Category Archives: I Do Not Understand Reality

The Literary Shower Curtain (Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected)


Good Evening:

Admit it–until you saw the phrase “literary shower curtain,” it never occurred to you that it never occurred to you that you never realized that you never thought that it never occurred to you that you never thought that you would ever read the phrase “literary shower curtain.”

The Literary Shower Curtain, San Francisco, CA 23 November 2013

The Literary Shower Curtain, San Francisco, CA 23 November 2013

Welcome to San Francisco.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality: Or, The Latest in Tools for Business Meetings


Good Evening:

A simple question, given in the caption:

Can You Identify the Most Important Business Tool in This Picture?

Can You Identify the Most Important Business Tool in This Picture?

No, no, no, not the pen, not the paper–good heavens, who still uses those things in this iPad era? The most important business tool in this picture is the “hairy” rubble ball.

We had a three-hour meeting today (most such gatherings in my department only last about 30-45 minutes). At the start of the meeting, the leader presented us with her collection of toys and directed us–yes, directed us–to pick one and play with it during the discussion. I do give her credit for ingenuity. You see, if you play with a yo-yo, tennis balls, or this red and gold critter (San Francisco 49er colors, how could I resist?), you can still pay attention to the conversation, participate and learn. If you play with your iPhone, you can’t pay attention to anything else; it presents too great a distraction.

So there I sat, playing with my iPhone’s camera, photographing my hairy rubber critter.

I’m not certain her plan worked on me.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Surreal Is That Which Lies At Your Feet, 9 December 2013


Good Evening:

A sidewalk stencil observed on International Boulevard near 23rd in Oakland, CA this evening on my way to rehearsal:


It might translate as “Decolonization in my heart and my machete,” but I’ve never studied the Spanish language.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco: The City That Nudes How!


Good Evening:

I do not understand reality, but I love San Francisco. My hometown, “The City That Knows How,” has become “The City That Nudes How.”

I have in my hand the January 2 – 8, 2013 edition of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a free weekly newspaper with an unabashedly unashamedly liberal perspective and very interesting advertisements. Such as this one:


Yup–the one issue that practically screams San Francisco has returned. Public nudity is back. I beg your pardon, gentle reader: did I write “public nudity?” Political correctness politely and poutingly prompts me to write “body freedom.” The issue of publi–body freedom keeps coming back and coming back to my beloved hometown.

“Now that the nudity ban has been passed, come join us for a clothing optional protest…Nudity is still legal until February 1st.”

I did not know that nudity had enjoyed explicit legal status with the boundaries of the City & County of San Francisco.

“Tuesday, January 8th @ 12 Noon: Protest against Nudity Ban at SF City Hall steps (in case of rain go to Center for Sex and Culture).”

This is the clothing optional protest. The “in case of rain” contingency plan is not the only contingency plan: if you can’t arrange travel to San Francisco for the 8th, you can always come to the “Federal Court hearing” on 17 January @ 1:30 p.m. at the Federal Court House, 450 Golden Gate Avenue (yes, next block from where I work). Clothing might not be a mere option for that one.

But if you cannot attend either event, you can always purchase the book. Pardon me, this is San Francisco: you can always purchase the e-book. “All proceeds go to nudist legal defense and body freedom events/actions.” I have no idea what sort of content you will find in this e-book, but you might see what they have in mind at

I still don’t want to photograph the festivities. I haven’t done it before and I don’t want to do it now. This must count as a rare occasion outside of X-rated movies and photo shoots where all of the nudis–body freedom advocates want to be filmed/photographed/recorded doing what they believe that they do best. But I don’t want to do what they want me to do.

It still feels so, well–look, I also want to protest. I don’t want to look at the naked people, I want to deprive them of at least one spectator. San Franciscans are a contrary people, so I have a reputation to uphold.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Surreal Is That Which Lies at Your Feet, 12 December 2012: Levon Helm


Good Afternoon:

First, the picture, then the annotations:

The Surreal Is That Which Lies at Your Feet, 12/12/12: Levon Helm

The Surreal Is That Which Lies at Your Feet, 12/12/12: Levon Helm

Well, let us see:

  1. Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm (1940-2012) = vocalist, drummer, percussionist, and multiple other instruments for The Band.
  2. Berry Oklee = probably Berry Oakley (1948-1972), bass, guitar, backing vocals for The Allman Brothers Band.
  3. !!!French Connect. = probably The French Connection (1971), the first R-rated film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  4. S. A. G. = possibly the Screen Actors Guild.

Now, let us try to put this all together.

I give up. I can’t. Speculation, calculation, clever deduction and wild guesses all welcome.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality: Sundry Snippets of Speaking San Franciscans, 10 December 2012


Good Evening:

Overheard recently on various San Francisco Muni buses:

  • “Dude, I am an amazing slumlord! You shut up!”
  • “Like, her neck was approved, but the rest of her wasn’t.”
  • “Wait, were you paroled in that town, or were you paroled in this town?!…Wow…That’s new age.”

