san francisco

PEOTUS Fixed the Drought!

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I awoke this morning to the most wonderful news:  The drought in California is, at long last, over.  There was only one person who could fix it.  And…he did!  I hereby rescind any and all written or oral statements I’ve ever made that could be viewed by my enemies as negative commentary on Messr. Trump.  Oh, and thoughts.  Any critical thoughts I may or may not have had, I disavow those too.  Actually, it doesn’t matter, because those alleged writings, verbal comments and thoughts are totally unsubstantiated.  Fake news.  Get over it, people.  Move on.  Because as of this morning, America — or at least the California part — is GREAT AGAIN!

I’m talking about the refreshed water table.  Now flush! Filled to the brim. Practically overflowing, thanks entirely to Donald Trump’s largesse.  Apparently, Mr. Trump orchestrated a wonderful climatic event in Russia awhile back, with the direct result of ending the drought here in California.  They even have a name for this sort of miraculous event — a “Golden Shower”!

And who would have thought that it would require British Intelligence to unearth Trump’s enormous contribution to righting my state’s long-standing ecological deficit?  Such modesty!  Rather than accept the well-deserved adulation, Mr. Trump humbly notes the revelation is “unsubstantiated.”  Oh Donald, there’s no need.  Like an anonymous donor writing a yuge check to a worthy charity, later discovered, please just bask in the glow of our unabashed appreciation. You have earned it, sir! 

Note: I grew up in a small town; the child of parents who grew up in smaller towns.  Arguably a bit of a Podunk kind of guy.  So I confess that “Golden Shower” is not a regularly occurring phrase in my lexicon.  And it’s been a busy morning in our household, so I haven’t had a chance yet to cruise around Wikipedia. Urban Dictionary.  Really get up into the etymology of it.  The way I like to when stumbling on a new and interesting turn of phrase.  I’ll get to that work right after my PEOTUS’ press conference. 

In the meantime, thank you, Mr. Trump, for the Golden Shower!  On behalf of my fellow Californians, thank you!   

Thanks for reading. 

The Sky Is Cryin’.

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It’s not exactly “Snowzilla,” “Snowpocalypse,” “Jonas,” or whatever monikered meteorological phenomenon bulldozed our East Coast brethren these past few days.  But El Niño to-date has proven a persistent pain in the ass.  It’s great for the drought, in theory.  Though I’m mindful of Paul Giamatti’s thirsty gulp from the Sideways spit bucket.

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Yeah, it’s a bit like that.  Only instead of a shawl of spitty Cabernet, we end up with puddles in the garage from an unfortunately sloped driveway.  Actually, we don’t.  My wife had the forethought to pick up a half-dozen super attractive sandbags awhile back. These we’ve configured to capture and hold Lake Beadling from the rain runoff, restraining the beast from washing our flat into the Bay.  They are also a fine addition to our homestead, surely sending up the value of our home on Zillow considerably. 

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The sandbags have been in place for so long now, I forget they are there.  So each time I back the Prius out of the driveway,  hyper focused imagining getting t-boned by a speeding SUV, the sandbag speed bump spikes my adrenaline, as I assume for a split-second that I have run over our dog.  I have fallen for this trick at least a dozen times.  Probably will happen again today, too.  

I’m saying I’m weary of the incessant rain.  It keeps me out of the Bay, since swimming amidst the King Tides, storm “runoff,” and random tree-sized pier pilings holds little appeal.  It keeps me off the bike, since one ride across an unexpectedly deep puddle up to one’s ankles is one ride too many. And the dog is unhappy, too.  Her normal weekly walks are cut short. When they do happen, she’s force-marched through pelting rain. The result is that Wailea seeks thrills by eating things in the house that are not meant to be eaten. This results in X-Rays, ultrasounds, and meaty vet bills.  

