Off the Top: San Francisco Entries

March 5, 2012

Experiencing Light

Yesterday, Saturday the 3rd of March in San Francisco I had been out in the Richmond District revisiting my old haunts (to old friends, yes I was on Clement street on Saturday driving but it seems to have improved). I went by Green Apple Books, where I may have spent months of my life (it is my 3rd favorite bookstore anywhere, with Powell's in Portland holding the top rung). The mix of new and used and the nooks and crannies that hold great potential to open new doors of understanding are a real gem. I also wandered into Haaigs Deli and Spice where I used to buy bags of spice and loose leave tea to savor.

Comparatively, in and around Washington, D.C. things are far more transient and ephemeral in the community space than in San Francisco. Yes, there is history to no end in and around D.C., but but stores and communities drift with the winds. This 30 minute walk back through places that were core parts of my life and being in San Francsico has changed so very little. The crafts people as store keepers and business people has endured. I was back at home and not wanting to leave that comfort and connectedness to what was and still is. It reminded me of a great piece in the SF Chronicle/Gate from 2003 about the repair of the San Francisco Ferry Building clock. It was such a great San Francisco story of history, craft, and individuals having a part of the whole community fabric. As well the clock was built to continue working for over a thousand years. It is there to count the minutes of more than a thousand years of history, personal moments, booms and busts, and other general and momentous passages through time.

At about 5:20 p.m. (17:20 for clarity) I got back in my car (er, was my mom's) and started driving out Clement into the sun toward the beach to see the 20s street crossings of Clement Street that also held a lot of wonderful moments from the past. From there I turned and went over to California Street to drive back downtown to meet friends for dinner.

As I was driving in the bright clean clear increasingly golden sun was going down slowly behind me. The lighting was the most incredible light I have experienced. It was warm, golden, engulfing, and made everything radiant. It was the embodiment of the golden glow. And all of this was incredibly moving to the point of loving everything great and glorious about everything in life: people, architecture, nature, all made and natural, and all real and imagined. It was that kind of light. A perfect moment lasting through the golden shadows created by the hills all the way down to the end of California Street.

As I reached the end I really had been wishing I had my camera with me to stop and see if I could capture the glory of this light and the crisp blue skies wrapping this beautiful city. But, I remembered a great snippet of conversation I had in Berlin with Malcolm McCollough about reading after he signed his book, Digital Ground, I had read and jammed with PostIts sticking out the edges like a fuzzy caterpillar and highlighted extensively. We talked about the problem of reading a book like that and wanting to read it straight through to have the flow and understanding, but also to read with highlighter and paper snippets in hand so to capture the things I really want to hold on to [there is no good way to read it twice as it has unfolded already and what struck once with significance may not again]. Malcolm stated that was his problem with going to cities for the first time, but rather than an highlighter it is the camera to document and capture the city (which is how I often meet and get to know a city) and he opts to just experience. For that 20 minute stretch yesterday I had no camera with me that could capture the ephemeral qualities of light that were escaping, but my only choice was to live and experience it. I did possibly like no other stretch of time before. There was glory built into that time, woven with history of personal and collective all woven and washed in amazing light.

January 24, 2006

Bay Area Trip Jan 30 to Feb 1

A real quick note: I will be in the Bay Area Monday, January 30th through Wednesday, February 1st. Want to get together, please send me an e-mail.

January 23, 2005

Back from SF

I am back home from San Francisco and I arrived home to 4 or 5 inches of freshly fallen snow. Yesterday I was sitting outside at overlooking the Bay Kelly's Mission Rock (freshening the sun block) and chatting with a friend while driving around in his convertible. I love my season's, but this really was tough. Although the temperature today was not as bad as the 14 degrees and windy at 4am on Thursday morning when I left.

I had a great trip, but it was far too short. It was the most crazy intense (in the most wonderful way) two days I have spent in a long time. I spent a lot of time on the freeways around the Bay Area, which allowed me to witness the Rollerball tactics of the CHiPs as they briefly stop traffic around a stalled vehicle or accident to push the accident out of the freeway and seem to gesture, "Game On" and all the cars resume their 85 mile per hour pace.

