Swimming with my Camaro

When I went to leave the house this afternoon there was a crew of guys pulling (fiber) cable under the sidewalk. I had been listening to them out the window for a while as I was working, and there was clearly one guy who was the big joker, though I couldn’t hear what he was saying most of the time he was bossing the other guys around and teasing them too. Anyway, I explained I had to open the garage door for my wheelchair, they moved their stuff to one side, then the joker started in once they could see into the garage as I had 3 wheelchairs visible (actually 5 in there or more? but 3 of them obvious and ready to go…) He was like Oh, three of them, your Mustang, your Camaro, your BMW… I told him the one I was in is the Camaro because it goes the fastest. I think we were flirting? In Spanish? In any case I like being indulgently joked with by kind workmen in hard hats. It helps fulfill my lifelong wish of being a character in Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy World (I am obviously Bugdozer). Then I had the song “Bitchin’ Camaro” stuck in my head for the next half hour. Also, excited we are getting FIBER!!!!

It was pretty quick getting to Balboa Park station on the J. There were California poppies growing on the train tracks between Bernal and Glen Park. I mentioned before how the Balboa station strikes me as not being FOR people; it is for trains, and the train-ness is built around cars, as it is right next to the 280 highway in a little maze of on and offramps. At least it isn’t smack in the middle of the highway. But it is so full of fences, walls, spikey metal things, giant ramps and tracks and stairways. It is a confusing building inside and out. One thing to note if you are a wheelchair user – The accessible platform for getting OFF the J is nearly but not quite inside the station — in the trainyard itself and leading right to the interior of the station. But the platform for boarding the inbound J train is on the other side of the building.

Balboa Park itself is just lovely! All the flowers are blooming. Landscaping particularly nice. The skatepark was empty & the door was open. You know what that means!!!!!! Yes I went in and tried all the ramps. It would be REALLY fun to go with my manual wheelchair! The powerchair is less satisfying because it doesn’t go faster downhill (it stays throttled). Surely somewhere there are awesome sport powerchairs or someday…. WHILL will let folks custom program the motor controllers with more interesting options. (Or I will have another one someday and be able to hack around on it with impunity.) Feeling very pleased with myself for marauding around the skatepark…. like in reality I know it just looks a bit silly but IN MY MIND i’m aaron fucking fotheringham out there! No lie!!! Sadly there was no way to photograph this…. But here’s me smirking about it, just afterwards.

balboa park

I am trying to look up who made the sign. Maybe it says somewhere in the park. My prime suspect is Victor Zaballa who does a lot of public art and metalwork around town (he made the paper cutout (papel picado) railings at 16th and Mission). I can spot his work sometimes now, and also William Mitchell’s.

Instead of immediately going to swim, I trundled down past the park to Red Sea Pizza & Mkt, conveniently also a pokestop and Ingress portal. I had marked it down on the map along with Pineapples as a Balboa station thing to do. The yelp reviews didn’t lie — this is great pizza! 4 bucks a slice, and i got a fucking giant, fabulous piece of pizza covered with garlic and olives and 2 kinds of pepperoni. The crust was perfectly crispy. They have some sort of crust miracle going. How is that?!!!! I sat outside at their tiny tables to watch people go by someone catcalled me from a car. I looked up from my pizza & it was a tiny woman a little older than me screeching out her car window “LET’S HEAR IT FOR PURPLE HAIRED LADIES!!!” Her hair was a rich deep purple. “PURPLE SISTERRRRR!” I screamed back. We did thumbs up at each other and giggled and then it was a little awkward because the light didn’t change and we didn’t know what to do next except continue giggling. Let’s hear it for being catcalled by cute silly haired women in mini coopers! Entirely pleasant. Some teenagers came in and then suddenly ran out yelling at each other – they were running for the train. The market owner (super nice!!!) came out and laughed with me about it and said he likes to place bets every morning on the kids running after the J train. A nice place to hang out.

I am eyeing Tasty Coffee as a nice place to work after a swim… Next time. That and the dole whip at pineapples…. calling me.

Onward to the pool. It’s big, it’s new, it’s lovely! The building is just very pretty (inside and out). It’s still a giant slab of concrete but somehow is like the friendly little brother of the loud, stompy, spiky, fortress train station.

There is an accessible shower stall. Bring a lock (unless you are me and can just stuff your clothes under your wheelchair seat). The water is much warmer than any other public pool I’ve been in (thank god!) at 82′ which is the maximum they’re allowed to set it. (Says the super nice lifeguard. ) The air wasn’t bad either, and it was a chilly, rainy day. I got into the water without even a squeak! There are huge picture windows – even while swimming i could see the water tower in McLaren Park and some trees and hills & houses and a ton of birds flying by (the seagulls who love to hang out at the dump, I guess.) All the staff was so nice.

Minor complaint, the door opener buttons don’t work. . . But people sprang up to offer to open them so if you can’t handle heavy doors, don’t worry too much. (And you can bypass the locker room doors easily by just going into the pool area and entering from that direction.)

My waterproof ipod shuffle and headphones worked great and I swam a zillionty laps very slowly in the slow lane shared with a businesslike 80 year old who was there when I started and seemed ready to go another half hour after I quit.

Very different from swimming last summer when I was still not quite able to do laps. I feel stronger! My calves and ankles are definitely stronger. I can trace back over the years to 2012 when I couldn’t even get into water without ankle braces because the little currents of the water moving my ankles around ever so slightly made me want to throw up from pain. Oh man. How I ever endured those times I don’t even know (not the pool, just the whole terrible year of my ankles going kablooey in every tendon. Like being squeezed by evil snakes on the INSIDE.)

Anyway now after my epic 20 minute swim, my legs are all wobbly and wibbly & my knees hella hurt right now but I dont think it’s the going to be injured for weeks sort of hurt – I will take some pain meds and take it easy tomorrow. Feeling very optimistic about swimming a few times a week and gradually increasing the time/laps. Remind me of this optimism tomorrow when I wake up and can’t move out of bed before voltarening myself for an hour and whining a lot.

The hours for lap and rec swim also looked just great for me, big chunks of the afternoon and then early evening. I’m so excited, I’m going to swim all the time…. I remarked to the lifeguard that Garfield Pool is closer and seems to be the next in line (it’s closed for renovation) and he said he thought it was going to be really nice. Yay! Pools!!!!!!!

When I drive past the kids
They all spit and cuss
‘Cause I’ve got a bitchin’ Camaro
And they have to ride the bus

Expedition to Colma BART station

The Daly City DMV turns out to be half a mile’s easy walk from the Colma BART station so I headed on down there (holding my nose) to apply for a REAL ID driver’s license. I took an ancient (original?) copy of my birth certificate, my passport, my social security card, and some tax returns to prove residency — carefully sealed in a folder in a bag tucked in the undercarriage basket of my wheelchair.

Taking the J to Balboa Park station is now kind of fun. At the front of the car, I can see out the front window (in the old style cars) during the lovely part of the trip going around the rivery curves of San Jose Avenue Hello, Islais Creek! Hello, Little Boxes! (I think Malvinia Reynolds is rude and condescending… .people live there! it’s their homes! Chill out! You don’t know what they’re like! I bet they’re nice! So judgey.)

Balboa Park has a nice little convenience store and flower shop tucked between the two BART entrances, by the way!

One of my favorite things about above ground train lines is when they go past people’s back yards. You look past the entry of their intimacy gradient and right into the dreams of the private park of their family castle. Clotheslines with washing hung out, little chairs set out in hopeful groupings, shacks that might be garden sheds or someone might be living in there, kids’ toys scattered around. Just as you start turning to Daly City there are some sweet back yards that will make you love all of humanity. There was also some interesting graffiti. Following along on the map, I mark down any nifty looking bits of a neighborhood, with cafes or restaurants or parks for future visits.

The Daly City station is surrounded by parking lots and is airy and beautiful with a view of the ocean. I look forward to exploring it.

