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The Emperor Norton Bridge

norton.cartoonNow that we have a new span on the Bay Bridge apparently we have to name it. There are members of the NAACP in Southern California who think we should make an exception to the rule of not naming large structures after living people and name it after Willie Brown.

Don’t get me wrong, while I’m one of the few, I actually like Willie Brown. The man has style. The man has an attitude. He has so much attitude that if he was in favor of it being named after him he would have said something already. I guess that’s all part of being a kid born in Minneola, Texas and moving to San Francisco.

So functionally, by saying nothing I think we can take that as a no vote from Willie Brown. It’s part of the passive-agressive way politicians work in that it’s not always what they say, but what they don’t say. Our Governor, Jerry Brown who apparently didn’t learn the passive-agressive technique has just come right out and said he doesn’t like the idea.

So while the people of Southern California think they know what’s best for San Francisco, we need to come up with a counter attack to put the boobs of silicone valley in their place.

I strongly stand with the members of E Clampus Vitus who want the bridge named after Emperor Joshua Abraham Norton. This is a man who in 1859 proclaimed himself to be the Emperor of the United States of America and Protector Of Mexico. The man made his own money that people actually accepted around San Francisco. This is the type of guy that should have a bridge named after him.

As a matter of fact, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is unofficially named the Emperor Norton Bridge. There’s even a plaque on the San Francisco side stating this. Why can’t the politicians see this? We don’t have people like Emperor Norton anymore in the Bay Area and I think that we need people like that to symbolize the rough and tumble, do it yourself kind of mentality that made San Francisco what it is. Not the Mark Zuckerberg’s or Steve Job’s types who are in Silicon Valley, but the real people that San Francisco had who made a difference. There is no Emperor Norton Hotel, Bar or even Restaurant in San Francisco and if there’s a small chance I missed it then it needs to be more in the forefront than in the background as long as they’re doing a good job of representing him.

We are on the eve of the naming of the bridge so I suggest that you email Governor Brown, Mayor Lee and Mayor Quan and let them know that the bridge deserves a proper name.

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Bay Bridge Closure

The New Bay BridgeWell it’s going to be an interesting next five days in San Francisco. Not since the 1989 quake has the Bay Bridge been closed for this long. The new bridge is in its finishing stages over the next few days and here’s what it’s like if you’re going to be driving around.

Traffic in the city was pretty light during rush hour this morning. I have to say that driving down Montgomery Street between 8-9am was pretty easy and stress free since apparently there were a lot of people driving into the City from the East Bay who are stuck with Bart or the ferries now. I’ve heard people say that Labor Day weekend isn’t a big weekend for people coming to the City or people leaving the City, but from what I saw today it was practically down right empty.

I gave a ride to someone in the Sunset District this morning who had to go down to Battery Street. This normally would take me a half hour, but today I was dropping him off in 15-20 minutes. Even he was surprised at how fast we got there. There really wasn’t anyone out there on Franklin, Van Ness, Broadway, Gough, Fell or Oak…it was actually a very nice relaxed drive.

If you’re going to be driving around San Francisco over the next few days there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The Bridge is closed so they’ve cut back on I-80’s lanes. I’d actually try and avoid the freeway unless necessary.
  2. Oak Street is pretty empty. Since the Bridge is closed there’s not much reason for most people to get on the freeway so traffic was light.
  3. Franklin & Gough. Two more streets that feed people to and from the bridge. Pretty open generally.
  4. Bush Street. Ghost town practically. This is a main feeder street for people trying to get downtown from the Richmond.
  5. Treasure Island. You have to get on at 1st and Harrison. That’s the only way to get there, if you really need to go.

Oddly enough places that don’t have much to do with the Bridge [i.e. the Sunset & Richmond districts] were pretty quiet as well except around the shopping areas which were pretty much busy as always. You can add to this a big warm wet hug from @KarlTheFog with temperatures in the 70’s-80’s and humidity in the 80’s-90’s keeping everyone out here, well, moist. It’s kind of like Hawaii for people who don’t like sun too much. Enjoy!

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Yep, I Missed It…

HerbSadly, this should have been posted on July 5th, 2013 but I missed it by a few days because I was out and about for the holiday weekend. 75 years ago Herb Caen started his legacy that formed the way a lot of us saw and remembered San Francisco through the eyes of a boy from Sacramento.

Before coming to San Francisco Herb was writing the sports column for the Sacramento Union, nowhere near as prestigious or as fun as his San Francisco columns which pulled no punches when he took on the humor of San Francisco politics, yet he never went too far in calling out the people who ran the City for the rich and stupid.

