Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Coachella Magical Mystery Tour

Nobody rides the bus in Southern California unless they are desperately poor, out of luck, Mexican or merely eccentric non-drivers like myself and the gentleman pictured above.

There wasn't even a public bus system in the Coachella Valley other than Greyhound until 1977, when the SunLines first formed.

This momentous event was being celebrated with a day of free service to all destinations on Monday, July 30th, and I took advantage of the anniversary to catch a bus from Palm Springs as it made its way southeast through the various desert cities along Highway 111.

I waited for a bus with the wildly informative gentleman above, who when asked where one should go for a fancy golf resort ladies' lunch, immediately replied, "Miramonte in Indian Wells."

"And you can walk across the street where there's the Hyatt Championship Resort, though I hear the time to go there is Happy Hour on Friday evenings."

"Where should you eat in Indio? There's a great place next to the K-Mart in a strip mall next to a McDonald's. This guy has a Mexican meat market that's the best in the valley and then he opened up a bakery a couple of doors down and also put in a taqueria. It is The Greatest Taqueria in the world. Although if you want to get the greatest burrito in Southern California you should take the #90 line from Indio and go about five miles further to Coachella where the housing developments end and you're in the middle of a date orchard with agriculture stretching across the east. There's a grocery store there with the greatest burrito I've ever tasted, and I used to live in The Mission in San Francisco, so I know what I'm talking about, and it's only $3.00."

He also warned me not to sit in the back of the bus because he'd already been mugged a couple of times back there, and over the course of the next three hours there were quite a few scary looking people getting on and off, so I don't think he was exaggerating.

Still, I was never really frightened because the driver all the way to Indio and back was Andre, maybe the greatest bus driver I've ever experienced. At first, he struck me as a little scary looking himself, but as the afternoon wore on I watched him patiently maneuver an obese wheelchair couple on and off the bus, wait for passengers as they struggled to catch up to the vehicle, and engage in a friendly conversation about the 109 degree weather.

When a couple of violent 16-year-olds threatened to get into a fight, he merely stopped the bus and stared in the rear-view mirrors without saying a word. They shut up pretty quickly.

Most of the stops had shelters with a bit of much-needed shade, but the less affluent town of Indio didn't bother with them, which meant lots of very sweaty Mexican mothers and laborers gaspingly boarding the bus. One of those young laborers, in fact, had one of the sweetest natural smells I've ever encountered.

The itinerary was Palm Springs, followed by Cathedral City (mostly working-class Mexicans), Rancho Mirage (very rich and Republican whites), Palm Desert (the ultra-rich like Bill Gates on the western bluffs with the Mexican working class below), Indian Wells (very rich whites in gated developments where there are huge walls so you can't see in from the highway)...

...followed by La Quinta (very rich whites in a Western canyon with Mexican labor congregating around the highway), and finally Indio (a small Mexican city).

I never did go to Coachella for a burrito or Indian Wells for a fancy golf course lunch because there was an "Apocalypse Now" flavor to the afternoon and the line that kept running through my brain was, "Don't get off the boat. Don't get off the bus." Happy birthday, SunLines.

Monday, July 30, 2007

California Journey

After a few steady weeks of looking out at grey skies....

...over grey parking lots in San Francisco...

...we journeyed south to the Central California Coast overnight to see my father while the rest of my extended family was away at an aunt's funeral.

Dad has been struggling quite stoically with Parkinsons Disease for a good decade, which is made tougher since he was one of the physically strongest persons I've ever met while working most of his life in construction.

The disease is starting to rob him of speech and mobility and all his physical powers which must be personally dreadful but he's reacting to it all like a buddha, staring death in the face with perfect equanimity.

We continued on to Palm Springs the next day where it is empty, beautiful and hot, and said a prayer.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Anarchist Etiquette

On a scuzzy section of Market Street near 7th, directly under the Renoir Hotel, a new nightclub has recently opened.

