Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Il Film nella Città

The Salvadoran and I had the pleasure of seeing a great Italian movie at a
field trip in our Beginning Italian class ITAL1A. The story revolves around a poor Sicilian boy who, after the death of his parents, made a choice to make sacrifices to take care of his little sister and a grandmother. The movie is set in a small coastal town in Italy's southern island of Sicily. The movie has a melodramic tone and, in a lot of ways, unlikely to happen in real life. This reminds me of another good Italian movie entitled 'Ciao, Profesorre'.

Before the feature presentation, the director, Gian Paolo Cugno, spoke briefly to the audience with the help of an interpreter. Che bello! He spoke really fast or at least it seemed that way to my untrained ears. His sentences sounded like a big long Italian word. It was so elegant, it flowed smoothly. Without the interpreter's translation, only the last part of his speech registered perfectly in my brain where he is encouraging anyone who has questions to talk to him after the movie. The Salvadoran kept insisting that he understood 70% of the entire talk.

Coming from almost a similar town as the main character in the movie, I was moved. I also have a soft spot for Foreign movies. The outing was great too since we have not been out a lot these days. We’ve been watching more home movies lately so we could enjoy the house (read as: we’re trying to cut down on entertainment expenses because of the astronomical mortgage!).

The movie was sponsored by the San Francisco Film Society’s New Italian Cinema at the Embarcadero Center. Almost half of the class was there.

The Salvadoran and I typically ask each other the ‘top five’ of this or that. Since 2006 is almost o-v-e-r and I probably won’t see another movie because I will spend most of December outside the States, here’s my list of personal favorites that I’ve seen on the big screen.

  • The Last King of Scotland. I only agreed to see this movie because it was playing at the Century theatres inside the new mall (Bloomies). I heard the place is great – great, comfortable faux leather seats, more leg room, better view, better sound, better popcorn and we get $2 off because we are registered 'students' (at the city college). I was in for a surprise because the movie is very good. The movie is about Idi Amin. I am not at all knowledgeable on African history so I could not attest on how historically accurate the movie is. The entire cast gave a great performance. I hope this movie gets nominated for something.

  • Little Miss Sunshine. This is probably this year’s funniest movie even though I think this is more a dramatic movie than comedy. That’s the good thing about this movie. It wasn’t trying too hard to make people laugh or be sentimental. I remember laughing so hard for a good 15 minutes or so. Great acting too.

  • The Devil Wears Prada. This is in the league of the first ‘Legally Blonde’, at least for me. And that says it all.

  • Superman Returns. I was debating between this and Mission Impossible 3. No, the decision wasn’t based on how good looking the main actors are. You should have seen Tom Cruise in his priestly outfit (just kidding!). I'd have to go with Superman. Afterall, this is ‘the Superman’ movie and I thought it was a good one.

  • Pride and Prejudice. Just like with science fiction, I am a sucker for love stories especially when it is set in an earlier era.

I haven’t seen ‘Click’ yet. I heard a lot of good feedback from my friends about it. I also enjoyed several home movie titles but that is another list (allconsuming.net).


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Pink Martini in the City

I've only seen them perform on T.V. during their telethon on PBS (Public Brodcasting Service) even though I've been a fan since their first album came out. I missed them earlier this year when they performed with the San Francisco Symphony. The tickets went like that, fast! So when the tickets for their November 15 concert went on sale 6 months ago, I was online and ready. Who knows? I was probably the first who bought the tickets. I wasn't going to miss them again.

So just imagine when I made it to The Warfield Memorial with the Salvadoran. I was absolutely looking forward to this. It was a sold out show. Since they are not mainstream , I never thought they will be able to fill the auditorium. I even ran into someone who also works for the card company. And then I got it. Hello? This is San Francisco. They love non-mainstream here! I wonder if the group Everything But The Girl appeals to anyone here? I wonder if anyone in the crowd has heard the music of 2raumwohnung?

Listening to them is like getting a crash course in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Arabic, Croatian and of course English. If this city speaks more than 10 languages, this band sings in all 10 of them. The band has a lot of sense of humor too so the Salvadoran and I totally enjoyed the show.

Before the concert ended, they played their classical rendition of a Filipino national song Ang Bayan Ko. As in '...ibon mang may layang lumipad...' Ang Bayan Ko. It was near perfection! I was in awe at the same time surprised that I am hearing this being played by a West coast band! During the thunderous applause I suddenly got quiet. I felt a rush of emotion - angry for my country's current state, sad for its people, hopeful for its future.

I felt homesick. I wasn't going to cry. No, not in there. :)

(The third picture is my failed attempt to capture a Pink Martini moment using my camera phone at the Warfield Memorial in San Francisco. So you see, I will never become a believer of camera phones.)


E x c e s s . . .

