The San Francisco Zoo

The African SavannahI’ve always had a bit of a problem with the SF Zoo. I always used to love going there, but now with the upgraded and newly added areas there are parts of the old zoo that are still there that look very, well, old. The new lemus exhibit and african savannah are very nice, but when you travel across and see the new grizzly gulch area right next to the old bear grottos those old bear grottos look pretty dilapidated.

As you walk around you seem to move from the good new looking exhibits right next to the old exhibits through out the zoo. Some are completely empty and overgrown with weeds, others harken back to the days where zoos were built similar to a public bathroom in a cage–concrete floors and walls with a drain in the center.

Maybe part of the reason is that they need more money to rebuild the outdated areas or figure out what to do with the areas that just need a little work. After returning from todays journey out there I thought it was kind of odd that they’ve added an ice skating rink for Christmas time right smack in front of the area that used to be the main entrance. Incidently if you walk around that they’ve also set up a corral on the grass to house some reindeer in a temporary display. Unfortunately if you turn and look to the left the have managed to use the space in front of the old Mother’s Building with the old concession stands. It kind of makes think of it as the little zoo that tried and couldn’t.

My feelings are maybe they should close the zoo for a year or so and just rebuild all the exhibits that need rebuilding and work on getting more animals to fill out the empty exhibit areas. The map that they give you on the way in even has areas marked as “future” exhibits. Sort of a, “Here’s what you’d see if we had it, but we don’t.” The Primate Center which was the first remodeled section is beginning to show it’s age and needs a fresh coat of paint and maybe some rustoleum on the metal. The central area home to the old elephant and lion houses needs a lot of work and looks more like a prison camp for the animals than a place to proudly display them. The orangutans are gone, being replaced by the Leaping Lemur Cafe. Monkey Island is gone being replace by, well I’m not sure exactly, but it’s not there anymore. The Children’s Zoo has been beefed up quite a bit, but is very disorganized and the main part of it is still the Family Farm which is basically, goats, sheep and poop.

The three places I’d recommend highly are the African Savannah, Lemur Forest and the Australian Walkabout. If you have kids you can give them a ride on the restored Dentzel Carousel built in the 1920’s. Grizzly Gulch you could pass on unless you really like grizzly bears, but it’s just two of them in a relatively small space that’s just a little bit bigger than the current bear gulags, I mean grottos. Definitely bring your lunch as the cafes while now going upscale have more than done so in price. A 20oz soda at one of the concession stands along the way will cost you $3.00 and a churro will cost you $3.50

$15 for adults $12 if you’re an SF resident. $8 for parking [which if you’re smart and don’t mind a little walk you can get for free. Easily accessible from the L-Taraval metro line or from the slower than molasses 18 & 23 buses. Check it out, but I wouldn’t put it way up on your list. Leaping Lemur Cafe serves up Pizza & Pasta with free Wi-Fi while the Playfield Cafe serves up Asian specialties and the Terrace Cafe is a taqueria with burgers and fries.

Photo of the day: 20081125

Museé Mechaniqué

©2008 Eric Kauschen
©2008 Eric Kauschen

A place to experience what life in San Francisco was like prior to the invention of videogames, cell phones and social networking. This photography is from a diorama of a country fair where after you insert 50¢ it comes to life. You can see this at Pier 41 on Fisherman’s Wharf.

Damn those backpacks!

There. I’ve said it. I feel much better now. If you’ve ever taken Muni during rush hour you know what I’m talking about. People wearing their backpacks on the buses and metro that stick out almost a foot from them blocking people from passing them. Even worse is when the turn sideways because they think their thinner and end up smacking with they’re backpack loaded with bricks or what ever the hell they need to carry with them to work or school. 

When it was just school kids I could understand. They’ve got all those books to carry and help cause spinal deformaties during their growing years [ok that’s for another post so I’ll stop that now], but adults who feel a need to carry two cubic feet of “stuff” with them to work I don’t understand. I tend to be a bit of a frugal guy and can pack a weeks worth of clothes into a carry-on. I also tend to choose the most compact multitasking things I need when I travel. Like my cell phone. It’s an mp3 player, a clock, a camera, a video camera and an FM Radio [and no it’s not an iPhone]. What the hell are they packing into those things? I think I might have to start asking them.

