Category Archives: In Transit

Life onboard San Francisco’s public transit system.

Plane Travel: Kinky Sex, But With Neither Kink Nor Sex.

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Good Evening:

I’ve had it with flying.

I have reached the point where almost nothing can justify paying airlines vast sums of money in order to let them punish you to their hearts’ content. With the sole exception of family emergencies, this car-less traveller will stick to the railroad–an odd experience that offers its own intriguing strengths and weaknesses (and will become the focus of my next post). But tonight I vent. If you want rants, congratulations, you have reached the right blog post!

Although flying to Connecticut was agony, once I arrived, the trip became total enjoyment.  Presenting photographs of the beautiful town of Essex looking its best.

Although flying to Connecticut was agony, once I arrived, the trip became total enjoyment. Presenting photographs of the beautiful town of Essex looking its best.

My summer trip to Connecticut drove me past the breaking point.

Sold-out flights take forever to board and sure enough, this was another one. Stuck on board one of the newer models of jets does not make life better, it makes life worse. First, as usual, the seats shrunk again. I know they shrunk again; I lost weight over the course of 2015, and yet we had more tightly packed seats than ever, less leg room than ever, and less elbow room than ever.

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Combine the smaller with seat widths with seat belts that have not shrunk with them and you have serious bondage. Unfortunately, I do not like B&D. Even if I did, the airlines’ notion of kinky hijinks at 30,000 feet tying up people would not feel the least bit–ahem–“interesting,” for the lack of a better euphemism. As you might have guessed, the airline also stuck me in the middle seat.

Great fun. Especially with the overweight gentleman on my right.

Who was the lesser problem.

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The other one was the bigger problem. He should have considered himself fortunate, standing at most five foot, six inches tall, of average build and sitting in the aisle seat. But when he arrived at our row, he drew himself up to full height, inflating himself with the sense that my sheer existence presented the most offensively existential effrontery of his entire life. He adjusted the sleeves of his expensive-looking silver silk suit as if preparing for conflict. Given his 50-ish appearance and salt-and-pepper goatee, I pegged him as a super-rich executive and wondered what he was even doing in the Economy (hah!) section.

“You’re in my seat.”

“What?”

“Get out of my seat.”

“No this is my seat, the aisle seat must be yours.”

“Stewardess, get this man out of my seat!”

“Here’s my ticket-”

“Get him out of my seat!”

“-I have the middle seat-”

“Stewardess!”

“-you must have the aisle seat.”

He glared at me as if no one had talked back to him since the previous dot-com crash.

“I. Purchased. BOTH. Seats!”

What on earth?!

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The stewardess examined our tickets, and sure enough, the airline had sold the same seat twice. Policy dictated that she could not throw me off the plane, so she made arrangements for Mr. Glare (my nickname) to get a refund on his second seat. Mr. Glare, partially reimbursed, stood by his aisle seat one more time, glared at the human who had the offensively existential effrontery to sit next to him, and sat down, squeezing his five foot six frame against me as much as the armrest between us could allow.

He sat like that for the entire trip.

Except when he moved.

And when he moved, he always accidentally on purpose dug his elbow into various parts of my body.

But nowhere where I might have had him arrested for groping.

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So I sat squashed between an overweight gentleman on my right (who slept for the entire flight and how did he manage that?) and Mr. Glare on my left. As usual, the airline food was overpriced, undersized, and pretty bad, but I had already brought my own meal with me. Sadly, so had Mr. Glare, and lifting his sandwich to his mouth gave him many opportunities to accidentally on purpose lift his right elbow almost to the left side of my face.

After a while, I needed a break from this incredibly important and great human being to whom I should have offered profuse apologies for my puny existence. Made my way to the back of the plane and suddenly suffered a grave and saddening epiphany.

I could never join The Mile High Club.

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Sex on airplanes has never appealed to me because far too many things can go far too wrong, and today far too many things go far too wrong in front of far too many iPhones, but now you can’t do it even if you want lifelong Twitter humiliation. First of all, planes have fewer and fewer and fewer restrooms–this jet only had two. So you won’t have time because someone will soon knock on your door. Second, on this jet they were located inside the attendants’ work station, so you cannot sneak inside. Finally, in order to make more space to cram in ever smaller seats, the restrooms have also shrunk. I do not know how an obese person can fit inside one of these, let alone use them. How can two people get wild and woolly inside such a restroom?

Let’s sum up. No free food. Tiny amounts of overpriced bad food. No room. Plenty of unpleasant travelers. Smaller and smaller seats. The unkinkiest of kinky bondage for people who don’t like that at all. No sex even you’re foolish enough to want it. Fewer and fewer restrooms with longer and longer waits in line.

