Being in San Francisco Inspires Me to…

koi stencils on haight street in san francisco…make and carry stencils.

heart stencil on haight street in san franciscoSeriously.

zines copy shop sign san franciscoTo make zines! (Granted, that doesn’t take much. The only thing I lack these days is time.)

colorful houses off haight street in san franciscoTo live in a beautiful cake.

extremely ornate house off haight street in san francisco…to live in a freaking work of art.

very very ornate house off haight in san franciscoDude.

mission-drug-poster…to make silly bullshit, make a bunch of copies, and post them everywhere.

mission-cereal-poster…to eat cereal.

golden-gate-park-rainbow-steps…to own a big rainbow staircase. In pretty much any context. I can live under it like Harry Potter, I don’t care.

golden-gate-park-musicians…to lay in the grass and talk for a while. (No, not to dance. I am not shy about dancing, not even a little, but San Francisco and I diverge in that I do not do it in the full daylight in a park. No.)

fishnet legs on haight street in san francisco…to think about Bourbon Street.

the alembic bar, san francisco…to drink cocktails made to be paired with Girl Scout cookies. One of the only regrets of my trip is that I’d already reached my booze threshold for the evening by the time we passed The Alembic. (That I reached it by splitting a couple wee pitchers of sangria at Cha Cha Cha makes it almost worth it. Almost.)

And also:

  • To drink more awesome beer. That’s a greater quantity of awesome beer, I mean – not beer of increased awesomeness. I’ve got that down. But San Francisco? Also has their beer game nailed.
  • To get a job that pays a lot more than I make now (ah, the life of a writer)
  • To be a character in Tales of the City, which I surely need to go back and finish reading

This was my fourth or fifth time going to San Francisco, and for some reason, it hit me so much closer to the heart this time. Now I get to figure out what to make of that.

Hither and Thither #28

Pew pew kitty

I’m thinking of starting a Flickr set of just cat graffiti. I see more and more of it, as if the internet sprung a leak.

Ah, yes, the Deviation Obligatoire Flickr. I’m hoping to dump a couple dozen pictures in there over the next couple of days. I’m finally making my way through Iceland! Yes, this week includes a return to Reykjavik, nostalgia (sort of) over my old commute to the Eastside, and my last thoughts about San Francisco (for now). When this goes live, I may be up to my elbows in clamming. I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost a decade and yet stuff like this still seems exotic to me. Clamming! Clam guns! Sure, northwesterners, bring it.

division squiggleA fascinating (and, of course, beautifully presented) little roundup of how one couple creates while on the road.

division squiggleI’ll be in New York at the end of April, and I hope to make it to number one on this list because… this is why New York exists. Its density allows all these unlikely things to become real and then to be supported.

division squiggleI’m not one for home improvement projects, but the painted wood in piles, the original molding, the tattered wallpaper from the chateau’s former grandeur… goddamn. I spent like ten minutes looking at this at work, wide-eyed and wondering at the world.

division squiggleAnd I’ll leave you with some worthwhile things to listen to. 99% Invisible is, of course, always worth your time, but their wonderful little look at stupid lawyer ads, laws that govern them, and the intent behind them is pretty fascinating. (Shout out to Brown & Crouppen! They’re here to help! Or so I heard like every afternoon of my entire childhood.)

Similarly, The Bugle is also always worth a listen. It makes me sad that this isn’t on the must-listen list of every smart person I know, because I’ve adored this one for years. This week’s is especially good because it walks that poignant line between mockery and some genuine sadness about how stupid people can be. The best, most lingering kind of comedy.

Sometimes You Want to Go… Where You Can Bite the Head Off a Bread Turtle

We were walking through Fisherman’s Wharf, trying to figure out exactly where we would be eating fish for our dinner. (Most of my friends are not pescetarians, but the best of them are just as fish-loving as I am.) Suddenly, my friend stopped and said, “The bread at this place always smells sooooooo good.”

I asked if he’d had it before; he confirmed he had not. I knew my mission… particularly when I saw this:

sourdough turtles in the window at boudin at fisherman's wharf in san franciscoWHAT.

So, yeah. Boudin.

boudin bakery signExcuse me: BOUDIN.

I spent three summers in a tourist town, and it left me, in the immediate aftermath, extremely leery of anything targeted at tourists. A surprise pleasure in the last few years has been giving into these tourist-oriented honeypots sometimes. Turtle bread is not for normal people. Turtle bread is for visitors.

Turtle bread is for ME.

