Friday, February 6, 2009

Take a communal bath at Kabuki

Anxious for something to do with your weekdays besides compulsively reading Internet news, watching TiVo-ed Sally Jesse Raphael reruns and waiting for the mailperson to arrive with your unemployment check?

How about relaxing at a traditional communal Japanese-style bath with 30 other naked (and possibly also under- or unemployed) men or women?

Sound great? If so, check out Kabuki Springs & Spa.



The communal baths have a sauna, a steam room, a hot pool and a nut-/ovary-shrivelingly cold pool. They also have stand-up showers like we Westerners are used to, as well as sit-down showers equipped with stools (wooden, not poo),


like those commonly used across the Pacific.

For the more financially secure (and therefore stressed out) among us, the place also has lots of different massages, facials, accupuncture sessions and other foofy goodies--"Abhyanga Massage with Shirodhara Treatment" or "Javanese Lulur Body Treatment," anyone?--available for extra cash-money.

Because, as you well know, you're worth it.


Kabuki Springs & Spa is located at 1750 Geary Blvd., at Fillmore, right next to Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in Japantown. The baths are men-only Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays; women-only Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays; and coed (bathing suit required, perverts) on Tuesdays. Entrance to the baths are $22 Monday to Friday and $25 on Saturday and Sunday. The whole thing is open 10AM to 10PM daily. Abhyanga massage is evidently just another name for Ayurvedic massage. No idea what the deal with Javanese Lulur is.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Play gay soccer (or at least buy a gay-soccer calendar)

San Francisco is both an athletic city and a rather gay one. Those qualities--plus a bridge and some hills--combine to make it unique in the minds of many. But how is one to combine the "athletic" and the "gay" outside of a musty gym locker room and attached group showers?

One answer: the San Francisco Spikes.



One of the oldest gay soccer teams in the United States, the Spikes were one of five teams to compete in the first Gay Games, held in San Francisco in 1984. These days, the club is composed of two teams: the "Marin Team," which is the more competitive of the two and plays on Saturdays in the Marin Soccer League, and the "San Francisco Team," which is more recreational and competes on Sundays in the San Francisco Soccer Football League.

Both teams' seasons run approximately from March to September of each year, and combined practices happen once a week--outdoors during the season and indoors in the off-season (on the fields at Mission High School and in the gym at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center, respectively).



For info on how to join the team and how much it costs, game and tournament (including international tourneys) schedules, and other pertinent info, go to the About Us section on their website.

But for all you armchair enthusiasts out there with a space on your wall and a hand in your pants, you could always just spend 20 bucks and buy the 2009 Men of the San Francisco Spikes Calendar.





(10% of all calendar sales go to the soccer-related charity Little Feet, with the rest going to help with team expenses.)


Mission High School is at 18th and Dolores. The Eureka Valley Recreation Center is at 19th and Collingwood. Photos of the team courtesy of the Spikes' website. Hot calendar photos courtesy of photographer Blake Tucker at BLAKETUCKER.COM.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Have the City install a bike rack in front of _________

Tired of chaining your bike to some just-small-enough parking meter in front of one of your regular haunts? Ever wished that your favorite bar/restaurant/venue/store/market/office/etc. in San Francisco had a bike rack or two in front of it? Now's your chance to get one put in on the City's dime.

To do this, go to this site and fill out the form, indicating the address, cross streets or business name where you want a rack installed. Super quick, super easy.

The SFMTA is looking to put in 1000 new bike racks around the city once the bike-plan injunction is lifted in 2009. The agency needs 500 more requests to reach this goal. Now's your chance.

My requests so far:

Phone Booth
Bank of America in the Castro
Green Apple Books
Embarcadero West (275 Battery)
Bar on Castro (hmmm)
Great American Music Hall
Bottom of the Hill
Slim's
Truck
Books Inc. (on Market)

PS - Holy shit, a new post! More Than Four, we've missed ye.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ride the Wolfpack Hustle

Do you live in San Francisco and have a certain amount of antipathy towards our bigger southern neighbor? Smog, traffic, fake boobs, bleached hair, surf culture, bling bling, road rage, endless sprawl, image, style, no substance...no, I'm not talking about San Jose; I'm talking about Los Angeles.

Well, if you have a bike and like to a. ride, b. ride fast, and c. ride fast at night, you now have a reason to visit Los Angeles (!): Wolfpack Hustle.


An amazing--a-m-a-z-i-n-g--way to experience an otherwise not-so-bike-friendly city, Wolfpack Hustle is a 25- to 50-mile ride that begins at a donut shop in Silverlake


at 10PM every Monday. People gather with their bikes--geared or fix--and await the announcement of directions to the first stop, chatting, smoking pot, whatever. A two-minute warning is given and then--bam!--you're off to the fucking races (but not really, because it's not a race.) An all-out effort is made, at speeds mostly above 20MPH: skirting cars, around pedestrians and through (some) red lights.

Like Critical Mass, the route changes every week. Unlike Critical Mass, you may feel the need to puke up that quesadilla, bag of Skittles and can of Tecate you naively consumed--thought this was gonna be like Critical Mass, huh?--immediately prior to pounding the shit out of your pedals as you whiz down Sunset into West Hollywood clubland, streaking past the dropping jaws of the drunk and drugged staring at the pack of 25 bikers hustling past.



You arrive at the first stop. You catch your breath, have some water, bullshit with the other riders. Maybe you take a piss. Then comes the next batch of directions, with corresponding stop. Two-minute warning. Bam! Go!

Along the way you take in the (nighttime!) metropolis, watch out for potholes, talk when you can, occasionally see your semi-delirious grin reflected on the face of the rider next to you, draft a lot, and--above all--keep up.


