The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

February wanes; the Year of the Rat is done. A foul rodent of a year, leering through sharp filthy teeth has passed and given way to the ox. In ordinary healthy times San Francisco’s Chinatown would now be winding down from the February festivities. February is when Chinatown typically dresses up in it’s finest, brightest gold and red.

Chinatown in February has always, whether in lean times or flush, been a cultural feast. It teases the senses. The brilliant red of the ubiquitous lucky money envelopes, the multi-colored dragons and lion dancers and the big parade itself, a brilliant canvas of colors and joyful faces.

The popping of thousands of firecrackers; the beating drums and the clanging cymbals and gongs that accompany the gyrating lion dancers. Leave the acrid odor of spent firecrackers on the street and enter the aroma of a banquet room of New Years’ delights. The crunch and pleasing warmth of a freshly fried spring roll. And the tastes; the sweetness of rice cakes; juicy tang of a tangerine; a savory slice of roasted chicken or a whole steamed fish blessed with ginger and soy.

February is a time when the Asian community looks forward to prosperity and good fortune. This COVID year, prosperity and good fortune have been hard to come by. The Year of the Rat delivered a trio of curses; the virus itself, economic hardship and a spate of violence incited by a former president and his acolytes; a malevolent group searching for someone to blame, found Asians to be a target of opportunity.

Despite it all the community has been resilient. It’s pulled together to do what little was possible, while doing as much as it could to observe the changing of the Zodiac.

Anyone who has read this blog and my posts on Chinatown knows my affection for The City’s cultural jewel. It’s a place of memories that reach back to my childhood.

Readers of this blog also know that I usually stay away from kitsch laden, touristy Grant Avenue. I prefer to keep to the streets, the alleys and the shops where the community and culture are alive and authentic.

Early in February I took a Sunday walk up Grant Avenue, curious to see what COVID has wrought. On a Sunday during the run up to the Lunar New Year parade, one should expect to weave in and out of a nine block long stream of foot traffic; to join a crowd gathered to watch a troupe of lion dancers or to see people hopping comically away from a string of exploding firecrackers.

Below, Chinatown in the pre-COVID times. 

 

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“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a price.
I’m not giving away anything really tangible here.
Everything has a cost. In this case the cost is your time. I hope that it’s time well spent.

There’s fabulous and maybe not so fabulous this Friday.

What’s fabulous?
Vaccine, and plenty of it. Bloomberg is predicting that by the end of March there will be enough of the precious juice squeezed out by the drug companies to vaccinate 130 million people by the end of March and 200 million by the end of April.

Based on Pfizer and Moderna predictions, Politico estimates that 3 million doses per day could be available by April.

Not so fabulous?
CNN continues to hammer away with bad news about variants, and persists in interviewing experts who prescribe a bitter concoction of conflicting theories and predictions. All of this is squashing elation over the vaccine news, while fueling depression, frustration and confusion. While we’re at it, I’m over it with Sanjay Gupta.

What’s fabulous?
My wife got her first vaccine dose. She got the Pfizer. Since I got the Moderna I guess we’ll be reacting differently when we pass the 5G towers and we probably got different microchips implanted; George Soros? Bill Gates? Microchips notwithstanding I’m just delighted and can’t wait for her to get her second dose.

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Rush Limbaugh died last week.

No prayers and very few thoughts (at least not positive ones) or as my favorite blogger Eden Baylee noted to me “tots and pears.” Not so sure about pears but I’m always up for some Tater Tots – with a splash of ketchup of course.

It’s said that we aren’t supposed to speak ill of the dead but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak the truth about them, and if the speaking is ill, well… Those who do damage in life and leave that damage after life deserve accountability. The devastation that Limbaugh left requires due commentary.

Limbaugh birthed the collapse of discourse. He was a mean spirited man who tossed out scurrilous comments with aplomb.
In 1992 he called then 12 year old Chelsea Clinton a “dog.”
In 2006 Limbaugh accused Michael J. Fox of “exaggerating the effects” of Fox’s Parkinson’s Disease.
The targets of Limbaugh’s slanders are legion:
He called Kurt Cobain “a worthless shred of human debris.”; Sandra Fluke a “slut.”; Iraq War vets, “phony soldiers” and mocked victims of AIDS.

While much of the world either sloughed off Limbaugh’s death, breathed a sigh of relief or reminded itself of his toxicity, Fox News reacted as if Jesus had just died (again).