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Thank you, El Niño.   The kids are fairly stir crazy as well.  All of the screens in our house are hot to the touch, streaming non-stop mind-numbing content into the boys’ (now slowly) developing dorsal anterior cingulate cortices. At least whatever area of the brain is responsible for feelings of guilt and contrition still functions in our 10 year-old —

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We’ll apply this $6.75 towards–you guessed it–our “Rainy Day Fund.”  In other words, we already spent it. Gone.  Depleted.  

Alright, time to run. On a squeaky treadmill. In the garage. Huffing on dangling and exposed puffs of fiberglass insulation.  Waiting for the dog to inadvertently clip my ankles, sending me to the human hospital as payback for the aforementioned unscheduled vet visit and belly shaving. 

No rain, no rainbows?  Thanks for reading.

Hall of Fame-Bound (Aisle 25).

I thought for sure that a cross-country Jet Blue flight would require a plane with more than just 25 rows.

No such luck.

We ended up in the last row.

I’m a glorified bathroom monitor. While the gentleman seated next to me — who is decidedly larger than I — snores unrepentantly, I count. I can’t help myself. Despite my best efforts, I cannot help but count the number of my fellow passengers who have queued up in the aisle to occupy the restrooms just behind my seat.

…16…17…18….

I haven’t noticed any repeat offenders. But if in my expert opinion a passenger queues up a second time well before he or she reasonably should, it will not go unnoticed.

I’m extra irritable due to our 4am wakeup call.

I’ve already caught myself lashing out at my wife in our Uber cab because a light on Lombard lingered red for too long. She requested we take Gough rather than take the Embarcadero. And it is clearly her fault that the Lombard stop lights are timed to facilitate Lombard traffic, not side street traffic, at 430 in the morning. Clearly her fault, I snarled.

…19…20…

I bristled while in line for $40-worth of croissants and coffee in the International Terminal. Bristled not because of the premium pricing, but because of the gentleman standing nearby, having a full-throated iPhone conversation with his earbuds in. That irked the shit out of me. My icy stares paired with a mean, flat affect produced no modification in his behavior, however.

…21…22…

I’m no good at sleep-deprivation. Pretty lousy, actually. I’m just not myself (I hope).

So yah, I will not be able to help myself from making damned sure the double-dipping restroom patron knows that I know he (or she, but probably he) is lining up for a second time. I’ll try the icy stare and cop-face again. Hopefully with better results.

…23…24…25…

It will continue like this for awhile. The Dunkin Donuts coffee I’m throwing down on the heels of the Il Fornaio airport coffee won’t improve my mood. I need a nap. But the cadence and vigor with which I just caught myself chewing my piece of take-off gum suggests that nap will not be coming any time soon.

And oh yeah, we’re headed to Cooperstown. That should be enough to lift my mood. Or at least it will be once I find that nap. And after I punish the first double-dipper.

…26…27…28….

Thanks for reading.

Back in the Saddle Again.

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One of the best things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is access to some truly fantastic road cycling. Even better if you can finagle a way to live close enough to the good stuff that you can leave the car and Thule at home. Pop up the garage door and shoot out into the street.

Fortunately, we have figured out how to so finagle. Example: While I haven’t done it in years, the ride to Mount Tam’s East Peak from my front door and back is almost exactly 50 miles. Something interesting about that nice round number. I have some very fond memories of that long ride, a reasonably regular excursion maybe 10 years ago.

I memorized the sketchiest corners that warranted whipping around in a short sprint so as to avoid surprising a following motor vehicle that might otherwise see me too late. In certain spots — sharp and blind corners — a surprised driver might swerve into the opposing lane to avoid a suddenly appearing rider just in front of him. Or the driver could quickly calculate his odds of injury and collision repair expense, then decide instead to bounce the rider off his car’s windshield. As the sign on Camino Alto says, “Lycra Is Not Body Armor.” So if the driver follows this particular branch of the decision tree, that is gonna leave a mark.