I saw this video from You Tube. It is from the SF concert on 11/15 and I thought I'd attach it here. Someone from the main floor, which is standing only, obviously took this clip.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Fall Garage Sale in the City

For those of you who are local, i.e. if you live in San Francisco or in the Bay Area, I am having another garage sale. All items are in great condition and the price so affordable.
If you have any questions or if you are interested in any of the items, please send an email to GlenParkGarageSale@yahoo.com.
View more items on sale in http://photos.yahoo.com/glenparkgaragesale.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Yo estaba en el tren esta mañana y estaba pensando que hoy va a ser un día normal. Como siempre. Un día que no lleno de acontecimientos, sin movedad. Como los otros días.

Cuando me senté, ví una persona que tenía un ‘afro’. Ella estaba de pie y estaba a mi izquierda. Me parece que ella se vestió de etiqueta pero yo no estaba seguro si el cabello es verdadero. Lo que es fuera de lo común. Es demasiado... grande. Es muy tupido.

Me hice el desimulado y pretendi no verla.
La miré de reojo de qualquier manera. A veces, me quería reir muchas veces pero no podía.

Y entonces, recuerdé que hoy es el último día de octubre. Por eso, hoy es ‘halloween’. Me falté observar que hay una gitana de mi atras y una banana cerca de mi lado.

Después de me di cuenta esto, sonreí. Sonreí mas.

Me encanta hoy. Me encanta ésta ciudad! Me encantan los ciudadanos!

(La foto fue tomada algunos años pasados en el calle de Castro durante Halloween. Somos no fuimos por alla éste año porque tuvimos una examen en nuestra clase de italiano. Desafortunadamente, la fiesta se convertió violente y diez personas hicieron daño)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

This heart is already taken

Glen Park
I found a letter on the front steps as I was leaving home for work. I noticed the handwriting was strangely familiar. I've seen this before. It seems similar to the first letter I found on the same spot not too long ago. It was a very short note, I remember.

Was this supposed to be for me, for someone else?

All the things you wrote, that was kind of you. That was actually beyond kindness because while I think I am a reasonable person, you don't know me personally.

Are you a neighbor I haven't officially met yet? Are you the lean jogger who runs around the neighborhood every evening and says 'hi' to me while I water our young tree on the side walk? Or the charming dog owner at the neighborhood park who returned my tennis ball with a cheery smile? Are you the home owner on the adjacent street who asked what I think about the paint job on your garage door? Or the dressy, chatty fellow who takes the same train in the morning?

The letters, those thoughtful words, they're not meant for me. Someday you'll find that special someone who you will write about and will offer those verses to.

Whoever you are, I hope you'll stay as friendly as you are now. I wish you all the best.

This heart is already taken.
(The picture was taken in San Francisco's sleepy Glen Park with the view of the Excelsior District of the city on a perfect Fall evening.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

We are now half-way through the Beginning Italian 1A. In nine weeks, we’ve had two quizzes, finished six laboratory audio and video manuals, and eighty three pages of grammaticali, incontri, attiviti, e vocabulari. I teasingly tell the Salvadoran that the Italian class has become my new job.

When I started taking Spanish lessons years ago, I remember I had to translate my ideas from Tagalog to English to Spanish. It is the other way around when reading instructions in Spanish. The translation used to take a long time, a lengthy process. It was incredibly frustrating to see my more advanced language partners lose their patience and I used to cringe when they end up finishing my sentences for me. (I also had to unlearn lots of Hispanized-Tagalog words because the meaning has evolved a lot differently from the Spanish word it got borrowed from). But we know that this story ended well because I am so eloquent with my Spanish now. (Of course, I'm only kidding. Seriously, I want to get there someday).

What’s amazing was that in the course of learning Spanish, my spoken and written English was revitalized. I don’t know how or why, but it did. Now that I’m learning Italian, I find my Spanish getting even better. I also find it much easier to learn Italian having already learned Spanish. Not only because the two are almost identical in construct but also the learning techniques I acquired from Spanish can be applied to Italian as well. Writing journals, watching movies, listening to music, and keeping notes in index cards can be employed to immerse myself with anything Italian.

There are times when I think Spanish is a more difficult language than Italian and there are times I think it is the other way around. I am discovering that Italian, like the other languages I speak, has its own peculiarities.

The Salvadoran is taking the class with me so I am also discovering things about him. Petty, amusing things. For someone who has a short attention span, he seems to be enjoying, at the same time, doing well at the Italian class. Generally, his interest is destined to be short lived however fascinating the class may be, but not ITAL1A. He still blushes when called by
la professoressa to answer an exercise. While his nose gets bigger when reading the dialogues, I chuckle when I hear his improvised Italian accent. It is kindof sexy!
I don’t think he means to poke fun at other people but he laughs when someone mispronounces the words which is something I share with him. Sometimes I think we only go to class to be entertained.

We'll have another quiz next week.


October is almost O-V-E-R

Even though the days are drenched with sunshine, the evening breeze from the Pacific Ocean brings cool mornings and cold nights.

It gets dark earlier nowadays.

I can feel the season is changing.

