Friday, November 30, 2007

Kooza in the City

Amazing, heart stopping, sometimes bizarre. Those were the words I could think of while watching the Cirque du Soleil's new show Kooza inside the grand chapiteau. It was my and the Salvadoran's first Cirque show and we totally in awe. They come into town every year to perform through the holidays which I think is a nice treat.
These guys are amazing because the acrobatic acts were close to perfection as if they are already their second nature like walking down the stairs or typing on the keyboard or using chopsticks. My heart would skip a beat worrying the tightrope jumpers might miss their landing or the juggler would drop a ball. And the way the contortionists move and bend their bodies is so bizarre it is almost not human, at least to me. It was so unreal. How could they do those quick movements faster than the brain could cope with or execute those backbreaking moves in unison?
It is hard to decide which one is my favorite performance because they're all different and they're all without a flaw. The unicycle-duo could easily win at a salsa dancing competition with those graceful moves as if they are dancing on their feet. I also liked the fact that the clowns involve the audience in their pranks. If you don't like to be picked by the tricksters as an accomplice for a magic act, don't sit on the aisle.
Speaking of seats, we got a really great one considering it is a non-VIP ticket. The costumes are remarkable. Such an explotion of colors! I didn't know that the background music and songs are performed by a live band.
The only bad was that the popcorn was way too salty I thought I felt a surge in my blood pressure.
If I have another couple of hundred bucks to spare, I'd see them again.
I used to take pride that my job demands expertise and there's very little room for errors but I should think again. Maybe I'll take trapeze lessons next year? :)

(Taking pictures inside the Grand Chapiteau is prohibited so Cirque pictures for me. The photo above is the Holiday tree in San Francisco's Union Square)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Showing off in the city

The busboy's tshirt says Yo no soy feo. I wanted to showoff my broken Spanish to my friends who are in the town for a holiday so I playfully said No, no. La frase, no es cierta, referring to the words written across his black cotton tshirt. He gave me a smile while he cleaned up our table. Later, I realized that I had made a jerk out of myself because what I had said was not what I meant. Basically, his shirt says he is not ugly and I told him that is not true.

I've always had problems with double negative statements. I don't think it is a language thing because I also do it in my native language of Tagalog and Spanish is notorious when it comes to double negation. Even in computer programming languages where using negative conditions is considered a bad programming habit, I still have to sit down and draw a chart to clearly understand double negations when I encounter them.

As far as the busboy is concerned, he is far from being unfortunate looking, he could even be mistaken for an actor in a soap opera. I wanted to redeem myself that evening but that was the first and the last time I saw him. And the worst thing about this is, I was showing off to my friends!

I should go to therapy.


(The photo above is the hotel area in downtown San Francisco from the city's Mission district.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The ground shook, yet again

It was a little over 8 in the evening when I heard a cracking noise from below. Not downstairs, much deeper. I mean, beneath the house. I don't know why but that's always what I hear before an earthquake when I happen to be indoors. Maybe, in reality, they are preceded by an underground noise? In the past, earthquakes would occur without my knowledge in the middle of the day while I am at work or late at night while I am sleeping. I would just read about them in the paper the next day.

It must have been around intensity 5 in the richter which is probably already terrifying enough on the epicenter. The house made some creaking sound here and there. When I felt it, I stopped what I was doing not because I was scared but I was thinking what I would do next in case the shaking intensifies or it becomes prolonged. I was hoping that something wouldn't fall and break, like the skylights or the wine bottles. It turned out to be uneventful which is something to be thankful of.

Our wait continues for the Big One.


(The photo above is the city hall of San Francisco on a cool Northern California evening.)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Matcha in the City

I recently acquired a new drinking ritual. No, it does not involve alcohol but I know some of you wouldn't mind if it did.

I first heard of matcha from my small chats with a barrista at a Peet's. Matcha is a powdered green tea used in tea ceremonies, and as a flavoring in ice creams and other sweets. You have probably seen its instant, liquid concentrate version at a local coffee chain. For a newbie matcha drinker, I am more interested in the pure, powdered form.

Luckily, I was able to find some for sale in Lupicia at the San Francisco Center so I didn't have to go to a Japanese specialty store. I was told it comes in two types - thick and thin. I don't remember which one I took but it must be the one that costs less. :) Now I can enjoy the rich, creamy flavor of matcha at home. Although I must admit I need more practice in whisking the tea to create the foamy consistency typical in tea ceremonies and also to reduce the bitter green clumps in the blend.

