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So dark

Photo of the orange smoke in San Francisco

Taken at 9:40am today. Somehow it seemed to get darker between when I woke up around 7:30 and now. It’s dark enough to be 7/8pm. Apparently ash is falling like snow in Concord.

Soundtrack for this morning: Silver Apples’ eponymous album from 1968. Came across this via @erikinternet’s tweet, didn’t know about Simeon Coxe III before. RIP.

Worth reading: 2019 Guardian article ‘Fire is medicine’: the tribes burning California forests to save them.

Edit at 9am on 10 September

The sun never really came up yesterday. We woke up this morning wondering if it would be the same.

The orange is gone, replaced by light beige smog. The 10 minute average air quality index (AQI) is over 200 in most of the city according to PurpleAir, over 270 in parts of the Sunset district. “Everyone may begin to experience health effects if they are exposed for 24 hours; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.”

Though it looks better than yesterday, the reality is way worse on the ground.

Edit at 4pm on 10 September

Now the air is thick, opaque. AQI is in the 300s in most of the city, mid-300s in the Mission. “Health warnings of emergency conditions if they are exposed for 24 hours. The entire population is more likely to be affected.”

Edit at 9:30pm on 10 September

The AQI has dropped back to the mid-200s in SF. Things are a bit better (still not great) once you get south of Santa Barbara, hovering around 100. In the mid 100s around Tahoe. Oregon is feeling it the worst right now, it’s over 500 in Portland. As Duane King said on Twitter, “‘Airpocalypse’ helps explain why my eyes are burning indoors.

Read more edits

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First swim in the Pacific in… 10? 15 years?

A distant woman standing in the surf at Baker Beach

My first swim in the Pacific in probably 10–15 years, photo by Sam.

On the Fourth of July, we walked 10 miles from the Sutro Heights Stairs on Balboa Street through Land’s End, past the enormous houses near China Beach, paused at Baker Beach, dipped down to Marshall’s Beach, walked under the Golden Gate, along Crissy Field and through the park at Fort Mason, then took a rest at the Maritime Museum ampitheater before heading back.

I thought I did so well with sunscreen but oh my, the backs of my knees…

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You are your environment

SF has felt like a tech monoculture for the past 10 years. It’s one of the big reasons we were originally planning to be in / around NYC instead.

I’m sure there’s more to it, but it’s kinda hard to find in the current situation, especially in our neighborhood. The worst thing is the possibility of slipping in to it personally, becoming one-dimensional.

Been on my mind since a lot of the indoor things I usually love doing (reading and cooking are two of the biggies) aren’t ticking the boxes at the moment. It might not be the city, it’s probably more related to the move or the pandemic. Maybe I need to check out Oakland? I guess time will tell, I’ll try harder in the meantime. You are your environment.

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Independent live music venues in San Francisco

A list of independent live music venues in San Francisco sorted by capacity. Obviously not for right now, but I’d like to check them out when possible. Most of the list is from this 2018 article on the DNA Lounge blog (came across it on Twitter but can’t find the original tweet now…).

If someone reads this and goes “hey, that’s not independent!”, tell me and I’ll tweak the list.

In terms of outdoor venues in the Bay Area, I think that Stern Grove and Jerry Garcia Amphitheater are owned by the SF Parks Dept. and the Greek Theatre is owned by UC Berkeley? Not sure. I imagine some of their gigs are organized by the major conglomerates, but it looks like the Stern Grove Festival is independent.

For independent venues elsewhere in the US, incl. The White Horse in Austin ❤️, check out the National Independent Venue Association.

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“Keep your eyes on the skies and your butt close to home”

Been interested in the Feminist Bird Club ever since we talked about them at an early FemOS meeting and Sophie kindly sourced some 2020 patches for a few of us. They’re not doing events right now of course, “Keep your eyes on the sky and your butts close to home”. So I signed up to the SF Bay Area chapter’s mailing list for updates. Gonna read up on some things and go for a few good walks.

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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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A lone cyclist on the highway

I had my head down working on Sunday afternoon, suddenly realised that I couldn’t hear the traffic as usual. And there were a lot of sirens, police cars driving the wrong way up the Fremont / Folsom off ramp. Protestors had blocked the westbound section of the Bay Bridge. The police blocked all the off ramps and put flares on the road. Interstate 80 was empty all the way up to the Fifth Street exit.

Maybe about an hour in to it, a lone cyclist came down the middle of the four-lane highway at a leisurely pace. He was wearing black jeans and a black sweatshirt, arms spread open wide, head back. They didn’t stop him, but I’m not sure where he could have exited. Hope he’s safe.

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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