My herb plants are slowly wilting. I better harvest them next week.

We missed out on the grape stomping events in Sonoma and Napa. Again!

- ral

(This photo was taken in our backyard on a beautiful fall evening.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bloomingdales, 10 years in the making

Long lines at the ATM. Long lines to get a bite to eat. Longer lines to the bathroom. This is like going to the ballgame. It's an absolute madhouse. This was, and still is, the scene inside the newly opened Bloomingdale's in San Francisco's shopping district. SF people call it 'Bloomies'.

It opened on 9/28 and the Salvadoran and I, as expected, were at the mall around lunch time that day. Having come from Manila where the city's past time is going to malls, pushing through glass doors gives me a natural high. It wasn't a surprise I was absolutely thrilled to walk on the pearly, shiny floors. Hear the noise of the crowd that is having an equal amount of high. And to smell the smell of a mall! Going to Bloomies, at least for me, is an endorphine inducer. (I don't know why I am embarrassed to admit that.)

Just like any other 'opening' in this city, it drew mixed reviews. Some folks say the city does not need another mall and it is just a glorified extension of Nordstrom. The media calls it 'Fashionistas and Foodies unite'. Others think it is what SF needs to revitalize the area between the Civic Center and Union Square. For me, it is just another means to spend money and be broke (read as 'I am going to look even better at work').

Honestly, I am quite impressed with the domed rotunda which has a lot of history in it and I think they did an excellent job with the neoclassical facade on the side of Market Street. Apparently, the facade is a remnant of the 1896 Emporium . As a matter of fact, I have never been to a more beautiful mall than this ( I have yet to see the one in Millan, Italy!) There were an orchestra playing classical music directly beneath the dome on the first day.

It is a feast for the eyes. That's literally true because I couldn't afford anything I like, not even that lightest checkered scarf or that stove top espresso maker. But that never stopped me from trying on an expensive jacket, a pair of Marc Jacobs boots and checked out two or three Jack Spade bags.

I almost shouted 'Amen!' when I overheard someone saying you have to own one expensive jacket and a pair of expensive shoes in your lifetime. Santa, can I have that 2K worth of wool coat?

Before the Bloomies opened, there were only two malls in the city - the San Francisco Center in Union Square and Stonestown Galleria on 19th Avenue in the Sunset district. I don't think I can count the Metreon as a mall. The Embarcadero Center is not enclosed so it is not considered a mall either.

I used to think this city abhors big malls and prefers the outdoor shopping just like it frowns at the giant restaurant and coffee chains and go for the mom-and-pop type of places. Bloomies is obviouly an exception.

I ran into a local KTVU traffic reporter (Sal Castaneda) inside the mall and he stopped and said hello to acknowledge my greeting.

In my ten years of living in the city, I had witnessed major events that added more pride to San Francisco and also totally changed the way we live - the SFO Airport BART station, ATT Park (the home of the San Franciso Giants), the world class De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, Conservatory of Flowers also in GG Park - and some minor earthquakes. Maybe I'll still be here when the city finally hosts the Olympics. For now, I am just going to wait and hope that the Giants and the 49ers clinch the World Series and the Superbowl respectively.

There is a tea store inside the mall called Lupicia that I would like to spend more time in. The upscale grocery place called Bristol Farm seems worth the exploration. Maybe the hype about Bloomies will die down in a couple more weeks and the Salvadoran and I can finally go back to check it out some more.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Cuando las últimas ferias de la ciudad terminan, las significan el fin de verano y el principio de nueva estación. El otoño está aquí. Los tardes hace sol pero en la mañana y la noche se necesita llevar otra capa porque hace frío. La temperatura baja grandisimamente. Las hojas se vuelven amarilla, roja, naranja, y marrón. Es una buena vista! Las hojas finalmente cairán al suelo. La lluvia y a veces nieve, cairá tambien.

El otoño comenzaba dos semanas pasadas. Es el tiempo que las uvas y otras cosechas en los valles son recolectada. Es el tiempo también que los días son mas corto de las noches. Los pajaros emigrarán a los paises de sud. En pronto, esta estación terminará y el invierno seguirá. Me parece que la naturaleza está preparandose para hacer un sueño profundo.

(Esta foto fue tomada en el Castro Street Fair que ocurre en el primero domingo de octubre).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I couldn't decide which one is the best among the small plates of asian fusion dishes we ordered that night. Is it the crunchy 'chili crusted calamari', the fresh 'lettuce cups', the tasty 'glazed pork short ribs', the juicy 'seared scallops' or the decadent 'lava cake'?

When I called Betelnut to make a reservation, I was told that 10p is the next available table for four. The voice on the other end of the line suggested that walk-ins can eat at the bar and that the wait, if there is any, could be from 30 to 45 mins. I learned it gets pretty crowded on Friday evenings so the earlier we get there, the shorter the wait. I called my aunt right away to relay to her the message. We agreed that 6p is probably a good time to meet.

