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Posts Tagged 'american'

Levi Strauss & Co.

Laser Etched Levi'sBlue jeans, denim, dungarees, Levi’s. We might call them different things, but they all started in the same place. Levi Strauss came to San Francisco to form a company in 1873 to sell dry goods from his brother’s New York company. Levi struck a deal with tailor Jacob Davis to make work pants out of a blue denim that is known today around the world as blue jeans.

Opening his business at 90 Sacramento Street in San Francisco Levi Strauss he later expanded the business to take over 63 & 65 Sacramento Street. During this time a tailor named Jacob Davis who was buying hemp cloth from Strauss to repair work pants came up with the idea of the copper rivets to reinforce the jeans. He wanted to patent the idea, but lacking money he suggested to Strauss that they go into business together. Interesting note was that Levi’s first jeans were indeed made of hemp and not denim which didn’t start until 1890 when the first pair of denim Levi’s 501 jeans were made.

Trivia Note: Levi’s 501 originally had a copper rivet right in front in the crotch where the front met the back. Unfortunately several workers at a campfire stood a little too close to the fire and warmed up the rivet enough to give them a rude awakening down there.

While modern jeans didn’t start to spread outside San Francisco and California until around 1920 they finally made their way back east around 1930 with the dude ranch craze that was popular at the time. During World War II Levi’s became the pants of the working class outfitting the thousands of people taking up arms and working for the various defense companies around the country.

It was the 50’s and 60’s that make Levi’s an American icon among the youth of the nation. The 80’s greasers with their slicked back hair had to hand roll the cuffs of the jeans tightly and perfectly to look cool while the hippies of the 60’s let it all hang out with the bell bottoms flapping in the breeze [personal note, I feel that bell bottoms were one of the best jeans ideas of all times to hide skinny calves].

Now every where you go you see Levi’s or some knock off brand just about everywhere you go. citizen’s of Russia were paying hundred of dollars if not thousands of dollars for a pair and now things have come full circle and we lucky San Franciscan’s can do so as well.

Levi’s has opened a store in San Francisco at 815 Market Street in the Old Navy store that used to occupy the space. While the 501 Jeans of the working man are still sold there and are a big seller they’re making newer types of jeans some not using denim at all. They have commuter styles, eco-friendly styles [made from recycled water bottles] and even laser etched styles for the hip fashionistas out there [tattoo your pants because skin tattoos are SO 10 minutes ago!]

After years of wearing Levi’s I had moved away from blue to black generic jeans. They were cheaper, I was fatter and they worked more or less. I actually found some 527 Levi’s slim boot cut jeans I bought the other day and I’ve fallen in love with Levi’s again. Levi’s just fit right. There is something iconic about the fading blue of the denim that I had forgotten and the slight flare below the knees [hence why they are called boot cut] hides skinny calves that the skinny jeans just accentuate. I actually feel younger and from what people have told me, I look younger in these jeans. I’m a happy man. Now to go get my jeans tattooed. Should I get the sailor’s anchor or the pin up girl on them?

Clown Alley

Clown AlleyOnce upon a time before the words artisanal and gourmet were used to describe food there were burger joints. Not fast food places like we’re used to, but places where you could order a burger they way you wanted it and the person behind the counter wouldn’t have a meltdown because they didn’t have a button on the register to push for that.

Clown Alley was one of these places. It was opened up on Columbus Avenue sometime in the 40’s by Enrico Banducci who also opened the Hungry I and the Purple Onion [where Phyllis Diller and others got their careers started]. The place wasn’t anything gorgeous to look at and I think the clowns used in the decor were more to distract you from the fact that you just walked into a corner dump to get a burger.

The burgers where well, burgers. Nothing artisanal or gourmet about them, they where just made from ground beef thrown on a grill and served up with french fries. What set them apart was that they were big. Huge to be more exact. They make quarter pounders look like white castle sliders.

