Sunday, February 28, 2010

End of February

Magnolia on Dolores in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon.


Samuel Zakuto is a fashion photographer with a blog that is the visual equivalent of a large box of chocolates. He doesn't post often – which means that each new episode arrives as a small surprise treat. Just as well there are so few. Too many at once could make for queasiness.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Lunch with a friend in Berkeley and I took BART to get there and when I changed trains in Oakland at the MacArthur BART station I took these pictures in a (vain) attempt to convey how spectacular the sunlight looked. The weird intensity of the colors in the bottom picture makes it look like a Photoshop victim, but the picture hasn't been edited at all. In the top picture I'm actually enjoying the 1970s Modernismo of the lamp poles, to my own surprise.

Bowen in Rome

"Wall-paintings from a Roman domus lately exhumed, have been transferred to an upstairs gallery of the Museo Nazionale, near the railway station. They should be enjoyed on a sleepy wet afternoon. They give off an atmosphere, being at once luminous and shadowy – and they have surprising freshness: partially here or there a design may have perished or been splintered, but mainly wax has so ingrained the colours into the plaster that Pompeian red, watery ink-black, turquoise, gold-ochre, silvery olive-green, bluish or tawny pinks, and nacreous flesh-tints look as though not having faded they now could not."

– Elizabeth Bowen, A Time in Rome (New York : Knopf, 1960)

Friday, February 26, 2010


Sunshine late in the afternoon – with the day's rainstorm retreating east. As I came out of the building into Spencer Alley there was all this weird and beautiful light in the sky. I could only take a few hasty photos because I was worried about being on time for my trainer.

Stripped Car

Stripped Car

There’s something in me that likes
to imagine the things I’m afraid of,

for example, the future.
I don’t mean the celestial fireworks

from melting reactors, or New York
under six feet of sea water,
but the future in its most intimate,

most probable forms—vignettes
subversive enough to slip through the radar.

That’s how I come to be crouched
behind a stripped car wondering

would it be too dangerous
to piss in the street?
It would, I’m a woman.

So I go on holding it,
distracting myself by trying to remember
every fruit I’ve ever eaten,

their exact textures and flavors.
So far the most exotic is the custard apple.

I use up a whole hour of daylight
and then another—apricot, blueberry, plum—

calves cramping from having to stay low,
waiting behind a car pitted

with the acne of automatic fire.

There are still too many guns
walking around out there,
and no one I know,

so I’m waiting for twilight at least.
Is everyone alone now?

The wind says so. It says
a winter is coming without oil.

It bites to get my attention
and scatters a few leaflets,
pictures of a blackened car,

a city that seems to catch on fire
every sunset, though there’s
little enough to burn. Stone only chars.

This isn’t a likeness of the future, is it?
Every person in the street a stranger?

Will a word like ‘neighbor’ survive this?

I fired a gun once. It smelled rancid, sour,
like bad food. It hurt my shoulder

and left a wound of oil on my shirt.

My mind is thinking of sleep again.
Sleep lets things escape—my pocket-knife

vanished through a knife-sized hole.

There’s nothing to cut,
no guava, nectarine, winter pear,

and nothing left of the car at all,
not even the rear-view mirror
I was counting on,

hoping my face could tell me
it was safe to go home, and where is that?

A place with a bed
and a desk where I sit and plot
next year’s garden on graph paper.

The skin of a tangelo is faintly pebbly,
easy to peel, but the sweetest citrus

is the satsuma, then the clementine.
If I had to choose between natural
disaster and a firing squad,

I’d take the river of lava any day.

Hurricane, tidal wave, tornado, drought.
I want the earth, which is waiting
under the sidewalk, to be the one.

Not any of these human shadows
sporting their silhouetted guns.
There were gun shadows before,

but the two worlds overlapped,
guns and the amber waves of grain.

It’s hard to say whether bramble fruits
actually have skins. Does a raspberry?
Does each tiny globe have its own?

How will I live without the earth?

In a stripped car, unable to piss
when I want to, all the time cold?

Maybe weapons interbred with humans,
and a strain of hybrids was born,
half metal, half flesh.

I know there’s an enemy—
look at all the damage it’s doing.
Maybe it’s still a baby,

its weak neck wobbling as its carriage
lurches over the broken pavement.

But probably by now
it’s a sulking adolescent
starting to look like serious trouble,

with a silky little shadow-moustache
and a gun. Who’ll kill it? Will I?

What if it doesn’t look like the enemy?
What if it comes disguised as a savior,
or resembles nothing so much as hunger,

so that everyone has his own
private piece to kill? Will we do it?

– Chase Twichell

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Steiner, Largely

In the afternoon I walked from the Mission to the Fillmore. Rain and sun have been alternating with each other on a daily basis for many days. I noticed as I was setting out that somebody had been sweeping cherry petals into tidy heaps.

Above, an attempt at Mies-like public-housing architecture. This is near Duboce Park. I picture a complex something along these lines, but taller, as the one Ayn Rand's idealistic architect-hero Howard Roark blows up with dynamite in The Fountainhead.

And below, a series of Victorians on Steiner, near Alamo Square. We can guess that Howard Roark would not have liked these much either, but probably would have despised their ornamental fripperies less than the Orthodox Brutalism above.

Exuberant, Victorian-looking weed growing alongside a Victorian house of its own.

Admired the letter-carving on this plaque put in place to mark the founding of the First Friendship Inst. Bapt. Church. It looks like gravestone lettering. Probably they got the local gravestone letter-carver to also carve the Bapt. Church cornerstone.

I recently told a friend that it seemed like interesting-looking numerals were never crossing my path any more, certainly not the way they used to. Then today on Steiner I saw all kinds of them: mossy, spidery, overgrown, and free-hand welded.

I cannot explain this final plastique lady. She heralds 3 buzzers.

This would have been a good moment to be consulting the cloud-identification book my daughter and son-in-law brought me from London last year. But I did not have it handy, and do not now. It is in my office at the library, and that is a useless place to keep it, as I now readily see.