The Salvadoran and I got there first and we were seated at once. Perhaps we got one of the only few tables available for walk-in guests because we passed by rows of empty tables as we followed the hostess. My aunt and her husband waved at us as soon as they spotted us. I had never been to this restaurant so I didn't know what to expect although I heard a lot of things about it especially on the noise level and the $$$ department. Another thing I noticed is that the place reeks of attitude. It must be a Marina neighborhood kind of thing.

The group across from our table looked like they're regulars here and they gave us the impression that they are enjoying their food so we decided to order a couple of items that they had ordered. My aunt suggested we share 3 or 4 small plates which turned out to be great as it encouraged engaging conversations. By 7p, I could tell the restaurant have filled up because our normal chats have turned into small shouting matches. I had to yell to be heard because the noise level inside the restaurant goes high during dinner hours.

In the end, the winner that evening was the perfect chemistry of the drinks, the small plates, and the stories shared on our table. I would go back again, that is, after I tried all the other restaurants scattered around the city. What I would do again is have another dinner with my aunt and her husband and take them to our side of town next time. We'll go to Delfina's, perhaps?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Italian Class In the City

For the Fall Semester, I am taking an Italian language class at the city college.

You probably think I have gone nuts to learn another foreign language on top of my stilted Spanish and my unadorned American English. (For those who don’t know as yet, Tagalog is my first language. Can you tell from my accent?) A couple of friends had warned me that I might confuse Spanish and Italian because the languages are too similar and that sameness makes it all the more hard to differentiate. Some suggested French would be a better choice since more countries speak French than Italian and I know at least three people who is a native speaker of French.

I wish I could say I don’t have any choice but to take Italian, of course, I do. Let me tell you my reasons. First, I had taken all the Spanish classes available at the city college - all ten of them. I think this is the farthest I can go schoolwise or I can go back to Casa Hispana and take advanced lessons in conversational Spanish. Just like in all things in life, if you don't use it, you lose it. It a matter of applying what I’ve learned in real life (especially the past tenses and the modismos). Making Spanish words part of my daily vocabulary so my brain can assimilate and retain them. Aside from the Salvadoran who I speak Spanish on the phone with whenever I feel like showing off to friends and coworkers, I apply my modest Spanish by helping the spanish-speaking tourists with directions and recommendations anywhere in the city. I still watch Escandalo TV and Doce Corazones at the gym when I am not tuned in to the Food network or a tennis match at ESPN.

Second, I fell in love with Italy when I spent my birthday in Rome this year. If I am going to extensively travel around Italy in the future, I might as well learn the language. Locals appreciate it more when you try to speak their language and this is from my experience.

The evening classes for Elementary Italian (ITAL1A) are available in the college’s Language Center, which is the Noe Valley campus on Wednesday or Thursday evenings, and in their Downtown campus on Tuesday evenings. I chose the latter because Tuesday nights fit in my schedule well. Before I forget to mention, the Salvadoran is taking the class with me so that gives the class a different twist. He blushes whenever he is called in the class. I've never seen him from that angle. We already missed the third class because of our short getaway to Puerto Vallarta so we need to study to catch up with the class.

So far, I've learned le presentazioni, i saluti, l'alfabeto and i numeri. The way I pronounce chianti and bruschetta will never be the same again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Outdoor Movie in the City

"I'll tell you one thing... Fred Darling." The last syllable echoed as the sound bounced from one highrise to the next around Union Square. It is one of the many lines made famous by Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn in the movie Breakfast At Tiffany's.

I think I've seen this movie at least three times but the Salvadorean and I , with a couple of friends from church, went to see it again at the outdoor movie presented by the SF Neighborhood Theatre Foundation. My friends brought extra blankets for cover on top of our layers of clothing in case the temperature drops but the weather was unseasonably warmer and less windy that evening. Some brought their own folding chairs while others sat on their thick mats. Except for those people wearing a sweater with the San Francisco logo and name stitched on it, I couldn't tell which ones are locals and which ones are tourists from the crowd. The turnout was bigger too compared to last year's. It must have something to do with the fact that 'Tiffany's' is a more popular movie compared to last year's 'Bullitt'.

The one in Dolores Park is a whole new scene where the crowd is composed of locals who live in the Mission, Castro, Noe Valley and as far as Glen Park. The film shown was 'Best in Show' and as expected, pet owners brought theirs so dogs of different breeds were mixed in the crowd. The popcorn stand was also selling dog treats. We got separated from our church friends because we came in late and where they were seating at was already too crowded. We sat next to a tree with baloons. Groups of different age groups brought food, drinks, and blankets as if going to a picnic. The Salvadorean and I brought hot chocolate and cookies. I had to change from one position to another because my back was sore from tennis that morning. From where we were waiting for the MUNI train, we could see a few groups decided to camp out on the park after the movie.