I feel rather fortunate that I do not know the context of any of these sentences. Doesn’t it seem better that way?

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality, Even More Nudity in San Francisco Edition, 20 November 2012


Good Evening:

I don’t understand this: public nudity in our culture is strange; San Francisco in our culture is strange; surely strange should be able to do strange right. But my town has flagrantly flubbed flaunted flesh (ah, poesy!).

My hometown’s nudity movement (I can’t believe I just wrote that) became a civic issue months before I saw the nudity demonstration in the Civic Center only five days ago. A group of men had taken to sitting au naturel in one of SF’s smallest parks, a roughly fifty foot diameter circle of bushes and a few metal tables at the terminus of the vintage streetcar line that travels up Market Street and ends at yet another one of San Francisco’s five-way intersections (Temple, Divisadero, Market, Castro and 17th Streets). Incidentally, when I wrote of this curious affair to my other online buddies, one of my fave correspondents, a sweet-tempered grandmother and Red Sox fanatic from Boston, Massachusetts wrote back asking if the men were young, handsome, suntanned, hetero and single. Sadly, I had to inform her that they were old, flabby, pot-bellied, pale and gay.

The Supervisor (similar to an Alderman in other cities/towns) whose district includes the Castro neighborhood, Scott Wiener (yes, his last name is unfortunate, and no, he is not that Weiner, and whatever one-liners you’re imagining we San Franciscans have already told each other) grew concerned about the possible health risks concerning the spread of butt bacteria (I can’t believe I just wrote that) and wanted to introduce a law requiring the nude sitters to “…place a towel or other barrier on a public seat before sitting in it. And that they be prohibited from dining in restaurants naked.” (from the SF Chronicle article written by Heather Knight which you can read here) This stirred up more controversy than people expected.

First of all, the City & County of San Francisco has a surprisingly strong Libertarian streak (just ask the surprised Libertarian activists who discover how popular Ron Paul is around here): a lot of defenders of public nudity didn’t approve of the imposition of forcing the nudists to carry a towel with them. Second, San Francisco has a new “sit/lie law” that bans people from sitting or lying on sidewalks, no matter how many/few/no clothes they wear. Why should nudists be allowed to sit in public when panhandlers on Haight Street can’t sit at all? Third, the gay population in the Castro wanted public nudity in their neighborhood banned, period, arguing that among other things, the nudes were bad for the local small businesses. San Francisco, contrary to conservative stereotypes, is one of America’s hottest hotbeds of entrepreneurship, business, and free enterprise.

When the story spread that the sitters were not even San Franciscans, they were out-of-towners, the aghast locals asked Mr. Wiener to do something about this. Think about that; people not from San Francisco conducting themselves in San Francisco in a manner too risque for San Franciscans. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

So Mr. Wiener did what politicians are expected to do, obeyed his constituents’ wishes, and introduced a law limiting but not eliminating public nudity, because after all, this is San Francisco, and we have annual events such as the Folsom Street Fair and the Pride Parade where nudity is expected, so we can’t ban expected nudity, now can we? However, because after all, this is San Francisco, the public hearing drew protestors who stated that the nude sitters were not out-of-towners, they were San Franciscans, and since they were nude activists, they therefore engaged in some pubic baring at the public hearing (and I can believe I wrote that). Many of the other Supervisors opposed the law, saying that “Sometimes there’s a little weirdness about how we express ourselves, but that’s a great thing about San Francisco.” The proposed law did pass and barring surprises will go into effect on 1 February 2013.

The final vote? 6-5. Naturally, everyone says that the new law just barely passed.

Vonn Scott Bair
Read more at Neil J. Riley’s article (and yes, there are pictures!):

I Do Not Understand Reality, Special Public Nudity at the Civic Center Edition!


Good Evening:

I do not need anyone to remind me that I live in San Francisco.

I have lived in San Francisco for almost 31 years, since 15 January 1982. To this day, I have never forgotten that I live in San Francisco. I fully embrace my San Francisco-ish-ness and when I awaken each morning, I know exactly where I live. I don’t need to be reminded that I live in San Francisco, California, USA.

Today, San Francisco reminded me that I live in San Francisco.

I had just finished visiting the Civic Center Farmers Market (carrots, celery, leeks), seriously contemplating taking photographs of the 60-ish gentleman in a cream-colored suit, cream-colored straw Panama hat, white Oxford shirt and patterned yellow necktie, when I espied a young couple, twenties, Caucasian, strolling into the park in front of City Hall–completely nude except for the two protest signs “NUDE RIGHTS” and “Defend Your Right to Bare!” which they held over their heads. But that’s not where things got interesting. I looked around at the other park visitors. A single raised eyebrow here, a shrug of the shoulders there, and over there a brief smirk. In other words, just another nude couple in San Francisco–keep moving, nothing to see. Not interesting. The young lady was not unattractive, but not interesting.

