Hip hop and a party

I took the 49 and the 30 buses across town to the Palace of Fine Arts for the International Hip Hop DanceFest – its 25th year! If you can, grab tickets and go tomorrow, it was an incredible trip.

The show was particularly great this year. I think my favorite peformance was the one led by Selasi Dogbatse from Brussels, “A Piece of Me” , which was incredibly emotional and dynamic – it seemed to go through a narrative of culture, family, artistic expression and a sort of artistic journey, but what often made it great was the relationships between the dancers as they really danced with each other in a communicative way that also felt like change happening between them. Ensemble work where everyone was individually going through artistic growth by their interactions in the actual performance! I don’t really know how to write about dance, but that was my impression!

colorful stage full of dancers

Wildly energetic and skilled dances from Flawless (London) who were acrobatic and stylish, House of Jit (Detroit), Wanted Posse (Paris) were total crowd pleasers, big ensembles. Wanted Posse acted out fantastic scenes from a 1920s speakeasy, House of Jit showed off Detroit style which I was not familiar with but which is FAST and complicated and looks super cool.

hiphop dancer on stage

There were two smaller acts, Snack Break Movement Arts from Philly, and Ben Donner who gave a heartfelt solo dedicated to his grandmother, as the opener to the show. Snack Break’s set was really beautiful as well and told a loose narrative of childhood friendships, games, rivalries and fun as the two friends compete and play – it had a nostalgic feel as they incorporated hopscotch and hand clapping in with their hip hop and swing moves.

Then there were the local ensembles, California representing! Str8jacket from San Mateo had a lot of young people and great choreographic talent. I thought of my son’s old group Community Street Jam and the choreo by Barb Miron and her crew who were often paying homage to Jabbawockeez, with fast and complex moves that never felt repetitive. I never know how they remember it all! Whew! They had great energy and I love the bay area waacking, popping, and whatever they were doing, I think I’d call it House. Then Versa-Style Dance Company from LA giving us a more matured west coast style infused with salsa that had the audience screaming and hooting! Along with a kind of similar feeling to Selasi Dogbatse’s group in that you could see different personalities and artistic journeys expressed and the joy and difficulty of creativity and collaboration. It feels wrong to pick favorites but they were also my favorite, they were just so perfect in every way and I could not even keep still in my chair! I had to go home and do some dancing around too!

The best thing about hip hop is the supportive culture that always shines through in Micaya’s shows, you can see the emotional strength of all the collaborations and of the (temporary) community around the show that she creates. Really a joy every year — I put it on my calendar for November just as soon as the “Save the Date” email arrives!

Micaya in a colorful dress with the mic in hand

I had a little interlude at Crissy Beach feeling the sand in my toes, admiring the pelicans, taking pics of the bridge and enjoying the late fall sun. Right near me a group of obviously queer parents of toddlers were dressed in spangles and sparkles for the birthday party of a little kid who has the same name as my son who I was thinking of all day long since we have always tried to go to this show together! It was funny to wish this tiny, silver sparkle loving Milo a happy birthday while I was thinking of my own grown up sparkle-loving Milo!

On the bus on the ride home I got lucky with entertaining bus driver action. It was rush hour crowded on the 49 but the driver kept us all amused in front of the bus with his friendly greetings and running commentary.

At one stop there was a lady with a giant cart with stuff strapped to it with bungies, a load higher than her head and probably about 2 and a half feet wide. Our driver pulled up and was like, “I am sympathetic to your situation but you got a lot goin’ on sister”. Very much standing room only at the front of the bus with me also wedged in there in my powerchair absolutely surrounded by close up butts and elbows. Cue an argument from Cart Lady. “But my dog needs these things and I have to protect my dog! When is the next bus!” (They come about every 5 minutes!) I assume there was a dog in the crate strapped at the bottom of the pile. No one likes to be passed up and I felt sympathetic but it was just impossible.

Then the kicker, she yelled, “BUT YOU LET WHEELCHAIRS ON THERE!! IT’S NOT FAIR” The entire front half of the bus groaned and rolled their eyes and me and the driver started laughing once he had pulled away.

“Look now, we’ve seen everything, if you have wheelchairs, you gotta also give equal rights to dogs!!”

“The thing is, I’m way more fun than a dog!”

Later on the ride the nice driver was telling stories of how he worked on all the Bay Area bridges in all weather and how cold it was but how beautiful.

I was also called “Sir” yesterday and “Buddy” “Pal” and “My man” today at random times so my nonbinary haircut must be doing its job.

Geek tour of the San Francisco Bay Area

People come to San Francisco, still, in pursuit of the technoutopian dream, but also they like to pay homage to an idea of “Silicon Valley”. Now that the Mozilla monument has gone to storage, there aren’t a lot of public monuments out there to visit. We really need enormous, beautiful public monumental art to celebrate Internet and computer history!!

