EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 San Francisco | Baghdad By The Bay

Carol Doda Has Left The Building

Carol DodaIt was a bit of a sad day when I read that Carol Doda had died. She was one of those people who left her mark on San Francisco in a big way on June 19th, 1964 when she was the first topless go-go dancer in San Francisco. She was 26 years old and probably had no idea how much she would become a fixture in San Francisco for many years to come.

I have to say I’m pretty glad that San Francisco is remembering her at her best. Shen she stopped dancing in the 80’s she opened a lingerie shop in a little back alleyway on Union Street. My girlfriend and I happened to be over there and saw the sign and decided to drop in for the hell of it. There she was, Carol Doda, fully clothed sitting right inside the front door. Geez, the stories she probably could have told then.

She was looking a little rough though. I had only seen some of the pin up photos of her when I was a kid and that’s what I always thought she looked liked, but I could see the lines on her face that told a story all by themselves and I could still see that young girl who was in all the pin ups I had seen. My Dad had one tucked away in his dresser that I’d sneak a look at before I was even ten [BOOBIES!]. I wasn’t even two when she first went on stage topless.

It really sucks when we get old. My Mom always used to read the obituaries and complain that people who died used pictures in their obituaries from when they were young. I don’t know why she didn’t understand it’s a drag getting old for lots of people. In Carol Doda’s case, I’m glad they’re focusing on the young Carol in the photo memories of her. That’s the way she should be remembered and I’m sure the way she would have wanted to be remembered.

Carol wasn’t born in San Francisco, but she made it her home and left a mark on the City. I’m glad San Francisco did it right.

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San Francisco And The Hot Dog

Schwarz Sausage CompanyI felt that I couldn’t talk about a burger joint yesterday without giving some time to that venerable processed tubular meat product known as the Hot Dog. I wrote an article some time ago about Treasure Island Hot Dogs that I couldn’t find very much info on, but Uncle Frank from the Hot Dog Hall of Fame [yes there is one] who mentioned Schwarz Sausage Company of San Francisco so I did a little more digging.

While the Hamburger originated in Hamburg, Germany by Russian traders who brought their habit of eating raw minced meat [ala steak tartare] the Hot Dog started it’s life in Frankfurt, Germany as well as Vienna, Austria [where the name weiner comes from]. It wasn’t until Germans brought them to America that some schmuck here got the idea of wrapping them in bread so you didn’t burn your hands while walking around eating them.

The Hot Dog predates the origin of the Hamburger in the U.S. by a number of years and it has spread all over the U.S. in various forms creating localized renditions through out the country. It was here that I had to start my search. If they are everywhere what would make them so special to San Francisco? We have dungeoness crab that while you can find it all up and down the coast, it tastes different here. Then of course there’s sourdough bread that only can exist here because of our local bacteria that even if you got some starter and were using it in another part of the country it would last you a couple of weeks and then it would be gone.

So what is so San Francisco about the Hot Dog? Well as it turns out if you’ve ever gone to a local sporting event and purchased a hot dog [not sushi and chardonnay] you probably had a Schwarz Sausage Company hot dog. They began life in a part of the Mission District sometime around 1911 in a part that was known as Germantown. That was the first I had heard of a Germantown being in San Francisco, but we are a city of change after all. There was also Casper’s Hot Dogs, but they actually started in San Leandro in 1934 so their close, but no hot dog, er, cigar.

Schwarz also was a big supplier of the public schools so those hot dogs you ate growing up here were probably from Schwarz. They make several types and not just the all beef type, but they also have some with pork and veal inside and while I tend to gloss over the hot dog at times as being more about what you put on it than in it, you can taste a difference between them. While Schwarz has been bought by Engelhart Gourmet Foods and moved to Fairfield, CA they still have a consumer outlet in the part of Mission that’s referred to now as La Lengua.

Say, did I just say sometime in Spanish? Well the San Francisco experience for hot dogs is usually found by street vendors in the Mission who sell grilled hot dogs wrapped in bacon. Apparently the Mexican immigrants brought that from Mexico and it has caught on here at least in the Mission. We don’t have too many hot dog joints and when you do find them they’re more fast food than localized. The best place [in my opinion] to get a hot dog is from a hot dog stand. While I have grown over the years learning to put different things on a hot dog [note I used to put only mayo on a hot dog that would creep out anyone who watched me do it and eat it] I’ve found that grilled hot dogs never did it for me. Now if you wrap it in bacon that changes things because the bacon fat would keep the hot dog from blistering and well, as we all know, everything is better with bacon.

Note that if the danger dogs from a Mission Street cart scare you there’s always the palace of tubular meat products, the Rosamunde Sausage Grill that makes it smothered in onions called the Mission Street that I notice is available at every location except the Haight Street location. Well, at least they have it at their Mission Street location.

