Monthly Archives: July 2012

The View from the 8th Floor

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Good Evening:

Frankly, one can find little to praise in 1155 Market Street, the former home of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (this month, we moved into our new HQ at 525 Golden Gate Avenue). The building is too old and obsolete; it has bizarre floor plans with partitions that waste space; the physical plant and HVAC are inferior unless you like the air conditioning running at full blast during the winter; the building wasted energy everywhere, which is a bit of a problem when the tenant is a public utility; and the colors of the rugs, walls and signs scream Sixties Office Functional Dullsville. Yes, those colors.

Then again, there was the 8th Floor. Just the right height from ground level, some of the rooms (esp. Conference Room A/B) afforded great views of downtown San Francisco, and I spent quite a few breaks and lunches capturing the world with my Nikon CoolPix 4300, CoolPix S9100 and the iPhone 4. Here are a few, starting with City Hall, one of America’s most photogenic buildings.

Rain seemed to have a good effect–literally watercolors.

The Orpheum Theater, one of San Francisco’s great old theaters.

Two large buildings, one offices, one condominiums, arose on Mission Street south of 1155 Market during my time there, and the projects both provided some pictures worth taking.

Workers Awaiting the Next Segment of a Construction Crane to Arrive

“Scaffolding Problem During Construction.” Good news–they fixed it.

Roofer Between the Shadows, UN Plaza, San Francisco Civic Center, Market Street Between 7th & 8th

For many years, a seagull (possibly the same one; my supervisor couldn’t be sure) used the ledge outside her window as a nest to hatch and care for a clutch 3-4 eggs annually. The chert among the plants made for a perfect camouflage. When her chicks held still and ducked their heads they were almost invisible to human eyes.

And a few miscellaneous shots, starting with smoke from a fire north of us.

One morning after a particularly violent evening storm during the winter of 2010-11 (a rough one; my apartment building sustained serious damage), we came to work to discover that one of the windows in A/B had been cracked into thousands of pieces. Fortunately and amazingly, the pieces remained in place long enough for a crew of glaziers to safely remove them. It also made for a curious photograph.

“Chiaroscuro During the Storm.” I swear this is natural light, unedited, and that the scene looked exactly as you see it here.

I might revisit the collection at a later date to see if there exists anything else of interest. I hope you liked studying the pictures here.

Vonn Scott Bair

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I Do Not Understand Reality, Special “Scent Elves” Edition, 26 July 2012

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Good Afternoon:

I have zero product loyalty to deodorants.

There. I said it. Do your worst, Mad Men of Madison Avenue; I don’t care what product I use to slime my armpits. I buy whatever I see on special on the shelf without any concern about the brand itself. However, I might have to change my mind and shun one company that shall remain unnamed because of what the label reads on back:

“CONTAINS: Odor-fighting ‘atomic robots’ that ‘shoot lasers’ at your ‘stench monsters’ and replaces them with fresh, clean, masculine ‘scent elves.'”

I am not making this up.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–Has anyone spotted the grammatical error?

The Land of Hope & Dreams – A One-Act Play

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Good Morning:

And now for something completely different.

I’ve had a pretty good July in terms of creative projects: three acting jobs, one web series and two stage readings; plus The Land of Hope & Dreams, a 30-35 minute one-act play, was selected for a stage reading in October at the Playwrights Center of San Francisco. The play is a bit of a surprise. I wrote an early draft in 2006, but didn’t realize it wasn’t that bad and neglected it until a few months ago in favor of other work. As it happens, there is something to the play after all. The play is about an Irish immigrant in 1850 during the great Irish Diaspora and her first day in New York City. Even though the plot consists of her attempts to get her mother properly buried (she had died en route), the play becomes very funny in places, especially after she meets another immigrant, a Cockney English scavenger who is the only person who will help her.

I’ve attached Scene 1 (my first non-photo attachment!). Enjoy.

Vonn Scott Bair

LOHAD 2.8.1 Scene 1

White & Blue

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Good Afternoon:

During the latest of my never-ending and never-successful efforts to organize my iPhoto library, I discovered something about my hobby: yours truly really, really likes the color combination of white and blue. Somewhere between 600 and 700 of my pictures feature this combination dominating the scene. Much to my surprise, such a limitation has not proven much of a limitation.