But we don’t have that. So, where to go on your nerd pilgrimage? I have a list of recommendations for the computer nerds with a romantic soul!

The Computer History Museum heads the geek tour list of course! It is in Mountainview and the public transit options aren’t ideal, but are doable. You can take Caltrain to Mountainview and look for a city bus or a shuttle bus, or just take a cab/rideshare for the last leg of your trip.

The MADE – The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment – is a hands-on video game history museum where the retro games are all playable, often on incredible and well maintained old hardware! It’s in downtown Oakland, a few easily walkable blocks from the 12th Street BART station.

The Exploratorium, while a broad tech and science museum, is gorgeously hands on and participatory. There are actual experiments you can do (not like so many science museums where interactivity means pushing a button or watching a video). And the techy things are elevated to really beautiful art in many cases (look for the creations of Ned Kahn, for example!)

Noisebridge hacker and maker space is open daily in the afternoons and evenings, and it’s basically a long running, large, donation supported and volunteer run, workshop. It is free, but cash or online donations are very much appreciated and needed! It’s a bit like going into a giant, messy, anarchic, collaborative garage. People are generally friendly, you can show up any time, and someone will give you a tour. If you feel like soldering something, or using the 3D printers, or learning a new skill, or just want a co-working space for an afternoon, this is a great spot to meet new people and hang out. Check the meetup page for classes and workshops!

San Francisco Railway Museum – this is a tiny but fabulous museum near the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero in SF. It tends to appeal to computer geeks!

Historic Ships at Hyde Street Pier – Now, this has nothing to do with computers but if you are the sort of nerd who like me, enjoys transit and infrastructure and history, you might like this very quiet park on the waterfront at Aquatic Park (avoid the Fisherman’s Wharf maelstrom). Seriously you will be the only person on some of these ships. Giant pulleys and block and tackle arrangements! Lie down in an actual ship’s bunk! You can walk onto the sailing ship Balaclutha and onto a huge paddlewheel steamship and a couple more interesting ships. Notably — the Balaclutha is wheelchair accessible, with a (very steep) ramp onto the ship, and a scary-fun lift down into the cargo hold!!!

The US Army Corps of Engineers Bay Model in Sausalito. Nerd heaven if you like this sort of thing. It’s a giant relief map of the entire Bay Area with its waterways, the size of two football fields, and you can walk around it to learn geography and history. Sadly there is no longer water flowing in it because it is now cheaper to run computer simulations of the water flow in the Bay. You can take the ferry there and walk (a fairly long walk but doable) to the Model!

Google! If you’re walking along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, the Hills Brothers Building plaza is a nice place to sit, and you can take a picture with the Google sign if that appeals to you. Coming up soon in October 2023, the Google Visitor Center will be opening up in Mountainview – maybe good to combine with a visit to the Computer History Museum!

Apple Park Visitor Center in Cupertino is an hour or so away from San Francisco by car. If you’re already down there or in San Jose and you’re a huge Apple fan then maybe it’s worth going to see. I’ve never been to it, but I see people asking about it often in the bay area subreddits.

The Intel museum in Santa Clara! If you want to read some corporate stuff about how chips are made, this is for you, but I am not sure if I actually recommend it since I’ve never been there and it seems to be mostly for school kids.

Hiller Museum of Aviation in San Carlos. If you love planes, or you kind of like them and you’re already on the Peninsula south of SF, this is a fun and cool little museum. Also great for little kids as they can run around very freely, and there’s entire sections of planes they can go into and climb around in.

More transit! Historic aircraft! Moffett Field (ie, the Bay’s own little part of NASA!) offers tours led by a docent and they have a small visitor center.

If the Mare Island shipyard museum ever opens up again, i highly recommend it because it is HUGE and super old fashioned and sort of clearly beloved by the people who used to work there and created a lot of the exhibits. They used to build nuclear submarines ! There’s a little periscope in the cockpit of an old nuclear submarine (or whatever you call the spot in a sub where there’s a periscope) that you can look up into Vallejo from!

There must be more. And there should be more! Add suggestions to the comments and I’ll add them to the post!

Historic bricks from San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco’s original City Hall was built (on top of a cemetery!) starting in 1872 and finally opened in 1879, to be actually completed in 1899. (You can see some interesting photos and more history of the old City Hall on FoundSF.) Just a few years later, City Hall was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, collapsing in a huge pile of stone, iron, glass, wood, and brick.

ruins of SF city hall, 1906

My house was built in the late 1880s or early 1890s – though I have not pinned down the exact date, it was definitely here by 1892, built with a few other similar Italianate houses on land next to the original farmhouse on Mission Street. We’re doing some excavating under part of the house, and found some bricks marked with the letters C H in a fancy serif font:

brick marked with a C H

We looked this up hoping to find a magical database of historical brickmarker marks and YES. That exists! At least for California bricks.

