21 August, 2010

Things Are Looking Up


A bit of yarny whimsy on a chain link fence. The K looks a bit like a Q, but I have to admire the effort. It's always nice to come across something like this in an otherwise bleak block. Wishful thinking or vision of the future? Either way, it's a welcome distraction from l'eau de urine.

19 August, 2010

The Clay


It would be very easy for this blog to become some sort of "in memoriam" site for all of the lost landmarks of San Francisco. I don't really like dwelling on things I can't change.
Peering at old photos, wistfully imagining what it would be like to visit Playland at the Beach, Sutro Baths, the City of Paris store or the Fox Theatre, is a favorite pastime... and not a very productive one. What really makes me melancholy, and feel even more helpless, is witnessing the end of an era and an establishment that was a part of my life for many years. Landmark Theatres has just announced that it's closing the Clay Theatre on Fillmore Street at the end of August. The Clay is a very modest place but it's also one of the oldest cinemas in The City. It's been around for 100 years, so it's been part of the lives of many San Franciscans. I've spent an enormous amount of time in the movie houses of this city over the years and I watched dozens of single-screen theatres fade away. After each closing, for some reason, I've imagined that whatever cosmic force is devouring them will finally be sated. Alas, that just isn't so.

15 August, 2010

Fruit Fly (The Movie)


In this blog I generally try to avoid promoting things like movies as there are plenty of sites devoted to pushing Hollywood Product©, but this is the rare exception. It's an exception because the film is anything but "Hollywood" and it's by a film maker who obviously loves San Francisco and its denizens. I had an opportunity to see the movie at the Castro Theatre this last week; it's called Fruit Fly and it's by the very talented H.P. Mendoza. He writes, directs, scores, edits and co-stars in the film (I might have left something out). This combo is generally a recipe for artistic disaster, but in this case, his very real talent and enthusiasm more than carry the day (or the film). The cast is remarkable, as well; especially notable is the performance by the beautiful and gifted L.A. Renigen. The film really captures the flavor and energy of The City and was filmed in locations that you won't find in the usual SF-based RomCom. Also check out his previous opus, Colma:The Musical. It's a joy, as well.
Fruit Fly is currently making the usual indie theatrical circuit and will be available in October from TLA Video.

13 August, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust



It happens so often in the BIG (ish) CITY; you're away for a couple of weeks and when you return, a little piece of your world has gone missing. That little bit of San Francisco was Bob's Broiler on Polk Street. Bob's wasn't the sort of place you would recommend to others. The food was mediocre, at best. But it did have something going for it. I don't know whether it was the comfortably-worn gray vinyl booths or the hand-written signs or the mangy houseplants, but Bob's was truly a part of the character of Polk Street. It was the kind of place you ate at because it was there and it was open. A few years ago there was a wonderful essay by Mike Weiss in the Chronicle on the closing on Herb's Fine Foods on 24th Street. I think it captures the sense of loss of a place like Bob's better than I can. Bye Bob's.

29 July, 2010

The Great Star Theatre


The Great Star Theatre on Jackson Street is the only remaining Cantonese Opera House in the United States. The theatre was built in 1925 and is currently being renovated. I watched Hong Kong films here years ago and I'd love to visit the place again someday. It's not much to look at on the inside, but it's still a pretty amazing cultural asset and I'm glad it hasn't met the fate of the other theaters of Chinatown. Here's a link to what's going on with the place (as of March, anyway). It was pretty quiet the last time I walked by.

27 July, 2010

The Last Bus Out or The Last Days of the Transbay Terminal






The once-grand Transbay Terminal at Mission and First Streets opened in 1939. Designed by Timothy Pflueger (other Pflueger projects include the Castro Theatre, the Oakland Paramount and Pacific Telephone Building), the building served the extensive system of interurban trains and buses that was developed after the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The trains of the Key System (predecessor of today's AC Transit) once ran on the lower deck of the bridge while auto traffic was confined to the upper deck of the structure. At its peak, during the post WWII years, the terminal served 26 MILLION passengers a year with 10-car trains arriving every 63.5 seconds at peak hours (take that, BART!).
Today, after years of neglect, the old station awaits the wrecking ball. It's hard to imagine, while walking through the empty corridors, that this place was built to handle 17,000 passengers every 20 minutes. Not so long ago the building had coffee shops, a cocktail lounge, news agents, a shoe-shine man, information booths, you name it. For the last few years, the cavernous waiting halls have been home to scores of homeless individuals and the only passengers that the place saw would scurry as quickly as possible out onto the city streets. A temporary terminal at Howard and Beale (Network!) opens on August 7th. The shiny new terminal is scheduled for completion in 2017 and will be home to the new California High-Speed Railway to Los Angeles (I have a feeling that we will all be VERY old by the time this train makes its debut).
These photos are among the last of this old place. The Terminal is the sort of unloved and oft-ignored urban structure that no one will remember and who's passing few will mourn, but it's important to acknowledge that this place played an important part in the history of The City for the past 70 years.

22 July, 2010

Musical Stuffed Monkeys

This, admittedly, oddly-named attraction is my favorite little slice of joy at the joyous Musee Mechanique on Pier 45 in Fisherman's Wharf. Unfortunately, the music filter on this blog site seems to be blocking the accompanying song (it's Herb Alpert) due to copyright issues. You'll just have to hear it for yourself. You may want to wait until the summer throngs have moved on until you give this place a visit, but when you do , these little Bimbos won't disappoint.


video

16 July, 2010

Taking a Break



A wee bit o' whimsy from Sacramento Street in Laurel Heights. Little feet on a mail box. Little Doctor Seuss-type feet on a mail box. Not much else going on on this block. It was early evening when I took this photo and like many ├╝ber-upscale neighborhoods in San Francisco (or elsewhere, for that matter) this street really roles up the sidewalks near the end of the day. The cafes close up shop, the shops close up shop and one expects the tumbleweeds to start rolling at any moment. I imagine that if I hang out long enough in this dead zone, this mail box might wander off, looking for somewhere a bit more "happening".

07 July, 2010

Another Hidden Paradise



I don't think you can have too much of the out-of-doors. There are so many places in the Bay Area to explore, you'd spend the better part of a lifetime just sorting them out, let alone really getting to really know them. Here's a spot that's easily overlooked, yet it's adjacent to one of the more visited areas of the Peninsula. It's called the Burleigh-Murray Ranch. Just south of Half Moon Bay on Higgins-Purisima Road, it's a little-known and little-visited State Park. I was there over the busy 4th of July weekend and only encountered one other hiker. There's not much to the place other than spectacular solitude and simple beauty. The main trail winds through fragrant eucalyptus groves and verdant meadows. There are wild blackberries and a swift, cool stream. Near the end of the trail is an old dairy barn from the 19th century and a couple of picnic tables. Not much, but more than enough.

30 June, 2010

Summer in the Park



It's a real pleasure to enjoy an evening stroll around Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park. We've had a few fog-free evenings in the park lately and there's nothing like taking advantage of the late summer sunsets to bask in the the bountiful beauty of nature. Spending some time with the turtles, sunning on their log lounges, while enjoying pink popcorn on a bench; who could ask for anything more?

19 June, 2010

Frontier Village (That's where the action is)




Years ago, in an age before video games, reality TV and massive amusement parks (and chewing gum with liquid in it), there was a wonderful place called Frontier Village. From 1961 until 1980, it was located in a rural part of (seemingly) far-off, warm and sunny San Jose. It was the perfect place for a Bay Area family to enjoy a summer's day. The entrance resembled that of a log fort and the sight of it would send any kid's heart racing. I think my family went there every summer of my childhood. I can remember every ride distinctly. My parents liked it because they could, pretty much, let us loose (poor modern parents; no letting the kids loose anymore!) while they enjoyed a shady bench in the beautifully landscaped grounds. The great thing is, you can still visit the place. It's located next to an eponymous, and somewhat dispiriting, apartment complex and is called Edenvale Garden Park. There are traces of the old Frontier Village, for those who know where to look. A great website and guide to the park is located here. It's nice that it wasn't turned into a shopping center.