These local events make San Francisco seems so provincial to me. Where I grew up in the Philippines, we used to have a similar outdoor movie that starts one week before Easter and featured 'The Seven Last Words'. I remember one time a film was cut short because of the impending rain. In Northern California, the summers are always guaranteed free of rain so outdooor events such as these are perfect.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

We were working in the backyard pulling off weeds and trimming wild vines on Sunday morning. The Salvadorean asked me if I have my phone with me. With that tone, I knew he didn't have his with him and it is his subtle way of asking me to get it when I get a chance. After seven years with the same person, I think I've figured out how he operates. I didn't have my phone with me so I said no. Rather than wait for the perfect moment for a break, I put the shears down and took my gloves off and went back inside the house to get both phones. Under normal circumstances, I would have finished what I was doing because I hate being distracted. It must have been the weather or the great breakfast. Besides, I was expecting a phone call from an aunt anyway. My aunt, who was in Sacramento that day, wanted to drop by the house before driving back to L.A. I had asked her to call at least 2 hours in advance so I can prepare her a little something-something.

The phone had registered 3 missed calls, a voice mail and a text message but none of them were from my aunt. I was surprised at the same time quite delighted when I learned that one of the calls was from a former highschool classmate M who now lives in Southern California. Just like with most of my friends back in the Philippines, we've been keeping in touch via email. I usually decline on last minute changes in my schedule especially during the weekend but I have not seen her since graduation. I must see her.

They were sight-seeing in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. We had originally agreed to meet around the main square in Ghirardelli Square. It is on the northern end from the Wharf but we ended up meeting in Pier 39 instead - in the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. I couldn't think of a decent place to have brunch there. I had asked the Salvadorean the same question before I left the house but I got the same response. N-a-d-a. The Wharf is all about sourdough bread, clam chowder, dungeness crab, and rice-a-roni. San Francisco eats more than that. I decided I’ll take them to North Beach since I'm more familiar with the Italian quarter and then go from there. The Wharf is the epitome of what a tourist area is like and we locals avoid it as much as we could unless we are showing friends or family around.

I finally met M and her husband. She looked great and her husband seemed friendly. I was going to take them on a cable car ride and treat them to the best panini in town but they were in a hurry so they can beat the traffic going back to Southern California. She said she just wanted to see me while they were in town that's why she called. We chatted for a bit and then took pictures. I sat by Pier 39's main plaza while I wave goodbye at M and her husband. The meeting was all worth it however short it was.

Judging by the swarm of people with cameras and maps, it must be tourist season. I thought I might as well walk around to enjoy the lovely day and get myself reacquianted with one of the places in the city where locals refuse to go to. In the end, I still rejected the idea to play tourist. The Wharf, afterall, is a place where only tourists go and locals don't mind not seeing. :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Watching the San Francisco Opera perform for free at the Stern Grove Festival was a real treat. Aside from going to church that day, we didn't have anything planned. Spontaneity ruled the day!

I woke up on Sunday morning to the pleasant sound of birds chirping. From the bedroom window, I could see sunshine, blue skies and squirrels already busy running their morning errands which is a scene one doesn't always see in the city. More like living in the country. The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the entire house. The first thing that came to mind was having breakfast outside by the deck. The Salvadorean is already reading the Sunday paper because I can hear him turning a page. He already prepared the coffee, the bagel, the andouille sausages and was just waiting for me to finally get up so he can start making some eggs over easy.

The breakfast that took forever to prepare took only half an hour to finish. The Salvadorean reads the Travel section of the Chronicle first while I peruse the Pink section (Sunday San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook). This is one of our unspoken rules that has developed over the years. From the Pink section, we learned that the SF Opera is performing at the Stern Grove. The sun was out with a little breeze so we thought the area of the city where Stern Grove is located is free of fog. And we were right!

It was so clear that day that I could see the Pacific Ocean from the corner of Sloat @ 19th Ave. It was 1pm when we got to the Grove and there were many people walking to the park's entrance. I had the feeling that we will again be scouting for seats under the redwood trees. This time it was a great idea because the trees provided the needed shade. The fog didn't roll in until two days after.

The incline of the ground where we were at was sort of steep so we had to sit at an angle and clench every muscle so we won't slide down. There was not a lot of friction between the mat and our cargo shorts and between the mat and the ground therefore we had to reposition ourselves periodically. We did that also to prevent our legs from getting numb by staying in one position for too long.

The pieces presented were mostly Mozart's which I think was sliced from the SF Opera's current season programme. From the conversations going on around us, it seemed like we were surrounded with folks that are musically inclined - a baritone behind me, two sopranos and a tenor on my left. For someone who is not familiar with the opera, I was expecting to hear the more popular pieces from Bach, Hayden and Verdi's. More like an 'Opera 101' kind of thing, just like the one I saw in Rome, Italy not too long ago.