A few hours after you began, you return to the start, bullshit some, get a donut, stretch a bit, and go home. Next week the route is different; hopefully you can make it.


Wolfpack Hustle is fucking awesome. It is a ride that has been going for well over 52 weeks straight, and is faintly reminiscent--a bunch of (mostly) dudes come together in the middle of the night to work, sweat, and (occasionally) bleed, damning (in this case) automotive society, and whatever sort of on-the-job Tuesday a five-hour night of sleep will bring, to hell--of Fight Club. For another account of what it's like to ride, go here. I worship, from afar, the people who started it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

See a movie at the Red Vic

While not nearly as cheap as the $2 shows at the Super Saver Cinema (RIP, Super Saver--sniffle) of your youth, the Red Vic Movie House is cheaper than most of the chain theaters around San Francisco. Run by a collective--it's a "worker owned and operated movie house"--it shows a mix of first- and second- (or thirtieth- and fortieth-) run movies.

The Red Vic is the place to see classic or cult movies, the SF premieres of new documentaries or other smaller films, and good mainstream movies that you wanted to see a couple of months ago when they first came out but didn't (go see them).

Cheap popcorn, candy and organic baked goods are for sale and clean bathrooms are available. You can choose to sit in well-worn examples of the standard movie theater seat or on wood-and-cushion "couches" perfect for snuggling up to your boyfriend or mother.

Around the theater are numerous food places, giving you a good one-two, dinner-movie punch on the first date, before heading home after the movie for the knockout.

Of special note is the 4:20PM, 4/20 showing of The Big Lebowski,


which comes projected through a haze of pot smoke and accompanied by a smattering of random coughing fits around the small theater. An anti-smoking public service announcement from John Waters precedes the film.

Regular admission to the Red Vic is $8.50, not counting the change you feel compelled to give to the gutter punk staring at your bike as you lock it to a parking meter (though if you ask most any employee nicely, they may let you park your bike in back).


The Red Vic is located on Haight, between Cole and Shrader. A calendar of movies and show times is available on the website; you can find a paper version, handy for tacking to your bathroom wall, at the box office.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Patronize Box Dog Bikes

With little money and even less knowledge, how you despise the thought of entering a bike shop to repair that rhythmic clunk emanating from the chunky tubes of your battered beater!

As you approach the front door, the sweat beads on your forehead, your breath quickens in your constricted chest (maybe you shouldn't have worn that harness today) and you want to dump the bike, run home and stuff your head under your pillow until the last rays of daylight have receded from between the cracks in the aluminum foil covering your bedroom window.

If only there were a bike shop where the repair people didn't look at you like an idiot when you thrust your two-wheeled friend into their arms, a tear of bafflement simultaneously dislodging from its glistening perch at the corner of your eye and then didn't go ahead and recommend a bunch of fixes that amount to more than the original price of said POS.

Here's your answer:



Though not entirely the idealized always-friendly-and-completely-free bike shop of your sweet vermouth-addled dreams, Box Dog Bikes comes pretty close.

  • Box Dog is a worker-owned cooperative.
  • There is a "community bench" that anyone with basic bike-repair knowledge can use sans charge.
  • A 10% discount is given to members of the SF Bike Coalition.
  • Free bike-repair classes are offered every few months.
  • A couple file cabinets stand full of used components, organized by type.
  • Most everyone there seems attuned to the needs of those not wanting to spend gobs of cash to fix every small thing on an older bike.
Fuck yes.


Box Dog Bikes is located on 14th, between Guerrero and Valencia. It is open Monday-Friday (closed Wednesday), 11-7; Saturday, 10-5; and Sunday, 12-5.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Eat some fresh, locally harvested oysters

Given the proximity of Tomales Bay and/or the high concentration of lesbian in the city's water, oysters are popular here in San Francisco. You should eat some before you leave.

Oysters can be expensive, especially considering they're not exactly super substantive on a per-unit basis. Keeping this in mind, the following list of options is weighted towards the cheap-to-free end of the price range, allowing you to eat more oysters with the little money you have left over after paying the movers to ship all your worldly crap back to Minneapolis.

In San Francisco:

1. El Rio - Free oysters--fresh or barbecued--on Fridays starting at 5.30 until they're gone. (!!!--well, it is in Bernal Heights, and what better way to keep the neighborhood clientele happy than free oysters [well, maybe besides free Subaru and motorcycle valet parking or 2-for-1 plaid giveaways]?.) Don't forget to tip the oystress.

El Rio is a nice and divey place with pool, shuffleboard and a big back patio. It is also home to a Monday-Friday happy hour that has $2.50 beers and well drinks and that goes from 4 till 9.

2. Mecca - Half-price oysters (average price: $1.25) from 5 to 7 every day (including weekends) there's not a special event.

Mecca is a fancy place with expensive food and rich (or -looking--I never can tell) homos.

3. Hog Island Oyster Company - $1 oysters on Mondays and Thursdays, 5-7. (They also sell take-out oysters that you shuck at home.)

This bar in the Ferry Building gets crowded, so get there right at 5 or just cut in line and see what happens.

4. Woodhouse Fish Company - $1 oysters on Tuesdays.

Outside San Francisco:

Head up to Tomales Bay, where you can slurp from the source at a number of places, including Tomales Bay Oyster Company, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, and Hog Island.


El Rio is located on Mission, south of Cesar Chavez. Mecca is on Market, east of Church. Hog Island is on the east side of the Ferry Building. Woodhouse is at the intersection of Market, 14th and Church. Tomales Bay is beautiful. Marshall and Pt. Reyes Station are two of the nearest towns to the oyster companies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get a latte at Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ok, I get that everyone and his similarly emaciated hipster brother has been to Ritual.

