Weekend of random activities

Looking back over this weekend it seems so quiet and low-key yet packed full of action on another level. I stayed at home after a very active week.

Tuesday was our Double Union Tea and Lightning Talks at the Mozilla community room. Over 60 people showed up. We had about 10 talks. The food was all devoured (next time I know to ask for more of it.) People all seemed super happy to be there and I had a great time MC-ing with Amelia! Wednesday I took half the day off and road tripped with Len and Rose up to Novato to see our friend Ron from Ophoenix who I love and admire. He is cool, mathy, wise, funny, good hacker, and a great activist. Ron is one of the people I co-exist with on ambient IM. I likewhen people are kind and compassionate yet can have a sharp edge; we seem to share that. Driving to Novato for me and Len is actually a road trip since neither of us drive. We hung out and just rambled nerdily all afternoon long. It was fabulous! It was also the first time I’d met Len in person and I want to go hang out with him in Santa Cruz. Especially as he described how he bakes bread all the time.

Thursday I spent an intense evening at the Pioneer Awards with Danny. Still extremely sad about Aaron; it seems surreal that he is gone. (Whatever I feel is nothing to Taren’s and to Danny’s daughter who was close to Aaron for years; but I’m still really stunned.) I developed an instant activists’ crush on Laura Poitras for being the sort of modest documentarian and doing things that are of use. It was good to hear what she had to say and see her huge grin on the screen! I had a brief but good conversation with Jamie Love and I wonder if I can kick the WEEE repair manual access idea to them. I have so much admiration for what they did with WIPO! Hugged and talked with a lot of other people there who I really love to see and don’t get to see enough.

It feels like cheating my blog to sum up the week this way. But oddly… or not… I want to dwell on my more private, homebody, intellectual life.

Friday I came down with a cold, maybe not surprising after all that running around and working on top of it. I usually don’t leave the house two days in a row even to go up the street to the corner store.

So this weekend I nursed my cold, drank a bunch of nyquil and took naps, flung kleenexes around (till saturday afternoon when i cleaned up) but also did a lot of reading. I ripped through a few more books I’m reading for the 2011 Carl Brandon Awards (the award is a little bit behind and doing 2 years simultaneously to catch up.) It is a joy to be on book award reading juries, not just to have a giant stream of books coming at me, but to have so many *new* books I can recommend to people! And I can’t wait to have some discussions and hear what the other jurors think. All of which we will be doing scarily soon.

I also read Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa and enjoyed it, though I gave it the side eye a few times I am also a fan of order with liveliness, showers, reliable electricity, people not bugging me about religion, museums, ecology, and less corruption in government so I don’t have much of a place to eye from. I did a fair amount of looking things up on Wikipedia and found a good candidate for developing a new article — on the Esie soapstone sculptures. Here is a museum for the GLAM wikipedia project! The stuff about Susanne Wenger mystical white lady priestess of Oshun also sent me on a wide eyed rampage of horror and wonderment as I fell deeply down yet another internet rathole. O M G. Talked in the language of the trees, yeah…. ok….. Then to adopt 12 local kids and deliberately raise them illiterate? I can’t even!!!!!!

Meanwhile this was going down in our communities: https://twitter.com/ashedryden/status/381465338443202560 and that’s all I want to say about that in public though the private conversations have been going on all weekend. A whole bunch of us can’t talk about it, but had to at least mention it. Ashe wrote a good post: http://ashedryden.com/blog/we-deserve-better-than-this Yes. That is the place we are coming from. You know nothing, Jon Snow. http://twitter.com/shanley also laid down the knowledge and righteous anger.

Other things, I tended my little garden of potted plants, cooked chicken-corn-pasilla pepper soup and curtido, grocery shopped, spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my sister and her 6 year old son. Laura worked on fabrics for her NASA planetary map dresses. Jack played Plants vs. Zombies 2 and other games. We played King of the Beasts with him (a great quick card/board game) and later when Laura went to a meeting Jack and I played a longer cooperative board game called Castle Panic. He was the Master Slayer (fortunately). I read Danny’s emails and twitters from the xoxo conference in Portland and thought fondly of people there.

