At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


Where does this blogger hide out on a day (such as this is) when there is nothing pressing that demands his attention? The question is better stated: where do badgers and weasels go in San Francisco, when they want to spend time either in contemplation OR watching people do interesting things?

There's a logic to posing it in animalistic terms.

Doing so rules out most of the obvious haunts. The Caffe Trieste is right out, as the clientele there after eight in the morning includes artistic types and poseurs. They probably wouldn't bother the badger in the corner, but the weasel would have one hell of a lousy time.
She'd be quietly trying to read at her table, with pen, notebook, and cappuccino at hand, when some oily nouveau beatnik of the rodent-persuasion would sidle up and hiss: "say, little girl (weasel), you sure are purdy...". She'd shake him off. "Go away, I'm trying to read!" This would not help. The rodent is an EXPERT in reading. He does it ALL the time. Why, as recently as yesterday he read a book!
Which he will then describe.
It's quite likely a dreadful tome, deep and meaningful, and written with sewer-rats like him in mind. There are long words in it. He looked them up, and will now proudly demonstrate their use. While, of course, attempting to make eye-contact.
Because really, a nice young feminine weasel is precisely what suits his fancy. He thinks they'd could be GOOD friends. And does she want to do lunch sometime? Can he get her another cup of coffee? Care to go somewhere where we can talk? Do you like steampunk? Acid rock?
Beastie Boyz?

At this point, there is a commotion in the corner. Mr. Badger, who had been trying to read 'Chinese Characters: Their Origin, Etymology, History, Classification, and Signification', by Dr. L. Wieger, has had enough. He gets up, slams his book shut, overturns his latte onto the artistic doodles that the rat left on the table when he headed over to bother the young lady (weasel), and on the way out, "accidentally" trips the rodent.

See? All of the coffee places in North Beach are off-limits.
Badgers and weasels suffer indignities there.
Euro-trash, artists, hippies.
Not worth it.

I know. I used to live there.


Often I will head over to Stockton Street in C'town for something to eat, then wander around a bit with pipe in mouth. I favour alleyways, because they are quiet, emptier, and rather wind-free. Chinatown has a number of very nice alleys, with interesting signs on both sides. Family associations, printers, herbalists, Buddhist religious supplies, and some Christian missions providing misguidement to the locals.

Tourists occasionally wander in and out, but as there is nothing to buy there, they seldom stay long. Instead they stride with purpose toward the fortune cookie factory which is mentioned in the guide-book, to immerse themselves for half an hour in the mysteries of making a flat sweet circular biscuit with a touch of vanilla flavouring which is still malleable when warm, and can be folded over a strip of paper with a truism on one side and six potential lottery numbers on the other. When it has cooled down (and lost some of its moisture while doing so), it will be crispy-crunchy and delicious, and may function as the capstone and dessert of a nutritious meal. Who knows.
Stranger things have happened.

Stockton Street is too busy. Alleyways are perfect.

Walter Lum Place, named after Walter Uriah Lum (1882-1961) is another favourite haunting spot. It runs alongside Portsmouth Square, which is often filled with old men playing chess. This blogger, being a pipe-smoker, and at that time usually in full fuming mode, is banned from that park. All smokers are banned. San Francisco wishes tobacco aficionados ill, and would like to exile them to the howling wilds. We resist. We lean over the railing and rudely puff whisps of Virginia at the sparrows, flycatchers, thrushes, and hummingbirds.
They do not notice.

"Hello, my little chickadee", I might say, playfully mis-identifying the avian-American in question, "do you mind if I smoke?". The bird does not answer, just looks at me funny. Then continues going about the business at hand (wing), which probably involves food.
Birds aren't tofu-snarfing wheatgerm freaks; they don't mind smoke.
They'd probably object fiercely to tofu, though.
Unless it was covered in meat.

[Walter U. Lum Place used to be called Faa Yuen Kok (花園角 "flower garden corner"), but was name-changed years ago to honour a Chinese American activist and scholar. The sign now reads: 林華耀街 ('lam wah-yiu kai').]

Down near the Pyramid there are also nice alleys. Commercial Street between Montgomery and Sansome, with old-fashioned park benches, Leidesdorf which cuts across Commercial halfway down the block, and on the other side of the Pyramid, Hotaling Place. For the benefit of smokers, there is a bench on Hotaling, right off Washington Street, with a witches' hat for your buts. After finishing my pipe I usually dump the neurotically folded-over pipe cleaners in it.

There used to be many more bookstores in the downtown, and they were always fun for hours of browsing. But strangely, their number has decreased, and their offerings now tend toward the pedestrian. Self-help and best-sellers just aren't very interesting. After finishing my smoke I might head down to Sue Bierman Park and Ferry Plaza, to listen to the parrots in the tall trees while waiting for the number one bus.
Especially if it's later in the afternoon.
Get on before it gets crowded.
The law-office mob.

I also like wandering around Nob Hill. Once the bus has reached Jones Street, I may disembark and light up another pipe. If the wind is too fierce there's no point lighting it till further down the slope, though.
Still. Few of the natives seem to mind if I smoke.
They would probably expect it of badgers.
As well as middle-aged dudes.
On a summer day.

Chinatown is good and safe for badgers and weasels.
The Financial District somewhat less so.
Northbeach is a foreign land.
Too many 'Beats'.

Bring on ursines and wolverines, we need predation.
It's time to eat the nuts & niks.

Smoke them out.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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