Growing by the Bay

Month: April 2007

Oakland Hillbillies

max baer, jr.The provocative Mr. Charles Barkley, an NBA legend in his own estimation and currently a TNT network commentator, referred a moment ago to “Golden State” as a “a “smoky little town” full of hillbillies. Certainly an original take from Barkley (who was born and raised in rural Leeds, Alabama), as you’d be hard-pressed to find a home in the Oakland Hills for under half a million dollars.

Still, I can think of one Oakland Hillbilly. Max Baer, Jr. (Maximilian Adalbert Baer, Jr.), was born in Oakland in 1937. His father was the heavyweight boxer Max Baer, Sr. At the University of Santa Clara he studied business administration and philosophy, but he ended up pursuing a career as an actor. His best-known role? Jethro Bodine on The Beverly Hillbillies.

It would be a great part for Barkley — known as the Round Clown of Rebound — if they ever do another remake.

Local Church Urges Spanking

Bethel Baptist Church in my home town of El Sobrante in the East Bay tells parents that failing to spank their children amounts to “opposing God’s will.” The church hands out pamphlets to parents that recommend “using a ‘rod’ or flexible stick to swat children until their will is broken.” (The church does, however, explictly caution against the use of 2 by 4s.)

Bethel pastor David Sutton explains that “corporal punishment is not something you do to the child, it’s something you do for the child.”

Sounds to me like Sutton is on the wrong end of that flexible stick.

Via Inside Bay Area

Bay Respect

Thanks to Eruthros for pointing out these two Bay Area-related videos. They may at first seem unrelated, but both are calls for respect. First, a music video for Zion I‘s “The Bay.” In the video the hip hop group drives around the Bay Area, through many of the locations referenced in the song.

The second video is dedicated to the Golden State Warriors’ long-suffering scoring guard Jason Richardson, who has finally made the NBA playoffs for the first time this year. Nice sound track. There’s a bit of hip hop in this video too.

Deconstructing Casa Sanchez Salsa

casa sanchez salsa

Casa Sanchez, based in San Francisco, makes some of the best chips and salsa around. They have a restaurant at 2778 24th Street (which has been getting some negative reviews). But their main business these days must be their salsa and chips for distribution, which are excellent. They offer both fresh and roasted salsas. Now Chowhound is trying to reverse engineer the fresh salsa. Click the link to see how they’re doing.

According to the packaging, the ingredients are “tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, garlic, citric acid, and sea salt.” Should be easy, right? I think what makes it tricky is getting the right mix of peppers. La Chica Guapa and I once translated a book called the Mexico the Beautiful Cookbook by Susanna Palazuelos. There is an enormous variety of peppers available for Mexican cooking, and the art of combining them requires experience and discrimination.

Matthiola incana “Perennial White Stock”

matthiola incana

Here’s a good plant for Bay Area gardens. Most people probably know the common stock that is grown as an annual in many parts of the country. This version, perhaps close to the wild species found in the eastern Mediterranean, is a perennial in most of the Bay Area. It has a woody stem and grayish green foliage. It grows to about 2½ feet. In the summer it gets fragrant white flowers on short spikes. It can be grown from seed, or it’s available in 4-inch containers from Annie’s Annuals. Full sun, average water.

Bay Area Maps Online

san francisco region mapsBay City Guide has posted a selection of useful Bay Area maps in pdf format.

Included are:

  • San Francisco street map
  • San Francisco MUNI map
  • Bay Area / Northern California map
  • Golden Gate Park / Union Square map (interesting concept)
  • Fisherman’s Wharf map
  • BART map
  • Ferry map

Golden State Warriors

boomdizzleThe Bay Area’s NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, must be contending for some kind of record for futility. They’ve missed the playoffs 25 out of the past 30 years. Despite this record, they somehow have retained a rabid fan base.

Of the five times the Warriors have made the POs in the past three decades, four were under coach Don Nelson. Now they have a good shot at making it again, after an absence of twelve years — once again under Nelson, who returned this year to again coach the team.

With two games to play the Warriors hold the eighth and final playoff spot. On Tuesday they face the Mavericks, owners of the NBA’s best record. Can they prevail?

Spring Garden Party at Annie’s Annuals

annie's spring partyAnnie’s Annuals in Richmond (at 740 Market Avenue) is holding their spring party this weekend, April 14-15. They will have free “supermarket sweep” raffles every hour — winners get 15 minutes of free shopping. There’s also a “gardening olympics” (“no athletic ability necessary”). Plus Calypso music, complimentary snacks and drinks, and gardening talks, as well as an Easter egg hunt, face painting, a bunny petting corner, coloring table, and sandbox for kids.

Annie’s specializes in unusual annuals and perennials, including cottage garden heirlooms and hard-to-find California native wildflowers. Annie’s plants are grown outdoors, not in greenhouses, so they tend to be tough. And they’re not sprayed with hormones as is the case with most commercial growers.

It’s a great place to pick up plants that you won’t find in retail box stores. But beware, at $5 or so per 4-inch pot, you can spend a lot in a short time.

The full schedule of events is here.

San Francisco Street Art

A youtuber named Ryan Erickson, whose handle is AlwaysThrowROCK, has posted an interesting video of San Francisco graffiti and street art. The video is “dedicated to those who make San Francisco a city of unbridled love compassion and beauty.” As a local I would have liked to have known the locations of the images; still, it’s an interesting and extensive collection, lovingly assembled.

Celebrating Sisters

sisters of perpetual indulgence

click photo for larger view

Laughing Squid has posted a notice of the 28th Anniversary celebration of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The free event, called Night of the Living Easter, will be held in Dolores Park from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm on Sunday, April 8.

“The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence celebrate our 28th year of raising money, eyebrows (and a smidge of Hell), all for you, our community,” the announcement says. “As always, the event is free to all, and donations are gladly accepted. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to pick up some really cool Sisters’ schwag including t-shirts, buttons and indulgences! Remember: Salvation comes to those who bring trash bags and clean up after themselves. Night Of The Living Easter is a Perpetual Indulgence production.”

Two of the sisters kindly gave me permission to take the photo above during an antiwar rally in January 2003.

San Jose Flea Market

cherimoyasI’ve never been to the San Jose Flea Market, but after seeing Jennifer Yin’s photos I just might have to make the trip. Founded in 1960, the flea market boasts eight miles of “colorful alleys and treasure-laden corridors,” according to its official website.

The market gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp (links below), but Jennifer Yin writes “I grew up in San Jose, and am proud of it. Here’s one reason why: its flea market….” (For the full report visit her flickr set.)

The market is said to receive four million visitors a year, so it might not be the best place to search for solitude. But “the friendly, experienced Flea Market staff has been assisting and successfully dealing with large crowds for more than 40 years,” so if you’re looking for produce, clothing, furniture, automobiles, power tools, home and audio electronics … well hell, just about anything, it sounds like this might be a good place to look.

The Flea Market Inc.
1590 Berryessa Rd.
San Jose, CA. 95133
(408) 453-1110
1(800) Big-Flea (244-3532)


cherimoyas photo by Jennifer Yin (detail)



Burrito Eater

burrito eater
photo from is an incredibly thorough guide to the city’s taquerias and burrito restaurants. Through today it has reviewed 454 burritos since New Year’s Day 2003.

Top-rated? Taqueria La Castro, 4001 18th St. Runner-up? Papalote, 3409 24th St.:

Papalote’s burritos are rendered with such mechanical consistency, some have wondered if there’s a mustachioed robot assembling them in an unseen corner of their tiny kitchen. The victor of our 2004 postseason tournament and close runner-up in our 2006 Slab Scrum, Papalote has become a quietly infallible kingpin of the Mission’s vaunted taqueria scene — slightly off the beaten path, humbly sized, family operated, and pretty much a sure thing every time. Pancho Villa may have the security guard and the gymnasium-size dining hall, La Taqueria may have the tacky neon sign proclaiming its burritos the greatest things since sliced sesos, and Cancun may have the poor white hipster cred. In our book, Papalote steamhammers them all. Specify a foil wrap, if that’s your game of cards, and check the rotating art exhibits on display. Breakfast available. Credit cards accepted.

UPDATE: Gridskipper has posted a good page on SF burritos, keyed to a map of the city.

Emporium Dome, Westfield Centre (Bloomingdale’s), San Francisco

the historic emporium dome

click any photo for a larger view (via flickr)

Recently I visited the Westfield Centre in downtown San Francisco, mainly to get a look at the historic dome that was saved from the old Emporium department store that occupied the same location. I had a personal reason for checking it out, which I’ll get to in a minute.

The Emporium, founded in 1896 in San Francisco, was once the major competitor to Macy’s (and I. Magnin) in the region. In 1927 the Emporium merged with an Oakland-based store, Capwell’s, to form Emporium – Capwell. In 1995 the store was bought out by Federated Department Stores, the parent company of both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s (among others).

On the store’s 100th birthday in 1996, the old Emporium flagship across from the Powell Street cable car turnaround on Market Street — which the company had claimed was the largest department store west of Chicago — was closed. It remained sadly vacant until 2006. Then, in September 2006, Federated opened a Bloomingdale’s on the location as the co-anchor (with the previously opened Nordstom’s) of an urban shopping complex pretentiously called the Westfield Centre.

westfield centre

The Westfield Centre is glitzy, soulless urban schlock. As you can see from the photo at left, it houses some movie theaters, which I haven’t visited yet. The Bloomingdale’s is huge, second in size only to theNew York store, and I suppose it serves as a comfort store for transplanted New Yorkers who crave the consumerist outlets of their past.

It’s probably a fine store, but I was mostly interested in the building’s main historic feature, its dome, which is all that was retained from the old Emporium, other than the exterior facade.

Disappointingly, only glimpses of the dome can be caught from lower floors.

On the upper levels, however, the dome and rotunda can be enjoyed from comfortable chairs, which I suppose would be a pleasant enough place to relax on days when the weather drives you inside.

Part of the reason I wanted to check out the dome and see what Federated had done with the old building is that the Emporium was my first employer when I first moved to San Francisco. Back then the Emporium used to host a carnival on its roof at Christmastime, complete with a full-sized ferris wheel and other rides, food venders, and more (one year they hoisted a working cable car up the twelve stories to the roof). My job was a temporary one — I was their Santa Claus Manager: sort of a stage manager for the Christmas schtick. About half of my Santa Clauses were members of the comedy group Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater (not “theatre” as Westfield would no doubt spell it). Some of the better-known roles of members of the group were Randee of the Redwoods (once a regular on MTV), Ian Schoales (who comments on PBS), and Dr. Science (he knows more than you do). Ian Schoales (Merle Kessler) maintains a blog.


Below: Santa Claus material??? Photo of Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater by Manoj Patel.


link: memories of the Emporium

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