It’s when the couple joined a hundred other people, complete nude but for their protest signs, that things got interesting. Turns out that my hometown is the hometown for a political movement that seeks the decriminalization of public nudity, and the members of said movement chose today to stage a big, um, uh, “coming-out” party to er, um, display their political message for all to see. They marched to the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue and stood their with their signs, and then walked at least three times around the Civic Center and City Hall. At no point did they encounter any interference from the police. A tourist couple nearby:

Wife: Honey, aren’t those people dangerous?

Husband: They’re nudists, dear. Where are they going to conceal any weapons?

Even though the nude activists were roughly 50-50 male/female, and even though the women tended to look rather attractive, the spectators proved more interesting to watch. Civic Center at midday typically has over 100 people wandering about, but almost no one took pictures (and everyone in this town has a smart phone, everyone). Look at them, yes we did, but no photographs. I didn’t take pictures.

And that is why I Do Not Understand Reality: why not? Our naked friends wanted to publicize their beliefs and their cause–you don’t seriously think they didn’t want the general public to take pictures and instantly post them to Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and Fox News, do you? Of course not! They wanted publicity!

Why didn’t we oblige them?

Eternally Baffled, I Remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

The Surreal Is That Which Lies at Your Feet, 8 November 2012


Good Evening:

I still seek the origin of the phrase in the title of this post; I keep thinking it came from a Surrealist like Breton or Magritte, but have had no luck so far finding the originator. All I know is that I’m convinced that I did not invent it.

Nor did I invent this:

“Free Wi-Fi”

I can’t believe I have recourse to this same obscure saying so soon after my first mention, but there I stood at the intersection of Vallejo and Columbus in San Francisco’s legendary North Beach neighborhood looking at the surreal which lay at my feet. What can I say? I still don’t understand reality. Some more picture from this exhibition:

“You Are Barnum and Bailey”

“…staring at your idiot phone”

“Johnny Cash’s Last Words”

San Francisco – It’s Never Boring.

I probably need to copyright that.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality, 21 October 2012


Good Evening:

Freecycling is a popular activity in San Francisco, but I doubt that anyone will pick up this television now that it sports this graffito (photo taken at the west-bound Haight & Divisadero bus stop around 9:30 p.m. with an iPhone 4 using flash):

“TV Tube X Equality Kevlar” Haight & Divisadero, 21 October 2012

Does anyone have any idea what the message might mean?

Vonn Scott Bair

I Do Not Understand Reality, 27 September 2012; Or, The Dueling Buskers at Castro & 18th Street


Good Evening:

“San Francisco has five seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Hallowe’en and Autumn.” So I thought to myself at the 18th & Castro bus stop for the 24-Divisadero as a young man in a Catwoman costume (complete with falsies) walked past me. It’s that time of year in the city Herb Caen called Baghdad by the Bay. No doubt the gentleman had just returned from our annual Folsom Street Fair, our annual September celebration of decadence, debauchery, dominatrices and other forms of good clean wholesome fun for the entire family–the Addams Family. That part of reality I do understand.

Shy Busker on Haight Street with Digeridoos

I had spent that Sunday on Peralta Avenue–seen one metal-studded leather corset, seem ’em all–so I had chosen to miss the spanking, sadomasochism, sexual antics and other forms of good clean wholesome et cetera.

Now one thing music fans, activists, and pet lovers visiting San Francisco will enjoy knowing is that some of our finest buskers perform at the intersection of 18th and Castro. This is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the entire city, and charities, political activists, our local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and musicians will compete for space at the corner where a bank stands. A wide expanse of sidewalk wraps around the bank, and I have seen AIDS activists collecting donations, buskers playing acoustic guitar and singing, and the SPCA playing matchmaker for humans and kittens–all at the same time.

Packing up After the Show

On this particular early Sunday evening, a young woman of about 25-30 wearing what I will call attempted “neo-Bohemian/60’s hippie” clothing performed acoustic guitar and sang for passersby with the aid of a portable amplifier that was less than 18 inches tall. This woman combined a major fail in fashion with major successes in songwriting, singing and guitar, sounding like someone who had started with Tori Amos and Sara McLachlan but then found her own way. She earned a steady stream of dollars from the spectators, including a George Washington from your faithful blogger. I understand this part of reality.

Then the competition showed up. This part of reality I did not understand.

This was an African-American gentleman, slightly older, much bigger, wearing a black suit, white shirt, no necktie, with an electric guitar and a two-foot tall amplifier. He began to set up his equipment.