But hey. What can go wrong with a free performance at the Stern Grove? In fact, it was very good. Good quality music coupled with a good pastrami sandwich, a good wine, a great weather, and a great partner. I had a relaxing weekend.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Man! It's been hot in the city. It gets hot in the city about 4 to 7 days a year and this usually happens in the Fall. On a sunny and warm day, locals would flock to the city parks, beaches and outdoor cafes to enjoy the weather. However, this week has been 'warmer' - as in muggy, sticky and hot. It's not even Fall yet! We're probably seeing the effects of global warming?

Everyone went out as if there is a big celebration going on. My tennis partner and I even played earlier than normal because we knew the courts will be popular this weekend. The weather man reports that Sunday is going to be even more warmer than today. I am sporting a farmer's tan now.

I think it is important to take note that most locals don't have airconditioning in their homes because they never have any need for them. The SF Bay and the ocean provide cool breeze throughout the Bay Area. So during these unusually hot days, going to the movies and staying indoors inside the theatres is probably a great idea. There are only two malls in the city and both of them are small so they're most likely a full house. Funny how we are so spoiled here so we complain when the conditions go extremes. When it is too cold (it snowed the last time!) or too hot, that is the only thing we talk about and we don't stop until the next season.

I need to water the plants some more.

The picture above was taken along California St. Where a 'less scenic' cable car line runs. A street filled with office workers running frantically to meet deadlines and the sound of traffic bounces from one skyscrapper to the next making the echoed noise much louder. A street that, like most city streets, rises and falls. A street where a lot of tourists miss to see.

Monday, July 10, 2006

There are still a lot of things that I haven't done in the city that I would like to do someday like watch the Beach Blanket Babylon, see the the San Francisco Symphony perform, run the San Francisco Marathon and more. Ok, perhaps the third one is a bit over the edge because I already did the Bay to Breakers and promised myself not to do the 8 mile run ever again, let alone a gruelling 27 miles.

Luck was on my side on Sunday because I didn't only see the SF Symphony perform but I saw them perform for free during the 4th weekend of the Stern Grove Festival.

The Salvadorean and I were here last year to see Khaled perform so we knew better to come here way earlier than we did before. The free concert starts at 2 p.m. We got here around 12:45 p.m. and still we were too late to scout an area with a much better view. People camped out in groups and brought lunch as early as 11 a.m. We could have come here at noon but we wanted to see the first half of the World Cup final. So up we went to the area under the redwood trees with our picnic mat, extra layers of clothing, a bottle of chardonnay, water, chips and a sandwich.

They played Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Opus 97 Rhenish, and Petite Suite from Bizet’s Jeux D’Enfants. They had a special guest, Time for Three, who joined in on the second part of the program.

The sun tried to peek but the fog was just too thick and did not burn off in that part of the city. I am impressed with the acoustics of the amphitheatre that the intruments, especially the wind and the stringed, sounded clear even when played outdoors.

During intermission, we heard from a group seating next to us that Italy won over France at the World Cup finals. We saw the game later that day from the reruns of the match on Channel 14.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra will be performing on August 6 and we plan to be there at noon!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

We got to Dolores Park about a little past 8:30p.m. to scout a good place to view the fireworks taking place in the Wharf. The sun has not completely set and the neighborhood crowd were still gathering. The sky was unusually clear and not the usual summer pattern of cold and misty fog which is another great reason why we are glad to have stayed in town this weekend to celebrate the '4th of July'.

Since this is the first time in five years that we are celebrating the '4th' in San Francisco, we decided to head out armed with our extra layers of clothing, a mat and a camera. At around 9:30p.m., the horizon is flooded with darkness and the skyline suddenly burst with an explosion of lights.

From where we are seating at, we can see smaller pyrotechnics going off simultaneously in the city and across the bay. The crowd reacted with their 'oohhs' and 'aahhs' everytime they spot a spectacular display that lights up a tiny part of the city. A few in the crowd even brought their own stuff and some of them are fancy. I wonder how some people got a hold of these firecrackers? I thought it is illegal to use them here?

The fireworks display in Oakland started early. San Francisco's turn soon commenced and lasted for a good 20 minutes. Since Pier 39 is on the northeastern end of the city, we only got a partial view of the fireworks from Dolores Park. My pictures above do not give the fireworks display enough justice.

Here is a picture to show you the stunning view from the Marin Headlands during the 4th of July celebration in Pier 39. This picture is linked from the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pride in the City

If you ask my friends how many times they've been to the San Francisco Gay Pride, most of them will say just once. Some will say never with an attitude. Some locals even leave town during that weekend when the city is most inundated with tourists. The truth is, seeing the Pride parade once is probably enough except when you are showing friends around that weekend or, like in my case, when you are part of the parade itself. I saw the parade for the first time in 1997 with my brother's friends from out of town. I thought the parade nowadays have mellowed down quite a bit.

I've been a safety/wheel monitor with the church float since 2000. It is nice to have seen the Pride parade both from an expectator's and the marcher's view. You see the artistry and the production of each float from the crowd. As a contingent, you witness the priceless expressions and hear the joyful cheer of the crowd as the float passes by.