I wish Herb was alive today. I’d sit down with him at the Buena Vista over a couple of Irish Coffee’s [hold the coffee] to get his thoughts on San Francisco today. I had a dream over the weekend of what this might be like and it goes a little something like this.

Everyone in San Francisco is from somewhere else, but the problem is that nobody stays here any more. We’ve become an amusement park for the new monied elite who don’t mind sitting in front of an overpriced cafe run by a surly student drinking a $7 cup of coffee after being told that it’s so expensive because the growers were paid a fair wage oh and the beans were roasted on the thighs of a virgin in the free trade sunlight of the distant unheard of island of Tubanya.

The typical San Franciscan now hasn’t lived here for more than a year so they don’t know the weather patterns or were you can park a car or buy a beer for under $10 at a bar. San Francisco has become a long stay amusement park where people come for under a year until they’ve spent all their money on rent and food because  why cook when you can buy organic? None of them will change San Francisco or add to it, but those who have time and money invested here will change it for them.

Whoever said the best things in life are free never lived in San Francisco today. Then again, they probably never said that 100 years ago here either. People have always complained about the high rents and how expensive it is in San Francisco. They just never made the wages that they do today. The wages today are good for you and me because we have the time invested here so it’s easier for us than it is for someone who came here yesterday. Can you imagine if we made the wages of today back when we talk about a 25¢ cup of coffee? I wouldn’t have to invite myself to the Getty’s dinner parties for the free food.

Wow Herb, I don’t remember you being so grumpy…oh right, it’s my dream.

Regardless of what I think he might say today, what he said 75 years ago started something that turned San Francisco into what it has become. He weaved the history in and out of a story that he sometimes took a little bit of liberties with, but in the end he was a remarkable storyteller that brought his words to life. If you can’t find his archives through your searches at least pick up a copy of Baghdad by the Bay. It’s the book that gave these pages their name.

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.

Juniper-Serra Or How To Talk Like A San Franciscan

How do real San Franciscan's talk?People have debated as to whether or not there is such a thing as a San Francisco accent and I wasn’t sure myself until I started announcing class in College. I was introduced to Henry Leff our teacher who showed us that there is definitely a San Francisco accent.

More so than the accent is what people talk about. If you’re from here or want to sound like you’re from here there are two questions you need to know:

1. Where are you from?

If you’re asked this it’s probably that you told a native you’re from San Francisco which comes with the follow up question, where are you from? It’s not that they didn’t hear you the first time, but that they want to know what district or area you live in. That used to tell people a lot about you, but things have changed over the years. It used to be when some one would find out my family is Italian they’d ask, are you from the Marina? Not so much anymore [yes, my family did live in the Marina before buying their house and after moving out of North Beach.] The Mission used to mean you were hispanic and not a hipster. The Sunset and Richmond meant you were a closet suburbanite with one foot in the city and one foot out. Sea Cliff, Nob Hill and Lake Street meant you had money. The next question you’ll get asked is:

2. What school did you go to?

This is important as it refers to your High School. Again, it used to mean more about who you were than it does today, but it’s still asked. It’s more important if you went to a Catholic school, but public schools told you a lot about the type of person you were. It also tells about the people you would hang out with.

3. Never call it Frisco.

This should have been first, but it’s pretty much a given. You can call it SF, you can call it the City, but you never call it Frisco. I don’t care who you are.

Now, how do San Franciscans speak? This was the tricky part. We kind of smash words together in an supercalifragilisticexpealidocious kind of way. It’s a bit of a lag and a slurring of words so that you’re not sure where one ends and the other starts. San Jose becomes san-osay and Santa Clara becomes sanna-clerah. Very little emphasis on the hyphen.

Then there is the mangling of words. You can tell how long someone has been in San Francisco by the lack of street identifiers in directions. While we have  streets and avenues that are numbered, most places you leave it out because there’s no what telling someone to go to 2nd and Howard would mean 2nd Avenue. Street number always comes before the name as well.

As for mangling names, Junipero Serra Boulevard wasn’t pronounced like it was two Spanish words until I met someone who was Hispanic that actually spoke Spanish [I’ve been here along time, can you tell?]. We always called it Juniper-serra like it was one word smashed together and no boulevard either. This comes from people who’ve been in San Francisco for many years just like the old military base is called the Persidio, not Presidio. In general Hispanic street names are fairly anglicized unless you’re Hispanic and speak Spanish on a regular basis. Taraval Street sounds Terror-vel and Quintara Street is Quin-terror not keen-tah-rah. I guess you could say we kind of talk like we’ve got marbles in our mouths a bit, but then people throw street names at us like Gough Street which is Goff, not Go.

