Category Archives: Non-fiction

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

The Chronicle of a Death and Resurrection Foretold: The Sequel.

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Good Evening:

You might remember the tales of a hideous 60s office building on the 100 block of Van Ness Avenue from a little over a year ago. Well, one other equally hideous office building sat next to it, short, blue-green and perpetually filthy, has now died in preparation for its own resurrection, presumably condos starting at $340K as did its neighbor (although given rents in this town, perhaps starting at $400K might prove closer to reality).

But whereas the first office building got recycled–literally, recycled–the second one had to come down. However, tearing it down or demolishing it with explosives could not come into consideration for safety reasons. So they took it apart.

Piece by piece. As you can see in these pictures. First step: seal it up completely so they could remove the glass without the risk of the occasional shard crashing to the sidewalk.

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When finished, the somewhat ragged unveiling.IMG_7559

I thought they might keep the interior intact and recycle the building after I saw this, but the building is much too short for a profitable condo conversion. The investors will need something perhaps twice as tall to make a profit.

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And there you have the (current) result. Death complete, resurrection to follow.

Vonn Scott Bair

A Christmas Shopping Experiment.

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Good Evening:

So there I stood in the middle of what must rank among one of America’s largest shopping malls, waiting for the Mother Unit, Sister Unit, and Niece Unit to finish shopping for presents and feeling most relieved that I had finished last week, when an idea for an experiment struck my misanthropic mind: how many people will walk past me smiling by the time my family walks out of the store?

The mall was jammed, I mean big-time jammed, so within a minute maybe 150-200 shoppers had passed me when the family joined me.

Only one person had smiled, a young woman carrying an infant daughter and cooing at her.

That was slightly more than I expected.

You see, I had noticed that everyone seemed miserable, even the ones telling their fellow shoppers they had found the perfect gift. And few people spoke to anyone. Most had down-cast faces, vacant stares, exhausted postures, but perhaps you already know how they appeared to me; rather like Munch’s famous figure in The Scream, except too tired to do even that.

This is “the most wonderful time of the year?”

No one looked successful, cheerful or happy, even the one who might have enjoyed great success finding presents judging from the loads they carried.

I wonder if malls do that to people. I did most of my shopping in the Upper Haight last weekend and my fellow shoppers looked much more cheerful. Perhaps the nature of the stores did something to folks in the mall. Every single store was a franchise, even the spa, while the Haight still has a fair number of one-store businesses or whatever the technical term might be. Perhaps the combination of an enormous mall with nothing but franchises affects people, alienates them. Now this is rank speculation (and the rankest sort of rank speculation), but what if those poor folks in the mall felt, for lack of a better word–processed?

You know, not like people. Processed.

Have a great holiday everyone and *please,* for your own sake–smile.

Vonn Scott Bair

Under the Overpass, 19 December 2015. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering)

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Good Afternoon:

San Francisco has gotten hit with a huge El Nino in recent days, one downpour after another, with only slight respites of light drizzle and the occasional sunshine. At the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where I work, we go around with sheepish grins and tell each other, “This weather is terrible! Isn’t it wonderful!” Whilst it remains unlikely that a single wet winter will completely undo the drought, most San Franciscans feel a bizarre combination of irritation and delight.

Not so much our homeless population.

Finding any means of protection however slight against the elements becomes more difficult in weather like this. For this reason, large numbers of homeless have sought refuge under the overpass along 13th Street in the South of Market neighborhood. I would guess that the number of improvised shelters have quadrupled. Any amount of protection will do, but some pieces of real estate have more value than others:

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Even these lucky ones cannot completely avoid the wet.

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Blanket Drying Out After Downpour, 13th Street Near Folsom, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Others make do with partial protection.

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Broom & Shoes, 13th Street Near Harrison, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Some might not have even that much.

Hell Ride Crew, 11th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA 19 December 2015

Hell Ride Crew, 13th Street near Valencia, San Francisco, CA, 19 December 2015

Worst of all, no matter how well meaning, any and all attempts at solutions seem to consist of and/or end in shouting, blame and lawsuits. Anyone can see that San Francisco’s recent prominence in the national consciousness results from the fact the income gap here absolutely dwarfs the income gap nationally, and one nightmare scenario consists of America turning into a middle-class-free version of San Francisco, containing the few extremely rich and the many extremely poor. I took that quick and easy quiz in the previous link and discovered that nationally my income was slightly above average and places me in the 57th percentile, an excellent result when you have all of The Good Zeroes: zero kids, zero cars, zero drugs, zero mortgage, zero debt.

