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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

What Joann Sfar drew: Charlie Hebdo cartoonist in translation

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 14, 2015

France is an old country where lovers embrace freely.

France is an old country where lovers embrace freely.


Paris is our capital. We love music, drunkenness, joy.

Paris is our capital. We love music, drunkenness, joy.


For centuries lovers of death have tried to make us lose life's flavour.

For centuries lovers of death have tried to make us lose life’s flavour.


They never succeed.

They never succeed.


Those who love. Those who love life. In the end, they're always the ones who are rewarded.

Those who love. Those who love life. In the end, they’re always the ones who are rewarded.


The motto of Paris is beautiful.

The motto of Paris is beautiful.


It is beaten by the waves but does not sink'

‘It is beaten by the waves but does not sink’


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Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a mode of operation. Repeating 'we are at war' without finding the courage to name our enemies leads nowhere. Our enemies are those that love death. In various guises, they have always existed. History forgets quickly.

Terrorism is not the enemy. Terrorism is a mode of operation. Repeating ‘we are at war’ without finding the courage to name our enemies leads nowhere. Our enemies are those that love death. In various guises, they have always existed. History forgets quickly.


The people who died tonight were out living, drinking, singing. They didn't know they had declared war.

The people who died tonight were out living, drinking, singing. They didn’t know they had declared war.


Instead of dividing, we should remember what is precious: our way of life.

Instead of dividing, we should remember what is precious: our way of life.


Lovers of death, if God exists, he hated you. And you have already lost, both on earth and in heaven.

Lovers of death, if God exists, he hated you. And you have already lost, both on earth and in heaven.


It means, 'Fuck death.'

It means, ‘Fuck death.’


The cartoon, in translation, available here

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Posted in Paris, terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Two bookstores with Bay Area roots help literary life thrive in Paris

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 31, 2015

Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Berkeley Books of Paris, 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris.

Berkeley Books of Paris, 8 rue Casimir Delavigne, Paris.


By John McMurtrie
July 27, 2015
Updated: July 30, 2015 9:04pm

No visit to Paris, for any book lover, is complete without a pilgrimage to Shakespeare and Co., the creaky, cozy bookshop on the banks of the Seine that has been a home away from home for so many writers, among them James Baldwin, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Robert Stone and many others.

But stroll 10 minutes to the south, in the Latin Quarter, and you’ll find two other, lesser-known but invaluable English-language bookstores — both of which have deep ties to the Bay Area. In fact, their very names say it all: They are San Francisco Book Co. and Berkeley Books of Paris.

As it happens, these two Left Bank stores are only a block apart from each other. Not surprisingly, given their names, they have common roots. And they’re competitors.

San Francisco Book Co., 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris.

San Francisco Book Co., 17 rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris.


San Francisco Book Co. is the older of the stores. It was co-founded in 1997 by Americans Jim Carroll and Phil Wood. Carroll, a former San Francisco bookseller who once owned Carroll’s Books in Noe Valley (it closed in 2004), eventually bought out Wood’s share of the business. Wood went down the street, opening Berkeley Books in 2006 with Richard Toney and Phyllis Cohen, who used to work at San Francisco Book Co. Wood then sold the store to Cohen.

“We’re not bosom buddies by any means,” Carroll wrote in an e-mail, “but healthy competition is good, and the more the merrier.”

Jim Carroll, owner of San Francisco Book Co.

Jim Carroll, owner of San Francisco Book Co.


Vanishing bookstores

The more the merrier is right, especially given that Paris, like other cities around the world, has lost some of its treasured bookstores to rent increases and the rise in online book sales. Just last month, La Hune, a famous Left Bank bookstore frequented by the French intelligentsia, shut down after more than 60 years in business. Also gone are the English-language bookstores Village Voice, the Red Wheelbarrow, and Tea and Tattered Pages.

There is no doubt that the Latin Quarter, the student district centered on the venerable University of Paris (founded in the 12th century), has lost much of its bohemian allure as real estate prices have risen. But as the accompanying interactive map of the Left Bank shows, there is still a thriving literary culture in the city’s 5th and 6th arrondissements. San Francisco Book Co. and Berkeley Books of Paris fit nicely into that tradition, keeping alive the rich history of Americans and other foreigners contributing to the literary life of Paris.