On the way to Colma, you go underground a couple of times, through open canyon-like cuts with interesting concrete textures on the sides – I kept expecting to see vines trailing down or some swallow nests. But no, just concrete. There are nice views of the west side of San Bruno Mountain with its lights and cell towers. I thought about how to put it into my game (in the time travel to the past, probably.) When the Spanish of the Rivera y Moncada party (including Padre Francisco Palóu) arrived from the south, they camped near here and met the Urebure people (among many others).

Diarist Palou recorded visits by friendly villagers, probably the Urebure people from their bay shore village of Siplichiquin, on December 3: About two in the afternoon twenty-four heathen came to visit us from villages other than the preceding, although they speak the same language and use many of the same words as those of Monterey. They brought us their present of large tamales, more than a span across and correspondingly thick, kneaded of a dough made of very black wild seeds, resembling tar … I returned their gift with strings of beads, and the captain did the same. (from Milikin’s book)

Urebure is sometimes listed as a place name or the name of the group of people who lived in this area. I have been doing a fair bit of reading about the Ohlone aka Costanoans aka Yelamu depending on who’s naming them (in San Francisco itself, the people were the Ramaytush but they apparently hung out with the Huchiun or Chochenyo folks from the East Bay and the Miwok from the north).

San Bruno mountain itself has an Ohlone “prayer circle” somewhere (I think on the Bay side). And, here’s some info on its geology. I’d like to take a drive through its canyon road and see what I can access from a wheelchair when the weather is nicer.

OK, so, more about that later. Back to Colma.

Colma station itself opens out into a large railyard. There are bright blue buildings kind of clustered around the rows of tracks. The station itself is half underground, half exposed, like Balboa Park. There are these things like holographic rainbow reflector panels – maybe simply meant to light the underground parts of the station? Or maybe an old art project? I couldn’t figure it out. Ingress showed them as a portal called “Arcoiris”, rainbow, with mention of a descriptive plaque which I couldn’t find on the lower platform. The elevator has 2 glass sides (doors opening either direction), making the ride entertaining. Bonus: it doesn’t smell like pee! The concourse level is also the street level, and has a giant metal things hanging from the high ceiling that looks like dirty chainmail, if shrimp wore chainmail. Poking around led me to discover this is called “Leonardo’s Dream“.

Goldstein’s sculpture, a series of eight spiral shapes called “Leonardo’s Dream,” is one of the biggest pieces of public art commissioned in the Bay Area in many years. He said its hundreds of blue and green aluminum panels will be blown by the wind coming off the ocean a few miles away.

“I looked at a Leonardo drawing called ‘Deluge’ and thought it was a wonderful image for a place with all this movement,” Goldstein said. “I’m hoping that as you rush off the train in a minute or 30 seconds, you might somehow be soothed and uplifted.”

Apologies to the artist but 20 years later it did not uplift. I thought of fly swatters, I thought of gnat-speckled grease-smoked screen doors in an old diner without air conditioning where they’ve been cooking hamburgers, I thought of bug zappers and ashtrays. Someone needs to hose that sucker off. Totally crusty.

But I tried to appreciate it. Old dudes hanging around the station gawked at me as I tried to take photos of the swoopy screen doors high over head. There was one guy with an enormous reclining powerchair with a huge wagon nicely attached at the back but he didn’t return my nod (that disabled people nod… you know!) so I didn’t ask him about it as I would have liked to.

The Colma station looks to have been designed for much greater ridership than they actually see. People definitely want to get to the airport on BART but I think this station didn’t become the intermodal commuter hub it was meant to be. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever known someone to use Colma as a jumping off point to park from the Peninsula and come to SF, for that, Millbrae seems more popular.

Coming out of Colma station there is a bridge leading to a huge parking garage and then if you pass that, another pedestrian bridge across the tracks with a magnificent view of the trains, the railyard, and the huge bright blue buildings.

colma bart

There is an interesting cluster of businesses including a gym, Los Metates taqueria, a Cybele’s Pizza (pizza + brazilian food; intriguing!), Keith’s Chicken N Waffles (sweet potato & red velvet waffles?!), and Pacifica Archery which has an indoor archery range. Cross highway 280 and you will pass by an In and Out Burger and Krispy Kreme on the way to the DMV. (2 hours total waiting, not really too bad – once I had a number assigned I went outside and did some work, getting online over my phone.) Strikingly, everyone was friendly – guys from auto body shops half out in the street working on cars, people who seemed nicely concerned that I have enough room on the sidewalk (not leaping to pull each other out of the way, just regular, nice courtesy). Everyone said hello or returned my smile and nod. (Of course, smiling, because of having such a nice expedition & happy to be out in the sunny day.)

Since I had my errand to do, I didn’t explore much. There is a street of restaurants in Colma and then all the cemeteries — I hear the Italian Cemetery is amazing to visit & it’s extremely close to the BART station. So, definitely worth more visits. Next time I’ll go to the Italian Cemetery and try the chicken n waffles.

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

Epic journey to the south

This morning I took the bus to BART, changed trains in Balboa Park (having a look around as I waited), onward to Millbrae, to Caltrain, then I had thought I was going to take light rail to the Mountainview office but the stop was eliminated in 2015 so I caught a small shuttle bus (happily, accessible.)

I took notes ecstatically on the weird concrete wall patterns (different in every station) and which ones were like deep canyons; the bronze statues in their narrative cement cocoons in Millbrae; which stations were above ground; and lots of notes today and last night about the Ramaytush and other Ohlone people of the areas I was traversing.

Interspersed with Ingress and Pokemon catching it made a pleasant ride. On Caltrain I was even able to work a little bit as it wasn’t crowded and just felt OK to do, while it would seem obnoxious to me on BART. So, in between all that I started the process of releasing Firefox 66 beta 10 and answering bugmail.

Happy hour with some nice people from the office on Castro street – then all the buses and trains in reverse order, this time whenever I wasn’t in tunnels, looking up the art and artists and architects of some of the stations.

Some random observations – the platform floor in Balboa Park is very smooth marble, pleasant to roll across. The Millbrae complex (largest intermodal station west of the Mississippi!) is beautiful if you take a step back from it and admire its soaring winglike structures of steel, glass, and fiberglass.

Also noted: There should be more high density housing on the Peninsula near the BART and Caltrain stations. Some high rise apartments will not ruin your lives, NIMBYs!!

Highlights of this lovely day!

Up betimes!

We set off in my (washed) trusty FMINISTmobile, in the unexpected sunshine, packing everything into the trunk carefully, stopped to gawk at the ocean, I enjoyed driving a lot, can’t remember everything we talked about but it was fun whatever it was, stopped at Bean Hollow beach and hunted pebbles (I hid in a cave) thinking it was using all my extra walking juice for SOME TIME. The drive was so beautiful! Everything very green from rain, lowering clouds off in the distance but sunny for us, sparkling ocean, enticing roadcuts, no traffic, just the open road. 2 hours later we got to Milo’s college and began to unpack the car. But wait….. my powerchair battery….. was definitely not in the car. Must have been still in the garage where we disassembled the chair! My heart sank but I quickly recalibrated my plans and expectations. Everyone just rolled with the changes of plan.

I could drive around to an illegal parking spot like a loading zone by Milo’s dorm, walk in and hang out in his room. My mom took the car back to a legal spot. We stayed there a while and then I stayed in bed there while everyone else went off for a tour of Stevenson College. No zooming around for me but the rest was nice.

We drove to lunch in town instead of going to Milo’s dining hall (since I could not get there without my wheelchair.) Saturn Cafe was awesome (brunch!) and just as nifty as I remembered from 1991 or so. Then drove Milo and Ada back up to campus and dropped them off, talking a mile a minute – they were going to Milo’s D&D game which Ada was going to join as Sloan the Black Thief (with his Hibernian Wind Flute).

