17 December 2014


On Caltrain this afternoon, the conductor announced our approach to one station thus: "Belmont! Belmont! Party town! This is Belmont!" And the next station: "Hillsdale! Home of a really big mall! Go shopping! This is Hillsdale!"


A friend reports that ads for credit cards have appeared on the exteriors of local buses. The name of one purported cardholder is 'Alex Martin'. I'm reminded of the moment when, a few years ago, I was getting off a bus downtown. Two women passed in front of me on the sidewalk. One of them said to the other, "And then Alex Martin said..." ...I'll never know.

04 December 2014

Handsome is as handsome does.

At Trader Joe's in Stonestown, I needed an extra bag for my groceries. "Extra bags are free for handsome men," said the cashier. "If you say so!" I replied, with a smile. No one has called me "handsome" for many years.

01 December 2014


At a bus stop, I observed an older man, 60ish, spinning wool or cotton with a hand-held drop spindle. The yarn was colored, so I imagine he had dyed the unspun tufts. He had with him a small spinning wheel --- the wheel had probably belonged to a small child's bicycle. He continued his spinning on the bus, completely absorbed in his task.

24 November 2014


A motorcycle dealer has opened two blocks away, in a space formerly occupied by a typewriter shop, which closed in 2013. There are several very new and very shiny motorcycles in the space, but in the front window, beside the door, is a wooden soapbox racer. I don't think it's for sale!


At a café this afternoon, a barista successfully exterminated flies in flight, with what appeared to be an electrified tennis racquet. Each contact was accompanied by a sharp snapping sound. Technology is definitely making great strides these days!!

29 October 2014


At the Church Street Café this afternoon, a young woman wore a T-shirt which read: Forget everything. Regret nothing.

29 September 2014

The A's

This afternoon, I observed a young man wearing a shirt which resembled one for the Oakland Athletics ("the A's" as locals say) which actually read "Atheists."

Hayes & Kebab

I've never been in a restaurant on its last day before. The evening of September 28 at Hayes & Kebab was unique in my experience. A string quartet played, and innumerable customers queued up for falafel wraps and adana kebabs and who-knows-what-else. Wine flowed, hands were shaken, and even the Sheriff, Ross Mirkarimi, appeared, with his wife and kid. Hayes Valley was in his district, when he was a Supervisor. He said that as a Persian, he had common ancestry with the owners of Hayes & Kebab. He remarked that there will be a restaurant in the new space, when the building is completed, but it is not clear that Hayes & Kebab will be the new tenant. I've never been in a restaurant so loved, whose departure was so regretted. I wish the owners and staff all the best, in the uncertain months ahead.


Endarkenment: a word of the novelist David Mitchell, to describe a dystopian future in his novel 'The Bone Clocks.'


At The Cove Thursday afternoon, a diner wore a T-shirt which read, "That was Zen. This is Now!"


Bibliohead Bookstore has been packed up, ready for shipping. Next week, Hayes & Kebab will close. Hayes Valley is disappearing before my eyes. The condo boom and techie money are sweeping all before them. Sic transit.

13 September 2014


While I was out for my daily walk, I passed a young man whose T-shirt read, "All my friends are walkers!" I learned subsequently that in current slang, "walkers" are "zombies!"

29 August 2014

More reality

 I neglected to mention another book, 'Scatter. Adapt, and Remember,' (whose author I forget), which describes the various apocalyptic calamities which can/will obliterate most life on Earth: ice, nuclear war, pandemic, asteroid collision, runaway warming, etc.. The author relates how life forms have survived past near-extinction events, and so proposes how we may survive the extinction to come. A charming little tome.


Lunch at Red Jade. My fortune reads, "An important discussion involving you will take place today." I chose to interpret the prophecy optimistically. Thus improved in mood, I took myself next door to Aardvark Books, where I bought Roger Penrose's irresistibly titled book, 'The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe.' All 1099 pages of it, for a mere $12, $.0109 per page. Hugo Enomiya-Lassalle's book 'Living in the New Consciousness' weighed in at 153 pages; $5. That works out to a hefty $.0326 per page! My New Consciousness will doubtlessly smooth my way on the Road to Reality, no matter the cost!