The MenuThis was the type of place that you went to eat what people ate when they were hungry. They didn’t go there for the ambience or organic produce that was put on the burger [is there really such a thing as organic iceberg lettuce and if so why?] I always liked to take friends who had come from outside the US here who wanted to try real American food. The burgers were made by hand and not a machine. They were cooked on a greasy old grill and they never quite tasted the same twice. If you had a great burger today it could be awful tomorrow, but if you were hungry and didn’t have a lot of money, you wouldn’t be hungry for the rest of the day. Today’s equivalent would probably be the burrito.

The 80’s and the beginning of the foodie way of life started to change this. Burgers became déclassé even if they were made with meat from a farm to table place and rolled into patties on the thigh of a virgin. The burger, a symbol of American culture had just become uncool.

It turns out that while Clown Alley has closed it has re-opened under the name Pickles with a few changes to the decor and menu. It’s still not the same as Enrico’s, but at least it’s not cooked and frozen in some other part of the country. While they served burgers just like any fast food place in the US there was something about a quirky place like this that was just different. You’d see guys in suits sitting next to construction workers both connected by some ground up meat on a bun.

Indian Summer in San Francisco

If you’re going to San Francisco, September is the time to visit. During the Summer it’s always funny to watch the tourists who you can tell by their shorts and sandals in weather that’s cold and foggy, but come September we start our Indian Summer [or as the People’s Republic of Berkeley refer to it Indigenous Summer].

Some people call them the dog days of Summer, but since we had a huge Native American population here I was raised calling it Indian Summer. It gets a little drier and definitely warmer and sunnier. This is the time to wear your shorts and sandals. I think I can finally hang up my Winter coat and thermals that I wore during the Summer and get into some thinner clothing.

This is the time to sit outside at the local cafe drinking a cup of coffee with your sunglasses on and just enjoying the neighborhood. This is a time to trot down to the beach or search out some of the more rural areas down on the peninsula where it will be very hot. Take a trip down to Monterey and stroll along Cannery Row on the weekend. It’s the most beautiful time of year for San Francisco and the Bay Area and it’s the best weather you’ll ever see.

It’s one of the few times of the year where you will actually see a sunset in the Sunset District and the broken clouds out over the ocean only make the sunsets more spectacular. Travel up to Twin Peaks in the evening and you’ll get hit by a heat wave because all the sunlight from the day radiates upwards at night and the top of the hill on a clear night is an experience we all need to have at least once. This time of year I like to sit out on my deck at Sunset and enjoy some Hawaiian food as the sun goes down because it feels like Hawaii without the oppressive humidity.

Sure, I love the fog. That’s why I live out in the Sunset, but with the days shortening the blast of sun and warmth during the day that radiates into the night is one of the reasons I feel the most comfortable at this time of the year.

AB376 passes! On to the Governor!

I was informed by the California Director of the Humane Society of the United States Jennifer Fearing yesterday that AB376 passed through the senate 25-9 and now proceeds to the Governor for final sign off to be made a law making California partner with Washington, Oregon and Hawaii on the ban on the sale or possession of shark fins.

To me this is great. In our oceans the sharks are the top of the food chain. We kind of take the food chain for granted. On land, humans are considered to be the top of the food chain. 90% of  the shark population has been decimated by shark finning. If  90% of the human population was decimated by some sort of fate how do you think we would be living? Not too well is my suspicion. The food chain is much more fragile than a chain and when you remove the majority of the top of the food chain it becomes destabilized and starts to fall apart.

This can be seen in parts of the world where animals not from the area have been introduced. Crops fail, livestock dies and people go hungry. Shark is not a popular fish to eat and hasn’t been for almost two decades. Sharks because of their nature living in salt water do not excrete urine and their flesh when caught has a very strong ammonia content making them difficult to prepare. Their flesh is also high in mercury making them and their fins unsafe to eat.