I finally had time to sit down face-to-face with friends and people I have been e-mailing and chatting with for a while to get some things done a little more quickly, as well as just put wonderful faces to the digital shell I had known. I am not sure who invented in person face-to-face interaction technology, but they are a genius as it is such a better technology than chat, e-mail, blog comments, or even the phone. So much gets done and it is such a broad channel of communication with all the non-verbal. There is so much energy that does not get conveyed in the electronic medium.

I will have to say I did more text messaging in two days than I have in quite some time. But, I also talked on the phone more in two days than I have in three months (other than with family).

Thank you to everybody I got to see on this trip, you made it wonderful. I am really sorry for not getting to see as many people as I would have liked as my time was jam packed from morning to night. One way or another there should be more trips.

May 3, 2004

Accounting for Abscense

It is good to be back in our house, but a large part of me has not quite caught up as it is still out West, home. We had a great trip visiting family in Washington and California and some friends in the San Francisco Bay area. The only thing that would have improved it would have been more time to see more friends and better soak in the community. We were very happy to see our friends and family that we did and we wished we could see them more often.

The trip was a great trek with Will, who turned seven months just before we left. For a relatively little guy compared to us adults he sure has a lot of stuff. He was a real trooper on the plane flights out West, then to California (he seemed somewhat amazed at what he could see looking down outside the window as we flew over Mount Shasta as he was look left stare down and press his head to the window then spin 45 degrees right and do the same), and then back East. He seemed to make everybody smile in the airport and on the streets has he practiced his waving and smiling every chance he got.

When we got to California it was just plain hot. It was in the mid-90s in the Central Valley and we were sweating and dreaming of the cool San Francisco air. When we arrived in SF (after lunch in Oakland at Zachary's Pizza for a fantastic deep dish) it was still 91 degrees. I only had heavy jeans, dress khakis, and heavy cargo pants. I was so disappointed in what the locals called amazing weather. As soon as we checked in the hotel and got Will napping I headed out for some lighter pants or shorts. We had a great location in a wonderful hotel in the Financial District, the Park Hyatt was a great place to stay with Will as the staff went out of their way to be accommodating and we had nearly every amenity right out our door in the Embarcadero Center and surrounding streets.

We became more awake the longer we were out West as Will took quite a while to adjust to the time and kept us waking on East Coast time until Thursday. We took advantage of staying in the heart of the City by walking up through Union Square on Wednesday and then saw my old neighborhood and had lunch at Cha Cha Cha after cruising Noe Valley, which provided my old Spinelli blends from Tulley's.

Our way back to the Central Valley we stopped at St. Mary's College to take a very quick peek at the changes, cruised through Walnut Creek to see the catalog outdoor mall it has become, and to Lafayette for dinner.

April 3, 2004

Missing the Bay Area

It is a sad state of affairs these days. They say, "home is where the heart is". Well I have a few homes. One home is San Francisco and The Bay Area. I have not been to the Bay Area since September 2001, when I was granted a slightly longer stay than I had originally planned.

I will be back later this month to refresh my feelings for my old home and the area where I was born. I have still spent more of my life in Northern California than any other area, but my roots are growing weak and that bothers me.

Today I came across San Francisco magazine on the bookstore shelf. I thumbed through it and recognized very little. This is the first time I have had this feeling. I do not get this feeling with New York, as New York is ever fresh in my mind. I really want to get my familiarity back with my beloved Bay Area. Currently I fear I will feign recognition, like a childhood friend you meet at an airport and have to quizzically ask if it really them.

I have a lot of catching up to do with the Bay Area. I want the soil under my nails, foggy breeze in my hair, soft bright light in my eyes, and cacophony of creative sounds in my ears. I miss the drives from San Francisco to Moraga or Palo Alto in the summertime to get warm sunshine on my face to break the foggy evenings. I miss the wondrous food at every turn. I miss the creative can do spirt with just enough irreverence to pulse the blood as if everything were a new experience. I miss the sharing of passion of life and work among friends and acquaintances. I desire to travel the shelves of Green Apple Books, breakfast at the Pork Store in the Haight (and peer out their bathroom window into my old backyard), grab a deep dish pizza from Zachary's in Berkeley, and see great friends.