Our C H brick was made in the 1870s for San Francisco’s original City Hall! It was probably in that pile of rubble in 1906 (cleaned up by 1909 according to some sources). These bricks were clearly part of a retaining wall which got covered over by some dirt, gravel, and a cobblestone patio (“Belgian brick”) at a later date.

Our bricks database lists them thusly:

Remillard Brick Company
San Rafael, Marin County, CA
1872-1878 for San Francisco City Hall

And there’s further cool info about the Remillard Brick Company from Oakland Localwiki and from Wikipedia!

We found other bricks, stamped CALIFORNIA and with round rivet-like raised dots in the corners, that were part of another layer of patio and wall that is now under the back of our house. The California Bricks database identifies them as California Brick Company and W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company, Niles and Decoto districts, Fremont and Union City, County, CA, 1913-1926.

Around that time, in 1920 or so, a future mayor of San Francisco, John F. Shelley, lived in our house with his parents and siblings. As a young man he drove a bakery delivery wagon, then went to law school, then became head of the bakery delivery wagon drivers’ union, then served in the California Senate and US House of Representatives, then became Mayor of SF.

Danny found us a quote about the C H bricks, which looks like it may be about SF City Hall. I will need to find the book to be sure of the context of the quote, but it’s from Bricks and Brickmaking: A Handbook for Historical Archaeology, by Karl Gurcke:

The initials ‘C. H.,’ impressed in the brick of which our new City Hall is built, put there to denote that they were intended for that edifice, may (should they prove to possess the lasting properties claimed for them) become to the antiquar[ians] of the remote future a source of much worriment as they labor to decipher their probable meaning.

Here we are, the antiquarians of the remote future!

Really it’s hard to express how much I love our 150 year old, C H bricks! I’ll figure out how to work them into our garden somehow after the construction project is done! For now, our back yard is turning into a sort of brick museum.

A day in the life of Capp St. Noisebridge

Noisebridge moved into the new space, what, a year ago or so? Something like that. Because of the pandemic, we have been a little slow settling in, and this winter with the rain and Omicron surge, there wasn’t a ton of activity – a solid core of regulars working to get the space organized, the wood shop even more functional, the giant laser cutter in working order, and so on. I spent Friday and Saturday afternoon at the space and thought I’d report on my day today! In case you are worried about my pandemic surge risk taking I will mention everyone at the space is vaccinated and I stayed outside 95% of the time and wore a well fitted n95 mask!

Friday in between work meetings I cleared an enormous load of junk and trash to the front porch, listened to Claus’s vision of what might happen with the space, emailed an electrician for a quote, arranged for trash pickup today and a plumber to come snake the clogged drain. 272 Capp was some sort of auto repair place for a while, with a big concrete driveway and a rollup door you could drive through. The drain in this “front porch” driveway area has been clogged since the move-in, and we’ve gone through a few attempts to lever up its rusty iron grate to no avail.

First off me and TJ chatted with a guy I know I’ve met before, James, who is a science fiction writer, who let me photograph his amazing “battle jacket” covered in patches for punk bands and nerd things, stopped by and talked about his plans for lenticular printing. I gave him some tips on cheap options for rubber rollers (like for printmaking). Wonder if we will see some nifty lenticular print workshops at the space?

james with patch jacket

The trash pickup guys were intrigued and said they might come back another day for a tour and will tell their boss, who would like the idea of a free workshop.

The heroic plumber who showed up today chiselled and hammered the hell out of the grate, got it unstuck, snaked and hosed out the drain several times (absolutely disgusting smelling motor oil storm drain situation! ) The plumber is now a friend of Noisebridge and I think is going to show up to take a welding lesson.

I took on the top half of a plywood laser-cut obelisk that was in the trash pile (rained on all winter) as my project. It is now spray painted with spare cans of paint & I’m going to add hinges to one panel so it becomes a cabinet, slather it in marine varnish, and put a solar LED light inside.

Justin from Technical Underground spent hours building a giant planter box for the front porch – totally off the cuff out of scrap lumber. It still needs some sealant inside, a bottom shelf, casters so we can wheel it around the patio, paint, a coat of polyurethane, then I’ll fill it with the herbs and succulents that are now in some janky plastic pots.

