Sunday, January 28, 2007

City Life: Inner Richmond

The Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco is located a couple of blocks near the northeast area of Golden Gate Park. The entire Richmond area (Inner and Outer) is located north of Golden Gate Park and runs east to west from where the Park begins to the Ocean Beach and the Great Highway. Legendary for its fog, nonetheless I lucked out today and got some sunshine.

I concentrated today's walk on the hub of the Inner Richmond area which runs along Clement Street from Arguello (a block from 2nd Ave.) to Park Presidio (two blocks from 12th Ave.) The picture above shows the intersection at Clement between 6th and 7th Avenues.

Clement Street is known for several things: the best used bookstore in the City (Green Apple Books), many five and dime type stores, lots of neighborhood Asian grocers (and one large one) and what seems like hundreds of Asian restaurants. I'm not talking about a couple of Chinese restaurants here and there, I'm talking about a street that seems to have every possible Asian type of food known to man. Burmese, Korean, Indian, Cambodian, as well as the usual Chinese, Japanese, Thai, etc. There's also a couple of French restaurants and at least one Hawaiian restaurant.

For the record, I didn't eat any Asian food for lunch. Instead I ate at Hamburger Haven, a narrow greasy spoon diner that was packed with people waiting for a table. Since I sat at the counter, I was able to watch with amazement while the main cook, a very thin Asian man with a focused frown, worked his magic. This guy was making at least 10 meals at once (omlettes, burgers, pancakes, hashed browns, my eggs benedict, Joe's Special, etc.). He moved easily and smoothly from one task to another only getting thrown off when a waitress or bus boy tried to slip past him.

I'm sure by now that my diner obsession must be wearing thin as it keeps me from trying out other types of food more often than not, but I just love to eat at those greasy spoons!

You gotta love that Cheaper than Cheaper sign there. It's a serious five and dime store where you can get 48 rolls of toilet paper for $14.

They also had a comprehensive selection of rugs in all sizes in the back, a whole aisle of bed linens and a freezer full of Ben & Jerry's ice cream next to the register. Not to mention the usual tupperwear type containers, plastic storage shelves, a mind-boggling array of extension cords, many canned and boxed foods and personal hygiene items.

Although I failed to take a picture of the storefront for Green Apple Books, I have to talk about it (located at 6th and Clement). This is the best used bookstore in San Francisco. They also sell new books, DVDs and music. Two floors of books with all these little nooks and crannies. The floor is all wood and it creaks as you walk along. The walls are covered with pictures and signs. There are signs on the bookshelves pointing out staff favorites. Plan to spend a long time browsing here. Next door is the very narrow DVD section and next to that is the music area. A couple of blocks down (perhaps between 3rd and 4th) is yet another Green Apple store with nothing but used books, books on tape, software, CDs, DVDs and records (yes, vinyl records). Go there. Enjoy yourself. Support local bookstores.

At the Bargain Bank (at 7th Ave.), you can get some fairly upscale foods and sundries for really cheap. They also feature 1.5 aisles of nothing but wine. I had to take the picture of the Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill. So nostalgic. My uncle let me taste it when I was only about eight years old. My first sip of wine.

Huh. Looking at this picture I can't help but wonder what the hell is "Citrus Wine?"

Another thing I found intriguing in this neighborhood is that some shops have adopted a two-shops-in-one method. My favorite examples are the Florist and the Aquarium shop (flowers and corals in one place!) and the shop that makes crepes and is also a mini-mart. I should say the crepes/mini-mart place was packed with people and smelled damn good. The best smelling place on Clement Street.

That's the kid-friendly sign for Toy Boat Dessert Cafe. People who grew up in this neighborhood and are my age say that Toy Boat has been around since they were kids. Fun, quirky decor featuring lots of toys, desserts and ice cream make this place a great first date and a place to bring the kids.

The good folks here also let me use their restroom as long as I told them Green Apple Books sent me.

This picture is of a traffic median between Funston (near 12th) and Park Presido. I've never seen a traffic median that was a little park unto itself, but this one and the one opposite going in the other direction appear to be just that.

Across the street from this traffic median is the Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. I was interested in this large square white building because I like church architecture, but was unable to gain access to the interior.