We had a look at the Arboretum though I could not go far from the car. Basically I sat on a bench in the succulent area for a bit & then we drove through the parking lot slowly & had a look around. Then to the bed & breakfast place which was mercifully accessible and easy to get around in (1st floor, like 2 steps from car, small, lovely beds.) We crashed out a bit. Mom & I then had a small adventure driving out on the wharf to the end, got out to have a look at the ocean, and realized there were a zillion giant sea lions under us, orking loudly. So much fun! Dorky sea lions! Blorping around on a little pier ! What luck! We were grinning like fools as we photographed the sea lions & then got in the car to warm up. Slowly driving out… rain started up again…. then a GIANT RAINBOW was suddenly going all the way across the sky from the Boardwalk into the ocean. At the boardwalk it was a double rainbow for a while. More wild and enthusiastic photos! & back to our B&B which was just a few blocks away for another rest before dinner.

The kids cabbed to meet us. Some not so great luck, the restaurant I picked form the internet had an enormous freaking flight of stairs. OK I’m just going to do it because I’m hungry and I can’t walk anywhere else without going there in a cab! Fuuuuck! There was an elevator but to get to it i woudl have had to walk all the way around the block to the back, which I could not do. (cab???? lol …. omg…. ) So I grimly hobble up sideways. The guy at the top tells us that they had a party of 12 and then a party of 20 and were understaffed and it might be an hour before anything would come from the kitchen. I did not care at this point just give me a drink!!!! Hot whiskey arrived. They came back suddenly and said that it was all okay again and the kitchen was Producing and we could order food! Huzzah! Our luck (?) held.

The kids then showed up & regaled us with the story of their game. Dragon island, ruled by a tyrant, they’re hired as mercenaries to help rid the island of dragon problem. The players sounded hilarious and clever! Too much detail to repeat here though. Milo = Jack the Giantkiller, a gnome ranger. (Everyone was a giant to him.) A druid in a forest … a burning city… a redemption Paladin riding her elk up a cliff, etc.

At the ending battle Ada (aka Sloan the Black Thief) says I whip out my Hibernian Wind Flute (remember that?) to play a song to hearten the paladin (who is taunting the dragon) And Ada literally pulls a bright orange kazoo out of her jacket pocket & started playing The Final Countdown. The players all lose it at this brilliance. I think she also rolled a natural 20 (because of course.) Everyone except milo was surprised as hell.

At another point in the fight she decided to mock the dragon & played the sort of uh, whatever you call the clint eastwood theme from the good, the bad, and the ugly. Another point she healed the paladin by playing All Star. And when the DM looked up and said in shock that the dragon had 1 hp left (and it was charging at Milo) Ada played some sort of special dragon slayer theme from Skyrim which I wouldn’t recognized but the players did, and I think Milo also rolled a natural 20, then jumped inside the dragon’s mouth screaming I’m Jack the Giantkiller, how do you think I got my name! and killed the dragon by cutting his way out through his throat. The end! This sounds like an incredibly good game and it entertained us all the way through dinner. Milo is also in a weekly salsa and bachata class, and a hip hop class, and is taking discrete math, a 2nd calculus, and a data structures class. We will go hang out with him a little more in the morning — then back to the city. I hope my legs survive. it is more walking than I have done in a long time, I was surprised I could do it, and I will likely be feeling the extra pain for a bit but totally worth it. It has been working well to do slow ankle strengthening exercises (I had to give up trying to walk a block and back from the end of December, and do more strengthening, for example.) If I come out of this trip fairly OK then I will wait at least a week before trying anything walky again (like that 1 block plan) but maybe I’ll be ready? Unsure till it happens.

24th St Mission BART station report

Starting my BART station report series with my home station, 24th St Mission. Sometimes the St is spelled out so it’s 24th Street Mission, and sometimes it’s abbreviated in station signs. You can get some overview of the neighborhood on the Calle 24 Historic District site in English and Spanish. Get ready to ramble! I’m going to just write everything that comes into my mind from my notes, memories, and researches. I hope that you will enjoy reading it and then will see this (or some other train station or place in your city) with a new perspective.

Though I can go the half mile from my house to the station under my own power, this time I got there on the bus, debouching directly in front of a bench where a guy with a 49ers jacket was sitting holding a bug-eyed chihuahua on his lap, passing by him to scoot into Taqueria El Farolito since the line was very short.

El Farolito has a narrow corridor along the kitchen where you order and wait, and small picnic tables along the wall. I can make it in there in my powerchair to order, turn around by the jukebox after I order, and make it back out, but there is nowhere my wheelchair can fit for me to sit and eat inside. No big deal. As is usual in SF taquerias you get a number and lurk around the counter listening for your number. Bonus if you understand numbers in Spanish. I got a carnitas super burrito with everything and a mexican coke to go, which comes with a little bag of chips and some napkins, in a plastic bag with handles. The handles are so useful and important for hanging the bag on the arm of my wheelchair. Mexican coke is nicer and tastier than US coke because it uses cane syrup instead of corn syrup and it comes in a pretty glass bottle.

If you can see over the counter as you wait (I cannot in this particular location) then please admire the efficiency of the burrito-makers and study their workflow. It is instructive to compare the workflow of different taquerias, for stunning speed, La Taqueria; for complexity (sometimes as many as 14 people behind the narrow counter) Pancho Villa. Keep in mind that THESE BURRITOS ARE LOVE. You are going to be nurtured by your delicious and amazing burrito. Appreciate it properly.

At some point over the years I wondered what possible connection there was between burritos and lighthouses (Faro = lighthouse in Spanish and in many romance languages from the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria on the island of Pharos). I think it is from the “home of the Mission burrito” being Febronio Ontiveros‘ El Faro taqueria. So maybe El Farolito is an offshoot of the original El Faro at 20th and Folsom.

As I was waiting two mariachis came in, one with accordion, another with guitar and an amp on a hand truck. They set up and started playing in the back of the tiny narrow restaurant. I got my own salsa in containers and headed out to eat in the BART plaza. I shared one of the square cement bench blocks with a friendly tamale lady and a couple who were discussing their plans for the day in Spanish; staying in my comfy powerchair but using the bench corner for my coke bottle and bag of chips and also putting my feet up on there from time to time. One bench over, I noticed the Raccoon Guy (a white haired and bearded grizzled older man who has hung out in this plaza for years but recently achieved viral fame for bringing a dead raccoon into the nearby McDonald‘s.) From this we can deduce that 24th and Mission is a pretty good raccoon habitat, barring accidents.

orquestra de 24

OK so this plaza, the one on the Northeast corner. I am pretty familiar with it and it is one of my favorite hangouts, sort of refreshing and beautiful to me in a special way. Yes I realize sometimes it smells like pee. Try to bear with me. When it doesn’t smell too much like pee, it’s so nice! Lively, full of action, so much to look at, excellent food for the flaneur’s soul! On weekends there are often loud preachers or a band of old dudes playing mostly Cuban music. If I get there for the music then I hang out for a few songs and put some money in their donation bin. It is a lovely scene on a sunny day with families stopping to watch, people dancing, the tall washingtonia palms far overhead against a blue sky. Even without those very organized musicians, there are frequently other musicians playing in the plaza or coming up from the BART stairwell, and music coming from someone’s portable speaker or cars or the market in the southwest plaza that’s catty-corner across the street. The buses fwoosh and beep, the distinctive train car sound swells up from underground, Norteño or salsa music comes and goes, lots of Spanish and Chinese spoken all around. It is a lively soundscape that I absolutely love.

Facing north from this plaza, you’ll see a mural on the wall of El Farolito. This is by Michael V. Rios and shows a geometric cityscape, and some determined, rather grim people shouldering train rails with a shining metal BART train riding on top. It has a nice socialist realist feel to it, as it honors the workers who built and maintain the city’s infrastructure. The gleaming futuristic train is carried on the backs of the people! Maybe the people who built it or the people who paid for it with their taxes!

