Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irony – 1911 Style

A certain Fred Shepard of San Francisco returned from visiting a friend in Petaluma, a farming town north of San Francisco, and sighed the urbanite's sigh of relief... with a bit of city snark thrown in:

Friend Jack:-
Am home again and glad to be out of that god-forsaken town. How I envy you (I don't think). Our train was ten minutes late but we made it up before we got to Frisco.
My regards,
Fred Shepard

In other words: Nice place; lucky you – NOT! Actually, Petaluma is a great historic town in lovely Sonoma County. And while San Francisco would have still been in the midst of post-1906 earthquake reconstruction in 1911, Petaluma had sustained little damage. But Fred was just glad to get back to the city, and sent along a nice view of Mission Street to let Friend Jack know!

Note the franking on the postcard, which heralds the upcoming Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915, which would officially mark San Francisco's rise from the ashes:

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The High Rent Blues

This rooming house ghost sign at the side of a San Francisco building on Clay Street and Kearny advertises free hot and cold water baths (is it ever just hot water?)! Rooms ranging from 25-50 cents a night, or a dollar and a half gets you a week! Oh, if only...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Power of Mash

L. Manze's Pie and Mash Shop, Walthamstow, East London

On a grey day, feeling a bit under the weather, it was very therapeutic to sit in a steamed-up pie shop -- the wonderful L. Manze on the Walthamstow High Street.

The food is simple and satisfying... somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but a relatively wholesome one! I had a small minced beef pie (a nice light pastry), a big dollop of mash, and the plateful of mellow "liquor" (a parsley sauce traditionally made from the eel-stewing water). I only belatedly realized that the bottles of vinegar on the table were for mixing into the sauce!

The pleasant efficiency of the ladies serving, and the perfectly preserved 1929 interior (recently granted Grade II Listing), gave the hot plate of food an added savor. The space is bright with white and decorative green tile; the original booths are a warm, dark wood; and the mirrors above the tables amplify the cheerful vintage room. Though it's a bustling place, a sense of communal relaxation pervades -- it's the power of the creamy mash: the ultimate comfort food.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Writing On the Wall

Peeling paint near Brick Lane, London

Blog-silence for nearly a year, during which I've been happily lost in London. And now only weeks to go before I will be in the Bay Area again. Bittersweet.
Thoughts for the New Year:

Behind Commercial Street, near Christchurch, London


Friday, January 18, 2013

Frosted London

Today snow covered cars and dusted these pastel houses off Fulham Road, London. 
It made me think of these:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Farewell Wave to 2012

Winter Trees in London
No regrets for the passing year, and feeling lighter after shedding phantom limbs.
Bring on Lucky 13. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Creatures and Colors in Brompton Cemetery

Fall reds have erupted in Brompton Cemetery. Vivid leaves tumble over tombstones and startle the eye among the subdued grays and greens. The cemetery is one of 19th century London's "Magnificent Seven," which were established from 1832 to 1841. It is a weedy and wonderful cemetery in the southwest of the city, used freely as a massive green space by those who live around it. Dogs are walked, families and couples take quiet strolls, solitary men ponder on benches, and tourists tiptoe through the tombstones.

Beatrix Potter spent her girlhood just up the road in South Kensington and she played and wandered in the cemetery. The names of her animal characters are said to have been inspired by the headstones she saw there, including that of a Mr. Nutkins and a Peter Rabbett. At the northwest end of the cemetery along Old Brompton Road, where she would have likely entered, a rowdy mob of crows squawks and scolds as they hover and rest on rows of headstones.

And Squirrel Nutkin is possessed! He loiters on the edge of a grave marker, eyes glowing -- which I only noticed after reviewing the images, as of course his true nature was cloaked in cuteness when I spotted him. And there were plenty of less malevolent looking squirrels capering around. You first hear a spooky rustle of leaves before you see them swishing their tails at the edge of tombstones.

The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin was published in 1903, which would preclude the connection to this headstone of 1906. But perhaps there was/is an earlier Nutkins resting somewhere close by. Many of the vulnerable sandstone headstones have degraded until they are unreadable, and some grave markers are grown over and obscured. Further wandering required...