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Summering

I’m back in something approaching a ‘normal’ groove, happily reconnected to lover, friends, and family. The expensive housing prices here cover the cost of this amazing free air conditioning in San Francisco, which runs all summer long. Here’s the daily flow of cooling pouring over Twin Peaks a week ago (it’s been with us every day lately):

All you folks sweltering in some true summerish hell with temperatures and humidity over 90, eat your hearts out!

Most of us locals get pretty sick of being chilled all summer and have to go somewhere for real summer heat at least for a few days or weeks, but since I had a good dose in Turkey, Hungary and Germany already, I’m very happy to be back in the perfect temperatures of San Francisco!

Summer brings a weird combination of too much to do and some version of entertainment doldrums too. At CounterPULSE we’re having trouble booking our theater this summer, which is also true of many other small-ish venues in town. This weekend we showed Peter Watkins’ remarkable 6-hour film “La Commune/Paris 1871” over two nights to celebrate Bastille Day (We also served about 50 fresh crêpes and several folks brought good French champagne, so it was a fun party). Our pals at AK Press have this amazing DVD box set, which includes also a great documentary on the making of the film, at a reasonable price.

The always bombastic and worth-avoiding July 4 in San Francisco also features the opening day of the annual SF Mime Troupe show, called “Making A Killing.” I’m going to stick to the old adage, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. (I hated it!)… but I think it’s a telling contrast to compare this show, which is basically a predictable and cliché-ridden musical that replays the characters, jokes, and sensibilities that the Mime Troupe has staged for 5 or 6 straight years now, to a weirdly whimsical and surprising new movie, also a musical, called “Colma: The Musical.” I heard a lot of people buzzing about this movie and some good friends really raved about it so I went to see it, not knowing what I was in for… It’s a story of three 18-year-olds just out of high school in Colma, which is the cemetery-filled suburb near San Francisco where all the dead bodies are buried, literally (1.5 million dead, about 1,200 actual residents). The funny take on life, the hilarious send-up of getting a job at the nearby Target, the interaction between the gay Filipino, the fag-hag(ish) gal, and the stiff and straight-ish assimilating “latino” guy are spot-on. The songs are hilarious, occasionally poignant, but the real success of this film is its ability to capture the feeling of life right now in 2007, something very real about what it’s like to come of age in this political and social void… in a way it’s far more politically on the mark than the vapid leftism of the Mime Troupe…

Getting further afield from the formal performances of stage and cinema I attended the annual Heavy Pedal Cyclecide Bike Rodeo yesterday. It’s a very San Franciscan treat, semi-punk, semi-mechanic, semi-Burning Man, all zany and ‘at your own risk’, in a junkyard just off Bayshore… They had their usual motley assortment of pedal-powered carny rides, a bevy of punk bands and periodic live runnings of the life-size MouseTrap, with human mice and hardhatted crew all scurrying about amidst the ornately beautiful rendition of the classic plastic board game. Here’s some shots for your enjoyment:

Not atypical of San Francisco, to get to the Cyclecide event, we walked over Bernal Heights and took the pedestrian bridge down to Bayshore. On our way to the pedal-powered insanity, we encountered this, which I believe passes for “normal” in this country:

Overlooking this normalized lunacy is an advertising billboard pitching alcohol, the most common coping mechanism for people who spend too much time in such situations. On the billboard though, the confusion thickened, as the name of the liquor corresponds to the normal activities of pedestrians, but as you can see, the art indicates that it is somehow emerging from gears, much like a bicycle chain! Talk about mixed metaphors!

And back in San Francisco during the summer means lots of cycling around. By now I have quite a library of images of favorite spots, including this one, the Tennessee Hollow restoration in the Presidio. Here the Park Service removed a dump that had filled in the creek as early as the 1880s, and after some vigorous volunteer labor planting native species, the Hollow is coming back to life. Here are two shots, Oct. 05 and July 07…

Lastly, I’m frantically trying to plot out the entire Fall/Winter Talks at CounterPULSE right now, so the calendar can be printed in about 2 weeks. One event we’ve decided on for the Nature in the City side of the programming will be about Birds in San Francisco, so I’ll leave you with some shots I love. First, a hawk devouring a pigeon on Thanksgiving Day (talk about your Thanksgiving bird!) at Dolores and 19th in 2003 (photo by Tristan Savatier); then a big ol’ owl I’ve seen a lot at the top of the Esmeralda Steps on the Bernal Heights ring road, this photo taken about a week ago; and last another shot of a hawk perched on an electrical tower near Billygoat hill at the end of Castro on 30th Street.

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