Have a look at things coming out of our horrible car repair shop storm drain (drains to Mission Creek, I’m afraid)

heroic plumber

Meanwhile people were coming into the space and doing amazing mysterious things. Some 3-D printer stuff was happening, a guy showed up with a box of electronics stuff and god knows what he was up to, someone tried out sewing machines upstairs, a dude showed up with fancy lumber to build himself a desk –

One of the most hilarious interactions went like this, a dude riding by on a bike stopps & yells in, askking if we are open. Yes! Yes we are. “Do you have any electrical engineers here?” Yes probably. Maybe! What’s up. “Can I bring this, well, I have this BOX, I got it at an auction and it’s like, this 80s bullshit device that does something with your Aura, and electricity, and I want to know what it actually *does*.” Ok well how big is this box and can i just say right off, that you cannot leave it here but that does sound … hilarious” “It’s got a little carrying case! I can bring it and show it!” “Bring it a little later like 5 or 6pm when a lot more people will show up!” Hours later dude rolls up on his bike with a sort of thin suitcase and we all cluster round to see the 3-Part Body Charging Molecular Enhancer!!!! Hilarity ensues! It is several glass plates, a palm sized piece of hammered copper soldered to an amp lead, and some laminated instructions. Turns out we are missing the other 2 suitcases with the Transformer thing and the Bulb but the instructions were AMAZING.

diagram of molecular enhancer

I feel that some of the instructions are worth sharing with the world and you will have to imagine my dramatically reading them aloud, lingering suggestively on any mention of rubber or nooses in order to make TJ die inside.

How I Experiment with The 3 Part Body Charger

This is how I start and stop the machine so I don’t feel a zap of current when I start or shut it down.

1. I sit on a plastic chair (plastic does not conduct electricity) or
2. Sometimes I use our sofa. I cover the area I sit on with a kind of rubberized material or thick blanket that does not conduct electric. I remove my wrist watch.
3. I PLUG THE CORD INTO THE 110 WALL POWER SUPPLY I MAKE SURE THE MACHINE IS OFF
4. I place the aluminum & glass part (B) on a clean flat dry floor
5. I position the transformer part (A) as shown in Diagram
6. I place Bulb Part (C) in Foam on floor next to my chair.
7. I insert all 3 plugs in their proper sockets on back panel board as shown on diagram
8. I clean the soles of soles of my bare feet and place only the heels on the aluminum part of the glass plat
9. I tie the string of the Harness on the wire next to the bulb and secure the rubber around my neck this prevents the bulb from breaking if I should drop it.
10. I form a noose from the end of the starting cord and tie it on my right wrist.

Many lines or phrases in BOLD, ITALIC, in RED LETTERS, or ALL THREE with Suspiciously Weird Capitalization and yet a notably correct use of the subjunctive!

As near as I can tell this Molecular Enhancer is the equivalent of slowly licking a 2 volt battery. SADLY, Zach the neighbor on the bicycle only has 1 of the 3 part Body Charger. But we enjoyed this historical tour of someone’s absolutely crazed invention.

Justin Lazerbong brought me a very tasty burrito!

Briefly taught another young person how to use a power drill, left her to drill holes in the Obelisk, and I just kind of enjoyed being like “Here’s a power drill, hold it perpendicular, squeeze gently and get the feel of it , BYE” I think she had fun.

I also sent some innocents who had never done such a thing in their lives before, to a paint store to buy several kinds of paint, which reminded me of a similar good time when I yolo-ed to the e-waste center in my wheelchair trundling an enormous heavy bin on entirely inadequate casters 3 blocks down Capp St. with a fabulous young nerd named Wolf who had (I think) just shown up for the first time that day. Hello youngster we are going on a JOURNEY.

Among the things I gave away at the curb (post trash pickup) were: a pharoah costume in original packaging, cupcake decoration kit, many VHS tapes and DVDs, a bunch of weight lifting gizmos (which sadly, the owner of them showed up several hours later unexpectedly, oops, but noisebridge is not a gym, and they were in the trash pile but I felt bad as he was distressed and explained ot me that when programming, it was important to take breaks and do exercise to keep blood flowing to the brain – sorry dude) Some buckets, some more buckets, gnarly old pieces of lumber that had been in the rain and had nails sticking out, and some sandals. By this time the plumber (still snaking the horrible smelling patio drain out after 2 hours at it) was yelling out in a companionable way to passers by, “HAVE SOME FREE STUFF! YES ! FREE!! FUCK YEAH ITS FREE” unbending a bit from the beginning of the day when he was awkwardly calling me “Miss”.

I tweeted this afternoon to try and remember the fun stuff going on: https://twitter.com/lizhenry/status/1482455008507432963

This post is already too long but SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED and I met like, 20 people and got to hear all about their
projects and beam at them benevolently and share some cookies. And that is what I love about Noisebridge! But most of all I love the feeling of contributing something to society and this city, beyond my own private life, family, home, and job, together with other people.

