Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Capitalist Pig @ 8th & Market, Tuesday, 26 June 2012

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Good Evening:

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You call it strange, we call it Tuesday, everyone calls it San Francisco.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–This was part of a protest against Chase, which has a branch at 8th & Market.

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade of 2012

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Good Evening:

If you want to go undercover and pretend you’re a San Franciscan, here are the four absolutely positively most important words you can know: “It’s gotten so touristy.”

We use that phrase to describe almost anything, from the Haight Street Fair to North Beach, from SOMA to the now-defunct Exotic-Erotic Ball. Whether it’s appropriate or not is beside the point.

San Francisco’s annual Pride Parade (once the Gay Pride Parade, then the Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade, then the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Pride Parade, then the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade, and finally the LGBT Pride Parade [and how did the L sneak in front of the G?]) might seem like a case in point, but in this case the point is that “touristy” is a good thing. It’s mainstream. It’s part of Americana. Consider the legendary Dykes on Bikes motorcycle procession. I know a lot of women who have ridden with the D.O.B., and not one of them is gay. Trust me, I know.

Indeed, I believe the majority of spectators along the parade route are NOTAs like me (None of the Above). The heterosexual women were easy to spot: they were the ones who kept posing with the nude gay men. Here are a few random selections from the roughly 300 shots I took on Sunday. I don’t think I took any pictures of nude people (the tourists took care of that for me); if any inappropriate flesh appears, it’s an accident and I apologize. For all of these photos I used my Nikon D40, and almost all of them have had no editing, except to lighten shadows in a few places.

Also, you will see some strong language. Parents, be warned.

Going to the 2012 Pride Parade. They were probably both male, but they were both definitely themselves.

These balloon costumes were very popular this year.

A frequent sight: tourists taking pictures of themselves or their family members posing with participants in the parade.

I suspect there are people who would not enjoy learning that many Americans don’t mind taking pictures of their daughters posing with adult gay men.

“Just Married” 2012 Pride Parade, Nikon D40 DSLR

Here’s one place to get a good view of the festivities.

I used to be a chess master, so I get it; nothing is more important than a good game.

But no matter how intense the parade or the chess game, you still had to eat.

Two of the Balloon Women Eating Lunch: perhaps my favorite photo of the parade.

A lot of vendors, almost all Hispanic women, enjoyed excellent sales of–believe it or not–bacon-wrapped hot dogs:

My Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog, with Mustard and Onions

Some more pictures, more or less random:

The Hug Lady. I have seen her at many public gatherings.

Some of the non-nude gay men were also happy to pose for pictures.

Sidewalk Vendors at 8th & Market during the 2012 Pride Parade

Snippet overheard at the Civic Center BART. A Caucasian male in his early 20’s is reporting a crime to two police officers: “And then the guy hit me in the face, hit me in the face, and then he realized that my girlfriend is my girlfriend, and he said ‘Oh, s—!’ and he ran away.”

And that brings me to another tradition at the LGBT: homophobia. The number of anti-gay protestors was way down this year, if what I’ve heard about past years was true. In fact, all I saw were a few street preachers on Market Street near the cable car turnaround and one lone gentleman with a small footstool. One of the gay celebrators seemed to feel sorry for this man because no one paid attention to him:

Feeling the Love, Literally, at Market & Stockton During the LGBT Parade

The other street preacher had a better setup, including banners and assistants/bodyguards, not to mention a more powerful bullhorn. He also wore a bright orange top, which helped him stand out. The messages on the banners were really strange; they seemed benevolent on one side, but the other sides were a little uglier.

I honestly don’t know if he wanted to convert or to provoke. And there was little point in asking: whatever answer he gave would probably be incorrect. One woman had her own priorities and created a sign with her response.

I Would Rather Burn in Hell with My Two Moms than Spend an Eternity with These Guys and Their God. 24 June 2012

Needless to say, he succeeded in drawing a big crowd in a big way. He wanted this: he wanted to draw attention to either himself or his message or both (doesn’t matter which one). However, succeeding in drawing a big crowd in San Francisco has its disadvantages. For one thing, San Franciscans love, no, we absolutely positively adore improv street theater. For another thing, one young person, male or female or both (doesn’t matter which one) did not just absolutely positively adore improv street theater, this person absolutely positively adored creating it.

“Christian + Gay = OK!” 24 June 2012

The street preacher kinda sorta lost the crowd’s attention by this time.

