Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

A few days ago, I became embroiled in a minor dustup about race in America.

The primary point of contention was that the South is more racist than other parts of the country.

This was my point of view at the time, and I felt qualified to speak on the matter because I was born in the South and lived there until the age of ten when my family moved to California.

Admittedly, I haven’t lived in the old home state since I was a kid, but I have many relatives still there and, it seems to me, that their racial attitudes are representative of the South as a whole.

On the other side of the fence, an acquaintance argued that racism existed everywhere in America today, particularly California.

I agreed with this sweeping assessment, but I pointed out that racism is more socially embedded in some sections of the country than in others.

In fact, I said, the South has a documented record of laws enshrining racist attitudes and practices, beginning with the first slaves brought to Jamestown, Virginia, circa 1619 and continuing to this day with recently enacted voting laws aimed specifically at making it difficult if not impossible for Blacks to vote.

At the same time, I admitted that other states, principally California, had a documented record of institutionalized bias against persons from Asia. San Francisco, for example, once enacted city ordinances prohibiting persons of Asian ancestry from attending school with whites. And statewide, California prohibited interracial marriages until 1949.

Perhaps equally pernicious were unwritten practices which had the effect of prohibiting Blacks from living in certain towns and areas. Taft, California, for instance, acquired a reputation as one of the norious Sundown Towns where Blacks were warned in graphic language on signs posted at town entrances to “Don’t let the sun go down on you in this town.”

On balance, however, the South must be counted as one of the most racist areas of the country. I liken racism in America to the volume dial on a radio. In  many parts of the country, racism is muted, almost inaudible.

But as the dial is turned to loud, louder, and loudest, you reach the South where racism is like a mixture of bass and treble so loud that your ears burn and your stomach shakes.

It isn just a matter of whether and where racism exists, but where it is expressed in the loudest, most vociferous tones.


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This should be a time of excitement for me and in many ways it is. I’ll soon leave Hawaii for a new life elsewhere. I’ve always looked forward to changes like this with great hope. This time is no different.

At the same time, I feel a deep sadness at leaving a home my wife and I raised three daughters in. There are many memories in this house, enough to last a lifetime.

It isn’t a house alone, though, that makes a family. A house is merely a man-made structure, the modern equivalent of a caveman’s natural dwelling.

A house needs people in it.  I’ve always felt strongly that I could be happy anywhere if I were with someone I love.

When my wife passed away, I found living alone intolerable. I finally decided to sell the house and take my chances somewhere else.

The choices are many, daughters scattered all over the country and assorted relatives up and down the Bay Area and in other parts of the West Coast. I am familiar with all of the areas where kin folk live and in many other places without relatives.

But familiarity doesn’t necessarily translate into liking. We can be familiar with a place and yet thoroughly dislike it. We can also be unfamiliar with a place and think we may like it.

That’s how I felt about the Carson Valley running South of Reno through towns like Carson City, Minden, and Gardnerville.

The Carson Valley is a lush farming and ranching area in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The small towns I mention are both historic and modern. Minden has become a preferred retirement area for retirees primarily from California, or as the locals call them, “Calis,” used derisively to describe anyone from anywhere who has moved into the area and driven up real estate prices.

Be that as it may, Minden is a hop skip and a jump from Lake Tahoe if you don’t mind driving straight up the Eastern escarpment of the Sierras.

And that is what we did on a recent trip to Reno. We drove south from Reno, down the length of the Carson Valley, through Carson City and Minden and almost straight up to Tahoe. It was a beautiful drive and Minden was everything I imagined it would be.

The only hitch in my Carson Valley living plan is an almost insurmountable one: no family. None, nil, Nada. So much for Eastern Nevada.

At any rate, I finally decided on a temporary base of operations near a daughter from which I could take my time and check out some locations where other relatives live.

I don’t know how things will turn out. I’ve been seriously thinking about buying a cheap condo in a couple or three different places, if there is such a thing as a cheap anything. That way I can spend a few months here, a few months there, and a few months over yonder.

One thing I know for sure. I’ll continue to write this blog. San Francisco is my favorite city in the whole world. If I had the money, I’d buy a place there and hang around City Hall. The politics of the City are intriguing to the nth degree.