At some point late Saturday night I went searching for a quote I was thinking of earlier in the week, by June Arnold who has been on my mind lately because The Cook and the Carpenter is so relevant to my life what with the hackerspaces and all. Realized June Arnold does not have a Wikipedia page. Oh!!!!! Like a stab in the heart. Most feminist press stuff is just missing from there. This would be a nice thing I could do, gradually and I certainly have or can scare up some decent source material. I found the quote which is from the 2nd issue of Sinister Wisdom.

I think the novel — art, the presentation of women in purity (also I would include poetry, short stories) — will lead to, or is, revolution. I’m not talking about an alternate culture at all, where we leave the politics to the men. Women’s art is politics, the means to change women’s minds. And the women’s presses are not alternate either but are the mainstream and the thrust of the revolution. And there’s no tenure in the revolution.

That panel of her, Sandy Boucher, Susan Griffin, Melanie Kay and Judith McDaniel was pretty great. I read it over again and was especially happy just holding Melanie’s thoughts about Wittig, Russ, and Arnold in my mind. I realized I have not read Flying by Kate Millet and probably should. Well, I felt happy to connect a bit with this strain of thought. I thought Amelia and others would like the art is politics quote.

Today I read halfway through Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disabliity in American Culture and Literature by Rosemarie Garland Thomson. I got cold-emailed by Rosemarie a while back (I get awesome, awesome, emails at random, every week a few more, more than I can handle) and we finally met up at Noisebridge. I felt a weird Instant ability to partially mind meld, or, trust, or, as some people would put it boringly, I made a new friend! In like an hour hanging out we had gone pretty deep into hand waving and assuming the other person knew what we meant (and we did.) I am greatly enjoying the book. It is nicely built academic literary and cultural criticism, flows well.

Here are some bits I specially dog-eared: I did NOT know this about Aristotle. from Generation of Animals . . . “Anyone who does not take after his parents… is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male. ” Being born female is to be born disabled. “The female is as it were a deformed male…” Then on into stigma theory which we now less bludgeon-ish-ly refer to as being marked and unmarked. OK. Onwards.

Motherfucking Emerson. (I always like to think of earnest Louisa May Alcott characters falling in love over discussions of Emerson. ) Emerson goes on about conservatives and how they are “effeminated by nature, born halt and blind.” They are also like invalids. He lines up men (who are awesome and ethical citizens) opposed to children and disabled people (and women since I doubt he means “humans”) This sentence of Rosemarie’s wrapped it up nicely for me, “Emerson’s juxtaposition of an unrestricted cultural self with a muted other thwarted by physical limits exposes the problem of the body within the ideology of liberal individualism.” OK, maybe you had to be there. IT made me happy. I’m not typing out pages and pages of this and I want to press onwards. Deep into the next section I felt she was laying out out a lot of good knowledge about ways that racism and US-ian concepts of white and black (or non-white) are entangled with gender and disability. good stuff here.

Then like a full on body slam I hit the chapter “Benevolent Maternalism and the Disabled Woman in Stowe, Davis, and Phelps”. (Which god knows I will scavenge off Project Gutenberg and read this week, but I get the idea from her descriptions). Again blackness and disabilty and gender entwine. Check this out. Here is where I get my typing fingers out and smear on the arthritis knuckle cream.

As Stowe deplores slavery’s inhumane separation of families, as Davis reveals the iron mill’s callous victimization of workers, and as Phelps censures the textile industry’s abuse of mill girls, each writer highlights nondisabled heroines or narrators who prevail or even triumph. Their disabled sisters, however, stay on the narrative margins, degraded by oppressive institutions and ultimately sacrified to the social problems the novels assail. . . . While the various maternal benefactresses radiate a transcendent virtue, agency, and power, the disabled women become increasingly subjugated, despairing, and impotent.