On my way home I walked past the Lower Haight’s famous Mad Dog in the Fog, one of America’s greatest soccer bars, just as England-Italy were deciding their Euro 2012 quarterfinal soccer game via penalty kicks.

Spectators React as Italian Goalkeeper Makes Key Save During Penalties v. England, Euro 2012

Overall, a very good day for people watching and photography and bacon-wrapped pork sausages. Perhaps not a good day for your heart.

As I have written earlier, I like the idea that San Francisco’s Pride Parade has become conventional, accepted, a part of Americana, normal. I like the fact that it has become a celebration for all Americans, including a NOTA like me. Pride Day is slowly but surely becoming a day for all Americans, celebrated by all Americans. Not yet, of course, not now, of course, but it will happen. I would err, however, if I neglected to mention that some people disagree. And you would be surprised who those people are. The day after the parade, I walked down Market Street to another meeting of another one of my theater groups when I espied these signs:

Assimilation = Death! Photographed using my Nikon CoolPix S9100 on Monday, 25 June 2012.

This is San Francisco: walk 10 feet in any direction and you will find someone who will disagree with you on anything.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Music Education on the Job

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Good Evening:

My workplace is a bad place for a diet. I bear some of the responsibility; my co-workers treat my homemade cookies the same way dolphins treat a bait ball of herring. However, on Monday it was the managers’ turn, as they treated their loyal minions and underlings to a catered lunch as a thank-you for our efforts on recent projects. I contributed my iPhone to the festivities, picking my playlist “Masterpieces of Rock and Soul” and using the (frankly, unsatisfactory) speakers of the cell phone.

I admit that “Masterpieces of Rock and Soul” is a pretentious title, but I believe that the songs on the list either are or deserve to be remembered as examples of rock or soul at their finest. But others might consider my choices as controversial (“Hound Dog” by Big Mama Thornton, not Elvis Presley) or obscure (“Nothing but a Heartache” by The Flirtations) or too-soon-to-tell (“American Idiot” by Green Day) or much-too-cliched (“Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry) or not present (no Eagles?! No Fleetwood Mac?! No Michael Jackson???). But it seems that most of my Masterpieces fall under the category of Forgotten or Never Heard by Everyone I Know.

Starting with the co-worker who sits next to me.

“Hey, who was that?”

Louis Jordan and His Timpani Five, ‘Let the Good Times Roll.'”

“Now what’s this next song?”

“Norman Greenbaum, ‘Spirit in the Sky.'”

“Man this is good stuff, but how old is this music, anyway?!”

“Well, ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ is more than twice as old as you are.”

I couldn’t help but wonder how much of my collection was familiar to him. He is not too much of a music fan, so this was a bit of a challenge. He didn’t recognize “You Got the Love” by Florence + The Machine, one of my Too-Soon-To-Tells. I can’t blame him for not recognizing Sister Rosetta Tharpe (“Strange Things Happening Every Day,” a classic proto-rock song), but he didn’t even recognize “Back in the USSR” by The Beatles. Yes, indeed; The Beatles! However, he did recognize the Reverend Richard Wayne Penniman: “Are you kidding?! Of course I know Little Richard! He was on Full House!

The Internet has been a good thing for musical explorers. I can’t remember how/when I first blundered in the music of Mali, an African nation which is a powerhouse in the music world right now, but any day with a kora is a good day. However, I know almost nothing of rap and hip-hop. Back in the Sixties, which saw an explosion of musical styles in the United States, you could still count on people to have common ground; i.e., everyone who listened to music seriously would have The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Miles Davis and a lot of Motown in their collections. Today, I have the impression that people specialize in only one or two genres and use the Net to explore only the music that they want to like, and ignore everything else. I think we’re missing out on something here, some kind of shared experience. Can we really communicate on common ground when we haven’t listened to a common sound?

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–If nothing else, someone please tell me I’m not the only person in the ether of the Internet who remembers Wynonie Harris!

The Smead(r) A – Z Alphabetic Guide Set 6″ x 4″

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Good Evening:

Today, I found the above item in a bin full of old stationery supplies that my department is dumping/donating in preparation for our move to a new office building. I’m rather curious; how many of you know what the Smead(r) A – Z Alphabetic Guide Set 6″ x 4″ might be?

It’s a set of plastic-coated cards with tabs (one for A, one for B, et cetera) that people used to stick into their index card files to organize their index cards–and that’s three references to obsolete office technology in one sentence. Nowadays, we keep that sort of information in our digital address books, databases, spreadsheets, et alia. I hadn’t seen a Smead(r) A – Z Alphabetic Guide Set 6″ x 4″ in over a decade until today.