But right now, I’m on hold, waiting for the closing, the day I give my keys to the buyer and he gives me the money. After that, no matter what I eventually decide on, I’ll flutter around like a bird looking for its nest.

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Dennis Herrera has announced his candidacy for the Mayor’s job in San Francisco. A long time ago, Dennis was one of my Facebook Friends. I didn’t ask him to befriend me. The request ostensibly came from him, but it’s highly probable that a clerk or an assistant in his office sent out blanket Friend requests and somehow, purely as an afterthought or by mistake, included my name.

This was during a brief time in my Facebook life when I was receiving requests from politicians left and right. And like the naïve novice I was, I accepted them all, flattered that I was actually in their thoughts. Later, I learned otherwise. I was caught in the midst of a drive by every politician in the state to build up their Facebook Friend list to establish their viability as candidates. I never received a request from Gavin, though. He apparently had enough friends. One more anonymous blogger would have been a mere redundancy.

At any rate, one day I asked myself a question, “Why is my Friends’ list packed with noncommunicative politicians?”

Answering myself, I said, “I don’t know, but I’m getting rid of them.” So, I systematically went through my list and purged all politicians, except one guy who attended the same university I did. I thought about old school loyalty when I finally decided to leave him on my list. I’m thinking of removing him, though. He hasn’t responded to my post informing him that we are school buddies.

I want to make it clear that I have never met and have no intentions of ever meeting any politician whose Facebook Friend list numbers above 20. There is such a thing as overdoing a good thing. This isn’t to suggest that I’ve never met a politician. I have. Many. Up close. Personal.

I must have had a run of bad luck because everyone was either egotistical, arrogant, or an asshole. None had mastered the essential political skill of faking sincerity. Every single one of them, man and woman, could have profited from several private sessions presented by Sally on How to Fake a Political Orgasm.

I’m not suggesting that any of the above adjectives or descriptions apply to Dennis Herrera. In fact, a guy from New York State can’t be all bad. My best friend in the Air Force was an Italian kid from the Bronx who taught me to speak Italian. Unfortunately, the only word I remember is lapis, meaning pencil. So, if I ever walk up to you, Dennis, and say lapis, I’ll expect you to reflexively reach for your pencil.

On the other hand, Herrera may be Hispanic for all I know, or even Portuguese. According to one source, the surname Herrera is Derived from the Spanish herrería, meaning place where ironwork is made, the Herrera surname means “worker in iron, a blacksmith.” According to the Instituto Genealógico e Histórico Latino-Americano, this Castellan surname originated in the Villa of Pedraza, in the province of Segovia, in Castile and Leon, Spain.

Now, that’s a commendable generic genealogy for a politician. It has all of the right words, iron, worker, Castellan. I’d be proud of these credentials myself except I’m not Hispanic.

Even so, if I were Dennis’s agent or something, I could work with these quals. A few examples of pithy themes: “Man of Iron. Faster than a speeding ballot. More powerful than a loco voter. Able to leap tall issues in a single bound.”

But I’m merely speculating. Regardless of his birth pedigree, Dennis Herrera is undoubtedly a nice guy. Unfortunately, I won’t be voting for him. I’m a registered voter of another planet. Nevertheless, I spend a good deal of time in the Bay Area and the city, receiving updates from relatives and a gay expert on politics who lives in the City.

However, Dennis, if you ever need a positive and glowing review on this blog, have your campaign manager write one and send it to me. I’ll run it under my name.

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Our trip began in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and ended on the East Coast of the U.S. We covered almost 6,000 miles and passed over and through a few time zones and temperature ranges.  Needless to say, boarding our airplane in 80-plus temperature and deplaning (love that word) in one of those unpredictable East Coast cold spells, combined with a severe case of jet lag, shocked my system. As a seasoned traveler, my buddy seemed impervious to the trip’s rigors, which irked me because I wanted him to suffer along with me.

But more than time zones and temperature ranges, we flew out of, into, and over a few Music Areas.  These aren’t parts of the country with lines delineating a clear separation of musical preferences. When you leave one music area, you won’t see a sign that reads “You are now leaving the Hawaii Music Area and  entering West Coast Blues.” And when you cross the state line from Nevada into Utah, there will be no proclamations about “Entering Mormon Pop Area.” (I am not making this up.)

