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Archive for the ‘Oakland’ Category

END TIME reprint

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 1, 2016

2nd printing cover of END TIME built by JOHN YATES at STEALWORKS.

2nd printing cover of END TIME built by JOHN YATES at STEALWORKS.


I am reprinting my prescient, near-future thriller END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE through my publishing business 62 MILE PRESS. Written in a slashing, evocative style, END TIME received rave reviews in underground and small press circles in 1994.

END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE

Greg Kovinski, the novel’s protagonist, lives in interesting times. War and civil war rage across the former Soviet Union and much of the globe. The United States is fighting a sophisticated high tech counterinsurgency war in southern Mexico, against a popular revolution claiming the tradition of Zapata, in order to preserve the North American free trade zone. In Alabaster, a small town north of San Francisco, a draft-aged Greg, and a group of anti-war college students, gain possession of enough bomb grade riemanium to build a nuclear weapon several times more powerful than the one detonated over Nagasaki. As Greg struggles to “do the right thing” with his deadly power, friends turn out to be thieves, civil unrest rages, and the City of Oakland rises in revolution to become the 21st century’s Paris Commune.

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Born in 1952, I was a late hippie and an early punk. I began self-publishing at 17 with a high school underground newspaper, and burned my draft card at age 18. Essays from my publication Point-Blank/San Diego’s Daily Impulse have been reprinted in Semiotext[e] USA, the Utne Reader, and War Resisters’ League’s short-lived youth publication SPEW! I have also published essays in Against The Wall, the New Indicator, Draft NOtices, and the San Diego Newsline. My first science fiction novel END TIME: NOTES ON THE APOCALYPSE was published in January, 1994 by AK Press when I lived in Oakland, California, with a second edition printed in September, 1996. End Time sold around 4,000 copies and was reprinted in Portuguese by a Brazilian publisher. Presently, I live in San Francisco, where I write a regular monthly column of news analysis and political commentary for Maximum Rocknroll under the name “Lefty” Hooligan. I am currently self-publishing my second novel, 1% FREE, through my business 62 MILE PRESS.

End Time: Notes on the Apocalypse can be purchased for download from Smashwords.

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Posted in anarchism, anarchists, bookstores, life, Oakland, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Near-Future Past

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on April 30, 2016

Black Bloc
California, 2007.

The storm black Hooligans took Van Ness, but never made the jog off to the park, Instead, they massed, some one hundred thousand strong, up to the hastily formed police blockade on Van Ness and Grove, then east back around on Market. They stopped in fact. March peace monitors, realizing what was happening, evaporated from around the autonomous columns to beat hasty retreats up Grove, Fell, Oak and Page with the march’s stragglers. People pulled on masks, bandanas, ski masks and balaklavas. Sunglasses hid eyes. Adrenaline once more raced through Greg, somewhere in the middle of that black mass, as he pulled up his own ‘kerchief. He watched a gauntly beautiful girl, a rare, anti-war Null, put her large black scarf over her gold electroplated cheek plates, before putting on shades in synch with hers…

Noble Eagle
It’s not just sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!

A wing of fighter jets, low over Nimitz Field, shrieked toward Oakland. Toward Jack London Square and the dual battle laser positions on Oakland’s inner harbor. People were running around the tower then, running away from the Harbor as fast as was humanly possible. A second roar, and surface-to-air missile batteries leapt into action to lay up a defensive curtain of heat seeking rockets. The jets broke into evasive action. Battle laser auroras danced up ultraviolet into the descending sun as the weapons primed. Two jets looped back tightly and managed to let loose their own rockets before having to dodge again. The harbor erupted under the jet strike, counterpointed quickly by one jet taking a direct hit and another spinning off, minus one wing. The battle laser fired. The precise x-ray beam could not be seen. But it produced a sharp fold in the air as it pierced across the bay and stripped the top off San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid…

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Armageddon’s been in effect!