And not only that:

sf-boudin-bearBear bread.

sf-boudin-gatorGator bread.

sf-boudin-seasons-3Seasonal bread. For Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and… January Crab Jubilee. (Of course, we all know that March is crab jubilee time.)

sf-boudin-seasons-2Cable car bread, for… funsies.

sf-boudin-seasons-3I don’t even have a remark for that last one. It’s just smart, like the bread roll wreaths at Le Panier at Pike Place Market. (Confidential to Le Panier: you need more pictures on your website. Your bread is too pretty to present solely in words.)

Soon after, we ended up splitting chowder from a bread bowl, so my turtle remained whole until I got home, when I ate it with some leftover broccoli-potato-cheese soup. My friend’s? Didn’t actually make it even a block from the bakery intact. Because yes, the sourdough at Boudin smells so good that sometimes you’re compelled to ignore the cuteness of your roll and do a full Ozzy Osbourne on your bread turtle as your friend is still digging in her bag for her camera. And that’s just as it should be.

Going Places, in Spite of Taxidermy

four barrels smiling pig nooooo

“Hey y’all!”

Go to Four Barrel.

Ask for the affogato. It’s not on the menu, but they’ll probably have it. Pay closer attention than I did when the wizard behind the counter is making it. I don’t know what she did, but something about it made it one of the finest affogatos I’ve ever had. The texture, the ice cream, the just-right slight bitterness of the espresso, even the feeling of the cup against the saucer… yes.

And as you leave, look back at the taxidermy. Look back and up, look at the pig heads, and think… why.

I will be glad when this fad passes. I’m looking at you, Smith, Linda’s, and Assembly Hall. Especially the latter, where there’s this moose head that sits at eye level next to you, mouth open as if he’s just waiting, just waiting, for his chance to interject. Shudder.

Post-script: despite all this sincere icky-poo-pooing, I must tell you that I spent a couple parts of a fine afternoon at Loved to Death, which I found fascinating. I bought two postcards and a fossilized ammonite. For some reason, the context is ok, because they know this shit is fucked and are profiting off just that. Go figure.

San Francisco’s Economic Unease, Depicted in Stupid Ads

As a regular NPR listener, I’ve gotten a pretty good earful in recent weeks about the particular fuckery and unease in San Francisco. I stayed in SoMa across from a Caltrain stop to boot, so the painful transitions going on were on my mind when I arrived.

All of that background listening did not help my friend and I make heads or tails of this baffling thing on Haight Street, near Market.

weird-ass diet coke ads on haight in san franciscoI will admit to a certain lack of sobriety in that moment (thanks, Cha Cha Cha! Love the sangria!), but that still doesn’t justify just how long we stood in front of this, trying to figure out which part was the ridiculing satire and which part came straight from some ad agency boardroom. And, beyond that, just who the fuck the real ad was trying to target here. Are they appealing to frustrated natives sick of the threat of eviction? To said trustafarians? We never figured it out.

Here’s a closer view of the artist’s addition.

satirical diet coke posters in san franciscoAt least we got the point of those.

The next day, we saw this conversation in public Sharpie not far from Dolores Park.

class-aware sharpie graffiti in the mission in san francisco“Fuck Google” was scrawled in Sharpie on another window we saw later. Shit runs thick.

On Sunday, we spotted another bank of them near the Cartoon Art Museum. (Sorry, you missed the Sandman exhibit.)

more weird diet coke ads in san franciscoI did a very cursory bit of research about these, and there’s a lot of debate about their edginess and whether they’re targeting tech people or making fun of them or both or whatever. On the one hand, I guess they’re successful in that I’m writing to you about them; on the other hand, I can’t help but think it’s shitty writing if you leave people wondering just what the fuck you’re going on about. But there are reasons I was never tempted to go into advertising, and limited patience for other people’s attempts to draw out an emotional reaction with exactly zero substance is one of them.

Also, I feel I should add here that I have had a real experience that proved conclusively that, in a desert, I will go thirsty rather than let a single drop of this fucking poison pass my lips. Barf barf barf.

Jury Duty in Seattle, March 2014

This marked my second summons in Seattle. The first one was as serendipitous as these things get: I was freshly unemployed and had no immediate prospects, meaning that being part of a jury (which I was, in the end) wasn’t a major disruption to my life. Having to tell unemployment to deduct the mighty $40 I was paid for my four days of service was a little galling, but the rest was fine. Well, except for being the alternate – that sucks, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. Otherwise, though, I’d recommend it to anyone. If you’re a person possessed of even faint curiosity, it’s a fascinating lesson in civics.