In fact, when traveling by air, you will lift off from one Music Area and hit the tarmac at the other end in a Music Area distinctly different from the one you just left. For example, we departed from the Hawaii Music Area and landed first in San Francisco. What preferred musical styles and genres did we leave behind and which ones did we encounter at our intermediate and final destinations?

The Hawaii Music Area
The modern music of Hawaii includes just about any genre you want to name, rock, hip hop, reggae, Jawaiian, and, of course, Hawaiian music. The local groups that become popular in the state seem to manage an amalgamation of the old and the new with sounds that appeal not only to the local population but also to the influx of tourists from the Mainland U.S. as well as from Asia. A listen up and down the radio dial will bring you the modern sounds of U.S. pop, Hawaiian, Country and Western, Japanese, Korean, Samoan, and some easy listening Frank Sinatra recordings. Maybe “eclectic” would be an apt label for the Hawaii Music Zone.

The San Francisco Bay-Area Music Zone
The San Francisco Bay Area Music Zone is also eclectic but with a slightly different emphasis on preferred styles. Although we remained inside the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and thus had no opportunity to get out and around the city, we were somewhat familiar with the music. Many of you will remember The San Francisco Sound personified by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, not to forget Santana and Journey. But long before The San Francisco Sound of the 1960s, San Francisco was a Mecca of blues, jazz, and Dixieland. Perhaps the personification of that era was Turk Murphy and his Turk Murphy’s Jazz Band, which played for many years in San Francisco. Oddly, or not as you see the world, the Bay Area has its Country-Western and Bluegrass aficionados, hangovers, perhaps, of the millions of World War II and Korean War servicemen and women from the South who transited San Francisco and other points in the Bay Area on their way to war zones in Asia. As for modern musical genres, some sources include a multitude of styles, including Skacore, Deathrock, and Cowpunk. However, confined as we were to SFOs terminal, the only local music we were exposed to at one a.m. consisted solely of elevator music.

The Washington, D.C. Music Area
Dulles Airport was the last stop on our flight and we were in and out of the airport and the surrounding area in a heartbeat. We didn’t have the luxury of pausing to soak up a little local culture because we were on our way to a Mother’s Day dinner in a distant corner of the Washington Metropolitan Area. But a quick look at a few internet sources made it clear that the music of the area consisted of more than the bleating, whining, and lying sounds of politicians. Today, the area is known for its hardcore punk, Bluegrass, and varieties of hip hop. At one time, however, in the distant past, the area was noted for the marches of John Philip Sousa and, later, swing bands such as Duke Ellington’s and vocalists like Roberta Flack. D.C. also has a plethora of symphonic venues, which, along with Bluegrass, seem to have an elitist tinge to them. We are, after all, surrounded by the most powerful individuals in the world. Dress and decorum must be maintained at all times, or at least shed only for the lying times when politicians return to their home music zones for the express purpose of pretending to be members of the lower economic classes just like everyone else. Washington, D.C. is, if nothing else, home to the highest per capita population of deceiving liars in the universe. Can we expect them to be honest about their musical preferences?

Of course, there are more Music Areas than I have talked about in this post. There is the Tejano sound of the Southwest, the nasal sounds of Appalachia, the soothing sounds of Montana cowboys crooning to their cows, and the Southern blues sounds of the Mississippi Delta. For a more complete treatment of Music Areas, see Wikipedia.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I use “Music Area” and “Music Zone” interchangeably. I have no other reason for this idiosyncratic preference but  to avoid using the word “Area” too often. It just doesn’t sound right to say “The San Francisco Bay Area Music Area.”

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After a rocky start in Honolulu and a missed flight in San Francisco, we arrived at Dulles International Airport about 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Mothers Day.

This was my first experience with the Dulles airport. I was quite surprised at the size of it. From our terminal, we caught a huge, wheeled tram that looked like something out of a sci movie. Here’s a picture of one that I located on Flickr.

Although I ran across a number of uncomplimentary comments about Dulles and its trams on the internet, I personally found the tram quite comfortable, mainly because it was almost empty. I have a hunch the airport would have been bursting at the seams on any weekday and travelers would have been packed into the trams like kipper snacks.