We were at the assembly area starting at 9:30a but we didn't start marching until 2 hours after so I had time to take pictures. Right after we marched, we were contingent #086, I went straight home to nap.

Taken during the 'Dyke March' which starts from Dolores Park, wounds through the Mission District and ends in the Castro. The march is held on a Saturday, one day before the Pride march.

They are probably standing on those mail boxes or newspaper stands. It is tough to figure out who's local and who's not from the crowd. It is never a guarantee that everyone watching the parade is from out of town.

I remember not having a great view when I saw for the first time the bigger parades like the Chinese Lunar and the Saint Patrick's. It's either you have to be early to secure a location with great views or you have to be really high up. I hope they put on sunblock.

This is the church float. Taken at the end of the parade route on 7th St @ Market. At this point, we get the 'sound system off' signal from the parade officials. It is a good one and half miles of walking.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Glen Park in CNN

I was on a break and I was browsing the news when I stumbled into this. I saw this one before but I forgot how I got here the first time. Who would have thought that my sleepy San Francisco neighborhood would be featured in CNN?

Que estupendo!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

When we moved in to the Glen Park  house the first thing we did was straighten out the main bedroom, the kitchen and the dining room. It was nearly easy. The plan for the kitchen would have been perfectly executed except that it took us a couple of days to find the silverwares. One of the guys we hired to help us move inadvertently put them inside the Sumatra wooden trunk with other unrelated stuff and we didn’t find them until we started to arrange the living room. We did find some chopsticks so this is where our chopsticks skills came in handy for a couple of meals.

Just like in most San Francisco homes, there is a space in our dining room that is intended for the wine cabinet to hold a dozen of select whites and reds and a set of everyday goblets. I was telling the Salvadorean that back in my parents’ house in Novaliches, this same space belongs to a rice dispenser. He smilingly responded that he never really noticed and promised to be more keen on his next trip to the Islands. In the Glen Park house, the rice takes a small area inside the wall cabinet.

The next one to take its form was la sala. We needed a new sofa since we sold the one we have. Fortunately, we knew exactly what we wanted for a sofa, including the size and the color, so choosing a new one was just a walk in the park. The challenge was how to fit our existing furniture and the new sofa in the living room. We tried a few set ups and then everything fell into place after we figured out where the entertainment center will be best placed – not too close to the main entrance and not obstructing the sources of natural light.

The second bedroom is an absolute mess. The only way we can straighten it out is to organize the storage area near the garage. I bought some storage bags from the Container Store to keep sweaters, jackets, coats and beddings from gathering dust. The remaining books will have to stay downstairs as well. I will use the two stainless shelves to store these books temporarily. The sun does not seep into the storage area so the temperature is kept cool which is ideal as a red wine cellar.

There is still a lot of work to do. The deck, the storage, the closets, the misplaced caps, and the list goes on. I found some green Adirondack chairs at Pier 1 that would be perfect for lounging by the garden. The outside corner between the kitchen and dining room is currently the place for my herbs but it can be converted into an undersized outdoor hot tub. I am thinking of converting an area downstairs for my darkroom and the Salvadorean gave his thumbs up already.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

My feet and back are going to be sore tomorrow. We spent the last three days moving stuff out of the Glen Park. aparment into the Glen Park house. The apartment is built up so climbing the stairs is already a work out. Now, imagine doing this several times carrying something heavy.

We didn't want to impose on our friends to help out since we scheduled the big move on a Friday. The more expensive items like the television, wall art, work and personal laptops, and cameras have been transferred days before the big move date. Three day laborers from Ceazar Chavez St. did the heavy lifting while J and I moved less heavier boxes and helped manage the move. Other than the dent on a side of one of the shelves and the scratch on top of the wooden trunk, there were no major incidents and the move went smoothly and right on schedule.

The big piles of boxes scattered around the house will probably take a week or two before they are folded and stored and their contents put away. I get an overwhelming feeling of frustration everytime I see the second bedroom and storage area downstairs near the garage and sigh in disbelief that we've accumulated so much belongings in our five years of stay at the Glen Park apartment. This is after we've donated one load of hand-me-downs to the Salvation Army. It is going to be a big job reselling the rest of them online!

After cleaning up the Glen Park apartment, I realized the we're fortunate to have found the Glen Park house. We got what we wanted: we only moved three blocks, the same San Francisco neighborhood, the same freeway exit, the same ZIP code and the same BART station. We even kept the same phone number.

In addition to the charming garden and a great deck, we're also left with a family of squirrels and a fierce sounding racoon. This is like country living in the city!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Sale in the City

Before moving to the city's sleepy Glen Park district, I used to live right in the middle of three vibrant neighborhoods - the Castro, Lower Haight and the Mission. The area is dotted not only with independent bookstores, lively restaurants and hip cafés but also with stores that buy and sell used items such as clothing, shoes, books, etc. Some of these second-hand stores pay a quarter of the resale price so you'll get around $5 upfront. Craigslist.com is also a great outlet to post for-sale ads.

