Tag 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

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