I have yet to experience this kind of unpleasant contact. I prefer to ride in the early morning when the roads are generally clear of those kinds of hazards. I’ll gladly trade a pungent dousing from a startled skunk than a run-in with a Land Rover’s bumper. Plus, like I say, I haven’t suffered my way up to Mount Tam in quite some time. So my odds of meeting up with that Land Rover are looking pretty good. “Good” as in, not going to happen.

I love a Tam ride facsimile much closer to my house — the Marin Headlands. A 14-ish mile round trip. Plenty of up for about 15-18 minutes. Ridiculous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, SF Bay, and the Pacific Ocean. Occasionally an intriguing run-in with a thick layer of fog. Obscuring everything beyond, say, a 20 or 30-foot circumference. Climbing up Conzelman in a blanket of fog turns a familiar route into a guessing game.

Was that tree always there? Is this the halfway point? What’s that noise on the rocky bluff above me?

I love it.

And I’ve missed it.

Until this past week, it had been more than two months since I last rode any kind of meaningful route. And probably a year or more since I last pedaled up into the Headlands’ fog. It’s generally not a good idea to go from zero riding to several Headlands rides in a week. The lower back will remind me of my age, aching for a day or so afterwards, regardless of how many Advils I chew.

But that kind of ache I’ll happily tolerate. I’m back in the saddle again.

Thanks for reading.

Over the Composting Handlebars.

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I fully buy-in to the recycling and composting paradigm.  I have studied the posters showing me what to compost, what to recycle, and what to consign to a faceless landfill for the rest of human history.  I pride myself on demonstrating my earth-friendly knowledge at the local Starbucks’ condiment bar, tossing my used cup in the compost and used plastic lid in recycling, with theatrical flair.  I may even make a snarky comment if the patron standing there shoulder-to-shoulder with me does not follow suit.

And God help the Lululemon-wearing nanny who absentmindedly flips a ripped Sweet & Low packet into the “garbage.”  Gasp.  I might just reach down in there, past the coffee grounds and organic milk containers, up to my armpit now, to pluck out the delicate pink paper and pinch it into its proper end through the “compost” circle.  Maintaining laser eye-contact with Lulu all the while, even as I politely hold open the exit door for her with a tight smile.  I’ve got my eye on you, Lulu.

I’m committed to this.

The saying goes that there are two types of bicycle riders:  Those that have gone ass-over-tea-kettle and those that will go ass-over-tea-kettle.  Likewise, there are two types of composters:  Those that have had a disgusting, nightmare-inducing experience with their compost system and those that will have a disgusting, nightmare-inducing experience with their compost system.

I fall into the former category.

You see that shiny, confidence-inspiring, metallic compost can pictured at the top of this blog?  It looks great, right?  Fits in on anyone’s kitchen counter.  Looks clean, sanitary, sturdy.  Not exactly a shiny Tesla, but surely as iconic a symbol of its owner’s intention to save the planet.  Well, Teslas, it turns out, will spontaneously combust from time-to-time.  And that cute little compost can packed to the gills with food scraps can be equally evil.  No good deed goes unpunished, apparently.  Probably serves us right for being so self-righteous about saving the planet.  But I digress.

Emptying the compost can in our kitchen is perhaps the least-desirable household chore around here.  The kids pretend it’s not there.  My wife pretends it’s not there.  I use the thing religiously, each tossed-in coffee filter, eggshell or garlic skin making me feel like a really good person.  Look at me, I’m saving the planet!

I might as well be stuffing gun powder, wadding, and a cannon ball into a cannon.  Jam that stuff in there until nothing else could possibly fit.  Then jam some more stuff in there.

I don’t usually bring the contents of the compost can down to the green Recology bin in our garage until I absolutely have to.  I know what’s been stuffed in there over the past few days.  Or weeks.  A couple fruit flies spring free when the can’s top is lifted?  Not quite ready yet.  The compostable plastic-ish bag has fallen down on one edge, the victim of over-stuffing?  Reach down and pull it up a bit, like a reluctant dress sock with its elasticity long gone.  That sucker is good for at least a couple more days.