Besides its amusing name, "Etiquette," there is also a bit of philosophical signage on the facade advising us that {Love will solve all your problems [upside down] Love will only let you down.}

Being that the club is ordinarily for young hipsters who stay up late, it seemed doubtful whether I'd ever see the inside of the place.

However, I was invited to an early evening party on Thursday celebrating the young political aide Julian Davis getting a new job.

He's been hired as the Executive Director of a new outfit called the Tenderloin Economic Development Project that's being bankrolled by a number of rich people's foundations.

The approximately 50 or so people who showed up turned out to be a who's-who of local leftists...

...and in a bit of serendipity...

...everyone seemed totally amused at running into one another and the fact that we were celebrating Julian's good fortune.

There were even appearances by minor celebrities like Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann (above) and California Assemblyman Mark Leno.

The next day h. brown's Burrito Salon was a riotous affair, with people shouting over each other while slobbering over the delicious burritos and Mexican beer.

The minor celebrity quotient was even higher at the salon, with two declared mayoral candidates present, including Josh Wolf above...

...and a first-time appearance by Channel 7 investigative reporter Dan Noyes, seen above talking to Luke Thomas of the Fog City Journal (click here).

I was just about to have a chat with Dan Noyes about Beth Spotswood and the late Pete Wilson and so on, but a crazy female friend of h. brown stormed in (NOT the lovely woman above) and started screaming at him before throwing all her belongings on the floor, and I figured it was probably good Anarchist Etiquette to just leave. I'm off to Southern California for a week, so you can expect a dose of summer on "Civic Center" any day now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dark Days at City Hall

The demonization of San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly by virtually all of the local press outlets is almost unprecedented in its savagery and overkill. You'd think he had actually done something wrong, like giving away public property to his rich buddies, or featherbedding city jobs, or keeping the police from stopping crime, but in truth all those particular activities are being accomplished by the Mayor's Office.

My friend h. brown sent out a column recently from his SF Bulldog website (click here for the whole thing) where he accuses the "San Francisco Chronicle" of incitement to murder, and he's not exaggerating. Here are a few excerpts:
"I don’t put many limits on my writing. One of them is that I don’t call for the murder of my political enemies. Not even in jest. The Chronicle does not recognize such boundaries."

"Tom Meyer is a hell of a great cartoonist and that’s what makes his recent turn into work that promotes violence all the more troubling. Before his just-ended sabbatical, Meyer’s work was even-handed and even tilted more to the left. Well, something must have happened in the year or so that he was off work. Or, more likely, he was told that if he was to return and draw a paycheck from the Hearsts that his drawings should more closely reflect their thinking and not his.

A couple of weeks ago, Meyer did a cartoon of a vacant house with the word ‘reality’ written on the side...The implication is that Daly is insane. This is an implication that is reinforced over and over again throughout the right-wing press and in the even more rabid blogosphere (where a poster who calls himself ‘YOGO’ has suggested harm to Daly’s family – to which SFist merely smiled and continued to post him). The message is very clear in the cartoon; that Daly is crazy and should be dealt with.

Following the Meyer cartoon by a few days, a lead editorial written by Marshall Kilduff said that it was time for San Franciscans to “remove Chris Daly”. Kilduff didn’t specify how.

"Two weeks later, drawing on another local story (the shooting of the coyotes in Golden Gate Park – to ‘protect’ us), Meyer brought the Chron editorial board’s message home more directly. This time Daly is depicted as a rabid animal running away from City Hall after attacking someone. A looker-on is sending 2 men with rifles to pursue Daly and kill him. It is that simple.

Another Kilduff editorial ran below Meyer’s cartoon and likened the Board of Supervisors to a pack of coyotes and closes it by saying that: “Maybe it’s time for a new test of citizenship in San Francisco: dealing with the wild things that follow us home.” Is Kilduff trying to get YOGO and Sfsweetie and that crowd riled up to the point that they’ll do physical harm to Chris Daly? It certainly seems that way. The pieces to ‘justify’ it are all there. He’s crazy. He’s dangerous. There’s precedent for pre-emptive murder. Hey, I’m an ornery asshole but this shit is way past anything I’ve ever done."