“Paris is a great city for books, and I really enjoy life as a book dealer here,” Carroll wrote. “My shop is just a block from the original Shakespeare and Co., where ‘Ulysses’ was published. This area of Paris, close to the Sorbonne, has always been a prime location for bookshops, publishing houses, agencies, authors, critics, printers, binders and anyone else drawn to the world of books.”

This cat has been coming in to San Francisco Book Co. to escape the heat. Asked about the cat’s name, bookseller Richard Aldersley said, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”

This cat has been coming in to San Francisco Book Co. to escape the heat. Asked about the cat’s name, bookseller Richard Aldersley said, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”


‘A bit messy’

San Francisco Book Co. is a small store, with roughly 12,000 to 15,000 mostly used titles (and about 8,500 online), but Carroll said the shop has good walk-in business. San Francisco visitors frequently pop in, lured by the store’s exterior, painted in international orange, the color of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“It’s also a bit messy inside,” wrote bookseller Richard Aldersley, “with books stacked on the floor and on spare counters for lack of shelf space, and we like it that way because people go through the books and handle them, and everything is much more approachable and comfortable and unsterile.”

The store even has its own cat. “It’s been coming in during the recent heat wave to lay on the cool tiles under the fan,” Aldersley wrote. Asked about the cat’s name, he added, “Here’s one, off the cuff: Penelope.”

Berkeley Books of Paris also gets its fair share of visitors from Northern California. “The Bay Area people always seem chuffed with the bookshop,” Cohen wrote. “We named the shop in honor of the great bookshops of Berkeley. I tell them stories about Moe’s and Cody’s, and show them my wall of homage, covered with bookmarks.”

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The store also hosts art exhibitions, concerts, poetry readings and lectures, and Cohen said a lot of its patrons are professors, students, artists, writers and musicians.

“Many bookshops have gone under for reasons of real estate — those famous spikes in rent,” Cohen wrote. But, she added, “This is not specific to bookshops. People are still reading, and as far as I can tell, many of them actively miss bookshops that are long gone. Some have closed because Amazon and all that entails, but these shops mainly sold only new books” — unlike Berkeley Books, which sells only used books.

“Good old hand-selling and book swapping,” Cohen wrote. “There are quite a few loyal customers who frequent the place, and who have known me as their bookseller since 1999. Some of them are so attached to the bookshop that they’ve made me promise to stay open forever. Which is sweet, don’t you think?”

John McMurtrie is the book editor of The San Francisco Chronicle. Twitter: @McMurtrieSF

Posted in bookstores, life, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Je suis Charlie

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 7, 2015

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words is a cartoon worth?
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Here are some of the more controversial cartoons run by Charlie Hebdo:
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Charlie Hebdo’s website can be found here.

Posted in Islamic extremists, Islamic terrorism, life, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Annual Practice: Giving to Panhandlers

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on December 31, 2014

ows_140244198068966National Academy of Science Report Shows US Poverty Rate To Be 15.8 Percent
Every year, I take out $100 in $5 bills and distribute the cash to panhandlers during the holiday season as a gesture of good will. I have a few rules. I start the giveaway the day after Thanksgiving and finish by New Years Day. And I give only to people actually asking for money, either verbally or with a sign. I’ve never, ever had a problem giving away 20 $5 bills to different people down on their luck during the holidays every year.

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Full disclosure: I tend to give my “spare change” to panhandlers all the time. Also, my wife and I give regularly to charity through more institutional channels. I started this holiday practice when I had the money to spare, inspired by having been down-and-out, homeless, and pennyless for a period in my own life. Yeah, yeah, there’s the argument posted by many a municipality that giving money to panhandlers only perpetuates the problem, that the money I give only goes toward alcohol and drugs, and that I need to be giving to charity instead. Having experienced the good cheer and sliver of hope when somebody surprised me with a gift of cash when I was homeless, and having realized how much time and effort it took to get out of a similarly bad situation in my life, I never begrudge a bit of cash to the less fortunate, even if that money goes toward self-medicating or feeding an addiction. Americans tend to be so fucking puritanical and moralistic, always willing to look down on the foibles or sins or bad habits of others. Plus, in my experience, those who demand that I forego giving to panhandlers and donate to charity instead are often singularly lacking in personal charity and the impulse to give to formal charity.