December 27, 2003

Not Everybody in California Smokes Pot

Two men in Marin County started arguing after exchanging Christmas gifts. The spat turned ugly when they each grabbed a flower pot and hit the other on the head.

June 17, 2003

San Francisco fixes a landmark and discovers a hidden gem

In the midst of all this new fangled technology and its joy and complication is a story of the San Francisco Ferry Building clock getting repaired. The story and photos are wonderful and bring to heart a piece of San Francisco I dearly miss. I miss a lot about living in and about San Francisco, but there are gems tucked away in the city, much like the clock repair shop, that have an old world charm and feel.

The Washington, DC area is missing much of this tangible work feel. There is a violin repair shop here in Bethesda that has this touch of reality, but many of these places are missing as are the neighborhood that surround these shops. New York is filled with these neighborhoods and tangible trade shops. Many of the operations in the DC area have moved out to the suburbs and strip malls next to tire stores and muffler repair shops in newish stucco boxes built with out character.

When I lived and worked in San Francisco I would take vacation days to get to know San Francisco better. I would choose a neighborhood, sometimes my own (Haight Ashbury and inner Richmond) and spend the day walking, seeing, and hearing the pulse of the neighborhood. I truly enjoyed North Beach as it would take me right to Europe by hearing Italian spoken in shops and apartment windows, the smell of Molinari's, seeing laundry drying on a line between apartment buildings, and having a late morning espresso before lunch. The small stores and shops create the character of the neighborhood and the neighborhoods in San Francisco are distinct and often including small streets with privately owned shops. There was no confusing Clement Street, Haight, North Beach, the Mission, Noe Valley, the Castro, nor many of the other neighborhoods in San Francisco. Each of these areas has their own distinct character and their own hidden gems.

March 2, 2003

It is Giants time again

I realized it was time for baseball again as my cell phone received the results from the San Fransicso Giants and the Cubs first Spring Training game. The message came while I was in a meeting and the phone started vibrating on the desk. I guess the phone is just preparing its SF Giants dance. I used to call the summer &nacho season& as I only knew of runny yellow cheese nachos piled high with jalepeneo peppers during baseball season.

Take me out to the ballgame... (San Francisco preferably)

March 1, 2003

Depressed about not going to SXSW

I am a very bummed as I will not be going to SXSW Interactive this year. Things were not working out as there were too many things here going on and I will be away speaking at the ASIS IA Summit and attending the IA Leadership Summit

I am upset about SXSW as it is a wonderful learning experience and reassuring experience. SXSW has always provided the confirmation that I am on the right track as well as show where I can improve. SXSW provides a great social environment to not only learn in the sessions, but hang out with folks like yourself. The panels, which have just recently been fully fleshed out, seem to be some of the best in years (had this been out even a week ago I would have said screw it and gone).

I will greatly miss my frieds that I usually only see at SXSW and learn immense amounts.

April 27, 2002

Bethesda gets a Landmark theater

Wahoo, Bethesda gets a Landmark theater, which means foreign and independant films are going to be with in walking distance. Landmark usually restores historic theaters, but in this instance they have built a new property. That whole area is now hopping on weekend nights.

I am a fan of Landmark. I had many great nights in Landmark theaters in San Francisco and the East Bay. Washington, DC had the Key theater, but even with that I missed the wonderful Landmarks of the Bay Area. Now there is great hope.

January 29, 2002

Things are messed up when the daytime high temperature in Washington, DC is 15 degrees higher than Palm Springs. On January 29th, mind you. We have been sleeping with the windows open in January and it is still a little too warm at night. Then only to find out it snowed in Northern California and many, many, many people caught it on film and/or wrote about it. This is disturbing for me as I love the seasons and really like Winter, only after Fall. I left San Francisco in 1993 tired of eternal Spring. Now what on earth is this.

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