Moving house and internal geographies

At the start of the year we had no idea we’d be buying a house and moving. January 2nd we impulsively looked a house for sale down the street, loved it, scrambled to get our shit together, made an offer, and bang!!! We have a house. The move-in has been slow as I could not figure out how to manage an all at once pack and move without physically messing myself up in a zillion ways. But now we are more or less done aside from a few plants and a towel rack – then a final cleaning for the garage.

I love the new house so much – it’s a joy – and I never thought we’d be able to buy. We are now in massive debt — a weird feeling. I feel very lucky.

victorian houses and bougainvillea flowers

There is room for me to have a piano and I got a free one (a synthesizer in a nice wooden cabinet) from the local buy nothing group.

Little bits of myself are expanding or morphing as we settle in to the potential of the new space. Different habits start to surface.

Someone asked on Twitter how many times folks have moved in their life. I counted & it would be 28 times.

At Noisebridge at the start of weekly meetings when we went around for introductions Mike K. would always say “I’m not the quartermaster, or the ombudsman” (and I’d think — oh!! i’m both of those things, in this space! a good way of describing those roles) A lot of my brain does that quartermaster role. I have a whole mental map of where everything was in the old house, another of when it moved and to where and sometimes even in what kind of box (!!???) and now am creating a new geography for the new house’s contents.

So when I think “where’s my good scissors?” I get three answers, or sometimes just the location from the old house first. It feels so weird to prune the old map away!

My relation to the larger map has also changed. We are only two blocks away, but we are closer to a lively intersection (sometimes chaotic at night) and a bit further from the posh little shopping area on top of the hill. The sounds and the presence of neighbors are very different. I won’t hear the skateboarders bombing the long hill anymore or the people going up the hill with huge bags and carts of crushed cans to the recycling center on the other side. Instead I get pleasantly louder trolley noises and those late night altercations, and a few more buses (also pleasant to me) and a view of the 7-11 and gas station. After the pandemic the dance club/bar will fire up again — that should be interesting.

I notice different trees, my view of the sky is different, we get more sun (HOORAY!!!) I see the moon from the window, the hills, I can sit out on the front steps and look off far into the distance.

view of hills

From the back windows I can see a slice of downtown, and from the way the hills are shaped, get the visceral feeling of being perched halfway up one side of a valley. The old house was also perched but was smaller than everything around it, and in a position on a steep hillside that meant the range of our view was limited to the block or the houses just surrounding us. So the visible world has expanded.

The first thing I did to change the new house: hired someone to come pave over the gravel pit between the front and back so that I can get my wheelchair into the back yard and ground floor basement. (Still need small ramps built but I have temporary metal ramp to get the chair into shelter.)

Really looking forward to building a nicer little free library! Maybe shaped kinda like our house!!

Justice for George Floyd rally, San Francisco

Home again after being at today’s rally at City Hall. I went out in support of the protests across the US right now calling for justice in the brazen police murder of George Floyd but also so many other police murders. If you are looking for information or a way to support have a look at the Black Disability Collective, donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund or one of the orgs they recommend. One more quick note please be aware a huge number of police murders are of disabled people and specifically of black and indigenous disabled people of color. Read up on it!!!!! Essential part of understanding disability justice!!!!

On to my report on the rally and march.

BART and bus were not crowded. I wore a cloth mask over my n95. Hit the Civic Center farmers market, got flowers and some cherries, and then was hanging on the lawn, people on the grass reading or also eating their farmers market cherries. As the rally started, I blocked the street on one side of City Hall with a few others (I’m a very effective traffic stopper). A large amount of police transport vans and white prison buses were gathered along the other end of City Hall, and I spotted a lot of cops as lookouts on top of the buildings surrounding us.There were speeches from the steps fo City Hall and then some chanting. Then I sat with this guy Hollywood as an enormous line of hundreds of cops quick-marked in lockstep across the center of the park, half splitting off to the other side and half coming to our side, where they assumed another formation half looking outward and half looking inward to the rally. They were in light vest armor with huge batons.

political march in downtown sf

This group took off marching down Market Street around 3:30pm, with maybe 50 cops in front and 50-100 in back. I ran into Yoz and Mikki and marched with them a while. I went from there to Embarcadero, slowly, then back along Market where I fell in with TWO different giant multi-thousand person marches. It was a lovely afternoon and there was great goodwill through the crowds, people handing out water bottles, the chants not being pointless, had some good conversations every time I paused to hang out with another wheelchair user. People’s signs were also really sweet and touching. There is just a lot of good fellow feeling as well as shared pain, anger, fear, determination.

marchers on market street

As I went back looking for an open BART station, Market Street was starting to be lined with cops in full riot gear. I would pause every half block or so if there was a group of them together and try to talk to them. Man what are you doing. You’re guarding this Old Navy rather than helping people in a difficult time. You don’t have to be a cop. You could get another job, you could do something better with your life, it is not too late. You’re young, you’re healthy! You can do anything with your life! You don’t have to do this, even right now. You could quit. You could join us and try to build a better world.