Facing west, past the stairwell, there is a giant mural on the side of the Silverstone cafe in addition to the super funky and cool coffee and tea sign of Silverstone. Sorry I don’t know much about the mural and forgot to take pictures but it says something like “SOCKS” on it. More later if I go investigate, or find info about this mural online. The Silverstone Cafe itself is quite nice, and has wifi and – I didn’t know till this week’s exploration – A pretty nice patio in back! And good, low priced, (large) pastries and breakfast and sandwich type of food. The interior is beautiful with a giant wooden… bar back or mantelpiece sort of thing. Because of the TV I didn’t try to work from this cafe, though I might in future. (Instead I ended up a few blocks down 24th, at Haus, which also has a lovely patio and an accessible bathroom.) If you go that direction you could also stop by Precita Eyes and learn more about the neighborhood’s murals.

I didn’t hang out today at the southwest plaza but can say it has a pleasant street market with booth selling jewelry, souvenirs, shopping bags, belts, phone cases and chargers, headphones, shirts (often ones embroidered huipil style) and ponchos (wool). There are also sometimes flower sellers and a booth for vitamin type of things, phone plan sales. Sometimes events in the far corner under the Coffee & Mission mural like, breakdancers or rappers. This mural is on Osage St. and is by Mark Bode, Mel Waters, Dino, Nite Owl, Dagon, and Free. You may notice Mel Waters‘ distinctive style in like, a zillion other murals all over the Misson and the rest of the Bay Area. There is a big metal ventilation tower here that, in Ingress and Pokémon, is a portal named Lipstick Tube after the shape of the tower. The way the plaza is shaped in the back by the stairwell entrance makes a pretty good stage for any sort of street events. There is also a dark green kiosk-style public bathroom in this plaza. I have never used it, opting to buy a coffee or something instead to use a bathroom!

Did you ever notice the “two totemic posts” of this plaza? I hadn’t. Hang onto your hats as I want to paste in a hefty quote from the designers.

The two totemic posts in the foreground were placed to formalize a stage area already used as such by the community. Otherwise, most vertical elements were removed to open up the plaza.

The plaza was originally designed along with the underground station in 1970. The basic configuration is an open plaza paved in a concentric brick pattern that radiates out from a large circular opening in the center. The opening comprises the main station entrance, containing a stair and escalator column with recessed semicircular planters on either side.

The circular opening offered the design team a powerful theme. The circle form not only ties together design elements throughout the plaza but attempt to also communicate universal notions. The circle is an ancient form used by many civilizations. It was universal and almost always represented the sun and thence fecundity, society and important values.

Eliminating the security fencing revealed the existing great circle—being able to enter and emerge from such a shape is an unusual experience even in a famous city. The cylindrical tower (necessary to protect the existing spiral stair) acts as a beacon for the station and recalls an ancient Maya astronomical observatory. It has a south-facing skylight through which the sun illuminates colored portholes. Emerging from the circle passengers will catch a glimpse of colored sunlight—but the light will not again appear in the same spot for an entire year. Of identical shape to the tower are shiny bollards (necessary to prevent vehicle intrusion from the alley) that are positioned in various angles to reflect sunlight at different strengths when seen from a distance. Throughout the plaza can be found variations on the theme of circles, light and totems.

Nifty! (What spiral stair?! Is that what the Lipstick Tube is?! I assumed it was for ventilation!)

Back to our BART station. I did not get even halfway through the burrito. I can live off a burrito for like, three meals at LEAST. While I was sitting there a mad-eyed disheveled dude asked me and everyone nearby for change. He eventually settled down elsewhere in the plaza. Being accosted for money is likely but just take it in stride. If you like to help people you might keep some dollar bills in a pocket ready to dole out (that’s what I do) and know how to set limits on the interaction, and how to say no. It may make you uncomfortable though especially at night. Personally I feel perfectly comfortable here day and night as it is very public and well lit with tons of people around. Anyway, I sat through many buses pulling up, people walking by, tamale lady calling out her wares (tamales de pollo, de carne!) and selling some from her ice chest on wheels. She’s super nice, I see her there a lot.

I waited for the elevator with a sweet family who had been shopping (grandma, mom, and teenage daughter with her backpack worn frontways across her stomach). Three dudes were just nearby playing very loud Cuban music (excellent taste) and cat calling us (Ay mamacita!!! que estás bonitaaaaaaaa!!!!) But not like hostile cat calling, basically a . . . non-hostile routine social interaction. I looked over at them and nodded, breaking all the rules of such things, being a sucker for good music and since their piropos weren’t gross or anything. But me and the older women also side-eyed each other in mixed annoyance and amusement and then when we got in the elevator kind of burst out laughing.

The elevator had the horrible smell of pee and industrial cleaning fluid. I always kind of long to tackle the gross walls of this elevator where someone tried to write, or paint, and then it was ineptly and incompletely sprayed with cleaner, so there are horrible drips going down the wall and it looks filthier than if they had just left the graffiti alone. There are also times when there’s… food smeared on the wall? I dunno! The thing with the smell is, the pee must run down through the mechanism of the door to the elevator well below, and just fester there for years. There need to be more bathrooms, open all hours, though, I think the Pit Stop bathrooms do help and in recent years the stench has been ameliorated to some extent.

The elevator from the northeast plaza lets you out in a sketchy feeling nook in the north corner of the concourse. The stairwell there (and, same on the other side) has 2 stairways and an escalator, with abstract concrete bas reliefs by the English sculptor William George Mitchell. If you get up close to the walls you can feel the rough (even sharp) corrugations which are the background to the broad smooth planes of the cement geometric shapes. I wonder if they give the Mission stairwells some of their nice acoustic properties. There are often musicians in them, and while I explored on this day there was an excellent guitarist, Ángel Rodriguez from Banda Sin Nombre, in one stairwell and then later in the day, a saxophonist in the other.

The concourse has a beautiful arched design that makes me think of 70s futuristic things, or maybe particular airports, with the concrete arches overhead soaring like an airplane hangar, and more interesting corrugation in between creating a fairly beautiful line. If you don’t look up, or look at the shape of the buttresses of the arches, you are missing out. The lighting is also really not bad for an underground area. If you do have a look at the ceilings you may also notice a lot of anti-pigeon spikes. (Ow!) Speaking of ow, as a small accessibility note I would say there is an archway pillar between the north stairwell and the entry ticket points where, the slope of it as you might be coming out of the ticket area is such that for a blind cane user, it would be easy to run your head right into the underhang of the arch. Same goes for the pillar by the southwest stairwell as you come out of the ticket area there and turn right – headbonking opportunity. That could be prevented by a small guard rail in both areas.

There’s a ticket entrance by the elevator and the northeast stairwell, and another on the south side of the station, by the agent booth. This south entrance is where the wheelchair and stroller accessible entry and exit point is. In some other stations, the elevator to the platform is outside the pay entry cage so you have to specially remember to reach over the barrier to tag yourself out (even though you’re already out!) Once you’re in the paid area, there are 3 stairwells from south to north; the first is an escalator coming up from the platform, and some bike racks. At the far north end of the paid area you’ll find the elevator to the platform (call button on the left). Like most elevators in the system this one has buttons marked C for Concourse and P for platform.

Platform 1 has the northbound trains, Platform 2 has the southbound. If you traverse the length of the platform you will see the 3 stairwells; the furthest one from the elevator is the escalator going up. In between the escalator and the middle stairwell are some big block style cement benches, and between the second stairwell and the 3rd, there’s a big map and schedule. The median walls (on the stairwells) are tiled with brown, orange, gold, yellow tiles with an occasional black one, which I think of as a kind of nice Painted Desert effect or like the backgrounds for Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. There are mysterious little rooms in these areas too with numbered doors (as there also are on the concourse). I expect these will factor into my BART text adventure game in some way. On the walls to either side of the platform tunnel you can see the same buttress looking cement things as you see above in the concourse. Between those, there’s plain beige tiles and a space for ads.

So, I’m going to return to my game-writing now! This isn’t an exhaustive Guide To Things To Do near 24th and Mission station, though, I do recommend you get a great burrito and admire the murals while you’re here. There is also excellent grocery shopping at many small latin american stores, a middle eastern grocery around 26th, bookstores nearby down 24th and on Valencia and 20th, and several import stores with a standard selection of things like cheap suitcases, backpacks, socks, SF souvenirs, jeans, trinkets, and I don’t know what all else as it’s been a while since I was able to fit through their aisles!

