I visited San Francisco today to celebrate the life of street musician Larry Hunt, also known as the “Bucket Man.” I met Larry in the mid-90s when I was a student at Cal. In those days he frequented Sproul Plaza — with a real drum kit if the weather was good, and with a set of buckets when the weather was bad. I was in a pretty awful headspace on the regular back then, but sitting and listening to Larry play and sing always put a smile on my face, and upbeat music in my head. (I was especially fond of his wacky mashup of “Wipeout” and the Batman theme song.) That Larry had amazing talent was obvious to anyone who passed by, but if you got to know the man — and I am glad that I did — you discovered that he had limitless heart. That was what drove him, really: His heart’s chief desire was …
A short walk from my home in Oakland, in a grove of redwoods and eucalyptuses beside a freeway offramp, a volunteer artist has spent the last year creating an amazing space to sit amongst the trees and watch the world go by. I walked there today to get some snapshots of the ongoing project during the golden hour.
This space feels amazingly tranquil, despite the adjacent traffic. Not long after I got done taking pictures, a pickup truck pulled off the road, and the driver jumped out and started unloading rocks from the truck’s bed. It turned out to be the person who did all this. I got the clear impression they wish to remain anonymous, but it was wonderful to speak to them about their work and give them my thanks for creating this unexpected oasis in my part of the Town.
The Chroniclereports on a plan to “ruin” the Albany Bulb. This is the best (and most affectionate) portrait of the Bulb’s current state that I’ve seen in the mainstream media. I will never forget my first visit to the Bulb (back in 2001, when the Sniff pieces were in much better shape and not, it seems, as well known), and the place has grown quite dear to me since then. I hope that its freewheeling nature—indicative of much that is special and good about the Bay Area—can be preserved.
Over in the City, at the Buena Vista—the tavern that introduced Irish coffee to these shores—they’ve changed the whiskey they pour, actually moving away from their own private blend. The owner sez money has nothing to do with it. He just likes Tullamore Dew better, and claims that was the stuff they used when Irish coffee arrived here in 1952. Hmm.
My alma mater’s longheld desire to renovate its football stadium has hit yet another unexpected snag: It appears that the current plans would effectively destroy the longstanding Golden Bears institution known as Tightwad Hill. I’ve never watched a game from up there, but I’ve always liked the idea that it was a possibility. My hunch is that the university will destroy the Tightwad tradition, just as surely as it has quashed decades of tradition at nearby Bowles Hall.
The Telegraph Avenue location of Cody’s Books closes today. It’s bignews. People are sad. I was feeling the same way until I read these latest words from owner Andy Ross:
“Students today, they use the Internet. They read their textbooks,” Ross said. “In the ’70s, they had wide-ranging intellect.”
This is not the first time Ross has blamed his clientele (and elsewhere, the city of Berkeley) for the fact that he failed to adequately respond to changes in his own industry and in his business’s immediate environment. Your bookshop is not shutting down today because 21st-century students suck and don’t read books, Mr. Ross. Your bookshop is shutting down in part because your mindset shaped your business, and that mindset has become a lot more friendly to the yuppies who inhabit your store on Fourth Street than it has to the university students of …
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There was a really great piece in the Chron this weekend about my favorite Bay Area street musician, the self-described Artist General and Global Village Idiot Savant, the master of the cymbalom, Michael Masley. Whenever you see this guy out on the street playing, it’s fun to stop and watch people have their first encounter with his music. You don’t have to wait long before you spot a jaw or two just hanging open in awe and wonderment.
You recognize this sign, doncha? Sure, Marquard’s has been at the corner of O’Farrell and Powell just about forever. Well, walk on by and take one last look, and maybe pick up one last paper: the Chron reports that Marquard’s is soon to be replaced by Hat World, “a huge national chain specializing in logo caps,” which the residents of SF have clearly been clamoring for. And thus the entire Union Square area is one step closer to being just another mall, albeit one that doesn’t share a common roof.
Combine this sort of news with the word from Sacramento that Governor Ahnold is going to force Caltrans to switch gears mid-project and build us an ugly-ass viaduct to replace the eastern half of the Bay Bridge, and you begin to think it’s only a matter of time before our entire environment is nothin’ but chain stores and concrete. Sigh. …
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There is an abandoned train station in Oakland, near the 980, that I have been meaning to surreptitiously enter and photograph for more than a year now. But I haven’t, because I don’t have any experience with trespassing, and a few drive-bys seemed to show that getting into the place would be a colossal pain. Perhaps it is, but apparently it’s doable, because pics of the place showed up at Satan’s Laundromat this morning. Color me terribly jealous.
Budget Travel magazine has some thoughts on where to grab really cheap meals in San Francisco. I can personally report on a few of their picks: Nirvana, Home, and Eos are fantastic, while Red’s Java House is not everything it’s cracked up to be. At the very end of the article, they tease me by mentioning a riceless carne asada burrito available in the Mission, which is definitely going to merit further investigation. And soon.
There’s a lovely little piece over at SFGate today (no, you won’t find it in the printed Chronicle) about the folks who work the tollbooths at the Bay Bridge. I’m a FasTrak user now, so I don’t hand bills over to these people anymore, but back when I did, there were faces I recognized, and I even had a couple of favorites who were always cheery and pleasant and remembered me and my Beetle. Now I just cruise through and listen for the FasTrak unit’s double-beep. Easier. Quicker. But a moment of human interaction that was part of my daily routine is lost forever.
Here’s what the Big Game bonfire looked like last night at Cal’s Greek Theater. Walking back down southside, we passed under the Campanille, which was lit up in blue with gold graphics on each side, like this representation of the coveted Axe.
It took Cal two quarters to heat up today, but the result was sweet, sweet, sweet. Cal 28, Stanfurd 16.
Things are always strange when we visit the Farm but there was something especially strange (and, though it pains me to admit, cool) going on down there today, as you can see in the shot I took of the Stanfurd Band doing their moronic bit before the game. Look back there on the sideline, and you’ll see a large Trojan Rabbit, straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We never did find out what the deal with it was. It left before the …
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Being a California Golden Bears fan is a bit like being a Cubs fan or a Red Sox fan: Your team never goes all the way and seems to have a problem with bad luck, but every now and then they pull off something that makes all the heartache worth it. I can’t say it any better than the team did in an e-mail I just received:
The California Golden Bears upset the #3-ranked USC Trojans on Saturday evening before 51,208 fans at Memorial Stadium and a national television audience. The win marks the first time the Bears have defeated a Top 5 nationally-ranked team in more than 28 years.
Let me add that the game was won in triple overtime. It was amazing, and I’m psyched to have been there. I also think I know what gave the Bears an edge: One of the first things the super-obnoxious …
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