And you have to spend how much money to pay people to abuse you?

And you have to spend how much money not to enjoy any of what you bought??

How much money???

So I’ve switched to trains. Plenty of idiosyncrasies, but overall an experience with which I can live.

As you will see in my next post.

Vonn Scott Bair

8th & Harrison, San Francisco, CA. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition)

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Good Afternoon:

The old bus depot at 8th & Harrison in San Francisco as it appeared on 1 December 2012. An open space so vast that these pictures fail to capture the acreage of asphalt.

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8th & Harrison as it appeared yesterday, 27 November 2015.

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Quite a transition, isn’t it?

At least four apartment buildings or condos will rise on the old lot, but that might represent an undercount as the lot was surrounded by a chainlink fence with locks everywhere. If any major city in the United States is transitioning as fast as my home town, I would feel extremely surprised indeed.

Vonn Scott Bair

Does Your City… (Weekly Photo Challenge: [Extra]ordinary)

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Good Evening:

Does your city…have a bench like this?

DSCN2669Actually, probably yes; lots of cities like to convert mundane civic objects into objets d’arte. I happen to like this bench because it pivots 360 degrees. The bench represents part of a combination sidewalk park/recreation area called Outpost, and you will find it on Market Street near Sixth Street. These two gentlemen got a kick out of playing with the bench.

Version 2Outpost includes an unusual type of swing…

DSCN2673…and a highly decorated ping-pong table…

DSCN2671…and a place to ask questions and solicit opinions.

DSCN2672Here is the main structure, complete with schedule of events.

DSCN2674All in all, another example of how San Francisco does things just like everyone else, only differently.

Vonn Scott Bair

Dancing Real Good For Free.

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Good Evening:

At first, I thought she had fallen in the middle of a group of UC Berkeley students at the Downtown Berkeley BART station as she thrashed on one bench. Then I thought she was tripping on bad drugs when she sprang to her feet and ran all the down to the east end of the platform. Then I thought she was just plain bat-bleep crazy when she sat on another concrete bench and tied herself into one odd contortion after another.

Then she stood, lifted one foot over her head in a stretch, and practiced some soft shoe steps.

So I was wrong three times. This young woman was an aspiring dancer, practicing and performing, and to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, “dancing real good for free.”

No editing at all–BART stations have weird light that makes pictures hard without expensive equipment or time to prepare or experience in bad lighting conditions.

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And when she finished her performance-slash-practice, she ran all the way to the other end of the platform to catch the Fremont train home.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco Al Fresco, 24 September 2015.

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Good Evening:

Well, on Thursday I had to delay the midday repast and work during the standard lunch hour, but most San Franciscans did not, and many took advantage of fine weather to eat and relax outdoors.

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Yes, that was a good day to enjoy a good day.

Vonn Scott Bair

Orange, Yellow & White. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Monochromatic)

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Good Evening:

Saw this new item in the Market & Van Ness station:

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…and had another idea for this week’s Challenge–using transit as an inspiration.

So here is a closeup of the door.

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This is a doohickey on the side of the vintage Los Angeles street car that runs up and down Market.

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Vintage street cars have lots of strange doohickeys on their sides. Here’s a yellow one.

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Finishing with something in white, a car door handle.

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I think I’m having too much fun.

Vonn Scott Bair

I Hope He Tinders Because He Fails Reality.

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Good Afternoon:

If you don’t time it right, waiting for the 24-Divisadero at Geary can take quite a bit of time. I had not, and had to wait. After luckily securing a bench seat and checking the college football scores (Northwestern defeated Stanford in a mild upset), I put the iPhone away to study the scene.

Two seats to my left sat a Caucasian male in his early 20s with tasteless camouflage cargo shorts and a short-sleeved Henley shirt of a sickly beige color. I did not recognize that hair style but then again, I am old. He buried his face into his Samsung cell phone, no doubt unaware that he was giving himself a future case of “phone neck,” and yes, this is true–that is a brand-new physical ailment (sometimes called text neck).

He had no idea that she even existed.

She was an Asian woman with long hair who stood about five feet tall (much too short for me), and seemed less than 25 years old (much too young for me). However, if you prefer very short women with long black hair, you would have felt very much interested in her.

And she was interested in him.

When she arrived at the bus stop, she just happened to stop four feet in front of the young man with bad taste in clothes and hair. After a moment, she just happened to look over her shoulder and spotted him, did a double-take, then turned around and faced him directly.

He kept giving himself a future case of phone neck.

She looked to see if the bus was coming (nope, not even close), then took another step toward the young man. She now stood three feet from him, facing him directly.