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The New Way To Pay Just Got Interesting

SquareThe tech edge that San Francisco holds currently has people jumping with joy or frustration. There are new things developing that could be wonderful or that could screw who the status quo of how we live. I had an interesting experience last week that I’m going to share with you.

Now you’ve heard me talk about San Francisco based Square as being a good ecommerce company. They don’t charge you anything up front. They send you a credit card reader for free and their software for the iPhone and Android is also free. The company even sends you business cards to pass out to get people to understand how Square works and they charge you only 2.75% per transaction with no transaction fee.

To put this in perspective a bit, Wife and I used to own a home based business. We had clients all over the country so credit cards were necessary for use to take. We were charged $800 for the software, then $35/month plus 35¢ per transaction fee, plus 3.5% on every transaction. We didn’t have a lot of business and our corporate clients worked off of invoices so if we only had one sale of $100 in a month it would cost us $38.85 just to get that $100 [or I would only get $61.15 out of every $100 sold]. With Square it would cost us only $2.75. If I didn’t have the credit card handy Square would charge me 3.5% of the total or $3.50 out of $100. Still a deal.

Looking through the app last week I noticed a large increase in the number of small businesses who were using Square and after downloading the new update it’s even easier to run on my iPhone since I can put in the individual items and they now show up on my iPhone, not just on the iPad.

I aslo received a phone call last week from someone at PayPal who was trying to sell me on PayPal‘s new PayPal Here service. I was kind of surprised as the phone number they called me on was linked to an old account I had made a mistake on. I had used it for donations for a website I used to run and as a joke I listed a donation as something that it turns out PayPal doesn’t want you to sell. It doesn’t matter whether or not there are large companies selling the same product I wasn’t, but I apparently broke their rules so I was banned for life from ever using PayPal again.

The guy on the phone told me it works, just like Square, but is cheaper. Well it’s only 2.7% vs. 2.75% and I’m not big enough that I’m going to complain over losing 50¢ on $100. PayPal is so much like Square that they made their card reader look like a triangle to keep with the geometric primitives angle. I told the guy that it was nice of him to offer this to me, but I had been banned for life from ever using PayPal again so I would have to pass.

Now when you are told that you are banned for life from using PayPal ever again you would think that this would mean that you just couldn’t use it to accept money. Well, you’re wrong. I had tried using PayPal in the past to purchase things from small companies on the internet and discovered that my bank account that was tied into PayPal‘s system was also banned from buying stuff from PayPal online. I happened to meet up with a friend I was telling this story to and he had the PayPal Here service so I told him I’d give him a buck if he let me try something. He pulled out his phone and plugged in the reader and I entered $1 and swiped my card. Guess what? My card was declined even though I had well more than $1 in my account. Why? Because I have been banned for life from ever using PayPal for anything [which they don’t tell you]. I would have to open a new bank account to get it hooked up with PayPal so that I could use the system. I don’t want to be bothered with that and I was told that if PayPal identified me as the same person that I would be banned again. It doesn’t matter if they really hire people to search for previously banned users of PayPal who want to be able to use it to pay for items. It’s fare too draconian an attitude for me to want to deal with.

Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter who started Square is a genius in my opinion. While they do have a few areas they don’t like to venture into sales wise they are pretty much an ecommerce company first that wants to make taking money from people for goods and services more affordable. If you’re a tech geek you can pull out your smart phone and run their Square Wallet app place your order while in line and just pick up your stuff at the counter or if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like this new technology because in my day they didn’t have smart phones and you had to tie two soup cans together with twine to call someone, you can use a regular old credit card. This is something that gives small businesses the edge. In looking around the USA I see that most metropolitan areas have quite a few places that accept Square. Not as many places as in the San Francisco Bay Area, but still a good amount. I can see this taking off in the near future even bigger and Square has a very big edge over PayPal in that it doesn’t shut out potential users from the system. PayPal has messed up big and if you do a quick search in google you’ll find lots of people complaining about being banned for life from PayPal. Square is the future and the way to go for small businesses.

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The Towering Inferno

The Towering InfernoIt’s time to go to the movies again and last night I watched the Towering Inferno to remind me of life in San Francisco back in the 70’s. This is one of those movies that you have to watch to get a feel of what the city was like back in 1975 even though it has plenty of Hollywood sheen added to it.

