To Catch a Thief

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On Thursday, our Canadian friends Alison and Jeremy drove from Yosemite to San Francisco for dinner with us at the Ferry Building’s MarketBar.  They are repatriating to Canada after living in Santiago, Chile for seven years.  To ease the transition, they are currently taking a 12 week road trip through the Americas with their sons William (almost 11), Jackson (newly nine), and Lucas (four).

Dinner was messy and fun.  We bonded over our respective experiences as ex-pats and squeezed nine years of stories into the time it took to share cocktails, oysters, pizza, and Pork Pork Pork.  During the meal, Jackson drew the animal kingdom on a dry-erase board and the paper tablecloth.  I really liked his dry-erase doodle of a blue dinosaur.  The boys made countless trips to the washroom.  They had appointed me to be their pee buddy, so I raced with them to and from the toilets.  The boys were full of energy and seemed eager to test the plumbing and hand dryers.  As they had started their day at a campsite, their fascination with creature comforts was understandable.

After dinner, we decided to go outside for the golden hour.  As we left our table, I reminded Scott to pick up his bag, which he did.  Once outside, we walked toward the water.  I set up my tripod and we posed for this group shot in front of the Bay Bridge.  Robertson Davies wrote that “a portrait is among other things, a statement of opinion by the artist, as well as a likeness”.  I love how this photo captures essential qualities I see in William, Jackson, and Lucas.  William is good-natured and has Alison’s confidence.  Jackson has Jeremy’s calm and happy-go-lucky spirit.  Lucas is a lover and a fighter in a charming pint-sized package.  As we took the photo, several people milled about nearby – including a shabby-looking man on a bicycle.  Scott, an avid cyclist, noticed that the man’s black Surly bicycle had a “Read a Fucking Book” sticker on it.  Rather than linger among shady characters, we wandered across the pavement to the Ferry Building in search of ice cream.  Along the way, Scott and the boys climbed all over Mohandas K. Gandhi, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi that greets people as they walk from the pier to the Ferry Building.

As we entered the Ferry Building, Scott realized that he no longer had his bag with him.  He ran back to the pier and returned empty handed.  Fortunately, Scott had his personal phone in his pocket.  He used the “Find My iPhone” app to track the location of his work phone, which had been inside his bag.  His work phone was already half a mile away.  The thief was likely the man on the bicycle!  Scott was afraid that the thief would soon disable location tracking on his work phone.  He decided to run after the thief.  Jeremy, who runs marathons for fun, was up for the chase.  They sprinted away before Alison or I could reason with them.  William wondered if Scott would get in trouble for losing his work phone.  Alison assured him that Scott would likely be given another work phone without too much fuss.  William asked me if I thought the thief would hand over the bag to Scott.  I told him I didn’t know.  As Scott and Jeremy unleashed their inner vigilantes, Alison and I took the boys to Humphry Slocombe for ice cream.  To the boys’ delight, we had candid discussions about the effects of lactose intolerance and food poisoning.  As I ate my flower power sorbet, I had visions of Scott and Jeremy getting shanked in the Tenderloin.  I hoped our evening would end without a trip to the ER.  I kept my morbid thoughts to myself.  To her credit, Alison did not betray any anxiety until we finished our desserts – when I couldn’t reach Scott on his personal phone.  I quickly dialed his missing work phone.  Alison and I were both amazed and relieved when Scott answered right away.

Scott and Jeremy had caught up to the thief at an intersection.  Scott recognized the bike and noticed his bag sitting on the bike’s handlebars, so he asked the thief for his bag.  Jeremy wedged his foot behind the bike’s rear tire to prevent the thief from escaping as Scott reclaimed his bag.  It was empty.  Scott then asked the thief for each item that was in the bag before it was stolen:  work phone; wallet; $100 cash; credit cards; government lab ID; earbuds; phone charger; FedEx receipt; gum…  For each item, the thief rummaged through his pockets anew.  Scott asked the thief repeatedly why he had stolen the bag.  The thief denied stealing the bag.  He claimed that he had found the bag with its contents strewn about a curb, and that he was planning on putting the bag in a mailbox.  Scott considered calling the police and decided against it.  He thanked the thief (!) and then walked away with Jeremy.