But pull off the lid and spy what appears to be a chicken bone dressed like Santa Clause?  Yep, it’s time.  Particularly if you can’t recall even making chicken for dinner in the last couple weeks.  And especially since you’ve read a bit about toxic spores, mold and such.  It’s definitely go time.

If you haven’t waited as long as I do, the process of transporting your little green bag of righteousness from your kitchen down the stairs to the large green bin of righteousness in your garage might go swimmingly.  Maybe you’re whistling or even humming while you are saving the planet.

But remember that I have gone over the composting handle bars.  There is no whistling or humming or thoughts of planet-saving when you’re in mid-air and turning a flip over your front wheel (to stretch the metaphor a bit further).

A week or so after a little Fourth of July get-together (involving the aforementioned, bearded Santa Clause chicken bones), I had my composting moment.

The cute little green bag burst, evidently pulling one “G” too many as I rounded the corner halfway down the garage stairs.  The thing exploded like a bomb, spewing stuff that no longer resembled anything I recognized as ever buying or cooking or serving to anyone in our house.  It looked like a blood-spattered crime scene in Dexter.   The sheer volume of the contents, splashed on the wall, stuck between the railing and the wall, scattered and oozy all over the carpeted stairs, it was staggering.  Almost too much to take.  I’m a little light-headed and panicky just thinking about it.

Expecting my wife to be home at any minute, I sprang into action; Harvey Keitel’s “the Wolf” in Pulp Fiction.  Just like that. Efficient.  Precise.  All business.  I managed to clean it all up, timely, and no one would have been the wiser had I not decided later to tell the story at the dinner table.

I was proud of myself, self-satisfied, clearly embracing this composting thing, despite having now seen its ugly underbelly.  Saving the planet.

Then it dawned on me that in my cleaning, I had deployed about a dozen bottles and canisters of completely toxic liquids, powders, and gels.  I threw everything I had at the crime scene.  Plastic bags to contain the vile stuff, bleach-soaked wipes removing the final traces of the explosion.  And all of it was deposited in the shameful, black trash bin.

I tried to console myself.  It was the best effort I could muster in the moment, so consumed with all the dry heaving, swearing and sweating.

Still, I had probably undone a year’s worth of planet-saving composting and recycling activities with those 15 ill-conceived minutes of toxic remediation in my garage stairwell.  Oh, if Lulu could see me now.

So like I said, there are two types of composters, and your time is coming….

Thanks for reading.

We’re Skipping the Immunizations and Going Straight to Exorcism.

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Slapped Cheek Syndrome, Chicken Pox, Head Lice, Streptococcal Pharyngitis, Meningitis, Pneumonia, Conjunctivitis, Influenza, Hand, Mouth and Foot Disease, Measles, Mumps, Pertussis, Ringworm, Rotavirus, and Scabies.

This is just a sampling of the infections, parasites and communicable diseases to which our children are exposed in schools and on playgrounds.  And get this, medical experts say that there is nothing we can do to “completely stop” these maladies.  Sure you can insist that your kids develop OCD about washing their hands, or not washing their hands, depending upon whether they are in a gas station bathroom or in the bathroom at the dentist’s office.  And you can encase your child’s head and hair in a bubble-boy hat, or just a green striped Patagonia wool hat or Giants baseball cap, protecting against tiny head lice leaping from head to head.  Actually, the lice’s legs have adapted to grasp human hair, so they don’t leap.  I guess they take a big step, like a landlubber stepping from one row boat to another, risking a full James Brown split. Maybe lice can’t leap, but I bet they can do a split. So your kids shouldn’t touch their heads, or even better, don’t bring them within lice-legsplit distance.