To a Dulles novice like me, finding the baggage claim area from the point where our tram docked at the main terminal  would have been like finding my way through one of those mysterious mazes that appear overnight in corn fields. Alone, I could easily have wandered endlessly through the maze that is Dulles.

But fortunately, my traveling companion knew the airport inside out.  With me trailing, we walked briskly to the baggage claim area where we collected our bags and then caught a car rental bus to an off-airport location. Once we were on the road, I relaxed, knowing we would arrive at our final destination in about an hour and a half.

Our route took us North of Washington D.C. on a section of the Beltway that eventually intersected U.S. 50 East. This is one of the oldest federal highways in the nation. Its Eastern terminus is in Ocean City, Maryland while the Western end of the route is in Sacramento CA where the old stretch between Sacramento and San Francisco has been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. At one time U.S. 50 was a part of the Lincoln Highway which terminated at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park San Francisco.

Back in the day, I traveled U.S. 50 from Kansas City to Oakland and back via car or a Greyhound Bus. But today, we were headed East on 50’s modern, four-lane divided highway to Annapolis for a short rest and a Mother’s Day dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant on Annapolis’s main street. I had the good fortune to sit facing a large window with a good view of the never ending stream of pedestrians. They were a diverse lot, probably tourists like me for the most part.

That’s it for the time being. I’ll have one more report about this trip in which I’ll recount my observations of some of the people we encountered.

Until then, see ya.

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A few days ago, I recounted our anxieties during a four hour delay as we sat on the tarmac and waited at the gate for our flight from Honolulu to Dulles via San Francisco to lift off and head out. In that time span, we encountered a cargo mix up, a change in cabin crew, and an unusually officious Chief Steward in the Business Class section who wouldn’t permit my traveling companion in Economy Plus Class to move on up to the vacant seat beside me.

We finally roared down the runway, headed for San Francisco and our connecting flight to Dulles. To our dismay but not to our surprise, the connecting flight had long since departed San Francisco by the time we landed.  What were we going to do? We pondered a few alternatives.

We knew we would arrive in San Francisco after midnight. And we knew, or thought we knew, that the next flight to Dulles departed around seven a.m., arriving at Dulles in the afternoon, too late for a scheduled Mother’s Day dinner.

And, the short interval between our arrival and the next flight to Dulles made it impractical to reserve a hotel or motel room in any one of about a thousand establishments around the airport. Plus, leaving the airport’s premises would mean a repeat security check when we returned, which is okay in the interests of assuring our national security but which can be a royal pain in that well known bodily location where pain usually resides in times of troubles.

We had thus resigned ourselves to resting the best we could on a bench or on the floor in the terminal, provided that the terminal remained open overnight. Fortunately, our choice of alternatives became moot when we were informed by the agent that we were indeed in luck. A delayed flight would arrive shortly from Dulles and after 30 minutes or so, the plane would return to Dulles.  And, wonder of wonder, seats were available, good seats in fact. My buddy had his choice of several window seats and I chose my usual isle seat.

And if that weren’t fortunate enough, the middle seat in my row was empty and a young lady occupied the window seat. Throughout the flight, she helped me locate the movable arm rest, various buttons on the television console, and the light switch, which I couldn’t see well in the dim light because my eyes were still adjusting after my cataract surgery. She was super-duper all round nice.

But before we learned about our good fortune and boarded the plane, we stood in line mulling our options and chatting generally about the things people chat about while standing in lines at airports. At one point, the guy in front of us chimed in and we learned that he was on his way to the Gulf Coast for a job with an environmental company with a contract to clean up after the recent catastrophic oil spill.

Our new “standing-in-a-line friend,” we learned, was married with five children, one of them a newborn son. He had recently lost his job and the Gulf Coast cleanup was the only work he could find. He wanted to remain with his family but he needed to support them even if it meant an extended stay in Louisiana. I empathized with the poor guy, but there was nothing I could do but offer my best wishes.

Finally, we finished our work at the counter, boarded an Airbus Number Something or Other, and took off for Dulles. It was well after one a.m. on Sunday morning, Mother’s Day. If we made our appointed Mother’s Day dinner, it would be by the hair of our chinney chin chins.