A few days ago I read a Facebook comment denying that Limbaugh was racist. The commenter had clearly missed such Limbaugh gems as:
Calling President Obama the “house negro.”
A blanket denigration of the NBA, “I think it’s time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call ’em gangs.”
A barb aimed at Mexicans (and I imagine the Latinx community in general) “Let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do — let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.”
I was tempted to respond to the commenter but realized that there’s no end game there. Arguing with someone drunk on Limbaugh’s brand of snake oil is as rewarding as arguing with any other drunk. Drunk is drunk, doesn’t matter the intoxicant.

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“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a price.
I’m not giving away anything really tangible here.
Everything has a cost. In this case the cost is your time. I hope that it’s time well spent.

The banner photo for this piece is of Chloe. Chloe, 12 years old, is my daughter’s dog. She’s the canine matron of the domestic circle. With her dignifying touches of gray, Chloe is the wise, stately dog in contrast to my Lexi who’s essentially berserk and slapstick. Well, Chloe is wise and stately if you ignore her taste for goose poop.

I took the photo of Chloe as a trial shot with my new camera. A Canon 90D, it’s a three step upgrade from my 60D. It was expensive but worth every penny. Just don’t tell my wife about the expensive part.  I’m still on the learning curve and haven’t quite finished reading the 200+ page instruction manual. Luckily many of the controls and menus on the 90D are similar to my old camera. We’ve come a long way (like including Bluetooth) from the old Kodak Brownie camera.

Below are two other trial shots. A daisy in our front yard and a sunset (because as a snooty pro photographer once said, “Sunsets are cliché).

 

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“You play to win the game. Hello? You play to win the game. You don’t play to just play it.” ~ Herman Edwards.

I’ve been watching the second Trump impeachment trial, nearly gavel to gavel. I did bail out on some Friday’s session and the arguments being laid out by Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen who was trying to make the unmakeable case by inserting falsehoods, using deflection and making a mockery of himself and the proceedings.

I suppose that van der Veen can be excused for looking like a boy trying to play in the men’s court. Not a Constitutional lawyer, van der Veen is a personal injury attorney by trade, what we used to derisively call an “ambulance chaser.” He’s the guy you call if you want to squeeze a million dollars out of the owner of the dog that nipped you in the leg and drew a drop of blood. He’s not the guy you want fighting legal brief to legal brief against the likes of Jaime Raskin, a former professor of Constitutional Law. Van der Veen’s method of operation of feigned indignation, overacting and accusatory rhetoric is probably more suited to a civil case than a Constitutionally based trial in the Senate Chamber. (In one telling moment during Saturday’s session, the Senate chamber erupted in derisive laughter at the counselor’s rhetoric). Continue reading

Anyone who’s visited San Francisco, since 1972 has seen the Transamerica Pyramid, one of The City’s most iconic structures.

I was in my teens when the building design was unveiled and quickly met with derision from the media and from public officials. It was criticized as something that would be more appropriate on the Las Vegas skyline than San Francisco’s.

The original plan called for the building to 1148 feet (350m) in height, effectively blocking views of the bay and skyline from Nob Hill, home to The City’s monied and exalted. In order to pacify the upper crust, the designers changed the height of the pyramid to its current 853 feet (260m).

I took a recent Sunday excursion to San Francisco’s Downtown to photograph this once detested structure. (On Sundays Downtown and the Financial District are nearly deserted).

From the building’s base and rising four stories, the pyramid features a web of beams that support the structure and also adds to the uniqueness of the building.

Peeking through the beams at a neighboring building

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Monday morning in America. Not just any Monday morning in America. The day after Super Bowl Sunday, Monday. The annual Monday when a good portion of America is recovering from some variety of hangover. Hungover from a full season of football now ended, looking at months of withdrawal until the next season begins, and the sunken knowledge that golf, basketball, hockey and half a baseball season could never replace the cracking of plastic pads and occasional broken bones. Hungover from too many nachos or slices of pepperoni pizza. Most certainly hungover from far too many Margaritas chased with beer and a few Hennesseys as a little digestive.

There was no Super Bowl party here. No snack foods, no booze and no crowds of people. I barely watched any of the game. Cora of all people was the only one who watched from opening kickoff to the cascading confetti at game’s end. But there were plenty of Super Bowl parties.

How would I know this?