However, by San Francisco standards my income fit in the 38th percentile. Lower middle class.

Well, I have defenses, but most people don’t.

So whatever you see in these pictures, wherever you live, it can happen there.

The wind and rain in my neighborhood have just take a turn for the heavier.

Vonn Scott Bair

Closing and Opening in the Upper Haight, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Transition)

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Good Morning:

Legendary (at least, in San Francisco) newspaper columnist Herb Caen liked to lament about the constant changes in his adopted city and how much he missed the good old days. One valid point that he sometimes made (don’t know if he originated this or if he quoted someone else): you can’t have a real neighborhood if you don’t have a place to repair your shoes. He wrote metaphorically here; he actually meant that true neighborhoods needed small locally owned shops that tended to the mundane needs of life–the shoemaker, the hardware store, electronics repair, and the like.

Photographed this yesterday:

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Another San Francisco institution tending to the mundane needs of life closing down, this one after 95 years of business. Carlos posed for locals taking pictures of his shop with him standing in front (none of mine turned out well), then went back inside to return to work. He has earned a long and enjoyable retirement and I wish him well.

Down the street, a new business prepares for opening:

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VeganBurg replaces All You Knead, a locally-owned bakery/restaurant that existed for at least 30 years near the Ben & Jerry’s. You can tell from the logo this is a chain, and a quick search of Google confirms yes–it’s based in Singapore.

I’ve written it before: if San Francisco is not change, then San Francisco is not. Still…

You know you’ve gotten old when you start to feel like Herb Caen.

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

The Surreal Is That Which Lies At Your Feet, 27 November 2015.

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Good Evening:

Did not coin that phrase, but still cannot find the person who did.

Anyway, over the past few weeks someone has done a lot of this San Francisco.

Haight Street Between Masonic & Ashbury, 3:02 pm., 27 November 2015.

Haight Street Between Masonic & Ashbury, 3:02 pm., 27 November 2015.

No one knows who has done this or why. The presence of the spike through the bat technically makes this a prohibited lethal weapon. See http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Spiked-baseball-bats-left-around-SF-6661160.php for more details. So far, about 30 have been reported in various neighborhoods, so someone definitely wants to make some sort of statement. Possibly political, but until we receive some sort of communication…shrug.

Vonn Scott Bair

Construction Cranes on Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio)

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Good Afternoon:

Whilst awaiting the bird and other goodies.

Construction Cranes on Van Ness as Seen from SFPUC Headquarters, 25 November 2015.

Construction Cranes on Van Ness as Seen from SFPUC Headquarters, 25 November 2015.

These three cranes have graced the northern San Francisco skyline for several months, and just happened to arrange themselves in a reasonably aesthetic fashion on Wednesday afternoon. You can see the construction project of the nearest one (that grid of maroon). The current thinking in San Francisco has rejected the earlier belief that our next big bust in this big-boom-and-big bust-city would have begun by now. That clearly ain’t gonna happen, as one of the wildest booms in city history keeps on coming. Some of the recent startups that benefitted from ridiculous IPOs have struggled, which has people who lived here in 2000-2001 feeling a tad nervous (and I still have no idea how a certain famous Market Street denizen’s financial plan can work in the long run), but it appears that the wild ride will continue for another year or two. Of course, I’ve been wildly wrong before, and will probably be wildly wrong again. Frequently.

Vonn Scott Bair

I’m Rich! I’m Wealthy! I’m an American Playwright!

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Good Evening:

I received an email this weekend from the Helen-Jean Play Contest, to which I had submitted a one-act play:

Congratulations, your submission “The Land of Hope and Dreams”, has won first prize in our contest.  Your will receive a nominal check and a certificate in the mail shortly.

Yes! Not my first win in a competition by any means, but quite welcome all the same! Now the theater company involved will not actually produce LOHAD, as I call it, but they will send me $50.00. So I have fifty bucks!

Ah, not quite. The reading fee for this particular competition equalled five dollars. So I have forty-five bucks!

Ah, not quite. I promptly purchased $40.17 worth of underwear. So I now have $4.83!

