Growing by the Bay

Month: October 2007

Day of Dead reading (with altars, food, and drink) at Chronicle Books

A book launch party for our book of translations of Latin American literature will be held this Thursday at 6:30 pm at Chronicle Books, 680 Second Street (between Brannan and Townsend). Below is a screen shot of an email announcement from the Center for the Art of Translation.

day of dead reading in san francisco

The cool image is based on loteria cards, of course. In case you can’t read it, the text says “Celebrate Día de los Muertos with Gabriel García Marquez, Julio Cortázar, Senel Paz, and other great Latin American writers from the past and present. Join the Center at a book launch party for our latest collection, New World/New Words: Recent Writing from the Americas, edited by Thomas Christensen.

An after-work fiesta with traditional Día de los Muertos altars, food and drink from your favorite Mission District haunts, and a bilingual reading by local writers and translators as well as students from the Center’s Poetry Inside Out (PIO) program. The Center will also receive an award from the American Translators Association honoring PIO.

Thursday, NOVEMBER 1, 6:00 pm
Doors open at 6:00 pm, reading begins at 6:30 pm Chronicle Books, 680 Second Street (between Brannan and Townsend), SF
$5-10 suggested donation Copies of the book will be available for purchase at a special discounted price This event is wheelchair accessible
Parking: Free street parking after 6:00pm. Paid parking at US Parking, 136 Townsend Street.
From BART: Exit Montgomery Street station, walk 6 blocks down Second Street to Chronicle Books.
For more information, visit “

Biking the San Francisco Bay

Biking the San Francisco coast is a great idea (in the dry season), and Suite101 published an article about the subject a few years ago. It’s not a bad little piece, although the title, “Cycling the Coast in San Francisco,” is not very accurate. The author, Jill Florio, doesn’t bike the coast at all, but instead travels a small distance around the San Francisco Bay, from the city to Tiburon. Someone I work with (shown below) frequently commutes by bike to and from Tiburon (arriving in the office by 7:30 am), so this is clearly not a very long trip.

Still, it’s good to be reminded that if you’re traveling to the city you don’t need to bring your own bike, as you can rent one here. In 2001, when the article was published, an Elite Hybrid with front shocks for city touring could be rented for $38/day from Blazing Saddles.

cyclistFlorio also reminds us that you can bike from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge and then return via ferry if you wish. (Ferries stop in Marin at Sausalito, Larkspur, and Tiburon. In the East Bay they go to Vallejo, Oakland, and Alameda). From Tiburon you can also take your bike on a ferry to Angel Island, where cars aren’t allowed (I want to do this!). The ferries contain racks for bikes.

Florio says that “San Fran traffic reminded me of driving in Mexico.” Which I can understand, but if you’ve traveled in Mexico you need to to be aware that the roads there are better. (Incidentally, to my ear the phrase “San Fran” grates worse than “Frisco,” which at least sounds either historic or trashy depending on your point of view.)

She also remarks, “The Golden Gate Bridge is a misnomer, to my thinking [can a bridge be a misnomer?]. It’s not golden at all.” You think? Maybe that’s because the name refers not to the bridge but to the entrance to the Bay, which was called the Golden Gate long before the bridge existed. Why is this misconception so common? You would think enough pictures of the bridge had been published by now that people would stop expecting it to be golden.

It was the photographer Dorothea Lange who convinced the powers that be to leave the bridge its reddish color (the color of the underpainting on the Bay Bridge). But that’s a story for another time.

Headlines of the times

Dateline Oakland
Murder Suspect Identified through Gang’s MySpace Page

(Is there any need to read the story?)



This pair decided a while back to hang out on a telephone pole outside my door. The big guy liked to hold a pose for long intervals with his wings outstretched. What does that behavior signify?

The large birds are pretty graceful, but I have to say it’s a weird sensation to look out the bathroom window and see that wingspread, not to mention the bare necks and beedy eyes.

On a related note, every day lately on the way into the city we pass a very large hawk sitting on the concrete lip of the appropriately named flyway that carpools use near the bridge approach.

The Noe Valley Voice

noe valley voice

The Noe Valley Voice, in publication since 1977, seems to be a good example of a neighborhood publication. I would do some things differently from a design point of view, but the content seems on the whole to be earnest and real.