However, this time? I have a job, I am forever short on vacation time and my company doesn’t pay for jury duty, I was in the middle of finals at school, and I had an impending trip to San Francisco. The night before jury duty, I fretted myself a little sick as I thought about everything that could go wrong. A three-week civil trial. Going without a paycheck. Getting no sleep as I rushed to finish work, do homework, and keep some semblance of a life during a modern-day version of the O.J. Simpson trial. Missing my SF trip. Ruining oh my god literally everything.

Maybe you found your way here by searching “municipal court seattle jury duty service.” And if you did, I have good news for you: being called to municipal court means you have only two days in the pool, and cases generally don’t run longer than three or four days. Cheers!

You also get to experience this:

view of smith tower and downtown seattle from the municipal courtAfter the extremely patriotic video explaining everything you forgot from eighth-grade civics class, a very proud woman will tell you about her predecessor, who fought very hard for a nice place for potential jurors to rest between selections. This – THIS – is the view from the little outlet-heavy desk area in the north of that space.

And, if you’re lucky enough not to have to work, THIS is the view from the main space, where I wish I could’ve sat and read for hours.

jury room at the seattle municipal courtRight?

But maybe you were like me and many others, and jury duty fell during a real pain-in-the-ass time. I am here to tell you that there are ways to make the most of this.

By “ways,” to be clear, I mean “food.”*

il corvo seattleI put out an all-call on Facebook asking for lunch recommendations in the vicinity of the courthouse. A friend, guided by angels and with all the goodness in the world behind her, suggested Il Corvo. Holy sweet goddamn: fresh pasta with a menu that changes daily, depending on what they can get at the market.

The highest compliment I can give food is when I close my eyes so that I have one less sense to distract me from tasting what I’m eating. I did that a couple different times as I chowed down on my tagliarini in celery root, sage, and brown butter cream. If I had it to do over, I’d get the kale salad too. If I hadn’t needed to be a sober citizen of service, I would’ve gotten a little carafe of wine to go with it all. They’re only open for lunch on weekdays. Take a day off and go, if you don’t work close to 2nd and James.

And yet, after that, I still went to Piroshki on 3rd. I mean, come on.

piroshki on 3rd seattleTo be precise, I came here to grab a couple of these for class later that night. They were mighty, mighty fine. I still miss Piroshki on Broadway. I will always love you, piroshki.

On the way back to the courthouse, I walked by my favorite building in Seattle, the Arctic Building.

Arctic Building in SeattleI don’t like organizations of white men who gather to exclusively toast their success, but I do like their architecture.

So yes, you can have a fine day of jury duty. Get some good food, ogle some buildings you don’t see too often. Oh, and, uh, check out some fine art paid for by your hard-earned tax dollars.

seattle municipal court artI didn’t get picked. Indeed, I was specifically rejected from the one jury pool I was a part of, something I found confusing but weirdly pleasing. Also a relief – during voir dire, there were a lot of questions about domestic violence, victims who won’t press charges, and the implications of a black defendant facing a jury made entirely of white people, something I’d noticed and felt uneasy about. I hope to complete this life without looking at pictures of injuries in a courtroom; I’ve made it this far successfully.

I would be ok with doing it again someday, but ideally at a time when I didn’t spend an hour in bed panicking about it upsetting the tenuous balance of my life. And I hope you get to too.

*This entry would be longer, but I got released after just a day of service. Hallelujah!**

**Total lie, I would’ve just gone to Il Corvo again!

Hither and Thither #27

i heart you

The steadily growing archive of my life, over on Flickr.

division squiggleI am a sucker for things like this. It makes me think of this, which I love and should own at some point. I love the story hidden in the pretend representation of the day to day. One of the reasons I love Welcome to Night Vale too.

division squiggleAre we sure we’re not the post-apocalyptic society we keep dreaming of in books and movies? Because this suggests the grand times have passed.

division squiggleI am always a fan of Captain Awkward (to the point that they’re on the very short list of blogs and podcasts I’ve given money to*). While I adore her long, thoughtful responses, I also love these questions plucked from their search terms. Poor lambs can’t even write an email, but they get good answers anyway.

division squiggleOf course it starts with an R. OF COURSE IT DOES.

division squiggleHoneycrisp cells are twice the size of those of other apples, which accounts for their unique, pleasing texture. And now I feel justified – I think – in dropping twice the cash on these things at Trader Joe’s than I do an an also-lovely Fuji.