How our lives changed without our noticing the changes until years after the changes have already occurred. About 12 years ago, I temped at St. Luke’s Hospital in the Mission for a few weeks. One of my co-workers was a recently hired man in his early 20’s from Colombia who had a gift & passion for men’s fashion. Managers and vice-presidents would walk into the office, look at him, look at themselves, and shake their heads in despair. Of course, he needed a tour of the premises when he started his job, so the office manager, a white-haired woman who looked she used to play rugby, showed him around the place.

He stopped and stared at one object in the most distant and little-used corner of the office. He tilted his head to the left once, then to the right once.

“Is that a typewriter?”

The office manager said, “Yes.”

He tilted his head to the left once, then to the right once, then to the left once more, then to the right once more.

“How do you operate it?”

Feeling Just a Little Bit Older, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

So Awfully Naughty for So Awfully Young on the 22-Fillmore

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Suze Orman on the Bus, 7/15/2007, Nikon Coolpix 4300

Good Afternoon:

So yours truly the modern-day intrepid caveman was returning home on the 22-Fillmore bus from his hunt, having bagged his prey (buffalo-milk Brie, celery, carrots, et cetera; cavemen ain’t what they used to be), and yours truly the intrepid hunter had intrepidly bagged a seat in the second-to-last row. The last row of most Muni buses have five seats, and these five seats held five children and their under-30 Hispanic-American mother (remember whan a less-than-30-years-old mom with five kids was not astonishing?). Mom had just finished nursing her infant (yes, in public, and yes, on the bus), and four of the five rugrats were calm and well-behaved.

The fifth one was the problem. I estimate his age at 3 or 4, and he sat by the window on the right side of the bus. He frequently pulled himself up as close to the opening in the window as possible and yell, no he would scream, no he would positively SCREECH!!! the same word, over and over, at the woman walking on the sidewalk.

The word he kept screeching? “PUTA!!!”

When I was his age, I didn’t know such a word existed. When I’m at my age, I don’t use such language at all.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Actually, I do swear sometimes; when I’m acting and the script calls for such language. Otherwise, no.

PPS–And sometimes, the characters in my fiction and scripts will swear, but only if they must. Otherwise, no.

PPPS–His mother did try to stop him, but never succeeded, and I have an ugly feeling this ugly-mouthed boy will become an ugly-minded man.

The Art of Barter on the 71-Noriega on a Thursday Evening

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Good Evening:

So I was heading home on the 71-Noriega at 9:30 p.m. after a meeting of one of my theater groups when a young Hispanic couple in their early 20s hopped on board and ended up standing near me. They did what every young couple in love has a moral obligation to do in public and started necking on the bus. That’s one of the rules governing being young and in love: young lovers must kiss in public. Look it up. I obeyed the rule when I was young and you probably did, too.

However, the necking didn’t last too long, a clear violation of those same rules: after all, being young and in love is a spectator sport. They broke apart and stood side by side. He said that it just wasn’t the same when you’re starving, and his ladyfriend agreed, adding that they never should have smoked those two joints, now they’ve got those marijuana hunger pangs and there’s no food at her place.

At this moment, an African-American male of about the same age, but shorter than the other two, snuck on board via the back door without paying his fare. He carried 3 1-pound Hershey’s White Chocolate Bars and a single 1-pound Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar. Turns out that he happened to be a friend of the couple, so he fist-bumped the young male lover and air-kissed the young female lover.

The young male lover asked, “What are you doing with those bars?”

“Oh, I ‘lifted them from the Walgreen’s.”

“Really?”

The young lady pulled her young man’s head to her lips and whispered into his left ear. He whispered to their friend with the stolen chocolate. They looked around quickly to ensure no one was looking, somehow missed me staring at them from three feet away, and made the trade: a single 1-pound Hershey’s White Chocolate Bar in exchange for the butt ends of two joints. The chocolate thief disembarked immediately, whilst the young couple did not wait for another second before tearing off the wrapper and noshing away. And that is the Art of Barter on the 71-Noriega on a Thursday evening.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Instant Art of Instant Abstract Art

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Good Evening:

I like to take extreme closeup pictures of San Francisco’s milieu of miles of magnificent multicolor murals. The idea consists of getting so close to the bird, flower, landscape, or decorative lettering that my picture reduces the mural to nothing but line, shape and color. Instant abstract art, if you will. I sometimes crop the pictures and use them as my desktop backgrounds. Here are some recent works of mine. Except that I don’t think I can call them “works” or “mine;” that doesn’t seem fair, perhaps.