Supervisor Daly has started his own blog (click here) and it's instructive to read the comments, many of which are insanely rabid and insulting. There's something very dark going on among the thugs over at City Hall, but it's certainly not Daly's doing, even though in their looking-glass mirror kind of way they are trying to make it so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Egypt Revolution Day

San Francisco's City Hall had a false fire alarm at about 4:30 Monday afternoon...

...and the building was quickly evacuated so that Supervisors such as Aaron Peskin and political fixers like Dean Macris could be seen chatting each other up on the Van Ness stairs rather than in the hallways and back offices on the second floor where most of these conversations take place.

It was amusing to see the one tall gentleman in the Peskin group stand on a stair lower than everyone else so he wouldn't tower over the diminuitive Peskin.

Perhaps that was the reason the statuesque Supervisor Sophie Maxwell parked herself on the other side of the stairs, not wanting to tower over the Board president, while waiting for the alarm to be over.

Finally, a Sheriff's deputy came out and announced that we could enter, "Employees first, and then everyone else," which prompted someone to crack "Ah, yes, first the bureaucrats and then the taxpayers."

On the Polk Street side of City Hall, the Barry Bonds home run flag had been replaced for the day by the Egyptian flag in honor of their national "Revolution Day" on July 23rd...

...which was being marked by yet another photo-op on the mayoral balcony that included Gavin Newsom, Charlotte Maillard Schultz, and various Egyptian consular dignitaries.

Abdul, above, traditionally starts off the general public comments at the weekly Board of Supervisors meeting with paeans of praise for the government body or diatribes about their perfidy, depending on his mood, and it turns out he's originally Egyptian and knew most of the consular staff exiting after the photo-op.

"Revolution Day" marks the military coup on July 23, 1952 by "The Free Officers" which included subsequent Egyptian presidents Nasser and Sadat that drove King Farouk from power and into exile on his yacht in Italy. I found a wonderful short history of the revolution by Ted Thornton, a professor of the Northfield Mount Hermon School (click here for the whole thing), where there was a great quote from General Muhammed Neguib, the figurehead of the revolution.

In the warning that Gen. Muhammad Neguib conveyed to King Farouk on 26 July upon the king's abdication, he provided a summary of the reasons for the revolution: "In view of what the country has suffered in the recent past, the complete vacuity prevailing in all corners as a result of your bad behavior, your toying with the constitution, and your disdain for the wants of the people, no one rests assured of life, livelihood, and honor. Egypt's reputation among the peoples of the world has been debased as a result of your excesses in these areas to the extent that traitors and bribe-takers find protection beneath your shadow in addition to security, excessive wealth, and many extravagances at the expense of the hungry and impoverished people. You manifested this during and after the Palestine War in the corrupt arms scandals and your open interference in the courts to try to falsify the facts of the case, thus shaking faith in justice. Therefore, the army, representing the power of the people, has empowered me to demand that Your Majesty abdicate the throne..."

The world would be a far better place if only we could do the same to King George in Washington, D.C. who has "toyed with our constitution...and debased America's reputation in the world."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Punjabi Wedding

The sound of a drum was resonating through Civic Center on Saturday from the Larkin Street side of the plaza.

Nearby there was a horse being walked in circles by its trainer...

...which had brought a bridegroom to the Northern Indian (Punjabi) ritual dance of two families about to be joined.

The young man in black above was singing exuberantly...

...over the beat of the black-turbaned drummer...

...while various family members would gather in the middle of the circle...

...and dance...

...as they applauded each other.

The event looked spectacularly fun...

...and they hadn't even gotten to the bride and the wedding yet.