None of these photographs have been edited; I’m one of those annoying photographers who strongly believe in “editing in camera,” as they say in the movies, and yet lacks the skills to do the editing in which he believes.

White, Black & Cyan

Mural on the Side of Cafe Du Soleil, Fillmore near Haight Street

San Francisco Unified School District, Financial Offices; photo taken from interior parking lot.

In fact, just for fun I’ll break my only-in-San Francisco rule and include a few other locations around the country.

Hot Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Exterior Wall, Berkeley, California, near the Amtrak Railroad Tracks 2008

Idaho Falls, Idaho 2011

Blue Door; not sure where I took this picture.

Returning to San Francisco:

New Tower on 5th Street, Photographed from 5th & Mission

More Extreme Closeups of Murals

Buena Vista Park Waterfall

Blue Angels Performing During Fleet Week, 7 October 2007

Balcony of SF Symphony Hall Photographed from Underneath

Top of Symphony Hall Photographed from Hayes Street

Finally, an experiment utilizing the weaknesses (!) of the 5 megapixel camera in my iPhone 4. The combination of poor lighting and zoom in the camera produces blurry and pixelated effects at shows, and I sought to exploit this during the annual Christmas concert at the Fillmore Auditorium with headliners Ozomatli:

I have also discovered a lot of pictures with either a red or orange theme, but let’s save those for later. I hope you liked viewing these.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Giants Ballpark and the Architecture of Fun

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Good Morning:

It never fails to puzzle me; watching a baseball game on TV taking place in some other city and seeing vast swathes of empty seats in the stands, even in some of the best sections for watching the game, even in the ballparks of teams that are leading their division. This was the scene at the Giants Ballpark (the name of the stadium’s sponsor changes so often that people either don’t know or don’t care, and invent their own names) for an ordinary July 15 game hosting the Houston Astros:

Nikon Coolpix 9100, 180 Degree Panorama Mode

Not much in the way of vast swathes here.

You might think, “Well the Giants have been very successful in recent years, it was a weekend game, and it was Madison Bumgarner Bobblehead Day, so of course the turnout was huge.” Quite logical, but how does this explain the greater than 2.6 million fans who came to games during the G-Men’s 2008 season, their fourth consecutive losing year? It can’t be the ticket prices; some bleacher seats at the team’s website can cost almost $50.

People like to say “Meet me at Willie,” referring to the Willie Mays statue at the main entrance, but I prefer to meet people at “Juan Marichal,” the above sculpture, which is somewhat less crowded. The ballpark, among other things, is an instant historical landmark, with statues and plaques everywhere, plus a lot of exposed brick to create an instant “old-timey” atmosphere.

Which brings me to the title of this blogpost, which sounds like an architecture post-graduate student’s Ph. D. thesis title.

Almost anything that takes place in the ballpark draws a crowd. The San Francisco Giants Baseball Club owns the stadium outright, having used their own money to pay for everything, so they have considerable freedom as to what events they can host there. The San Francisco Opera experimented with live free simulcasts of their operas, using the giant screen behind center field. It’s not an experiment anymore; it’s a tradition. The next simulcast is set for September 15. The Giants make money on the concessions. I’m not an opera buff, myself, but darn, garlic fries and Shiner Bock or Anchor Porter (on tap, this might be America’s finest beer) make the experience quite enjoyable. Even the justly-legendary-for-all-the-wrong-reasons XFL enjoyed success here: the San Francisco Demons were the only popular team in the league.

The “Melk Maids” in the Bleachers: These are the female fans of Melky Cabrera, who did not play on the 15th. The “Melk Men” (you can guess how they dress) hang out in the field seats close to the left field foul line.

It has to be the ballpark. People seem to flock to events at the Giants Ballpark because the ballpark itself is worth the visit (come on, who watched any XFL games on TV?). The place seems to have been designed, from the initial blueprints to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, to match the quirky spirit of San Francisco itself. Consider for example the right field wall:

That’s not a wall. That’s a chainlink fence.