Well, it made me feel better, and no one beat me up for it, so. I actually felt anguish for them as they stood their in their storm trooper armor. They will beat someone tonight, they will throw tear gas or shoot rubber bullets, they’ll put out someone’s eye, either just because they’re amped up, because they think they have to defend a fucking MALL SHOP, or because they are full of hate and violence, to show off for each other how tough they are, and it will do damage to their own selves in the process, as well as to living people and to the fabric of our society. I felt a sort of motherly pain for them. I’m sorry that sounds cheesy but it’s true I felt like an old crone looking at fresh-faced evil not unable to be redeemed.

Many people took pictures of me from the sidewalk as I marched, as they were doing video or snapshots of the crowd I could see them start at the sight of me (I’m really something!!) and zero in and then just follow me trying to get the right shot of the wheelchair lady. I don’t mind, I’m representing.

Then home via BART. Take note if you are downtown that Powell and Civic Center BART are now closed, and I heard but didn’t verify that Embarcadero was closed. I am worried about the amount of people who may get trapped in downtown with riot cops ready to mix it up. It is going to be scary tonight.

Despite everyone telling me to stay safe I felt it was important for my own conscience to go out into the street and put my body and health on the line for black, indigenous, and other people of color, for their safety and freedom and health. We need to defend our communities. None of us are safe if we are not all safe.

The last few days I’ve been just donating to bail funds but that has a horrible feel of “Like Uber, but for activism” in that I stay home because it’s “not safe” for me, (risk factors of the rona, or from some fear of being disabled in a riot, and definitely the fear of being shackled ot a hospital bed which seems to be what happens to wheelchair users who are arrested) when it’s actually not safe for anyone and the whole idea I get to opt in to be “safe” while tweeting revolutionary thoughts like a vanguardist while others risk their lives and they I pay them, is too gross for me to deal with. At least get my ass out there for one day. I’m not even missing work. Over and out!

liz with protest sign

I met a fabulous storyteller

This afternoon I was sweeping up leaves from the sidewalk when an old guy stopped to remark on how he thought it was a pretty house. He lives around the block on Santa Marina and has lived there since 1952 and in 1960 he nearly bought this house but his wife didn’t like it. We continued chatting.

I mentioned the history of the house as an earthquake shack. He told me how he moved here in 1947, worked 6 days a week very long hours and earned 14 dollars a week, but that was very quickly enough to buy a house. His house was $9500 and soon he had enough money to buy a second house. And he’ll tell me something about it! We settled onto the sidewalk bench which I built specially for people to rest there when going up the hill, and I was prepared for pretty much anything at this point, because he was charming and rather intense. The story went something like this:

The house is at 18th and Church, in a little, in a little street near there,
“In the alley by the Mission? Mission Dolores!”
Yes, yes! You know! The Mission. The cemetery there.
“Yes I’ve been to the cemetery, it’s very strange, and sad, they enslaved people, a lot of people died”
Yes that’s right. The indigenous people died there. They’re in the cemetery. Anyway, in the 50s, 60s, I’m under the house, it’s, I’m on my knees, it’s very small,
“In the crawlspace?”
Yes! I’m crawling under there, I’m digging, it’s very dark, with the electrician, who is of Caucasian descent, European descent. And it’s very dark. He screams! He gives out a big scream! Then silence. Nothing.
“Did he find bones?”
No, no bones, I crawl around, I’m yelling Davy! Davy! That was his name. Davy (Scheule?) He was of European descent. And he fell down a big fucking hole!
“Oh my god!”
It is the well from the mission, Under my house! My house is built in 1750, and they don’t cover up the well!
Anyway, he was down the well, very far! I got out and got someone else, he brought a light. And we got him out of the well. It was very hard, and it took a long time. We got him out.
“Did he die?”
No, he was ok. And I tell a guy from the city! He’s of caucasian descent, this man. He comes, himself, with a crew, and he goes, himself, under the house! And he makes a stairway with the rope, a —
“A rope ladder?”
Yes, a ladder with the rope, then he goes down into the well, himself. And he comes up and has something, maybe, gold, but he says it’s his because he found it. I told him he can’t come back any more because I’m mad he took the things from the well! And, he reports me to the city because the house has no foundation.
“OMG. Coins? Money? What was it?”
I don’t know. Maybe money from 1900s, but older, it would be something else! So then I am building the foundation. I find the bricks, bricks put out for like to walk to the well, from the Mission. It’s a path to the well. Then I’m digging, I’m putting cement. And I dig these big wooden, like this, but big (indicating a 2 foot by two foot square beam) this big, from here, to that door (like 10 feet or so)
“Beams?”
Yes, big beams, of wood, very solid, very good, under the ground for 100 years. And then I find more of them, I dig them out. What they’re for I don’t know.
“Wow!”
Then I sell them, someone buys this wood for one thousand dollars! I don’t know why. I know things, not the things like this, but I know to fish, to grow, to build things. I’m not of European descent, I’m indigenous. So, I don’t know why they buy the wood, back then. What they do with it. I don’t let them go under the house any more.
“So, did you sell the house?”
No, I still have it.
“OK!!!!! So!!!!! Can I go down the well? Wow you are a really good storyteller! ”