Crushed by capitalism’s laissez-faire morality, Prue, Hagar, Deb, and Catty are icons of vulnerability who help generate a rhetoric of sympathy and scandal meant to propel readers from complacency to convictions. Despite their secondary or even minor parts in the actual narratives these disabled women fulfill major rhetorical roles by arousing the sympathetic indignation that activates benevolent maternalism. This impulse was the springboard from which white, middle class women could launch themselves into a prestigious, more influential public role that captured some of the elements of liberal selfhood. . . . . At the same time, however, these novels diminish the very figures for whom they plead by casting them outside the exclusive program of feminine liberal selfhood the narratives map. (emphasis mine)

I had to pause and let that resonate for a bit. Damn! SO TRUE. SO STILL TRUE. I mean in real life not in a novel.

Make me want to go read Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska all over again like a sort of brain-wash, just thinking what that mill girl novel is going to be like.

So, also, I spent some pleasant hours participating in CSAW Capture the Flag with Seattle Attic’s team. I would love to make it pan-feminist-hackerspace (as it more or less was with me and some others in it). It was super fun, I love puzzles, and felt stimulating! The team was 303rd out of 1300 entrants. Would do this again. I feel the impulse to go over all the puzzles to learn things.

I also fooled around putting the Hubble Deep Field onto online fabric designer stores (I am getting a swatch from Spoonflower and one from ArtofWhere, to compare) so that I can make space pillowcases for my friend Ron. (And maybe for me and everyone I know?) I did not color correct, figuring, try a swatch, if it is good enough, I don’t have to learn how. If it isn’t then it seems learnable. I would also like this nail polish as it is the best space toenail possibility I’ve seen yet!

Then I thought a little bit about RAID arrays and MPD and setting up a feminist media server and book scanner at the new hackerspace.

I thought of my friend Timmi and wished to convey all this to her and thought of writing her a giant letter but instead it is a blog post for anyone and everyone. I will write her a giant letter too at some other point.

I riffled through this feminist online library and thought about what I could do with a hopefully ethical as possible but not quite so limited by copyright law approach to documenting our history.

I had a nice conversation with Skud about Growstuff and development processes. Thought a bit about collective authorship, patterns and antipatterns. It would be neat to take Selena’s git story flash cards and make them into different orders for patterns and antipatterns like we were talking about.

I thought a bit more about sassaman but wanted to write this post instead of working on it.

Bedtime now! “There are some days when I think i’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” Amelia mentioned this quote. We seem similar in temperament. I also write little quotes in the front of my notebooks! And I feel this way. Though I was unsettled, upset, in my usual level of pain (though, enbrel rush on Saturday, yay) and had a cold much of the weekend, I feel so grateful for my inner intellectual life and for all the fantastic people I have to talk with more or less any time. What amazing luck. Hypatia says it is funny that I describe mindfulness as “being smug”. I think of mindfullness as involving more meditation-like sitting still, which I’m incapable of without morphine. Some days I work, eat, clean up, hug everyone, read a little escapist fiction and go to bed. Those are good days even if I end up in tears (from pain usually). Danny and I have great conversations, I feel understood and he always has some new thought or source of interesting knowledge like a fabulous fountain of ideas. More than half of my days I think are like this last week and weekend, flitting from idea to idea, happy to be a dilettante, so happy to read quickly, and sure from past experience that my efforts will combine to make something good, a book, a group, a conversation or a chain of ideas that people remember and value, so that I feel like my time and effort doesn’t just slip away. (At best I accept and believe this; at worst I beat myself up for not being productive enough.)

I hug you all and leave you with this calming manatee. We can’t fix things quickly. What we have done and built, especially our friendships, social ties, and institutions, stand and have affected things. What we’re going to do will make change as well. It is happening, trust it and be comforted.

Calming manatee progress

AdaCamp meanderings

Tonight was the AdaCamp San Francisco reception, at Google on the 6th floor. We had some food and beer, talked a million miles an hour, and got a short nice speech from the Site Reliability Engineering team. Thanks Google SRE for sponsoring the dinner!

