Mighty Life List
Apr 16 2010

Cab Ride, 1 a.m.

Conversations my cab driver had last night:

With a red light:

“Whoa. WHOOOOOOOoooooa!”

With me:

“HOLD ON!… (Brakes aggressively.) Sorry about that.”

With his cell phone:

“OK. What time are you getting off? OK. What time are you getting off? OKOKOKOKOKOK. Man, what time are you getting off?

With me:

Him: Why are cell phones so useless for the simple exchange of information? You can’t get any information from them. Did you hear how many times I had to ask that guy what time he was getting off? It was like talking to a goddamn girlfriend…


Him: Not to insult women or anything.

Me: Right. Except for how you were insulting women there.

Him: Nononononono. Most women are fine Except for the ones unfortunate enough to have dated me…

Me: …

Him: Women are great, most women are perfectly great. Except for the ones I’ve dated. Especially that one goddamn bitch who I dated in 1982…

Me: …

Him: Most women are fine. I mean. But not that one chick. She broke my heart. And here I am still pining for her…

Me: …

Him: Thirty years later, here I am still pining for that bitch.

Me: You can drop me here, thanks.

Mar 24 2010

Mighty Life List: Market Street Tour

Yesterday was so good. It was gorgeous, I got dressed up cute to celebrate the sunshine, and Karen was in from Houston. I met her and a few friends downtown for breakfast, and afterward I called Jordan for a quick coffee at the St. Francis while I waited to take my first city tour.

It was the Market Street tour thorough San Francisco City Guides, a non-profit that hosts dozens of free walking tours. If you live here or plan to visit, I recommend them; I learned a lot.

For example, San Francisco is the second most densely populated American city after NYC. It’s mostly built on sand, and half the Financial District used to be underwater. When they do construction downtown, they sometimes unearth ships. This city is like a fairy tale.

Also, I had no idea that this view of the Ferry Building was blocked by the Embarcadero Freeway until 1989. The Loma Prieta earthquake made it unstable, and it was demolished. Farewell freeway.

Some of the buildings on Market Street are triangular because Market cuts across the city street grid on a diagonal, creating triangular lots and confusing the hell out of newcomers trying to get oriented.

I’d never noticed this plaque several blocks up from the bay that indicates where the shoreline used to be. During the rush, the bay was filling with abandoned ships and garbage, so the city began to sell “water lots” with the understanding that they’d eventually be filled in with dirt atop the rubbish.

The Shell Building was erected in 1939. After its construction, the war precluded plans for any new skyscrapers for thirty years. The next one went up in 1959 right across the street:

It was at 1 Bush Street, and it was the city’s first glass shell building. Look at how dramatically architecture changed in those thirty years. You can see the Shell Building’s reflection in 1 Bush’s panes. Neat, huh?

The De Young Building was San Francisco’s first skyscraper, and it was built in 1890. In 1962, it was covered with a glass “skin” to modernize it, sort of like the building at 1 Bush. In 2007 it was restored, and the architect who revealed the original face called it the architectural equivalent of raising the Titanic, which is awesome, if a little self congratulatory.

In 1875, a Shirley Temple-type child star named Lotta Crabtree dedicated Lotta’s Fountain as a thank you gift to the city. After the 1906 earthquake, San Franciscans gathered here to find loved ones. Now survivors and San Franciscans gather every year at 5:12 a.m. on April 18th to commemorate the date and celebrate the city’s survival. That’s just a few weeks away, so set your alarm clocks.

One tour down, four to go. This is fun.

As always, a big thank you to Verizon Wireless for sponsoring my Mighty Life List. They’re helping me work toward “Knowing San Francisco like the back of my hand,” and they also gave me a Palm Pre Plus. I used it to take notes on this tour and to take a bunch of the photos, including the one of the Shell Building, which is my favorite. Thanks, guys.

Mar 19 2010

Mighty Life List: How You Doin’?

Hey, did you choose three things to cross off your life list this month? How’s that coming along? Did Jen get her learner’s permit? Did Lis frame the photos for her first show? Has Nicole had her baby? (I suspect so. It’s be a while since that last post.)

As for me, I’ve done three things, but one of them wasn’t part of my campaign with Verizon, which means I get to do one more thing with a benefactor on my side. Sweet. As I mentioned, Verizon has been great about supporting long-term, better-life projects, so the last goal I’m working on for the campaign is:

Get to know San Francisco like the back of my hand.

This could take a while. In fact, how will I know when I’m done? I’ve attended the Black and White Ball, but I’ve never done something untoward in the Transamerica pyramid. I’ve visited Alcatraz, but I’ve never mooned tourists on the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a tough one to check off decisively.

So I did what any good list maker does in this situation. I made a sublist. I decided I’ll “Know San Francisco like the back of my hand” when I:

1. Crown a favorite burrito.
2. Take five tours.
3. Finish 7×7’s Big Eats Top 100.
4. Make my own list of the hundred best things to eat.
5. Choose the fifty best cocktails.
6. Choose my fifty favorite shops.
7. Photograph all the public libraries.
8. See the view from Coit Tower.
9. Write up mini guides to the main neighborhoods.
10. Choose my top ten things to do when you visit.

That’s right. I’ve begun to make lists about making lists. (Take that, Escher!) It’s a lot to tackle, but I’m getting started in these last couple weeks of March.

And what about you? How are your projects coming along? Tell us in comments so we can cheer for you, because you are great.