As expected there were a few people against the ban. To quote our local Senator Leland Yee’s comments on the subject:

the bill would not save a single shark because there is no ban on taking the rest of the body other than the fin.

If it won’t save a single shark, then why not vote on it? His logic is fueled by the idea that people still eat shark meat. They pretty much don’t. Chefs are even working now to come up with a substitute for shark fin in the mostly tasteless shark fin soup because it should be more ecologically sound to reproduce a tasteless dish than to destroy our oceans to preserve a tradition that only one type of people enjoy. Shred up some tofu and add some dried shaved tuna flakes to the broth. I am truly sorry that this bill does seem aimed at Chinese people who eat shark fin soup to celebrate at weddings or the birth of a child. It does seem like a cultural attack, but it is an attack on a practice that is destroying our oceans for a small piece of meat that is high in uric acid and mercury. Doing away with this dish will probably bestow longevity on the Chinese people who previously consumed the dish.

I was at my doctor’s office a few years ago and thought I was reading an episode of Time magazine when I realized it was China Today and noted an article on the Chinese fighting against the cultural tradition of eating dogs. You would think it was an attack by PETA to see the pictures,  but these were Chinese citizens who would rather pet dogs than pot them.

Cultural traditions change over time. White people once owned slaves, but they do not anymore. Chinese once bound the feet of their women to make them attractive, but they do not anymore. Shark fin soup has had it’s time and should not be relegated to the history books. California is the 2nd largest consumer of shark fin soup outside of China and is fastly rising to the number one position. Even China is backing away from shark fin soup.

In my travels around San Francisco it is common for Chinese restaurants to post their menus in the window and so far I have only a small number that serves shark fin soup. I’ll admit that I haven’t been to Chinatown that probably has more, but that’s only a supposition on my part. It does seem a bit strange though that there was such a big fight to uphold a Chinese cultural tradition that is rather hard to find.

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Darla’s Burgers Is Gone

Friday was sad for me. I was watching a TV show and my phone buzzed at me. Not unusual with all the crap I’ve got installed on my phone. Then I looked down. One of my friends on Twitter just sent the message NOOOOO! Darla’s is out of business.

WHAT! Darla’s while not being an old San Francisco tradition kind of a place has been around long enough to have developed a loyal following. I think she opened up 9 1/2 years ago and my wife and I used to go there a lot back in the day. The burger’s and fries where always juicy and the service was quick. Darla herself could usually be found being the waitress and it was always kind of funny to me watch this Asian woman speaking Spanish to her cooks.

I have a fond memory of one day after eating a burger that she would always make for me [a bacon cheese burger with sliced avocado] I walked up to her and politely whispered into her ear, That was the best motherf*cking burger I’ve ever had. To which she turned around and said, Why thank you! in a rather sugary sweet tone.

Darla Kubala was a smart cookie. She even had an iPhone app called Diner Dash that was based upon her. If you got to see her work you’d see how the game idea came about. She would take all the orders, deliver the food and be the bus boy all the while checking on the customer’s needs. Somedays she had her off days, but the majority of the time she was always on it. The thing that you always remembered was how she ended your meal. You got your check with a brownie for every one at your table. I liked that because after a lunch or dinner there you really didn’t have enough room for desert, but the little brownie was intense and did the job.

Darla was also good with faces. It had been over a year since we had gone in there and she came over to our table and the first words out of her mouth were, you cut your hair?!?!? Then she sat down and talked with my wife about whether or not she like me with short hair or not. She even thanked me once for always bringing my friends in. She had a lot more than just burgers and I tried a few other things she offered, but I always came back to the burgers. Those were her signature along with the fries topped with season-all. When she let that one slip to me I can’t eat fries without them anymore. Now I’m sad that I don’t have Darla’s Burgers to take my friends to for the best motherf*cking burger anymore. I tried to give them a call today to make sure and yep, the number is disconnected. I suppose it was the economy that put her out, but she always seemed to have customers in there. Hopefully she’ll resurface again. I miss her already.