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I was startled when I first came upon panhandling in Paris. The nature of the begging in the City of Light is, in itself, a kind of theater, a performance of misery and supplication so overt that it is meant to be visually overwhelming. And yet, most everybody in Paris does exactly what most everybody in American cities does when confronted by such begging, they walk right on by.

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What really pisses me off is that all the anti-panhandling talk frequently comes from conservative Republican types who have nothing bad to say when the panhandler in question is a US corporation coming hat in hand looking for a bailout from the federal government to cover its losses due to shit business practices or an economic downturn. And that’s on top of the economic subsidies (read charity) that governments give to business as part and parcel of what’s laughably called the free market. As a taxpayer, I have absolutely no say in this type of charitable giving to corporations or giving to corporate panhandlers. Yet I have to listen to oh-so-entitled corporate owners, their representatives, shills and hacks, berate me for giving my spare change to the begging poor. The fucking nerve!

Posted in economics, life, Paris, poverty, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A guide to hat wear, part one

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

“A trilby, a hat that somehow combines the douchiest parts of both a fedora and a porkpie.”

So proclaims Jon Stewart on his 6-5-14 Daily Show. Okay, for those of you who are confused, here’s a classic fedora, associated with the movie portrayals of hardboiled detectives Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe:
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Here’s a pork pie, with the association to 1940s bebop jazz musicians:
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And here’s a British trilby:
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Frank_Sinatra_trilby_hat_izandrew
A tad goofy, no? The above hat, popularized by Frank Sinatra and often done in garish colors or patterns, is indeed a sad hybrid of the worst of the fedora and the porkpie. It was often considered a “rich man’s hat,” worn to the races. Trilbies are worn by hipsters, and people with more sense should NOT wear them.

I was able to purchase a finer, much more styling hat that combines the better aspects of fedora and porkpie while my wife and I vacationed in Paris last year. Céline Robert created this fashionable chapeaux. The French word feutre refers to a felt hat that translates to trilby in British English, and fedora in American English respectively.
GAM_ParisFedora
GAM-hattrick
In the long run, how one wears the hat is more important than the minor differences between the hats one wears; fedora, pork pie, or trilby. However, I do have to draw the line at mountain hats…
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Posted in Céline Robert, life, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going, going…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 18, 2014

Shakespeare_and_Company_store_in_Paris
The famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris is a well known tourist destination. Actually, it was a bookstore begun by Sylvia Beach in 1919 which closed during the German occupation in 1940 and then a second bookstore founded by George Whitman in 1951, a tribute to Beach’s original which is still around.
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Shakespeare and Company is also a small chain of locally owned bookshops in New York City unaffiliated with its Paris namesake. With three locations all in Manhattan, Shakespeare and Co started in 1981. In May of this year, it was announced that the Broadway location will close due to an astronomical rent increase.
screen-capture-1
I often visited Shakespeare and Co when I made regular pilgrimages to New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The scourge that was (and remains) Barnes and Noble, which spread like cancer across the City and systematically killed off most of New York’s independent bookstores, is still around if financially ailing due to competition with Amazon. This mainstream New York Times obituary hopefully does not portend the overall Shakespeare chain’s demise.
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I’m constantly lamenting the death of all the joys that make living in San Francisco and New York so wonderful. The steady destruction of independent bookstores, record shops, cinemas, etc. due to urban gentrification and stratification doesn’t make me nostalgic, but rather sad and angry. A marvelous blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, had this to say about Shakespeare and Co. Jeremiah’s is where I first heard that Little Rickie, a famous novelty store in Manhattan, also recently closed. Little Rickie is where I bought a smokin’ fez monkey.
smokingmonkey
So fucking sad!