I first have to give props to Hollywood in that a large amount of the movie was actually filmed in San Francisco. I remember when the film came out there was a big opening night screening with lots of the cast members in attendance here in San Francisco and not Hollywood. This movie came out at a time when disaster movies were all the rage until they started being spoofed by movies like Airplane! The set designs were über 70’s chic that reminded me of an old James Bond movie more than a place were people actually lived and worked. All the men wore suits and had voices like they smoked too much [which they did back then] and women wore, well I’m not sure what the style was called, but when you see it there is definitely a 70’s fashion sense that comes through. The good thing is that women did look kind of hot back in the 70’s until you realize that the younger women in their 20’s are now pushing 70 today. The men were dashing and a bit on the overly macho side. I had to think for a minute to realize that Fred Astaire would be 114 years old if he was still around today. The lifestyle was pure decadent 70’s in this new high rise building. So decadent that the main office had a secret bedroom off to the side which Robert Wagner and Susan Flannery make use of within the first 10 minutes of the movie.

The cast is a definite who’s who of 70’s actors and actresses. If you don’t know their names you certainly will know their faces. Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are the best known and this movies just shows why people would sometimes confuse the two. Faye Dunaway is absolutely gorgeous in this movie as Paul Newman’s high society girlfriend who is always dressed to the nines throughout the film. One of the things I noticed was how white the movie was, but that was back in the 70’s and that’s the way people watching TV and going to the movies liked it back then. You have two token cast members with O.J. Simpson playing the head of security and Gregory Sierra [anyone remember him?] playing a bartender, so they got their ethnic bases covered for the 70’s. Not a single Asian was used in the filming of this movie which I thought was kind of odd since you’re in San Francisco which has one of the most well known Chinatowns in the world, yet there are no Asians on the streets anywhere. Now that I think about you saw very few Asians in TV and movies back then except for the occasional comic relief in a western or George Takei in Star Trek.

Now then, onto the plot. This is where the movie gets funny looking back. A skyscraper is built in San Francisco which is the tallest building in the world. Obviously since this was the time of disaster movies building up to code wasn’t good enough and they needed better, but they just stuck to the rules and built to code along with leaving a large pile of oily rags surrounded by containers of flammable liquid next to a main electrical box that shorts out. The fire starts on the 81st floor while a party to celebrate San Francisco having the tallest building in the world is going on at the top in the Promenade Room. Apparently back in the 70’s nobody had learned that in case of fire take the stairs not the elevator. This is shown very quickly when Steve McQueen’s character walks in calmly and takes a look at the fire then hops in an elevator three feet away that he takes up to the Promenade Room. Note this is the same elevator that ten minutes later a group of people crowd onto to get away from the Promenade Room only to have the doors mysteriously open up on the floor of the fire serving up roast human to the firefighters. My cousin is a retired fireman and I’ll have to ask him how horribly wrong the fire department handled the fire during the movie. In the end the movie sticks to disaster theme formula of I die, you die, we all die pretty much with only the most righteous believers surviving.

If you see nothing else you should at least see the opening of the movie with the helicopter ride over San Francisco. While not a car chase, the helicopter visuals were spliced together in such a way that wasn’t linear, but hits all the sites of San Francisco. Enjoy the trailer and watch the film if you can find it.

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Baghdad By The Bay Meetup in the works

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I finally broached the topic on Twitter yesterday and was surprised by the response. I’m getting a large amount of people in San Francisco and beyond who read this website and I’ve finally decided to get out of the house and meet up with some of my “foreign corespondents” in San Francisco. That is the other bloggers, citizens, fans, readers and even the haters of this website.

Since I’m a Sunset redneck, it only made sense that I have the meet up in a suitable Sunset establishment. Also since I want to give some of the people from out of town a chance to prepare I’m going to not try a flash mob type of thing with a meet up tonight @ Uncle Fucker’s Chuckle Hut! but actually give you a few months warning. I like to plan ahead and I want to find a place that can handle the people who will come. Judging from last night’s twitter replies of over thirty people I suspect I will get a good amount of people to show up so I’ll actually have to approach a place and tell them what I’m doing. First stop will be the Blackthorn Tavern @ 9th and Irving because not only do they serve Boddington’s beer, Magner’s Cider, and have a DJ, but on Sunday’s they also have a BBQ going.

I’m thinking sometime during the San Francisco summer which falls right after the rest of the world’s summer meaning September. We should have good weather then and that’s the month of my birthday so what better excuse to stage a party. So I’ll be visiting the venerable Blackthorn Tavern in the next few days to discuss with them having a meet up there and see what they say. I want to see all the local blogger’s, politicians, scoutmobbers, miscreants and hipsters from all over the city to come to this event so make sure to mark your calendars for sometime in September for this get together.

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Happy Birthday Wavy Gravy! Don’t Take the Brown Acid!

Wavy Gravy is an icon of San Francisco in the 60’s yet he came from New York and lives in People’s Republic of Berkeley. On the 15th of May he will turn 75 years old. For most people today they probably equate hippies with being old, but for those of us reaching middle age we still scratch our heads at the thought of old hippies. Maybe not so much as we used to.

