Saturday, October 29, 2011

Another Beautiful Day in Paradise

View from the municipal pier that encircles Aquatic Park

In the morning I rode my bike down to Hyde Street Pier where I had volunteered to take tickets for We Players' performance of The Odyssey on a ship (which, btw, is fantastic). I wore my bathing suit under my clothes, hoping I'd be able to repeat my performance of last week, when I got into the Bay for the first time.

When my work was done, Ace joined me on his bike and the two of us went over to the Dolphin Club, which has showers, a sauna, a little beach of its own, and is open to the public for a $6.50 fee every other day. (The South End Club, next door, is open to the public on alternate days.)

This time, I brought an insulated swimming cap like I'd seen others wearing. I also brought underwear, so I could take my suit off after the swim and not have to bike home in sopping wet clothes. I not only got into the water, I swam out to the flag and back, which is a half mile. It was pretty hard for me, but also felt REALLY good to be in the water.

I also brought a little glass bottle with me, and filled it with Bay water to bring home and put on an altar I have set up in my hallway. When I opened my eyes while swimming, the water looked greenish and had particles of silt or sand in it, as I would expect. But the water I took near the shore is perfectly transparent. I am amazed at how clear our beautiful Bay water is.

Back at home, Ace sent me out to the store for some dinner fixings. It didn't take long to figure out that Halloween comes early to North Beach.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Only the Brave Swim in SF Bay

It was a gorgeous--and hot--day in San Francisco, as this man with a giant cupcake would attest.
Jack Cesareo brought his giant cupcake all the way from New York to San Francisco in one month. You can read about his journey here.

So I told Ace that I wanted to try to realize my four-month-old ambition of swimming in the Bay. Our plan was to ride our bikes to Sports Basement, where I would rent a wetsuit. Then we would ride back to Aquatic Park, where I would try my hardest to get into the freezing cold water. If I didn't succeed, well, at least we could take the wetsuit back.

On the way to the store, though, we noticed that the door to the Dolphin Club was open. I'd been thinking about joining this swimming and rowing club, which has been around since 1877, as a motivation to get me into the water. Once inside, I poked around the old three-level clubhouse, and noticed that many people were swimming, but no one was wearing a wetsuit.
View from the top level of the Dolphin Club

So I thought, what the hell... I walked down to their little beach and took my clothes off.
Step one of swimming in the Bay: take off your clothes. It's best if you have a bathing suit on underneath.

Then, inch by inch, I eased myself into the water, until...voila!
My first swim in the Bay. No, I'm not screaming. That's a big (foolish?) grin.

After I got out of the water, I put my clothes back on, which meant I immediately became soaking wet. That didn't dampen my spirits, though. A long-time Dolphin Club member I met today said once she got in the Bay, that was it, she was hooked. I think I know what she means...
Swimming in the beautiful San Francisco Bay made me happy

The Bay waters are calm inside the protective circle of Aquatic Park

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ferlinghetti Reads a Poem

LitQuake's big LitCrawl event is tonight, and I'm stuck going to a school benefit for work. :(

This is what they call a #firstworldproblem on Twitter. I love that phrase, because it acknowledges that we who have choices have no serious complaints.

The LitCrawl will take over multiple venues in the Mission District. Each hour, participants have 10 or so free events to choose from. Just looking over the schedule makes me feel excited. The school benefit will... Well, you don't really want to know.

LitQuake nearly passed me by entirely this year, due to conflicts my schedule (#firstworldproblem). I did manage to pop in to City Lights Books one night, though, and hear the legendary Lawrence Ferlinghetti read a poem. I barely managed to squeeze into a spot on the floor, and the camera angle isn't good, but you can hear his voice clearly. Consider it cinema verite.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti reads a poem at City Lights

Many people recited poetry and literature, including poet Michael McClure, and various translators of foreign works. Most praised New Directions publishing, which was the first house to publish Ferlinghetti, for bringing important authors to the attention of this country. I thought the best poem read that night was Lament of the Frontier Guard, a moving anti-war poem by Ezra Pound, another author nurtured by New Directions. After the readings were over, I went across the street to have a drink with Ace at Spec's.

City Lights as seen from the patio in front of Spec's

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Italians Take Over North Beach

I heard that there would be a parade in North Beach on the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day, but I had no idea it would totally take over the neighborhood and be so much fun. When we walked out of our flat Sunday morning, we found Stockton and Columbus streets lined with tables where people were sitting and eating antipasto and waiting for the parade. Bacchus--the Roman God of Wine--was standing near one of them. He was planning to give wine to all the paraders as they passed. He must have had a lot of it.

Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, getting ready for the Columbus Day parade

Washington Square was full of Ferraris on display. And on Filbert Street, across from Saints Peter and Paul church, an Italian accordion band was playing. Check out the groovy outfits on the musicians.

We hopped on our bikes and road down to the wharf to see the staging area. All kinds of groups were practicing their acts. One that looked fun was the Los Tranchos Woods Community Marching Band. Later, I saw them perform in the parade.

Hundreds of sailors and marines were in town for Fleet Week, and also marched in the parade. They were a big hit with the ladies, as you can tell by the women who run out to pose with the sailors as they pass.