For a brief moment Marcus witnessed a phantasm, bathed in the smoky light of its own making. The creature was humanoid, dressed in a form fitting, single-piece, eel-gray body suit. The hands were gloved, with thick seams running up the arms and shoulders. And the head was entirely, strangely helmeted. It was a type of skull-tight ski mask, fitted with shear goggles and headphones, and crested with a soft, gun-metal colored apparatus. The goggles pulsed with that on-edge-of-sight light Marcus had observed seconds before, from under the door.

“Freeze,” Joe yelled, crouched and aimed.

An invisible light, apprehendable by a sense more visceral than sight and tailored minutely to Joe’s shape,streaked with precision from the refractive goggles, cookie cutting Joe perfectly. Joe exploded backwards…

End Time: Notes on the Apocalypse can be purchased for download starting May 1, 2016 from Smashwords.

Posted in black bloc, California, class war, direct action, life, Oakland, police, punk, San Francisco, US military | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

By any other name…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 20, 2014

I’m a bit leery of this article’s conclusion, which claims that there are four different types of gentrification, but here’s the story in full.
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There Are Actually 4 Types of Gentrification That Could Change Your City
The Huffington Post | By Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson

Posted: 08/20/2014 12:53 pm EDT

In 1985, gentrification was as easy to spot as a bottle of New Coke. According to a quiz published by the San Francisco Chronicle (and recently found by UCLA Ph.D. candidate Devin McCutchen), markers of a neighborhood on the cusp of yuppiedom included the introduction of gourmet bakeries, needlepoint boutiques and, puzzlingly, pet stores specializing in exotic Central American birds.

And while a neighborhood’s rapidly changing demographic is often as easily identifiable today (just look at how New York City has changed before our eyes), the reasons a certain area may appeal to more “upscale” interests is trickier than you’d think.

“Gentrification is a nuanced phenomenon … but most people engaged in any gentrification fail to acknowledge the nuances.”— Pete Saunders

On his blog, The Corner Side Yard, urban planning expert Pete Saunders set out to establish some ground rules for understanding the trend. In short, this isn’t just about mom-and-pop shops being overtaken by the latest farm-to-table restaurant, or high-rise condos looming ominously over one remaining row of single-family homes. Rather, it’s about what makes a neighborhood ripe for gentrification to begin with.

Saunders’ basic premise is that the amount of pre-World War II, walkable areas in a given city (what he refers to as “old form”) combined with the number of African-Americans who live there can forecast gentrification activity.

“Once areas of a city obtain a majority of minorities, particularly a majority of African Americans, it somehow drops from the mental landscape of whites when thinking of the city at large,” Saunders wrote in an email to HuffPost Home. “Because some cities have had historically lower black populations, less of the city has become invisible to current residents. This means that more of the city became ‘available’ for potential future gentrification.”

And, as Saunders writes on his blog, gentrification can look different depending where it is. Most of what comes to mind when we think of gentrification is the experience of those in cities such as New York, San Francisco and Boston. There, the debate is fueled by concerns over affordability, displacement and growing inequality. “But the gentrification debate is quite different in cities like Philadelphia and Atlanta, where seeking ways to more equitably spread the positive benefits of revitalization might lead such discussions,” he says.

According to Saunders, there isn’t one single way to define gentrification, but four: Expansive Gentrification, Concentrated Gentrification, Limited Gentrification and Nascent Gentrification. Here’s where each type is likely to occur.

Here’s how he breaks it all down:

Expansive Gentrification
Best examples: New York, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle
Each city has a strong older core — a pre-World War II, traditional grid street system that you can easily walk, shop and live in without using a car much. Each has also had smaller historical black populations (when compared with Southern cities and Rust Belt cities that had extensive migration for manufacturing jobs). This gave them a leg up when the back-to-the-city movement gathered steam. Gentrification often sprouted from a number of places within a city and those often connected with each other to create even larger and stronger gentrified areas.