Here's a recipe of Matcha Latte which I found online.
o Add about 1/4-13 teaspoon good quality matcha to a mug
o Add 1 or 2 teaspoons sugar or 1 or 2 packets of your favorite sweetener
o Add heated or steamed milk to the rim, stir
o Sprinkle with light coating of matcha
o Alternative - heat in microwave for approx. 2 mins, watching very carefully for the first sign of foaming, the remove)

This is like bringing tea drinking to a higher level and making me a more serious tea drinker.


(A picture of properly whisked matcha tea)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

El Verano Ya Acabó

No le he escrito en poco tiempo porque yo era ocupado en mi despacho, en la casa y en mi vida personal.

Hay muchas cosas para hacer en la ciudad especialmente durante el verano - se pueden jugar al tenis, jardinería, ir las fiestas, ver los desfiles, al aire libre, ir a los parques, descansar en las playas, hacer las cortas viajes en lugares que cerca de aquí, y más. Por eso, me han gustado demasiado y no podía mantenerme en contacto con ustedes.

Por lo general, el verano fue lleno de accontecimientos. Yo ví Tony Bennett por la primera vez en Davies Symphony Hall con la mamá y hermana de mi cónyugue. Vimos también los musicales como Mamma Mia! en Septiembre y Avenue-Q en Agosto. El cuarto delpiso de abajo fue hecho y encontramos un inquilino ya. Bonds podía batir el record en béisbol que yo vendí los boletos y podía ganar dinero así. Tenía que viajar a Manila porque mijito compro algo - impetuosomente.

Los follijes han cambiado el color. Vuelve el frío en la madrugada y en el crepúsculo. El otoño esta aqui.


(En la foto es el mi amigo amistoso. Por supuesto, estoy sarcastico!)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I can hardly notice the seasons change in the city. Today was grey, cold, and drizzly. Eventhough it is already July, the temperature feels like it is only 10 degrees warmer than in December. My Saturday morning tennis match was cancelled again because the fog was so thick where I live, the courts in Glen Park canyon were wet as if it rained the night before.

Regardless of the climate, the first part of my summer has been busy so far. Pride, as always, was crazy and I'm glad it is over. We are having the downstairs renovated into a private office slash guest room with a full bathroom. It is exciting to see it take shape. I didn't enroll for the summer semester so I devote my time to reading, gardening, cooking, taking photos, and other things that put my creativity into use. Recently, I've been contemplating going back to school to get my MBA. It is becoming clear to me that a career in Information Technology is getting extinct at least here in Silicon Valley. Let's see if I am up to studying for the GMAT.

I have accrued over two weeks of vacation and for the first time, I don't have any idea how to spend them. I'd rather sleep in and spend time at home than take a fabulous trip.

I am trying hard to get excited about the All-Star Baseball being held here in the city. I guess I am not that much of a baseball fan afterall.


(A photo of the boutiful harvest of plums from our neighbor's tree where branches go over our fence.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The train was crossing the San Francisco bay underwater when I checked the concert tickets. It was the 5th time I checked them since we left Glen Park station. Row 124, seats 19 and 20. The seven minutes inside the transbay tube seemed forever.

It was a mistake the last time I hopped on a BART train going to the East Bay. The type of commuters should have given it away - most of them seemed almost ready for a prized nap. I only realized that I took the wrong train when it didn't make a stop in the next 2 mins but rather continued to accelerate on its way to the transbay tube.

The landscape was different this evening eventhough it was in the middle of the week. The ride was strangely noisy, people were chatting loudly and the majority, just like me, were not in their work outfit. Could it be that they were also going to the same place as I was?

I checked again for the tickets where The Police world tour is written. The Salvadoran made a signal the we were to get off on the next stop. Suddenly, I could feel the excitement build. I checked the tickets yet again.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Ethnic Dance in the City

- The dancers last night were amazing, weren't they?
- Yeah, they were all great.

It took us a while to find the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. We knew where the palace is but neither one of us knew the palace has a theater until yesterday. Good thing we arrived at the venue an hour before the start of the SF Ethnic Dance Festival. During the intermission, we learned that a bunch of ticket holders were late because of parking problems. We went to see the first of its three-weekend show.

- Which performance made an impression on you the most?
- Actually, they were all good. It is hard to compare them since they're ethnic dances.
- Fair enough. For me, the Middle Eastern belly dance impressed me the most. I also liked the acrobatic Chinese lion dance, and the Flamenco, and the Tahitian boys . You're right. It is difficult to pick a favorite since they represent different cultures.
- I thought the Mazatlán dancers performed like they are professionals. They must be.
- Yeah. I noticed that the dances from countries colonized by Spain incorporate tapping of the shoes as part of their dances, except the one from the Philippines.
- Ok, the Balinese dance was kindof slow.
- I thought so too. I think it is because their dance involves a lot of facial expression and hand movements. You have to seat really close to see what is really going on. The music was nice though.
- Isn't it funny that what I thought were Aztec warriors were really Tahitian dancers? The shells should have given it away.
- Yeah. I was worried that one of the coconut shells will fall from one of the female dancers.
- That would have been a performance!

