Mother Nature and the Side Fence

Just a fun observation.

Back in March, 2018 we noticed a small volunteer growing in a small crack in the concrete on our side fence. The plant looked a bit like the potted jade plant we had 25 away, but its structure was different. Sturdier. There was nothing in our backyard or the neighbor’s yard that matched the tenacious fence dweller.

I photographed it for my church’s Climate Justice Month photo essay, but its small size kept it off the list of submitted pictures. Still it was pretty cute.

Backyard Volunteer in 2018

Appreciated March 28, 2018

Today I photographed some winter plants and flowers around town AND in our back yard. The little guy is looking pretty healthy three years later!

Backyard Volunteer in 2021

Appreciated January 16, 2021

As so it grows!

There’s still no dirt for it to get nutrients from nor space for it to anchor itself. So, I don’t know how long this volunteer can keep its act together. But, it’s fun watching and appreciating.

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Deaths Beyond Counting

A house on the 700 block of Waller caught my attention in June. As I walked by I noticed that the residents were displaying the current US COVID death toll in their front windows. Stickies formed the numbers of today’s total in one window while the other front window showed yesterday’s toll.

The windows on a residential street shocked in contrast to the cool, remote news reports of the pandemic’s impact. I walked by several times on my morning treks, watching the numbers grow, until on June 27 I decided the non-panoramic scene should be preserved as another Sign of the Plague.

Signs of the Plague - June 27, 2020. Death Toll 126,780

Window of a private residence on Waller.
The Waller Street House’s COVID US Death Count, June 27, 2020.

Whenever my morning walk took me into the neighborhood, I would check the window’s grim updates.

Mostly I just walked by the house, but on August 20th I decided to take another photo. Another 45,000 Americans had died, according to the Waller window.

Signs of the Plague - August 20, 2020. US Death Toll at 171,821

The Waller Street House’s COVID US Death Count, August 20, 2020

I didn’t look for a while in September, but I am still spooked and questioning about the message that stayed posted for quite a while after I took this picture.

Signs of the Plague - September 19, 2020. "I miss you so" In the windows of a house on Waller at Castro.

“I miss you so”
In the windows of a house on Waller at Castro. September 19, 2020.

First person singular… “I miss you so.”  So personal.
Did someone in the house die? Was there anything to do? I had no clue and still don’t. I checked back several times in the fall, but the message was the same haunting statement of loss.

I was actually relieved when I walked by in December and saw that the totals were back in the windows. The numbers were terrible, but I can handle numbers more than windows screaming emotion.

Signs of the Plague - December 5, 2020. Toll 275,386

The Waller Street House’s COVID US Death Count on December 5, 2020.

The windows continued to record the depth of the pandemic. Just 10 days after my first December walk-by, the of US dead had reached nearly 298,266.

Signs of the Plague, December 15, 2020. Toll 298,266

The Waller Street House’s COVID US Death Count on December 15, 2020. 298,266 Americans dead.

The news media was catching on to the rising numbers. Cable networks seemed in a competition to see who could most breathlessly announce that day’s milestone of bodies. Just four days after my last visit to Waller Street, 12,433 more of us had succumbed to the virus.

Signs of the Plague - December 19, 2020. Toll 317,489.

The Waller Street House’s COVID US Death Count December 19, 2020. 310,699 Americans had died.

In the last part of December the clear morning weather pointed me to heights with scenic vistas and memorable sunrises. So, I hadn’t visited Waller Street in a couple weeks before this morning’s fog directed me to a low-land walk.

I was prepared to see a jump in the number of dead Americans, but I hadn’t checked the actual totals. I was steeled to be upset by the total.

What I saw was worse.

Signs of the Plague - January 3, 2021

Waller Street House January 3, 2021.

There is no count. The windows have given up tracking. The total is just too much.

The stickies cannot measure infinite loss.

Damn COVID.

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1828 Days Later

Yesterday I completed my fifth year of doing at least 30 continuous minutes of exercise a day. That means today’s five-mile outdoor walk was my 1828th day of exercise in a row.

As I’ve said before, this consistency is Doug Wilcoxen’s fault.

Doug and I were at the opposite ends of Wig Hall at Pomona College our freshman year. The dorm geography meant although I liked Doug, we weren’t close friends.  I just knew that he was very bright and we shared a definite label of “Not a jock”.

When Doug posted on Facebook in late 2015 that he was pleased that he’d gone to the gym 300 plus times that year, my doing something similar seemed possible. It wasn’t like a football player or my cross-country obsessed roommate was bragging about their workouts. It was a real, normal person doing something another non-jock could do.

So starting January 1, 2016 I started exercising, mostly by going to the gym. I made myself exercise at least 30 minutes straight every day. I didn’t want off days because I knew I needed to get in the habit to disempower the inevitable excuses. Usually I went early, right after dropping Geoff off for work, but if an early airplane flight or a colonoscopy interfered with a morning workout, I made sure that I did something for 30 minutes later in the day.

This year COVID made daily trips to the gym problematic. Instead, early in March I started walking around the city. My first treks were just 30 minutes or so. But, soon I jumped up to 3 mile round trips, and then in summer I moved up to 5 mile circuits.