Fixie at your side, laptop slung over shoulder, and scarf tied just so, you've activated your irony beacon and homed in on the Valencia Street coffeehouse hanging the takeoff--see below--on the Soviet and Chinese flags out front.


Unfortunately you can no longer take chairs outside--evidently it impedes the strollers and wheelchairs of members of the bookends of the Mission social strata--so remind the nearest art student that he doesn't need four chairs to himself and grab a place at a table.

Their lattes are delicious (and well priced) and their hot chocolate above average. On information and belief, their normal coffee is also better than most, enough so that my friend with a whiskey-ravaged stomach--who probably should avoid coffee too--wants to get one every time he's in town on a weekend morning. I'm unsure about the rest of the drinks, but I'd be willing to bet they're also quite tasty.

Bottom line: the coffee is good enough to warrant both a special trip and the hassle of pulling on your leg warmers and pushing up your sleeves so your tattoos are in full view.

(Oh, the art up for sale is usually good too.)


Ritual Coffee Roasters is located on Valencia between 21st and 22nd. It is open Mon-Fri, 6AM-10PM; Sat, 7AM-10PM; and Sun, 7AM-9PM. There is another location, with much more restricted hours, in the Bayview at 1634 Jerrold, just west of 3rd Street.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trip on the pretty fish at 6th Avenue Aquarium

Visiting 6th Avenue Aquarium is like taking a free trip to a low-rent, DIY municipal aquarium in some Buddhist foreign country (Buddhist because of the shrine they have in the back corner sporting burning incense and takeout-boxed food items). The outside gives a good indication of what lies in store past the neon and shockingly red awning.



Once inside, there are many exotic but familiar species: Siamese fighting fish, stingray, jellyfish, seahorse, pufferfish.

Others are just exotic (or at least -sounding): true Red Terror, Armored Catfish, Leporinus, Albino Bichir, Electric Blue Jack Dempsey, Peppermint Pleco, Oscarfish, 5-star General, Well Endowed (just kidding on that last one).

Though probably not for the claustro- or icthyophobic, the place is teeming (in an extreme sense of the word) with all things piscine. If wall-to-wall tanks filled with writhing masses of fish isn't your bag, then maybe best to stay outside and have a smoke while the better half goes in and pokes around. As I overheard midway through a visit, "To live in San Francisco and have a place crammed with fish like this, you pretty much have to be Chinese and come from some super commie background."

Agree or don't, but do go before you leave. It may even be nice to have a bag o' jumbo goldfish blobbing about on your lap for the goodbye flight.


Sixth Avenue Aquarium is on Clement between 5th and 6th. It is open 7 days a week: M-F, 11AM-10PM; Sat and Sun, 10AM-10PM. For two ridiculous lists of all they carry in the way of fish, pick your poison: freshwater or saltwater.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Vote NO on Proposition H

Lucky for all of us, you're not leaving the city till after the municipal elections on November 6th, meaning one more vote against Proposition H. Funded by what the SF Bay Guardian likes to demonize as "downtown interests" led by Republican (in San Francisco?!?!?!) Don Fisher, founder and chairman emeritus of Gap, Inc., this loser of a ballot measure will effectively mandate more parking spaces in the city, putting more four-wheeled menaces in the path of your scrawny ass and its two-wheeled steed.

Organizations against Prop. H are many and as varied as (partial list):

San Francisco Democratic Party
Sierra Club
Senior Action Network
Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association
Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council
San Francisco Tenants Union
Teachers for Social Justice
CC Puede
etc., et al.

Are you willing to oppose the Dems, the environmentalists, the old, the yuppies, the hippies, the renters, the teachers AND the Latinos, among others?

Read up on the SF Bike Coalition's response to the measure (and its concurrent support of pro-MUNI Proposition A) here. And, if you're so inclined, there's another community group's viewpoint available here.

As a proposition and not a preparation, this stinker is more likely to cause than to cure hemorrhoids. And really, who wants hemorrhoids (or more cars on the road in San Francisco)? Not you, surely!


Here is a short profile on Don Fisher. (My friend who works at the Gap tells me that he's a real asshole.) If you're wondering about voter registration and polling places and other such information, see what the SF Department of Elections has to say. (The last day to register for the upcoming election is October 22.) And, of course, you can always do your part for a bikeable city by joining the good old SF Bike Coalition.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Take a class at City College

You recently received word that your Peace Corps application was accepted and that you'll be spending the next two years in China/Mali/Honduras developing techniques for sustainable small-scale agriculture/building small-town medical clinics/"facilitating a program of microlending to underserved indigenous peoples" (this last bit is the wording you'll use on your B-school application).

However, your Mandarin/French/Spanish is not up to par. Short of engaging in regular, non-procreative intercourse with the Taiwanese/Quebecois/Peruvian guy upstairs, what do you do?

Check out the course offerings at CCSF, of course.

With departments ranging from Architecture to Journalism to Theatre Arts to Aircraft-Maintenance Technology to Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies, opportunities abound for anything from the brush-up to the total makeover at only 20 bucks a unit (for California residents).

So come on, set your inner dilettante free and take that photography class you've been dreaming about ever since you last redesigned your myspace page.


City College of San Francisco has 11 campuses spread throughout the city. Information about registering is available here. CCSF was founded in 1935 and, in 1989, established the first gay, lesbian, and bisexual studies department in the United States. The theater at the Ocean Campus features a mural by Diego Rivera. Notable alumni include:

(Danny Glover)

(O.J. Simpson)

and

(Bill Bixby, star of the 1970s TV show The Incredible Hulk).

Monday, October 8, 2007

Go to Baker Beach on a nice day

Perhaps a banal suggestion, but it's probably one you haven't followed as often as you should have.

