Sunday, July 31, 2005

Saturday I had to drag myself up and out. It was foggy in the Richmond District and looking out the window didn't inspire me to action - but I needed to get some exercise and there were happenings I wanted to checkout. The first stop was very close Tour De Fat in Golden Gate Park.

Tour De Fat is a bike fundraiser for the San Francisco Bike Coalition and the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. The festival was small but lively with bike parade, live music, fun bikes to ride and plenty of beer for festival goers. I'm not a daily bike commuter but I try to use my bike(s) on the weekend for getting around the city, incorporating my biking into normal activities. One group that helps provides this option is the San Francisco Bike coalition, they are advocates for bike riding and the creation of bike paths and bike friendly streets in San Francisco.

One great perk at the Festival was a bike shop was offering free tune-ups, Mike's Bikes of Sausalito. The guy tuning the bikes was very nice he actually put some time into my beloved rust bucket. It had a sticky brake that needed some TLC. After much troubleshooting the brake mobility did improve, I appreciated his effort and I'll take my bike(s) to Mikes when they need some work.

After leaving Tour De Fat I rode through the City with a friend, who I hooked up with at the Tour De Fat, to the Mission & 16th Bart Station . Taking your bike on Bart is not a problem on the weekend just keep away from the first car. We were able to find a unpopulated car to situate our bikes and ride comfortably. We exited at the West Oakland Bart Station, the first station after the transbay tube. We knew where we wanted to go we just didn't know exactly how to get there. We were riding to the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park to PortFest World Jazz and Music Festival. PortFest is a brand new program being held at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, I wanted to see Hugh Musakala the father of African Jazz.

The ride down 7th Street was direct but somewhat scary. I was really happy that the traffic was light. 7th Street could use a bike lane or at least some cleaning there was quite a bit of gravel on the road. Beyond my nervousness we made it without any problems. The park has wonderful views of San Francisco and the Bay, comfortable picnic space, green space and bike parking. Car parking appeared limited as we passed many cars parked on the street. PortFest was blessed with the sun, I had escaped the fog.

The music was great Kenny Garrett and his quartet was on when we arrived and he was getting down. Hugh Musakala had the crowd on their feet, seeing Mr. Musakala was seeing living history. As he sung freedom songs I thought about the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa and the continued struggle for social and economic justice within his and all countries for oppressed people.

Hugh Masakala moving the crowd at PortFest, Oakland

Hugh Masakala at Middleshore Habor Shore Park


Saturday, July 30, 2005

July is ending with a bang, it's summer and festival season and there is with a plethora of musical choices to explore in the Bay. Friday Chaka Khan was performing with the San Francisco Symphony and part of their POPS program. It was great seeing and hearing Chaka Khan, I've always wanted to hear her sing Jazz and other genre pieces other than her R & B hits. She did sing some songs off her latest album Classikhan that has everything from Jazz Standards to County. I didn't know about the existence of this album until Friday night! It drives me crazy how difficult it is the hear music on the radio that isn't marketed for teenagers or shoppers in a supermarket and they want to know why music sales have been slipping. Anyway I don't' want to go into a rant.

The concert was enjoyable, it's always a treat to visit Davis Symphony Hall and seeing artist perform in a qualify (acoustic-wise venue). My main complaint was the Symphony's lack of performance with Chaka Khan. It was strange and disappointing seeing her sing song after song with only her band accompanying her and the Symphony sitting silently in the shadows. Since Chaka sings Jazz and standards I don't know why they didn't have the arrangements together.

One good note, unlike at SF Jazz I didn't get jammed up for taking a few pictures, ah what a different a volunteer usher makes.


Sunday, July 24, 2005

I'm sore and tried this evening, two days of bike riding has reminded me that being a weekend warrior is fun but conditioning is crucial. Saturday was the first bright sunny morning we've had in the Richmond District in days. It was warm by 9:00 AM and when I looked out the window at a fog free Golden Gate Bridge I knew the beach would be visited before the day was over.

My first stop was Books by the Bay held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in SOMA (South of Market). Riding my bike downtown took me around 30 - 40 minutes. The path was almost completely on bike paths or bike friendly roads and only complaint was my backpack which was filled, my aching back was dragging me down. Books by the Bay is a small independent book store festival, Gus Lee the author of China Boy, San Francisco official book of the summer as part of the One Book One City program, was speaking at the festival I've wanted to read the book for years. This event gave me the incentive to purchase and start reading the book.

After checking out of festival, I rode down to the Embarcadero to Fisherman Wharf. FYI it's a flat bike ride and walk, if you're visiting SF walk the walk if you're in fair shape. You'll enjoy some nice views, there're plenty of restaurants and spots to relax. From Fisherman Wharf I fought the tourist human traffic jam rode by the Maritime Park, Fort Mason, Marin Green and into Crissy Field. I could have stopped and enjoyed the beach at Crissy Field but I kept riding. So far the ride was completely flat expect for a small hill which takes to you Fort Mason but now I was in the Presidio and I wasn't sure if my legs were in shape to handle these climbs, this is not a compliment they are not super steep. But I was able to handle it and made it to Baker Beach my final destination. Oh my Goddess, it was crowded it looked like every person in San Francisco was on Baker's Beach. But I had my towel, book, and hat and I was ready to sun and read. Next time I won't forget the CD player, after I squeezed on beach I had to deal with conversations swirling around me but a day without coastal fog and a spot to rest my legs was feeling very good to me.