~ ral

(The photo of the Palace of Fine Arts above was taken on a fog free Spring weekend in San Francisco's Marina District.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Pensamientos sobre la semana pasada

BOB DYLAN BOOK. I got to Church and Market straight from work and twenty minutes earlier than what the Salvadoran and I had agreed to. I am meeting him with our friend E, who is also from El Salvador, for dinner. The hostess at Chow's wouldn't seat me until the whole group is present. She added my name to her list and then I walked to a nearby Aardvark bookstore and waited there instead. The bookstore is a couple of doors away from Chow's. From the sea of new and used books and magazines, I saw a paperback version of Bob Dylan's The Chronicles I as if the book has been waiting there for me. It was the last copy. I am no Bob Dylan fan but the first ten pages made me imagine his humble beginnings in glorious colors. I was immediately inspired. Hastily, I bought a copy. I managed to step out of the bookstore before the Salvadorans arrived with my impulse purchase hidden in my bag.

FARMER'S MARKET. We were out of grapefruit. This is what we normally use for our breakfast juice. We also use navel oranges when they're cheaper and plenty in the market. I used to think that we only drink freshly squeezed citrus juices to justify my buying of a juicer. Just like tasting the difference between freshly brewed coffee over instant, the juice out of the juicer is definitely better than the bottled ones. The camioneta where we get our oranges this time of the year no longer park next to the Glen Park BART station. They get the oranges from the valley and sell them for $3 per ten-pound bag. That's a lot of oranges! For now, our only choices are the neighborhood produce stores or the farmer's market. To the Ferry Building we went on saturday. I couldn't remember the last time we were there. We couldn't help but notice that half the people who go there nowadays are camera totting tourists. The sweet tasting organic navel oranges cost us almost a dollar each. Our consolation prize were the fresh olive baggettes, the dollar and fifty a bunch of basil, asparagus, chinese brocollli, and fresh chesses from the north bay. But for oranges, I think I'll go to the Mission produce stores next time.

DRAMA SERIES. I recently discovered the Audio Visual section of the Main Library. I generally checkout library items online to be picked up at the library's kiosk so I've never been to the physical shelves to leaf through the collections and look for the items myself. The AV section was not huge but big enough to contain cd, vhs and dvd collections Netflix might not have, especially rare classical music and foreign made movies. This is where I found Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. It is a BBC drama series set during England's Victorian era and in the same league as the movies Emma and Pride and Prejudice. I had to watch all four episodes all over again to comprehend some scenes that I missed because of my ear's inability to hear the old English drawl.

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND. Last year, we were debating whether to go to Montreal or NYC for a five day Memorial Day weekend getaway. We eventually went to NYC. This year, we were debating whether to go to Montreal or Mexico City. Mexico City won unanimously. Maybe Montreal for 4th of July?


(The photo above was taken 'discreetly' at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market on a sunny Saturday in San Francisco.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sleepless in the city

It was unusually hot in the city that evening. He is usually sound asleep before he could actually finish his prayers, but not tonight. It was late, already past midnight. He couldn’t figure out if it is caffeine or the temperature that is keeping him up late that night. Caffeine has never been a problem for him so it must be the unseasonably warm conditions. Maybe not? His mind is clearly somewhere else.

A couple of days back, he had this daunting task at work which cleaned up a production problem caused by another core group at his work. He and a couple others in his team were told this is a priority so all the projects and other maintenance items he is working on will have to be dropped. If the group that caused this fallout didn’t seem to be overly concerned, why should his group care? Why should he care? It was a battle that is already lost so he didn’t bother objecting. It wasn't the right time to complain. Besides, he's supposed to be a team player and didn’t want to be known as defiant even though deep inside him, he is dying to refuse and say
heck no.

The phone kept ringing in 10-min intervals and emails kept flying around which made matters seem worse than they really were. He knows the data pretty well but he didn’t know where to start his impact analysis. His aptitude, little by little, surrendered to panic. In misery, he just stared at his computer screen.

Still, there we no results to show the member banks after four hours of working on the problem. The scope of the damage is huge too so they will have to wait a bit longer.

