Out and About

Critical Mass was its typical experience here last Friday. Maybe 1,500 riders or so, went straight up Market all the way to McAllister, then out McAllister, jog to Turk, west to Divisadero before turning left and heading into the Haight. Clearly whoever found themselves in front knew little about how to steer CM for maximum fun and safety. As far as I know there weren’t any bad fights but inevitably when that many bikes go straight up Market, tempers were fraying as the rear came along. I had fun playing my bells and occasionally jumping off to take photos, most of which didn’t come out too well… here’s one from just above Scott on Turk:

Then Haight Street:

After we went west on Haight to the park and kind of pooled up in the quasi-skate park they made near the police station, the ride headed back eastward on Waller and then cut over to Haight again, now going the opposite way. As we passed Clayton Mike R. and I saw a fat hippie cabbie complaining bitterly to a bicycle cop about how we showed him no respect, and that something had to be DONE! Mike turned to me and said “Hippie Cabbies have become Them!”… just past the storied intersection of Haight and Ashbury another aging hippie stormed into the street and yelling at the top of his lungs about how stupid we all were began lunging at cyclists and pushing some from their bikes. A crowd of 150 or so surrounded him as I pedaled on a block ahead, but I guess he was calmed down or at least stopped.

After all that we went out for “totemic like stick-meat” but ended up at a burger place on Albion and 16th. Mike’s new book is about to come out, and I highly recommend it: The Visionary State, with Erik Davis’s acerbic writing and Mike’s fantastic photography. I’m crossing my fingers that this will be a hit and help him get out of a couple of holes he’s dug himself into…

The night before Critical Mass the weather was so nice that I just had to ride up the hill too, but before I did I found this perfect San Francisco combination on Democracy Wall at the old copshop on Valencia:

I ended up going up Corbett and then taking the overpass down to the Mission. I couldn’t resist visiting the top of Liberty Hill at Sanchez and 21st, where “Sunny Jim” Rolph’s “pleasure palace” still sits on the amazing promontory. Here is the view at sunset from right next door:

It’s a holiday weekend and I continued my perambulatory inclinations on Saturday by taking a long ride over the hills, first up through Noe Valley and over Liberty Hill’s back flank to lower Eureka Valley; then up and over Corbett and 17th, to Stanyan and skirting the edge of Parnassus Heights to enter the park. From there I went north on Arguello to the Presidio to arrive at the aptly named Inspiration Point where I took this shot:

I am still getting to know the Presidio, which has a lot of hidden paths, roads, and lost structures. I headed along the ridgetop towards the Golden Gate and amazingly ran into James K., David K., Matt H. and Kevin who were all coming home in the cold wind from camping in the Marin headlands. Strange to cross paths in that desolate corner of the Presidio of all places! But that’s San Francisco for you. I came upon this odd place, the Presidio Wine Bunker! and just before getting there I’d passed the sign that I pasted into the lower corner:

wack, huh? After noodling around some new paths broken by the Park Service, I ended up overlooking the Golden Gate and got to see another of the ubiquitous container ships steaming in with yet another load of crap for the American Consumer…

Helluva view though…

Today is Sunday the 28th and we had our annual Carnaval parade here, a half block from my home. It’s a terribly charming and bizarrely hybridized affair, equal parts local public schools putting together raggedy contingents of schoolkids to prance through the streets in feathers and sequins, skilled samba troops with baterias of drummers, and more and more huge trucks with live bands.

The hybrids in this event are the most fun and braintwisting. One of my faves today was a group called SambAsia, a huge contingent of young Asians samba-ing through the street, with a group of probably Brazilians of Japanese descent leading the way on a truck. One truck displayed a half dozen flags, including Germany, France and China, along with El Salvador, Mexico and Argentina… a mystery group behind that one! A group calling itself Mixtiso wore indian costumes like the ones we wore in 2nd grade in the 1960s, with feathers and fake cowhide and all. Here’s the ladies of Hot Pink Feathers chaining up on the street:

There were over 80 groups marching and I had to bail after about 60 of them. But it’s so sweet to see all these small children and moms, dancers of all races and ages getting to strut their stuff in public (not always with much talent, but you gotta admire people for being able to “go public” in their own pleasure rather than as skilled entertainers). Here’s a good moment full of moms and little girls:

There were at least four different groups of Bolivians in today’s parade. They were among the most energetic dancers and their costumes are really something to behold. The earlier, more indigenous dancers were clad in wild fluorescent colors and crazy headgear, while a later group had what really looked like Chinese costumes on. And the dignified elderly women who spun by us were really impressive too…

As a San Francisco event, fully hybridized and cross-pollinated, it was no surprise to find in the middle of the parade a group of San Francisco’s finest scavengers with a whole drill team approach to their garbage cans. But even cooler was a bit later when antique garbage trucks rolled by, one of which still has the name of the Scavengers Protective Assn. on the side of its door. Here’s a picture of it:

No one in town recalls that the garbage men were once a powerful worker-run co-op in which everyone got the same wage, whether picking up the trash or working in the office. That cooperative business structure was unravelled in the mid-1970s and nowadays it is part of Norcal Waste, which is in turn part of some huge multinational trash company.

Here’s a shot to symbolize most of what was in the parade today: gorgeous dancers doing their thing.

These holiday weekends are great times to be home without a lot of commitment. You can just follow your nose wherever you like. As I’ve been saying a lot lately, whatever you decide to do in San Francisco, you’ve actually decided NOT to do 12 other things. So it goes, and so it’s going on this beautiful, unusually sunny Memorial Day weekend.

Oh yeah, let’s hope they stop killing and adding to the endless roster of people we’re supposed to be memorializing here… someone had a sign in a window as I was riding around, 2,440 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq now? 240,000 Iraqis? No one knows… how many more? how long can the kleptocrats and war criminals continue to have their way?

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