Ah, not quite. At a theater event on Saturday night, I spend $3.00 dollars on a soda.

So I now have $1.83.

Which puts me approximately $1.83 ahead of 90% of every playwright in the United States of America for the year 2015.

But I still have $1.83. Not only that, I have a lot of clean new undies.

Perhaps that’s what really matters.

Vonn Scott Bair

Juxtaposition.

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Good Evening:

Took a late lunch today and enjoyed a splendid view of San Francisco’s Civic Center from the 12th Floor of the HQ of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Lunch: leftover homemade chicken with olives, fennel and orange slices over rice. Lunchtime music: Musique de Nuit by Ballake Sissoko (kora) and Vincent Segal (cello).

Having finished lunch I stood by the windows and watched the food trucks and their customers across the street from City Hall. One trio caught my eye, a newly-married couple and their wedding photographer. The woman, Asian-American wearing a classic white dress and veil, tripped over the hem but did not fall, and even from 12 stories up I could see them laughing, her most of all. The husband, Asian-American in a classic black tuxedo and tails, and the photographer, a Caucasian male in tuxedo shirt but no tie, copper silk vest and grey dress slacks, laughed together and followed behind as the new wife traipsed, yes, traipsed among the trees in the Civic Center. She pointed to a nearby lamppost, pulled up the hem of her dress, and ran to it with ease and grace. Her husband and their photographer looked at each other, laughed, and followed.

My cell phone vibrated, indicating that I received a message. I looked away and read an alert from the NY Times.

Shooting at restaurant, two bombs explode near stadium in Paris.

I returned to the window and watched the laughing newlyweds arrange themselves for a pose using the lamppost for a prop. The wedding photographer moved in a semicircle about them, trying to find the best light to take their picture, gesturing with his left hand for them to move just a tad to their left for the best light to capture the happy occasion, the first day of their bright and wonderful future.

Vonn Scott Bair

Riddle of the Week! (Weekly Photo Challenge: Treat)

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Good Evening:

Riddle: In the pictures below, do the humans receive the treats, or do their benevolent canine overlords?

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Answer: Yes.

Welcome to Duboce Park, where the local businesses acknowledge the importance of dogs to the economy:

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This fellow in black has quite a sense of humor. His pet human with the pink hat has just used that blue thing to throw the ball (small white dot in the distance). The dog ignored the ball. And ignored it. And ignored it. Finally, the woman went to fetch it, at which point her benevolent canine overlord with the impish sense of human promptly sprinted to the ball and snatched it away, forcing her to chase him.

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A dog with a sense of humor. More anecdotal evidence that domestic canines have minds.

Did you know that dogs like apple cider?

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Neither did I.

We grumble and groan. They have fun. So who’s really the intelligent creature?

Vonn Scott Bair

What the GOP Primaries *Really* Need: My First, Only and Probably Last Political Blog Post.

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Good Evening:

I’ve shied away from overt politics in The San Francisco Scene–Seen!, because let’s face it, the vitriol and hostility in the online world has gotten a bit excessive. Only a little, but enough to dissuade me from participating. However, I recently sent a message to a group of friends, which a few encouraged me to repost elsewhere. So here goes. My first, only and probably last political blog post.

What the GOP Primaries *Really* Need.

Even with the recent departures of Democratic and Republican candidates, the number of people running in the primaries remains too great. Even worse, among the Republicans it can be almost impossible to distinguish amongst them, as they only seem to compete to have the exact same far right opinions as the other candidates, only more so. Most of them even compete to wear the exact same suit, only more so, compete to have the exact same American flag pin, only more so, and have the exact same hair, only more so.

And it’s so hard to get rid of them! Just look at one man who did drop out. Rick Perry kept his campaign going weeks after he could no longer pay his people (http://news.yahoo.com/perrys-cash-strapped-2016-campaign-stops-paying-staffers-154529015–election.html), in fact, his campaign was not yet doomed because he had a pair of Super-PACs to pay the bills for him. Who are these Super-PACs? I don’t know. One article only stated, “…A pair of pro-Perry outside groups, each with ‘Opportunity and Freedom’ in its name…”

So we have a bunch of vague looking white men competing for the GOP nomination, with a few exceptions. Interesting that Mr. Trump, Mr. Carson, Ms. Fiorina and Mr. Rubio, who look so much different from What’s-His-Name, What’s-His-Name, What’s-His-Name, et cetera, either have done well or are doing well in the polls.