When Scott and Jeremy returned to the Ferry Building, they were all smiles and fist bumps.  To catch the thief, they had sprinted 10 city blocks – stopping only to call the police (who claimed they couldn’t help without a suspect to identify) and to summon (then cancel) an Uber.  To their dismay, the missing phone’s location disappeared and then reappeared on the app map as they ran.  I asked Jeremy if he felt “young and alive” after the chase.  He grinned, likened the caper to a sightseeing tour, and proposed that he and Scott run a marathon together.  William exclaimed that he knew the man on the bicycle was trouble – he had noticed him while we were taking our group shot.  I laughed when Alison voluntold Jeremy to pick up Lucas from the floor since Jeremy was feeling so young and alive; Lucas was having a meltdown between Alison’s ankles.  Jeremy called an Uber.  Within minutes, it was time for everyone to hug good-bye.  Scott and I took BART home.  I washed Scott’s bag in hot soapy water.  He resolved to stop carrying a bag.

 

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140 Maiden Lane

On Saturday afternoon, Scott and I wandered into 140 Maiden LaneFrank Lloyd Wright‘s sole contribution to San Francisco architecture.  We were unaware of the building’s cultural significance when we entered it.  We were merely curious if the building’s interior matched its plain yet elegant exterior.  We were surprised to find an architectural marvel inside.

Visiting 140 Maiden Lane was a serendipitous detour.  I had been leading the way to Britex, my favourite fabric store, when beautiful voices beckoned.  We walked along Grant Avenue and turned left onto Maiden Lane, where a tenor and a soprano were performing for passersby.  They stood in the middle of the street.  As they sang, their operatic voices reverberated off the surrounding buildings.  We listened to several arias, and then Scott tipped the buskers as we walked past them towards Britex’s back door.  A century ago, if voices beckoned visitors onto Maiden Lane (which used to be called Morton Street), the voices likely would have belonged to prostitutes, and the visitors likely would have been johns.  The 1906 earthquake destroyed the Morton Street red-light district.  But I digress.

Across the street from Britex, a large “goop MRKT” banner fluttered in the wind above 140 Maiden Lane.  “goop MRKT” is a pop-up curation of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s lifestyle brand.  Scott told me that he had noticed 140 Maiden Lane before but it had always been closed or vacant.  The building’s tall exterior wall of tan brick is relieved by a metal gate hung below a brick arch.

As the gate was open, we walked through the arch into a lovely atrium merchandised with tasteful art, books, and clothing.  The space itself seemed to be the main attraction for many of the visitors I observed.  A large white circular ramp spirals up from the atrium to a mezzanine like a giant nautilus shell.  A drop ceiling features 120 white acrylic domes which conceal the building’s pitched glass roof.  A hanging planter floats over the atrium like a verdant flying saucer.  A small plaque near the door reads “This structure [is] designated by the American Institute of Architects as one of 17 American buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be retained as an example of his architectural contribution to American Culture – 1960.”  Scott and I peeked behind wooden doors to find hidden offices and a decommissioned dumbwaiter.  We opened drawers full of fancy soaps for sale.  Eventually, we left and went to Britex.

The next day, I returned to 140 Maiden Lane with a prospective client.  We had hit it off while exploring the newly-renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art so I was happy to share this discovery with him.  He seemed taken with the black walnut built-in furniture and fixtures, so we sat in silent appreciation of our surroundings.  Before we left, I asked a clerk to tell us about the building’s history.  She told us that gift shop owner V.C. Morris commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to renovate 140 Maiden Lane in the late 1940’s, and that the circular ramp in the atrium served as a physical proof of concept for the architect’s interior design of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.  She advised us that “goop MRKT” is open at 140 Maiden Lane only until May 22, so there are a few days left to enjoy the space before it closes.

 

Peacock

At the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden this afternoon, my Canadian friend Lynne gave me a heads up.  There was a large peacock perched in a pink trumpet tree directly above us!

