliar to me), and the other was a version of Bingo geared toward little'uns. All went fairly well with the first game. I did have to sort of periodically have the kiddies move back into sitting in a circle as they kept scootching toward the board, knees & hands covering the bits we needed to play on. The two boys in the group, both a bit challenged by all the German, vied for who could be Lord of The Games. That was a little tough to manage. Driven by upset, those two devolved into speaking English which I tried to handle with humor: Wie bitte? Ich verstehe dein komisches Deutsch nicht. I finally resorted to trying to calm them both down in English. It went somewhat poorly.

I don't have kids, never baby-sat & am the youngest in my own family. To say that I don't know kids from my elbow is pretty spot on. I did, however, work with teens in German Switzerland for a little over a year before moving back to the states a couple of years ago, so that experience was sort of a good foundation for the Kinder class. I am able to guide the kiddies in book work, be encouraging & be somewhat spontaneous. Spontaneity is key when working with wee ones.

I have one more fill-in gig slated for next week. I hope to be better prepared if given 'game duty' again.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wings and wheels.

California Fritillary

At a gig in South City yesterday, I watched this California Fritillary absolutely gorge itself on Lantana. I have the very same flowering plant on my back patio, but can't get a butterfly to come a-calling to save my life. Having spent time looking through a lamenated pamphlet of California butterfly species while docenting at the Butterfly exhibit, I knew this species to be a type of Fritillary, but didn't think its range extended beyond wild hillsides. South San Francisco is not really known for its natural beauty, to be honest. (Sorry, SSF!)

Autumn in Golden Gate Park

Church of Eight Wheels

After my butterfly gig on Sunday morning, I traipsed over to the unofficial skate rink just down the road, skates in hand, literally ready to roll. The patch of pavement enjoyed by roller boogie types, skate novices & pros, inlineskaters, and the occasional cyclist is usually packed out. Maybe the cool fall temperatures kept some enthusiasts away. There was more than enough room to go around in a circle without worrying about bumping a fellow skater.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, the more able skaters, led by our host (seen in the above shot with yellow, furry leggings & in top hat) perform the dance from Michael Jackson's Thriller video. The grass around the track usually fills up & out come the camera phones. I'm not savvy enough to do the Thriller dance, but am on-hand for a bit of roller boogie shuffle that happens as well. It's a hoot.

After three hours of wheeling like a madwoman around the track with only a few pauses, walking back to my car felt awfully weird. It was like I couldn't plant my feet solidly on the ground. My body must have expected to be up on wheels still.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

SF meander, crepes, city recycling

Palace of Fine Arts, the only set of structures surviving from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Expo held in San Francisco.

The above photo was shot on a day that I inadvertently locked myself out of the house & was forced to roam the streets of SF. I had taken my car in for a tune-up one morning, and, thinking I'd have the car returned to me in a couple of hours, neglected to take my house keys with me for the day. As it turned out, the car wasn't ready for pick-up until 4.30 in the afternoon. This fact led to my taking a series of bus rides around town, going on a few sweaty walks along the Embarcadero & through the Marina, and taking this shot of one of my favorite spots to visit here in San Francisco.

None of the structures built for the Expo were meant to last, and, indeed, all but the above ones were demolished after the Expo closed. I can't recall why the Palace of Fine Arts was spared the same fate, but I can tell you that the building materials purposely did not withstand the test of time, and the Palace and attendant structures were rebuilt using more robust materials in the 1960s. The grounds of this place are both a favorite wedding spot & a place to have wedding photos shot. Women in white gowns and tuxedoed men are to be seen here pretty much every weekend throughout the spring months. There's a sort of 'fairytale' feel to the place during that time.

Rebekka, making a galette.

Over the weekend, I worked with a dear friend of mine at her crepe stand at a local farmers' market. One of her workers couldn't make it to work, for some reason, so I was able to jump in & help. All in all, it was a mellow day with just enough custom to keep things interesting. We were sandwiched between a ramen joint & a dude selling goat meat tacos, I think. The ramen guy, an American married to a Japanese woman, was super cool, and, as I had just visited Japan in August, we traded stories about what it's like for a gaijin visiting Japan.

Watching Rebekka work can be mesmerizing. When she's slammed, the three griddles are going at once. She's cracking eggs, sprinkling toppings, folding and turning crepes at such a pace that it can all look very complicated. I work the cash box, but she'll have me salt and pepper the galettes when needed. Patrons usually stand in front of her watching, commenting, and, sometimes, taking pictures. It's good fun.

Working with her also reminds me just how many French folk live here, and, of course, how many crepe-happy Americans & Francophiles as well.

The owner of this wheeled cart is out of shot looking through the bins. The woman in the background is performing some sort stretching exercise. 

Current stats show that the Asian population of San Francisco is around 35%. Of that number, approximately 21% are Chinese. A rather visible number of elderly Chinese would appear to be desperately poor. Well, those who scoop recycling out of the city bins in my neighborhood look very poor. I sometimes wonder where they live as this area is not one with any fixed-income housing. Are these recycling collectors living with people who expect them to earn their keep, as it were, in this way? I don't know.

I do know that nearly a third of the Chinese in San Francisco's Chinatown live below the poverty level. Chinese from Hong Kong & the mainland somewhat regularly arrive in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's the 'first stop', if you will, for those of limited means. Those who can afford to, move out of Chinatown. Those who can't afford to move out, simply stay put. Two-thirds of the residents of Chinatown live in SROs, or single room occupany hotels. SROs are not fancy, the rooms measure around 8'x10' and the amenities are usually shared with others living on the same floor. Although SRO rooms were originally intended for single folk to inhabit, as the name would imply, families are often crowded into one room.

It boogles the mind a bit to think that one of SF's most visited tourist areas is, in many respects, a slum.

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