One of the things that would be a good idea for people to do is to take the packs off when you get on metro and carry them down in front of you then put them down between their feet when you get to your space. Yes, if you have to move you’ll have to waddle a bit like a penguin, but you’ll only have to move a foot or two at the most. I’d almost go so far as to say that should be the law, but let’s try and work together and make it just a rule to live by when you’re taking public transportation.

I’m a cranky old man, and I approve of this message. 🙂

You might be a sunset redneck if…

"The half of me that ain't yore sister wants to have sex with you!"

The Sunset District is a place I’ve called home for 40+ years. It’s an odd place that’s enveloped by fog which then will switch to hot sunny day. This is the secret of the Sunset that’s been kept from the rest of San Francisco and with global warming it only gets better as there’s less fog and more sun. Now the oddest part is that beachfront property in any other city carries a high price, but in the Sunset, it’s where we have all the low income, section 8 housing.

My guess is that came from the pre-global warming days when down at the beach there were two kinds of weather, raining, and gonna rain. There were cars up on blocks in people’s front yards or if they weren’t, they were rusting from all the salt air out at the beach. Now, thanks to C. W. Nevius of the SF Chronicle it has brought the Sunset Redneck to the forefront in an article I read today. Now I don’t remember meth labs and whorehouses in the Sunset when I was growing up, but I do remember the working class people who were trying to get ahead by saving money every way they could. I’ve decided to expand on C.W.’s article [what the hell does the C. W. stand for that it sounds so horrible he has to use C.W. anyway? It just reminds me of the actress S. Epatha Merkelson. How bad is that S if Epatha Merkelson is ok?] by creating a list of things common to the Sunset Redneck. See if you qualify even if you aren’t in the Sunset.

1. You have a car up on blocks in your front yard. [bonus if it’s an olive green 1967 Cougar]
2. The last minute and a half of Freebird is the ringtone on your cellphone
3. Girls: you put your makeup on after getting on the L-Taraval or N-Judah and are finished by Sunset boulevard
4. You’ve got a freezer in your basement
5. You’ve got an electric guitar in your basement, but you don’t play guitar
6. Someone says, “The Riptide”, “Kelly’s bar and no grill” or “Club Scirrocco” and you know the bartenders.
7. A sunny weekend means you pull 2 chaise lounges onto your driveway with a cooler of Budweiser.
8. Your lawn is what gardeners refer to as “weeds.”
9. Your mama still doesn’t know ’bout that tattoo you got.

Yep, I’m a Sunset Redneck and wees good peoples.

New Release: Eric Kauschen

Well why not just be a little gratuitous and have the first post in the Music category be about me? I finally managed to finish my first album of guitar oriented music and I think this one will be pretty big for me. I’ve released four previous albums, but they’ve been mostly soundtrackish and ethereal. I’ve always been a guitarist and I finally got down to it and finished the album. Probably because I was inspired by my new studio setup that turned my abilities to record up to 11. I played all the instruments on the album with the help of William Duke who did the back up vocals with me on Ich bin ein Auslander.

The songs are as follows:
1. I’ve got a guitar and I’m not afraid to use it.
2. Ich bin ein Auslander
3. Eye of Set
4. Into the Arena
5. Fury from on high
6. Speed of light
7. Seaside Strut
8. 2073: The New Gladiators [theme]
9. Hawaii Five-O

The album should be available on iTunes by the end of November and I’ll add a link here to it when it comes out. For now if you click on the picture above you can get a pre-release listen of Seaside Strut. If you want to see some of my other work that’s available on itunes just click on the Eric Kauschen - Symphony of the Nine Angles button.