Nice days in the Presidio are like affordable housing in San Francisco, so if you receive reports that it might be fog-less and warm out there, go. However, it is likely that many will have been struck with the same idea, so avoid the crowded parking lot by taking the bus or riding that darn bicycle of yours.

List of things to bring:

1. Towel
2. Swimsuit (optional if you head to the north end of the beach--see below)
3. Tall boy(s) of Tecate
4. A soccer ball (or some other sporting good with which to hit oblivious sunbathers/little children running around in screaming packs/lecherous old men watching oblivious sunbathers and/or little children running around in screaming packs)
5. Sun block (in San Francisco?!)

Gratuitous and wholly unnecessary picture of naked people on Baker Beach:


Baker Beach is located in the Presidio. It is served by the 29 bus, which directly intersects the 1, 2, 5, 31, 38, and 71 lines, and (talking about the 29 still) is one block off the N-Judah at 19th and Irving in the Sunset. On bike, take Lake Street west from Arguello or, if you want to go through Golden Gate Park, exit the park and go north on 24th or 26th, changing to 25th as it descends towards the beach after Lake. (Here are a few online Muni maps.) Picnic tables and barbecues are available near the parking lot. Restrooms are available too.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Go to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival

The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival is usually held on the first weekend in October. (This year it's 10/5, 10/6 and 10/7.) It's a free, three-day outdoor show in Golden Gate Park attended by a few hundred thousand people.

While it started out as a blue grass-only affair, it has now grown to include other types of music (which don't stray too far from bluegrass, e.g., folk, country, alt-country, and so on).

Notaries this year include Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Los Lobos, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Neko Case.

Important details:

1. Free
2. Blankets, short-back chairs and coolers are allowed.
3. Bike parking will be available (see map).
4. Free


A schedule of acts, as well as a map and other pertinent information, is available on the event's website. Here is a short NPR article about the festival. Here is an SF Bay Guardian interview with Warren Hellman, the guy who personally funds the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Read part of Oh the Glory of It All

Written by the stepson of the high-society queen most notable for spearheading the fund-raising drive responsible for the construction of the new de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, this sometimes-funny tell-all is worth a read for those who follow the local gossip columns.

But in the interest of saving you fifteen bucks that might otherwise go towards the overweight-suitcase fee on your flight out of town, I recommend going to your nearest book store and reading pages 313-320 of the paperback edition with the white cover, black lettering and pretty gray-image overlay. It looks like this:


This 8-page snippet is a great account of the 1906 earthquake and resulting fire written in a style weaving the lives of the book's characters int0 the context of greater historical events (sort of like Midnight's Children).

Remember, it's never too late to learn something about the town you're leaving.


Oh the Glory of It All is written by Sean Wilsey, who's the stepson of Dede Wilsey, who sounds like a real bitch if you read the whole book. The de Young Museum is the copper-clad building in Golden Gate Park. Here is an article about the lady and the book.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Get a slice of the pizza of the day at Arizmendi Bakery

You're lying in bed at noon on a Saturday. You realize that there's no position into which you can put your head that will fully extinguish the pounding reminder that you were surely overserved the night before. The rumbling in the tum is beginning to rival the hammer in your head, but you've no food with which to sate the beast below.

Solution:
Pull yourself onto your bike, ride to Arizmendi in the Inner Sunset and get a piece (or three) of the thin-crust pizza of the day. Sweating it out on the way will help the head, and a $2 slice (or three) consumed on the bench in the sun across the street will satisfy the angry tum.


Arizmendi Bakery is a worker-owned cooperative on 9th, between Irving and Judah, that is open every day except Monday and sells many baked goods in addition to pizza. It has been open since 2000 and is loosely affiliated with the bakeries of the same name in Oakland and Emeryville, as well as with the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley. It is named after the Basque priest and labor organizer José Maria Arizmendiarrieta.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Eat at Palace Steak House

While not quite as grand as the name suggests, Palace Steak House is nonetheless worth a stop on an "I'm out of here" tour of this city's notable culinary destinations.


Sure, Morton's it is not, but it's got a hell of a lot more character than the Sizzler's you grew up going to with your grandparents, your legs sticking to its vinyl booths and the odd garlic bread crumbs that dotted them uncomfortably embedding themselves into your sensitive adolescent flesh because of those stupid short shorts your mom used to make you wear all the time.

Now that you don't wear short shorts anymore, it's safe to again frequent inexpensive steakhouses with vinyl booths.

And in the case of the Palace, you get a great steak, iceberg lettuce salad, baked potato and garlic bread for about ten bucks ($10). Not fucking bad. (Whether you find added value in the odd, decades-old decor or the odd, decades-long owners is up to you.)

Bonus points if you realize after eating here that for years you'd been walking by the sun-bleached sign


in the parking lot of the gas station at 17th and South Van Ness under which the bums sleep without realizing that it was advertising the very-extant PALACE STEAK HOUSE.


Palace Steak House (also known, somewhat mysteriously, as Palace Family Steak House [not to be confused with the band of the same name]) is located at 3047 Mission, at Cesar Chavez and has been open since 1968. It does not serve Niman Ranch beef, you snob. Extra special bonus points if you take your boyfriend there for his birthday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Party the Saturday before Folsom Street Fair at Magnitude

If you've nothing to do the Saturday night before Folsom Street Fair and come upon an extra $90 while cleaning out your sock drawer, grab a sock and stuff it in your mouth and head to Magnitude, happening at The Factory, on Harrison, between 1st and 2nd.


From the flyer and the official dress code, it appears that this might be another singularly San Francisco event.


"There is no official dress code. MAGNITUDE is a gay, leather dance event. Chaps, harnesses, boots and all other forms of leather, latex, rubber and uniforms are strongly encouraged. We recommend you leave your sneakers, cologne and micro-fibers at home. If you need something to wear, go to Mr. S Leather."