The scene was very casual, with people weaving through the paraders, like these restaurant workers trying to get some food to a table across the street.
Waitresses dash through the parade with a rolling cart of food

One highlight for me was seeing several of my students from the San Mateo High School Marching Band and Color Guard. I followed them around for awhile, trying to get a good video clip. "Ms. Fergusson!" one cried. "Did you come all the way up to San Francisco to see us?"

"No," I laughed. "I live a block away." :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's Fleet Week in San Francisco

Everybody's favorite part of Fleet Week in San Francisco is when the Blue Angels perform. Here's a short but sweet clip of them flying over Aquatic Park on Saturday.

Fleet Week means lots of young, fit men walking around North Beach and the Embarcadero in uniform, like these sailors aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard aircraft carrier which is open for public viewing.
The hanger deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard aircraft carrier

Ace and I walked from North Beach to pier 30-32 Saturday morning to take a tour of the ship, which is docked south of the Bay Bridge. We got there around 8:30 a.m. There was already a long line.
People waiting to get aboard the ship. Those are aircraft on the deck in the distance.

The landing deck of the USS Bonhomme Richard, with helicopters at the far end and the Bay Bridge in the distance

The helicopters on board looked pretty old to me. And Ace said this Osprey model (half plane, half helicopter) had been decommissioned more than once because of its tendency to crash. But sailors on board told us it's back in the fleet.
The Osprey is known for spontaneously crashing

This artwork on a ship wall helped me tone down the awe and wonder.
A grim reminder of what the ship is for

Later we biked out to Aquatic Park to watch the air show. Here are the Canadian Snowbirds performing.
The Canadian Snowbirds flying in formation

There will be another air show on Sunday, along with tours of the Bonhomme at pier 30 and other ships at piers 27 and 35, a parade down Columbus Avenue (which I'm pretty sure San Mateo High School's band will be marching in), and a band concert in North Beach's Washington Square. Fleet Week continues on Monday. Here's the list of events.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street starts small in San Francisco

I was coming home from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival last weekend when my attention was grabbed by this small band of protestors walking down Market Street and shouting "Occupy Wall Street."

"Occupy Wall Street" protestors in San Francisco.

I learned later that "Occupy Wall Street" is a national grassroots movement that was kickstarted by this tumblr post We are the 99 Percent where people tell their stories of economic hardship.

The "99 percent" is a reference to a statistic that says that 1% of the country owns 40% of the wealth. The Occupy Wall Street group objects to that, and to unchecked corporate influence on our government which continues to tip the scales towards the super rich by passing laws to: bail out banks with taxpayer money, allow credit card companies to charge exorbitant rates, deny bankruptcy relief on student loans, etc. etc.

The San Francisco group grew to as many as 800 by Wednesday, according to this article in the SF Chronicle. But Thursday morning, officers dismantled a makeshift camp of 200 outside the Federal Reserve Bank on Market Street.

I'm not sure what the group is asking for, specifically, but I went to these sites to learn more. Here's the official Occupy Wall Street site, with pictures of a big protest in Liberty Square in NYC.

Here's the official Occupy SF site.

Here's a Facebook link which purports to list the group's "Declaration of Occupation of New York City."

Here's a column about the movement by the New York Times' Paul Krugman, a HuffPo analysis of the group by John Wellington Ennis, and a Mother Jones story by Andy Kroll about the big unions joining in.

Interesting things are happening in our country.

I thought this poster said it all:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hardly Strictly North Beach

One thing I like about living in North Beach is I can get anywhere in San Francisco pretty easily from here, as long as I'm not driving a car. Buses pass by Washington Square every five minutes--the 30-Stockton, the 45-Union, the 8x-Bayshore Express--and if we walk down to Broadway or beyond that to Market, we can hop on virtually every bus in town.

That means when my friend calls to say her son is playing cello in a Russian band at an art show opening in the Mission district, we can spontaneously decide to go. Ace and I walked down to Broadway and caught the 12-Folsom to see this fun performance at the Bethany Senior Center on Capp Street after work Friday night.

Leo's Russian band playing at the Bethany Senior Center.

Then today, we walked down to Market and caught the 5-Fulton to meet friends at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park. This was my first time. On the bus over, which was crammed with people on their way to the free festival, I learned that one mega-rich man pays for the whole thing--Warren Hellman. Here's a clip of his band: the Wronglers. As you can see, in the morning there was room to move around.

The Wronglers playing on Rooster Stage, one of six set up in Golden Gate Park for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

But by the time Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson started playing in the afternoon on Star Stage, the crowd was packed in tight.

Merle Haggard on the Star Stage in the afternoon. Someone compliments my hat part way through this clip. :)

Much as I liked the music, I bailed out early to escape the crowd. I got off the bus on Market Street just in time to see this small group shouting "Occupy Wall Street" march past.

A small band of "Occupy Wall Street" protestors marches down Market Street.

Back in North Beach, the hustle bustle of my new neighborhood seemed peaceful and calm in comparison to the festival.

Buskers playing in the neighborhood.

And back in the flat, I was glad to take my shoes off and put my feet up. It was a good day.