You can dutifully follow your pediatrician’s blue card listing all of the various immunizations over the course of your child’s life, stretching from birth to young adulthood.  The pained look on your baby’s face upon the nurse’s first immunization injection?  The one you can still remember 12 years later? Well, that’s just the cost of doing business.  The dread in the days leading up to a big shot, like Penicillin?  Collateral damage.  A Tetanus shot? Fuggetaboutit. Some nurses report that some of these immunizations actually hurt their thumbs just from pressing the thick-gauged needle into the target. Still, as long as we keep up on our trusty Immunization Record–with regular reminders or scoldings from Summer Camp and school–no ill can befall our children.  Right?

Well, that depends.  Take Slapped Cheek Syndrome, for example.  This doozy, also known as “Fifth Disease” or Erythema Infectiosum, is a type of viral infection that is most common in children, although it can affect anyone of any age.  First of all, what are the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Diseases? I don’t see those on my blue card.  Second, the common name can produce confusion at the morning school bus stop.  So allow me to clear up that confusion right here and now.

We live in San Francisco and send our boys to school in Marin County.  So we are deep into politically-correct, super-sensitive land.  Not complaining, just saying.  So an email from school reporting that your child has “Slapped Cheek Syndrome” is in actuality just a modern, polite way of saying that your son or daughter misbehaved at school today and the history teacher whacked him or her in the vicinity of the cheeks, or maybe on just one or the other cheek.  My adult friends tell stories of rough treatment at the hands of nuns in catholic schools.  Not quite. That’s just “Rapped Knuckles Syndrome.”  Members of our parents’ generation were regularly and routinely spanked in school, they say.  I beg to differ.  That is merely an incidence of “Spanked Butt Syndrome.”  At least I think I am correct with this line of thinking.

Head lice is a personal favorite.  In addition to possessing extraordinarily limber legs, head lice do not discriminate.  One head is as good as the other.  Little League batting helmet?  Head Lice Hotel.  The habit of touching heads to pose for an iPhone photo?  Micro-example of the Bering Strait Land Bridge Migration Theory in action.  Once on your child’s head, chaos ensues.  Think of your home now as one of those decontamination zones in the movies.  Government workers in full-bodied white suits and helmets, giant white tents, Geiger counters.  Rough stuff.  Believe me, you don’t want any part of that.

So we have decided at this point to go with the big guns.  Rather than returning to the blue card, sheepishly filling in the immunization gaps when scolded by camp or school or doctor, we’re turning to exorcism.  That’s right. Wikipedia tells me that this is the ancient practice of evicting demons or other spiritual entities from a person or an area that the demons are believed to have possessed.  If it works for demons, surely it works for Pink Eye.

So from now on, I will fill out the relevant blanks of the school and camp forms seeking confirmation of up-to-date immunizations as follows — 

* Not Applicable.  Our child was exorcised on May 14, 2014.

I’m sure this will work out just fine.  I feel really good about it.

Thanks for reading.

Two Tickets to Paradise.

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“At the edge of Cow Hollow, overlooking the Presidio, is the true cornerstone of San Francisco.”

Let me count the ways I love thee, Liverpool Lil’s.  This place, to me, provides a welcome glimpse into Old San Francisco.  Walking in is like walking back in time.  Those glimpses are fleeting in a town with so much change.  How the place has managed to stay in business since 1973 is beyond me, a testament to her rock-solid place in the fabric of the City, I suppose.  Every time I go back, typically punctuated by weeks or even months of not going, it’s exactly as I left it.  Something really great about that.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, “When Ralph Maher first opened his restaurant, he had a friend who lived in Liverpool, England, whom he’d visit several times a year.  Then came Lil, a lovely young lady he met during one of his many trans-Atlantic voyages. Ralph wanted nothing more than to take Lil to San Francisco, and Lil wanted nothing more than for Ralph to pack his bags and settle down in Liverpool. A standoff ensued. Then Ralph, hoping to entice Lil to come and live here, named his bar after her. Unfortunately, their love did not stand the test of geography, and neither of them ever made the move. ”

Local lore of a different sort suggests that Lil either didn’t actually exist, or that if she did, she might have been an, um, trollop.  First use of the word “trollop” in the Lemonade Chronicles, so a little self-congratulatory pat on the back.  I’ll take it.  Sorry, Lil.