Born Hugh Romney [hmmm…any relation to Mitt?] he received the name Wavy Gravy from of all people B. B. King in 1969 when B. B. just before taking the stage at the Texas International Pop Festival saw Hugh sitting backstage and asked him, “Are you Wavy Gravy?” to which Hugh replied, “Yes” and B. B. responded with, “It’s OK, I can work around you” and preceded to go onstage and play. Not sure who was drinking the Kool Aid that day, but methinks B. B. might have had a glass or two

I guess that was a bit of a day of revelation because Hugh decided from that day to use the name Wavy Gravy as his legal name. He had also chose to portray himself as a clown because as a demonstrator for peace he thought that it would be difficult for the Police to have it in their hearts to arrest a clown. We’re not talking the drunken, swearing after hours staggering around in misery type of clown that TV likes to portray and make people like my wife afraid of clowns, but the happy childlike things are better type of clown.

Wavy Gravy as a clown has brought about change in the world one smile at a time. He started the Hog Farm collective commune in Los Angeles in 1966 which wasn’t the free love, let’s run naked and do nothing else type of commune but a group of people who lived and worked on the hog farm of Claude Doty and turned it into a showbiz enterprise staging concerts in the Los Angeles area before the group relocated to Black Oak Ranch in Northern California in the 90’s.

Wavy also started Camp Winnarainbow which was originally started as a day care for Sufi children so that their parents could meditate and pray and wouldn’t be penalized from that because they had kids. Wavy took the kids and made them have fun by running it like a circus and teaching the kids performing arts. It’s still thriving today though looking a bit less hippie.

He even managed to influence Ben & Jerry to create a Wavy Gravy ice cream. I have to say I haven’t tried it just because it sounds like there’s gravy in the ice cream which seems wrong to me, but there is no gravy in Wavy Gravy ice cream. I suppose that came from the time he spent with the Merry Pranksters in the 60’s. What he might be best known for, at least to me was as head of security at Woodstock [the original one] he walked up to the mic one day and gave everyone the warning, “Don’t take the brown acid.” That moment was immortalized in the movie Woodstock and showed that he wanted everyone to have fun, just have fun safely.

I actually got to meet Wavy a few years ago at a place you wouldn’t expect to see a hippie at. My wife and I were celebrating our wedding anniversary and decided to go to Harris Steakhouse in the city. We liked to have early dinners when we went out to avoid having to scream at each other over our expensive meal. We were the first ones in the restaurant. My wife ordered the Prime Rib and I had the Bison steak [rare!] as we were waiting for our meals to arrive in walks Wavy and his wife Jahanara and they are seated next to us. My jaw kind of dropped because I was raised that hippies were supposed to love the earth and not want to harm animals so they were always vegetarian. Well my parents were wrong teaching me that. I got up and walked over to him and extended my hand and introduced myself. He responded sort of like a celebrity who was just trying to have dinner and not be disturbed and I picked up on that and left at the handshake because I was supposed to be there to celebrate my anniversary after all.

As we got up to leave after dessert and started walking towards the door he extended his cane to block our path for a moment and wished us both a happy anniversary and happy life together. I had never received a hippie’s blessing before, but that day just seemed brighter because of it.

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Fröliche Walpurgisnacht!

Many of you are not aware of today’s festival so I will share it with you. The night before May Day was the evening of a sacred festival often portrayed as coming from the old country which usually means the under civilized parts of eastern Europe long ago, but is usually to celebrate the darkness before the light of spring.

Walt Disney took it upon himself to create a bit of a spin by associating Walpurgisnacht [also known as Hexennacht] with halloween to create a night where Satan runs amok and parties with those above ground in his symphonic masterpiece Fantasia. Walt even put a soundtrack to this evening by using Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Moussorsky to help emotionally build upon the notion of how evil tonight is supposed to be. Walt is to Walpurgisnacht as Cecil B. DeMille is to the Old Testament. More people know the story of Moses as Cecil made it than who have read about it in the bible. Of course Walt had to end it with Ave Maria so keep from turning all the kids watching into evil incarnate, but I digress. Another fun fact was that Moussorsky wrote Night on Bald Mountain originally as a celebration of the Summer Solstice.

While I don’t have definitive proof I’m fairly certain Anton LaVey was influenced by the last segment of Fantasia and it’s imagery to claim today as the starting date for his Church of Satan in 1965. So maybe even old Anton was more influenced by Walt Disney than the true folk festival that tonight is where the locals would celebrate until sun up for the first day of May so they could work off their hangovers by participating in fertility rites that they probably had done the night before, where I doubt Satan was in attendance.

The festival was accompanied by night time bonfires. If you’d like to participate I suggest you light a few torches after dark [I personally recommend Home Depot’s] and look out into the night sky and realize that tomorrow is the awakening of spring and better days are ahead.

Or if you don’t you can watch Walt’s version below 🙂

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