By the way…. tomorrow is the 18th Annual No-Pants Bart Ride Day! Are leggings cheating? I get cold!

Index to all posts describing my BART station visits

Weekend of random activities

Looking back over this weekend it seems so quiet and low-key yet packed full of action on another level. I stayed at home after a very active week.

Tuesday was our Double Union Tea and Lightning Talks at the Mozilla community room. Over 60 people showed up. We had about 10 talks. The food was all devoured (next time I know to ask for more of it.) People all seemed super happy to be there and I had a great time MC-ing with Amelia! Wednesday I took half the day off and road tripped with Len and Rose up to Novato to see our friend Ron from Ophoenix who I love and admire. He is cool, mathy, wise, funny, good hacker, and a great activist. Ron is one of the people I co-exist with on ambient IM. I likewhen people are kind and compassionate yet can have a sharp edge; we seem to share that. Driving to Novato for me and Len is actually a road trip since neither of us drive. We hung out and just rambled nerdily all afternoon long. It was fabulous! It was also the first time I’d met Len in person and I want to go hang out with him in Santa Cruz. Especially as he described how he bakes bread all the time.

Thursday I spent an intense evening at the Pioneer Awards with Danny. Still extremely sad about Aaron; it seems surreal that he is gone. (Whatever I feel is nothing to Taren’s and to Danny’s daughter who was close to Aaron for years; but I’m still really stunned.) I developed an instant activists’ crush on Laura Poitras for being the sort of modest documentarian and doing things that are of use. It was good to hear what she had to say and see her huge grin on the screen! I had a brief but good conversation with Jamie Love and I wonder if I can kick the WEEE repair manual access idea to them. I have so much admiration for what they did with WIPO! Hugged and talked with a lot of other people there who I really love to see and don’t get to see enough.

It feels like cheating my blog to sum up the week this way. But oddly… or not… I want to dwell on my more private, homebody, intellectual life.

Friday I came down with a cold, maybe not surprising after all that running around and working on top of it. I usually don’t leave the house two days in a row even to go up the street to the corner store.

So this weekend I nursed my cold, drank a bunch of nyquil and took naps, flung kleenexes around (till saturday afternoon when i cleaned up) but also did a lot of reading. I ripped through a few more books I’m reading for the 2011 Carl Brandon Awards (the award is a little bit behind and doing 2 years simultaneously to catch up.) It is a joy to be on book award reading juries, not just to have a giant stream of books coming at me, but to have so many *new* books I can recommend to people! And I can’t wait to have some discussions and hear what the other jurors think. All of which we will be doing scarily soon.

I also read Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa and enjoyed it, though I gave it the side eye a few times I am also a fan of order with liveliness, showers, reliable electricity, people not bugging me about religion, museums, ecology, and less corruption in government so I don’t have much of a place to eye from. I did a fair amount of looking things up on Wikipedia and found a good candidate for developing a new article — on the Esie soapstone sculptures. Here is a museum for the GLAM wikipedia project! The stuff about Susanne Wenger mystical white lady priestess of Oshun also sent me on a wide eyed rampage of horror and wonderment as I fell deeply down yet another internet rathole. O M G. Talked in the language of the trees, yeah…. ok….. Then to adopt 12 local kids and deliberately raise them illiterate? I can’t even!!!!!!

Meanwhile this was going down in our communities: https://twitter.com/ashedryden/status/381465338443202560 and that’s all I want to say about that in public though the private conversations have been going on all weekend. A whole bunch of us can’t talk about it, but had to at least mention it. Ashe wrote a good post: http://ashedryden.com/blog/we-deserve-better-than-this Yes. That is the place we are coming from. You know nothing, Jon Snow. http://twitter.com/shanley also laid down the knowledge and righteous anger.

Other things, I tended my little garden of potted plants, cooked chicken-corn-pasilla pepper soup and curtido, grocery shopped, spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my sister and her 6 year old son. Laura worked on fabrics for her NASA planetary map dresses. Jack played Plants vs. Zombies 2 and other games. We played King of the Beasts with him (a great quick card/board game) and later when Laura went to a meeting Jack and I played a longer cooperative board game called Castle Panic. He was the Master Slayer (fortunately). I read Danny’s emails and twitters from the xoxo conference in Portland and thought fondly of people there.

At some point late Saturday night I went searching for a quote I was thinking of earlier in the week, by June Arnold who has been on my mind lately because The Cook and the Carpenter is so relevant to my life what with the hackerspaces and all. Realized June Arnold does not have a Wikipedia page. Oh!!!!! Like a stab in the heart. Most feminist press stuff is just missing from there. This would be a nice thing I could do, gradually and I certainly have or can scare up some decent source material. I found the quote which is from the 2nd issue of Sinister Wisdom.

I think the novel — art, the presentation of women in purity (also I would include poetry, short stories) — will lead to, or is, revolution. I’m not talking about an alternate culture at all, where we leave the politics to the men. Women’s art is politics, the means to change women’s minds. And the women’s presses are not alternate either but are the mainstream and the thrust of the revolution. And there’s no tenure in the revolution.

That panel of her, Sandy Boucher, Susan Griffin, Melanie Kay and Judith McDaniel was pretty great. I read it over again and was especially happy just holding Melanie’s thoughts about Wittig, Russ, and Arnold in my mind. I realized I have not read Flying by Kate Millet and probably should. Well, I felt happy to connect a bit with this strain of thought. I thought Amelia and others would like the art is politics quote.

Today I read halfway through Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disabliity in American Culture and Literature by Rosemarie Garland Thomson. I got cold-emailed by Rosemarie a while back (I get awesome, awesome, emails at random, every week a few more, more than I can handle) and we finally met up at Noisebridge. I felt a weird Instant ability to partially mind meld, or, trust, or, as some people would put it boringly, I made a new friend! In like an hour hanging out we had gone pretty deep into hand waving and assuming the other person knew what we meant (and we did.) I am greatly enjoying the book. It is nicely built academic literary and cultural criticism, flows well.

Here are some bits I specially dog-eared: I did NOT know this about Aristotle. from Generation of Animals . . . “Anyone who does not take after his parents… is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male. ” Being born female is to be born disabled. “The female is as it were a deformed male…” Then on into stigma theory which we now less bludgeon-ish-ly refer to as being marked and unmarked. OK. Onwards.

Motherfucking Emerson. (I always like to think of earnest Louisa May Alcott characters falling in love over discussions of Emerson. ) Emerson goes on about conservatives and how they are “effeminated by nature, born halt and blind.” They are also like invalids. He lines up men (who are awesome and ethical citizens) opposed to children and disabled people (and women since I doubt he means “humans”) This sentence of Rosemarie’s wrapped it up nicely for me, “Emerson’s juxtaposition of an unrestricted cultural self with a muted other thwarted by physical limits exposes the problem of the body within the ideology of liberal individualism.” OK, maybe you had to be there. IT made me happy. I’m not typing out pages and pages of this and I want to press onwards. Deep into the next section I felt she was laying out out a lot of good knowledge about ways that racism and US-ian concepts of white and black (or non-white) are entangled with gender and disability. good stuff here.

Then like a full on body slam I hit the chapter “Benevolent Maternalism and the Disabled Woman in Stowe, Davis, and Phelps”. (Which god knows I will scavenge off Project Gutenberg and read this week, but I get the idea from her descriptions). Again blackness and disabilty and gender entwine. Check this out. Here is where I get my typing fingers out and smear on the arthritis knuckle cream.

As Stowe deplores slavery’s inhumane separation of families, as Davis reveals the iron mill’s callous victimization of workers, and as Phelps censures the textile industry’s abuse of mill girls, each writer highlights nondisabled heroines or narrators who prevail or even triumph. Their disabled sisters, however, stay on the narrative margins, degraded by oppressive institutions and ultimately sacrified to the social problems the novels assail. . . . While the various maternal benefactresses radiate a transcendent virtue, agency, and power, the disabled women become increasingly subjugated, despairing, and impotent.

