Saturday, November 22, 2008

Green Girl

In which we enjoy some local street art
The painting above adorns a side door on an Edwardian-era apartment building not far from my place North of the Pan Handle in San Francisco. I do not know who the artists is or what motivated him or her to create the painting. I just like it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... zeppelin? You betcha! It's Airship Ventures' so far unnamed Zeppelin NT. Although she doesn't look it in the image above, Zeppelin NT is 249 feet in length. That's 13 feet longer than the Boeing 747 ,and some 60 feet longer than the famed Goodyear blimps.

Brought to America by the entrepreneurial couple, Brian an Alexandra Hall, the NT is the first zeppelin to fly over the United States since the LZ 129 Hindenburg -- the famed hydrogen-lift ship that burned over Lakehurst, New Jersey, in 1937. Seeing the NT over the Golden Gate is an awe-inspiring experience.

The NT is a rigid dirigible airship. That means it has a rigid skeleton around which the craft's hull, or "envelope," is stretched. Inside, gas cells are filled with helium and provide lift. The NT can accommodate 12 passengers and two crew. (By comparison the Hindenburg could accommodate 50 passengers and had a crew of 40, but then she was 800 feet long.)

I wish the Halls all the luck in the world in their venture. And maybe, someday, we'll begin seeing zeppelins that rival and exceed in size the great airships of the past -- the Acron, the Macon, the Los Angeles, the Graf Zeppelin, the R-100 and the R-101.

Never heard of them? Look them up for yourself.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Picture Perfect

Getting Your Irish Up

In which we booze it up, S.F style
Those who know San Francisco know it to be a city of epic boozers. My father recently sent me a beautifully preserved copy of a book of articles by the late San Francisco columnist, Charles McCabe, entitled "The Good Man's Weakness." McCabe haunted saloons from the old Barbary Coast to Yorkshire, writing affably if not exactly eloquently about their environs and inhabitants.

McCabe, were he alive today, would be celebrating, because Monday is the 56th anniversary of the day when the Buena Vista Cafe -- a venerable San Francisco watering hole opened in 1916 near the Wharf -- poured its first Irish Coffee. Fifty-six is not usually considered a banner anniversary, but it is a good excuse for the Buena Vista to go on a three-day bender in celebration.

Contrary to popular belief, the Irish Coffee was not exactly born at the Buena Vista, though it was there where it was perfected. It was another San Francisco author of column inches, Stanton Delaplane, who first brought the concoction from olde Eire to these shores. He brought it to the Buena Vista and, in an effort to improve upon the original, nearly drank himself to death one night, almost falling asleep on the Hyde Street Railroad's cable car tracks.

The secret to Delaplane's Irish? Its float of heavy cream on top. For purists, of which I count myself a member, sweetened whipped cream from a can won't do, and God have mercy on the soul of anyone who would use Cool Whip. No, an Irish Coffee can have but three perfect ingredients: Strong black drip coffee, a shot of Irish and a float of freshly whipped heavy cream on top.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Open Letter to the President Elect

In which we write to our Commander-in-Chief apparent

Dear President Elect Barack Obama;

Don't screw this up.



Saturday, November 01, 2008


1912 - 2008

Need we say more?

That One '08

In which we get political

Now, normally Travels West eschews politickin' but this time the stakes are just too damn high.

John McCain was once a great warrior. Like my uncle and grandfather, McCain served his country in uniform with valor, distinction and courage (a fact that his campaign never lets us forget). He was wounded in battle and tortured by the enemies of liberty. For his sacrifices during that time and in his early political career he deserves all the approbation he has received.

But over these latter years and during his long exposure in Washington, McCain's character has soured. In his quest for power, the great warrior has devolved into a hot-headed, cantankerous and curmudgeonly old shell of a man, one who will pander to the lowest instincts of the religious right and the alleged moral values of the so-called working class to get what he wants. As one of the Keating Five, he sold out his country to protect the fortunes of a few friends. That's not the man I want in the White House during a financial crisis. And by his choice of the ridiculous, loathsome, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, John McCain has shown that he has utterly lost his judgment.

The ill-conceived, tactless, and dehumanizing tactics that the McCain campaign has leveled at its opponent -- "that one," "socialist," "palling around with terrorists," "Hussein," "closet Muslim, " and so forth -- show that McCain is also completely out of touch with the national Zeitgeist, at least among literate Americans. They have tried and tried to play a gotcha game with Barack Obama and his family, throwing anything at them that they think will stick.

But there's no there, there.

By contrast, Barack Obama has shown himself to be a coolly elegant and calculating political operator who never once let the barbs flung his way sting. And, yes, style counts. He has shown himself to be what John McCain may once have been but has decidedly ceased to be: a gentleman. He is the kind of man I want facing the likes of Vladimir Putin, Hu Jintao, Hugo Chavez, and Bashar Al-Assad. If there is to be a finger on the button, then I want that finger to be guided by a mind coldly rational.

Vote for Barack Obama on Tuesday.