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Utilikilts Comes to SF!

Seeing as San Francisco has been hit with hot weather I remembered an email I got a few weeks ago. Utilikilts, a company that opened up in Seattle, WA in 2000 has just recently opened up a San Francisco Utilikilts outlet. It’s located at 5315 Mission Street just south of Geneva Avenue. Those who frequent the Folsom Street Fair will know them because they’re usually at everyone. Now it’s just easier for them since they have less distance to travel. The company tends to attract the performance artist, Burning Man types of people so I suspect the store will be very similar.

While I haven’t had a chance to visit the store yet, I am a proud owner of a utilikilt. I was turned on to them by a friend of mine who wanting to be different purchased the leather utilikilt. He was telling me how comfortable it was and I thought to myself, “well, why not give it a try.” This was during a time that you’d only see a few punk rockers or the guy who works at the “all things Scottish” store or whatever it’s called downtown wearing one. There was a bit of trepidation, but I gave it a shot.

So I get my kilt and try it on. Very comfortable. Now I understand the creator Steven Villegas when he said, “Men should not wear bifurcated garments because it goes against nature.” I always wondered why boy’s bikes had the bar connecting the seat to the handlebars so that if you got in a crash your family jewels would get bashed by a large metal bar. So why should men have to wear pants so that their junk gets all smashed up at the point of bifurcation?

You do learn about wind when you wear one. Something women have known for years unless they’ve never worn a dress. Luckily they make kilts with a “modesty snap” that while sort of turning the kilt into a bifurcated garment there’s still lots of room for the boys to run around inside. You’ll also get something for a while that women don’t usually get. That is people, usually women pulling up your kilt to see what you’ve got under it. Scottish tradition dictates that you go commando i.e. no underwear, but practicality says either way is fine. I was at a picnic on a fine spring day and decided wearing boxer briefs was best so when I sat on a log I didn’t have to pull bark splinters out of my butt. Just don’t do what the punk rockers did and where skinny black jeans under them. That defeats the purpose and comfort.

Big guys benefit the most from these because you don’t have to worry about getting a good fit on your legs. My biggest problem is what to wear on my feet with them. Tall socks and boots seem to be the common denominator amongst the people who wear them and for some reason to me sneakers just don’t do it for me. Since I like to wear mine in warm weather I usually choose to do so while barefooted. A beer in one hand also seems to be a major accessory if you look at some of the pictures on their site [or the picture above] A utilikilt makes hot weather seem a lot less hot and cold days aren’t really so bad.

My first time wearing one out in public was rather humorous. My wife and I were going to a party over in Berkeley and we decided to take BART. We got on at the Glen Park station and as we’re going down the escalator I learned about wind and kilts. I had to hold it down so I wasn’t flashing everyone. When we got on the train I only had a few odd stares mostly from hispanic men who couldn’t figure out why I was wearing a skirt, while their wives were giving me that look like they wanted to take a peek under the hood so to speak.

OK, that was easy enough. We get off in Berkeley and stop by a 7-11 and start our short walk to the party. As we were walking we happened to notice a man with his granddaughter walking behind us. We noticed him even moreso when he stated, Now Katie, what is different about the gentleman walking in front of us?

IN A PERFECT SCOTTISH ACCENT.

Oh crap, I’m about to get razzed by a Scotsman for wearing a kilt. Katie responded with, I dunno and Grandpa finished off with, He is wearing a kilt! I stopped and turned and said, It’s an American kilt.

Oh REALLY?!?!

It doesn’t translate well to words, you really had to hear it, but I think you’ll understand. We stopped and chatted a bit. He was very interested that the kilt was starting to catch on in the U.S. No razzing ensued and we went off to the party where nobody batted an eye at Eric in his kilt. So you’re wondering what I wear under the kilt?

Good girls don’t ask and bad girls find out for themselves. Now go out to the mission and check them out.

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