Concentrated Gentrification
Best examples: Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Here, the cities share the same type of older layout as the cities above, but have had larger (relative) black populations. This is where you see that larger parts of such cities have been “written off” by many residents. In each case, gentrification sprouted usually from one area that was a last bastion of white affluent residents (Chicago’s North Side, Northwest D.C. or the area around the University of Pennsylvania in Philly) and spread outward from there. Although most large cities have vast inequality, it’s most evident in these cities because they tend to be racially, economically and socially divided.

Limited Gentrification
Best examples: Phoenix, San Diego and Las Vegas
These are largely Western cities that developed after World War II and have had historically small black populations. Gentrification is more limited in these cities because of their largely suburban structure. Some black neighborhoods have grown and thrived here, but they’ve usually been small when compared to the city overall. Many residents see the value of creating walkable and dense areas that they’ve been lacking, and they are leading the charge in developing them. They are also investing in transit in ways that cities in other parts of the country are not.

Nascent Gentrification
Best examples: Houston, Charlotte and Memphis
This a largely Southern phenomenon. These are cities with a newer layout, but higher black populations that are still wedded to the conventional suburban development model. This is not to say that there isn’t any development of walkable/dense areas, but it likely occurs less often than in any of the other three categories.

Posted in City Living, economics, gentrification, life, Manhattanization, Manhattanization of San Francisco, New York City, Oakland, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Give me liberty!

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 14, 2014

And give me hot dogs!

Renie Riemann closes her trunk as she packs up Top Dog where she has worked for more than 24 years in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, June 13, 2014. The CVS, which was previously a Payless, was a place where you could buy a hot dog, repair your shoes and buy household items in one stop. Photo: James Tensuan, The Chronicle

Renie Riemann closes her trunk as she packs up Top Dog where she has worked for more than 24 years in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, June 13, 2014. The CVS, which was previously a Payless, was a place where you could buy a hot dog, repair your shoes and buy household items in one stop.
Photo: James Tensuan, The Chronicle

My wife pointed out this article in the daily SF Chronicle about the closing of the CVS drug store in the Safeway shopping center at 51st Street/Pleasant Valley and Broadway in Oakland. When I was living in Oakland, the location was a Longs Drugs, and it went through several transformations before ending up a CVS. But at every stage this pharmacy/variety store was always a commercial hub for this part of Oakland, with a mom-and-pop feel to its ownership and a super friendly staff to help customers find what they were looking for.

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One aspect to the CVS that was enjoyable for me was the Top Dog hot dog stand inside the entryway to the store. Top Dog is a locally owned mini-chain of four hot dog stands in Berkeley and Oakland. Three, now that this Top Dog location has closed. Established in 1966, and open daily, Top Dog tried to make incursions into San Francisco over the past several years, only to have various retail attempts in the City ultimately fail. The menu continues to offer a delicious variety of sausages grilled to order and served up with a variety of side dishes and condiments.

reflectdogOne notable feature of Top Dog is the extreme libertarian propaganda freely displayed around each Top Dog stand. When the flagship eatery was established just off Telegraph Avenue a few blocks from UC Berkeley, it was the heyday of Berkeley radicalism, so I’m sure that the shop and its philosophy were often a center for lively political discussion and debate. After all, the RCP’s Revolution Books was just down the street. grillI’ve made my utter disdain for libertarianism known on my other blog. But the bockwurst, well, that was something to be taken seriously. I suppose the famous quote (attributed either to Otto von Bismarck or John Godfrey Saxe) that “[l]aws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made” can be taken a number of ways. Personally, I don’t have a lot of regard for most laws. The sausages grilled up by Top Dog, however, are both top quality and worthy of my respect. Below is an image of the mural that hangs in the flagship Top Dog stand in Berkeley. Apparently, it includes a depiction of the owner’s daughter as she appeared when the first mural was painted in 1987.

postcardshadow

Posted in Berkeley, libertarians, life, Oakland, Oaktown, San Francisco Chronicle | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Stop the WOSP! (June 11)

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 8, 2014

wreckwosp_meme
In the 1960s, efforts to gentrify certain parts of San Francisco were called “urban renewal.” Critics renamed this “negro removal” as city policy and planning systematically bleached out neighborhoods like the Western Addition and the Fillmore, decimating the already beleaguered black community of the day. This all but destroyed the once vibrant jazz and blues nightlife that these areas were known for.