26 August 2014


Sunday morning's earthquake (at 3:20 AM) woke me up with a jolt (!). The building rattled, shook, swayed, cracked and groaned. It lasted 20 seconds or so. There were some injuries and serious damage at the epicenter, near Napa, but none here in the The City. One small item in my apartment tipped over, but otherwise nothing is out of place. So far, so good. Just a reminder that we really do live in earthquake country.

08 August 2014


On the M line this afternoon, a young man was knitting what appeared to be a scarf. He worked steadily, standing up, keeping his balance on a crowded, moving train.

29 July 2014


A young man walking past the Church Street Café wore a T-shirt which read, "Don't grow up! It's a trap!"

23 July 2014


In a parking lot at Stonestown appeared the red-white-and-blue Volkswagen bus about which I posted October 11 last year. Its driver was not the aged hippie of my imagination, but a younger man, 40-something. He was, however, appropriately hirsute, with very long black hair and a bushy black beard; he sported a baseball cap, and spectacles in a vintage style. And, like an aged hippie, he shopped at Trader Joe's.


Yesterday I took myself and a friend to the de Young, to look at the Modernism exhibition. I was happy to see a piece by Clyfford Still. I first encountered his works decades ago; they've held up well. They haven't turned into clichés, nor are they self-imitations.


The other day I heard the actor Mike Myers on television, say that "Fame is the industrial disease of creative people!" I'm reminded of something the actress Elizabeth Taylor is supposed to have said, that "Anyone who thinks it's fun to be famous should try it for twenty-four hours!"

03 June 2014


Many people believe what they think. This is unwise.

A fascinating life

Someone said today that I've "had a fascinating life!" I was agreeably surprised by this remark. In reply, I said that I tend to think, in dark moments, that I've "stumbled through life from one blunder to the next!" I'm pondering these contrasting statements.

27 May 2014

Quoth the Raven

A few days ago I passed several hours on the campus of City College of San Francisco. CCSF has been threatened with loss of its accreditation (for reasons not worth mentioning at the moment), which threat, so far, has been successfully held back in court. I happened to be there during a graduation ceremony. I detected no trace of defeatism, depression, despair, or any other sign that anyone actually believes that the college will close. A friend remarked that ravens, who used to inhabit the campus and who had disappeared a year or two ago, had returned. He concluded that just as ravens ensure the continued existence of the Tower of London, so too they are signs that CCSF will not fall.


A few days ago I took myself to the Legion of Honor, to look at the splendidly restored Salon Doré. Since the original house was built a short time before the Revolution, I cannot not help but wonder what became of the residents, pendant le déluge.


I purchased some items at Flax, the art supplies emporium at Market and Valencia in San Francisco. I had heard that Flax will close soon, to be demolished and replaced with condos. But the cashier told me that Flax will move "in a couple of years," so their departure is apparently not imminent. "Happy creating!" she said, as I packed my purchases. But the loss of Hayes & Kebab, my favorite eatery in Hayes Valley, is very imminent, alas. It will close in August, also to be demolished and replaced with condos. The owners intend to move into the ground floor of the new building, "in sixteen to twenty-four months," as one of them said the other day. Sic transit.

08 May 2014

This Rock Within The Sea

I read a few of Farley Mowat's books, two of which I remember, 'A Whale for the Killing,' and 'This Rock Within The Sea' (I still have this one in my library). Outport Newfoundlanders resented their portrayal in the whale book, at least when I was in Newfoundland in the 80s. Perhaps they still do. 'This Rock' is a fine portrayal of outport life, a memorial really, although when I was a clergyman in outports along Trinity Bay, that way of life was still lived. All the scenes in the photos are familiar to me.


Outside a second-hand shop a sign reads, "Cool old things. Ask if they're real." Inside, a chair is on offer for the very real price of $2,750.

24 April 2014

Once upon a time.