The first two come from the mural on the backside of the Church & Market Safeway grocery store, and are pictures of the Pacific Ocean.

The next two are closeups of sections of the painting of a large flower on a building wall on 13th Street near Mission and underneath the Central Freeway.

I’m sure the artist deliberately used the texture of the wall in conjunction with his/her thick brush strokes to produce the “piled on” effect. Next is a closeup of an abstract painting at Katz’s Bagels on Haight Street.

This is the same bagel place featured in my post The Color Orange at Katz’s Bagels. Next I have three closeups from a mural of abstract art hiding in an alley off Ninth Street in SOMA (South Of MArket).

The final trio are closeups of sections of the murals on the south side of the Asian Art Museum across the street from the Main Branch of the SF Public Library.

These murals tend to combine abstract with non-abstract elements.

Color is a wonderful thing; look closer at your world and you might see something you were missing.

Vonn Scott Bair

When Is the Wednesday Farmers Market Better Than the Wednesday Farmers Market?

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Good Evening:

One of the disadvantages of working in a business where the employee morale is sky-high is that Wednesday afternoons are fatal to any diet. The Civic Center Farmers Market is in session during the third day of the work week, and after the clock strikes twelve, people feel psychologically that they’re over the hump, and they can begin to anticipate the weekend. Therefore, to celebrate, at least three of my co-workers will return with goodies to share with everyone else. And who can blame us? (all photos taken with a Nikon D40 DSLR with the Landscape setting)

Cherries! Cherries! Cherries! CHERRIES, as far as the eye can see!

But there are some Wednesdays that are even better than the others. First, the Civic Center frequently becomes the home of amazing public sculpture, such as this inflatable flower that is part of the Asian Art Museum’s current exhibition:

And then there’s the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Every once in a while, they accumulate more books than they can use.

So they sell ’em. At $1 per book. Doesn’t matter which book. This is where I have built my cookbook library, although sadly, I couldn’t get there early enough today; there are a lot of very fine amateur chefs in San Francisco and the dollar cookbooks do not last long at these sales. What I like best about this picture is the gentleman in the lower left; he literally couldn’t wait to get home to start reading.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality, Special Level 3-19 on the Fremont-SFO BART Edition

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Good Evening:

There but for the grace of God go I.

So I thought to myself on the BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit light rail system) travelling from 12th Street Oakland to the Powell Street Station via the Fremont-SFO (San Francisco International Airport) line. I was standing next to a seated gentleman who looked a lot like me: about the same age (i.e., too old); suffering from the same tragic follicle defoliation; the same ahem, extra pounds around the middle. But he was worse off than me. This was a Saturday afternoon, and he wore a suit and tie, with suspenders and a shirt collar that was just a little too tight. In other words, he had been working on a Saturday. So had I, in fact: a meeting with a few producers to pitch some of my screenplay projects (they liked one: Volunteers, a script about a small group of San Franciscans who accidentally conquer the Soviet Union. It’s based on a true story). But I didn’t have to wear a suit–in fact, in the industry, people prefer screenwriters who don’t. So I wore my favorite turtleneck and felt comfortable the whole afternoon.

But nothing I’ve described above describes why I pitied my unfortunate doppleganger, despite his shiny new iPad.

I pitied him because he was stuck on Level 3-19.

Those of you who know what I’m talking about are now trembling with terror, eyes glazed, jaw slacked, forehead gleaming with sweat. And I don’t blame you. Level 3-19 must induce stark raving terror to anyone who faces it, and I’m glad I don’t have it on my iPhone.

Level 3-19 lurks as a crocodile lurks for unwary zebras in the game Angry Birds.

For those who don’t know, Angry Birds is a $0.99 game that has shocked everyone including its shocked programmers with its shocking popularity. In the game, evil pigs steal bird eggs and secure them in evil fortresses of various evil sizes, evilly guarded by evil guard pigs. The fortresses can only be destroyed by self-sacrificing birds, courageous clucking kamikazes of cataclysmic crashing catastrophe hurling themselves against the fortresses and blowing the fortresses and themselves to Bird Valhalla.