I think the Giants home is the only one of all the stadia, arenas and ballparks hosting one or more of the Big Four team sports (baseball, football, basketball, hockey) which was designed to allow fans to watch the games for free. These free SRO “seats” have become so popular that the police will ask the fans to leave every three innings to allow a new group of fans to watch the game. Hey, I’ve watched the games there. It’s a unique perspective; you are level with the players. At the time of its opening, no other MLB ballpark had the same online connectivity as the Giants home field. Of course, everyone has caught up since then, but even now, the most Instagram photos in baseball come from the stadium which happens to reside only a few blocks away from the company’s HQ.

Cotton Candy Vendor in the Bleachers at Giants Ballpark

I know one of the electricians who helped build the stadium (last time I saw, she had since gone to med school). The construction workers received a nice thank-you present from management one day: a meet-and-greet with slugger Barry Bonds, and the chance to be on the field as he took batting practice just for them. Even though suspicions about his steroid use had already begun to circulate, she still remembers the event as one of her favorite moments.

That must have something to do with the success of the ballpark; the club’s marketing and community relations divisions must do an excellent job. Even my dad, a Yankees and Mets fan, adopted the “Jints” as his #3 team after watching three innings of a game through the fence.

Giants Fans Start Young 2

I believe that the Giants’ home functions San Francisco’s biggest and most exclusive nightclub where paradoxically, anyone can get in. This place is an 81-game/year party. Of course, since this is San Francisco, some fans contribute a little something extra to that party atmosphere, as Texas sports reporter Newy Scruggs learned when he visited McCovey Cove shortly before Game 1 of the San Francisco-Texas 2010 World Series. That video was wildly popular amongst Giants fans until YouTube took it down. This is why I’ve never understood why pitcher Tim Lincecum apologized to the fans when he got busted for smoking pot. I mean, come on, dude; we’re San Franciscans; what do you think some of us are smoking when we watch you attack opposing hitters with that motion of yours? And he plays for a manager, Bruce Bochy, a mild-mannered beer drinker, but who looks and drawls like a retired Mendocino farmer (and by “Mendocino” you know exactly which crop I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more).

The Dodger Fan at San Francisco

The aforementioned Texas sports reporter did mention that Giants’ fans are some of the nicest people he’s ever met, but his standards might be a little low (we don’t spit on people, as do Yankees fans). I suppose he’s never been to a Giants-Dodgers game. Though much diluted from the New York-Brooklyn days and the Candlestick Park days, there’s still a little bad blood between the teams. However, we can tolerate each other. No one is bothering the Dodger fan above who is hoping to catch a home run ball hit over the right field wall (24′ high, Willie Mays’ number, another nice Giant touch). I also witnessed this event in 2010 and reported it to my friends:

World Peace Is (Kinda, Sorta) Possible! (September 15, 2010)

Good Evening:

There’s something about public transit in San Francisco…

Tonight I rode the J-Church streetcar to the Fringe Festival at the Exit Theater. However, other San Franciscans had other priorities, and many were going to the ballpark to see the Giants host the Dodgers. In my half of the car, six people wore Giants gear.

One person were a Dodgers cap and jersey. The gentleman sitting next to him wore a Giants cap and jersey.

Those of you with fond memories of Roseboro-Marichal will be disappointed. The two fans kept their noses in their reading and ignored each other. Except the Giants fan finally looked up from his magazine, looked at the book-reading Dodgers fan, and grimaced as if a posse of bad oysters for dinner had begun a counterattack in his digestive tract. He noticed me stifling a laugh, so I said, “This proves world peace is possible!”

The rest of the passengers laughed, but the Dodgers fan simply buried his face deeper into his book, while the Giants fan told me, “Yeah, well, I’m trying not to notice.”

I got off at Powell Street, and as I walked away, I looked back at the car. The Giants fan had taken my seat. I guess he couldn’t stand sitting next to the LA fan any longer.

Peaceful. Kinda, sorta, peaceful.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–The Dodgers won the game, but the Giants won the World Series.

I did not see Matt Cain’s perfect game (June 13, 2012) the first in Giants’ history, in person or live on television, but Comcast SportsNet Bay Area has not missed too many chances to rebroadcast the game, and I saw one of these rebroadcasts partially to listen to the announcers (Duane Kuiper and I think Jon Miller). I was curious about when exactly did they start to realize that something special was happening on the field. It actually took them a while, but I can’t really blame them. Not when something like this is prowling above McCovey Cove.