Once, in my taxi-driving days, I had a two guys in my cab who were as drunk as they could be, or, at least, maybe they pretended to be. When it came time to pay me, they got out of the cab, (I did too) and stood around for a minute before one of them decided to pay. He pulled out of his pocket the biggest wad of cash I've ever seen, hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars in big bills. He wobbled and weaved and kept waving the money around in front of me. Eventually he found a twenty (a 'double sawbuck,' as we said back in the day) or something, and shakily aimed it in my direction. I took it. He didn't ask for change. They both lurched drunkenly off. The whole incident was so odd that I've thought ever since that they were decoys, undercover cops trying to entrap me into stealing their money.

23 April 2014

In the Beginning

  • What drives evolution on? What is it about atoms that wants to form molecules, molecules to form long chains of inorganic and then organic structures, organic molecules to give rise to life, and life to consciousness? Putting aside the question of why anything exists at all, the forms that existence takes, and the steps, leaps actually, that existence/evolution takes, are deeply mysterious and completely unexplained. The stages that I list, matter to life to consciousness, don't display anything that we can discern as explanations for their existence. Unless, possibly (and this is a Teilhardian idea), life and consciousness are inherent in a potential, virtual state from the very beginning (whatever that is) in the simplest, most basic particles of matter. Unless, in other words, consciousness itself is drawing matter on, leading it to create ever more complex structures in which consciousness can manifest itself. This is called the "law of complexity consciousness." This leading, drawing force can be called "the good" or "spirit" or any like term, to indicate that there is agency at work, inherent in the universe itself and not separate from it.

  • "There is no arrow.....there is no goal." Maybe. But this is mere assertion, unproven and unprovable. Physicists (or at least Stephen Hawking) say (and Everything I Know About Physics I Learned From Television) that before the Big Bang there is no time, that the BB began at a singularity, where time stops. So there is no cause outside the universe to start it off. This is an old idea, a Deist one I think, the notion that God put all the parts together and set the universe running, but has no part in its operations.
  • All the dark things, all the evils we can imagine, aren't the whole story of evolution, even human evolution. If they were, there would be no good to which we could compare them, by which we could judge them. We strive after goods which we can't even name. That doesn't make them unreal, or unreachable, or powerless. Why should not the good be the most powerful force in the universe? Why should evolution not be, ultimately, good? Why should it not be, perhaps, ultimately, divine?


A few days ago I took myself and a friend to look at the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition at the De Young. The sensuality, eroticism even, of many of the flower paintings is striking. The painter, back in the day, was shocked by this kind of interpretation. Another friend described her art as 'tantric!'

21 April 2014

The Temple of Bast

At an Easter party this afternoon, I noticed in my host's parlor a small sign which read: In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods. They have not forgotten this.

09 April 2014

Sic transit.

On the 49 bus a young man said, "Two years from now I'm not going to look 24! I'm not young any more!"

Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!

In a café this afternoon, a young father introduced his son, who could not have been older than 8, to the use of a credit card. He showed the boy how to add a tip, and how to sign the bill. He proudly explained to the boy, "Today you have made your first purchase! Good for you!" The day is not far off when banknotes and coins will be rare, and they will look as quaint to the boy as Spanish doubloons look to us.

26 March 2014


I remember the Trans Europe Express (I was a young backpacker traveling from youth hostel to youth hostel), which I inadvertently boarded in Brussels. My second-class ticket was inadequate. It took all the money I had in my pocket to make up the difference. I got off the train in Strasbourg, which was as far as I could afford to go. A few days later, I went to the station to meet an acquaintance; I had a strong premonition that he would be there, altho I had no way to know that. But he showed up exactly when I thought he would. He was not amused when I told him that I had foreseen his arrival.

17 March 2014


A Sign of the Times, on a food truck on Gough near Hayes: "Shallots are for babies! Onions are for men! Garlic is for heroes!!"