Well consider this: I watch a lot of soccer. Don’t care where it’s played, don’t care who are the teams, I will happily watch a game. Now combine my (limited) knowledge of soccer with my (limited) knowledge of Rick Perry’s Super-PACs.

And that’s when it hit me–I know what America needs more than anything else during the Republican primaries.

Soccer jerseys.

Yes, soccer jerseys. Think of the last time you saw a soccer match. If it wasn’t a nation v. nation match, you saw something like Seattle v. Portland, a Juventus v. Real Madrid “friendly” (what a misnomer that is!), an Arsenal v. Chelsea UN-friendly, or similar. If you saw these teams, you saw their players. If you saw their players, you saw their jerseys. If you saw their jerseys, you saw the fronts of their jerseys. And if you saw the fronts of their jerseys, what did you see?

That’s right. You saw advertising. Advertising from corporations that forked over vast sums of money to sponsor the clubs so that you can see their names/logos on your 50″ flat screens.

And that is why the GOP candidates need to wear soccer jerseys. So Americans can know who sponsors them. Let’s face it: thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, so much money from so few donors will flood the election that nobody runs for Commander in Chief anymore. They run for Minion in Chief. And the time has long since passed when America needed to see the GOP candidates in denim overalls and goggles.

America deserves to know who will become the masters of the next Minion in Chief. After all, the Minion in Chief will work for them, not for us. To paraphrase Chevy Chase’s Weekend Update character from 40 (!) years ago, “Hello, I’m a billionaire, and you’re not!”

Therefore, soccer jerseys with advertising. At least we’ll know who’s running the Minion who’s running to run the country on behalf of the person who’s running the Minion.

There is no other way you can tell the GOP candidates apart.

We can wait for the general election before making either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Sanders wear their jerseys. Seriously, if you can’t tell those two apart… (hint: Mr. Sanders has only one pair of underpants)

You don’t have to thank me, but it’s all right if you do.

I sure hope this doesn’t get me into too much trouble.

Vonn Scott Bair

Trying to Understand, 27 October 2015.

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Good Evening:

I know what I saw today, but I have no idea what I saw today.

At about 11:15 a.m., on a stretch of Market Street from 10th Street to Van Ness Avenue, in the space of three minutes, I watched four homeless men (all Caucasian males who looked 40-50 years old) separately and independently walk into heavy traffic, indeed, they walked into heavy traffic towards the heavy traffic.

Homeless Man Searching the Gutter for Food, 19 October 2015.

Homeless Man Searching the Gutter for Food, 19 October 2015.

I have no idea what I saw.

I might have seen four almost simultaneous attempted suicides. In fact, the 14th time I saved a human life involved a man who was attempting to kill himself by walking into traffic. Incidentally, none of them got hit, not even close, not even the one at Market and 10th who wandered into oncoming traffic in four different lanes.

It just boggles the mind that so many homeless have hit upon this method of attempted suicide.

Unless it wasn’t.

Begging Outside Trader Joe's, Bryant & 9th Street, San Francisco, CA

Begging Outside Trader Joe’s, Bryant & 9th Street, San Francisco, CA

When four homeless men wander into traffic in such a small area, the possibility exists that a tainted batch of the current cheap street drug has warped their minds. Or it could have been just a coincidence that four perhaps mentally ill homeless men happened to wander into traffic at the same time. Unless this was a perverse version of Russian Roulette–maybe they get killed, but if they get injured they can try to sue drivers.

It just doesn’t seem possible that one person witnessed four strange events almost exactly alike in such a small time frame. Five, if you count my 14th. Honestly, I have no idea what’s going on. Seems like some kind of bad craziness taking hold in San Francisco.

Unless it was all just a coincidence.

I don’t know what I saw.

Vonn Scott Bair

Sunday Night, Fun Day Done Right Day.

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Good Evening:

Sunday night in downtown San Francisco could not have gone much better for culture vultures. The Playwrights Center of San Francisco sponsored a fund raiser in which 8 groups of playwrights, directors and actors wrote, directed and acted in 8 short plays. I happened to play a role in this project: aside from providing breakfast for everyone on Sunday morning, I contributed 2 of the 3 required elements for each play.