Sunday morning Cora asked me to stop at the store for some odds and ends.  She gave me that questioning look when I got home with no odds and not a scant end.
“No, I didn’t go to the store. No, wait, I take that back. I went to the store, peeked in and it was jam packed with people buying stuff for the Super Bowl parties that we’ve all been asked to not throw.”

How do I know they weren’t just buying for their own house?

Well, if so many people are going out and stocking up on giant economy sized jugs of vodka and tequila and cases of beer then America has another problem beyond COVID.

I know there were Super Bowl parties because the evening news showed those parties to the rebuking narration of indignant newscasters.

Let’s just be philosophical about it; we were overdue for a national super spreader event anyway. It’s been more than a month since New Years Eve. We’ve been far too lax in our bad behavior. If it wasn’t for Super Bowl Sunday we’d be going a full 2 ½ months of being moderately responsible. Remember the next opportunity for the lunacy of a super spreader event is until St. Patrick’s Day. Six weeks or so of sanity. How will we possibly manage?

Ironic, in a ghoulish sort of way that we decide to have a super spreader on the anniversary of the first known COVID death in the United States.

At some time during her 57 years I imagine she’d wanted to achieve fame in something or another. Through her mortality when her heart ruptured on February 6th 2020 she achieved immortality. Tissue samples analyzed months later revealed that her death was caused by COVID. This was not the moment of fame she would have been looking for. Patricia Dowd, remember her name. Might just as well remember her name because there’s no way that anyone can remember the names of the other 465,000. Most of them will be remembered only by the ones they left behind.

If I’m sounding a bit bitter it’s because I am. We’re closing in on the one year anniversary when things began to shut down; a year since we first hopped on this treadmill. And we know where treadmills lead to; N-O-W-H-E-R-E.  Continue reading

“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Everything has a price.
I’m not giving away anything really tangible here.
The “free” in the title of this piece refers to “free-flowing.” Random thoughts; aimless; catch as catch can; spitballing. Even remnants o’stuff that never made it into posts.
But bear in mind that everything has a cost. In this case the cost is your time. I hope that it’s time well spent.

Free time says the title. That can have different meanings. There’s the good notion; the unallocated block to do whatever you want.

And then there’s the other notion of free time; that it has no cost. This is a canard. The cost of time is time and there’s really nothing more valuable. Take it from an aging guy who’s got less time on the horizon than in the rearview mirror.

This of course mostly puts the lie to the old saying, “Time is money.” Money is pieces of paper with pictures of famous dead people. You can usually get those pictures back. Time is irreplaceable.

Time. Time was the topic of the week in the domestic circle.

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Late Friday afternoon and the week was winding down. Do COVID era weeks really wind up? Today it’s the day to day to day, Drudge. Monotony. Colorless repetition.

CNN’s Erin Burnett was interviewing a couple of the big giant medical heads who’ve held sway on damn near every aspect of our daily lives. That’s not necessarily a bad thing given our situation. I put it this way because I think that we’d all like to return to the days when the big giant medical heads fade back into the relative obscurity of research and writing articles in medical journals that everyday people never read.

Cora and I were only half listening to Dr. William Haseltine a regular big giant medical head on CNN. And then he started in on masks and for some reason this caught our attention. Haseltine in the now familiar pedagogic, voice from on high of big giant medical heads suggested (paraphrasing here), “We need to start thinking about wearing two masks and a face shield.”

I – lost – my – shit.
“What the actual fuck did he just say? TWO masks AND a face shield?”

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Don’t get your hopes up.
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Today’s free stuff is a musical tip.
But bear in mind that everything has a cost. In this case the cost is your time. I hope that it’s time well spent.

I don’t much go into music on this site. Maybe because it’s such a personal thing. It palpates the emotions. Music is a spiritual thing. For some it’s a religion and as often happens with religion the discussion sometimes becomes fiercely judgmental and defensive. So I often just avoid musical discussion like I avoid religion.

Recently though I got to thinking about music as a topic when I had a short exchange of comments with author/blogger Eden Baylee. Along with her fictional work, she does a weekly piece titled Music Monday, the most recent featuring Bruce Springsteen’s “One Step Up.

I like Springsteen so I looked into Eden’s archives and found a piece that featured Springsteen’s early classic Born to Run, a favorite of mine. I commented to Eden that it was during those early days that Springsteen was touted as “the next Bob Dylan.”

I went on to make the offhand suggestion that maybe Jay Farrar could be the next Bob Dylan.

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