*fin*

Then he gave me his card, in case I need advice in building or getting city permits which he’s great at because he’s been doing it for 50 years. We shook hands several times and I thanked him for the fantastic story!!! How did he know I love local history.

I have such good luck with random encounters and I want to be friends with this cool dude now. He is 86! And still contracting (with his son).

I guess all the houses right there around the Mission Dolores must be on top of some amazing stuff and archeologists have likely poked at it over the years!

Nice encounters

On the way to swim laps at Balboa pool I was congratulating myself, “Great how I didn’t even have to think to do this, just pick up my nicely organized swim bag with everything in it, and go!” As I started to get undressed in the locker room, realized I had forgotten to bring any towels.

Everyone in the locker room told me about times they had done this and just dried off with their tshirt (I did not look forward to doing this and then putting the shirt on!) Asked the lifeguard if I could borrow a towel and just bring it back washed the next week and he found me one (and took it back afterwards to put with the lifeguard’s laundry).

So kind of him! Must remember to bring cookies or something next time as a thank-you.

My swim was good; despite a nasty sciatica flare-up, I went 900 meters, the last 100 without using my legs since I was hurting but feeling stubborn and wanted to hit 1000. Then came to my senses and stopped. Listened to Prince as I swam (waterproof ipod + headphones) and then, appropriately, “Go Slow” by Fela Kuti. Impossibilityismalogicalization!

Knocked off work a bit early to grocery shop, realized maybe i should have a nice afternoon of it, so I took the bus to 18th and went to Bi-Rite (for the nicer selection of flowers than Good Life), got pastries from Tartine and took them to the park. Some kids came to dramatic trick stops at Dolores & 18th as I crossed the street and as one of them wiped out I saved his skateboard from flying out into traffic.

I picked out a sunny spot with a view in the middle of the park near the statue of Miguel Hidalgo (Libertador). Just then a young man approached me with a very open and innocent aspect wanting to ask me a question if I didn’t mind. I took an internal stance somewhere between wary, patient, and open to things myself – what was he going to ask me? Wheelchair related? Asking for money with a story behind it? Just wants directions to somewhere?

“Sure, what’s up?” “Well I’m from out of town and heard that you can just be hanging out in this park and people will sell you weed but is there a close by place I can buy some?” “Well that’s true but I haven’t seen anyone and it’s pretty random. All I’ve seen is a pizza and beer guy.” His shy, sweet friend then came up to join him and we discussed local dispensaries and ways to walk there. I ended up sending them on their way to Apothecarium, with handshakes, smiles, and Alex’s assurance that he would buy me a blunt and be right back. (Alex from L.A. and friend Roseanne never returned but I didn’t mind and hope they had a lovely afternoon.)

Later when Danny joined me in the park I told him I was somewhat honored to be the person asked where to buy weed (Smart since crips always know, right?) He side eyed my pants (which are completely ridiculous instagram ad pants made entirely of fabric patches badly sewn together) and leather jacket. I guess???!!! Maybe I just look like a NICE PERSON.

I ended up working in the evening to make up for my afternoon of swimming and park-lounging, and because it just needed to be done so why not.

Looking forward to a long weekend of organizing stuff (bookshelves and cabinets and garage) and working on my game project.

Art expedition

The other day I took the afternoon off and went on an expedition with friends for Tara’s birthday. We went to the Museum of Craft and Design first – two exhibitions, one of large pieces that kind of explored different materials, and the other of ceramic sculptures by Wanxin Zhang. I liked both exhibits. In the first I especially felt happy looking at the giant mat of tangled pink thread by Mi-Kyoung Lee. It was so viscerally soft and fluffy and I thought about how you’d make it and the skill to spread it evenly and get an interesting texture. I could practically feel the process in my hands. The coral-like ceramic extrusions with light behind them were also pleasing – going back and forth and seeing how they changed depending on perspective.

The ceramic sculptures were great. Tara remarked that she doesn’t usually like representations of women made by male artists but these were great. I agreed – he not only avoided the usual annoyances but had something interesting to say in the sculptures. The female figures were profound. Here’s one called Mulan (Pussy Hat II),

mulan ceramic sculpture

I liked studying the textures of the ceramic & how they were finished in some places and then became rough and slabby and thumbed-looking.