He kept giving himself a future case of phone neck.

She looked to see if the bus was coming (nope, not even close), then took another step toward the young man. She now stood two feet from him, facing him directly.

He kept giving himself a future case of phone neck.

One more chance. She looked to see if the bus was coming (nope, not even close), then took another step toward the young man. She now stood one foot from him, perhaps only ten inches away from him. She and faced him directly, toe to toe, focusing on his eyelids because she could not see his eyes..

He kept–oh heck, you know what he kept doing.

She stepped back to her original spot, four feet in front of the young man of dubious clothing and hair, turned her back to him, and fixed her eyes upon Divisadero, looking for and awaiting the 24 bus.

He looked up from his cell phone. He looked at her oblivious back.

She fixed her eyes upon Divisadero, looking for and awaiting the 24 bus.

He leaned way over to his left, perhaps trying to see her face, perhaps trying to catch her eye.

She fixed her eyes upon Divisadero, looking for and awaiting the 24 bus.

He returned to his phone, giving himself a future–oh heck, you know what he was giving himself.

I thought, I hope he Tinders, because he fails IRL. I might be old, but even I know that IRL stands for In Real Life.

Vonn Scott Bair

Music for a Friday Afternoon: The Anouar Brahem Trio & Bruce Cockburn.

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Good Morning:

I like keeping a collection of music for my Friday afternoon work break. Something to unwind my mind and get in tune for the weekend. Somehow, someway, I recently blundered across a pair of instrumentals by Bruce Cockburn, a gifted songwriter and lyricist from Canada who has graced the airwaves of North America for almost half a century.

Unwinding Time on the Fire Escape. The beverage consists of seltzer water with homemade strawberry liqueur garnished with lemon. *Very* relaxing.

Unwinding Time on the Fire Escape, Watching the Darkening Sky. The beverage consists of seltzer water with homemade strawberry liqueur garnished with lemon. *Very* relaxing.

Cockburn is such a good lyricist that I never expected him to create instrumentals, but he has at least two on the magnificently titled 1999 CD Breakfast in New Orleans Dinner in Timbuktu, “Down to the Delta” and “Deep Lake.” Another item for The Eternal To-Do List: scour every Cockburn collection for more instrumentals.

Another recent discovery: a 2001 CD from the Anouar Brahem Trio entitled Astrakan Cafe. When you need something to both intrigue your brain and at the same time calm it down after a busy week in the office, I can recommend virtually the entire collection. At this point in his career, Anouar Brahem is in serious danger of forcing me to create a list of Top Ten favorite musicians of all time and including him.

Which is not a bad thing.

Vonn Scott Bair

Hieroglyphs of Haight Street. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Beneath Your Feet)

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Good Evening:

A boom-and-bust town currently flush with tax revenue, the City & County of San Francisco recently launched a major infrastructure improvement/replacement program in the Lower Haight. Probably more replacement than improvement; some of our pipes and sewers are close to a century old. So we get to see toys like this:

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Come on, admit it: you wish you had a toy like that when you were young.

Here we have a rare photograph of that extraordinary spectacle known as the mating ritual of the Bobcat(tm):

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And since this is San Francisco, these scoops prefer a threesome:

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But take care to look beneath your feet.

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Such Hieroglyphs have covered Haight Street and its sidewalks for weeks. Among other things, they warn construction workers to take care whilst drilling or digging. These squiggles won’t last more than a few months; even so, it seems to me that some of the people going Lascaux on our street have a bit of artistic flair in which they indulge, because some of the squiggles look pretty good. Here are some examples (I feel quite certain that the different colors mean something):

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Yes, ’tis the shadow of moi in the second to last shot.

Vonn Scott Bair

Wordless Wednesday: The Bus Stop @ Cesar Chavez & Connecticut, 10 June 2015.

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Good Afternoon:

Studies of some of the buildings at that intersection.

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All shots taken with an iPhone 6 Plus.

Vonn Scott Bair

Wordless Wednesday: Father and Son on the 7R Bus.

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Good Evening:

Father & Son on the 7R Bus, 12 May 2015, 7:57 a.m., San Francisco, California

Father & Son on the 7R Bus, 12 May 2015, 7:57 a.m., San Francisco, California

Taken with my iPhone 6 Plus.

Vonn Scott Bair

SOMA Neighborhood, San Francisco, California, Saturday 18 April 2015.

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Good Evening:

I happened to run errands in San Francisco’s SOMA (South OMArket) neighborhood during a good light day on Saturday afternoon and took a bunch of pictures of the area, originally a light industry zone rapidly turning into a residential neighborhood. Here are some of the decent and/or curious results.