Immediately next door is the Christian Science Reading room. I'm not religious at all, but I was very much interested in this week's Bible lesson.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) the reading room wasn't open so I couldn't go in and ask the good folks about their conclusions about Truth.

Several signs did promise that Everyone is Welcome though.

Like all neighborhoods in the City, I've barely scratched the surface. Hell, I hardly know anything about my own neighborhood and it boasts a spectacular array of restaurants. The fact of the matter is I need to get out there and get eating in these places. Now that I've satisfied my ever present diner fetish, I need to come back to Inner Richmond for some bargain shopping (tupperware type containers anyone?) and Asian food. You'll be reading about those adventures here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Clean Desk, DVDs and No Coughing

Three Beautiful Things for Today:

  1. A clean desk. I finally figured out a way to deal with all those non-urgent tasks that keep piling up. My desk looks beautiful!
  2. A pile of fun DVDs to watch: Rashomon, Brick, Water and Joint Security Area.
  3. Very little coughing. I've had a bad cough for many weeks now. It was so bad that I sprained the muscles in my ribs. When the sprain acts up it hurts like a m*therf*cker. This morning was bad, but I'm feeling better now.

Stick To It

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."
- Albert Einstein

I've always admired stick-to-it-ness, perseverance, fortitude. The ability to keep going, to keep moving forward no matter how others might beat you over the head is a quality that I find compelling.

I'm not sure where this admiration comes from. Perhaps it comes from the belief that in order for someone to love and admire me, they must have this kind of perseverance. Or it could be that I have a warped view of love in general and believe that real love only comes when you triumph over adversity.

I'm thinking these two ideas could use some rethinking.

My friends sometimes say that I should only go with what is easy. If something is difficult, it's not worth your time or effort. Perhaps this is true in love. After all, the belief goes, if someone is really right for you then everything will fall into place. Magically, perhaps.

I view these ideas with some skepticism, but am feeling generous and open-minded. Mostly I feel this way because I've gotten the shit kicked out of me in the Love Department in the last year. No matter, I've dusted myself off and gotten back up again. Fortitude is my friend at such times.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with tweaking your thoughts a little or trying out new approaches. It can't hurt.

At least I don't think so. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

My Top Five Favorite Homages to the Godfather of Soul

James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006.


There isn't much else to say there. I could say we'll miss him, that there's a massive hole left in our musical landscape. I could talk about all the people he's influenced, but it's all been said before by more capable and qualified people.

Here's what I will say: throughout my life I've seen people pay tribute to this man. Many tributes/references/homages have ingrained themselves in my psyche. Here's my top five favorite list:

#5 - Sonny Liston training for his fight with Cassius Clay (who later took the name Mohammed Ali) while listening to "Night Train." I remember seeing a documentary showing how the two fighters prepared for this match. "Night Train" (both the original and James Brown version) was Liston's favorite song. For some reason this image of Liston training to this song has stuck in my head over the years.

#4 - Jackie Chan finishing Brown's act in "The Tuxedo." Yes, Jackie can dance. Martial arts is just another form of chorography after all. "The Tuxedo" was very mediocre overall, but I did like that part of the movie.

#3 - MC Hammer's tribute in his video "Here Comes the Hammer (SUPERBAD)" This video is a kick. "Watch Me!"

#2 - JE works here in my office. He's pretty high up there on the food chain and is an ordinary, nice, well educated white guy. He stunned me during our annual karoke charity party last July by singing (including all the shouts) "I got you (I feel good)." It was a performance that brought the house down. He also ran the New York Marathon this year and beat Lance Armstrong and his posse! In the spirit of JE's campy performance, I'm including a link to James Brown performing (in a ski sweater!) "I got you (I feel good)" in the 1965 Frankie Avalon movie "Ski Party."

#1 - Eddie Murphy as Hot Tub Man #1 doing the "James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub Party" sketch on Saturday Night Live. One of my all time favorite sketches from this show. I love it.

I heard a killer version of "Sex Machine" while driving to my New Year's Eve weekend destination. It made me glad to be alive. I'm closing this post with great video (thanks to for the links to this post) of James Brown performing "Sex Machine" live in Paris 1971.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Brown.