Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mission Scenery

Unlikely arrangement of planter boxes along the roof line of a small business in the Mission engaged in the marketing of cremations. The bright wispy grasses must be emblems for ascending souls.

Details of a freshly painted mural expressing neighborhood patriotism in one of the alleys (I forget which) parallel to Guerrero out around 20th.

Without lucky shadows it might be difficult to make visual claims for either the beat-up cactus protruding through its bars or for the curlicue numbers tacked to a wooden board.

In Dolores Park this more-than-life-sized statue presides from a height. Its plinth reads: Miguel Hidalgo, Libertador de Mexico, 1810. The land where San Francisco is located now was barely inhabited in 1810. Only the Mission existed then, housing a few missionary priests from Spain and their "acolytes" (those indigenous people who could be recruited, and who died in great numbers from European diseases). The U.S. government had not yet fulfilled its manifest destiny and seized this part of the world from the Mexican government.

The statue came later, long after the thinly-justified American conquest had become an established fact.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Village Life

I tend to read (and hear, from friends) more negative remarks than favorable remarks about Louise Glück. Today I read her new book, A Village Life. The writing is plain, defenceless, lacking in apparatus. Or maybe I mean that the apparatus seems deliberately obvious. A different Glück. The reviews I have looked at were harsh. In my opinion it is a brave and successful book.

Burning Leaves

Not far from the house and barn,
the farm worker's burning dead leaves.

They don't disappear voluntarily:
you have to prod them along
as the farm worker prods the leaf pile every year
until it releases a smell of smoke into the air.

And then, for an hour or so, it's really animated,
blazing away like something alive.

When the smoke clears, the house is safe.
A woman's standing in the back,
folding dry clothes into a willow basket.

So it's finished for another year,
death making room for life,
as much as possible,
but burning the house would be too much room.

Sunset. Across the road,
the farm worker's sweeping the cold ashes.
Sometimes a few escape, harmlessly drifting around in the wind.

Then the air is still.
Where the fire was, there's only bare dirt in a circle of rocks.
Nothing between the earth and the dark.


Much San Francisco handwork to be observed within just a few blocks on Folsom in the Mission, where do-it-yourself paint jobs are more the rule than the exception. The admirable effect below is obtained with red ceramic tile.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Ruhr Valley


St. Moritz

Prada I


Los Angeles


These tiny samples are from a very large book of Andreas Gursky's photographs published in 2001 to coincide with an exhibition originating in New York at the Museum of Modern Art, and eventually traveling to San Francisco where I saw it. The enormous prints on the high white walls of our own Museum of Modern Art here have stuck in my mind ever since. Though out of print, the book is widely available used. Prices for not-very-good copies seem to start at around $80, which is a little more than the original cover price. A "collectible" copy is offered at $300.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

185 Post

It was raining back in February the last time I noticed this downtown San Francisco building. There is now a visible bridal salon on two of the upper floors.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Castro Weather

New and more seasonally appropriate weather arrived in San Francisco, ending the week-long warm spell that got more than its share of photo coverage here. Leaves are changing (above) at the entrance to the MUNI underground station at Castro & Market.

The daylight when I took these had gone back to being diffused again, more like the local norm.

Hermetic verse with blue background from a mural painted many years ago on the back side of Bagdad Cafe. It dates to the early AIDS days and begins now to fade. I did not photograph the missing bits, and there are spray-paint defacements here and there. I don't know whether the white vapor around the face below (with its air-tubes up the nose) was original or added later.

When I first moved to the Castro in the early nineties, young dying men were still a common sight, hobbling with canes and oxygen tanks. People of course are still are dying of AIDS, but in far smaller numbers and less visibly.


French-inspired mansion on Folsom in San Francisco's outer Mission, decaying at this point but not yet violated. Curved-glass bays, art nouveau ironwork, cherub capitals quietly enduring. Unfortunately the house is located in what is perceived as gang territory (and frequent murders in the neighborhood do support the perception) so a cybermogul is unlikely to rush in and save it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn Blooming

Probably it is true that in any given month there are street trees blooming somewhere in San Francisco, but I have to admit that this one startled me when I looked up into its amazing reality this afternoon on 17th Street near Folsom in the Mission.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Long walk with a friend in San Francisco on a bright Sunday afternoon. In Chinatown we slowed down and wandered through some of the side streets.

If I wanted to open a business on the ground floor of a building painted salmon-orangey-pink with frosted green trim, I would like to think I'd have enough vision to order my new awning in purple and yellow.

Up in the top left-hand corner of the picture immediately above, I see a pair of windows carefully covered over from the inside with newspapers. I wonder what is in that room. Standing and staring at the papered-over windows I started thinking about Nadja Michael's magnetic Salome, which I saw last night with friends at San Francisco Opera. I thought it was one of their best productions in years, due in no small measure to the verve of new music director Nicola Luisotti.