Crushed by capitalism’s laissez-faire morality, Prue, Hagar, Deb, and Catty are icons of vulnerability who help generate a rhetoric of sympathy and scandal meant to propel readers from complacency to convictions. Despite their secondary or even minor parts in the actual narratives these disabled women fulfill major rhetorical roles by arousing the sympathetic indignation that activates benevolent maternalism. This impulse was the springboard from which white, middle class women could launch themselves into a prestigious, more influential public role that captured some of the elements of liberal selfhood. . . . . At the same time, however, these novels diminish the very figures for whom they plead by casting them outside the exclusive program of feminine liberal selfhood the narratives map. (emphasis mine)

I had to pause and let that resonate for a bit. Damn! SO TRUE. SO STILL TRUE. I mean in real life not in a novel.

Make me want to go read Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska all over again like a sort of brain-wash, just thinking what that mill girl novel is going to be like.

So, also, I spent some pleasant hours participating in CSAW Capture the Flag with Seattle Attic’s team. I would love to make it pan-feminist-hackerspace (as it more or less was with me and some others in it). It was super fun, I love puzzles, and felt stimulating! The team was 303rd out of 1300 entrants. Would do this again. I feel the impulse to go over all the puzzles to learn things.

I also fooled around putting the Hubble Deep Field onto online fabric designer stores (I am getting a swatch from Spoonflower and one from ArtofWhere, to compare) so that I can make space pillowcases for my friend Ron. (And maybe for me and everyone I know?) I did not color correct, figuring, try a swatch, if it is good enough, I don’t have to learn how. If it isn’t then it seems learnable. I would also like this nail polish as it is the best space toenail possibility I’ve seen yet!

Then I thought a little bit about RAID arrays and MPD and setting up a feminist media server and book scanner at the new hackerspace.

I thought of my friend Timmi and wished to convey all this to her and thought of writing her a giant letter but instead it is a blog post for anyone and everyone. I will write her a giant letter too at some other point.

I riffled through this feminist online library and thought about what I could do with a hopefully ethical as possible but not quite so limited by copyright law approach to documenting our history.

I had a nice conversation with Skud about Growstuff and development processes. Thought a bit about collective authorship, patterns and antipatterns. It would be neat to take Selena’s git story flash cards and make them into different orders for patterns and antipatterns like we were talking about.

I thought a bit more about sassaman but wanted to write this post instead of working on it.

Bedtime now! “There are some days when I think i’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” Amelia mentioned this quote. We seem similar in temperament. I also write little quotes in the front of my notebooks! And I feel this way. Though I was unsettled, upset, in my usual level of pain (though, enbrel rush on Saturday, yay) and had a cold much of the weekend, I feel so grateful for my inner intellectual life and for all the fantastic people I have to talk with more or less any time. What amazing luck. Hypatia says it is funny that I describe mindfulness as “being smug”. I think of mindfullness as involving more meditation-like sitting still, which I’m incapable of without morphine. Some days I work, eat, clean up, hug everyone, read a little escapist fiction and go to bed. Those are good days even if I end up in tears (from pain usually). Danny and I have great conversations, I feel understood and he always has some new thought or source of interesting knowledge like a fabulous fountain of ideas. More than half of my days I think are like this last week and weekend, flitting from idea to idea, happy to be a dilettante, so happy to read quickly, and sure from past experience that my efforts will combine to make something good, a book, a group, a conversation or a chain of ideas that people remember and value, so that I feel like my time and effort doesn’t just slip away. (At best I accept and believe this; at worst I beat myself up for not being productive enough.)

I hug you all and leave you with this calming manatee. We can’t fix things quickly. What we have done and built, especially our friendships, social ties, and institutions, stand and have affected things. What we’re going to do will make change as well. It is happening, trust it and be comforted.

Calming manatee progress

AdaCamp meanderings

Tonight was the AdaCamp San Francisco reception, at Google on the 6th floor. We had some food and beer, talked a million miles an hour, and got a short nice speech from the Site Reliability Engineering team. Thanks Google SRE for sponsoring the dinner!

I got an awesome sticker from somebody that says “Intersectional Feminism Fuck Yeah” which is basically the best thing ever. It goes well with the “Open Source Fuck Yeah” sticker on my laptop!

Hung out and talked with SO MANY PEOPLE. Great conversations about mapping, the Hate Map, Open Street Map, open source hardware kits for fiber arts people, web accessibility struggles in open source, all kinds of gossip, new feminist hackerspaces starting up like the Seattle Attic and one coming soon in Portland (there may be an SF one someday … stay tuned). Ciberseguridad in Mexico for feminist activists, scooters…. I can’t remember what else but I was never bored for even a second. Everyone was so nerdy and happy. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

This week I had fun in my “spare” time working with some tactile mapping folks from Lighthouse SF and the AdaCamp organizers. It was somewhat harder than I thought and was my first try at mapping an interior space collaboratively instead of just writing descriptions on my own. So I learned a lot. Here are some tactile map pics for the sighted. I did not know that braille was be printed double sided; the two sides are offset.

adacamp tactile map
A tactile map of the 15th floor of the Mercantile Exchange building, with braille printing.
tactile map key
A map key that says “Symbols and Abbreviations” with braille printing.

I also experimented with writing a textual description of the space and its rooms and exits, which an attendee had asked for. I volunteered to do this for inter disability solidarity, but also because I enjoy writing interactive fiction and MUD areas very much, and have lots of practice at it. The requester mentioned the possibility of different layers of description, maybe on different pages. I ended up making a single text file as The Ada Camp Text Adventure, where each room was marked with “h2” and an anchor tag. Then I hyperlinked the room names. Each room has a short description and a long description. The long description isn’t marked separately but is just in the second paragraph for each room. There are probably more elegant and useful ways to approach this. It would be interesting to collect other examples.

In the descriptions, I did not use 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock as I read was common for way finding and orientation for blind and visually impaired people. Instead I tried to have one clock orientation at the building entrance, and then switch to North south east west terminology. I tried breaking the word AdaCamp into two words as I felt more confident it would read out correctly as Ada Camp. Perhaps it is not different enough to matter. Consistency in the descriptions and style of describing exits may or may not be important. But I am not sure. While the text adventure’s recipient said it was great, I am not sure that means it is useful. To know how to do this usefully, I would need to iterate with map or text adventure users willing to spend significant time exploring and talking about it. But, as I am probably reinventing the wheel, it would be good for me to read more about what other people do in this area too.

What I’m wondering is, could I do this in a useful way for future events or for spaces I inhabit regularly, like Noisebridge, or WisCon? If so, then more people should do it for public spaces or events and I can tell them so. Also, it would be fun and interesting.

My dream from some years back is that Open Street Map would have text adventure markup, so that particular places in very fine grained ways could be described. It would be fun for people with any level of vision to walk around a city, or a campus, like a MUD, or to look north from a particular address and see what there is to see. Maybe that could make audio navigation descriptions more useful.

I keep saying “useful” and that is because I have seen so many pointless wankery “design” type of oh what a nifty thing this would be for disabled people things that maybe also make a Statement, but they aren’t really nifty, and suck, and are a waste of time and money and energy, and they are very annoying. Usefulness is much nicer.

Two especially nice days

What a gorgeous day! I could feel the vitamins shining into me! While it may be boring to read I would like to record how much I enjoyed the last two days back in SF and getting over my jet lag. I was in bed all weekend wondering if I had ruined myself forever and would never get to do anything nice again. Though it was so cosy to be home, to have Danny to talk everything over with, and to have Milo here and a cat to cuddle. Then . . . of course . . . by Tuesday and after a lot of sleep, everything was fine again. I feel lucky (and a little silly for panicking).