A huge thanks to Verizon Wireless for sponsoring my Mighty Life List. They’re helping me cross off a few goals, and they also gave me a Palm Pre Plus. I’m using it to take photos and video of my escapades, and to make actual phone calls that don’t disconnect unexpectedly at awkward moments. Thanks, guys.

Mar 5 2010

Je Ne Parle Pas Français

So, one of the items on my Mighty Life List is “Be conversational in seven languages.” I studied Spanish for years, and I think language really shapes how I think. Knowing another language besides my native tongue has given me an alternate way of looking at the world. Knowing Spanish specifically makes me sometimes want to cry when I hear a guitar playing at night, and makes me more willing to be the first one dancing at parties. That could also be the tequila of course, but I digress.

When I first made my list, some part of me thought the simple act of writing things down would magically make them happen. Like once I realized that I wanted to pick blackberries and make pies, I’d just find myself passing blackberry bramble on a walk one Sunday with a bucket in hand.

As I’ve started to cross things off, it has genuinely surprised me that I have to plan fun. I guess some part of me thinks that fun will just happen, even very specific types of fun, and that I shouldn’t have to actively put aside time for that stuff.

It took around three years of lessons before I could get the gist of most conversations in Spanish. So if I start now, it will be about fifteen years before I can cross off this goal.

On Wednesday night, I got started. Verizon is sponsoring French classes with Bryan, which we’ll be attending until we can speak French. I’ll keep you posted.

Merci beaucoup to Verizon Wireless for sponsoring my Mighty Life List and helping me achieve my dreams. They’re making my site more interesting by helping me cross off few more goals, and they also gave me a Palm Pre Plus. One that completes calls. Thanks, guys.

Dec 2 2009

7 Ways to Keep Cozy in San Francisco


San Francisco is a scarf and gloves town year round, especially at night, but in December the wind off the water will make you whimper. Fortunately, it’s the kind of chill that can be cured with a cup of cocoa — as opposed to, say, Chicago chill which can only be cured with something much stronger, like emergency resuscitation.

If you’re planning a visit soon, these are some of my favorite ways to keep toasty while you’re sightseeing:

1. Sip a cup of soup from scratch at the Crissy Field Center Cafe.

This place offers the same affordable organic food as Alice Water’s Warming Hut up the way, but it’s half as busy — so take your pick of tables with showstopper views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Watching the steam rise from my soup while the fog burns off over the bay always makes me feel grateful to live here.

2. Take tea at the Samovar Tea Lounge.

Watch the leaves tumble in your glass pot and warm your nose over the steam. Samovar offers a restorative selection of beautiful leaves and herbs. There are three locations now, but I’m still partial to the original, which lives in the Castro.

3. Escape the rain in City Lights Bookstore.

If you’re the kind of person who learns to love a city through its bookstores, duck in to City Lights and leave your umbrella by the door. This San Francisco institution is the city in miniature — smart, charming, and eclectic.

4. Have an all-souffle dinner at Cafe Jaqueline.

All the portions are made to share at this tiny, all-souffle restaurant, which makes it one of my favorites for dates or celebrating with a close girlfriend. Call ahead to see if you can secure a spot at one of the five or six tables. The restrooms are through the kitchen, where you’ll find a bottomless bowl of eggs resting on the counter.

5. Settle in at Bluebottle Coffee.

Worst possible neighborhood, best possible coffee. Bluebottle roasters are obsessive, so enjoy a perfect cup in one of the cutest cafes in the city. You see the people working on their computers? Remember what I said about the neighborhood? Yeah. I wouldn’t do that.

6. Watch the steam curl over your noodles at Suzu.

This small noodle place in the Japantown mall isn’t much to look at, but the fresh noodles and broth have a dedicated following. There will be a line, so parties of two or singles have better luck.

7. Stir hot chocolate brandies at Tosca.

The bar at Tosca is lined with glasses and teaspoons in anticipation of the demand for this signature cocktail. It is small and deceptively potent. Rise from your barstool to stretch every so often to make sure your sense of balance is still in working order.

Cheers. Welcome to San Francisco.

Nov 10 2009

Salt House Collateral

Salt House is one of our favorite places to celebrate in the city. We like to sit upstairs, order cocktails and a shellfish platter to share, and watch everyone talking down below. Their design details are charming.

Hand-stamped coasters cut from corrugated cardboard.

Vintage playing cards used as coat-check numbers.

Seafood shipping tags as business cards.

I love it when businesses find clever ways to distinguish themselves without impacting the bottom line adversely. Smart.

Aug 14 2009

Mighty Closet: Courtney Skott, Outfit 5

Designer Courtney Skott does a high kick.

Jumper! Haaa-yah!

Courtney saw this BCBG Max Azaria pantsuit at Crossroads long before rompers came back in style. She couldn’t immediately figure out how to put it on, which she felt was a good sign. After some time wrangling in the dressing room, she decided to bring it home and figure it out.

Designer Courtney Skott in her living room.

Smart move, because it’s become Courtney’s version of the little black dress. That little diamond of exposed tummy skin is spot on. Courtney is smart about finding sexy clothes that don’t make her look too willing, if you know what I mean. She now thinks the jumper was an early sample, because she saw one at Nordstrom recently. She appears to be correct, because here it is. Did you pay $380 for yours, Skott? Yeah, I didn’t think so. High five.


The leafy earrings are Eliza Page, an Austin-based jeweler owned by a friend of Courtney’s. Lots of great stuff there, by the way.


Metallic sandals are Kenneth Cole Reaction.

And so Courtney Skott’s Mighty Closet comes to a close. Does anyone else feel like they could use a cigarette?