She said, “Hey, what are you doing?” even as she kept strumming.

He said, “This is my spot.”

She said, “Excuse me, this is not your spot, this is my spot.”

He said, “No, you are in my spot, you took my spot away from me.”

She said, “I got here first.”

He said, “I have been playing here for eight years!”

She said, “I have been playing here for ten years!”

He said, “I have been playing here for twelve!”

He plugged his guitar into the amplifier, turned everything on, and began to play without tuning his instrument–louder than the acoustic guitarist with the tiny amplifier.

She turned up her amplifier until it was louder than his big one.

He turned up his amplifier until it was louder than her little one.

However, she had one of those amplifiers that can “go to eleven,” and she went there.*

He stood there, dumbfounded, alternating between glaring at her and glaring at his larger but impotent amp.

During this dispute, a crowd gathered around the dueling musicians and watched. “Why don’t they just take turns performing?” “Why don’t they just perform together?” “They both sound so awful playing so loud.” “Why doesn’t the City do something about this?” “Like what?” “You know, regulate, set up a schedule or something.”

Here’s something I noticed: during this entire dispute, neither musician earned even a penny. I thought of that other duel I had witnessed at 16th and Mission.

My bus arrived and spirited me away from the cacophany.

Vonn Scott Bair

* Every music-themed blog post needs a good Spinal Tap reference.

The Surreal Is That Which Lies at Your Feet – In San Francisco, at Any Rate


Good Evening:

“The surreal is that which lies at your feet.”

Does anyone recognize that quote? Not mine, I thought it was another product of Andre Breton’s fertile, fervid and fervent imagination but I have not found the original yet. But I think of that line any time I walk almost any street in this town.

Are Danny Trejo’s Mickey Mouse Ears in Heavan?

Sidewalk murals and stencils have taken over entire neighborhoods, and have entertained pedestrians in San Francisco for years and years and years. I have the pictures to prove and might someday post more. But tonight I noticed the latest edits to one of the many “Danny Trejo: Adios Gringo” stencils in the Haight. For some reason, this particular stencil on Haight near Steiner has received a few embellishments over the years. First came the Mickey Mouse ears. Second came the double-M addition–for those of us who can’t recognize Mickey Mouse ears when we see them.

The newest addition is “What about heavan.” Who knows what that is supposed to mean: this is just more San Francisco Surrealism. Have a good Friday, everyone.

Vonn Scott Bair

Fear This! Peace: A Mixed Message in the Mission (or, I Do Not Understand Reality, 12 Sept 2012)


Good Evening:

Some people use their motor transportation as a form of self-expression. I saw this whilst walking on Harrison Street near 16th:

Fear This! Peace: A Mixed Message in the Mission

I still have no idea what self the owner wanted to express.

Vonn Scott Bair

Things on Walls in San Francisco


Good Morning:

I know what you’re thinking. “What is there to explain about a ladder? Since when was a ladder complicated? Puzzling?”

Ever since this ladder:

Ladder on Stevenson

I cannot figure out the reason this ladder exists; my best guess is that the bottom half fell off and fell down (note the two metal thingies at the bottom of the picture). You’ll find this on Stevenson, which runs parallel to Market Street and is one of San Francisco’s most interesting lanes/alleys.


Walking throughout my hometown, I can’t help myself; I notice things on walls. Not necessarily doors and murals. I don’t understand why I notice these things; they seem to have little of interest. Yet notice them I do. In this case, I refer to objects that some person or persons attached to an interior or exterior wall for a particular reason. Sometimes the reason is obvious, sometimes the reason is not. Sometimes the object is still or might still be useful, sometimes it is not.

This I can understand.

This I cannot.

However, it is fun to speculate. Like a fragment of a fossilized bone from sixty million years ago, what can we tell about the business or home that used to exist in this place and what purpose might this have served? Paleontologists have recreated creatures over 50 feet long weighing several tons from a bit of tooth, and can even determine what they ate; can we recreate Ye Olde San Francisco from this piece of metal, even if taken out of context of its environment?

What exactly is this?

Or this?

I know this is located on the side of a church located at Fillmore and Hermann; beyond that, I cannot even guess what’s going on here. This provides a little context:

Some day, archeologists exploring the ruins of “Late San Francisco Civilization” will hold this object in their hands. What will they think?

Here are a few more images for your curiosity, amusement, puzzlement, intrigue, study, or some combination of the above.

“Signs Guaranteed to Yield Unproductivity” 2012.

More to follow some day. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

Oops, sorry, forgot one more, the most baffling of all to my febrile feeble futile frazzled mind:

“Mystery in Blue”

Does anyone have any idea what this is and what it’s supposed to do?

Vonn Scott Bair

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


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?