Stift Melk

We recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary by cycling along the Donauradweg (Danube Cycle Path) between Passau, Germany and Vienna, Austria.  At the end of our fourth day on the road, we arrived in Melk after getting a late start in Grein where we had replaced the hard narrow saddles on our rental bikes with wide cushy saddles from a small bike shop located on the Kreuznerstrasse.  The new saddles enabled us to cycle comfortably for long stretches of time and helped cushion the blow of us losing our way in the dark while we were en route to Melk.  We realized that we had taken a wrong turn when the well-maintained bike path gave way to gravel and grass.  Our unintentional detour added a couple of kilometers (about a mile) to our journey.   Thanks to my new bike seat, I cycled this extra distance without complaint – it was worth every penny to me and Scott!  Most cyclists hit the Donauradweg at dawn so that they may arrive at their destinations by mid-afternoon.  Thus, getting lost while pedaling along the Danube River during the day is nearly impossible as the route is well-marked.  Getting lost in the dark is still rather difficult, but we managed to do so.

We were standing on a bridge when I took this photo of the Stift Melk (Melk Abbey).  It was raining, and I was tired after a long day of cycling.  Nearby, a campground full of teenagers partied on despite the rain.  As Scott consulted Google Maps to confirm the route that we would take to our hotel, I did my best to keep my camera dry as I took photos of the abbey.  The Stift Melk was founded in 1089, when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria donated a castle (which was later destroyed by fire) to Benedictine monks.  The abbey’s architecture “went for Baroque” between 1701 and 1736.

We toured the abbey before we cycled from Melk to Traismauer the next day.  The abbey’s Marble Hall, Library, and Church are wonderfully ornate.

Golden Gate Bridge

In the past two months, Scott and I have seen the Golden Gate Bridge from afar and up close during our weekend staycations.

I took this photo of the bridge’s north tower when Scott and I went flying in December with Scott’s former colleague Jim, who is an amateur pilot.  Instead of exchanging Christmas presents, Scott and I pooled our fun money and asked Jim to take us flying.  Jim is a member of the Alameda Aero Club, so we took off from the Oakland Airport‘s North Field in a Cessna Skyhawk which we had rented from the club.  It was a calm and sunny day.  We had a clear view of San Francisco, and of landmarks such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory above UC Berkeley, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Point Reyes National Seashore.  At one point, Jim let Scott take control of the plane – I held my breath and focused on taking photos of the scenery below!  We landed at the Petaluma Municipal Airport where there were several small planes parked on the airport apron, including a shiny old Royal Canadian Air Force Beechcraft Model 18.  We ate lunch at the Two-Niner Diner.  The diner’s name refers to runway 29, which is nearby.  Despite our ideal flying conditions, I felt a wee bit nauseated so I was happy to settle my stomach with a delicious lunch of salad, chicken-fried steak, and blueberry coffee cake.  After lunch, we flew back to the East Bay.

In January, Scott and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on a Saturday afternoon.  First, we took BART into San Francisco and had fancy dim sum at Hakkasan to carbo-load before our seven-mile (11 km) hike.  I’m not sure how many carbs are in Hakkasan’s famous crispy duck salad; I needed exercise after eating it!  After lunch, we took UBER to the Presidio, a park and former military base that is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area.   We walked through a beautiful eucalyptus grove called Lovers’ Lane, snacked on macarons and Bavarian cream at the Walt Disney Family Museum, watched the sunlight and shadows of trees dance across the tombstones at the San Francisco National Cemetery, and took some selfies when we arrived at the bridge before sunset.  Heavy traffic made the walk across the bridge noisy and somewhat chaotic, but crossing the bridge on foot enabled us to touch the International Orange paint that protects the bridge from corrosion.  The bridge’s architect Irving Morrow chose the paint color to complement the landscape and enhance the bridge’s visibility in fog.  The Sisyphean task of maintaining the bridge’s paint job is the work of 38 painters.  Once we crossed the bridge, we put on our headlamps and power-walked in the dark to Sausalito so that we wouldn’t miss the ferry back to San Francisco.  At the Ferry Building, we had a wonderful Vietnamese dinner at The Slanted Door before we went home on BART.

Verity

“Spend your money on the things money can buy. Spend your time on the things money can’t buy.”  ~ Haruki Murakami, “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Dragonfly

20130714 Dragonfly

Last Saturday, we drove with Scott’s Indian colleague Aditya and his wife Kamakshi from Berkeley to Bolinas for lunch at Coast Café and a hike along part of the Point Reyes National Seashore.  We had plans to hike between the Palomarin Trailhead and Bass Lake.  But first, we took a quick detour down to the beach.  I’m glad we did; I found this lovely dragonfly sitting on the rocks.  He and his stained glass wings were ready for their close-up, and I was happy to oblige!

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