Ok where's the fog ?
Bakers Beach - Golden Gate Bridge in background

Folks enjoy a rare warm day at Bakers Beach


Monday, July 18, 2005

Last weekend I left the big city for a camping trip but the drive wasn't very far about 45 minutes from my home and I've never visited the spot before. We drove over the Bay Bridge went from fog to sun, a few exits into Oakland we left the freeway and I kept thinking - how could there be camping sites so close that I'm completely unfamiliar with?

Our destination was Anthony Chabot Regional Park part of the East Bay Regional Park District. The campsites were nothing fancy clean and pleasant with tables, fire pits and trees to shade the sites. There are hiking trails to explore the park area and to reach Lake Chabot for fishing or whatever. The Lake has a Marina were you can grab a snack, rent a boat or picnic. We rented a motorized boat for our group and cruised around the lake. Next time I'll rent either a paddle boat or kayak. The views from the campsite hid the city which was seconds away and provided the urban break I needed, never discount what's close by.

The East Bay Regional Recreational Area has a variety of places to see and activities to enjoy. Before the summer is over I'm coming backup over to explore and see something new in my hood.

Lake Chabot from hiking trail

Folks chillin at the Lake Chabot Marina

Peaceful Lake Chabot


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sunday I went to the Silent Movie Film Festival to see the Scarlet Letter. I've been a fan of silent movies, old radio shows, an early American Music since I was a kid. Why the interest, it must be the luddite in me or maybe I prefer technology of a different time.

Since it was Sunday I rode my bicycle to the theatre, that's a win-win for me! I get a little exercise and I make much better time a major improvement over standing on a corner waiting for a bus- which I loath. I road to the Castro district where the City's most beautiful movie house exist "The Castro." it's a wonderful example of Art Deco 1920s architecture. The theatre has an organ the Mighty Wurlitzer which is played not just at silent films but as a regular part of the theatre experience.

One of the reasons I was planning to see this Scarlet Letter was included in the evening program was news reel footage of the filming of Greed in Death Valley. I'm a big fan of the movie by Erich von Stroheim and the book McTeague by Frank Norris.

The Scarlet Letter was enjoyable and this was my first time of seeing the story told in film, I like many read the story in high school. Lillian Gish, played Hester Prynne and her performance was powerful. Apparently she pushed to have this film made and it was a good vehicle for her. I thought it was ironic that the film starts with a statement about prejudice and intolerance and Lillian Gish starred in and defended Birth of a Nation. She apparently never found the story questionable or inaccurate. So much for empathy for the ones around you? It's easy to have empathy for Hester Prynne she lived in a puritanical society over 300 years ago. How about your neighbors.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Well, it's July, I've been so busy that I haven't been blogging lately. Between summer school at City College San Francisco (CCSF) and IT fires at work, a crashing server with multiple hardware failures and without warranty. I've been too exhausted to write about the entertaining activities I've been squeezing in my schedule. Currently, I'm in Los Angeles for the 4th of July weekend it's been a quiet weekend visiting family and friends. I'm actually getting a chance to catch up on my sleep and post a long overdue entry in my blog.

Last Friday I was working on the crashed server, the parts had arrived from the vendor but the server wasn't booting properly I was a resident of frustration city. Having won tickets on Pacific KPFA for some international music saved my day and was a pleasant way to start the weekend. The tickets were for a show at Ashkenaz in Berkeley to hear some North African Berber music by Moh Alileche with Danse Maghreb. Ashkenaz is one of my favorite places to dance in the Bay Area. It is relaxed, children are welcome it's very Berkeley. The program was a mixture of Berber music and dance I haven't read much about the Berber people experiencing their music inspired me to learn more about them.

Saturday afternoon game, Oakland A's versus Giants I entered the Devil's layer to watch my beloved but slightly struggling Giants battle the Oakland Athletics. It was my first time in the Oakland Coliseum we rode Bart from the Civic Center Station in San Francisco and arrived in under 30 minutes. I was very impressed, the Oakland Coliseum Bart Station is a short walk to the actual Coliseum. The stadium isn't the most impressive piece of architecture in the Bay Area but the $9.00 bleachers provided us a good view to watch the game and the weather was great. What I didn't like? The $9.00 seats were not assigned our group was spread across the stadium. The food selection sucked, it seemed like the only item the concessions had in abundance was peanuts. The score, the Giants made 5 errors I though was watching a pre-school little league game seeing so many balls popping out of gloves.

June 26th was Gay Pride Day in the City, with the parade, street fair, and general Street traffic it's a rough day to traverse the City by car. Fortunately I was on bus heading toward the San Francisco Memorial Opera House. This was my first traditional Opera and my expectations were high, what unique qualities of Opera has sustained the art form through the years, how is Opera different from American Musical Theatre, how elaborate are the productions and would I enjoy the singing or find it a distraction? Ah so many questions what were my answers?

The Opera we saw was the Pearl Fishers it was an Opera about two Ceylon brothers being in love with the same girl AKA the Priestess and what ensues. The plot may have subtleties but it was still very simple. The music and singing was enjoyable, the jump from foreign cinema to foreign theatre wasn't difficult especially with the leisurely moving subtitles above the stage. I enjoyed the Opera and hope to see others soon but my first experience didn't rise above a Andrew Llloyd Weber musical, except for the Orchestral music which I found outstanding. Opera struck me as an Old World experience imported to the New World that is define by our culture as an upper class activity. Opera gives folks a reason to dress up and experience a certain pre-defined class of art. After Opera we headed out for a good German Dinner in Hayes Valley at Suppenkuche I'm a fan of German food it's good sturdy pleasant food. Suppenkuche is a minimalist restaurant simple wooden tables, with little decorations on the walls. We had a window seat ate Pork Chop with Sauerkraut and watched festival goers from Pride Day make their way home.


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