You’ll have to find people who are at least second generation and then ask their parents to talk to experience it. Once you hear it you’ll realize that it is a kind of strange accent, but it’s just another way to tell who the true San Franciscans are.

Burying The Hatchet With The Bay Bridge

As I have written before I’ve always disliked the Bay Bridge mostly for the part about it being easy to get out of the city, but hard to get back in. I have had to wait close to an hour on some weekends because of the back ups. Well things have changed a bit now.

Now that I have Fastrak, it’s a little bit easier. I got a task from TaskRabbit that I thought was virtual, but turned out that I had to drive to Berkeley. Crap, I’ve got to drive the bridge. Well the task went quickly and my gracious task master gave me the added bonus of a tip of over five pounds of homemade chocolate, but that’s for another article.

So there I am during the week driving home at about 4 pm and I see the traffic starting to slow down a bit. OK, here it comes. Actually, wait, why’s everyone getting out of my lane? Apparently people who travel to the East Bay for some reason don’t believe in Fastrak. I was in an empty Fastrak lane and breezed through unhindered.

It was actually, well, kind of nice. It almost reminded me of my daily crossings of the Golden Gate Bridge, just a whole lot longer. I may actually have reasons to visit the East Bay every once in while. If you don’t have Fastrak I suggest you get it. It saves you time and money and you only have to put $25 on it to start. It work not having the hassle of the slow downs to pull out your cash.

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Commuting the Golden Gate Bridge

I have to say that most of my commute experience has involved Muni with a short 3 month stint having to drive from San Francisco to Burlingame. Of those two experiences I’d have to say the commute to Burlingame was the worst because it involved 280, 380 and 101. Commuting to Marin is much different and I learned that highway 101 has a dark and a light side, but with the opposite meanings applying.

Traveling down to Burlingame I usually hit sun pretty quickly, but I also hit much more traffic. I could get there in a half hour to an hour and a half and you just could never tell. While I’d call this the light side because the sun always seemed like it was out even in the winter, it was also a nightmare because the traffic was stop and go most of the way.

Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge is another story, while current construction work on Fulton made it take me 30 minutes to get from Ortega and 19th to Fulton and Funston, from there it took me six minutes to get to toll booths of the bridge. I’ve figured out a work around that will get me from my house to the bridge avoiding the back up and get me to my twelve mile destination in under a half hour. The odd thing is that in this case even including the bridge toll [$6 because it’s the Golden Gate Bridge be-atch!] is cheaper than taking the public transportation route which would be Muni to Golden Gate transit and would take a little over an hour to do. It’s actually about half the price including gas.

Since I rarely have reason to travel across the Golden Gate Bridge I had forgotten what it was like. Dark, Stephen King like fog until you get through the rainbow tunnel of the Waldo grade. I had to turn my wipers on and off because the fog was so heavy a person from San Diego would call it rain, but it was just an amazingly fun drive. The Bay Bridge speed limit is 50 mph which means people drive about 70-80 mph in part because the fog is usually higher up over there and the lanes are wider and there is more of them.

The Golden Gate Bridge is 45 mph which means that people drive maybe 50 mph, but during commute it’s usually around 40 mph if not a little slower. because there are only three lanes north bound and two lanes south bound. I guess they want people to get out of San Francisco as fast as possible, but we only want to let them in at a slow and expensive rate.


I had vowed in the past to never cross a bridge again, but only realized that was from my experience with the Bay Bridge. Crossing the Golden Gate was, well, nice. It was the calmest drive I’ve ever had and I definitely didn’t feel as cramped as I did do when I ride on Muni during rush hour.

The biggest bonus was after getting out of the Waldo tunnel seeing sunlight and arriving at my destination I find that the company I’m freelancing for offers it’s employees free snacks like fresh fruit, chips, granola bars, yogurt, juice, tea, sodas, coffee and bottled water. They’ll even make a lunch run for sandwiches which you can enjoy in the employee lounge which has a 60″ HD flat screen TV and comfy couches. When I look out my window I get a gorgeous view of the Marin estuary and when I walk out on the deck I get the smell of the fresh salt air which I love while watching blue heron’s and egret’s walking around the marshlands.

I think I’m going to get used to this freelance gig really quick.