The California Academy of Sciences

[click on pics for expanded view]

I worked for the California Academy of Sciences when I was a kid starting off taking classes at the Junior Academy then moving up to working at the Junior Academy and volunteering at the Steinhardt Aquarium and then working for the Morrison Planetarium. I used to get to walk around before anyone was let in and I could walk around behind the scenes and talk with people like Tom Tucker who worked at the aquarium who used to let me steal some of the brine shrimp from their huge tanks for my fish tanks at home to John McCosker the former head of the Aquarium who I kept begging for a real job for years. I used to run around this place like a sponge trying to soak up all that it had to offer. I knew every inch of the CAS from African Hall, Northern American Hall, that room with all the bird dioramas [what was that called again?] to the Hall of Minerals and Wattis Hall of Man. They they closed it all down. Tore down most of it and rebuilt it. I was amazed at all the work that went into it and how they had focused on making things as green as possible. I looked forward to opening day, but me being a bit of a “sunset redneck” as it were didn’t get out there on opening day.

I was glad. When my wife and daughter and I get a chance to go we waited in line for about 45 minutes just to purchase a membership. Now when I was a kid [get ready for the “back in my day…” line] It cost about $25 a year for a family membership. Five years ago when my wife and I took up a membership again it was $45. Today due to inflation the price for a family membership is $159. No, I kid you not. If you’re a single person it’s $25 to get in vs. the $6 when I was in my late teens. Is it worth it? HELL YES! We take our daughter a couple of times a month and my wife goes with her even more often. At first it doesn’t feel like there’s much there because it’s more of a big room than several smaller rooms, but there is a lot going on there. My best advice is that if you live in SF then you should take a day off of work and go mid week. On the weekends it’s way too crowded and you’ll be tripping over strollers left and right. I did find the “food court” rather refreshing from the old days when Duchess Services handled the food and it was cheap greasy fries and tasteless hamburgers and hotdogs. Salads back then were considered to be iceberg lettuce with a wedge of tomato and a slice of cucumber drowned in cheap over the counter Italian dressing. Now everything and I mean everything is organic. Want a Coke? Nope. Even the sodas are organic and they have a range of foods that runs the gamut of the cultures of San Francisco. They also have a rather upscale dining room downstairs called the Moss Room that features very upscale foodie stuffs from the likes of Charles Phan of Dragonfly and Straits, but is overseen by head chef Justin Simoneaux. I haven’t eaten there yet, but when I can find a way to google up a few extra hundred bucks I’m taking the wife there to live it up large. If for no other reason than to see the moss covered wall.

Chimichurri: The Pesto of Argentina


Living in San Francisco you encounter a large hispanic population and I have many friends who are hispanic. When I was a kid everyone used to call them “Mexican” because I guess we didn’t know or care about countries below Mexico. I recently discovered a sauce that while originating in Argentina is apparently known all the way up to Mexico and it’s called chimichurri. It’s very similar to the Italian pesto sauce only instead of basil it uses flat leafed Italian parsley. While I can’t say for sure, there are a lot of Italians who immigrated to Argentina so maybe that’s why it was created there, but you’d think they could grow some basil there wouldn’t you? It’s used as an accompaniment to meats of all types from beef to chicken to pork to fish. It’s heavy on the garlic and just gives the meat and intensely earthy feel without the dirt [and why is it people eat expensive truffles when dirt is so much cheaper?]. Here’s my recipe and I hope you try it because you’ll be surprised at how good it is. Now I have to compare it to one of the local churassco houses in SF that’s opened up since Argentinians started to lay claim to SF. I tend to like mine on the well blended side so it doesn’t look too much like oil and weeds, but grind it as much as you like.


1 bunch parsley
8 garlic cloves
9oz olive oil
2oz white wine vinegar
2oz water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Add everything except the oil to a food processor or blender. Start it up and slowly add the olive oil. It might be 9oz more or less, but you’ll know when it’s ready when it’s thick and creamy. It doesn’t exactly separate, but after a day or two you do get a bit more oil on top. I have a set of handy squeeze bottle on hand to fill it up with the sauce and then I’ll squirt it on one of my famous burgers [that’s another story] or heavily douse a nice beef tenderloin or london broil with it.

Sunset in the Sunset

Sunset in the Sunset

©2008 Eric Kauschen

I went out to grill up some steaks with chimichurri sauce tonight and just had to snap a picture with my cell phone’s camera. The end of the year is when you see the best sunsets in San Francisco. Enjoy!