Only in San Francisco #227

Zante Pizza is fusion in the best sense. It is a pizzeria that infuses it's pies with the flavors and spices of Indian food. The smell of the place alone is heavenly. Credit where due, I was introduced to Zante by my friends Scott & Caren, who are vegan, and yet responsible for several of my favorite pizza experiences.

My parents were in town from Texas, and they always like to try new things when they are here, so we made an adventure of it, and got off BART at 16th Street, and walked the mile or so down Mission Street to Zante.

Mission Street (and the Mission in general) is one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF. It has (despite the pernicious influx of gentrification) maintained it's combination of rich Latin American cultural flavor, bohemian SF hipsterism and delightfully shabby mom & pop stores & restaurants. There are very few chain stores or fast food restaurants here. But, there is a taqueria on just about every block (ranging from pretty good to transcendent. If you're ever in SF, you owe it to yourself to make a pilgrimage to Taqueria Pancho Villa, with it's long assembly line style burrito assembly. Of course, taquerias in the Mission are like churches, everyone accepts the choices of others, but secretly knows theirs is the best..)

Anyway, I took them down Mission Street where we stopped and looked at several random stores. The architecture along the street is great, even if the beautiful facade of the old Mission Theatre is now a .99 cent store.

Ah, but Zante. You actually smell it before you see it. I cannot describe the combination of  the delicious smell of pizza, mixed with the aromatic spices of India. It just works.

We ordered the Indian meat pizza which comes with a spinach curry sauce, cheese, a mountain of veggies, tandoori chicken, lamb and prawns. We went with an extra large, reasoning that there would be leftovers for the next day. There weren't. The three of us polished off the entire thing.

One of the best things about Zante, is how light their pizza is. As I get older I find that cheese and I have a tempestuous relationship, and pizza is something I avoid. Zante is so light on the cheese that I never have a problem. I had 4 slices (matching my Dad slice for slice) and did not feel bad at all afterwards.

All in all, the combination of the cool multiculturalism of the Mission, the delicious synthesis of Zante and spending a lovely evening with my parents (who reminded me that despite my cynicism about Obama, he's still better than John Cornyn) it was a great night.

If you find yourself in SF, go off the beaten path a little. I assure you the Mission isn't in guidebooks, and there aren't a lot of tours, but there is so much good food there, that it is a must visit when you come to the City.

Urban Flooding

The Bay Area lives in a near permanent drought state. We really only get significant rain for a few months a year. In general, hard rain is very rare here. So, yesterday the City was paralyzed by about an hour of torrential rains. So much so that the subway tunnel was partially flooded and train service was halted. This amazing video is even more unbelievable if you know Van Ness Station, and how far that water was traveling! I have never seen harder rain since I have been here, and I have never seen anything like that stairway waterfall.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

"Keep going." Those were the only two words I heard as the massive light rigs above me swayed as if in a stiff breeze. The sound was like a clog dancer running from one end of the building to the other right down the middle of the roof (we later learned that sound was bolts in the roof popping). I didn't perceive the rolling of the stage as much as I noticed the seats in the audience moving in impossible ways.

It was 5:04PM on October 17, 1989. I was rehearsing for the play Beyond the Horizon in my high school's new theatre (completed that year), and the Bay Area had just been hit by the Loma Prieta earthquake. It is a perfect theatre moment that as the quake hit, our director told us to keep going. We had no intention of doing so. [Read more…]

On the Spot Reporting

The President is due to appear at a fund raiser a block up the street from my office. Sadly, his handlers are so afraid of protesters (and why would liberals have any reason to be angry with Obama? Oh, right…) that he will not make any public appearances. To San Francisco's credit they have not established the despicable "free speech zones" this time, and Union Square (directly across from the hotel) is jammed with protesters and media. Oh, and a few police. Sorry these pictures aren't great, they are from my phone.

Obama 001

Obama 002

Only in San Francisco #10,652

150 years ago today, the sort of person that our current mayor Gavin Newsom would try to imprison (ie homeless) put a small notice in the San Francisco Bulletin proclaiming himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States acting on "the peremptory request of a large majority of the citizens." The editor printed it as a joke, but in San Francisco it stuck.

Dressed in a uniform given to him by the presiding General of the Presidio, he owned the City along with his two stray mutts, Bummer and Lazarus. Restaurants competed to have him dine there (gratis, of course. One doesn't charge an Emperor), they saved seats at the theatre for him and he even kept correspondence with other heads of State. Heck, Mark Twain wrote the obituary for Bummer!