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“Propane Sales” is quite a paradoxical shot. When editing it in iPhoto, I realized that I had applied the techniques of the American Photorealism painters of the 1960s to create, um, uh, well–photographs. Photos that mimic the style of paintings that mimic the style of photos.

Odd.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Serendip of San Franciscans, 3 April 2015: Commuters.

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Good Evening:

For those of you new to The San Francisco Scene–Seen!, I recently made the arbitrary decision to use “Serendip” as the collective noun for a group of San Franciscans, and begun a series of photo essays of my fellow citizens engaged in a common activity. Today’s theme: Commuters.

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The above is only the fifth photograph taken with my new point-and-shoot, a Nikon CoolPix S9900, and the previous four were random test shots. So far, the results have please me, but perhaps not as much as this unusual mode of transit pleased its very young passenger:

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San Francisco’s public transit system does one thing very well: catering to severely disabled individuals. Recently I took a 19-Polk bus that at one stop disembarked two passengers in wheelchairs and then added a third, all in less than two minutes.These two awaited a bus at 8th & Market.

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Skateboarders can commute anywhere.

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Bicycling keeps growing in popularity: as bike lanes expand, so too do the number of riders.

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But some people and critters still prefer an old school mode of transportation.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Sunday Afternoon, Lafayette Street near Natoma.

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Good Evening:

Got a little lucky with this one.

Basketball Hope, Lafayette Street, San Francisco, California, 29 March 2015, 1:53 p.m.

Basketball Hope, Lafayette Street, San Francisco, California, 29 March 2015, 1:53 p.m.

Taken with an iPhone 6 Plus, edited in iPhoto.

Vonn Scott Bair

The World of the Eating & the World of the Hungry in San Francisco’s Civic Center.

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Good Evening:

During a recent Friday lunch hour, I had to run a few errands and that including walking through the food trucks and tables that take over San Francisco’s Civic Center every Friday starting at noon. At one point, I found myself halfway between what felt like separate worlds.

Approximately fifteen feet to my left:

Food Trucks and Court at San Francisco Civic Center

Food Trucks and Court at San Francisco Civic Center

Approximately ten feet to my right:

Broke - Hungry Anything Helps!!! God Bless

Broke – Hungry Anything Helps!!! God Bless

And when I returned after completing my errands:

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I swear it almost looks like worship.

I get why San Francisco has once again become such a fascinating subject for pontificators and opinionators in the pontificating and opinionating industries. No other city combines such a ridiculously high median income ($96,000!) with such visible displays of poverty and hunger. Separate worlds of The Eating and The Hungry, as it were. Also, the disappearing middle class disappears here at a faster rate than most other places in America, as far as I know. I am not a professional journalist, just an amateur observer with a limited perspective, so perhaps other places exist where the contrasts between haves and have-nots is even more spectacular–possibly Wisconsin, for one.

Of course I don’t, can’t, have no right, and absolutely refuse to complain. Although my income is less than two-thirds of San Francisco’s median, I can get by rather well, thank you. I can even retire much earlier than most people, although “retirement” is a misnomer in my case–actors and writers just plain don’t.

But San Francisco’s haves–they have it real good. They can afford Leap, a sort of private public transit system, where for $6 (!), they can ride in a bus where they can spend even more money on Blue Bottle coffee and organic pastries, plus indulge in Leap’s social media component (free cyberstalking with every fare!). Apparently, I am not allowed to ride on Leap. Oh, I can afford the $6; sadly, if the advertising is any indication, Leap is limited to San Franciscans less than 30 years old. Darn it.

On the bright side, if I had a car, I could hire someone to park it.

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Oops, wait–looks like I’m too old for this one, too. Darn it.

While I understand the importance of a healthy, stable, preferably even growing middle class, and while I understand the potential economic harm to America resulting from an ever-shrinking middle class, I wonder at all of the attention we middle-class folk have received. Should circumstances ever become economically impossible for me to continue living in San Francisco, I have options–Los Angeles being an obvious choice for someone who already has 15 or so credits in the Internet Movie Database. I have resources.

In the world of The Hungry, people don’t have resources.

San Francisco has seen an explosion in the number of homeless, and I don’t think it can all consist of other states exporting their mentally ill to my city. Again, I’m not a professional journalist, and I don’t have facts, figures and statistics, but a lot of the newly homeless who set up homeless encampments at night in places like the block on Market Street near 2nd Street (in our Financial District) must have recently lost their homes in San Francisco and had no place to go.

The American middle class is in danger of losing their financial well-being. But what of the people who already have?

When does that become an issue?

Vonn Scott Bair