I got an awesome sticker from somebody that says “Intersectional Feminism Fuck Yeah” which is basically the best thing ever. It goes well with the “Open Source Fuck Yeah” sticker on my laptop!

Hung out and talked with SO MANY PEOPLE. Great conversations about mapping, the Hate Map, Open Street Map, open source hardware kits for fiber arts people, web accessibility struggles in open source, all kinds of gossip, new feminist hackerspaces starting up like the Seattle Attic and one coming soon in Portland (there may be an SF one someday … stay tuned). Ciberseguridad in Mexico for feminist activists, scooters…. I can’t remember what else but I was never bored for even a second. Everyone was so nerdy and happy. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

This week I had fun in my “spare” time working with some tactile mapping folks from Lighthouse SF and the AdaCamp organizers. It was somewhat harder than I thought and was my first try at mapping an interior space collaboratively instead of just writing descriptions on my own. So I learned a lot. Here are some tactile map pics for the sighted. I did not know that braille was be printed double sided; the two sides are offset.

adacamp tactile map
A tactile map of the 15th floor of the Mercantile Exchange building, with braille printing.
tactile map key
A map key that says “Symbols and Abbreviations” with braille printing.

I also experimented with writing a textual description of the space and its rooms and exits, which an attendee had asked for. I volunteered to do this for inter disability solidarity, but also because I enjoy writing interactive fiction and MUD areas very much, and have lots of practice at it. The requester mentioned the possibility of different layers of description, maybe on different pages. I ended up making a single text file as The Ada Camp Text Adventure, where each room was marked with “h2” and an anchor tag. Then I hyperlinked the room names. Each room has a short description and a long description. The long description isn’t marked separately but is just in the second paragraph for each room. There are probably more elegant and useful ways to approach this. It would be interesting to collect other examples.

In the descriptions, I did not use 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock as I read was common for way finding and orientation for blind and visually impaired people. Instead I tried to have one clock orientation at the building entrance, and then switch to North south east west terminology. I tried breaking the word AdaCamp into two words as I felt more confident it would read out correctly as Ada Camp. Perhaps it is not different enough to matter. Consistency in the descriptions and style of describing exits may or may not be important. But I am not sure. While the text adventure’s recipient said it was great, I am not sure that means it is useful. To know how to do this usefully, I would need to iterate with map or text adventure users willing to spend significant time exploring and talking about it. But, as I am probably reinventing the wheel, it would be good for me to read more about what other people do in this area too.

What I’m wondering is, could I do this in a useful way for future events or for spaces I inhabit regularly, like Noisebridge, or WisCon? If so, then more people should do it for public spaces or events and I can tell them so. Also, it would be fun and interesting.

My dream from some years back is that Open Street Map would have text adventure markup, so that particular places in very fine grained ways could be described. It would be fun for people with any level of vision to walk around a city, or a campus, like a MUD, or to look north from a particular address and see what there is to see. Maybe that could make audio navigation descriptions more useful.

I keep saying “useful” and that is because I have seen so many pointless wankery “design” type of oh what a nifty thing this would be for disabled people things that maybe also make a Statement, but they aren’t really nifty, and suck, and are a waste of time and money and energy, and they are very annoying. Usefulness is much nicer.

Two especially nice days

What a gorgeous day! I could feel the vitamins shining into me! While it may be boring to read I would like to record how much I enjoyed the last two days back in SF and getting over my jet lag. I was in bed all weekend wondering if I had ruined myself forever and would never get to do anything nice again. Though it was so cosy to be home, to have Danny to talk everything over with, and to have Milo here and a cat to cuddle. Then . . . of course . . . by Tuesday and after a lot of sleep, everything was fine again. I feel lucky (and a little silly for panicking).

Yesterday Val came over and we worked from my house with several pots of tea and conversations in between our meetings and moments of fierce concentration. Yatima walked in around 4:30 to join us. It was like a fabulous dream come true to have my house full of feminist friends who can just drop in. At some point Val and I headed off to dinner at Balompie with Danny. Then to the Noisebridge meeting and elections. I shelved some books. Thus ends my dutiful stint on the Noisebridge board, where the main job is to practice not wielding authority.