Magnitude starts at 10PM and continues on through 4AM. 21 and over. Please do report back here if you attend and live to tell the tale.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Attend the Folsom Street Fair

Remember when your mother had to actually tell you not to talk to any stranger leading a naked man in a black leather mask around on a leash?

Or that time you were grounded for a whole week after your father found Billy, the deaf-mute kid who lived next door, handcuffed to a heating pipe in your basement one too many times?

And how about the parent-teacher conference where Mrs. Ashley opined that your enthusiasm for spanking and other forms of corporal punishment just might not be a good fit with the Montessori model?

Well, this Sunday, September 30th, is your day, as "the world's largest leather event" comes to town.


Join the 400,000 (!) or so other people on Folsom, between 7th and 12th and, if you're lucky, you just might happen upon a leather-booted and corset-clad Mrs. Ashley applying the riding crop with gusto to the exposed bottom of a bound-and-gagged Mr. Ashley.


The Folsom Street Fair takes place every year on the last Sunday in September. This year the whole to-do starts at 11AM and ends at 6PM. Admission is free, with a suggested donation of $5. All proceeds from gate donations and drink sales will go to benefit local charities. (The deal for charity aside, it might be best to pick up a tall boy [of Tecate, for instance] or two and imbibe on your way there, taking care, of course, to properly recycle your adult beverage container.) In an interesting partnership, the San Francisco Bike Coalition will be providing free bicycle parking and, for a $5 charge, bag and coat check, with proceeds going to the Coalition and the aforementioned charities. (Information for motorcycle parking and helmet check can be found on the bicycle parking page above.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Take an old convertible on a road trip around New England

Oh wait, that was what I was doing last week.


More good San Francisco stuff starting again this week. Because there's so much more to this town than just the Marina, you schmuck.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Find a ride off of craigslist to someplace random

For those without car and without friends-with-car, your chance to take that road trip from San Francisco that you've been telling yourself you'd take since you first moved here following a road trip (funny how that works) is here--or, more precisely, has always been here (you just haven't bothered to look.)

A partial list of the destinations posted in the past two days:

Los Angeles/Long Beach
Utah
Eugene, OR
Earthdance (?)
Eureka/Arcata
Denver
Boston
Reno/Tahoe/Vegas/Salt Lake City
San Luis Obispo
Tuscon/Austin/New Orleans
Mendocino
Portland, OR
Marin
Yosemite
Cabo San Lucas

Click on a link, pick up that phone and call the poster in question. Remember that most people fall on the "cereal" side of the homonym fence, so it's pretty unlikely that the person with whom you'll soon be sharing tight quarters and a limited music selection for 5(0)(0) or more miles is the axe murderer that your parents, teachers and society have been warning you about since your youth.


If you can only find a one-way ride, don't forget about Greyhound and Amtrak. And then there's always your thumb, sweetened by your biggest smile. But if you happen upon a large, agitated man named Zephyr, go ahead and pass that one up.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eat breakfast at Joe's Coffee Shop

If you've never understood the San Francisco obsession with crepe places and expensive brunches, and have also whined about the lack of cheap diners in this city, then hop on the bike and ride to Joe's.


A breakfast of eggs, meat, hash browns and toast can be had for less than five dollars. A buck or so more for an omelet. Other American/Italian/standard lunch offerings not much more than that.

This is the place you've been wishing for all those weekend mornings you've woken up with more pain in your head than cash in your pocket.


Joe's is located in the Richmond, on the north side of Geary, between 25th and 26th. It closes daily at 3PM.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Visit your local branch library

Someone has to break the stranglehold of bored schoolchildren and senior citizens on public library usage. Luckily for the continent among us, the San Francisco Public Library makes it easy, with 26 branches spread throughout the city, most with free WiFi access and many open until 9PM a few nights a week.

Library cards are free for California residents and not only allow you to check out materials in person, but also give you access to a host of online resources. You can search the catalogue; place holds on materials and request delivery to your favored branch once they become available; renew stuff you've checked out; request from a 9-million-title, intra-California lending network any book that the SFPL may not have--all from home, in bed, wearing only the boxers you've had on for the last few days.

For the especially thrifty, the SFPL offers a way to skirt both a monthly Netflix bill and the $3 charge for a movie-plus-tiresome-interaction-with-the-congenitally-unfriendly-staff at Lost Weekend Video by allowing members to request and/or check out any title in its voluminous collection. For free.

For starters, I would recommend the Mission Branch Library. The reading room's ceiling alone is worth the trip. Founded in 1888, the Mission branch is the oldest in the city. The present, post-earthquake building, which opened in 1915, was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, who also designed the Warfield and the Golden Gate theaters in San Francisco, as well as the Orpheum, Wiltern and El Capitan theaters in LA.


The Mission Branch Library is located on the corner of Bartlett St. and 24th. It is open 7 days a week (!). Andrew Carnegie was the self-made steel magnate whose personal philanthropy was legendary--e.g., he funded the construction of over 3,000 libraries in 47 states. He was a staunch advocate of a "confiscatory" estate tax, writing in his essay "Wealth", "By taxing estates heavily at death the state marks its condemnation of the selfish millionaire's unworthy life." Interestingly, he was not known for dealing with his workers in a particularly benevolent fashion.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Abandon your old furniture outside of Danielle Steel's house

You've got to get rid of that beer-stained couch before you move out.



The bestselling romance novelist Danielle Steel lives in a 55-room Beaux Arts-style mansion on Washington, at Octavia, in Pacific Heights.



Mere coincidence? Or a cosmic sign that the meeting of your sofa and her sidewalk was written into Destiny's pages by the pen of Fate? You decide.

(If you consult Google's Street View, you'll see that Octavia, being the more minor of the two streets, is probably the better on which to dump the offensive love seat.)


The Spreckels Mansion, as Ms. Steel's residence is known, was built in 1913 by the sugar heir and racehorse owner Adolph Spreckels for his wife, Alma. If you've been to Union Square (or seen the movie The Conversation), it is likely you've seen the likeness of Alma, as she served as the model for this statue. Adolph and Alma also donated the money, and much art, to found the Legion of Honor museum in the Outer Richmond. For more information about Danielle Steel, see this article and interview. (In case you do, and then wonder where else you might have heard the name Tom Perkins, see here for an answer.) . For more information about Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, see this short biography. And for more information on the history of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, see here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Enjoy an ice cream cone from Mitchell's

Mitchell's ice cream is the perfect antidote for a postprandial and/or post-coital sweet tooth. Visit the shop at the edge of Noe Valley/the Mission/Bernal Heights, or look for the ice cream at restaurants around town.

Mitchell's has been open, in the same location and owned by the same family, since 1953.


It now offers everything from cones and cups to cakes and pies to sundaes, milkshakes and something called halo-halo (a traditional treat from the Philippines made out of "sweet beans and mongo beans, a blend of fruit, evaporated milk, shaved ice" and a scoop of ice cream).

Check out Mitchell's website for flavors, awards and more historical information. If you decide to visit, bring a book or someone to talk to/make out with, as you may have to wait in line.


Mitchell's Ice Cream is located on San Jose Ave. (Guerrero St.) at the corner of 29th. It is open 7 days a week, from 11AM to 11PM. Interestingly, Mitchell's does not distribute its ice cream outside of the Bay Area.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Go for a bike ride through the Alexander and Russian River Valleys

Remember that $4000 Cannondale you bought when you first moved to Cow Hollow? Do you still know where it is? If so, take it to a bike shop and have them tune it up for you in time for the weekend. Ignore the snarky comments they'll (rightly) make about the pristine condition of your tires. You can tell them that you are so excited to be going on a gorgeous bike ride through the same Alexander Valley that supplies the wine to all of your "fave" restaurants in the Marina. Don't mind the blank looks on the mechanics' faces--the only kind of wine Zeitgeist serves comes in juice boxes.

Highlights of this 45-mile trip include the kind of scenery plump, prosperous people from Tennessee on flights home from San Francisco talk about having seen from the tinted windows of an air-conditioned bus while on a Napa wine tour--"we just adooore Napa"--except this isn't Napa, so there aren't a zillion cars and there's more than two routes you can take on your ride through the valley.

Stop for lunch at the Jimtown Store--"the cool place with the hot name"--for a snack and a water refill.

To add some hills to an otherwise-flat ride, when following the directions on the linked-to route slip below, turn right off Hwy 128 just before Jimtown onto the misleadingly named Pine Flat Road for a hill-assisted view of the valley. (Pine Flat dead ends 12 miles off of 128, the last two miles of which are said to compose the steepest section of road in the county.)


For a map and directions, a route slip created by the Santa Rosa Cycling Club is available here. To add about 12 miles onto the route's total, turn right and continue on Hwy 128 north after Jimtown instead of continuing straight onto Alexander Valley Rd. Take Hwy 128 all the way to Geyserville, turning right on Geyserville Ave. Follow Geyserville Ave. under the 101, where it changes to Canyon Rd. Take Canyon Rd. up the small-ish hill until it dead ends at Dry Creek Rd. Turn left onto Dry Creek Rd. and follow that until you come to downtown Healdsburg. At this point, find Mill St./Westside Rd. and resume the directions given on route slip. See here for a map of the addition.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Join up with a Critical Mass

Honestly, are you really going to move away without having taken part in the original free-form expression of a collective bike-centric consciousness? I didn't think so. Joining up is one step to making sure that bicycle-hating Republican warbots don't descend from the heavens and eat your children.



(What an asshole!)

Anyway, go out back, dust off that 30-pound bruiser that you bought off the junkie outside 16th Street BART and then quickly forgot about, and haul it to Justin Herman Plaza before 6PM on the last Friday of any month. You'll know you're in the right place when you see about eight hundred other people lolling about on two wheels, waiting for the unspoken signal to get rolling and take back the streets (for a few hours) from soon-to-be-outraged (but normally dangerously oblivious) motorists.


Don't forget your heaviest U-lock, handy for securing your bike outside a Tenderloin liquor store after you run out of Tecate or throwing through the windshield of an irate soccer mom's minivan.


Critical Mass is just plain cool. It happens on the last Friday of every month and follows no particular route. Feel free to lament the fact that you missed out on the oft-proposed "taking of the [Golden Gate] Bridge", but know that It Could Happen To You. And despite jokes to the contrary, don't be an asshole and provoke soccer moms into pointless confrontations just because they happened to inch forward when you were self-righteously blocking an intersection; remember that the maternal instinct to get back to Lafayette as fast as possible in order to microwave frozen TV dinners for the kids is biologically ingrained to a sometimes murderous extent. Don't mess with the soccer moms, you fixie-riding schmuck. PS - Even Google likes bikes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Camp at Kirby Cove

The countdown to grad school in New York has barely begun and you're already getting teary-eyed over any mention of the Golden Gate Bridge. Your absentminded doodling at work has increasingly resulted in sketches of trees, birds, the San Francisco skyline and fog--oh wait, that last one is really just the dried result of a sneeze. What better place for a send-off bash than the campsites at Kirby Cove?


With only four sites, a sandy beach, and a close-up view (when not occluded by fog) of the bridge, with the city in the background,


you'll have to be diligent in your efforts to obtain a reservation. Luckily--unlike the 7-months-in-advance system of most California State Parks--you and every other REI member in San Francisco have only a 90-day window to battle it out to reserve a spot, meaning that you can have a fun, black-out weekend-with-a-view with nine of your friends before you have to concentrate your energies on finding the perfect sub-$1000 place in Brooklyn.


Kirby Cove is a campground just over the ol' Golden Gate in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Reservations attempts are made by phoning 877.444.6777 or online at recreation.gov. There are four campsites with fire rings--bring wood--that cost $25 each per night and allow a maximum of 10 people and 3 cars per site. You have to walk all of your shit down (and up) a big hill, so leave the portable fondue set at home. And don't forget ear plugs--ever wondered what a foghorn sounds like up close at 3.30AM?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Enjoy the views from Buena Vista Park

Whether you're looking for a view of the northern part of the city, downtown and the bay, or of aged citizens walking their dogs through surprisingly natural-looking (for a park) greenery, or of lone middle-aged men peering out at you from said greenery, you will find what you seek in Buena Vista Park.



Which of these you'll see more of depends on the time of day and the part of the park you visit.

Bring a picnic lunch and sit on the grassy spot at the top of the park. For a better view, head down and east from the top to the solitary bench that looks north through a break in the trees.

If tennis is your thing, there are courts at the park's far eastern end.

And if you fancy a different sort of workout, head off a trail and wait in the undergrowth, counting out the syllables in "Sen-a-tor Lar-ry Craig" with taps of your foot to pass the time.


Buena Vista Park is easily accessed from Haight Street at Central Avenue in the Upper Haight. Larry Craig is a Republican senator from Idaho who has voted for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, against expanding the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation, and against prohibiting job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and who was recently arrested by a plainclothes police officer investigating complaints of lewd conduct in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and who subsequently pleaded guilty as a result of this arrest.

Monday, August 27, 2007

See a movie at the Castro Theater


Contrary to what you might think, the pink neon CASTRO sign that is visible from higher points around the city is not, or at least was not originally intended to be, a homing beacon for lost homosexuals separated from the queen mother ship. While it may occasionally serve this purpose, its principal function is to advertise a movie house built in the grand style of a bygone era.

The cavernous auditorium seats a total of 1400 people on the ground level and in the balcony, and is crowned by an Art Deco chandelier that resembles a jellyfish, a missile or an alien ship from Star Trek: The Next Generation.


A Wurlitzer pipe organ--the city's only regularly played theater organ, according to the American Theater Organ Society--plays before most shows, with the player and console popping up from beneath the floor in front of the stage and screen.

The Castro Theater was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger and built in 1922. Pflueger, who was raised in the Mission, designed a number of other movie houses in the Bay Area, including the amazing Paramount Theater in Oakland.



He also designed a number of other buildings, including the first major skyscraper in San Francisco (140 New Montgomery)


and the Medical and Dental Building at 450 Sutter.



The Castro Theater is located on Castro Street, between Market/17th and 18th. A program schedule is available on the theater's website. (Thanks to Jim at thedude.com for the interior pics of the Paramount.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Go for a swim in Bass Lake

It's understandable that you may be antsy--this being one of your last weekends and all--about not having sampled enough of Bay Area nature since moving to San Francisco. Day-to-day life, with its chores and hangovers, got in the way, and suddenly your days are numbered and you've begun to sweat. Lucky for you it's the heat that's the cause, and that now you've got a beautiful way to cool off, Marin-style.

Bass Lake is part of the Point Reyes National Seashore and is located near the town of Bolinas. It's a pretty little thing that comes at the end of about a 2.5-mile easy-ish hike. Strip down to your bathing or birthday suit--nude bathing is supposedly common here--and jump in. There is a recurring rope swing somewhere on the shore, much to the consternation and resulting efforts of officialdom, so keep and eye out and be careful if you find and attempt it.


To get there, take Highway 1 north from Stinson Beach. Just north of Bolinas Lagoon, turn left on exit to Bolinas. (The welcoming Bolinas residents regularly tear down the sign that marks this turn-off, so you may have to resort to guesswork here.) Follow the road as it curves along the lagoon and eventually ends at Olema-Bolinas Road, and continue along Olema-Bolinas Road to the stop sign at Mesa Road. Turn right on Mesa and drive four miles, until it becomes a dirt road and ends at a parking lot. Take the Palomarin Trail from the dirt lot. After a couple of miles you'll come to a junction. Continue left on the Coastal Trail. You'll eventually see the lake, so at this point begin searching for a small path to the water's edge.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eat a weekday lunch at SFAI

Spectacular views of the city and the bay. A mural by Diego Rivera. Exhibits of student art that rotate on a weekly basis. Great, cheap, healthy food. There are few better places to eat lunch in San Francisco.

Half Italian/Spanish monastery and half poured-cement Modernist angularity, the school building itself is pretty great. You first enter a quiet courtyard with a fountain at its center, trees providing shade, and student art hanging on the walls along the periphery. A bell tower looms overhead. To the left is the Diego Rivera Gallery, home of the eponymous mural as well as year-round student-run exhibitions of student artwork. To the right are various classrooms and administrative offices. If you continue straight through the courtyard and up the ramp you enter the modern addition to the original building. A curated gallery exhibiting the work of professional artists is on the left. Past that is the cafe.

They've got all the coffee drinks, bagels and other similar snacks, a full sandwich menu and heartier specials--e.g., roast 1/4 chicken, dal and rice, Thai curry, different salads and flatbread pizzas--that change daily. There are always at least a couple veggie options. I've not seen anything over eight bucks, and you can usually eat something delicious that will fill you up for about five. Eat your lunch inside at one of the tables, or, even better, up on the roof, where you can enjoy the food and the view at the same time.


The San Francisco Art Institute is located at 800 Chestnut, a block and a half west up the hill from Columbus. The cafe is open for lunch, on weekdays only, until 2pm. Your best bet is to bike, though the 20 and the 30 buses both service Columbus. It might even be worth the cab fare. For more information about the architectural history of SFAI, go here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Get (at least) a drink at the Powerhouse

What better way to commemorate Anal Health & Pleasure Month than by heading over to the Powerhouse--the bar with a tastefully done pencil drawing of a fist up an ass hanging on the wall--for a drink? Not to be confused with the Power Exchange, the Powerhouse is a friendly little place in SOMA where you can pull up a stool, order a beer and snack on popcorn while watching vintage '70s porn on one of a few televisions dotted around the joint.

Not feeling the whole TV thing? Check out the pool table or pin ball machine. A smoker? Why stand out on the street when you can escape to the back patio and have a conversation in a confined space with an aggressively sexual fellow patron? Gotta take a leak? Invite the guy sitting on the stool next to you; the cant of the mirror in the bathroom is not an accident.

Sounds like just the kind of place you'd want to show off to Mom when she's in town to help you pack up your things.

On second thought, this might be more of a place for Daddy.


The Powerhouse is located on Folsom at Dore St. (between 9th and 10th). The drinks are made like the patrons: strong. An array of interesting theme nights awaits: "Dirty Dicks" (Monday), "Ink & Metal" (Tuesday), "Macho" (Wednesday), Underwear Night (Thursday), Pec Night (Friday), and Boot Lickin' (Saturday).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One word: Alcatraz

Enough said.


Alcatraz is possibly the most famous island in the world. It's the one with the lighthouse that you see when looking north across the bay from (god help you) Fisherman's Wharf. It can also be seen in the miniature on everything from handbags to fleece vests to shot glasses to smashed, engraved pennies that cost a dollar. It has starred in a number of movies, including:


If you've already been there and are tempted to go back for a final farewell, it might be fun to instead pose as a tour guide and see how many unsuspecting folks you can sign up for a "scenic driving tour" of the island. Report back when finished.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Go to Burning Man

Your neighbor, your boss, two of your college friends and the girl you hooked up with on Saturday night are all going. Everywhere you go these days--from the Marina to the Mission--you hear talk of camps and costumes and rides out there. Sure, you may think you're not be "that kind of person", but you'll never know until you try.

If you ask me, I think you should delay the flight to London and join the 44,000 others in making the trek into the Nevada desert. At the very least, the extra week of warmth will do you good.


Burning Man officially starts on August 27 and lasts till September 3. It's located in the temporary metropolis of Black Rock City, NV. Information about tickets, which currently cost $280, can be found here. To quote the event's website: "Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind." Cliché, but essentially true.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Get Mexican and beers and eat in Dolores Park

Since prehistoric times, man has found comfort and clarity in eating outside. Only recently has he taken to eating microwaved frozen science projects while seated in overstuffed reclining chairs and facing flat panels frenetically churning with consumerist imagery. The delivery man and the drive-thru are the mallet and stake piercing the now-clogged heart of America's healthy, fresh-air digestion.

All of which bring us back to grabbing a burrito, a tall boy of Tecate and taking them to the gentle green slopes of Dolores Park. Find an unpeopled bit of grass and call up your friends to join you. Bring a book or a frisbee or that little one-hitter you bought from your sister's stoner girlfriend when you visited her at Smith while still in high school. Don't forget a jacket though, as this is San Francisco, Land Devoid of Warm Nights.

Your hunter-gather forebears would be appalled if you moved to Brooklyn without having spent an evening eating on the grass in the sunny Mission. Tsk tsk.


Dolores Park is bounded by 18th and 20th north and south, and by Dolores and Church on the east and west. It is usually quite crowded on a nice day or evening, but there's always room for one more. Additional optional accessories depend on the part of the park in which you choose to sit: fixie and ironic smirk (corner of Dolores and 18th), attention-starved dog and/or soccer ball (the dusty plateau behind the basketball courts), a young child (the playground directly in the center), a Speedo, tanning oil and mirrored Prada sun glasses (the upper corner at 20th and Church).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Watch the movie The Conversation

It's a little late to be delving into the history of the city, seeing as you're moving and all, but why not take a break from packing and go rent The Conversation?


Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, it stars a young-ish Gene Hackman as a paranoid surveillance expert hired for a job that quickly takes over his life. An even younger Harrison Ford makes an appearance as the creepy inside guy.

Released in 1974, it provides glimpses of '70s-era San Francisco. See how many landmarks you can spot!


The Conversation was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay. You can find it at your local video store--I recommend Lost Weekend. Check out this interesting article on the movie and its strange path to release. Here is the (spoiler!) trailer for the movie. (My dad says that the '70s comprised the best decade in American cinema.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Get drinks at The Eagle

A coworker friend of mine once commented that every bar he'd ever seen called The Eagle turned out to be a gay bar. (That this comment was prompted by the address of the website for a Phoenix plaintiff's attorney that we were about to join in a conference call is another story.) Though lacking in hard, penetrative empirical evidence, a quick web search leads me to believe that he may have had his finger right on the g-spot of a trend in naming.

And guess what? San Francisco has its very own Eagle, perched conveniently in SOMA and waiting for you. With a pool table, really cool biker decor inside and a huge outdoor area sporting a 49er/Gold Rush theme reminiscent of Knott's Berry Farm, as well as an impressive collection of men's underwear tacked to the ceiling, you owe it to yourself to make it there before you leave.


The Eagle is located on 12th at Harrison. Thursday nights boast live music with a cheap cover and Sunday afternoons feature the $10 all-you-can-drink (of cheap beer, for three hours) Beer Bust, where you can find tons of these:


a few of these:


and hardly any of these: