Sunday, September 09, 2007

Walking with Loki

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I guess I've been a little glum lately. It strikes me that was the case last year as well at this time except for those fabulous five days in Paris. No Paris this year, alas, or any such European adventure as I have declared this "The Year of the Teeth" ... a bunch of moola laid aside to tackle all the extant dental issues as I head in the latter part of early middle age.

So the period after I publish my catalog makes me a little glum ... I should keep that in mind so it doesn't catch me with my eyes closed again.

The Waterfront: So changed from its grubby before life in the 80s when I first became a San Franciscan. Vastly improved, a thoroughfare for pedestrians and skaters and bicyclists and all manner of folk. I think the City is still dragging its feet in restoring and opening up the piers. The one that they recently opened for high end offices is magnificent, an architectural feast (photo above is of one of the windows there). Why not more of the same. And I quibble with the lack of retail, dining, and drinking down south near the ballpark ... evidently caused by the suburban objections of the condo owners who want their peace and quiet. A pox on them. If you want quiet, move to Montana.

But these are quibbles. The change is for the good.

I tried to write about change obliquely in the immediately preceding post. I don't like it ... the post, that is ... but if a blog is going to be meaningful, I think after-the-fact editing should be limited to typos and style and constructions. Fail your way to success ... gotta leave the crumbling shacks beside the epic monuments, if there are any.

So I spent the long walk along the waterfront and back through downtown thinking about change, and change at work in particular. I don't want to articulate the solid issues here ... the particularities of work are not the point of this blog. But change in the abstract is different than change in the event. Curious instance of that on the waterfront in the last few days.

Red's Java House has been around for a long time ... like so many shacks by the sea, where it starts and ends, and the boundary between it and the pier and the bay, these things are not at all clear or delineated. I have not eaten there in some time, but the last time was with my boss in that one year in the dot com world ... and I ended up with indigestion from a truly threatening hamburger and fries. But the story here is that the city recently and suddenly upped their rent from $800 to $4400 (or figures very near to those). The owners squawked mightily, and through benefit of the predictable public outrage, ended up with a deal around $3000 plus a cut of profits that both sides agree are meager.

Change ... the waterfront changes for the better, but Red's loses out because no incremental increase in business can possibly fund a quintuple rise in rent. An ambience consumer like myself wants Red's there because it has funk. But funk-watchers are not a revenue stream. The handwriting is on the wall ... Red's will get gussied up (I would say gentrified but the word is so loaded that I loathe it) and what was once funk will be funk design. The odor will float away to be replaced by cool framed photos of what used to be odiferous. With any luck the son of the owner might end up manager of a new place and make a lot more money and even have time off for vacation.

Kearny Street: All of this is speculation, but the point is that there is no such thing as a zero sum game. It is not that each winner makes a loser ... but it is that even in big wins, there are those on the winning side who would rather that the game had never begun. The speed of these sorts of things in the modern workplace is dizzying. I guess that explains a little of the glum I feel. It is not that I am not prepared for, even excited, by a change of style and direction. It is that it is fatiguing, and I do not know if I will be the owner of the new franchise or if I will be the former owner of Red's ... so I better decide I will be the new franchisee. Glum is pointless. Buck up, buttercup!

My first job in San Francisco was two blocks from where I shot the photo above today. We were on the fourth floor of a fabulous building on Sutter Street that was home to art galleries and what not. Reardon and Krebs was the name of operation; it had been a long-time byword in high quality typesetting, and the detritus of the old metal type shop lay around the little air conditioned shack that had been built in the middle of the floor to house the new "cold type" operation. A lot of guys had lost jobs, and the several who accepted retraining on the ADS Berthold 3000 system did everything in their power to slow the computer revolution ... they typed slowly, they broke big jobs into tiny pieces, they loaded the glass fonts into the printer slowly. I was not welcome ... young guy full of the new technology, I could out-operate, out-typeset them in my sleep.

I hung with that place for four years before I headed to Berkeley as a 31-year-old freshman in January of 1985. But the foot dragging by the old guard never stopped, and ultimately that along with a raft of other factors led the place to fade away. I never heard that it had actually failed, but evidently it did. The place on Harrison Street to which they moved from Sutter Street in 1983 is now a gay sex club.

R&K was one of the first classic typeshops that moved into the new technology; but the bad attitude eventually sunk it anyway. I didn't share that bad attitude, and ultimately I moved on.

(About the photo ... this is two or three blocks from the Stock Exchange, right downtown. As long as I have been in San Francisco, those few blocks of Kearny have always been tacky at best, cruddy at worst. But we have a nail salon in what was once a real estate office. Progress? Not sure. Change? That it is.)

Zeum: There is a distinctly new Europe feel to the architecture of this place, a playground for children and adults. Notwithstanding how central it is, it is a bit of a forgotten corner. I have been here a few times to see productions with my friend RO. You can get a good hamburger upstairs.

That said, when it is empty of people, it has a post-apocalyptic feel, and that feeling is reinforced by the walk south back and forth along the little alleys between 3rd and 4th. Click on the photo above for a little collection of some vignettes from that portion of this walk.

The speculations on change that I tried to represent above had the effect of lightening my mood, and I ended taking around a hundred photos of an area I have photographed many times before. From glum to giddy, and no doubt back again. Life as a low bore manic depressive. I'm laughing.

I allowed myself an Egg McMuffin on the way back ... sort of like pricking yourself with a pin. It hurt, but in a fun, spanky sort of way.

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