Category Archives: The San Francisco Seen

All posts devoted to San Francisco, including In Transit.



Good Evening:

Since I began this blog less than a year ago, I have saved two lives for a new total of thirteen. You can read about 12 here; Tonight I present 13.

The intersection of Masonic & Geary in San Francisco is a difficult one to figure out and not that safe for pedestrian or bicyclist. Traffic arrives at many different directions at excessive speeds, the lights change in a pattern that might exist (or might not), and sometimes I feel safer crossing against the light than with it. However, the nearest Trader Joe’s grocery store to my apartment has taken up residence near there, so I keep my head on a swivel whenever I visit.

On this particular Sunday I awaited the light to change in my favor when three bicyclists (male, early 20s, Caucasian, preppy) pulled up beside me on their expensive-looking 12-speeds. Two of them had brain cells and stopped in a safe location, heads on swivels like yours truly.

The third did not have brain cells; he had a cell phone.

He chatted away on his Very Important Phone Call (V.I.P.C.), oblivious to the fact that he had wandered 15 feet into one of the most dangerous intersections in San Francisco.


Mr. Cell Phone backed up six feet. A car traveling in excess of the speed limit zoomed over the spot he used to inhabit. Mr. Cell Phone had no idea what just happened; he still focused all of his attention upon his V.I.P.C.


Mr. Cell Phone backed up another six feet. A second car traveling in excess of the speed limit zoomed over the new spot he used to inhabit. Mr. Cell Phone had no idea that I had saved his life twice in 10 seconds; he still focused all of his attention upon his V.I.P.C.

His friends laughed; let’s fact it, “Don’t bike and talk!” is a rather funny line. I looked at the unprotected heads of the three preppies riding expensive 12-speeds.

“You know, guys, helmets might be a good idea.”

Mr. Cell Phone didn’t hear a word of this; still focused on his V.I.P.C. One of the others replied, “Yeah, well, we made a choice.”

I said, “I know.”

The light turned in our favor and the three bicyclists and went our separate ways. Mr. Cell Phone turned to one of his friends and I think I heard him ask, “What just happened?”

I probably did the right thing in saving Mr. Cell Phone. Didn’t I?

Vonn Scott Bair

Things on Walls, 21 October 2012


Good Evening & Here Are Your Orders:

Listen to This Wall, Haight Street Across from Amoeba Records

Yes, the time has come for another edition of “Things on Walls,” in which I present examples of odd objects of usually mysterious purpose on walls. The above counts as an exception–it’s painted on a wall–but most of the rest fit the bill.

The above comes from a building on the southeast corner of Golden Gate Park. Look closely and you can see writing on whatever this is.

Theaters in San Francisco are a great source of mysterious objects. I saw the following on the wall of a theater on Natoma, in a rough part of town:

And this comes from the door to one of the dressing rooms of the Boxcar Theater, located in a different rough part of town. The inscription will seem puzzling until I tell you that the Boxcar building had once served as a butcher’s shop. In other words, the actors dress in what used to be meat lockers. Appropriate, quite appropriate: on film sets, when the grips, gaffers, electricians and painters have finished their work, they sometimes tell the director, “Bring on the ‘meat puppets!'”

Next, some sort of mounting for some sort of something in a Dubose laundromat. My guess: a pay telephone.

Miscellaneous oddities:

I hope all of you enjoy your weekend activities.

Vonn Scott Bair

The Martial Arts Master vs. The BMW at Guerrero & Market


Good Evening:

The gentleman was walking about 100 feet ahead on the south side of Market Street, heading toward downtown and crossing the intersection with Guerrero. I’d say he stood slightly over six feet tall, with short curly hair, dark complexion, and slender build. He had the light in his favor and he stayed within the confines of the crosswalk. There’s a very long building on this side of Market that blocked my view of the oncoming traffic on Guerrero.

Therefore, I had no idea that he was about to die.

Fortunately, he did not. He shouted “HEY!!!” at the top of his lungs and leaped about six feet backwards, spinning in the air. A BMW four-door ran over the spot where he had been walking, screeching to a halt about ten feet later. In other words, if he hadn’t jumped, he would have been killed before my eyes. He grew just a tad upset, so as he leaped to safety, he simultaneously spun in the air and kicked the BMW.

I need to define “kicked.” In this context, the word means that with one flick of his right foot, he connected with the left front corner of the car. His kick smashed all of the lights on that part of the car, stove in the bumper, stove in the grille, and literally cratered the left front corner. I mean, he put a two-foot wide, 8-12 inch deep crater into a BMW. This guy was not a martial arts student; he was not a martial arts expert; he was a martial arts master. I saw what he did, and yet he struck so fast that I did not see what he did.

Then he resumed walking down the south side of Market Street, hands in pockets, as if nothing had happened.

The driver (and only occupant) of the BMW got out of the car. She was a skinny young blonde woman no more than five feet tall, still holding her cell phone in her left hand (the reason she had nearly killed the man). She left the driver’s door open, the car key in the ignition, and the motor running–I kid thee not–and ran after the martial arts master, screaming at the top of her lungs. “You damaged my car! You damaged my car! You have to pay for that! What’s you name?! Tell me your name!” I was still 100 feet behind him, but I’m pretty sure he said nothing in reply, because she kept screaming “What’s your name?!” over and over and over. She started pounding on his left shoulder with her fists (still holding the cell phone in her left hand), but she was so short that she had to jump to reach high enough to “pound” his shoulder. I put quotation marks around pound because it was the sort of ineffectual pounding that neither you nor I would feel. The “pounding” certainly didn’t affect him; he didn’t even take his hands from his pockets.