After two, three, four days, twenty five hours of working overtime, break-outs evident on his face and an excruciating neck pain, the clean up is done. The customers happy, so were his superiors. He and his teammates were just glad it was finally over. He told himself he'd rather be on this same side of the coin - be the clean up guy rather than the one who created the mess. He made a promise to be extra careful with his code from that day on. Eventually, he was given a night-on-the-town for his diligent work on the cleanup.

Since he couldn’t sleep, he got up the bed and decided to search for a couple of books in Amazon. He uses Amazon as a tool to search for great books and then he checks the
main library’s online catalog if they are also available there. He finds satisfaction in maximizing all the freebies his city offers and this includes the rich collection at the city library. He sent the request for each item so they can be picked up at the Main Library’s kiosk when they're ready. He felt good that he did something worthwhile rather than stare at the ceiling.

His eyes are finally getting heavy. Another morning is breaking.

(The photo above was taken inside San Francisco's Main Library located in the Civic Center area of the city.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Friday is a telecommute day for me. Friday is also the only day during the week when the Salvadoran and I can have breakfast together. I consider this a nice treat since not every couple in the city has time to sit down for breakfast on a work day unless both are artists, on a holiday, own their business or both have flexible hours at work. We both start work very early the rest of the week so breakfast is usually a bowl of breakfast cereal, a bagel, or a banana with a cup of yogurt. If we don't feel like cooking at home on a Friday morning, we go to our favorites - Boogaloo's on 22nd and Valencia Sts, Liberty Cafe on Cortland and Bermington Sts or our neighborhood crepe place called Higher Grounds Coffee House on Diamond and Chenery Streets to name a few. All within a couple of miles from our house.

Today we went to Boogaloo's. Whenever we come here, it's almost predictable of me to order Polenta-n-Eggs, which consists of grilled polenta cake, eggs over easy, fresh tomato salsa, black beans and cabbage salad with a side of andouille sausages, a coffee cake and a small orange juice. I have my favorites in each breakfast place which I order almost automatically. I'd like to think I am adventurous with food but I tend to be predictable when I am already familiar with the restaurant.

I ordered Chorizo-n-Eggs on impulse. I am not sure what lead me to suddenly change my mind while our waiter was taking our order. Subconsciously, it must have been my second choice to Polenta-n-Eggs. The Salvadoran was quite surprised to hear of my choice. No side order of andouille sausages and no order of coffee cake but I stick to my splenda and turkish-roast coffee.

We always find something to talk about. Work, politics, food, news, our friends and family, the church, the house, home movies, the weather, anything. Today we talked about recursion in programming where he beams when he told me about his plan to rewrite one of his routines in .NET and to make them recursive. It can be done in C, Assembler and Rexx. I wonder how the Cobol compiler will react when it encounters a recursive function?

We must have been hungry because we finished our food right away. I noticed a group of folks to my right. Discussing, laughing, talking. How I miss getting together with my friends! We used to do this a lot until, one by one, they started moving out of the city to become bridge and tunnel people. Some even moved out of the area.

I mentioned about my friends who got laidoff at work. More layoffs according to rumors, in the hundreds. I suddenly thought of my Plans A and B in case I am one of those lucky pawns waiting to be sacrificed for cost cutting's sake. I've survived six major layoffs in my six years in the company.

After another round of free coffee refills, the Salvadoran asked for the check.

I am glad it is Friday again.


(The photo above is the 'eye' of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on 3rd Street between Mission and Howard Streets. One of it's current exhibitions include 'Picasso and American Art' on display through May 28.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pizzeria in the City

The Salvadoran asked me if I'd like to order wine even if we had already said no when the waiter asked for our drinks and starters earlier. I didn't want to have wine alone. He didn't want to have alcohol that night because he had to resume working after dinner. Wine makes him mellow, relaxed, and diminishes his focus. I suddenly thought about the bottle of Edna Valley chardonnay we uncorked last night and how great it tasted paired with my nouveau chicken adobo.

This is the third time we've been to Gialina since it opened last winter and it is starting to be our favorite. Being less than a quarter of a mile from where we live also helps. We try to support anything local especially those neighborhood and mom-and-pop restaurants and cafes. Besides, we are not really a big fan of branded and chain restaurants.

While waiting for our salt cod cake and portobello mushroom pizza, I looked around the crowded place and I noticed that there must be around fifteen tables inside. Everyone had ordered wine, well, except us. Perhaps the Salvadoran didn't want to be the exception and is probably the reason why he asked me more than once about ordering wine. The queue of people waiting outside seemed longer than the last time I checked. I'd like to think they're from another neighborhood. The pizzeria was crowded considering it was a Tuesday evening.