I’ll cover our arrival at Dulles and the hour and a half drive to our final destination in the Third Installment. In later installments, I’ll write a few words about my impressions of various aspects of the trip, the people we met and the evolution of their clothing and mannerisms from casual to uptight as we moved from West to East.

See ya.

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Although I love traveling, preparing for a trip is a pain in that well-known location where pain seems to reside. But on this trip, I completed the preparation process relatively pain free. The beginning of the trip, however, was another matter.

We arrived early, checked our bags, and cleared the security checkpoint without a hitch. From there, we found a seat in an airport eatery overlooking the runway and waited. After thirty minutes of watching airplanes land and takeoff, we walked the few remaining steps to the gate and boarded our plane, I in the business section located behind the flight deck on a Boeing 747, and my friend in Economy Plus. I pitied him, but that’s fate.

The equipment originally scheduled for our flight was a Boeing 767, but because of a glitch somewhere down the line, the 767 was delayed or something and the company substituted a 747, which is configured for international travel, meaning that its business class is located upstairs in the bubble behind the flight deck. My seat was directly behind the flight deck and I could easily see the flight crew as they worked through their check lists. They finally finished and closed the door. We were off. I thought.

We taxied and taxied and taxied and taxied to the runway and turned onto it, lined up and ready to go. This is a part of the flight I love, feeling my body sink back into my seat as the plane speeds down the runway and lifts off. But on this day, something happened to delay that feeling.

I thought things were going wrong when, instead of taking off, the plane swung around onto a taxiway where we waited as incoming planes landed and taxied slowly past us to the terminal. Finally, the Captain announced, “We’re sorry ladies and gentlemen but we’ve encountered some sort of cargo error and have to return to the terminal. We anticipate just a very short delay.” Well, of course, he was lying through his teeth but we didn’t know it at the time.  I bet even he didn’t fully anticipate subsequent events.

At any rate, the Captain finally swung the plane around and we taxied and taxied and taxied and taxied back to the gate, which now was swarming with baggage and cargo vehicles. As soon as we docked, men who looked like loadmasters or something flocked to the flight deck and began reviewing paperwork with the Captain, who nodded sagely as he munched on a dinner the stewards had brought him as soon as the plane docked.

The review process went on for about an hour and a half before the Captain finally announced our imminent departure. As fate would have it, imminent happened about two hours later because, in the hour and a half the Captain and the loadmasters worked to square away whatever glitch was causing the delay, the legal amount of time that the cabin crew is permitted to work at one stretch had expired. The company had to call in an entirely new crew and, again, as fate would have it, the new crew was onboard an incoming flight that wouldn’t arrive for about an hour and a half.

In the meantime, I decided to walk downstairs and talk to my buddy. At the head of the stairs a really friendly stewardess ask me if I needed any help and I told her why I was going downstairs. She said, and I’m recording her words as near as I can recall them, “You have an empty seat next to you. Why don’t you ask your friend to sit next to you?” I thought she was really nice and helpful and a few minutes later, my friend was ensconced next to me. We chatted and waited for the new cabin crew to board at which time we would be up up and away.

God has his her its reasons for punishing the excessively optimistic. The overly officious male steward, whose legal time hadn’t ended with the other members of the cabin crew, approached us and asked if my friend had a ticket for the airline’s business class service. I explained why my friend was sitting next to me but he didn’t buy it. He said, “She (the stewardess) doesn’t have the authority to upgrade someone. Only an agent can do that.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, I thought about the movie The Natural. Roy Hobbs is signed to a baseball contract by the team’s chief scout. Roy dutifully reports to the manager who denies that his chief scout has the authority to sign Roy. I started to ask the Chief Steward if he’d seen the movie, but better sense overcame me in the nick of time.

By now, my friend was getting a little antsy so he stood up and went back to his assigned seat. Sadly, I realized that, after almost four hours at the gate and an additional four and a half hours in flight, I would have to be content with an empty seat as a seatmate.

I’m not sure this incident has a moral. Perhaps if anything, it illustrates the hazards of going over the boss’s head. Be very cautious about stepping on the toes of authority.

I’ll finish the tale of my trip in the next installment, in which I’ll cover our late arrival at SFO and our ultimate end-of-flight experience at Dulles International Airport, where everyone seemed twice as officious as our in-flight steward.

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