The Beginning of Summer


Summer is a very different concept for residents of the coastal Bay Area than it is for just about everyone else in the contiguous 48 states. Not for us the warm evening on the front porch (I know, what front porch?). We have to wear something a bit heavier than shorts and t-shirts as we stroll about. Sometimes "summer" involves having to wear 2 or 3 layers of clothing . I once saw a (seemingly sane) woman (an out-of-towner, no doubt) wearing ear muffs in July. We're quite used to nasty comments and sympathetic acknowledgment regarding our lack of balmy breezes (we experience more of a strong, cold gale).
Still, if it's sticky, sweltering heat you crave, you've not got far to go. A quick BART ride will remedy those chill blains. Places like Sacramento, a relatively short drive away, will warm you up 40F degrees on some days. Fun.
The point of all this is that even die hard, fog-loving residents of the coast need a bit of a break from the June gloom... on occasion.

16 June, 2010

Bumper Car


I don't know how long this bumper car has been sitting here in the shrubs of this West Portal home. It's a neighborhood I'm very familiar with and I walk this street quite often. Still, I've never noticed THIS before. I wonder why you'd position an old bumper car in your front garden. I don't think it's a decorative addition, it appears to be stored here. The plastic guard fence is a nice touch.

08 June, 2010

3 Heads 6 Arms


There's a new sculpture at Civic Center and it's pretty imposing. It looks a bit like a Ray Harryhausen creation from an old Sinbad movie that's been summoned from the depths of Brooks Hall (which sits beneath the civic center plaza). Called 3 HEADS 6 ARMS , it's by Chinese artist Zhang Huan and it commemorates the 30th anniversary of San Francisco's Sister City relationship with Shanghai. The Asian Art Museum, across the street, currently has an exhibit about Shanghai that you'll have to visit before it closes in September.

02 June, 2010

A Trip Back in Time to Locke



About an hour and a half from San Francisco, on the Sacramento Delta, sits Locke. It's the last rural Chinese village in the U.S. Founded in the early years of the 20th century by Chinese farmers and laborers, it's an amazing place. It's full of distinctive architecture that evokes both the Old West and original Chinese villages of its founders. An old boarding house had been recently restored by the state and serves as a museum and visitor center. The thing I like most of all about Locke is that it's not a tourist trap; it has a refreshing authenticity without feeling like a ghost town. I suppose that has to do with its out-of-the-way location. The town is still fully populated yet it has the ambiance of a sleepy, hot, rural town of the 1930s or 40s. It has heaps of character (and quite a few characters) and is well worth a visit. On the way, be sure to stop in the other small towns like Isleton and Walnut Grove. They, too, had a strong Chinese presence which is still visible in the old stores, temples and homes that line the main streets.

28 May, 2010

San Francisco Botanical Garden Alternatives


Quite a few people are, understandably, upset about the recent (successful) push by the SF Parks and Recreation Department and the SF Botanical Society to charge an admission fee to the Arboretum. It's a pretty inexcusable appropriation of a great PUBLIC resource. First, they change the name of the place and demote poor Helen Strybing (her generous donation, in the memory of her late husband, made the garden possible) to a footnote and now they'll be charging out-of-towners a hefty fee and checking the IDs of all visitors. Pretty depressing.
Still... there's a lot of park left that doesn't require a fee or ID check. One place that's as beautiful, if not more beautiful, as anything in the Arboretum is the De Laveaga Dell/National AIDS Memorial. It's a short stroll from the Academy of Sciences. It's usually very quiet and it's very, very wonderful.

24 May, 2010

A Beautiful Freeway?


The freeways of California don't generally inspire anything but dread, frustration or, at best, boredom in most people. After recently spending a fair amount of time on freeways throughout our great state, I've experienced a renewed appreciation for our own 280 freeway. Running down the San Francisco Peninsula to San Jose, it's a generally spectacular roadway. Part of its attraction may be the lack of billboards, gas stations, fast food joints or large trucks. The real pleasure is the spectacular scenery that one encounters just minutes from the congestion of The City. There's easy access to many natural and man-made attractions including Filoli and countless county parks. The photo above was taken from Sawyer Camp Trail (easily accessed from the Hayne Rd./Black Mountian Rd. exit). The body of water is the beautiful San Andreas Reservoir and the unspoiled wilderness of the San Francisco Water District. Thanks to the freeway, this is all about a half hour away from the heart of San Francisco. Strange to be thankful for a freeway.

17 May, 2010

Valencia Street Makeover


Valencia Street has been undergoing some rather heavy construction in the last few months. The sidewalks are being widened, trees planted and new light standards installed. The bits that are nearing completion look quite nice and a few places have already put tables out on the newly-widened pavements. If it looks half as nice as the recent work on Divisadero, it'll be a great success. This shot was taken in front of one of the major assets in this neck of the woods: Community Thrift. It's the home of really good shopping, if you can endure the oft-times terrible music choices by the staff. Great looking new paint, by the way.

09 May, 2010

Free Floating Anxiety


I try to keep things on a lighter note in this blog. Still, sometimes it's hard not to notice darker skies. A few weeks ago, someone took to the streets of the Mission/Dolores Park area and scrawled this message on several buildings (it's a bit hard to see, but it says, "Kill Hipsters & Yuppies"). I couldn't help noticing that the locations had something in common; they were all popular restaurants, cafes or bars.
I live in what is, quite possibly, the HIPPEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICA®. The private Google/Yahoo/Facebook/YouTube buses prowl the streets, collecting their live cargo and transporting them to points south (places, evidently, no hipster would consider LIVING in).
The person who sprayed this graffito probably notices these people too, notices how they fill the restaurants, cafes, bars, gourmet groceries and organic ice cream shops to overflowing. In a place where lot of people are feeling less than secure, where a lot of people are unemployed or underemployed, a good number of people are doing very well indeed. I don't think I've ever been so conscious of the divide between the young and rich, who constitute so many of the neighborhood's new residents, and the old "just-getting-by" types who fill the rent-controlled apartments. The forces at work in this City and, specifically, this neighborhood are as old as the hills. There's not much one can do about gentrification. A little rent control here, some subsidized housing there. In the end, change is inevitable. I think the angry person with the spray can probably knows this. He (or she) probably "keys" expensive cars in his spare time (no doubt, he has PLENTY of spare time). I'm hopeful that's as far as the acting-out goes.
I'm not sure what I'm trying to say with this post, other than to acknowledge the terrible anxiety that lurks not far below the surface of our beautiful City... and our country. Not happy thoughts.

08 May, 2010

Gone to Seed


We're still in Aquatic Park (probably because it's so nice this time of year). Most of the Wharf, deservedly, gets dismissed by locals, but this is one place with something for everyone. The Hyde Street Pier and Aquatic Park comprise the National Maritime Museum and they are perfect places to enjoy a beautiful late spring day. If you approach the park via the trail from Fort Mason, you can forget all about the crowds that throng such attractions as Hooters, Rainforest Cafe and the Wax Museum. It's easy, and not entirely fair, to dismiss the Wharf. Good things are happening and The City seems to be making an attempt to spruce the old cash cow up a bit. Lord knows, it seems the tourists will put up with anything. They still flock to the crowded sidewalks strewn with "performers" covered in silver paint. Then again, if you stay away, you'll miss the Musee Mechanique, the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien and the U.S.S. Pampanito. That would be a bad thing.
Back to Aquatic Park; the scrappy shrubs pictured above used to spell out "Aquatic Park" and were a very nice, old-fashioned touch. Now they're just ill-maintained shrubs. I'm hopeful that they'll be groomed to their previous perfection once the ongoing park rehabilitation is complete.

30 April, 2010

Forgotten Fountain



I've walked by this rather clumsy looking fountain many times over the years. It's just below Ghirardelli Square across from Aquatic Park. This time I stopped to read the information on a small plaque next to the fountain. A bell went off and I remembered coming across a photo of a similar object in the Mission District years ago. At the time I wondered what had happened to it. As it was no longer in its original location, I figured it had been scrapped as a bit of "useless" old street furniture.
Turns out that the Aquatic Park fountain is the SAME ONE featured in the old picture. How it made its way here is probably lost to history. It's known as the Mariani Fountain and was originally located in front of Mr. Mariani's hardware store at 23rd and Florida in the Mission. The original caption on the 1957 photo states,
"Not for sale is this original 82 year-old Mission fountain, owned by Walter A. Mariani, long-time hardware merchant. The City wants it for a bridle path on Sunset Blvd. Mrs. Amanda Rivera poses beside the relic."
I guess The City eventually got its fountain and, although it didn't end up on a bridle path (!) on Sunset Blvd, it's a bit forlorn in its present location. It's filled with some mucky water and a cigarette butt or two. I really like how it has a basin for horses, pooches (or other close-to-the-ground creatures) and humans. I would hazard a guess that few horses drink from Mr. Mariani's fountain, let alone humans. Yet, it's still here after 135 years and that's definitely something.