Before we finished our last slice, I thought about something. Glen Park is not a popular city neighborhood when it comes to shopping, dining and touristy stuff. It is more sleepy than hip, more village than city. This is one of the city neighborhoods to go to if you want to observe San Francisco locals in action. I think people outside the city have only heard of the name Glen Park because it is another stop on BART and MUNI, between the 24th St Mission and Balboa Park stations to be exact. A neighborhood cheese store, a taqueria, a crepe place, and a good restaurant called Chenery Park are probably the only reason why people come here but I think that is changing.

Judging from the wait time in this restaurant, Gialina is probably going to put my sleepy neighborhood in the city map once and for all.


(The picture was taken during an early morning flight out of San Francisco International (SFO). The day started out rather gloomy but the blanket of morning fog was slowly burning off as seen in this picture.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Umulan nang bandang umaga hanggang tanghalian nung Sabado. Ganito talaga kapag tag-sibol, di mo maintindihan ang panahon. Minsan maaraw, minsan malamig at maulan. Nagmamadali kami ng Salvadoreñong lumabas ng bahay kanina kaya di na namin naisip na magdala pa ng payong. Ayaw kasi naming mahuli sa musical na Altar Boyz na ang simula ay ika-dalawa ng hapon.

Tatlo na lang ang natitirang pagtatanghal ng
Altar Boyz. Lilipat na sila ng ibang lungsod pagkatapos ng ilang buwan nilang pamamalagi sa San Francisco. Maraming nakasulat tungkol sa musical, maraming naibigan ang kantahan at marami din namang hindi. Maraming nagsasabi na kakaiba sila - di ko lang mawari kung maganda ba ito o hindi. Napanood din namin ang Jersey Boys at Legally Blonde kamakailan lang at pareho naming naibigan at mga ito.

Di pa kami nakalalabas ng Civic Center station nang tumunog ang
cell phone ko. Nag-text sila Team Russia na mahuhuli daw sila ng sampung sandali. Nagusap kami nung isang araw na magkikita kami sa tapat ng Orpheum Theater sa baryo ng Tenderloin ng ala-una y media. Nagusap din kami kung ano ang susuotin namin kaya napansin kaagad ni D, pagkadating na pagkadating nila, na hindi itim ang raincoat ko gaya ng una kong sinabi sa kanya.

Maaga-aga pa kaya di agad kami pumasok sa gusali. Habang nagkukumustahan kami, napansin ko na parang ang konti ng tao sa labas ng gusaling pagdadausan ng
musical. Marahil nasa loob na ang ilan. O di kaya't dahil sa maulan ang panahon? Agad kong naalala na baka maraming lumisan ng syudad dahil sa Mahal na Araw. Bigla tuloy akong napabuntong hininga at naisip ang Mahal na Araw sa Pilipinas.

Halos limang minuto bago mag-ika-dalawa ng hapon nang nagsimla kaming pumasok sa
teatro ng Orpheum.


(Ang larawan sa itaas ay kuha sa distrito sa San Francisco na ang tawag ay Glen Park. Ito ang tanawin sa kalye ng Diamond at Bosworth.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Italian class in the City

Io spendo molto quando viaggio perche mi piace comprare molti cose stragneiri. I answered this time with a stern face. In the Beginning Conversational Italian class ITAL10A, I tend to fictionalize some of my answers, which are entirely rehearsed, to make them more interestingly funny, more vibrant. This often creates a cluster of laughter from my classmates which in return feeds my ego. But when I was asked to use perdere in a sentence, I got mixed reviews judging from the faces that were looking at me. Forse io sono stanco? Perhaps I was just tired? Or maybe I’m getting bored of this class for not getting what I think I should be getting out of it?

Two, three, four. I actually lost track how many students have dropped out since the midterm exam. These folks appear to be the serious, studious types but they disappeared from the class one by one. I ran into a couple of them the past weeks so I got the scoop why they stopped coming to class. Somehow the Italian class kept coming up no matter how much I tried to evade the subject.

Maybe folks are getting fed up because of the class schedule? We get a 15 minute break after an hour and a half of lesson and then we do another hour and a half working on our listening comprehension by watching short video clips in Italian. Some of our classmates do what la profesoresa calls ‘italian break’ which means skipping the second half of the class. Like my first teacher in Italian, la profesoresa is from the old country but she’s more Americanized in thinking and in the way she acts - and she sticks to the timetable and prefers the 'american break'. We don’t get out of the building until 10pm, long after the rest of the students from the other evening language classes have long gone. I am extremely thankful I only get to do this one evening a week.

Stories about a black cat, about a city called Lucca or her back problems get recycled almost excessively. This is somehow considered
cultura italiana. Accounts of her childhood, travels, and family stories also get thrown in the mix. I must admit they are great stories to hear the first time but I'd rather have more time in class speaking my modest Italian. This is a conversational italian class after all.

