Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Monday Malady Strikes the San Francisco Civic Center!

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Good Evening:

One whole heck of a lot of people must have had The Friday Flu on this Monday morning. Normally, people come down with The Friday Flu, that peculiar debilitating malady that lasts only as long as it takes to call in sick, and that peculiar debilitating malady that normally only strikes on, well, um, you know, Friday. But the weather wasn’t so nice on Friday, and much much nicer on Monday.

I did go to work on Monday–and stayed there for eight hours–but I had to run a few errands on my lunch break and took the opportunity to practice my 30 Shot technique (probably a good time to re-mention that I know I didn’t invent it, just like to use it for street photography) and capture the scene around the Civic Center.

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Even those who did not call in sick still found the time for business lunches, uh, picnics that maybe just maybe lasted just a little longer than one hour.

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And believe it or not, San Francisco is not just a city of leisure. We do work hard here. Honest.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Vintage Street Car Logo Samples (Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters)

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Good Evening:

If you awaken in a strange city that you’ve never seen before, and if you see what look like 50 foot long hard candies rolling up and down the street, you woke up in San Francisco and you are looking at our vast collection of vintage North American street cars. They are colorful.

Can’t deny it; some of the old time logos of San Francisco’s vintage street car system, maybe designed by someone in the office during the 1930s who dabbled in painting during his or her spare time, have a certain character lacking in some the more professional designs I see today.

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See what I mean? Here’s a shot of the Dallas:

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By the way, do you also see what I mean about the candy-colored paint jobs?

Vonn Scott Bair

The Artists Leave Their Mark (Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters)

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Good Morning:

And good Heavens, your faithful correspondent has gotten old, hasn’t he? Don’t know if the people who create San Francisco’s magnificent murals call themselves artists, muralists, painters, or taggers. Do know that they do like to leave their mark, and they do like to leave it artistically. All pictures taken on 26 April 2014 with a Nikon D40 DSLR, unedited.

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Vonn Scott Bair

The Instant Art of Instant Abstract Art: Orange Series, 24 April 2014.

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Good Evening:

I’ve published plenty of posts devoted my Grey Series, my Blue Series, and my White & Blue Series–not to mention The Instant Art of Instant Abstract Art. But I’ve published very little (if anything) devoted to the color orange. I blame the muralists. Come on, people! You live in the home of our beloved orange-and-black San Francisco Giants! You live in the city where Hallowe’en is the biggest annual holiday! Why so little orange?

Then I found a nearly-100-foot-long mural on the side of the Food Co. grocery store on Folsom Street.

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Now that’s more like it.

Really–blue? That’s a Dodger’s color.

Vonn Scott Bair

On Top @ The Bottom: The San Francisco Music Scene, 2014. (Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top)

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Good Evening:

In the 1990s, San Francisco became home to a variety of underground clubs that took over vacant buildings in industrial areas such as SOMA (South of Market). Underground club = unlicensed + unregulated + only one exit + zero fire extinguishers = deathtrap; in other words, one of my favorite places to listen to new music at the time.

(Optional reading: one of the earliest known uses of the word “deathtrap” in San Francisco referred to a short-lived building fad in the mid-19th Century–steel houses. They were advertised as unburnable, which was true. Unfortunately, when a fire did strike an entire city block, the steel houses melted, sealing the doors and windows shut, turning into ovens and roasting the trapped inhabitants.)

The Line on McAllister of Fans Waiting to See Lana Del Rey

The Line on McAllister of Fans Waiting to See Lana Del Rey, Bill Graham Civic Center in Background

Sometime in early- or mid-1993, I passed on attending a show with a few friend at one such venues featuring a pair of Berkeley bands. The following day, I really got the abuse. Aside from the fact that the two bands tore the house down (figuratively), my friends overheard the lead singers talking to each other after the show. Both bands had just signed with major labels and had major-label debuts coming out in late 1993 and early 1994, and their major-label debuts were going to hit the tops of the charts and stay there throughout 1994. This talk did not impress me at all; after all, the music scene in San Francisco was huge, I mean huge, no, I mean huge at the time and lots of bands were signing contracts, and lots of bands knew, they just knew their major-label debuts would sell huge numbers of CDs.

I did not feel at all impressed.

The singers: Billie Joe Armstrong and Adam Duritz.

The bands: Green Day and Counting Crows.

The albums: Dookie and August and Everything After.

Yeah, I kinda missed a good show.

Forward to 2014.

Recently, one of the city’s local free weekly papers hosted a town hall meeting to debate the question, is the San Francisco music scene dying? The overwhelming opinion: no. The San Francisco music scene is dead. We have hit bottom. The number of musicians is down, the number of bands is down, the number of venues is down, the number of rehearsal spaces is down, et cetera et cetera et cetera. This represents a pretty sad decline for a city that for a few years became the center of the music world. Specifically, circa 1968-1972, when 2400 Fulton Street among others became the homes of bands like the Jefferson Airplane. It might surprise outsiders that a city this young could feel nostalgia, but ’tis true.