25 April, 2010

The Big 100




As I was working on this latest posting , I happened to notice that it's my 100th addition to this blog. For anyone who knows of my, decidedly undeveloped, skills in the realm of stick-to-itiveness, it's quite a revelation. I suppose I should devote this post to some great over-arching statement or theme, but I'm at a loss for what that might be. It'll come to me eventually and I'll wax philosophically at some future date, I'm sure. In the meantime, I want to encourage people to visit the Crown Jewel of the Bay Area's parks: Point Reyes National Seashore. I've been exploring the park for years and I still have my breath taken away by its incredible and varied beauty. Limantour beach is unrivaled for shear gorgeousness, wildness and scale by few beaches in the world, but not one, to my knowledge, is so close to a major city. AND you can pretty much have the place to yourself on a weekday. From thousands of feet in the air, when I'm arriving home from overseas, at the end of a 14 hour flight, it's the sight that thrills me most and makes me happy that I live here. The Great Beach to the north is 11 miles of undeveloped beauty that Southern Californians can only dream of (they have perfectly beautiful beaches down South, they just happen to have far too many McMansions glowering over them).
Of course, it's just one place in this very large National Park. Everyone has their favorite spot. You could spend weeks exploring and never run out of adventures. I had the pleasure of strolling down the 309 stairs to the lighthouse last weekend (and the chore of hiking back up 309 stairs). The color of the ocean was incredible and the view of the Farallon Islands was unmatched (a woman next to me asked her companion, jokingly I hope, if they were the Hawaiian Islands). Even the lichen was amazing!
Adjacent to the Park Visitor Center, Earthquake buffs can check out the earthquake trail at what was the epicenter of the 1906 'quake and, on the way to the lighthouse, oyster fans can eat their fill at the oyster farm. Of course, there's Drake's Bay, where pirate, adventurer and all-around swashbuckling guy, Sir Francis Drake dropped anchor in 1579 and claimed this part of the world for England. He called it New Albion; we don't.

15 April, 2010

Music Concourse Makeover






Now that the De Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences have settled into their new and very popular homes, the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park is nearing the end of its decade-long makeover.
The Spreckels Temple of Music is finally free of scaffolding, missing trees have been replaced, paths repaved, new benches and lighting installed and the fountains are in the process of restoration. The area looks better than it has in many years. The concourse was originally constructed as the site of the 1894 California Mid-Winter Exposition. There are are couple of statues from the fair in their original locations and, of course, the two concrete sphinges (yes, that's the plural for sphinx) that originally guarded the entrance to the first De Young Museum (see top photo, demolished in 1929).
It's a very civilized spot and there's nothing like sitting under the elms on one of the green benches and enjoying a book or conversation (with a willing partner, of course).

07 April, 2010

History Revealed


This little Noe Valley cottage on Church Street has been exposed to public view since the (not very interesting) building in front of it was recently demolished . It's probably well over 100 years old and it looks it. Unfortunately, little out-buildings like this are seldom well documented historically. It could be the oldest building around. It could have been occupied by a former '49er (as in 1849). It could be a tool shed.

01 April, 2010

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (sort of)



Adjacent to the the construction site for the new, and somewhat controversial, Chinatown Campus of San Francisco City College on Washington Street near Kearny is this very well-preserved advertisement. It will probably remain well-preserved because it's about to be covered up for a very long time by a building of the new campus. It will be re-discovered someday when they rip down the building it's painted on or something collapses in the Big One. It's too bad that we can't find some way of preserving these survivors while acknowledging the need for growth in The City. Who knows, maybe City College will have a big glass wall on that side of the building that would allow students to fantasize about smoking a little Bull Durham while soaking in a bath that affords both Hot and Cold running water. Not likely.

24 March, 2010

A Fine Combination


Tea, being the newest shortcut to beauty and eternal life, has been showing up in the strangest places. This was, for years, a typical corner liquor store. Now the owner has introduced TEA. Health and prosperity are now just a short stroll from home. Oh, I forgot to mention that you can pick up a pack of cigarettes while you're there, as well.