After last night’s class, I may be heading on the same direction as the others who stopped going to the class. The Salvadoran already missed two meetings. Maybe I’ll skip next week’s? This is like SPAN10C all over again.


( One of my favorite cafes in the City, Cafe Trieste. Taken around the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pinoy Folklore in the City

It was the Frenchman’s idea to go to the SF Asian Film Festival. In my years of living here, it is one of the several local events that I haven’t been to. Even though it has been around for 25 years and I’ve heard great things about it from the local media, it never really appealed to me. The Salvadoran kept insisting I should go to these events to keep intouch with my heritage. The closest thing for me to attending a film festival was seeing an Italian movie as a class activity in my Beginning Italian last semester.

Since the Frenchman lives just a block away from the festival’s main venue, he took the liberty to get three tickets for the last screening of Ang Pamana – one for him, one for the Salvadoran and one for me. Unfortunately, my friend E who is the Frenchman’s significant other, couldn’t join us because of deadlines at school.

The Frenchman was already in queue for the movie when the Salvadoran and I got to the AMC theatre at 9:15 p.m. I could hear Ilocano, Visayan and another incomprehensible language while waiting in line - probably Indonesian or another Filipino dialect. People would look our way and then smile whenever my non-Tagalog-speaker friends try to say Ang Pamana with a Spanish or French twist. I give them an 'A+' for trying.

I also ran into a friend from church who’s into anything Filipino and he’s not even Asian. I am sure I’ll hear what he thinks about the movie when I see him in church on Sunday. On the far left of the theater, there were folks seated on chairs with a yellow sign marked ‘reserved’. We assumed they must be one of the organizers. We found out after the movie that one of them is the director who looks fairly young from our angle.

Ang Pamana is a horror film and makes effective use of Filipino age-old folklores that were passed on to me by relatives who live in the province. At first, I thought this would probably make more sense to Philippine-born audience like me. I was worried that the Salvadoran and the Frenchman wouldn’t appreciate the story even if it is told from an expat’s point of view. The film is in English and with English subtitles whenever Tagalog is spoken. The Frenchman would turn to me, with an inquiring look, whenever the actors speak in their thick Filipino-accented English. With years of hearing Tagalog-accented English, the Salvadoran was just fine. There were times I wish I could pause the movie so I can explain better what was happening. Other than a question by the Salvadoran about the kapre – I gathered they were able to follow the story and enjoyed the scenes so I have nothing to worry about.

On our way home, the Salvadoran asked me if I had seen a kapre before. I said not really but I asked him if he remembers the big mango tree on the vacant lot across the street from my mom's house in Quezon City. He said yes. I told him there are tales that a similar creature once lived there. He paused for a deep breath and then responded by telling me that I am so gullible. I looked back at him and smirked.

I think deep inside he's not as feraless as he seems.


(The AMC Van Ness theaters are located on Van Ness and O'Farrel Sts and is the main venue of the 25th San Francisco Asian Film Festival's screenings. The facade and the interior were renovated and the theater reopened in the summer of 1998.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My birthday fell on a workday this year, on a Friday. I wanted a low-key birthday so no trips. no fine dinning and no shopping for me but I still took time-off from work that day.

I slept in until 9 in the morning. Gardening and taking pictures were the only agenda in my list. My marjoram, oregano, french tarragon, sage and thyme survived the cold, wet months. Maybe I'll get a strawberry pot so I can add cilantro, mint, chamomile, chives and heirloom tomatoes?

I think the birds are back from their winter migration. Tender foliage is starting to appear on the grape vine. Bees work busily around the lavender blooms and the tiny rosemary flowers. They must like the aromatic oils these herbs produce. I put more potting soil into my planters. There was a moment I couldn't tell which ones I planted the basil seeds into, or the tomatoes, or the peppers. I can't wait to see the seedlings in a couple of weeks.

The sun was up and there was not a lot of breeze that day. I was hoping the weather stays like this for Saturday's barbeque, and of course, for the St. Patrick's Day parade on Market St.

(The photo above was taken from The Waterfront restaurant. The food is equally excellent as the views from it's glass windows.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Salvadoran muttered mira. He does this whenever he wants to show me something - with a sense of urgency. He murmurred el hombre detrás de ti so he'd be less obvious. I followed his eyes.

I was in line to the box office of the the Curran Theatre on Post St. trying to get tickets for the April 1 show of the musicale 'Jersey Boys' when I ran into KTVU's sportscaster Mark Ybanez. He's shorter than what I had imagined him to be. His face showed signs of acne during his younger years but that doesn't diminish his good looks. The Salvadoran and I agree that Mark is so much better looking in person.