Is the ballpark perfect? No. It does not appear that the club anticipated year after year of consecutive sellouts because there are far too many pedestrian chokepoints both in and outside the park. Also, don’t get a hot dog and regular fries; you will spend far too much money to hold two pockets of air. I recommend the food at Orlando Cepeda’s concession stand behind the bleachers.

The chicken bowl is $10, but it’s a big honking bowl of food with a lot of chicken.

There are more pictures to publish and more tales to tell, but I’ll save those for another time. I hope you all had a great weekend.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Wrong Remarks to the Wrong Woman at the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

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Good Evening:

“…and then after I was done porkin’ ‘er, she tells me she’s married! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!”

Thus spoke the extremely drunk old-looking white guy with the smell and the scraggly beard in the back row of the extremely crowded 71-Limited during this evening’s commute. I write “old-looking” because alcoholism can severely age a person; he looked about 65 but could have been 20 years younger. No matter; the drunk with the smell and the scraggly beard had thoroughly convinced himself that a) he was the world’s greatest lover; b) he was the world’s greatest raconteur; and c) everyone on the bus wanted, deserved and needed to hear his stories of sexual triumph, shouted in a ragged and splintered timbre.

“Oh, man, I f—– so many women in my life an’ kissed thousan’s and thousan’s more! Hey you, cutie! Why’nt’cha gimme li’l kiss, huh? Huh? How ’bout you, hotpants? Gimme a kiss, hah! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Oh, wai’uh’minute, this my stop, man, yo, bus driver, wai’ fo’ me, man, gotta get off, whoa, hey, check out the chick on the sidewalk, driver, lemme off man, gotta say hello to her, mebbe she ain’a frigid b—- with a stick up her a–, comin’ through, comin’ through! Where’d she go? Where’d she go? There she is!”

He disembarked and caught up with the woman with his arms flung out wide. He stood between us and the woman, so we couldn’t see what happened, but he said, “Hey, gorgeous-” and then immediately flailed and spun and shook his head and screamed in a ragged and splintered timbre, and scratched at his own face, tripped over his feet and fell, rolling into the gutter. Screaming the whole time.

She had Mace.

Yes–very definitely the wrong woman.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Sad Day at the Civic Center Farmers Market, 18 July 2012

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Good Evening:

Cherry Season is over.

A moment of silence, please, in memory of two of the happiest months of a San Francisco locavore’s year. This year, it lasted from mid-May through Sunday, July 15. It wasn’t a great year for Rainier (or Flame) Cherries, but the classic black cherries were in good shape for most of the season (although 2010 remains my favorite). I am finishing off the last of the season’s bounty even as I write.

You will not be forgotten.

On the other hand, the Civic Center Farmers Market still has blueberries, and the melons (pardon me, I meant to write MELONS!!) have just begun to arrive. Peaches and nectarines have flooded the market. So I guess the next two months will also be two of the happiest months of a San Francisco locavore’s year. Actually, perhaps every month is one of the happiest months in a San Francisco locavore’s year. Here are more pictures I’ve taken of the produce at the farmers market over the years. I like to use them as desktop pictures on my computer.

Sweet, Yukon Gold, and Red Potatoes

White Onions

Chilis, Medium Hot

Chilis, Mind-Blowingly Hot

Shallots, Garlic and Potatoes

Tangerines

This next is a personal favorite of mine.

Strawberries

I don’t make a major political or philosophical issue over food in the sense that I don’t have one of those snob attitiudes that will make other people do anything except accept your views and adopt them as their own. It just sorta happened; since California is the home of a tremendous bounty and variety of produce (one day I simply must tell you about Blood Limes), it’s easy to walk across the street from work and load up on a rich assortment of goodies, no matter what season of the year, and at the same time spend a fraction of what you would pay at the supermarket for less fresh fruits and vegetables shipped long distances, or even imported. If there’s one thing I try to avoid at all times, it’s preaching to people. I’d much rather say, “Try this.”

I’m a locavore because I like to eat. A lot. I like to cook. A lot. It’s that simple.

Wishing You Good Eating Always, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair