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Rosemary’s memories of SF

I was in SF 1968–1975. This was when CA was the Golden State. I always lived around Union Street. The last address was on the corner of Buchanan and Green. It was an old 4-plex. I loved that place. By now it’s probably torn down and something else is built in its place. It was on the corner. My bedroom was huge and looked over Buchanan. There was a Chinese laundry across the street on Green. Gees I can’t remember how those streets went. One of them was parallel to Union St. Anyway, I took my laundry to the Chinese laundry every week. They washed and folded it for me.

Union St was a happening street when I was there. Weekends we would go out to Tiberon to… Gees! I think it was called Sam’s? We would sit on the dock and have brunch. I always had a Ramos Fizz. I don’t know if anyone drinks them anymore.

A text from my relative and dear friend Rosemary sharing some of her memories of living in San Francisco. Looks like Sam’s is still open, we’ll have to go. Until then, I’ll channel her by making myself a Ramos Gin Fizz at home. Have to wear red lipstick for the full effect.

I struggle with dairy so might try it with either coconut cream or a lactose-free “cream”. The goal is to create a ton of foam and a super creamy consistency. Shaking techniques seem to vary, so have a look online to see what you prefer.

Ramos Gin Fizz recipe

Makes 1 drink

In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 oz gin, 3 to 4 drops orange flower water, 1 large egg white, ½ oz cream, ½ oz fresh lemon juice, ½ oz fresh lime juice, and ½ oz simple syrup. Shake vigorously for about a minute, then add a lot of fresh ice and shake for at least another 30 seconds. Strain the drink in to a Collins glass. Pour 1–2 oz seltzer (soda water) down the inner edge of the shaker to loosen the froth, then pour the soda water and froth on to the drink. Garnish with a quarter of an orange wheel and mint if you’ve got it, then serve.

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Landed in SF

The sun setting over San Francisco in June

So.

After a lot of planning and quite a few delays, we’re now in the US. We’d considered NYC for a long while for a whole host of reasons, but we ended up in SF. Our first week has been overwhelmingly sunny so I’m thankful for that. It’s nice to be “home”, but it will be a while before it feels like it.

It was a weird journey. Very overwhelming, but in a way that makes your mind go blank and surrender rather than spin out. The trip itself was eerie, so empty. Wearing a mask for 32 hours wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. Silver lining: a face mask makes the air on a plane feel much less dry.

I might go in to it a bit more at some point, but that’s enough for now. Slowly adjusting to feeling like an immigrant in my home state after 10 years in the UK.

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San Francisco Art Institute is closing

Facade of the San Francisco Art Institute

SFAI is closing indefinitely. Such sad news. It sounds like the CoViD-19 situation was the nail in the coffin.

I took a painting course there during the summer before my senior year of high school. I lived in the East Bay and took BART or drove over the Bay Bridge every day. It’s the sort of place I’d want to be if I had decided to keep studying art. A place where you could get lost and be left to your own devices, sort of like the old Foulis building at GSA but more labyrinthine.

The school has been around for almost 150 years. Diego Rivera painted a huge mural in the student-directed gallery in the 1930s. The photography department was founded by Ansel Adams. San Francisco’s wild parrots sometimes roost loudly in the loquat tree in the Spanish courtyard. I can’t think of anywhere in SF that offers better views of the city and the bay, for free from the Brutalist ampitheater or for the price of a bagel and a coffee at the cafe.

It’s one of my favourite places. Very sad to see it go.

Loquat tree in the Spanish courtyard at SFAI

Concrete work at SFAI

The cafe and terrace at SFAI

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drastic nostalgia

pink ice plant flowers, a bee, concrete breeze blocks painted white, bromeliads, air plants, glue sticks, wicker chair back, lemons, limes, my blanket, sea hare, cut strawberries, mud, asphalt, flaking kick ball backboard, eucalyptus, AYSO jersey patterns, Vons ice cream, sand, marine layer, gross beige rug, 70s beach blanket, sunscreen, Xacto knife, vorco board, bright blue sweatshirt, jelly pens, unopened peonies, rope, bird wallpaper, food dye in water, pancake batter drips, continuous form paper, chain link fence, shiny brass, plastic oscillating fan, dirty terrazzo flooring

wanting to do something drastic to yourself
tattoos, shaving your head, suicide
out of all the good, where does this feeling come from? what frustration are we trying to embody?

also, nostalgia
it’s masochistic, purposefully reliving unreal events that will always feel superior to the present day, real life

we forget so much
oblivious viciousness of childhood

glass-block walls, stucco of all sorts, white wrought iron, fake wood panelling, ivy, guppies, anenomies, four square, gloved hands, twisted hair wraps, clover, tadpoles, blue pools, mustard, Pleiades, *big* spider, unshaven legs, long hair, freckles, sheets in the sun, wisteria, terracotta tiles, reflective glossy black, ceramic bear, brick wall, water pump

***

Found in one of the old notebooks that I’m slowly de-cluttering.

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Assertive Californian seeds

Graphite drawing of a filaree seed

In southern California, there are a few seeds that assert themselves in late summer as things get drier. A lot of prickly, pointy things that stick to you or make themselves known in more painful ways.

Graphite drawing of dried burclover

A few of them were fun to play with as a kid. If you pick at the center of a dry burclover seedpod and pinch the end of it in your fingers, you can pull it away until all that’s left are a few seeds and one long coil of tiny spikes. Filaree seeds wind up tight to make a little drill when peeled away from the plant. And you can make foxtails travel on their own if you put your forearms together from wrist to elbow, hands facing up, and then have a friend place one on your wrists with the point facing you. Rub your forearms back and forth and it will travel down your arms.