Noe Valley, which is named after one of the Spanish alcaldes around the time of the U.S. takeover, is a diverse community located on the eastern slopes of Twin Peaks, near the lower Mission. It boasts some fine Victorian houses as well as some nondescript later-twentieth-century schlock. The main commercial district is located on 24th Street. Years ago Noe Valley had a kind of granny glasses and granola image — this was probably more a stereotype than a reality — but more recently has tended upscale.

According to the Voice, a one-bedroom apartment in Noe Valley currently costs around $2000 a month, and a two-bedroom $3000. Can the community retain its character with such pricey rents?

Best new restaurants in SF

Esquire magazine’s 2007 list of the best new restaurants in the U.S. includes two from San Francisco: LarkCreekSteak, and Cafe Majestic. I haven’t tried either of these. Does anyone have any experiences to report?

1906 Earthquake photos

1906 earthquake and fire, view from golden gate park

The U.S. Geological Survey Photographic Library includes 301 historic photos of the great April 18, 1906, San Francisco earthquake and its immediate aftermath. Shown is a view of the fiery city from Golden Gate Park.

Sites we like: Laughing Squid

Laughing Squid — devoted to “art, culture and technology from San Francisco and beyond” — is one of the best regional sites, because they have got blogging down: posts are colorfully illustrated, just the right length, and written with an engaging conversational tone. In general I’m not too fond of sites with black backgrounds. Yes, the black set off many (though not all) images effectively, but reversed-out type is just harder to read on a regular basis. Nonetheless, Laughing Squid makes it all work. They are one of the most consistent of San Francisco sites. Click the screenshot to visit the site:

laughing squid

Warriors World

Okay, here’s a rare FriscoVista sports post. The only sport I really follow is professional basketball, and my team is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors forum I like is This recommendation comes with a warning: a lot of these guys are quarrelsome, obnoxious, boorish, ignorant, sophomoric, and crude. Several posters are homophobic, and occasionally some idiot will post racist or misogynistic content. And the mood of the board swings wildly: after every loss they want to fire the coach and trade all the players, and after every win they expect to go to the NBA finals. But the board should not be judged on the basis of a few loose canons. These guys are avid about their team, and I like this site better than the more antiseptic Golden State of Mind. There are some contributors here who are pretty knowledgeable about the NBA. Click the screenshot to visit the site.

Joseph Cornell exhibition overview

The SFMOMA exhibition page.

Fire at Original Joe’s

I was at the main branch of the SF Library when this dubious-looking character begins to strike up a conversation. One adopts a veneer of reserve after being accosted by street types a few too many times, but this fellow seemed to have something urgent to report. “Ya know Zrignljos?” he said. “What?” “Zringnljos! The restrunt! Over there!” he pointed vaguely. “Zringnljos! Ya know!” Um, yeah,” I replied. “Well, it just burned down! I was there! It burned down! Big fire!”

It was true. Original Joe’s restaurant was shut down by fire and will be closed for at least a couple of months. The restaurant was a Tenderloin institution, having been in continuous operation for 70 years. This will be its longest shut-down ever.

Chronicle Staff Writers Kevin Fagan and Stacy Finz have the story at SFGate:

“The pipe from the charcoal burner started making a roaring noise, so we called the Fire Department,” said longtime waiter Roger Miranda. “That’s always a bad noise. When the smoke started, we ran out as fast as we could.” The charcoal burner is always lit on Fridays to cook steak and fish, Miranda said.

While Miranda was helping evacuate the 21 workers in the restaurant, waiter Sergio Morales dashed upstairs to the 30-room, low-rent residential Moderne Hotel that occupies the second floor of the two-story Original Joe’s building.

“I ran down the hallways, banging on doors and telling everyone, ‘Get out! Get out!’ and then I got out, too,” Morales said.

One man, however, headed up instead of down – hotel manager Dennis Rindell. He hit the roof, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed its contents down the flue.

It didn’t work. He was pulled off the roof by firefighters using an extension ladder.

“The flames and the smoke kept coming, and I couldn’t stand it any more,” Rindell said as he stood on Taylor Street sucking air off an oxygen mask.

Weekend getaways from San Francisco

pelican at santa cruz boardwalk

Carrie Katz has a pretty good summary of weekend getaways from the city.

I photographed the pelican at right at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

>> POSTING WILL BE LIGHT for a bit at friscovista while I am on the road.