Today, hazelbroom picked me up at 8:30 after dropping off her son at school. She hoisted my scooter for me and left us outside Haus on 24th street. I adore 24th street with its trees shading the sidewalks, the million Precita Eyes murals, the bakeries, excellent mercaditos, new bookstores, and lively community life. It makes me happy just to be there. Worked really well from Haus, which had peaceful music and rows of somberly dressed laptop people with big headphones and knit caps, facing each other across the room, with the light from the street streaming in. Outside a group of guys in orange vests were digging up the street and I wished that someone would courteously bring them coffee and pastries on a tv tray. Usually the window tables in Haus are taken first but today no one seemed to want to be on whichever side of the aquarium windows it may be with the guys up to their knees in red clay dirt glassed off from the cleanness of the insides. I enjoyed my chocolate croissant and cappucinino and felt all fired up as I triaged some Firefox bugs, wrote email, and planned a screen reader bug day.

Discolandia

Then I beetled over to Garfield pool. The entry guy recognized me which was nice but guilt-inducing since I have not done any pool/swimming physical therapy since October. There is a new push button door opener, which is very exciting and awesome for me in the scooter! And the women’s bathroom, which previously was like one’s nightmare of a state hospital circa 1955 where they hose you off or whatever, with no door to the “accessible” stall and many other horrors, and I had planned to bring a shower curtain to at least have privacy to pee — now it is all fixed up with a higher toilet seat, handrails, large stall you can get a powerchair into, and bench. They took out 2 sinks and just totally fixed the problems. So great! While I don’t know what else they did in the renovations, everything looked a little less skanky, and all the things I was emailing the SF parks and rec dept about last year are fixed.

I strapped on some arm floaties and rode the hydraulic lift into the pool. It was reasonably warm!!! My upper back and neck are kind of “stuck” right now, one of those things where I can’t look all the way up and to the right, a bit hunchy-over . . . so I was moving very cautiously. I also didn’t want to over do my activity on my first day back in the pool. So it was gentle thrashing about in the 5 foot deep area like slow water treading while leaning back and a bit of walking back and forth and doing leg lifts.

Got to chatting with a guy who asked me if I had back problems and told me about his. He has to have some vertebrae fused and is worried about it.

As we gently flailed I felt I was making a really nice friend and now look forward to hanging out with him in the pool some more. He is a garbage collector in my neighborhood (but not on my street) and lives over near the pool. We talked about places we have traveled (him: south africa, greece, italy, mexico, me: london, vienna, beijing, greece, mexico) and places we want to travel. He told me about his ranch in the country and his grown children and the young visiting Sicilians who came to stay temporarily and then became renters in his house, and what his village was like where he came from in Mexico (near Guadelajara, with lots of river and underground water for wells and springs, near ocean, very relaxing, good restaurants, nothing happening ever) And how his co-worker retired there by him buying his aunt’s place by the river which has a spring-fed swimming pool and now all the children and people love him because he helps everyone with his truck. We agreed about some of the things that are nice in life. We agreed on our love of pick up trucks (I had one for 13 years.)

I love a fellow extrovert . . . With the distraction of talking I stayed in the pool the full 50 minutes. It really helped to get a ride there, too.

Then went to hazelbroom’s house nearby where she gave me an amazing massage. The stuck bit of my back is still stuck. (I am icing it.) And she fed me the most amazing lunch. I love my friends. Trout (?) on rice with broccoli and then jars of kim chi and japanese seaweed seasoning and soy sauce and pickled things. delish. I got to hold her son’s new hamster. She invited me to ride out to the VA hospital with her where I could work while she went in to have a physical for her new job there.

Hammy2

I worked from her car on the way there (with 4G on my phone giving me internet) but paused to gawk at golden gate park and try to take pictures as we drove through. The pond was especially pretty. A guy was just bending over to sail his model sailboat. It was like some idyllic scene out of Stuart Little.

