31 January 2011

So I've been traveling.

Just when I was getting going again, other things got in the way.

Like having to leave the frozen east for the more enjoyable climate of San Francisco.

San Francisco was hosting one of those academic conferences in one of those big non-descript hotels that occupy the areas around the business districts of American cities. This one happened to be down around Market Street, within an easy walk of the Ferry Terminal, which has a nice farmers market on the weekend.

There was also a storefront from some boutique olive oil manufacturer that sold rather expensive olive oil and olive trees to boot. I'd love to have an olive tree, but I'm not sure it would grow in my current location. I'd love even more to have an avocado tree, but again I doubt the climate would suit it around here.

We didn't stay at the conference hotel or anywhere near Market, really. It's sort of expensive and again sort of generic. There are times when it's very convenient to stay at or near the conference hotel (MLA in LA earlier this month being one of those times), but sometimes it's extremely enjoyable to distance yourself physically and mentally from the conference. We stayed at a place that played a bit role in one of my favorite films. They claim to be a Nob Hill hotel, and in some ways they are, but really it's the edge of Nob Hill and they could be as easily the upper Tenderloin as lower Nob Hill, and besides it's only three blocks from their door to Polk Street, a particularly gritty nightlife area that recalls Adams Morgan but with more menace.

However, I wouldn't characterize the neighborhood as run down or dangerous. Neither the Tenderloin nor Polk are what they were in the mid-1990's, which is to say they're considerably more mundane, although not gentrified. As for the hotel, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who asks. Just get a renovated room, because that's half the kick.

The conference went well, because I know you were waiting for me to get around to it. Fortunately, the panel I was on was one of the first panels and in addition to having a nearly full room with some good exchanges during the question and answer, I knew that by Thursday afternoon, I was finished worrying about the presentation and could relax for the remainder, which I did. I took a few panels off to visit Coit Tower in particular and North Beach in general, and while the Coit Tower elevator was closed for repairs, I hadn't planned on going up the tower anyway; I just like the murals and views from the grounds are great. We even saw a few of the parrots that make Telegraph Hill their home.

Food: House of Nanking (a favorite of ours on Kearny). The food is excellent, but if you are someone who thinks you should be pampered as a customer, I'd give it a miss. They're pretty brusque. The last time I was there, the place looked like a total dive. This time, the interior had been remodeled and the menu prices reflected that capital investment. I liked the dive look better.

Food: North Beach Pizza (another favorite). Since we'd been there last, the joint had moved across the street. The old location was a bit cramped, always crowded, and not exactly suited to efficient movement. The new place has a really high ceiling and an open design, as well as significantly higher capacity. The pizza is still excellent, especially with a bottle of straw basket chianti.

Food: Gamine (a new one for us). We were walking around Union Street looking for food and came upon this gem. It's tiny and owner-operated, which is a definite plus in my book. It was also stocked with several regulars, as evidenced by the owner's personal attention and setting up of complimentary dessert wines. While we didn't receive such attention, the atmosphere was enjoyable, except for the drunk twenty-something who was hitting on the co-owner, who was the wife of the other owner. I had moules mariniere and pomme frittes, both of which were very very very good -- the sauce had a nice amount of garlic and pepper in it. It was a bit overpriced ($15 for the mussels and $5 for the frittes -- they didn't come as a package as I believe they do at Bistrot du Coin), but not horrifically out of line.

We had some other meals, but I'll leave those to your imagination. Not that I've described these meals in particular.

Air travel is a pain.

17 January 2011

It's not a resolution, but I'll give it a try.

I've been missing since the start of the fall semester 2010.

Sorry about that.

Or for some of you, sorry about coming back.

You might be curious as to what I've been doing in the intervening five months. Yeah, me too. The short story is that I was taking on too many projects at work and dedicating too much time to my hobbies such as playing guitar and wasting time on the internet.

I've been reading a lot of James Baldwin.

I've been living in exile from DC for over two years now, and it's really getting on my nerves. I am getting sick of pizza and wings and having to drive everywhere. I'm sick of oil furnaces. I'm sick of Confederate flags in this Union state. I'm sick of County governments and school boards that make DC officials look like Honest Abe.

I'm sick of Sarah Palin's bullshit and John Boehner's tan. I'm tired of the Tea Party. I want to believe our society has advanced somewhat in the last fifty years and I don't want to believe that the education system is so utterly broken that Fox News can fuel a mass movement.

I'm ready to scream in my little corner of cyberspace again.

16 January 2011

Question to Ponder.

Is the USA still largely racist, or is it more likely that a predominant number of racists post comments on the Washington Post website?