Something similar is being proposed for the impoverished, largely black neighborhoods of West Oakland under the West Oakland Specific Plan (or WOSP). This proposed plan to gentrify West Oakland also means displacing its residents in what might be called “negro removal 2.0.” Here is some info for folks who wish to encourage Community Opposition to WOSP.
wosppostercolor

Posted in gentrification, life, Oakland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Oakland cityscapes

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on April 19, 2014

My wife and I BARTed over to Oakland on Thursday, April 17, and caught the opening of “Oakland and Beyond: Sense of Place,” a photographic exhibition of 5 photographers at Photo Fine Art Gallery (473 25th St., Box 6, Oakland, CA 94612). Lee Nelson’s series on the Hollywood sign caught from different vantage points in Los Angeles is interesting, but the highlight for me were the Oakland cityscapes shot by Diallo Mwathi Jeffery.
Oakland Uptown Dusk

Oakland Uptown Dusk
Bay Sky One

Blue Sky One
Temple View

Temple View
Oakland Uptown Day

Oakland Uptown Day
Oakland-pan-sml

Oakland Panorama

I lived in Oakland when I first moved to the Bay Area in 1991, and I’ve been a big fan of the city ever since. Diallo’s photos are beautiful, if a bit Chamber of Commerce-y. I met the young artist at the opening, and he is indeed quite young. Hope he has a wonderful future in photography.

Posted in life, Oakland, Oaktown, photography, photography opening | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Anti-Techie backlash: bus blockade tactic

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on December 31, 2013

So I’m walking around Market Street, doing a bit of extra exercise between my workout sessions, when I encounter this sticker on a newspaper kiosk near the corner of Church Street.
GAM_scum1GAM_scum2
Its an old slogan (“Die Yuppie Scum!”) updated for present realities in San Francisco. The techies flooding into the City have become a lightning rod for local frustration, discontent, protest, and worse. In particular, those Apple, Google, and Genentech buses seen cruising the city’s streets have become prime targets. On December 20, four separate incidents involving blockades and/or attacks on tech buses occurred in Oakland and San Francisco, according to the SF Chronicle. People peacefully surrounded and briefly detained buses at MacArthur BART Station in Oakland and the 24th Street and Mission BART Station in San Francisco. At 7th and Adeline streets near the West Oakland BART Station, violence greeted another bus, rocks and bottles were thrown, and window was shattered and tires were slashed.
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Video can be found here. These protests, nonviolent and violent, follow a bus blockade on December 9 in the Mission, covered here. The folks staging this protest called themselves the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency, and sighted the following reasons for their protest:

[W]e’re stopping the injustice in the city’s two-tier system where the public pays and the private corporations gain.

Rents and evictions are on the rise. Tech-fueled real estate speculation is the culprit. We say: Enough is Enough! The local government, especially Mayor Lee, has given tech the keys to shape the city to their fancy without the public having any say in it. We say, lets take them back!

Tech Industry private shuttles use over 200 SF MUNI stops approximately 7,100 times in total each day (M-F) without permission or contributing funds to support this public infrastructure. No vehicles other than MUNI are allowed to use these stops. If the tech industry was fined for each illegal use for the past 2 years, they would owe an estimated $1 billion to the city.