Posted in gentrification, independent bookstores, life, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Darkness visible

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 5, 2014

I’m a city person, but I’ve sometimes missed the splendor of a rural night sky. And I’ve wondered what my favorite urban environment might be like if I could see a full night of stars. Photographer Thierry Cohen provides these composite shots of my three favorite cities sans urban lighting and moonlight. Maybe like the blackout of 2003 in New York City or the 1989 Loma-Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, with no urban unrest but no electricity either. Thierry Cohen identifies each photo with the precise time, angle, and longitude and latitude of the exposure.
New_York_20

New York 40° 44’ 39’’ N 2010-10-13 lst 0:04
Brooklyn_Bridge_20

New York 40° 42’ 16’’ N 2010-10-09 lst 3:40
Paris 48° 51’ 03’’ N 2012-07-19 lst 19:46

Paris 48° 51’ 03’’ N 2012-07-19 lst 19:46
San_Francisco_20

San Francisco 37° 48’ 30’’ N 2010-10-09 lst 20:58
Paris_20

Paris 48° 50’ 55’’ N 2012-08-13 lst 22:15
Paris_5_20

Paris 48° 51’ 52’’ N 2021-07-14 utc 22:18

Posted in life, New York City, Paris, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A touch or two of Paris

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on January 4, 2014

Here are a couple of reminders of Paris, for those who are in love with the City of Light. First, a blog called Paris Daily Photo by Eric Tenin.
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Born and raised in Paris, Tenin offers typical and unusual, must see, restaurant, graffiti, food, exhibition, monument, and night photos. Oh yes, and shots of the Eiffel Tower.
2013-10-09-CryingGraffiti
Then there’s David Lebovitz’s food blog Living the Sweet Life in Paris. Lebovitz is a chef who’s cooked at Chez Panisse, and you can taste French cuisine from viewing these photos.
books
I haven’t read any of Lebovitz’s books, but given the quality of this blog, they would be well worth purchasing. He even provides interesting illustrated recipes.
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Bookmark these two websites.

Posted in City of Light, life, Paris | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

City of Light; San Francisco, Paris of the West: part 7-conclusions

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 12, 2013

Paris-TowerDowntownSF
TALES OF TWO CITIES

I started the series “City of Light” to record many of our experiences during our recent two and a half week vacation in Paris. My posts were full of excitement, enthusiasm and enjoyment for the fabulous places and wonderful times we had. The second series “San Francisco, Paris of the West” attempted to parallel the first, detailing outstanding experiences to be had in San Francisco, explicitly comparing our home town with Paris in a somewhat derivative, travelog style. The first series was enlivened by my personal experiences on holiday, while the second series was often confined by my personal history with the places and events where I live. So, lets begin this final compare and contrast with:
arrondissements-parisrealsfneighborhood
ARRONDISSEMENTS VS NEIGHBORHOODS

It’s apples versus oranges. Arrondissements in Paris (arrondissements municipaux, administrative districts) are not the same as neighborhoods in San Francisco. When we vacationed in the 14th Arrondissement at various times, we experienced several distinct neighborhoods within the 14th; the upper, middle and lower, all three exhibiting different architectures, residential characters, levels of commercial activity, etc. Sometimes a neighborhood, such as the Montparnasse, spans more than one Arrondissement (14th & 6th). San Francisco neighborhoods are more homogeneous, more geographically contained, easier to characterize, and San Francisco neighborhoods are a part of, or span governmental Districts. In San Francisco, for instance, Chinatown, a neighborhood, is in District 3, but spills over into 2. I take the neighborhoods of San Francisco more or less for granted, having lived here for so many years. This faulty comparison fallacy began when I used, as a basis, arrondissments in “City of Light” and neighborhoods in “San Francisco, Paris of the West.”
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PARIS: REMINISCENCE AND LONGING