Sightseers on Eureka Peak waiting for Sunrise

Crowd waiting for sunrise on Eureka Peak, New Year’s Morning 2021.
Click on any photo in this post to see a larger one.
But go to www.sfoutdoorwalks.com to see full-size photos.

Not only were the walks keeping me active and keeping my exercise streak going, the urban hikes were showing me details of the city I had completely missed. Learning how different neighborhoods fit together, seeing the differences in housing stock, lots, and streets, and discovering both beauty and decay have been real gifts of the pandemic.

Looking through the trees in Buena Vista Park at Ambassador Hormel's home and downtown

Looking through the trees in Buena Vista Park at Ambassador Hormel’s home and downtown

Moonset from Twin Peaks

Moonset from Twin Peaks

Who knew that the top of Twin Peaks is just a mile up the hill from our front door? Who knew that there is a canyon 1.1 miles from our house, that the top of Mt. Davidson is just over 2 miles from home, that our new favorite wine bar is 2.5 miles away, … or, or, or? Fun!

Of course, I am way behind in sharing what I have seen. There are just so many interesting views appearing every day that I am tardy in selecting and editing. The photos here are the first of 2021, but there are many more from 2020 waiting attention.  I hope to catch up!

(Checkout the complete collection published so far at www.sfoutdoorwalks.com.  That gallery lets you enlarge the pictures and learn more about the date, time, and location of the shots.)

Going down the Henry stairs

Going down the Henry stairs

1828 days in a row  means that I have been very lucky, too. I haven’t caught a disabling illness or acquired a serious physical malady.  Pretty amazing, when I think about what’s out there.

I should also stress that the daily exercise has not made me an athlete. I have aches, pains, conditions, and several extra pounds. But, I am convinced that the chronic exercise has kept me more mobile and both mentally and physically flexible.

So, thank you again, Doug.

Not only did your post spur me to commit to regular workouts, it led me to learning and loving a lot more about my City!

Happy 1828th Exercise Day! Happy New Year!

Painted Utility box on Sanchez Street

Utility box on Sanchez Street

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Signs of The END

The END of Central
The END of Central Street at Oak

Since the beginning of the plague I have been walking the City streets instead of going to the gym.

Sometime in March I decided to gather photos of the signs that marked the END of streets. Today I uploaded my 450th END to the “Signs of the End” gallery.

The scavenger hunt for ENDs has altered the course of many strolls. Instead of going to a favorite view, I sometimes decide into this non-scenic residential neighborhood because the street leading into it looks like it’s about to END. I find some unexpected fun sites hunting ENDs, and I also see areas that help me understand the diversity of the city.

Many streets don’t formally END. They just don’t go any further. 17th Street ENDs, 18th Street simply peters out, and 19th Street officially ENDs.

More fun is discovering streets that you thought just stopped actually have a new life a few blocks away, maybe on the other side of a hill or park. They start back up again, stop again, and finally END formally a mile or so after the first interruption. Castro Street is my current favorite stuttering ENDing.

Today I decided to explore the area behind and above Kaiser on Geary. That route and the twisty way back home let me snag 6 ends, the ENDs of Anzavista, Barcelona, Central, Nido, Terra Vista, and Vega.

And, Nido and Vega END together.

A double END! Vega and Nido meet their mutual END.

And speaking of alphabetizing the collection, the streets in SmugMug are in alphabetical order. So, you can check to see if I have discovered your favorite END. I also posted ENDs in Facebook for a long while, but their new format made alphabetizing practically impossible.

So, in these END times, I invite you to view your END. Visit the gallery!

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A Meaningful “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”

“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” hits Netflix tomorrow, December 18. I was lucky enough to see it last Friday, and I would like to recommend it! Highly!

Forgive me if I assume that you know that the original play was written by August Wilson and that you know his importance in American Theater.

Montage of Netflix screen shots with my name
My name was watermarked on all scenes so that I couldn’t record it and anonymously share it before its release.

And, you probably know that “Ma Rainey” is set in Chicago in the 1920’s and is the play deals with a recording audition for Ma and her band.

Of course, the real focus is “issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers”, as Wikipedia summaries https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Rainey%27s_Black_Bottom .

There is a fair amount of music in the film, but it is not a happy musical!

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom poster

Viola Davis plays Ma, and Chadwick Boseman (the Black Panther) co-stars in his final film role.  They are amazing, and the rest of the cast is beyond solid. The adaption to film added to the feel of the time without being showy or in-your-face needlessly cinematic.

We are lucky to know the Executive Producer of the film, Constanza Romero.  She is August’s widow and the person in charge of his estate and its granting of rights to perform Wilson’s work.

She is also involved in “Giving Voice”, and just-released Netflix documentary following high school students competing in the annual August Wilson Monologue Contest. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giving_Voice

That 70-minute documentary is extremely strong and moving. It shows talented young people seeking escape from their often not good lives by immersing themselves into theater. Imagine the choice of either joining a gang or going into theater and being pushed out of your home by your family because of your choice.

“Giving Voice” is real, uplifting, depressing.

I strongly recommend that Netflix movie, too.

Please consider seeing “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “Giving Voice”.

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