13 March 2014


I read something the other day, in an article about the Wow! signal I think, which suggested that we are likely known to intelligent species, if there are any, within a radius of 100 light years or so from the sun. That is the length of time that we have been emitting radio and other signals that would be detectable in radio telescopes and so on. If this is true, and if they care to reply, it could be a very long time before we receive a signal of acknowledgement. It is unlikely that intelligent creatures from elsewhere have been here, since interstellar distances are so vast, that crossing them would take millions of years. There would be no need for such travel, since interstellar communication would convey enough information to make travel irrelevant. The Wow! signal apparently came from a source 600 light years away. If its source is intelligent, that intelligence cannot possibly know about us, since our signals are 500 years away from reaching it. We may be the first or even the only intelligent species in our galaxy, but there is no way to know that. We will keep collecting signals, and who knows......?

11 March 2014

God as an object

God is not an object of knowledge, is not knowable in himself but only by his effects, like the universe we can know. If 'objective' means 'existing whether we know it or not' or 'whether we accept it or not' then God can be thought of as objective reality. But God is not an object among other objects; he is real without being objective. Since there is no class of beings of which he is a member, there is no objective standard to which to compare him. He is not 'a' being; he is self-existent and not dependent on any discernible laws by which his objectivity could be established as a member of a class of beings in objective reality.

22 February 2014

Great Ocean of Wisdom

I happened to be at the corner of Hayes and Franklin in San Francisco, when the Dalai Lama arrived at Daves Symphony Hall. He had a large police escort, a swarm of motorcycles, a herd of black SUVs (such as one sees for the President), lots of blue and red flashing lights, and so on. The event even had a complement of protesters (de rigueur nowadays for a world figure). I was bemused; the Dalai Lama is not the sort of person one places in the same category as the ex-ruler of the Ukraine.

25 January 2014

Au quartier belge

The other day, at La Promenade Café, I noticed that the sign 'La Toilette' had appeared on the restroom door. I emailed the owner, to say that perhaps it should read 'Les Toilettes,' as it would in France. He replied that, in Belgium, a restroom is singular, not plural. This can mean only that the street scene portrayed on the café walls is not French, but Belgian! I remember that a French professor, in my university days, told me that I had a Belgian accent. To this day, I don't know what a Belgian accent sounds like. Like me, evidently.

23 January 2014

Death Wish

O tempora! O pueri! This afternoon, on the 43 Masonic bus, high-schoolers dominated the passenger list. One young fellow, about 13 years old, delivered himself of rather loopy, funny, and very loud banter with his classmates. "Thanks to you," one of them said, "everyone on this bus wishes he was dead!" "I know," said the young fellow; "Isn't it great?"

15 January 2014

A Ticket to The City

Yesterday, at Palo Alto Caltrain station, a young man asked me whether I could change a hundred-dollar bill. "No," I said. He then showed me the bill, saying, "Have you seen the new $100? It's made to be hard to fake." This is counterfeit money, I thought. I remarked that he could change the bill at a bank, a suggestion which did not meet his approval. The young fellow ostensibly wanted to buy a ticket to The City. I suggested that he use a credit or debit card. He mumbled that he didn't have enough money on his cards. I felt sorry for the young trickster.

10 January 2014

Hi Tops

How To Win Friends & Influence People. A few days ago, in the Caltrain station at 4th & King, two young men got to talking. One was straddling a bicycle, the other was seated beside me. The young cyclist was wearing green Converse hi tops. The other remarked on this. Apparently, in Hi Tops' company, workers in various departments identify themselves by the color and style of their footwear. The other expressed an interest in Hi Tops' company; Hi Tops asked for a resume. They boarded the train together, deep in conversation.


Washroom Wisdom: "Those who lack imagination can't imagine what is lacking!"

04 January 2014

A Sign of the Times

A Sign of the Times, beside the cash register in a cafe on Market Street, near The Castro: "Boss will beat me if I take a bill larger than $20. I'd rather you spank me!"

The Cafe Formerly Known As Zephyr

O tempora! O mores! In The Cafe Formerly Known As Zephyr, have appeared garlands of imitation ivy, draped along the walls, walls which portray an outdoor street scene, an imitation of a Parisian neighborhood. And notices have gone up, announcing the imminent arrivals of poetry readings and musical performances. For years, TCFKAZ has been a quiet haven for high schoolers and college kids, working on their assignments. Are they to yield to lovers of bad verse and worse music?