Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   crossing the Tenderloin
Monday, September 8 2008

setting: Room 126, Deer Haven Inn, Pacific Grove, California

This morning at the inn, we had our breakfast with the rest of the wedding party in the bride's mother's suite. Most of the time I was there was spent with people going goo-goo over photos taken yesterday by Gretchen's father. At some point Gretchen noted sadly that an email purportedly listing all the books Sara Palin had tried to ban while Mayor of Wasilla (Alaska) had in fact been a hoax. This confirmed a suspicion I'd had but hadn't voiced. It's just too easy to come up with a list of classic books to showcase the bonehead Neanderthalism of whatever folksy Republican candidate happens to be pissing you off. It's actually a little reassuring that our side is willing to play the same games played by those claiming Obama is Muslim and has a forged American birth certificate. There in the hotel room with the other members of the wedding party, I said as much, but Gretchen's parents gave me a dirty look and whispered that the groom's father (who was there) is a known supporter of McCain/Palin 2008. This is one of the downsides of attending the marriages of obscure relatives. You go too far afield on the family tree and eventually you find them.
After we checked out of our room, Gretchen and I drove north to San Francisco and rendezvoused with one of Gretchen's old friends from high school, a wacky guy named Phil. In Gretchen's high school, Phil had been part of the scene that, at its most famous, included the late Jeremy Blake. Phil continues his life much as he'd live it in high school, making art and music and living with roommates in an apartment in the Mission. On the way there he showed us some of his art in a coffee shop. They looked to be geometric doodles set behind glass upon which variously-shaped masks of white had been painted. More interesting were his wooden sculptures, which looked like scale models of steampunk spacecraft.
We planned to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Phil had suggested we take the BART, San Francisco's subway system. It was very similar to the DC Metro, with identical magnetic stripe card machines, though the cars themselves weren't as clean. Also, the subway network was extremely simple, only branching into modest complexity on the other side of the bay.
Somewhere in the Mission I'd bought a $13 sweater, which came in handy every time I stepped into the shade. But whenever I was in the sun, I soon felt like tearing the damn thing off.
The Kahlo exhibit was more impressive than I expected; the museum had assembled a lot of her work, and there was more of it than I expected. Regarding art history, I have a built-in bias from my childhood, when I used to repeatedly pore over an art history book belonging to my mother. My bias tells me that artists in that book were significant and all others are not. Since Frida Kahlo wasn't accepted into the canon until the late 1970s (after that book was published), there's no mention of her in it. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Kahlo's paintings, some were nevertheless impressive works of quasi-folk surrealism. The exhibit also included a great many photographs, many showing Frida to have been a more attractive (and less hirsute) than her self portraits.
After we'd seen that show, we ran around to a number of other exhibits: there was one showing works from a bunch of different contemporay Chinese artists. The best of these was a sleeping sculpture of Mao surrounded by several hundred square feet of densely-packed plastic dinosaurs. There must have been many thousands, and they came in several bright, saturated colors.
Then we made a quick tour of photographs by Lee Miller, Man Ray's apprentice. The most interesting fact about her was that she'd been raped at the age of seven and contracted an unnamed veneral disease that had proved difficult to treat.
Just before the museum closed, we ran through an exhibit that was like a classic "modern art history" book. Everything was there, including Duchamp's urinal and one of Mondrian's tiresome grids.
Near the museum was an überchic W Hotel, and we went in there twice to hang out in their lobby and take advantage of the free things put out for guests (non-alcoholic mojitos, for example). Nearby a couple of well-dressed white male children were playing Guitar Hero on a Wii. As we were leaving, Gretchen had to point out the little book-sized trays of live, unmowed grass placed in various locations near one end of the lobby.
The last thing we planned to do in San Francisco was to eat dinner at a posh vegan restaurant in the Tenderloin called Millennium, which we could walk to from downtown. We arrived a little before our reservation, so we found a nearby dive bar called High Tide Cocktails. Our bartender was a no-nonsense Asian woman who interacted mostly with slightly-intoxicated Asian man at one end of the bar. Aside from them, the main demographic was white men, some of whom were playing pool in an adjacent room. For some reason my Sierra Nevada pale ale tasted absolutely perfect from the tap, perhaps because it didn't travel far from its source.
I guess Gretchen's drink was too strong because she couldn't split a bottle of wine with me in Millennium.
I know it's the city and real estate is expensive, but sitting elbow-to-elbow with strangers along a wall isn't really my idea of a pleasant restaurant experience. It felt claustrophobic and made me enjoy my food less than I otherwise might have. Also, and I know the chef is an adventurous modern gourmet, the food tended to have flavor notes that didn't seem right. Occasionally it was like putting modern orchestral music in my mouth. Nyerk! Blooo. Ping Pink Wonk! There was one sauce, though, that was perfectly delicious. Unfortunately, though, it was combined with an overly-sweet black bean and plantain tart. I would have though the flavors would have been a little strange for Gretchen's savory-partisan tastebuds, but she wouldn't shut up about how great the place was. The fact that it was vegan had a lot to do with it I suppose.
We thought we'd walk a shortcut path from Geary Street down to Market Street. But as we walked, every corner seemed to be crawling with muttering drunks and skanily-clad women standing on the sidewalk looking at traffic. All the other women we passed were walking very large dogs. "I don't think this is a very good neighborhood," said Gretchen. So we decided to make a beeline towards a better zipcode, one with a Banana Republic. As we headed out of the Tenderloin, we found ourselves following a young African American couple. The gentleman half of the couple was wearing his trousers in the hip hop style, that is, fallen some distance down his legs. He'd carried it to an extreme, to the point where the waistband was around his knees and affecting his gait. We later saw him in the Bart station getting a card. Because he was using both hands to operate the machine and had none to dedicate to holding up his pants, he was forced to assume the wide stance of an Idaho senator.
We decided to drive down to San Jose and get a hotel room near the airport so we'd be well-positioned to catch our mid-morning flight back east. There was a fun grammar nerd show on the public radio station drive our drive south, but after we got off the freeway near the airport, we couldn't find any hotels! Gretchen ended up having to ask someone. We ended up in a Super 8 with incredibly unreliable free WiFi.

Gretchen's friend Phil and his art in his apartment in the Mission.

Note the color fidelity of that monitor.

Gretchen and Phil in Papalote.

Inside the central atrium at SFMOMA.

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