We demand they PAY UP or GET OUT!
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Those tech workers temporarily trapped on the buses in question were furious about being “held hostage” by the protestors blockading the means of transportation to their jobs. These techies have demonstrated a profound myopia over their own part in gentrifying San Francisco and in engendering the hostility among the locals to their intrusion. All the while tech workers are safely ensconced in their buses with tinted windows, air conditioning and wifi without thought one about giving back to the neighborhoods and the city they’re blithely destroying.

Business leaders narrowly argue that the backlash against the tech buses makes no sense, because the buses take solo drivers in individual cars off the roads. These business interests deliberately ignore the wider damage done to San Francisco by the tech industries relentless encroachments. And they conveniently look the other way as Mayor Ed Lee and other corporate complicit local politicians provide $14.2 million annually in tax breaks to stimulate growth in tech, biotech, and cleantech, most prominently to keep Twitter in San Francisco and to stimulate economic growth around its mid-Market Street headquarters.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian has provided a much needed critical counterbalance to the Chronicle’s pro-business cheerleading that simultaneously bemoans all the fuss being made over tech workers and the tech industry. Along with the YouTube of the December 20 bus protests below, SFBG continues to cover the bus blockages and other anti-techie protests.

Posted in capitalism, evictions, gentrification, Google buses, life, Oakland, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Guardian, San Francisco Chronicle, tech industry, techies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

…praying for the next dot com bust…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 13, 2013

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A rising tide lifts all boats

So goes the old adage. The problem with a wise old saying such as the above, aside from amounting to a cliché, is that its also only half true. David Korten wrote in Agenda for a New Economy that “The idea that economic growth will bring up the bottom and finance environmental restoration has no substance. The so-called rising tide lifts only the yachts and swamps the desperate, naked swimmers struggling for survival, and no amount of money can heal the environment in the face of unrestrained growth in material consumption.” (2d. ed., p.42) William Pfaff, in an article entitled “Restoring balance to a globalized world,” (NYT, 6-4-7) makes a similar argument that, contrary to neoclassical economic theory, the most celebrated economic policies over the last 20 to 30 years are also the most counterproductive. Such policies do nothing to raise the living standards of the world’s poorest, but instead have guaranteed that the wealth of the richest members of all the world’s countries have reached astronomical proportions. This process has resulted in “the most profoundly destabilizing force the world has experienced since World War II,” responsible for “the social upheavals and progress of radicalization occurring in the world’s poor countries.”

The new adage should read: A rising tide drowns those with no yachts or A rising tide drowns those without boats.

west-oakland-picFortress-of-Solitude-2
During the height of the last dot com bubble, around the end of 1999, I was looking for work as an IT professional in the tech industry. Some of my job search took me for interviews into West Oakland, at the time ground zero for the dot com bubble in the East Bay. Tech companies and start ups were moving into West Oakland, renting property, sometimes taking over whole blocks, displacing the poor black residents, and creating often well-fortified enclaves for their young white techie work forces. I remember interviewing at one startup housed in a renovated brick warehouse/residency that had more front door security than your average bank, with security cameras and pass cards. The side lot was surrounded by hurricane fencing topped with razor wire. The brand spanking new interior was all flashy colors, with places for the techies to store their bikes, play a variety of games like ping pong, cook and eat their meals, and even sleep between all night bouts of coding. Youngsters half my age zipped around from station to station on kick scooters. I was applying for the position of a server administrator, and part of my orientation for the potential job was being shown my own little cubby where I could sleep. It was made clear that I was expected to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the job, if necessary, as required by the young white techie workforce who, similarly, came in at any time day or night and spent 10, 15, 20 plus hours straight working on their respective projects. These tech geeks didn’t have a life, and I wasn’t expected to have a life either. The whole place had a fortress feel to it, plopped down in the middle of West Oakland’s crime and drug ridden ghetto, an affluent sanctuary, an all white high tech island surrounded by black poverty and misery. I got the call back for a second interview, but I never returned.