In a city ten times smaller than most metropolitan areas, it is easy to run into someone who is well-known locally - or well-known period. I made sure I wasn't going to miss this photo op like the ones before. I asked the Salvadoran to take the pic using my camera phone. Mark was gracious and patient enough to pose and wait till we got our three (3) precious shots.

His name escaped me as well so I tried to get a simple conversation going hoping that his name will be brought to mind sooner than later. Everyone in queue at the box office was staring at us. Judging from their reaction, they must be from out of town. If they are local, they must not watch the evening news. Maybe they're just shy.

We've already walked a block from the theatre when we discovered the camera phone didn't take the shots. Mark, infact, walked with us for a couple more blocks. I could have asked for another photo op because I am sure the Salvadoran wouldn't mind taking the picture and Mark would probably say yes. Timidity already took over me so I just let another opportunity pass by.

I am sure there will be another time. I'm using a real camera next time.


(The photo above was taken after I enjoyed the last show of the musicale Legally Blonde at the Golden Gate Theatre. Thanks to my friend C, he was able to get tickets for a group of 8. It will premiere in NYC sometime in April.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

I could hear the rain from the skylights. It is cold in the living room. I feel a draught, probably coming from the kitchen window. Using a throw, I bundle up on the sofa. My feet resting on the Sumatra trunk. I feel like taking a nap after reading just two chapters. It is a very lazy, quiet afternoon.

I pick a random music. I like this song. Something I was drawn to at one time or another.

...porque fue suficiente / hablarle con los ojos desde allí / si en ese mismo instante / su vida era tranquila y feliz / la vino a revolver / con bollitos y miel...
...revolvió su calor con su voz / con leche y azúcar / se lo dio a beber/ bordeó el corazón la razón / con unos besos / de ron y miel / horneó con su aliento su pelo / y caramelo parecía al terminar / y quiso saborear / la masa de su pan...

For the first time in weeks, I have nothing to do.

(I guess Valentines is just around the corner. Taken around the neighborhood using my mediocre camera phone. Time and again, this camera fails to deliver. sigh)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I was splitting the corned beef hash into two portions when Mijo mentioned something about East coast and West coast newspapers.

When we go to a crêperie for sunday brunch we usually order two items, one savory entrée, normally an omelet or a corned beef hash and then a sweet crêpe for dessert. We split both, sharing the dessert last while reading the Sunday paper.

He explains how East coast people don't take West coast newspapers seriously for its lack of depth. This kind of opinionated statement generally leads to a healthy discussion. He continues by asking why most people prefer to read the Wall Street Journal over the local periodicals.

My concentration suddenly becomes fixated on the potato fries on his plate which he dusts with salt and ground pepper and then he smothers it with ketchup and a light amount of Tabasco. He only puts enough food into his mouth, takes his time to chew, sips coffee, wipes his mouth with a napkin and then continues with his point.

I continue to watch him intently while his well articulated opinion blurs in the background. The same routine, in the exact order. He does this in a well-timed manner that it almost creates a rhythm.

I move my gaze from his plate to his eyes and smiled. I just say “Interesting” in a yielding tone because I hadn’t been paying attention to what he was saying.

There was only one opinion on the table that sunday.


(The picture above was taken at Slanted Door during the Salvadoran's birthday dinner. By calling two months in advance, I managed to get us a 6pm reservation for two on a busy friday evening.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I got a call the other day from the California Culinary Academy (CCA) advising me of the start of their Spring semester. They must have gotten my contact information from their website which I had visited not too long ago. The Salvadoran and I had thought of attending a weekend class but later changed our minds. CCA offers training in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, hospitality and restaurant management, and other hands-on weekend courses. The school is also in partnership with the Le Cordon Bleu so they have ties with European culinary institutions. The school staff asked me if I would be interested in a free campus tour that evening. Under normal circumstances, I turn-down ‘short notice’ arrangements. Since I don’t have a class that evening and the Salvadoran and I didn’t make any plans, I agreed to meet with the admissions staff at 5:45p. I thought I don't have anything to lose and maybe I'll even learn something from it.

The California Culinary Academy is housed in the historic California Hall located in the heart of the Tenderloin district on Polk and Golden Gate Streets. I’ve been inside the relaxed and elegant dining hall when the Salvadoran and I came here to try out the prix-fixe dinner prepared by the school's graduating students a couple of years ago. I remember our server, who was a freshman then, made our Caesar salad dressing from scratch! Through a glass window, we could see soon-to-be pastry chefs working busily inside the prep room. We were instantly captivated with the scene! They make cooking look easy. I was secretly imagining myself wearing the chef's hat and apron and carrying a mixing bowl.