11 March, 2010

Other Ghosts of Mission Street



The last time I wandered aimlessly along Mission Street, I was on about old Movie Palaces. I never really tire of exploring this fascinating street and its history. I'm a bit farther up the road this time, in the Excelsior District. This is the old Granada Theatre at 4631 Mission, opened in the early 1920s as the Excelsior. It was in operation until November of 1982 and now is home to a rather dull Goodwill Store (yes, there are exciting Goodwill Stores) and a Walgreens. Across the street and down a block I came across this F.W. Woolworth store, now an exceptionally uninteresting furniture store. Of note is the interior as it is a relatively intact example of an old Woolworth and features some enormous streamlined ceiling ventilation fixtures (I know, contain your enthusiasm). Don't forget to stop in at the Chick N Coop for lunch before you head out.

09 March, 2010

On the Trail of the Maltese Falcon



An author of some note, I can't quite recall who it was, said that there were three great "story" cities in America: New York, New Orleans and San Francisco (I'm not sure why he didn't see fit to include Chicago in this small group, I'd have to squeeze it in there). As for The City, there really is something very romantic about strolling about San Francisco on a foggy night, walking in the steps of so many memorable literary characters. Among the most well-known of characters would have to be those created by Dashiell Hammett. Here, off of Bush Street, is an alley called Burritt. Not very interesting in and of itself, but it is the spot where Sam Spade's partner, Miles Archer met his end at the end of a gun held by the beautiful and very dangerous Brigid O'Shaughnessy in Hammett's Maltese Falcon. It's hard to visualize Miss O'Shaughnessy as looking like anyone other than the great Mary Astor. And just try to get Humphrey Bogart out of you mind when you think of Sam Spade. They all blur together in the fog, on the dark, wet streets of San Francisco.

04 March, 2010

Bad Day for Butterflies


I hope the rest of this little (or giant) butterfly made it home OK. I guess he/she got caught in the rain and found it necessary to abandon his/her beautiful wings. I trust it wasn't a case of reversion to caterpillar form. That wouldn't be a nice surprise for mom or dad.

26 February, 2010

The Ruins of Wolf House



One of the many beautiful parks of Sonoma County is Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen. It was the home of the great writer Jack London until his death in 1916. His wife, Charmian, continued to live there until her death in 1955. London built his dream home, called Wolf House, on the property. It was a magnificent home that he hoped would stand for a thousand years. Unfortunately, a month before he was to move into the home, it mysteriously went up in flames. He died before he could rebuild. The remains of the home are hauntingly beautiful and he may have his dream, as I imagine the ruins will be there for at least a thousand years. The London's graves are also on the ranch, on a beautiful hilltop overlooking the Valley of the Moon.

20 February, 2010

Bad Art at the Wharf



I know it's about as surprising as sand at the beach or grease at McDonald's, but I was truly taken aback by this egregious violation of taste in a shop near Ghirardelli Square. These ubiquitous "galleries" are really just outlets for outrageously expensive frames, but whatever happened to pretty whales and softly-lit thatched cottages? With apologies to the artist, this looks like something you'd find at a rummage sale for $3.99 (and you'd bargain down to $2). I didn't see how much they were asking for this piece, but I think it's slightly more than you'd like to imagine.

18 February, 2010

San Francisco's Notre Dame


Here we have the Eglise Notre Dame de Victoires on Bush Street. The area is The City's "French Quarter", home to the Consulate of the French Republic and several fine French restaurants and cafes. The church has served the needs of the French community since 1856 when Pope Leo XIII signed a decree placing the church in the hands of the Marist Fathers in perpetuity. The present structure dates from 1915. It's a small but stunningly beautiful church and features some very strange, coin-operated, electric votive candles. The only other place I've encountered these strange things is in France, which makes sense.

10 February, 2010

20¢ Wash


I don't think you'll actually find this bargain once you step inside this launderette. The days of 20¢ washes and a 10¢ dry are somewhat behind us. I love it when old signs remain in place for decades. This one has a bit of product placement as well. The 1980s font on the main sign isn't aging so gracefully.
Today there are fewer and fewer places to wash your laundry as our city becomes home to people who wouldn't dream of doing their laundry in a public place. I can't pretend to enjoy the hours I spend in places like this, but they have a way of breaking up the harried pace of life.