But San Francisco still goes crazy for music when it can. I had the opportunity to reflect upon this when Lana Del Rey (currently on top of the music scene, at least in the US) came to town last week for a 75-minute gig at the Bill Graham Civic Center. It’s not that we no longer care about music; look at the length of that line. The funny thing is that these folks missed out.

Lana Del Rey Signing Autographs Behind the Civic Center on Hayes Street

Lana Del Rey Signing Autographs Behind the Civic Center on Hayes Street

That’s Lana Del Rey minus her public ultra-cool ultra-hip persona, not acting like a superstar on top of the music world (picture taken with an iPhone 4, unedited). Instead, she looks more like the organizer of a night on the town for a bunch of friends attending their 10-year high school reunion. See the guy with his right arm raised, revealing a big wristwatch? That’s her head underneath. The folks waiting in line in front of the Civic Center missed out on a chance to meet her when she was just being herself, hanging out with people who were temporarily her friends.

So San Franciscans haven’t given up their love of music.

But have we given up on making music?

I don’t know about that.

I believe that partly because I am very much a contrarian. In January 2009, I made a big investment in the S&P 500 because everyone else was abandoning stocks. In January 1982, I moved to San Francisco despite the fact that the city had just lived through one of the worst decades of its existence–specifically, I moved to San Francisco 8 days before the 49ers won their first Super Bowl. I also believe in the music scene because like the city as a whole, our entire arts scene (not just music) has booms and busts; we are definitely busted now, so maybe the next boom is just around the corner.

And I believe that partly because I keep hearing music in the strangest places.

Like outside my window at 5:30 p.m. today.

Four Musicians Walking to Rehearsal, the Saxophonist Entertaining a Young Lady

Four Musicians Walking to Rehearsal, the Saxophonist Entertaining a Young Lady

I heard a saxophone and knew I would want my camera. I saw these four gentlemen walking in one direction, and a rather attractive redhead walking in the other direction.  The saxophonist also decided that she was rather attractive and began performing to impress her. She kept walking. But still…

I can’t tell you which band will lead the San Francisco Renaissance, not can I tell you when it will begin. Humility is good for me; in 1993, I thought D’Cuckoo was going to rule the world, not some angst-ridden or punkish kids from the East Bay. But there is a reason the Phoenix is so significant to this city. We just keep rising from the ashes.

Vonn Scott Bair

Sunset from Turtle Hill, 20 April 2014 (Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top)

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Good Evening:

Wind rising, temperatures dropping–what are these folks doing on the top of Grand View Park, also known as Turtle Hill? (all pictures totally unedited)

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Oh, this must be why they assembled:

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Grand View/Turtle Hill became quite popular at sunset over the weekend. I came here after attending the Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective at the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. I didn’t know that much about her work, but the similarities between some of her paintings and some of my photographs astounded me–can I sue her for plagiarism 90 years before the fact?

Here are two shots of the same scene, the first using the Nikon Landscape Mode, the second using the Dusk/Dawn Mode.

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Finally, the reason we stayed and shivered:

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We applauded.

Vonn Scott Bair

The View from the Artist’s Garret (Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top)

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Good Evening:

From now until at least the end of September, you can count on Golden Gate Park hosting something, anything, many things on the weekends. Today is both Easter throughout the world and 420 Day in North America, so the park hosted a huge number of celebrations of both events, including everything from small family picnic gatherings to big concerts. Some folks managed to combine both.

At the end of the day, people had to walk home from Easter and/or our biggest cannabis holiday. That meant walking down Haight Street, which means walking past my home.

A genuine, honest-to-God Artist’s Garret on top of an Edwardian, on top of the street.

Bicyclist Heading Home, 20 April 2014

Bicyclist Heading Home, 20 April 2014

420 Celebrants Heading Home, 20 April 2014

420 Celebrants Heading Home, 20 April 2014

It does give one a new perspective.

One thing that does mildly irritate me about outsiders’ perceptions of San Francisco is the common mis-perception that we are all a bunch of wild-eyed church-burning atheists. To mis-quote the late great Herb Caen, fercrynoutloud. I mean, come on, folks, look at my city’s name. That’s Spanish for Saint Francis. Thanks to the large populations of people with Irish and/or Italian and/or Hispanic ancestry, San Francisco has a large Catholic population. Oddly, people don’t notice.

Microbrews and American Spirits, 20 April 2014

Microbrews and American Spirits, 20 April 2014

These two are Irish sisters who live in different apartments in my Edwardian (one moved to the US many years before the other). They made up the third (I think) group of partiers on our front steps today. Twas a grand day indeed of warm weather and clear skies, and I look forward to a fun time in my town this summer.

Vonn Scott Bair