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The dot com bubble of 1997-2000 ended with a profound collapse as tech companies went bankrupt and startups failed. Dot com enterprises and workers fled West Oakland, disappearing almost overnight, leaving the community with rising levels of crime, drugs and poverty. Although West Oakland is statistically undifferentiated from the rest of Oakland, the rate of homicide reached its highest in more than a decade by 2006. The tech industry as a whole, particular dot com companies, and their IT workers were interlopers in West Oakland. They took over property and displaced people, but they didn’t give back to the community, either with time, energy, resources or wealth. When the dot com economy crashed and burned in 2000, West Oakland had not been improved. Indeed, it can be argued that it was left worse off than before its presence because the tech industry did nothing to better the community, abandoning it to rot in the intervening bubble period.

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There is a new dot com bubble brewing. Now that I live in San Francisco, I see signs of it everywhere. The cost of office space is skyrocketing, and the median price for a home has topped $1 million and “is directly tied to the strength of the Bay Area’s largely tech-fueled job market.” Evictions and gentrification are a concern not only in San Francisco’s Mission District, but in the City as a whole. Then, there is the introduction of several rather unsavory elements into San Francisco’s population at large.

hipstersseptra_bus
Hipsters are proliferating throughout the City, taking over whole neighborhoods. Christian Lorentzen has argued that: “[u]nder the guise of ‘irony,’ hipsterism fetishizes the authentic and regurgitates it with a winking inauthenticity. Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates.” Congregating with their own in high priced coffee shops, cafes, bars and restaurants, their sullenness, cliquishness, self-centered narcissism, and incapacity to give to the greater community are legendary. Then there are the techies proper. Even wealthier and less diverse than hipsters, these tech workers are often targeted for the same hatred as their hipster cousins. Insulated from the rest of their fellow humans, their neighborhoods, their communities, and the rest of the world by their iPads, iPods, iPhones, computer notebooks, etc., techies travel to and from their jobs (where they work long, long hours) riding in private buses with air conditioning, tinted windows, and uninterrupted wifi. Google, Yahoo and Genentech buses cruise the streets of San Francisco, full of self-absorbed tech zombies. “What’s happening to San Francisco [as a result of this tech invasion] goes beyond the accelerating gentrification in multicultural districts like the Mission or Mayor Ed Lee minimizing affordable housing woes. The city that’s been a magnet for free spirits and immigrants and working-class people for decades seems to be losing its famous heart. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that its heart is being replaced by a software update.” So writes Steven Rosenfeld on AlterNet. “Meanwhile, hundreds more longtime residents have been put on notice for possible eviction. The Tenants Union says that the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, North Beach and Inner Richmond neighborhoods are the hardest hit, with upward of 100 households a month losing their longterm housing through a mix of evictions and paid buyouts, most of which aren’t recorded in city hall statistics.”

dot_com_crash_meme-100066574-largedot-com-victim
The tech industry as a whole, tech companies from the established to the startup, and their tech workers give nothing back to their neighborhoods or to the city of San Francisco. Instead, they gut their environment of its unique character, its soul, replacing it with an ersatz, gentrified, high tech, sterilized imitation. Much the same can be said of their hipster cousins and their so-called “culture.” Is it any wonder that I sometimes pray for the next dot com bust?

Posted in dot com, gentrification, hipsters, life, Millions of Dead Hipsters!, Oakland, San Francisco, techies, The Mission, West Oakland | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

You know you’re in the Twilight Zone if…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 28, 2013

SF_Bay_area_USGS
…You post about the Haight on your blog, and the SFGate blog (Internet Portal for the SF Chronicle) posts about the Haight the very next day. Spooky, huh? Or maybe its just the proximity to Halloween.