Yesterday Val came over and we worked from my house with several pots of tea and conversations in between our meetings and moments of fierce concentration. Yatima walked in around 4:30 to join us. It was like a fabulous dream come true to have my house full of feminist friends who can just drop in. At some point Val and I headed off to dinner at Balompie with Danny. Then to the Noisebridge meeting and elections. I shelved some books. Thus ends my dutiful stint on the Noisebridge board, where the main job is to practice not wielding authority.

Today, hazelbroom picked me up at 8:30 after dropping off her son at school. She hoisted my scooter for me and left us outside Haus on 24th street. I adore 24th street with its trees shading the sidewalks, the million Precita Eyes murals, the bakeries, excellent mercaditos, new bookstores, and lively community life. It makes me happy just to be there. Worked really well from Haus, which had peaceful music and rows of somberly dressed laptop people with big headphones and knit caps, facing each other across the room, with the light from the street streaming in. Outside a group of guys in orange vests were digging up the street and I wished that someone would courteously bring them coffee and pastries on a tv tray. Usually the window tables in Haus are taken first but today no one seemed to want to be on whichever side of the aquarium windows it may be with the guys up to their knees in red clay dirt glassed off from the cleanness of the insides. I enjoyed my chocolate croissant and cappucinino and felt all fired up as I triaged some Firefox bugs, wrote email, and planned a screen reader bug day.

Discolandia

Then I beetled over to Garfield pool. The entry guy recognized me which was nice but guilt-inducing since I have not done any pool/swimming physical therapy since October. There is a new push button door opener, which is very exciting and awesome for me in the scooter! And the women’s bathroom, which previously was like one’s nightmare of a state hospital circa 1955 where they hose you off or whatever, with no door to the “accessible” stall and many other horrors, and I had planned to bring a shower curtain to at least have privacy to pee — now it is all fixed up with a higher toilet seat, handrails, large stall you can get a powerchair into, and bench. They took out 2 sinks and just totally fixed the problems. So great! While I don’t know what else they did in the renovations, everything looked a little less skanky, and all the things I was emailing the SF parks and rec dept about last year are fixed.

I strapped on some arm floaties and rode the hydraulic lift into the pool. It was reasonably warm!!! My upper back and neck are kind of “stuck” right now, one of those things where I can’t look all the way up and to the right, a bit hunchy-over . . . so I was moving very cautiously. I also didn’t want to over do my activity on my first day back in the pool. So it was gentle thrashing about in the 5 foot deep area like slow water treading while leaning back and a bit of walking back and forth and doing leg lifts.

Got to chatting with a guy who asked me if I had back problems and told me about his. He has to have some vertebrae fused and is worried about it.

As we gently flailed I felt I was making a really nice friend and now look forward to hanging out with him in the pool some more. He is a garbage collector in my neighborhood (but not on my street) and lives over near the pool. We talked about places we have traveled (him: south africa, greece, italy, mexico, me: london, vienna, beijing, greece, mexico) and places we want to travel. He told me about his ranch in the country and his grown children and the young visiting Sicilians who came to stay temporarily and then became renters in his house, and what his village was like where he came from in Mexico (near Guadelajara, with lots of river and underground water for wells and springs, near ocean, very relaxing, good restaurants, nothing happening ever) And how his co-worker retired there by him buying his aunt’s place by the river which has a spring-fed swimming pool and now all the children and people love him because he helps everyone with his truck. We agreed about some of the things that are nice in life. We agreed on our love of pick up trucks (I had one for 13 years.)

I love a fellow extrovert . . . With the distraction of talking I stayed in the pool the full 50 minutes. It really helped to get a ride there, too.

Then went to hazelbroom’s house nearby where she gave me an amazing massage. The stuck bit of my back is still stuck. (I am icing it.) And she fed me the most amazing lunch. I love my friends. Trout (?) on rice with broccoli and then jars of kim chi and japanese seaweed seasoning and soy sauce and pickled things. delish. I got to hold her son’s new hamster. She invited me to ride out to the VA hospital with her where I could work while she went in to have a physical for her new job there.

Hammy2

I worked from her car on the way there (with 4G on my phone giving me internet) but paused to gawk at golden gate park and try to take pictures as we drove through. The pond was especially pretty. A guy was just bending over to sail his model sailboat. It was like some idyllic scene out of Stuart Little.

I felt so happy to be in the moving car in the warm sun, seeing trees and water and flowers and birds.

Va sunny liz

Got a hot chocolate from the VA canteen which had ramps to the outside picnic benches that overlook Land’s End with a great view of the golden gate (the opening of strait, not the bridge) and Marin headlands. There is a wheelchair accessible table right next to the Battle of the Bulge Memorial Trail. There was good wifi with 4G reception and it is a quiet, good place to work. I felt a little funny going through the VA on my scooter getting the “special smiles”. No – I was not blown up in combat. I did have a pretty great race with a guy in the parking lot who had a super huge scooter engine. He kicked my ass. It wasn’t as big of a scooter as the one I had in London though.

Showed the marine traffic site to hazelbroom when she was finished with her physical and came out to join me. She also loves cargo ships and we saw one come in in real life and on the screen.

Then she drove me past Sutro Baths. I wanted to believe that the lump we saw way down there was Sutro Sam the river otter who is eating all the goldfish in the pond. But now that I see the photo magnified on my screen sadly it is just a rock. I felt like it was the otter sleeping in the sun and was happy. Who needs reality. Anyway we knew he is there.

Sutrobaths sunset

As if this weren’t enough she then drove us down Irving and got us bubble tea. I had ginger milk tea with ENORMOUS tapioca bubbles. The ginger was so strong it made tears come to my eyes and cleared out my sinuses. I will sweat ginger for days. Cannot remember all the things we talked about on the way home but it was lovely.

If anyone in SF feels like giving me a ride to pretty much anywhere on a nice day, I am very portable, and as long as I have wifi, power, or decent phone data reception I can work from wherever. I spend so many days working from bed (because of pain or mobility issues) that a quiet outing on a good day cheers me up amazingly. I miss the times when I used to be able to drive all around town, going to random places off the map and settling myself in a good cafe or in a parking lot overlooking the beach.

Now am going to put in a little more work (collecting email addys of people who report screen reader issues in bugzilla, to invite them to a bug day). Danny will come home soon from the EFF office and tell me all about his day and my sister is going to drop by.

The only way this could be nicer is if the kids were here. Ada’s birthday party is this weekend so that’s going to be great, and then Milo’s party is in a couple of weeks. I plan on making him a cake that will be a block from Minecraft – three 9 by 9 pans should get me a block shape, chocolate cake, and then green frosting on top and chocolate frosting on the sides. I think that gummy worms in the layers will be a good touch. If I can find the frosting spray paint in varied colors maybe I can pixelate the cake surface.

Driving around, I waste more time

This afternoon we drove around searching for the building I’ve seen and wondered about for years. It’s visible from Highway 101, is topped with giant panels of stained glass, and says “STUDIO” on the side in white letters. “Studio” is not very google-able. It’s in a neighborhood in San Francisco called Silver Terrace, just west of Bayview and east of Portola. STUDIO, after we tracked it down and did some sleuthing, turns out to be Church Art Glass Studio owned (or formerly owned?) by Nick Lukas. Above the front door there’s an awning made of the same colors of glass as are on top of the building, throwing intense colored shadows. Framed stained glass panels were in the dusty windows. The hill was very green & lush. I love corners of neighborhoods that are mostly full of industrial buildings and warehouses for floor tile and stuff like that. This area has the added bonus of being mostly underneath a highway.

church art glass studio

The majority of windows at St. Michael [in Livermore, CA] were done by the Church Art Glass Studio of San Francisco, which has designed windows for the churches on the West Coast and Hawaii since the turn of the century. The original owner, Edward Lopolka, advertised as “artists in stained glass, German and English antique.” The business was sold in the 1940’s to the father of Nick Lukas, who continues to operate the business in the shadow of the 280 freeway.

I felt like I solved a mystery only to come up with several more mysteries.