P.S. “Eat Like a Man”? What the great galloping fuck does that even mean? Just stop it, Esquire. And earth. All of you, now.

division squiggleIn San Francisco, I emerged from a lovely speakeasy-style bar with a penchant for blending unlikely boozes together (whiskey and gin? other combinations I can’t remember? sure, let’s do it) and had a fierce need for 1 am food. Little did I know that, from my position near Union Square, I was near like a dozen different options for late-as-fuck food, including Indian, diner fare, and other things that form a pleasant haze in my memory. I do love Seattle, though not entirely faithfully; even so, one of the things I’ve always lamented is our relative lack of 24-hour food. Sure, Capitol Hill has Lost Lake now, but we still lag behind.

However, we do have a few things. Here they are. Clip and save.

division squiggleSooooo, between the end of the quarter and darting down to San Francisco for the weekend, I’ve missed a couple link roundups. What this means, though, is a delicious pile of excellent listening I can confidently recommend to you.

Man, 99% Invisible is weekly now, and it’s just the tits. Here are things you may not have realized you were curious about: tunnels under the Berlin Wall, an island named after Busta Rhymes, and a shape you’ve seen a million times and have possibly never thought much about.

A friend recommended A Way with Words to me some time ago; I have, as you have probably gathered, a very full roster of podcasts, so I’m only just getting into it. But from the first moments of this episode, when they talked about the most beautiful word in Icelandic, to when they answered a call with, “You’ve got a way with words,” oh, they had me. They had me good.

I skip the reruns of This American Life about half the time now, as I’ve listened to enough of it at this point that I’ve likely heard it before. However, though I have heard episode 206 before, I listened again. It’s such a hilarious, weird distillation of this very particular kind of microsociety and how very much rests on all of those averaged-21-years-old shoulders. Episode 520 is one of their scattershot collections of stories hung on a loose theme. I was in from the first story, when you get to hear a Calgary resident discover that a distinct point of local pride is shared by at least 100 other towns and cities. The last story has led to a surprising number of conversations about toast in my life this week.

*Others: This American Life, Snopes, the Escape Artists podcasts, Shakesville.

Knuckles-Deep in Crab, Salty’s

If you have lived somewhere for a certain amount of time – enough time to feel like you “know” a place, that your little grooves are getting so smooth and deep that you think that’s what it means to live – I recommend befriending someone new to the area. You’ll get the chance to be some kind of magical city concierge by recommending a whirlwind of beer bars, veg restaurants, public art, and whatever else. And you’ll get a chance to back the hell up and experience the standards you’ve somehow skipped.

That is how I recently ended up at Salty’s in West Seattle. For the first time. “Oh, how long are you visiting?” the waiter said when I told him I’d never been before. “Nine-and-a-half years so far,” I replied.

I’ve had Salty’s on my list as a place for brunch the next time one of my parents visited, and it will surely end up on the itinerary when the time comes again. But fortunately, I ended up there before that came to pass. And fortunately, I got to consume… this:

bag o' crab at salty's in west seattleContents: two sides of crab legs, two perfect potatoes, one half-ear of corn, three shrimp, dream fodder for the next four years.

And your tools? These:

crab cracker and tiny fork at salty's in west seattleNot pictured, because I was too enraptured by crab: a WOODEN MALLET.

So part of the joy is that you’re in this semi-swanky restaurant with panoramic freaking views of Seattle’s most flattering angle. Ok? There’s that. (Also $3 wine that night, mmmm.)

The other part? Being in that semi-swank environment… and then going knuckles-deep into a crab leg. Look around, and you’ll see dozens of other people doing the same thing. Couples old and new, laughing as a piece of shell goes flying. Or in the case of our table, three women reveling in how we found any messiness going on to be purely and completely awesome. We egged each other on as we poked and smashed and cracked. We dipped crab in the garlic butter using only our fingers. We could have used extra hot towels at the end.

Seattle is a great place to be a pescetarian. That night at Salty’s is a prime example of why I am one, rather than purely vegetarian.*

So go, be messy with friends, whether it’s in Seattle’s number-one locale for brunch for visiting parents… or around a giant steamer pot in your own damn kitchen. Bonus points if you catch stuff yourself.

But that’s another entry, due in another week or so. Two words: clamming gun.**

*Vegan, of course, means no cheese. Vegan is right out.


Everybody to Dolores Park

holy crap dolores parkThere’s a quality that places I like have in common, and that is gratitude when the going is good. In Boston, I saw it in the pale, uncovered bodies that would starfish across the grass in the Boston Common and the Public Garden when the sun emerged and the temperature began its first languorous reach toward 60 degrees. It happens in Seattle too – the weather gets juuuuust good enough, and there’s suddenly a preponderance of sunbathers in Cal Anderson and kayakers in Lake Union.