Anyway, You know you’re a real Haight resident if you… appeared today (10-28-13), a sometimes amusing take on life in the Haight-Ashbury in pictures and text. Previously, they did the Mission neighborhood You know you live in the Mission if… as well as the entirety of San Francisco in You know you’re a real San Franciscan if you…

Other whole communities covered: Marin, the Peninsula, Berkeley, and Oakland. Sometimes interesting, sometimes goofy, generally entertaining tidbits of trivia can be found in these respective blog posts. I hope they continue to do the San Francisco neighborhoods.
sf_bay_area_re_information

Posted in Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, life, Marin, Oakland, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, The Haight, The Mission, the Peninsula | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Coyote ugly

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 26, 2007

ba_urban_coyotes2.jpg

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Personal issues got the better of my time, but now I’m back with a followup to the shooting of two coyotes in Golden Gate Park. All the stories come from the San Francisco Chronicle.

First, there’s this about the fact that city dwellers often must share their urban space with a lot of wildlife, not just coyotes but raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bats, opossums, foxes, etc. Frequently, there are clashes between this vestigial wildlife that’s just trying to survive, and the humans who presume to have dominion over everything. Needless to say, the wildlife loses out most of the time.

Then, there’s this story that coyotes get underfoot in many urban settings, from southern California to Chicago, and not just San Francisco. An interesting side story is that the supposedly wild geese around Oakland’s Lake Merritt have become such a nuisance, or to be exact, their shit has become such a health hazard, that city officials are looking for ways to control the birds, to include importing coyotes as predators.

SF Animal Control officials speculate that the Golden Gate Park coyotes that supposedly attacked two leashed dogs were being regularly fed raw meat by humans, in violation of park regulations. The regular feedings made them more aggressive, it is claimed. Finally, a female coyote pup was found dead, apparently run over by a car, near where the two other coyotes were shot and killed. This seems to support the claim by pro-coyote folks that the two coyotes that were shot were simply protecting their young.

Posted in Bay Area, coyotes, coyotes in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park, life, Nature in the City, Oakland, racoons, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco Chronicle, urban wildlife, wildlife | 1 Comment »

New Deal in the East Bay

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 8, 2007

I’m often stunned by the turn to the right that politics in this country has taken in the last twenty-five years. And I lived through Nixon’s presidency. It’s been said that Richard Nixon was our last great liberal president, in that he still had a fundamental commitment to the policies and principles of the New Deal. The turn to the right I’m talking about is the one that began with Ronald Reagan, a turn away from the New Deal and all it represented in government planning and intervention, towards the fool’s paradise of free markets. The social infrastructure of the country has been deliberately underfunded and allowed to crumble, providing the justification for increased privatization of social services and government functions. So successful has this conservative counterrevolution been, there are proposals to replace Franklin Roosevelt’s portrait on the dime with that of Ronald Reagan.

Which brings me to this story in the Berkeley Daily Planet, about the not-so-hidden New Deal legacy to be found in the East Bay.

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A recent wedding party at the Berkeley Rose Garden, one of the many local New Deal projects. Photograph by Gray Brechin.

Posted in Bay Area, Berkeley, Berkeley Daily Planet, East Bay, Franklin D. Roosevelt, life, New Deal, Oakland, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, San Francisco Bay Area | Leave a Comment »

Oaktown revisited

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 22, 2007

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People talk shit about Oakland: poverty-stricken, crime-ridden, gang-plagued, drug-infested, with a brutal police department and a corrupt city government. I moved to Oakland when I came up to the Bay Area in 1991, and I thoroughly enjoyed the eleven years I lived in the city. I spent many a “dark night of the soul” walking about downtown or around Lake Merritt, grieving after my parents died. Not once was I mugged or robbed or even harassed. I liked Oaktown’s racial diversity and pleasant weather and radical history and the fact that I was only a BART ride away from Berkeley or San Francisco.

I didn’t like Mayor Jerry Brown much. I considered him a faux progressive and a crass opportunist. I have a soft spot for Ron Dellums ever since the Vietnam War years, but he seems to be struggling to find his stride as the new mayor. He is criticized for being an absentee mayor, a charge that he denies. His website features a report of his accomplishments in his first six months in office. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I’m willing to give Mayor Dellums a little more time to prove himself.

Posted in Bay Area, Jerry Brown, life, Oakland, Oaktown, politics, Ron Dellums, San Francisco Bay Area | 1 Comment »

Of Volvos and tanks

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 8, 2007

I drive a 1990 Volvo 740 GL. I’ve owned the car for five years. It’s a tank. I’ve driven Volvos like it for the past fifteen years, ever since my tiny 1987 Honda Civic was totaled by a 4×4 with those monster truck tires as it ran over my car’s front end in running a red light. I was in LA at the time, playing the tourist, and I had to tow the car up to my parents’ house in Ventura to store it while I arranged to dispose of it.

I bought my first Volvo station wagon after that incident on the basis of a story I’d heard. The Loma-Prieta earthquake in 1989 caused the collapse of the multi-level Cypress Freeway in Oakland. A couple managed to survive, buried under tons of freeway rubble, because their Volvo station wagon held under the weight until rescuers managed to dig them out. Rumor has it that Volvo bought the car from the couple, and it’s now on display in a museum in Stockholm. After having a near-death experience in my flimsy Honda, I told myself, now that’s the car for me.

I’ve been pretty happy driving Volvos ever since. Sure, they have problems. Their heater/air conditioning fans invariably break down. And they cost more, in both parts and labor, to work on if you go to mechanics that specialize in Volvos. But it’s been worth it in peace of mind alone. I’ve had three fender benders, all three involving cars that have run into me from the rear. In two of those incidents, while the car owners wailed over crunched front ends, I casually noted a scratch or two on my rear bumper. When a massive old Chevy Impala rear ended me at a stoplight and drove my car into the vehicle in front of me, I found only a bent license plate on my front bumper. The driver of the Chevy had a dent in his chrome bumper. The car I hit, again some tiny Japanese import, had a torn-off bumper and a dangling wheel well panel.

What brought this up was a little accident I had recently. I was driving my wife’s 2006 Lexus IS 250 last Wednesday when I was sideswiped by a woman driving a Ford Focus. Her side mirror smashed up the side mirror on the Lexus, and left a long black streak down the driver’s side of the car. I won’t go into how the other driver fled the scene and how I chased her down. Nor will I describe the shit she gave me just for wanting her insurance information or the fact that her car suffered almost no damage. The whole process of dealing with insurance companies is such an incredible hassle.

I’m pretty confident that, had I been driving my Volvo at the time, the damage ratio would have been reversed; virtually no damage to my car, and a fair amount to hers. Just the look of my car – fifteen years old and clearly a junker – usually keeps other drivers steering clear of me on the road. Indeed, when I drive my wife’s Lexus around, folks driving vehicular equivalents of my Volvo blithely pull out or change lanes right in front of me, assuming that I don’t want my new car to tangle with their junker. They’re right on that score.

Well, my Volvo has issues. It needs a new muffler, and a complete brake job. I’m looking to get another car, and while I’m not interested in something brand new, I’m tired of owning a vehicle that’s a decade or more old. Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company purchased Volvo in 1999. Call me an American hater, but I’m not at all confident that the newer Volvos are any good. I certainly don’t think they measure up to the pre-Ford Volvos. And I’m not willing to put my life in the seat of one of those tiny plastic Japanese numbers again. So, unless I can find a make of car that’s as sturdy and durable as a pre-1999 Volvo, I may get stuck owning another ten year old car just to feel secure.

Posted in 740 GL, accident, auto insurance, Civic, Cypress Freeway, Ford Focus, Ford Motor Company, Honda, IS 250, junker, Lexus, life, Loma-Prieta earthquake, Oakland, San Francisco, Stockholm, tank, Volvo | Leave a Comment »