Mystery #1: Is the Studio still open? It looked deserted. A post from 2009 says Lukas was trying to sell his entire stock of art glass. It looks like we only just barely missed a very cool art show hosted there, Virtuoso.

Mystery #2: What is the hill of Silver Terrace called? It doesn’t seem quite like it would be named “Silver Terrace” but that’s what I’m going to have to call it. (ETA: I think it’s Mount St. Joseph! Source: How Many Hills are in San Francisco?

Mystery #3: What is that funky deserted building at 432 Paul Avenue that looks like an old school next to an equally funky factory? It’s beautiful!

Silver Terrace was in the Rincón de las Salinas and Potrero Viejo Mexican land grants, sold off by the Bernal family in the 1860s. Actually it sounds like General Sherman foreclosed on the Bernal mortgage and then sold it off to J.S. Silver who subdivided it into lots, so it’s a very old San Francisco neighborhood. You can see from old maps that Bernal Hill is on one side of the bay inlet where Islais Creek was, that was eventually filled in to become Bayview, and the mystery hill that isn’t called Silver Terrace is on the other side, just east of Hunters Point Ridge.

San Francisco coastline and crreks

Here is a fantastic history of the area!

History of Bayview and Hunters Point (pdf)

We ended up going through McLaren Park which we had looked up beforehand – making fun of videos of hippies dancing to very boring music at Jerry Garcia auditorium – And pausing to look out over the valley below & trying to figure out what everything was. It was mostly Visitacion Valley, Bayshore, and the Cow Palace. I’ve never been there. We drove through and the most I can say for it is that I plan on going back to the huge Savers thrift store on Geneva. If there was a there there in Visitacion Valley I didn’t find it. I did wonder about what the Visitation was – something like the Annunciation which I do know is when Mary finds out she’s preggers – It turns out it’s when Mary’s pregnant and knows it, and goes off for a visit with another pregnant lady. I could rewrite that in my head to be all about pregnant ladies being supportive of each other instead of all the stuff about creepy babies leaping in the womb because of getting weird telepathic messages from other babies!

Back on Mission in the Excelsior neighborhood we were tempted by the Chicken Coop restaurant which looked amazingly retro. I couldn’t park though so we decided to go home and make omelettes. Signs informed me that Excelsior Welcomes the World. I will definitely return to work my way through all the small grocery stores on Mission. They look great. Anyway, we changed our minds about dinner again a few blocks later when we passed Joe’s Cable Car. Joe’s Cable Car turned out to be not the greasy cheap diner I thought it was. It is more the Dr. Bronner’s of Burgers. Everything at our table was covered in rambling, old-school sales talk and folksy wisdom about the magic of GROUND STEAK from, presumably, Joe. By the time we ordered our food I couldn’t bring myself to say the word “burger” because of the incredible amount of text about GROUND STEAK I had just read and all about the sharp knives, the way they butcher it all and grind it right there practically at your table, and how Joe himself and his jolly butchers were ready to Down-Home-ily bring a cow right to your house straight from the Gold Rush, and grind it up, unlike the evil fast food industry and its evil, evil breadcrumbs and midwest factory slaughterhouses, so please fork over 14 bucks for your Ground Steak while you enjoy the wolf-whistle of the doorbell and the singing santa christmas lights and the giant neon signs shaped like the Golden Gate Bridge, while sitting in something that in 1965 used to either be, or look like, a cable car. I had a great time and the burger was delicious.

The myth of the place and what I was about to eat had completely sold me on the restaurant before I had even sipped my coke. It was overwhelming especially to sensitive, neurotic artists who had gone to look for America and been driving around all day. It reminded me a little of the 1000 mile trip I took around the Southwest where through three states I saw billboards advertising “The Thing!” and then finally got to “The Thing!” roadside attraction and was so freaked out by its Americana-ness that I wrote several chapters of an autobiographical novel about it.

As usual, Oblomovka navigated and looked things up on his G2 while I drove and made a lot of spontaneous decisions which way to go, and we made things up about the stuff we were looking at and tried to imagine everything about all the neighborhoods and imagined our future hacker artist co-ops in all the funky old buildings. I have an especially good time because we can both get passionately attached to some imaginary and pointless goal, like figuring out where the headwaters of some cemented-over creek is, or how to get as close to the top of a hill as we can, but we don’t actually care that much and so are happy to change our minds and do something else as soon as what we’re doing isn’t fun anymore.

Warm Water Cove and Pier 70

Today’s random expedition led me to Potrero Point and Warm Water Cove, a tiny, gritty park one step above a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland. It’s a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland with a bench! I love this park. Right now it’s full of wild mustard, radish, dock, mallow and other great edible plants. The remains of a creek ooze out of a scary tunnel. It’s all surrounded by warehouses, parking lots surrounded by barbed wire, and off in the distance, rusting ocean-going cargo ships. Apparently there used to be weekly punk concerts there run off generators and lots of campers. While I was there today a woman and a dog in a very DIY camper van were doing some housekeeping and enjoying the late afternoon sun, so the camping, or homeless-person-occupancy, probably continues despite the recent community makeover, graffiti cleanup and daily policing. A few years ago people were still fishing from a pier to take advantage of the warm water coming from the power plant outfall (which attracts fish.) The pier’s gone now.

Sounds like a lot of piers have been closed over the last few years, including San Mateo Pier, the longest fishing pier in California.

From there I could see a very interesting building that looked like a lot of cubes piled up on top of each other.

It’s behind the Pacific Gas & Electric Station A, a huge and beautiful red brick building.

Pier 70

Here’s some links to the history of Potrero Point:

* Station A

A block or two north, little alleys wind around the decaying buildings of Pier 70.

* The Noonan Building
* Map of Pier 70 structures – a great map with notes for each building.
* Irish Hill This hill full of houses and apartments for the iron and steel mill workers and their families was leveled and the rubble used to fill in the Bay. I saw a tiny bit of the hill left – you can tell it’s not just a pile of dirt because it looks like a roadcut through serpentinite.

Underneath these industrial buildings is a tide-washed labyrinth of slag pits, cisterns, waste dumps, and wooden pilings. I can’t even imagine the giant amounts of toxic junk still leaching into the Bay.

Building 104, an office building from 1896:

Pier 70

Building 21, from 1900.

Pier 70

Building 11, The Noonan Building, 1941. People obviously live there.

Pier 70

During wartime this shipyard churned out countless ships. Thousands of people worked there in round-the-clock shifts. As the shipyards closed the area became neglected and used for storage for old cars, MUNI trains and buses. It sounds like then there were decades of concern from people in the Dogpatch, Potrero, and Hunters Point communities, plans for redevelopment, toxic cleanup, reclamation, preservation of the historic buildings, and industrial customers who still might use the land for power plants, and ship building or repair. The largest floating dry dock facility in the world was sold to the City in the 1980s for one dollar — probably because the massively polluted land (and ongoing pollution of the Bay) was clearly a liability and someone was going to have to *clean it up* before it got seriously used again.

As I mulled over What Is To Be Done here’s what I thought up. While it’s not being used for much else and it’s polluting and dangerous, full of crumbling buildings and broken glass and probably more asbestos than anyone can imagine, make it a public Dangerous Park. Just let anyone do whatever the hell they want in there and graffiti it up and have punk rock shows and photograph the roofs of falling-down warehouses. But let them know the dangers to their health and safety — just as you’d put up signs to say that a seaside cliff is dangerous because of erosion and high waves. The conditions of entering the Dangerous Park should be agreement that you’re not going to sue the city for whatever injuries result.

Some of the Historic Buildings would be graffitied and fucked up, but maybe some would be improved, cleaned up, cared for by artists and colonized in interesting ways.

I realize this isn’t going to happen and instead it will end up being a squalid industrial center for a while longer until some asshole buys it and Develops it, because the only way that people are “allowed” to be in or live on a toxic waste dump is if some bunch of developers makes an obscene profit off it while covering up any risks with massive lies. But people using crappy in land in some less centralized and profitable way, with accurate information about the problems of that use, is, weirdly, never okay.