My twin was stuck on level 3-19. Level 3-19 gives you only 3 birds to destroy a very large, spread-out fortress guarded by an unusual number of evil guard pigs. He couldn’t solve the puzzle. Level 3-19 was too much for him. It got to the point to where he should have just given up for the time being, switch to another app, and return to Angry Birds later.

But he wouldn’t stop.

Even worse, he kept trying the same combination of shots. Over and over. Expecting a different result. He clenched his jaws, lips apart, breathing through his teeth as he kept trying the same combination of shots. Over and over. Expecting a different result. By the time the train went from 12th Street Oakland to Powell Street, his face had grown noticably pinker. He kept trying the same combination of shots. Over and over. Expecting a different result.

Literally the definition of madness.

There but for the grace of God went I.

Not really interested in downloading Angry Birds any time soon, I remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–If you are stuck on Level 3-19, there are many Angry Birds hints videos on the ‘Net. YouTube is a particularly good source of solutions.

Snippets Overheard Outside Andalu, 16th & Guerrero, 9 June 2012

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Good Evening:

First snippet, first guy “monologuing:”

“…but the micro-miniskirt is just ridiculous, man, I like the skirts with the controllable hemline, and I know you’re thinking, ‘What the f— is he talking about?” What I’m talking about is the skirt where the hemline goes down to just above the knee and when the girl sits down, the skirt stays down, but when you get talking to her and the next thing you know, the hemline has hiked all the way up to there, and that’s how you know hey, you’re getting somewhere…”

Second snippet, second guy “monologuing:”

“…and what got me stupid sober very quickly was–oh, ‘stupid sober’ is when you’re drunk and either you or someone says or does something so stupid that you get sober instantly–so what got me stupid sober was first of all, she told me she was seventeen and she got in with a fake ID, and then she told me about her job. See, she met this guy on Facebook who hired her to photograph himself naked doing…”

At which point, the 22-Fillmore arrived.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Originally “Monologuing” is what supervillains do when they have captured superheroes, but instead of killing them, the supervillains brag about how smart they are, allowing the superheroes to escape and capture them. First used in The Incredibles, for example, here.

The Color Orange at Katz’ Bagels

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Good Evening:

Katz’ Bagels began as a small hole in the wall on 16th Street near Albion a few decades ago, and I’m convinced that Mr. Katz opened the place to support his photography habit, because during the early years, hundreds of his street portraits graced its walls, and you could buy his book of photographs and look at art as you noshed. Today he owns multiple branches in San Francisco, and these are probably the best bagels in my hometown (full disclosure: I have no financial stake in the business).

The Lower Haight branch does not have his photos. Instead, it features a wall painted bright orange with nooks for the display of art. Such as these (all 4 photographs taken with an iPhone 4):

I wasn’t kidding about the orange, was I? It almost appears as if the art was selected to glorify the color and not the other way around.

Of course, perhaps the color orange is a bit much for you. You can sit in back:

The mood is a bit quieter back here, a sample of San Francisco at its civilized best.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Declamatory Declaration of Decisive Degenerative Decibel Damage on the 6-Parnassus

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Good Evening:

Ahem. Harumph. A-hem. Herewith, Henceforth and Forthwith, A Declaration:

WHEREAS: You, sir, the 25-30 year old white collar worker with white Oxford shirt, dark necktie, and closely trimmed goatee, sat six feet away from me on the 6-Parnassus this morning, and

WHEREAS: You, sir, were listening to hip-hop through the earbuds of your iPhone, and

WHEREAS: I was listening to Neil Young’s Living with War album through the earbuds of my iPhone, and

WHEREAS: Your music, sir, drowned out mine, verily, I could not hear my own music even though it was six feet closer to my ears;

BE IT THEREFORE KNOWN UNTO ALL: that you, sir, will become the ultimate poster child for hearing loss. Not some day. Not even today. You, sir, will become the ultimate poster child for hearing loss three years ago.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Well, that is what I fantasized I would tell him.

PPS–Seriously, how can someone drown out “Shock & Awe?”

Feeling, You Know, A Little Douchey @ Oak & Divisadero, 3 June 2012

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Good Afternoon:

Soon, I will have no choice; I will need to launch the Voice Memo app on my iPhone 4 as soon as I leave my apartment.

First, the snippet I overheard on the 71-Noriega on my way home from the Civic Center farmers market (cherries $2.50/lb., say hallelujah!):

1st Young Woman (pointing at her friend’s new blouse): So what’s with the color?

2nd Young Woman: It’s my new boyfriend, he wants me to be more into purple.