I felt so happy to be in the moving car in the warm sun, seeing trees and water and flowers and birds.

Va sunny liz

Got a hot chocolate from the VA canteen which had ramps to the outside picnic benches that overlook Land’s End with a great view of the golden gate (the opening of strait, not the bridge) and Marin headlands. There is a wheelchair accessible table right next to the Battle of the Bulge Memorial Trail. There was good wifi with 4G reception and it is a quiet, good place to work. I felt a little funny going through the VA on my scooter getting the “special smiles”. No – I was not blown up in combat. I did have a pretty great race with a guy in the parking lot who had a super huge scooter engine. He kicked my ass. It wasn’t as big of a scooter as the one I had in London though.

Showed the marine traffic site to hazelbroom when she was finished with her physical and came out to join me. She also loves cargo ships and we saw one come in in real life and on the screen.

Then she drove me past Sutro Baths. I wanted to believe that the lump we saw way down there was Sutro Sam the river otter who is eating all the goldfish in the pond. But now that I see the photo magnified on my screen sadly it is just a rock. I felt like it was the otter sleeping in the sun and was happy. Who needs reality. Anyway we knew he is there.

Sutrobaths sunset

As if this weren’t enough she then drove us down Irving and got us bubble tea. I had ginger milk tea with ENORMOUS tapioca bubbles. The ginger was so strong it made tears come to my eyes and cleared out my sinuses. I will sweat ginger for days. Cannot remember all the things we talked about on the way home but it was lovely.

If anyone in SF feels like giving me a ride to pretty much anywhere on a nice day, I am very portable, and as long as I have wifi, power, or decent phone data reception I can work from wherever. I spend so many days working from bed (because of pain or mobility issues) that a quiet outing on a good day cheers me up amazingly. I miss the times when I used to be able to drive all around town, going to random places off the map and settling myself in a good cafe or in a parking lot overlooking the beach.

Now am going to put in a little more work (collecting email addys of people who report screen reader issues in bugzilla, to invite them to a bug day). Danny will come home soon from the EFF office and tell me all about his day and my sister is going to drop by.

The only way this could be nicer is if the kids were here. Ada’s birthday party is this weekend so that’s going to be great, and then Milo’s party is in a couple of weeks. I plan on making him a cake that will be a block from Minecraft – three 9 by 9 pans should get me a block shape, chocolate cake, and then green frosting on top and chocolate frosting on the sides. I think that gummy worms in the layers will be a good touch. If I can find the frosting spray paint in varied colors maybe I can pixelate the cake surface.

Driving around, I waste more time

This afternoon we drove around searching for the building I’ve seen and wondered about for years. It’s visible from Highway 101, is topped with giant panels of stained glass, and says “STUDIO” on the side in white letters. “Studio” is not very google-able. It’s in a neighborhood in San Francisco called Silver Terrace, just west of Bayview and east of Portola. STUDIO, after we tracked it down and did some sleuthing, turns out to be Church Art Glass Studio owned (or formerly owned?) by Nick Lukas. Above the front door there’s an awning made of the same colors of glass as are on top of the building, throwing intense colored shadows. Framed stained glass panels were in the dusty windows. The hill was very green & lush. I love corners of neighborhoods that are mostly full of industrial buildings and warehouses for floor tile and stuff like that. This area has the added bonus of being mostly underneath a highway.

church art glass studio

The majority of windows at St. Michael [in Livermore, CA] were done by the Church Art Glass Studio of San Francisco, which has designed windows for the churches on the West Coast and Hawaii since the turn of the century. The original owner, Edward Lopolka, advertised as “artists in stained glass, German and English antique.” The business was sold in the 1940’s to the father of Nick Lukas, who continues to operate the business in the shadow of the 280 freeway.

I felt like I solved a mystery only to come up with several more mysteries.

Mystery #1: Is the Studio still open? It looked deserted. A post from 2009 says Lukas was trying to sell his entire stock of art glass. It looks like we only just barely missed a very cool art show hosted there, Virtuoso.