Norton (real name Joshua Norton) had come to the City during the Gold Rush. He made a fortune in real estate and then lost it. He lived in a boarding house in a seedy neighborhood for 50 cents a night. But San Franciscans have always loved a character, and they embraced Norton as their true ruler. Today there are still restaurants, stores and historical sites all over the City recognizing him. When he died in 1880, his funeral procession was two miles long!

A few years ago, there was a movement to name the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton, since he had issued numerous proclamations calling for a bridge to be built between San Francisco and Oakland. Of course, he also wrote procalamtions calling for the forced dissolution of Congress, saying it was a "remedy for the evil complained of." He also banned the use of the "abominable word" "Frisco" (and here, here!) under penalty of a $25 fine and produced his own currency.

So, on this the anniversary of our ruler, I suggest we all have a drink in the Emperor's honor. He was truly a San Francisco original. Robert Louis Stevension said it well: "In what other city, would a harmless madman who supposed himself emperor … been so fostered and encouraged?" Hail Norton I!

All Of A Sudden, I Am Interested in Twitter

Sorry Chris, but this is going to be another "how cool is living in SF" post. The other day I was walking around and found a little trailer selling some incredible crepes. I talked with the folks there briefly, and they let me know that San Francisco has a great tradition of "street food" and that most of it is now coordinated by Twitter.

Turns out, you can get everything from curry to tamales to goat tacos, on the streets of San Francisco (sorry, I couldn't resist..) in conveyances ranging from the classic taco truck to a guy on a bike. And, they use Twitter to tell you exactly where they are going to be. They also give you hints as to what's on the menu.

Acting as a guiding force in this is an organization called La Cocina. They are helping street vendors deal with city ordinances and permits, acting as incubators for food ideas and even offering kitchen space for aspiring street vendors. Here's a map they put together of some of the many choices around SF.

I'm not usually one for the Twitter/flashmob/social networking sort of thing, but (probably because I love food like I love oxygen..) this whole thing just seems very cool to me. It's almost enough to make me sign up for Twitter and follow a bunch of these folks in hopes they make it to my neck of the woods. Especially those bacon wrapped hotdogs!

Won't Someone Think of the Nicotine Addicted Children?

The put upon few over at Phillip Morris have a message for the City of San Francisco: "stop limiting our Civil Rights." I tell you, San Francisco has a lot of nerve. You see, starting October 1st any business that called itself a drugstore was no longer allowed to sell cigarettes. Not surprisingly, cigarette companies were not big fans of this ruling, and fought for a restraining order. Walgreens also got in the act, claiming in it's filing that the act was discrimination against drug stores. [Read more…]

Urban Outdoorsman

The Chronicle had a fascinating article today about Tom Sepa a hardworking pretty normal guy, who happens to live in Golden Gate Park. He has a job (a cold caller for IT firms), a laptop even a netflix account, but he sleeps in a tent in the largest park in the City.

He refers to himself as an urban outdoorsman, not homeless, and he certainly challenges a lot of the preconceived notions of homelessness ("drunken lazy bums", crazy people etc.) For him, it's a conscious choice to live this way.

I wonder how many folks are in a similar boat? When the City closed one of it's shelters, they found that 20% of the occupants had jobs of some sort. Still, I think the lion's share of the homeless are not as "well off" as Mr. Sepa.

I Love My City

Last night I took the girls shopping in Chinatown. They found the weird sayings on the t-shirts as amusing as I did (my favorite last night was a pink shirt with glitter hearts on it that said "Love Always in Action." As we were walking around after shopping, we noticed a man run frenetically by us and drop a small pile of flour on the ground. We then noticed that the man was wearing a red dress.

That was only sort of strange. Things got really surreal when about 10 minutes later, almost a hundred people came running by in red dresses, hunting the first man. The girls were transfixed. Nothing like this happens in Garland, Texas that's for sure. They took a bunch of pictures, and I'll add a few when I get home tonight. It was a fabulous moment to see how excited a little organized chaos (which San Francisco does so well) could make them.

By the way, I did a little google-fu, and found out that the runners were engaging in a practice called Hashing. The man running ahead was the Hare, and he leaves a small trail that the Harriers are supposed to follow, running all through the City. It looks like a lot of fun (and the folks running sure seemed to have a good time) and if I could run distance at all, I would totally be all over it.