Still, she kept pounding and screaming. Finally, he paid attention. Sort of. Still looking straight ahead, still not saying anything, he pointed backwards with his right hand over his left shoulder. She stopped and watched him walk for a few seconds, still pointing over his shoulder. Then she screamed, “My car!” She ran back to her car that she had left unattended in the middle of the crosswalk with the motor running (I had resisted the temptation of borrowing it to park it in a safer location–she probably would have misinterpreted my gesture). The light had turned green for the cars on Guerrero, but she didn’t seem to notice that cars whizzed past her diminutive frame at 30+ miles per hour as she ran into oncoming traffic before I realized what she was doing. Her turn to get lucky; she wasn’t even seriously threatened with injury, and she hopped back into her wounded BMW.

She recovered her car, but not her sense. She swerved onto Market Street heading toward downtown until she caught up with the martial artist who had inflicted about $2,000 worth of damage on her BMW with a single kick, set the emergency brake, turned off the engine, and took the keys with her as she ran up to the gentleman again, resumed screaming “What’s your name?!” over and over, and resumed her ineffectual pounding, resumed committing assault and battery against a man who could nearly cripple a very expensive sports car with a single kick. Technically, she was committing multiple felonies. This continued for about 50 feet until she exhausted herself, stopping and bending over, hands on knees, gasping for air.

The martial arts master walked a few more feet. Then he stopped.

He turned around and faced her.  He did not say a word to her, but he removed his hands from his pockets, formed fists, and let them hang at his side. The driver of the BMW stared at his fists; even so, she still needed a few more seconds to regain her senses. When she had, she backed up very quickly, almost but not quite falling on her skinny butt, and then turned around and fled back to her car, gunned the engine and broke the speed limit as she sped away.

The martial arts master resumed walking down the south side of Market Street, hands back in pockets, as if nothing had happened.

He never said a word.

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–I must stress that his behavior was %100 correct and justified. He acted in self-defense against the car, but he never touched the woman. She, on the other hand, committed roughly thirty felonies and misdemeanors; one felony for nearly killing an innocent man, a few dozen more for assault, plus misdemeanors for little things like speeding.

Not a Dog on the Muni Metro


Good Evening:

Several months ago, I had to go downtown to the Stockton street Apple Store (one of three in San Francisco) to ask about a computer problem during my lunch break. Now Muni does not allow dogs on its cars except for service dogs. However a man embarked the Civic Center station with an absolute beast. Four feet tall at the shoulder, six feet long, not counting the tail.

A passenger said, “Man you can’t bring that Siberian Husky on the train.”

“Don’t worry, it’s OK, no problem. This is not a dog. He’s a Timber Wolf.”

That is a really, really good way to get everyone’s attention. Especially mine, since wolves have very large heads, even larger jaws, and these even larger jaws were very close to a pair of very special parts of me.

His human told us all that his wolf was “completely tame.” No. Tractable like cheetahs, maybe, but not tame. It did let us pet its head and it did sit on command, but make no mistake, a wolf is not a dog. Wolves do not enjoy humans. This wolf did not enjoy us, not with its massive head lowered and looking at the floor of the Muni car, not with its body absolutely still. I know that anthropomorphism is a dangerous thing, but in my eyes his body language screamed sullenness. If I read his mind correctly, the wolf was thinking, “Anywhere but here. Anywhere but here.”

But it was not a dog. So it was OK to bring it on Muni.

Hearing the call of the wild (new episode of “Being Human” in a few minutes), I remain,

Yours Truly,

Vonn Scott Bair

Lovers Behind the Grocery Store


Picture taken behind the Safeway on Church & Market Street, San Francisco, CA on 11 August 2007 at 3:18 p.m. with a Nikon Coolpix 4300.

How Love Begins on the 71-Limited (I Think)


Good Afternoon:

The 25-ish young woman sitting in the back row with long brown hair and sunglasses that looked like ski goggles stared for a long time at the 25-ish young man standing about four feet away in pants, shirt, vest and necktie (but no coat), all in varying shades of grey and silver. His hair was even longer, even if bound in a pony tail, but tightly bound by a dozen rubber bands, roughly one for every inch or so of hair.

“Hey,” she said, “Do I know you?”

“Um, I don’t know. Let me look at you a sec.”

He squinted at her for a few seconds.

“You do look familiar.”

“You garden much?”

“Love gardening,”

“Were you gardening in Golden Gate Park last Saturday?”

He squinted at her again.

“Were you the bicyclist who nearly killed me?”

“Yeah, that was me.”

“Oh. Well, um. Nice to meet you.”

“But you know, you stepped in front of me.”

“Didn’t seem that way to me.”

“At least I missed.”

“That was cool.”

“I’m Rachel.”


“Nice to meet you.”

“You, too.”

“Yeah. Come on, have a seat.”


“So, like, are you a professional gardener?”

“Volunteer. I work for the City’s Environment Department. I create brochures, PowerPoint presentations, write reports, stuff like that.”



I probably should have stayed on the bus longer to be certain, but this is how people fall in love, right? When one of them nearly accidentally kills the other? I learned that at the movies. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.

Vonn Scott Bair

San Francisco City Hall in the Late Afternoon Light 8/31/2005


Good Evening:

San Francisco’s City Hall is one of the country’s most photogenic buildings; almost every time I walk by, something about the building calls out for attention. This time, the sun happened to be directly behind the center of the dome, producing a rather decent effect. Nikon Coolpix 4300, unedited.

Vonn Scott Bair