Mystery #2: What is the hill of Silver Terrace called? It doesn’t seem quite like it would be named “Silver Terrace” but that’s what I’m going to have to call it. (ETA: I think it’s Mount St. Joseph! Source: How Many Hills are in San Francisco?

Mystery #3: What is that funky deserted building at 432 Paul Avenue that looks like an old school next to an equally funky factory? It’s beautiful!

Silver Terrace was in the Rincón de las Salinas and Potrero Viejo Mexican land grants, sold off by the Bernal family in the 1860s. Actually it sounds like General Sherman foreclosed on the Bernal mortgage and then sold it off to J.S. Silver who subdivided it into lots, so it’s a very old San Francisco neighborhood. You can see from old maps that Bernal Hill is on one side of the bay inlet where Islais Creek was, that was eventually filled in to become Bayview, and the mystery hill that isn’t called Silver Terrace is on the other side, just east of Hunters Point Ridge.

San Francisco coastline and crreks

Here is a fantastic history of the area!

History of Bayview and Hunters Point (pdf)

We ended up going through McLaren Park which we had looked up beforehand – making fun of videos of hippies dancing to very boring music at Jerry Garcia auditorium – And pausing to look out over the valley below & trying to figure out what everything was. It was mostly Visitacion Valley, Bayshore, and the Cow Palace. I’ve never been there. We drove through and the most I can say for it is that I plan on going back to the huge Savers thrift store on Geneva. If there was a there there in Visitacion Valley I didn’t find it. I did wonder about what the Visitation was – something like the Annunciation which I do know is when Mary finds out she’s preggers – It turns out it’s when Mary’s pregnant and knows it, and goes off for a visit with another pregnant lady. I could rewrite that in my head to be all about pregnant ladies being supportive of each other instead of all the stuff about creepy babies leaping in the womb because of getting weird telepathic messages from other babies!

Back on Mission in the Excelsior neighborhood we were tempted by the Chicken Coop restaurant which looked amazingly retro. I couldn’t park though so we decided to go home and make omelettes. Signs informed me that Excelsior Welcomes the World. I will definitely return to work my way through all the small grocery stores on Mission. They look great. Anyway, we changed our minds about dinner again a few blocks later when we passed Joe’s Cable Car. Joe’s Cable Car turned out to be not the greasy cheap diner I thought it was. It is more the Dr. Bronner’s of Burgers. Everything at our table was covered in rambling, old-school sales talk and folksy wisdom about the magic of GROUND STEAK from, presumably, Joe. By the time we ordered our food I couldn’t bring myself to say the word “burger” because of the incredible amount of text about GROUND STEAK I had just read and all about the sharp knives, the way they butcher it all and grind it right there practically at your table, and how Joe himself and his jolly butchers were ready to Down-Home-ily bring a cow right to your house straight from the Gold Rush, and grind it up, unlike the evil fast food industry and its evil, evil breadcrumbs and midwest factory slaughterhouses, so please fork over 14 bucks for your Ground Steak while you enjoy the wolf-whistle of the doorbell and the singing santa christmas lights and the giant neon signs shaped like the Golden Gate Bridge, while sitting in something that in 1965 used to either be, or look like, a cable car. I had a great time and the burger was delicious.

The myth of the place and what I was about to eat had completely sold me on the restaurant before I had even sipped my coke. It was overwhelming especially to sensitive, neurotic artists who had gone to look for America and been driving around all day. It reminded me a little of the 1000 mile trip I took around the Southwest where through three states I saw billboards advertising “The Thing!” and then finally got to “The Thing!” roadside attraction and was so freaked out by its Americana-ness that I wrote several chapters of an autobiographical novel about it.

As usual, Oblomovka navigated and looked things up on his G2 while I drove and made a lot of spontaneous decisions which way to go, and we made things up about the stuff we were looking at and tried to imagine everything about all the neighborhoods and imagined our future hacker artist co-ops in all the funky old buildings. I have an especially good time because we can both get passionately attached to some imaginary and pointless goal, like figuring out where the headwaters of some cemented-over creek is, or how to get as close to the top of a hill as we can, but we don’t actually care that much and so are happy to change our minds and do something else as soon as what we’re doing isn’t fun anymore.