The Enrollment office is across the street from the main hall in an obscure building that looks too ordinary for its location. I was briefly interviewed by the same fellow who I spoke with on the phone and then I was taken to the testing room for an online exam. I almost left the admissions office out of protest because I don’t remember being told there was going to be an exam. But I took the test anyhow. It's just that I find it objectionable being put on the spot like that. The test is like an equivalent to what is employed in companies during a hiring process and is used to gauge how well an individual can grasp more complex subjects and exercise better judgment. I was later adivsed that I aced the test!
I was given a packet containing the school catalog, program and course descriptions, forms and statistics. The school's track record is impressive with a very high employment rate! The list includes popular restaurants in the city and the wine country where the reservations go three weeks in advance, world class cruise ships, and of course restaurants beyond the Bay Area and California. The school offers evening classes so it would prefectly fit the schedule of those who have a day job. The campus tour commenced right away. I still had tons of questions regarding the program, scholarships and grace period but I decided to save them for later.

Here comes the good part – the tour of the school. We breezed through different types of kitchens. ‘Garde manger’ kitchens, confectionery, butcheries, baking and pastry kitchens, and the production kitchen where students were doing prep work for the following day’s cooking sessions I noticed the students looked awkward wearing their cooks’ hats. There were not a lot of action to see this late. I can imagine the atmosphere here during the day is like the ones you see in cooking challenges on t.v. - unimaginably messy and chaotic. We were also able to observe three evening classes where the students' gazing eyes tried to size me up. The school’s Pastry chef also gave me a 5-minute summary of what he likes most about his job. A taller hat (to distinguish them from the students) and a slight French accent are two things the lecturers have in common.

We went back to the admissions office to discuss the tuition and the program details. This is where my excitement started to fade away. The let-down is the ‘externship’ which requires the students to work full time in a restaurant for three months. Unless the Salvadoran pays for my expenses and the mortgage and the bills, I can’t afford not to have a full time job's salary. If I still keep my job, how can I convince my superiors at work for a 3 month sabbatical? I had gone this route before and it didn't do well. I began to realize that this 'culinary' plan might not work out given my kind of work. It is not like my job is stops entirely when I get home.

I thanked my tour guide and promised to keep in touch. Although it was disappointing to learn it would be very tough to attend culinary school and work full time at the same time, I am still glad I went. Now I know it can be done and I have a choice. Just like with Photography, I will put this on hold until the right time.

I had asked myself a question before that if money is not an issue, would I still do what I am doing now? Maybe I'll go back to consulting? Maybe travel the world, become a professional photographer, start my own restaurant serving nouveau Filipino dishes, or help out in church some more. I loved computer programming from the moment I stepped inside Pamantasan's computer lab to this day. I still love what I do but I am also starting to equally enjoy other things that challenge my brain's creative side - like photography, cooking, travel, foreign languages, writing, etc. The great thing about living in this city is that the opportunities are endless.

Maybe not just yet? I think I will just settle for CCA's hands-on weekend programs for now. I think I will just focus my time and energy on what I currently have on my plate. My Italian classes have started last week and this is probably a good time to register at the 4-month Small Business class offered for free at the City College.

Loads of thoughts ran through my head. The ride back home seemed very very long that night.

(The photos above are my initial attempt on experimenting not only with baking but trying to pair the finished product with different types of coffee and loose leaf teas.)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Arctic weather in the City

Northern California is having a cold spell. The weather is going to be subfreezing again tonight. The forecast for the weekend is even colder. I used to joke about winter being the time of year for showing off stylish clothes. It is nice for one day but two, three, four days? That is too much.

It is too much if I have to wear four layers. It is too much if I have to wear a pair of gloves and a hat. Where has the mild winter gone to? This is too much for someone who just came back from sunny, warm, paradise. By spending Christmas in the Philippines, I thought I skipped the coldest and longest night of the year. Apparently, more cold nights are coming.

I am back to my routine. The party is over. Since I am staying indoors to keep myself warm, this weekend is probably a good time to start reading the books I had bought earlier. Maybe review my basic Italian from ITAL1A before I start ITAL10A for Spring Semester. Anything just to keep myself busy. Homesickness is setting in already.

~ ral

(The photo of a hawk bathing in sunshine was taken around the backyard. I work from home on Mondays and Fridays and I was taking a quick break when I spotted the bird behind the leafless trees. I quickly but quietly ran to the bedroom to get my camera and my 300mm zoom lens. How often do you see a hawk in your backyard, in the city? This is priceless.)