Graphite drawing of puncturevine or Goats Head seed

But some seeds were just annoying. If you went for a walk through a field, chances are you’d come out with your socks and shoelaces absolutely covered in hedge parsley hitchhikers. Sandbur and puncturevine were the worst. Puncturevine has a few other nicknames. Goat’s Head, for the shape of the seed pod sections, and caltrop. It often grows on the dry, sandy areas near the beach making it particularly perilous for the bare-footed.

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cold water didn’t hurt my ears (~1992–2000)

light blue stucco
navy blue shutters
kitchen window like a fishbowl, or a porthole
one floor, mostly

mom splitting her knee open on the brick stairs up to the front door

pots & pans band

dad’s lime green motorcycle, briefly

agapanthus & jade plants
bougainvillea
the scariest palm tree

garage always full, but never the car

where did mom keep her drawing board?

huge glass sliding door at the back
games through the wicker rocking chair
cinder blocks and chain link

ice plant covering the hill to the creek behind the house

sliding closet doors, the paint would stick

neighbors with the scary Halloween ghost
Zeke & Aileen, and the toys they made for us

white painted brick surrounding the fireplace that we rarely used

– – –

blue stucco and blue shutters again,
but this time with white wrought iron
two floors now
wisteria taking over at the back

parents’ brass bed frame, with ceramic decorations on the spindles

mom and her study, wooden artboard and captain’s chair
endless stacks of continuous form paper
tins of colored pencils, meticulously organized by hue
AOL and computer games

the oven that went baroom

Sega Genesis behind the couch
Brett was way better

possom in the wood pile under the lemon and lime trees

the water main broke, water gushing down the street
jumping over the water to get to school

Mr. and Mrs. Redlitz next door
the not-so-nice lady on the other side
Teddy & Dmitri

games barefoot on the berm
until I stepped on a bee, and dog poo
Cassiopeia, Pleiades, Big & Little Dippers

Pleiades was mine, my little tornado

people jumped off that cliff sometimes, but we didn’t hear much about it; probably on purpose

falling about 5 feet on to my back on the rocks after trying to climb the cliff instead of using the path
I was lucky, it was one of the first times I really felt lucky
it could have been so much further
the grass at the top felt incredible

there’s an edible plant that grows on the cliffs and tastes sour, dewy and pink
and mustard, and fennel

owls, sometimes; gulls, always

still dream about walking down the storm drain, through the rocks and down to the bay
not sure it’s possible

we were always told to keep well back from the cliff edge, it could be soft even when it’s been dry
it was usually dry

the road leading to a friend’s house near the school fell in to the sea not long before we moved away
the rollercoaster road near the best tidepools was always changing
we didn’t go there often

countless tadpoles in the storm drain
one day we weren’t allowed to play in the storm drain
it didn’t seem like anything had changed in the little tadpole pools

never once saw the green flash

running my fingers through the sand just after the wave recedes, feeling millions of sandcrabs

mile swims around the buoys
mile runs in blistering, soft sand
Neil, a first crush
his real name is Donald
he was the only faster swimmer

a ray in the shallow water, briefly, before I can show anyone
a vivid purple jellyfish
dolphins in the bay, rarely

don’t dive in head first, always wade out and check the levels first
how to brace someone’s neck if you’re waiting for first aid
don’t touch a seal, it’s probably sick
don’t step on kelp bulbs barefoot, there might be something sharp inside
don’t step on the black “rocks”, they’re chunks of hot tar

cold water didn’t hurt my ears


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On palm trees, one in particular

Photo of RAT beach taken by Piper Haywood in 2009

RAT Beach in 2009. RAT = Right After Torrance

When I was very young, I developed a sustained, irrational fear of the palm tree that stood near the southwest corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA.

This fear is one of my earliest memories. The palm was cartoonish and stereotypical. It was spindly and swayed even on very still days. I lost my four-year-old mind every time we passed it on foot, convinced that it would fall over and pile drive me in to the ground.

The palm tree no longer exists. It was probably removed just after we moved away in 1993.

Satellite view of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue (Torrance, CA) in 1980 and 1994

Satellite view of the corner of Deelane Street and Anza Avenue in Torrance, CA. Left image was captured in 1980, right image was captured in 1994. Source for both images is USGS via historicalaerials.com

I picked up “Edges of the Experiment – The Making of the American Landscape” from the Fw:Books table at Offprint a couple of weekends ago. It is a two-volume publication designed and edited by Hans Gremmen focusing on the landscape of the American West. The first volume features photographs by Marie-José Jongerius and is punctuated with essays. The second is more text-based and includes a curated selection of media; historical photographs, anecdotes, facsimiles, essays, etc. The photos by Jongerius are what originally drew me to the publication. They are incredibly true to the place.

Last weekend I started reading volume two, including an essay titled “The infrastructure of trees in Los Angeles” by architect Warren Techentin. I learned that the palm tree is a disappearing southern Californian icon:

Considering that the average lifespan of a palm tree is 70 to 100 years, and that most of the palms visible now were planted to beautify the city for the 1932 Olympics, the bulk of Los Angeles’s palm trees will disappear within a decade or two.

Warren Techentin, “The Infrastructure of Trees in Los Angeles”, Edges of the Experiment: The Making of the American Landscape, Vol. 2, Netherlands: FW:Books [2015], p74.

The city isn’t replacing most palms that are removed. Apparently they were never a great ecological or economical choice.

So my childhood nemesis was likely removed due to old age. It’s kind of sad. I haven’t found any photos of that particular palm tree.

I can’t emphasise enough how much I have enjoyed “Edges of the Experiment”. One particularly lovely spread includes the first page of Techentin’s essay alongside one of Hans Gremmen’s graphics illustrating water usage in California. Water is touched upon in many if not most of the texts in “Edges of the Experiment”, and its presence (or lack thereof) is notable in many of Jongerius’s photos.