Warm Water Cove and Pier 70

Today’s random expedition led me to Potrero Point and Warm Water Cove, a tiny, gritty park one step above a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland. It’s a vacant lot in an industrial wasteland with a bench! I love this park. Right now it’s full of wild mustard, radish, dock, mallow and other great edible plants. The remains of a creek ooze out of a scary tunnel. It’s all surrounded by warehouses, parking lots surrounded by barbed wire, and off in the distance, rusting ocean-going cargo ships. Apparently there used to be weekly punk concerts there run off generators and lots of campers. While I was there today a woman and a dog in a very DIY camper van were doing some housekeeping and enjoying the late afternoon sun, so the camping, or homeless-person-occupancy, probably continues despite the recent community makeover, graffiti cleanup and daily policing. A few years ago people were still fishing from a pier to take advantage of the warm water coming from the power plant outfall (which attracts fish.) The pier’s gone now.

Sounds like a lot of piers have been closed over the last few years, including San Mateo Pier, the longest fishing pier in California.

From there I could see a very interesting building that looked like a lot of cubes piled up on top of each other.

It’s behind the Pacific Gas & Electric Station A, a huge and beautiful red brick building.

Pier 70

Here’s some links to the history of Potrero Point:

* Station A

A block or two north, little alleys wind around the decaying buildings of Pier 70.

* The Noonan Building
* Map of Pier 70 structures – a great map with notes for each building.
* Irish Hill This hill full of houses and apartments for the iron and steel mill workers and their families was leveled and the rubble used to fill in the Bay. I saw a tiny bit of the hill left – you can tell it’s not just a pile of dirt because it looks like a roadcut through serpentinite.

Underneath these industrial buildings is a tide-washed labyrinth of slag pits, cisterns, waste dumps, and wooden pilings. I can’t even imagine the giant amounts of toxic junk still leaching into the Bay.

Building 104, an office building from 1896:

Pier 70

Building 21, from 1900.

Pier 70

Building 11, The Noonan Building, 1941. People obviously live there.

Pier 70

During wartime this shipyard churned out countless ships. Thousands of people worked there in round-the-clock shifts. As the shipyards closed the area became neglected and used for storage for old cars, MUNI trains and buses. It sounds like then there were decades of concern from people in the Dogpatch, Potrero, and Hunters Point communities, plans for redevelopment, toxic cleanup, reclamation, preservation of the historic buildings, and industrial customers who still might use the land for power plants, and ship building or repair. The largest floating dry dock facility in the world was sold to the City in the 1980s for one dollar — probably because the massively polluted land (and ongoing pollution of the Bay) was clearly a liability and someone was going to have to *clean it up* before it got seriously used again.

As I mulled over What Is To Be Done here’s what I thought up. While it’s not being used for much else and it’s polluting and dangerous, full of crumbling buildings and broken glass and probably more asbestos than anyone can imagine, make it a public Dangerous Park. Just let anyone do whatever the hell they want in there and graffiti it up and have punk rock shows and photograph the roofs of falling-down warehouses. But let them know the dangers to their health and safety — just as you’d put up signs to say that a seaside cliff is dangerous because of erosion and high waves. The conditions of entering the Dangerous Park should be agreement that you’re not going to sue the city for whatever injuries result.

Some of the Historic Buildings would be graffitied and fucked up, but maybe some would be improved, cleaned up, cared for by artists and colonized in interesting ways.

I realize this isn’t going to happen and instead it will end up being a squalid industrial center for a while longer until some asshole buys it and Develops it, because the only way that people are “allowed” to be in or live on a toxic waste dump is if some bunch of developers makes an obscene profit off it while covering up any risks with massive lies. But people using crappy in land in some less centralized and profitable way, with accurate information about the problems of that use, is, weirdly, never okay.