With this recent vacation, I’d been to Paris three times. My wife had been there four. We’ve shopped on rue Cler, avoided the pickpockets to marvel in the gloom of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris (6 Parvis Notre-Dame), visited Le Halles, above ground and below, wandered about the startling architecture in Parc de la Villette (211 Avenue Jean Jaurès), took the barge up the Canal Saint-Martin along the Quai de Valmy, first underground and then open air, caught the remnants of Paris 1968 left in Butte-aux-Cailles, climbed to the Basilique du Sacré Cœur (35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre), then wandered the surrounding environs, and many more experiences. Yet, we can never get enough of Paris, nor have we seen everything the City of Light has to offer. Still on our wish list: the Opéra de Paris housed in the Palais Garnier for either a tour or a performance, the Musée Marmottan Monet, the neighborhood/village of Saint-Paul, the Musée d’art et d’histoire du judaïsme, the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, etc. There’s always something more to see and do in Paris.
Metro_-_Paris_-_Ligne_4_-_station_Cite1-paris-metro
The Paris Metro is the 8th wonder of the world, as far as I’m concerned. You can get almost anywhere you want in the city by using the underground metropolitan system. Sure, its crowded, some parts of it are old and decaying, other parts of it are plagued with pickpockets and crime, and the whole of it is not at all handicap friendly. But its still one of best municipal subway systems in the world. The underground musicians are often a delight, and it can be enchanting to hear music waft through the metro tunnels as you rush to meet your train. And there’s rarely more than a 2 to 3 minute delay between trains during normal operating hours. So what if it occasionally takes 3 lines to get to your destination. My love for the Paris Metro is on a par with my affection for the NYC subway system.
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That Parisians are rude is a complete myth. Given our accumulated times respectively in Paris—over three months for my wife and over two months for myself—we have never encountered a rude Parisian. A clerk or waiter or worker occasionally can be harried or distant or unresponsive, but rude? We haven’t experienced it. As for the ordinary Parisian on the street, and aside from dodging them walking on the sidewalks, we’ve never had to deal with rudeness. Parisians in particular, and the French in general are exceedingly polite and formal. Once you address them properly (“Bonjour monsieur,” or “Bonjour madame”), and make some minimal attempt at the social niceties (“merci” for “thank you” and “excusez-moi” (“excuse me”) madame or monsieur), the average Parisian is more than willing to help you out. Throw in some self conscious attempts at speaking their language (“Je suis américain(e)” or “Je suis désolé, je ne parle pas français”) and cap it off with “au revoir” (“goodbye”) or “bonne journée” (“have a nice day”), you can get along just fine in most situations. However, if you ignore even these basic formalities and come off as a typical American, grinning from ear-to-ear, demanding information or service or attention, you’ll get what you deserve. My wife and I had exited the Cartier-Bresson Foundation on our first vacation along Impasse Lebouis and rue Lebouis, eventually walking up allies and along a strip of boutique shops to reach rue Jean Zay. A little lost, we flipped through our Paris Pratique to find Avenue du Maine and transportation to our next destination. A Parisian man came up to us, unbidden, and after the appropriate introductions, asked us where we wanted to go. He spent five minutes giving us directions, pointing out the correct, if distant bus stops to take, and bid us goodbye. We walked away hesitantly, still not clear about his directions or the route to take, given the difficulties in language and translation. Suddenly, he was by our side again, and again after the proper introductions, he said that his wife had told him he had better show us what to do. At which time, he took us over to the right bus stop, pointed out the right line to take, and then again bid us adieu. This happened more times than we could count while we vacationed in Paris.

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SAN FRANCISCO: FAMILIARITY AND DISAPPOINTMENT

I’ve lived in the Bay Area for twenty-three years, and in San Francisco proper for nearly fourteen years. My familiarity with San Francisco and its surrounding communities, while not breeding contempt, has no doubt made me jaded with respect to the available attractions and activities. In a previous part of this series, I noted the differences in area and population between Paris and San Francisco. Compared with the urban concentration that is Paris, San Francisco is positively rural, an impression compounded by the infusion of nature throughout the city. From the beaches to the west of the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field to the east, from the manicured expanse and many attractions of Golden Gate Park to the City’s rambling neighborhood parks, some of which I reviewed in this series, San Francisco has an airy, wide open feel to it. Throw in the numerous tourist attractions—Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd), the iconic cable cars, the Victorian “painted ladies” on Alamo Square, the cultural institution that is City Lights bookstore (261 Columbus Avenue)—and San Francisco’s quotient for charming, quaint and enchanting is extremely high. Having lived all these years in this city, I still haven’t seen and done all that I’ve wanted—actually walked the Golden Gate Bridge, shopped in China Town, climbed the Moraga Street tile mosaic stairs between 16th and 17th Avenue, explored the new, improved Presidio, etc. So much more to see and do before I die.
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What’s so great about San Francisco is the temperate climate. No sweltering summers that force half the population to leave and old people to die, and no winters with sleet and snow to brave. Its pretty much good weather all year long here, thanks to being surrounded by water. My wife and I live east of Twin Peaks and we are treated to the City’s natural air conditioning, fog pouring over Twin Peaks to moderate the weather. The neighborhood microclimates are well known, yet the overall mildness of the weather is a feature that promotes casual walking by residents as well as year-round tourism. Being homeless, not a pleasant prospect anywhere, is mitigated by being able to hang out outdoors and live rough in this city. September/October is the best time to visit Paris (or for that matter, New York City). In San Francisco, its positively gorgeous.
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One thing that I’m disappointed about with respect to San Francisco is the overall attitude of the people who live here. There’s an aloofness, a sense that people here just can’t be bothered. I wrote above discounting the myth that Parisians are rude. Now, having visited New York City off and on for the past thirty odd years, I know what rudeness is. There’s no mistaking the “go fuck yourself” temperament that’s part and parcel of your average New Yorker. San Franciscans are so self-contained, no, self-absorbed, so as to be detached from their fellow human beings. The proliferation of hipsters (who squat every available coffee shop seat) and the influx of techies into the City (who drive to and from work in their private, air conditioned Google or Genentech buses) has only made things worse. Say what you will about your average Parisian (or New Yorker), they aren’t detached from their surroundings or other people. Take your “individual looking at a map” test, not as some “thought experiment” but as a real life exercise. I described what occurred when my wife and I stood around a Paris intersection looking at our map. This happened to me many times when I was a tourist in New York, looked lost, and consulted my map. Invariably, some New Yorker would come up and ask “where do want to go?” perhaps not out of pure friendliness so much as an attitude that said “hey, I know this city like the back of my hand.” When I visited San Francisco as a tourist, but before I’d actually lived in the Bay Area, I would walk around different parts of the City, often checking out my map for where to go and how to get there. This happened on numerous occasions, but no one approached me to ask “where do you want to go?” Then, one time, when I was befuddled and staring at my map somewhere in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district a man came up to me and said, in a perfect Brooklyn accent, “so, where do you want to go?” Enough said.

LOVE: OLD AND NEW

This concludes my two series—”City of Light” and “San Francisco, Paris of the West”—on the only theme that remains appropriate to the subject. Love. Love for Paris and love for San Francisco. Thanks for following this blog.
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Posted in arrondissements in Paris, City of Light, Golden Gate Park, life, neighborhoods, Paris, Paris of the West, San Francisco, San Francisco neighborhoods, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 6

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 4, 2013

TWO OUTLYING NEIGHBORHOODS

San_Francisco_Neighborhood_Map1
The above map, provided by a local real estate company (the name of which has been dutifully photoshopped out), provides the common realty names for various San Francisco areas. I’ve been focusing on the three neighborhoods surrounding my residence in this series; Eureka Valley/The Castro (or Eureka Valley/Dolores Heights), greater Noe Valley, and the Haight-Ashbury (including parts of Cole Valley/Parnassus Heights & Buena Vista Park/Ashbury Heights). There are two adjacent neighborhoods I also enjoy visiting and will briefly cover, while comparing them to Paris. Let’s begin with:

WEST PORTAL

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West Portal is the residential area that runs west of the three block commercial West Portal Avenue. Bookshop West Portal (80 W Portal Ave) has been an anchor store for the neighborhood. It’s run by one of the former owners of Clean Well Lighted Place for Books, and it sells new and remaindered books, as well as provides a range of services, from author signings and book release events to a meeting place for classes and community activities. It has a nice kids literature section, tables and shelves for current fiction and nonfiction trade paperbacks, and magazine racks. The staff is dedicated and knowledgeable. This is a well loved, full-service neighborhood bookstore that easily could be found in Paris. Right next door, there’s The Music Store (66 W Portal Ave). Okay, so they’re not big on creative names here, but this tiny little record shop is crammed full of CDs, DVDs, vinyl, tapes, anything musical new or used. Mostly used. This place promotes various local and regional musical events as well and besides, its simply a cool fucking store. Lot’s of great pictures and posters. In Paris, everything has pretty much made the transition to digital, and there’s not much specialty vinyl around. Not like specialty Parisian bookstores, anyway. So The Music Store is truly unique.