The Examiner continues, “What’s so fantastic about Lil’s is there is always the option to make your experience either a high-end or low-end one. At the eatery’s front is its cozy publike cocktail lounge, covered with sports memorabilia, showcasing those athletes who have frequented the place. So that table in the cocktail area dominated by photos and articles written about the star, well, that’s where heonce liked to sit.”

First use of the word “heonce” in the Lemonade Chronicles, even if I’m quoting someone else who is a much better writer than I.  I’ll take it.  Sorry, Examiner writer.

Something fascinating about the characters who have drank and presumably gotten drunk, on occasion, amidst these dark wood walls.

According to a piece on a website called NewFillmore.com, “Of all the customers and characters who have adopted Liverpool Lil’s as their favorite hideout, rumpus room and pile-it-high-on-the-plate eatery, Joe DiMaggio is the most lionized. Maher [the Founder, evidently] even framed DiMaggio’s scorecard from the nearby Presidio golf course. A notorious loner and a man of few words who hated people to fuss over him or his fame, the Yankee great would slip in solo and sit by himself at a table, underneath his picture and opposite the bar. ‘He’d have a cup of coffee or a glass of red wine,’ recalls Ed Wocher, Liverpool Lil’s host for 30 years. He says DiMaggio liked the place because he could come in and nobody bothered him. If Marilyn ever joined him, Wocher never saw her.”

And the intrigue doesn’t end with Joltin’ Joe.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “This English pub-restaurant has been a favored haunt of classical and jazz musicians, [and even] the local FBI and Secret Service.”  Hmm.  OK, so that’s cool,  but it also makes me a bit edgy, given my previously-stated discomfort with Google Search and TSA Gate Agents.

My own personal history with Lil’s is far less fascinating, objectively speaking.  I didn’t down Whiskey or Martinis with Mr. Coffee.  My family did rent a flat for over 10 years from “The Crow” — Joe’s Yankee teammate, infielder Frank Crosetti.  But he and I never shared an Anchor Steam at Lil’s.  I have finished a number of long-ish trail runs, Tam road rides, and the like with a well-deserved pint or two, shared with a buddy or two who equally deserved their own pint or two.  I also conceived a branded concert tour in cahoots with a colleague and friend who formerly ran marketing for Hard Rock.  Cloistered away in a dark corner, lounging on red plastic-cushioned benches, underneath the photos of the aformentioned famous people who drank and presumably got drunk, on occasion, under their famous photos.

So the place is special; think we’ve established that.  Its walls are covered in a haphazard fashion, though sometimes I stumble on something truly unique.  Like last night.  Meeting a friend for a pint over a discussion of inflection points, I found behind my head a framed stock certificate.  Someone had evidently purchased shares in San Francisco Seals, Inc., in 1956.  Two shares, to be specific.  The stockholder’s name is tough to make out, as you can see.  Francis G. Someone.  Leyag?  Leyaf?  Layae? I’ve Google searched every possible permutation of letters, and come up empty.

And the Lil’s bartender who answered the phone tonight was none to happy about being pressed into duty to lean over a customer’s table and try to decipher Francis G’s last name in the dim light.  I suppose that’s part of the charm.

But I imagine the thrill that Francis G.  stoked in his (her?) household the day he (she?) slapped that stock certificate on the kitchen table.  Two shares in the franchise of Lefty O’Doul and the DiMaggios.  History.  Even at that time, it was clearly history-in-the-making.  Must have been quite a thing.  How it ended up on the wall at Liverpool Lil’s is a mystery.  I would be surprised if anyone working there knows the stock certificate’s backstory, has any idea who Francis G. is or was.

But I love the fact that it’s there.

Oh, and one last thing:  If you’re curious as to its value, I stumbled on a site offering a similar stock certificate for the bargain price of $895.

Thanks for reading.