San Francisco has it easier than us in the winter, I think (or it did in the very last days of it last weekend), but even if this day wasn’t remarkable, it was sure as shit seized. Look at that. When we first walked up to Dolores Park, I looked around for the stage, because I’ve never seen a park crowd like this that wasn’t summoned by some kind of music festival. But no: it was sun, and blankets, and picnics, and the joy of being a bit stoned under the sun (overheard: “Could I light my joint off your joint?”), and the very real pleasure of being in a small grassy area with a bunch of people who came there for the same reason as you.

Here’s my park plan for you, which I recommend because it worked for me. Set out into the city, aiming for burritos. Get waylaid when you pass, by happenstance, an HONEST-TO-GOD ZINE STORE. Buy the new Optic Nerve and a copy of Murder Can Be Fun, restricting yourself to that for the sake of next month’s rent. Keep on going; get in a long line for a burrito at Taqueria Pancho Villa. Be very very clear if you don’t want meat – and you probably only need a baby burrito, not a regular one. Take that and your quickly sweaty cup of horchata (or bottle of Jarritos, if you swing that way) and wander to Dolores Park.

Gasp at the crowds, and spend a long moment wondering if maybe you should find some other grassy incline to recline on in some less-popular park. Spot a shady patch under some shedding palm trees; go for it. Smile at the bold woman in the bikini and the fuchsia party hat. (Later, you’ll see her in that same getup in the portapotty line; your amusement will be replaced by concern.) Smile at the guy sitting, clad all in black in the full sun, playing the quietest accordion in the world, like he was transported from 1920s France, but his sound was left behind.* Say no thank you to the well-shod woman in the black-and-white dress who offers you brownies from her basket. (Your companion may chide you for telling the woman selling pot brownies to go away, so don’t answer too fast.) Discuss how curiously European the whole scene is, down to the unconcealed alcohol. It’s all so very civilized.

I hadn’t been to San Francisco in about three-and-a-half years; too long, and I forgot (or never fully discovered) just how much I like it there and why. For me, it has the variety and intensity of New York with the, I don’t know, West Coastiness of the West Coast. Ambition and groundedness. Or so it seemed on the Muni as I spent my time staring at people, as I always do.

That afternoon, we saw men with tiny dogs, and we saw families with children who will grow up to be weird and worthwhile. Young women in full flower having very good days that will warm them in their dotage. A woman in a stellar brown dress selling cookies (“Pot-free,” she quickly assured us) and Rice Krispy treats from a basket.** And this guy:

ukulele seller in dolores parkSo far as I’m concerned, this guy is freaking Merlin. He brought his bag… of rainbow ukuleles… to Dolores Park… for all to purchase and enjoy. Canonize this man.

So go to Dolores Park. Or go to Cal Anderson Park, Volunteer Park, Central Park, Forest Park. The beach. Find a warm-enough day and go outside where the people are and remember what it is to be a person, the same way pets only know themselves when they have another animal to play off of. We are made for the sun and grass, and for being next to people we love on a grassy hill on a day with a fine breeze and a faint, persistent smell of high-quality California weed.

And always, always buy something from the woman with the basket.

*Or maybe he traded his accordion’s voice to the sea witch for legs, I dunno.

**It’s a killer business model and a pleasure to behold once, let alone twice.

Spring Break at Age 30.93

I have been looking forward to this fortnight for two months. Through class and projects and presentations and weekends and evenings full of meetings and analyzing data and ALL OF IT.*

So here we are. What am I going to do? Well, here’s what I’ve been fantasizing** about.

  • Reading
  • Reading at a tea shop
  • Working on my novel again
  • Coming home from work or dance class and just flopping on the floor and staring at the ceiling
  • Reading
  • Writing a million blog entries

It’s that last one that leads me to report this here. You’ll notice it’s been quiet lately; I don’t like it either, but I’m about to sort it out. I still have another quarter left, so it’s not likely to be the last quiet time… but I’m going to chase the echoing silence away for a while, at least.

That’s for tomorrow. For today, for you, I have promises. And also this picture of the orange peels left after some fruit experienced the Rapture next to Bobby Morris field.

two orange peels, empty, in Bobby Morris Field in Seattle

*In the hours outside of my regular-person job, I mean. To be clear.

**No, seriously, this stuff has been the fodder for flights of fancy for some weeks now. Spring break is different when you’re moving into the middle part of adulthood.