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There is absolutely no way I can visually describe El Toreador Restaurant (50 W Portal Ave). The exterior has that bright Mexican house coloring that only hints at the complete chaos inside. The furnishings are as multicolored as the exterior, and every other surface—every wall and the ceiling—is entirely covered with stuff. Photos, murals, paintings, streamers, pinatas, dolls, sculptures, hanging furniture, “day of the dead” figurines, jugs, pitchers, dishes, signs, neon, graffiti; this is only a small fraction of the crap stuck on everything, everywhere. This is only decent Mexican food, what I used to call border Mexican food when I lived in San Diego. The amazing deal is the range of beers on the menu and displayed via empty bottles lining the walls. I’m no longer a drinking man, but I was impressed with the selection. There’s no experience comparable to El Toreador Restaurant in Paris. While the cuisine is no great shakes, the decor is authentic and eye popping. Plus, its a family owned and run establishment. After a Mexican meal, its time to take in a movie at the CinéArts at the Empire (85 W Portal Ave) across the street. First run movies, some “independent” and some 3D, in this multiplex movie theater, which offers stadium seating, air conditioning, and the usual food concessions. The CineMark chain got into trouble when a CEO (I think) acknowledged donating to the Proposition 8 Campaign and provoked a short lived boycott from the gay community. Yet, with the dwindling number of cinemas around (unlike Paris), CinéArts at the Empire has managed to weather this controversy and remain a hub in the West Portal neighborhood, as well as relevant to San Francisco in general.

GLEN PARK

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Okay, Bird and Beckett Books and Records (653 Chenery St) fucking rules. This shop has had to struggle financially, like so many independent bookstores in San Francisco, and its month-to-month as far as the rent and bills. But Bird and Beckett is still here, and it is an institution not only in Glen Park, but in San Francisco as well. This place is not unusual by Parisian standards in offering new and used books and records. What is unique is the regular poetry readings and bebop jazz performances, in addition to the usual book and author events common to most other bookstores. When Bird and Beckett was evicted several years ago from down the block, its future appeared bleak. Now, at least the bookstore has a future, if only tentative. Keep patronizing Bird and Beckett to keep them afloat.

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Pizza is a religion in San Francisco. Thin crust, deep dish, twice baked, New York style; people fight over which is the best. Gialina (2842 Diamond St) serves up thin-crust Neapolitan-style pizza, not to mention fresh antipasti and salads, and a roast of the day. The place is small, and Gialina doesn’t take reservations, so expect to wait to be seated. It’s also family friendly, so a few squealing kids is par for the course. Canyon Market (2815 Diamond St) is right across the street. Canyon Market considers itself a full service neighborhood grocery for Glen Park, but its somewhat of a boutique market and a tad pricy. But what stands out here is the prepared foods, the salad bar, the butchered meats, and the fresh baked breads, which rivals anything to be found in Paris. My wife and I do go out for take-out grocery food, but of all the markets we frequent, Canyon Market offers the tastiest, most varied prepared foods. Delicious.

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When I reviewed Dolores Park in part 5 below, I mentioned that it had the pretense of “wildness.” Glen Canyon Park (Elk and Chenery St) is the real thing, at least as real and as wild as a park gets completely surrounded by a city. Paris offers nothing like Glen Canyon Park in a fully metropolitan setting. There are grassy areas and playgrounds and baseball fields and a recreation center. Yet it also covers 70 acres, with a free flowing creek (Islais Creek), hilly and rocky terrain laced with hiking trails, and lots of trees and coastal scrub. Red-tailed hawks and great horned owls breed in the park, and coyotes have been seen in here. An example of urban planning at its best.

conclusion
I’ll conclude both this series (San Francisco, Paris of the West) and my other related series (City of Light) in a combined part 7.

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