I remember feeling proud with my eclectic taste in clothes after most of my stuff were bought by the store. Not bad for a first timer, I thought. Rather than throw things that I've gotten tired of, garage sales and second hand stores have been my means of unearthing extra cash since then. Anything that is not sold is donated to the Salvation Army.

Well, it's that time of the year again! For those who are local, I am having a garage sale. That is, online garage sale. The items are all in great condition. You may view them in
http://photos.yahoo.com/glenparkgaragesale. You may send all your questions to GlenParkGarageSale@yahoo.com.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Turning New Leaf

Growing up in a country where the season is either dry or wet, I always find it amazing how nature transforms itself every three months in the Northern Hemisphere. The leaves would grow back in the middle of the year, and then magically turning to orange, yellow or brown in the Fall and eventually falling to the damp ground by Thanksgiving.

Spring officially started a couple of weeks ago. The winter gray suddenly changed into an explosion of colors. Clear blue skies, deep green parks, and San Franciscans switching from an entirely black outfit to bright colors.

Leaves from deciduous trees are starting to emerge. The cherry trees are usually the first ones to bloom this time of the year. The birds are starting to come back from their winter migration. It is like nature is slowly waking up from its long slumber. It is like a fresh start.

Pretty soon, summer will be here. So is the fog.

(These photos were taken from Montgomery St. in the Financial district in two different seasons.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spring Has Sprung

I haven't seen the hills this green around the Bay Area which is like a scene you would normally see around the Pacific Northwest and England's countryside. The last winter brought a lot of rain (on top of the hail and snow) into the area making San Francisco look very lush and green. Very Seattle-like.

The fog didn't waste any time because the weather turns from rainy to foggy - at least during early morning and late afternoon and it depends on where you are in the city.

(These pictures were taken from Upper Market St. on a clear Spring morning. )

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Towering over the city

- They should change the color of that antenna.
- Which antenna?
- I meant the Sutro Tower.
- I think they should change it completely. Make it as grand as the Eiffel.
- Yeah, in a city where everything is done in good taste the tower's design could have been better.
- Yeah, I second that. It is practically unknown to out-of-towners.
- If it is going to be built today, I don't think the residents would approve.
- As long as they would build it with enough urbanity applied to it, I would approve. On the second thought, I think this city does not need another landmark that Paris is already known for. I am happy enough with The Bridge.

(This picture was taken from our Glen Park apartment's dining room windows.)

Museum list

My Favorite Local Museums
1. SF Moma
2. De Young Museum
3. Asian Art Museum

Museums I would like to visit again:
1. D'Orsay in Paris
2. Metropolitan in New York
3. Reina Sofia in Madrid

Museums I would like to visit someday:
1. The British Museum
2. Hermitage in St. Petersburg
3. National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo

(This photo was taken inside the De Young Museum in San Francisco, CA)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Summer Fog

- What are we doing for Independence Day?
- Huh?
- We always go somewhere that time of the year. Last year we went to the Capital. The year before that to Vancouver. Two years ago we were in Chicago.
- That's insteresting.
- What's interesting?
- You mean the 'Fourth of July'?
- Yeah.
- I never really heard it reffered to as 'Independence Day'.
- That's true. Force of habit, you know. I was not born here.
- Maybe we should stay in town this year and watch the fireworks under the San Francisco fog.
- You mean watch the 'colored clouds'?

- Yeah, the 'red, white and blue cloud'.

(This picture was 2 months in the making. Taken from clockwise: the Potrero Hill district, the Golden Gate Bridge, Market Street and Dolores Park.)

Mandarin or Cantonese?

I went to the cleaners this morning to pick up the last set of sweaters I dropped off for dry cleaning. These will be stored away until the next Winter.

The neighborhood cleaners were tuned in to a Chinese radio station. While waiting I struck a conversation and asked if the DJ was speaking Mandarin or Cantonese. For some weird reasons, I knew it is Cantonese but I was just being polite that's why I asked. The older lady said, "It is Cantonese" and then we both smiled.

I handed her my debit card and then I mentioned that I only know one word in Cantonese which I learned during my trip to HK. I said 'um gay'. She laughed loudly and said the same word with the correct accent.

(This picture was taken during the Chinese Lunar Parade and Street Fair in San Francisco's Chinatown district)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Balitang SF

Balitang SF is an email I send to my loved ones and friends which narrates anything about me and this city. I saved all of the emails I sent which started when I left the Philippines in 1996. That's a long time I've coerced them to read my stories or to press the DELETE button as soon as they see my email in their Inbox. (I'm only kidding on the delete part!) So I've decided to BLOG it instead.

That means you will no longer receive Balitang SF from me. I won't be uploading 9 years worth of stories but I will be posting them here from now on.

Drop by and read the stories from time to time. I would love to hear the Balita from you too.


(The Beloved Bridge taken from the Presidio. )