At that point, we arrived at the Haight & Divisadero stop, where I disembarked to walk a few blocks to the local hardware store on Divizz (as we San Francisco insiders call it, although we can’t agree on whether Divizz or Diviz is correct). I walked down the shady side of the street behind these two gentlemen, age 20-25, both short, about 5′ 6″ – 5′ 8″, both Caucasian, both wearing graphic tees and baggy jeans, but one wore a black stocking cap because he was, you know, an individual. The other one is the reason I needed my audio recorder. His spoke both loudly and fast as in fast, 2,985 words per minute, +/- 2 words. I cannot promise that these are his exact words, but I can promise that this represents my best good-faith effort to remember them. It’s his fault, really; he should know better than to talk so loudly in front of a stranger who might be a blogger. And if he wants to speak loudly in front of a stranger who might be a blogger, he should at least have the courtesy to speak slowly enough to make it easier to remember his words.

The red light at Oak and Divizz is a very long one, but Mr. Fast spoke so quickly that the entire following conversation happened during our wait.

Mr. Fast: So I bought these two tickets to the Giants’ game last June and my bro couldn’t go so I’m like, I know, I’ll ask her to go with me, because I’m really into her, so I text her and go like, “Hey I got two free tix to the Giants’ game, wanna go?” and she texts back she’s got plans and I text her back “What plans?” and she texts back that she just has plans which pisses me off because people should be like, more open, so I text her again “What plans?” because I’m feeling, you know, a little-”

Mr. Stocking Cap: Douchey?

Mr. Fast: No, man, but she doesn’t text me back at all, which is total dissing, so I wait a few months, you know, just wait a few months, not text her at all, you know, because I’m feeling, you know-

Mr. Stocking Cap: Douchey?

Mr. Fast: No, I just want her to know what it feels like when people don’t text you back, teach her a lesson, but then I text her again that I wanted to-

(loud car horn, language drowned out)

Mr. Fast: -and I wanted to do it with her that morning

Mr. Stocking Cap: Now that’s a little douchey-

Mr. Fast: I know, I know, and like, since then she’s like, never responded to any of my texts and that’s my problem man, I have like, serious self-esteem issues, like, no self-esteem at all-

At which point the light turned green and I put some distance between me and them, because closet repairs were just barely more important than listening any further, and in any case, I would not be able to remember any more. Maybe I should call this blog The San Francisco Scene & Heard.

Vonn Scott Bair

This Is Not a Blogpost, Or, Scarin’ ‘Em with Surrealism at the Laundromat

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Good Evening:

My friendly neighborhood laundromat uses plastic “debit cards” instead of coins. The machines which add value to your card are located in a recess in a wall directly underneath the friendly neighborhood laundromat’s resident TV set. In other words, when you add value to your “debit card” you cannot see the show, but you can hear it.

I was waiting in line at the add-value machine with one man in front of me and one in back when I suddenly said, in a strong, clear and too loud voice, “Who is Rene Magritte?”

The man in front of me and the one in back stared at me with the same expression, the “Omigod, he seems normal but he’s really insane!” look that I recognized at once because frankly, I get that look a lot. One whole heck of a lot.

But two seconds later a man on the invisible TV set said in a strong, clear and rather too loud voice, “WHO IS RENE MAGRITTE?”

The two men jumped as far from both the television and yours truly as they possibly could, eyes as wide open as they could get. Who can blame them? The seemingly normal but really insane middle-aged man had quoted the man on the television that they could not see three seconds before the man on the television spoke. They stared at me, they stared up at the television, they stared at me, they stared up at the television, and they finally stared at each other. Then they laughed.

The television was broadcasting a rerun of “Jeopardy!” and “Who is Rene Magritte?” was the correct answer to the question, but it is possible that I should write the correct question to the answer.

But that’s not where things get interesting. My friendly neighborhood laundromat has a 5′ x 5′ table in the waiting area, and as usual, it was festooned with leftover magazines. One of those magazines was the May 14, 2012 issue of The New Yorker, and the cover illustration was entitled “The Cloud.” Here is that illustration:

Photographed with an iPhone 4

Yes–that is a magazine cover inspired by the oeuvre of legendary mild-mannered Belgian madman Rene Magritte.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–But that’s not where things get interesting. Where things get interesting is that Magritte is all over my life. I once wrote a very successful 20-minute play about Magritte’s lesser-known painting “L’Histoire Centrale” entitled This Is Not a Play. Magritte fans know the title came from here.