Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pirate Training

In which we say yaar...

Took some of the fam to the Festival of Sail festivities on Saturday. I had them take the ferry over from Oakland, which was a smart move, as the waterfront was a bit of a madhouse. It was a pleasant enough madhouse, but a madhouse nevertheless. Taking the ferry gave my great nephew, Nate (aged 4 and 7/8's) a new experience -- he'd never been on a real boat before. "It went fast!" he said.

Nate mans the helm of the HMS Bounty -- a replica of the original used in the 196o film "Mutiny on the Bounty" (that's the not-so-classic color version with Marlon Brando as Mr. Christian). The rambunctious little tyke also manned the rigging several times and had to literally be pried off the halyards.

Nate makes friends with Medusa outside the Pirate Academy at Embercadero Center.

The Pyrate Queen gives the kids a lesson in how to bake "eye-cake"-- made with human eyes and entrails. Spooky! But Nate wasn't scared.

Miss Mermaid posses for the camera inside the Pirate Academy.

The scow, Gas Light, photographed from the deck of the Bounty. The original Gas Light was built in the 1870s, a flat-bottomed scooner designed to carry cargo in relatively shallow waters. (The average depth of San Francisco Bay -- it's actually an estuary -- is just 14 feet.) The Gas Light plied the waters of the Bay and the Delta fro many years. This replica was built in 1990 and carries chartered passengers on day cruises. I have sailed on her once before and would like to do so again soon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Festival of Sail

In which we yearn for the spray in our face and the wind at our back
San Francisco's Festival of Sail opened today with a parade of tall ships through the Golden Gate. I caught up with the procession near the Ferry Building.

The U.S. Coast Guard's Eagle with all three masts under full sail and pulling well on a broad reach, a sight so breathtaking I nearly wept.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Eagle
Rig: Barque
Homeport city: New London, Connecticut
Year built: 1936
Shipyard: Hamburg, Germany
Tonnage: 1,800 tons
Power: Sail
Length Over All: 295'
Sail area: 21,000 sq. ft.
Crew complement: 54

Good back story on this ship. It was originally built in Germany, christened the Horst Wessel, in 1936, and comes to the U.S. Coast Guard as spoils of war.

The Californian fires her guns in salute, the report coming over the water like a thump on the chest.

One of San Francisco's fire boats -- the Phoenix -- salutes the parade of ships.

A replica of the Nina, one of the ships that sailed with Columbus on the Voyage of Discovery.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fly Trap

In which personal history and City history collide

The Fly Trap restaurant, on Folsom Street near the corner of 2nd, has been in business in one form or another since 1898. It's a funny sort of name for such a venerable eatery. Louis' Restaurant, as it was once called, was originally on Market Street, where the patrons arrived in horse drawn carriages and by horse drawn omnibuses. With the horses came the flies, so Louis put a square bit of fly paper on each table to trap the pests. Appetizing, that. Legend has it that this prompted one of TR's Rough Riders to dub the place a "fly trap."

Louis was not pleased and, in a huff, quit the restaurant business and went back home to Italy.

Louis' cousin, Henry Besozzi, however, had a better sense of humor. After re-opening the restaurant after the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, he called it "The Fly Trap."

Yesterday, The Fly Trap closed, but only temporarily. For the next fortnight, until August 1, the new owners will be refining the menu as well as doing a few refinements on the enterior.

Waitress Meg shows off the menu

I first went to The Fly Trap more than 15 years ago. Then, friends Eve, Victoria and David worked there, the girls as waitresses and Dave as bartender. We shared a lot of good times there. Eventually, we all went on to other things, and I only went back to the place on special occasions. Then, in January, I moved into an office down the street from the place. The Fly Trap became my second living room, a pleasant lunchtime and afternoon retreat from the hum drum of work. I got to know Chris and Church and the other fine souls who keep the place going, in front of the bar and behind it.

One of The Fly Trap's Chandeliers

So who are the news owners? Six or so weeks back I walked into the restaurant and Chris, the manager, informed me that the place had been sold. Later, on my way out I saw a man in a gray suit sitting with a big fellow in an open-collared, L.A.-style shirt, the kind you wear un-tucked. The man in the suit looked familiar. I did a double take and then went up and asked, "Excuse me, are you Mark Rennie?"

He looked a little surprised, but said "Yes." In addition to his role as a night-life attorney, Mark Rennie used to own a nightclub called Club 9, on the corner of 9th Street and Harrison, where The Stud is now. I got my first job in San Francisco in November of 1986 at Club 9, first working in the open kitchen and then behind the bar. Courtney Love was the coat check girl. That was 22 years ago. Except for an appearance on the Phil Donahue show, when he was pushing vitamin-filled "smart drinks" to ravers (no kidding), I hadn't seen Mark since my Club 9 days.

Mark is the new owner, along with his partner and chef, Hass, of The Fly Trap. Clearly, what goes around comes around.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Barn Storming and Firefighting

In which we witness a little drama

Seems that the fires that bedelived southern California last year have followed me northward. I took this footage last week, on the 4th of July, at the aerodrome in Ukiah.

Pictures from a Long Weekend

In which we relax with good friends & fine wine in an extraordinary landscape

Independence Day: Motored up North to Ukiah to spend a night in a cabin with friends.

On the way, I took this snap at Ukia's little aereodrome. This Black Hawk-type chopper was being used to fight one of the many fires still burning around the state. Piloted by men of steel.

Despite the low air quality from the lingering smoke, the view from our deck overlooking the vineyards was mighty fine indeed.

Hazel certainly seemed pleased with the view.

We trecked up the hill to get a view of the mountains around.

Evidence of fires long ago sometimes leave elegant traces today.

Motored on down to Glenn Ellen to visit the estate of Jack London, now Jack London State Historic Park. Above: A view of a neighboring vineyard through the ruins of the old winery that London converted into housing for his farmhands and guests.

Jack and Charmian's cottage through the trees and the ruins of some of the stone outbuildings.

Inside the cottage, a ewer and bowl in a hallway next to a window. Note the quintessentially arts and craft curtains. And nice light and shadow on that shot if I do say so myself.

The master's study. Here each morning he would write his one thousand words per day, no more, no less, seven days a week, including holidays. The rest of the day he would see to the affairs of the Beauty Ranch, as he called it, plus riding, hiking and swimming for excercise. London died when he was but 40 years old in a room adjacent to this one. But what a life: factory laborer, oyster pilot, seal hunter, sailor, drunk, Klondike gold miner, political activist, rail-riding hobo, and one of California's greatest and most prolific literary and intellectual treasures.

The ruins of the old distillery near the cottage.

Mission de Solano, Sonoma, California.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just Dandy

In which we examine a Bay Area boulevadier

Also took this snap at the Gay Pride festivities at Silly Hall weekend before last. Love this guy's outfit. Note how the chest tattoo compliments the ruffles on the shirt!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Faces in a Crowd

In which we enjoy a striking profile

Snapped this at last week's Gay Pride festivities in front of City Hall. What a profile. That is all.