Latin American literature at LitQuake

Beginning at 8:00 on Saturday, October 13, I’ll be reading with Elizabeth Bell, Michael Koch, Anita Segástegui, and John Oliver Simon. The event will be at Encantada Gallery, 908 Valencia Street.

Rebranding Boalt Hall

Why UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall needed to rebrand I can’t imagine — the school is already one of the country’s best-known and most respected law schools. But I guess there’s hardly anyone these days who is immune to the siren song of “rebranding,” one of the most pervasive of business fads. For whatever reason, Boalt — which got its old name from judge John Henry Boalt, whose widow donated most of the money to build the Boalt Memorial Hall of Law in 1911 — felt the need, and they paid a consultant around $25,000 to come up with a new name. According to Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. , the money was well spent to come up with UC Berkeley School of Law.

San Francisco geeks are “best in breed”

wikipedia logoThe Wikimedia foundation — all six employees — is packing up its bags and moving from St. Petersburg to San Francisco, supposedly to “create a larger brand.” But Wikipedia is already one of the top three Google results for just about anything you search for. How can you improve on that?

San Francisco “is really the place to be,” explained founder Founder Jimmy Wales. “We’re a major internet brand and this is where a lot of the major brands are located.” Florence Devouard, chairman of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, added that the city offers “best-in-breed online talent.”

Wales said he would like to expand Wikipedia in Asian and Africa. I don’t think being in SF will help with Africa much. It’s true we’re a few time zones closer to Asia. But I thought the internet was supposed to largely negate such advantages …


Litquake is under way. This ideo emphasizes its unorthodox venues. This Saturday I’m reading at one in the Mission, but I forget where — will post in a couple days.

Are there great white sharks in San Francisco Bay?

Good question! And here is the answer:

Find more videos like this on


Low-Altitude San Francisco

Aerial photos, a flickr set. Shown: Golden Gate Park, looking southeast.

golden gate park

Congratulations, Cardinal

The Stanford football team, a 40 point underdog, just upset the number one ranked team, USC.

Sobrante Ridge

Most guides will have you enter the Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve from Coach Drive in Carriage Hills, but if you enter from the El Sobrante side — the trail head is at the end of Heavenly Ridge Lane — a short hike past the endangered Alameda Manzanita will take you to the top of the ridge, where a selection of pictnic tables awaits you. A view of Mt. Tamalpais lies to the west.

sobrante ridge view to west: mt. tam and marin county

To the east is Mount Diablo, and to the south Wildcat Canyon.

sobrante ridge view to south: wildcat canyon

You can descend to Carriage Hills to the north, if you wish.

carriage hills from sobrante ridge

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

hardly strictly bluegrass festival 2007San Francisco’s long-standing tradition of free music in the park continues this weekend with the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Some of the artists who will appear include Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Boz Scaggs and the Blue Velvet Band, Earl Scruggs, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Jorma Kaukonen, Los Lobos (?!), Michelle Shocked, T Bone Burnett, and many more. Dowloadable programs and more information here.

Tule Elk at Point Reyes

tule elk near point reyes lighthouse

These handsome bucks were part of a herd I spotted near the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Tule elk — found only in California — were once common in Point Reyes, but within a decade of the Gold Rush they had been hunted nearly to extinction. In 1873, the state made them a protected species. About a century later, in 1978, a handful of elk were reintroduced from the San Luis Island Wildlife Refuge near Los Banos. By 2000 there were hundreds of elk in the park (the Point Reyes National Seashore).


Tule Elk – Return of a Species (366 KB PDF file)
Park Service Tule Elk page

Drake’s Beach

drake's beach

Drake’s Beach, near the north end of the Point Reyes peninsula, is named for Francis Drake, who may have landed somewhere nearby in 1579. While there is no consensus about the landing point, many believe that Drake’s Estero, an estuary that feeds the bay, may be the most likely spot.

Compared to Limantour Beach to the south, Drake’s Beach is is chill and blustery. It’s not especially good for lounging, beachcombing, or tide pooling, but it is a beautiful beach, which provides access to the estero.

drake's estero

Near the estero, the cliffs and sands give way to dunes and beach grasses.

beach grasses near drake's estero

By the mouth of the estero birds congregate.

birds at the mouth of drake's estero

Returning to the parking area in the late afternoon, sunlight glints off the sand.

late afternoon sunlight off the sand at drake's beach

These photos are from my Drake’s Beach flickr set, where higher resolution versions and more views can be seen.

Some rights reserved 2021 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via