The required theme for each play was “Surprisingly Unexpected.” Didn’t come up with that one (my offering: “This Is the End of the World As We Know It”), but I did contribute the required noun and the required line of dialogue. The noun: “Escape Vehicle.” The line of dialogue: “But what about the strawberries?” Thought the poor playwrights would suffer. Thought very wrong. The show was great.

Think for a moment of what kind of play you might write with the theme “Surprisingly Unexpected,” the noun “Escape Vehicle,” and the dialogue, “But what about the strawberries?” Offhand, I can recall these:

  • An extraterrestrial crash-lands her UFO in a male Earthling’s strawberry patch.
  • Two zombie cheerleaders try to cash a check.
  • A mother accidentally reveals that she has lied to her daughter for 21 years–she does know her father’s name.
  • An Elizabethan woman asks William Shakespeare to pretend that he wrote her plays.
  • A nice elderly Jewish couple, both wizards, discover that their new human customer used to be their pet hamster. Not a misprint.

Surprisingly unexpected, aren’t they? And yes, they all included escape vehicles and strawberries.

San Francisco playwrights have excellent imaginations.

After an excellent show, maybe the best 24-hour playfest the PCSF has done, I wandered down to the cable car turnaround on Powell Street, where a gentleman with what appeared to be a 4.5 inch reflector telescope hosted a “Saturn Party,” wherein he offered free viewings of the planet. A little different, even by San Francisco standards.

Just around the corner, in front of the Gap store, stood Clare Means. Who? Clare is a tall woman with Pre-Raphaelite hair, an acoustic guitar, and quite a gift for songwriting in the genre some might call Americana. She currently has a curious sort of nationwide tour in progress: she travels from city to city, busking on the streets with her guitar and portable amp, performing songs from her two current CD collections, collecting dollars to pay for gas and food–basically trying to make a name for herself without a record deal and with an advertising budget of zero. Dropped a dollar in her guitar case and listened to “Look Who’s Lucky Now,” a great intro to her music, which you can find on iTunes. Have heard a lot of musicians and bands that deserved only the greatest success never came anywhere close. Clare Means is just the latest of the bunch, but it would feel pretty darn good some day to see her name on a Top 20. I mean, come on, Pre-Rephaelite hair. Dang.

I even found two dimes on the sidewalk.

Sunday night was that kind of night.

Vonn Scott Bair

And the Women, They Are A’Changing.

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Good Afternoon:

I enjoyed a very good Sunday brunch at La Urbana on Divisidero, one of the seemingly millions of new restaurants to open in the wake of San Francisco’s latest tech boom. Pricey, yes (you learn to expect that at brunch places on Divizz), but the portions are quite substantial and very well done (the “house made” sausage was at least twice as big as I expected). But just as tasty–the conversation at the table next to me.

You don't seriously think San Franciscans call them garage sales, do you?

You don’t seriously think San Franciscans call them garage sales, do you?

“The thing is, she is so aggressive, all the time. She is always pushing her employees and herself. Driven. You should hear her do sales presentations. She is so passionate, she always pushes for the best deals.” And so on and so on.

You’ve probably heard women executives described in this fashion all the time.

Except you haven’t.

Jack O'Lanterns, 25 October 2015. Note the one on the far left with the "cell phone."

Jack O’Lanterns, 25 October 2015. Note the one on the far left with the “cell phone.”

If you have any misconceptions, put them aside. Every single word of this monologue was spoken as praise. This probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, very, very old, but I hear women executives described with this vocabulary all of the time, but never as praise always as criticism. This has struck me as unfair for a long time–many Apple employees loved Steve Jobs for how rough he could get, he sometimes making them cry–but in the past, when I’ve heard women described as aggressive and/or pushy, it always sounded like a complaint and not a compliment.

The demographics at this table might interest the sociologists amongst you. Two heterosexual couples, the men looked 30-35, the women looked 25-30. The speaker was one of the women. Another detail that interested me, but probably does nothing but tell you that I am very, veryvery old. The men did not interrupt. They just listened, and nodded, not speaking until she had finished.

People can and have said and written much about how the tech boom has negatively changed San Francisco. Have you heard of the documentary Million Dollar Shack (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBjXUBMkkE8). Amazing well produced effort and well worth a look. But the tech culture has yielded some positive changes as well, and praising women for aggressiveness counts among them.

Vonn Scott Bair