The museum curator or docent giving us a tour mentioned that the sculptor often creates people in this pose with their hands somewhat held away form the body but at their sides and that it is homage to the Tank Man of Tiananmen Square as he carried his grocery bags. Once she pointed that out I really saw and felt it! Wow.

We had ice cream, then went to the Minnesota Street Project galleries which are spacious & beautiful. They were setting up a very fancy looking catered dinner in the central space and as we rolled around to all the galleries (keeping in mind we were hot, disheveled, and all 4 in powerchairs and I had my boots off, attractive pedicure in the breeze… perhaps a bit disreputable) we realized that the fancy dinner was for Christie’s which had some sort of special event coming up with the world’s fucking fanciest paintings, which I admired (Renoir, Monet, other fancypants stuff) Also caught a whole gallery of amazing photos by Louis Stettner and a Ferlinghetti exhibit which were mostly trash (but, fine, homage to the beats and hippies…. ok) The only good Ferlinghetti painting was 20K but… weirdly i could have more or less afforded some of the Stettner photos. Then I thought about, if I were going to buy something amazing yet might possibly be able to “afford” it, what would it be? (Answer: Something by Francesca Woodman and/or Sandow Birk.) Fortunately our cyborg bohemianism was welcomed by the fancypants gallery people and I did not (despite great temptation) steal any of the flower arrangements from the catering carts.

It was so lovely spending the day with friends despite that we all nearly died of heatstroke and the bad pavements of the Dogpatch.

crip crew

Sturdy machines glide through the water

Swimming last week 3 times a day at the hot springs place in Calistoga really got me going. I did (slow) laps in the olympic size hot springs pool, with that feeling that if my ankles and knees would stay strong I could keep swimming forever. Also I realized that because I can really swim again instead of just slowly walking around or doing stretches, the water doesn’t have to be body heat warm, maybe.

Monday I did nearly 1000 yards (a kiloyard? what is this in meters? shall i switch my fitbit to meters???) and then later felt like i was gonna die from the ankles upwards. Today I cooled my jets a little and swam 750 yards. Headphones in, waterproofed ipod shuffle clipped to my beefcake unisex bathing suit strap, feeling like a tireless otter! Trembling afterward. Noodly limbed. Felt fantastic.

I got the KT train slooooowwwwwly going up Ocean Avenue, got out at Castro, and had a burger at Orphan Andys. The naked faerie dudes were out in full force today in jane warner plaza (I have missed them) but then I saw cops pull up 🙁 So wrong… it’s our culture! Get out of the Castro if you don’t want to see some old tanning-bed-leathery guy’s junk hanging out! Have a little respect ffs!!! Annnyway I had to work (yes i worked while having a burger I had so much shit to do!!)

Then I went to Cliffs to get a diamond tipped drill bit so I can drill through the cute but deadly for the root-rot flowerpots which lack a drainage hole. And some cracked mugs that I put succulents into. But… what is this…. in the cliffs window! A hat shaped like a happy narwhal?????!!!!! I tried it on. Then a whale hat. Fun but not quite … somehow not satisfying… I looked up and BEHOLD there it was…. heavens opening and light pouring down like the gayest thing you have ever seen …. at the top of the spinning hat rack – A giant flamingo hat. Well made too with a poseable wire neck & beak, and feathery-furred wings that are flappable. Even before I got the nice bear dude who works there to get it down for me I was belly laughing uncontrollably at how this was going to roll. And yes. It was magnificent. Best thing ever. Bear clerk goes “And you know what else *wink* Inside… inside the hat… it has a SECRET POCKET!” Oh what. Someone saw into my very soul. I mean what could be better. Maybe if it were reversible and the other side was a giant satin vulva I guess. Secret pocket, good enough! “Shall I just cut that tag off for you as I think you may be wearing this out of the store?” “Why yes, ” *hysterical doubling over laughing with tears in my eyes* “Yes please! OMFG I’m never taking this hat off again!” The head and neck of the flamingo are well balanced and you can feel the weight of it bobbing gently.

Bus driver, mouth open: “What… ok now what kind of swan is that you have on your head ma’am” “A swan of ULTIMATE DIGNITY!” “It is that. Well don’t let it fly while it’s on my bus” “I just got it, across the street! What’s gonna happen, someone might stare at me, right?” *bus driver finally loses it and cracks a smile*

most people: (refusing to make eye contact because i am probably a big ol douchebag (true))

a few, good people, kindred spirits: *eyes light up and face splits into a huge grin!!!!!*

I love this hat!

flamingo hat animated

Please please let me not fuck up my legs in some mysterious screwed up way and let me keep swimming and get my legs stronger. I haven’t felt this good since 2011.