Character Sketches: The Red Queen

The Red Queen walks through Fisherman’s Wharf in the later hours, posing for photos and collecting for a historical preservation society. She wears, exclusively, red Victorian dresses and hats with odd exceptions for holidays (one Easter Sunday, she was purple). Apparently she lives in the southern part of the city: when I worked in the area, I took the bus home with her several times. My uniform was also bright red, and once, she noted that the color suits me as well as it does her.

As performers go, the Red Queen is rather aloof but carries herself with an undeniable dignity. Her clothes are the genuine article, with painfully intricate brocades and feathers endowing the hats to nearly a foot in height. She tends to pass through Pier 39 near shutdown time, always with a determined expression on her face. I don’t know much about her business, but it seems too serious to interrupt for a sales pitch; she and I haven’t exchanged much more than several appreciative glances.


7/2: Folsom Street Foundry

Weekend Out:
I don’t know why I keep winding up in bars that remind me of high school, but here we are.

The Folsom Street Foundry is not so much a bar as an enormous rec room at which alcohol is served. There are three distinct permanent video game areas and at least two mobile ones with coordinating small TVs. Board games are abundant and the menu is surprisingly allergy-friendly: I ordered and consumed unmodified (and delightfully overstuffed) tacos without a hitch. Bring your friends who like Smash and Rock Band- it’s an excellent place to break the ice. 11th and Van Ness, low cover charge.

This is a slow day. Photo c/o

Weekend In:
Relax. No, seriously. I’m trying to but without much success.

If you feel like giving your liver a break, groove on over to fellow blogger Cooking Without Limits’ drinks page. Some of them are specifically designed for detox, others look so healthy that there’s no way they couldn’t help. (Thanks for the likes, friend!)

If you feel like shutting off your brain completely, video game TV shows might prove to be a great choice- and boy, does Netflix cover the bases. The laughably bad Super Mario Bros. Super Show! is sitting there just waiting for your attention. It distinctly doesn’t pass the Bechdel test and has very awkward slapstick and Italian American humor- worthy of study as a product of the time but not much else. Combine the two to cleanse your body and ease your mind.

Have a great long weekend, fam! More to come.

6/11: Nijiya Market

Weekend Out:

Nijiya Market has an entire wall of bento.

I’m not necessarily what you would call a bento connoisseur, but my goodness: it’s the finest collection I’ve ever seen in terms of quality, quantity, and variety. Earlier this week they sold me my first ever plum onigiri (delicious), coupled with old reliables Ramune and Hi-Chew after a long, leisurely browse of Japanese edibles. Highlights include an aisle dedicated to different kinds of cooking oil (genius, tbh) and more kids’ branding than you could shake a stick at. Most interesting: seaweed sheets cut out in Pokémon shapes. Don’t miss it! Japan Center, Post at Geary.

Literally, a wall. C/o Yelp.

Protip: There are a handful of nonfood markets in Japantown, too: Daiso, where almost everything is $1.50, has a gorgeous variety of tableware, and Ichi Ban Kan, immediately upstairs, is best for imported toiletries. It’s also really hard to miss as far as restaurants go- our pick is Mifune, which I’ll cover after our next meal there.

Weekend In:

If you’re not into eating bento, I strongly recommend checking out the anime Ben-to, a quirky little action comedy about brawling for the meals as soon as they hit half-price. Strangely themed, yes, but well written and surprisingly relatable- and, of course, accessible from your bed. Have fun!

6/4: Cliff’s Variety

Weekend Out:

This is a simple one, but sometimes it’s the little things.

Cliff’s Variety is a home goods/hardware store smack in the middle of Castro St. There are two entrances and two registers (accidentally?) representing the right and left brains: art supplies and gifts on one side, minor home repair, appliances, and toys on the other. I can look at embroidery stuff while bae looks at fixtures, neither of us bored with having to focus on the other’s dull interests. It’s also ideal for just-because presents: Cliff’s is probably the only place in town where you can walk out with both a feather boa and a French press. Castro at 18th.

Protip: Make a date of it with some of Hot Cookie‘s excellent coffee, or maybe a trip to the Castro Theater next door!

Shoutout to whoever took this Yelp photo; this is essentially all you need to know. Arty side, obvs.

Weekend In:

I came to Cliff’s last to find an ingredient for handmade laundry soap. (They’re a little too hip to carry such crunchy stock, but pointed me to a variety of organic soaps instead.) I like it because about $15 will last a couple three months and you can scent it however you want; Boyfriend likes it because the smell doesn’t linger and it lifts pit stains better than anything else he’s tried. The only downside to it I see- we haven’t even touched on bucking corporate interests and minimal chemical processing- is that because it’s a powder, you can only use it on hot loads. But boy does it do its job well.

If you’re so inclined, this is the recipe I use. You can find borax and bar soap pretty much anywhere; I eventually found the washing soda at the Ace Hardware just down the street from Cliff’s. Happy washing and enjoy smelling neutral! Again, sometimes it’s the little things.

How I Introverted This Weekend: Lionel Shriver

I’m sorry for the hiatus, gang. I have recently 1. switched from one to three major tasks at work 2. with not the faintest sign of a raise, so on weekends I’m either sleeping like a corpse or applying to every job I can find in my major. Thank goodness for this third day off!

While the cool kids went to Carnaval, I wrote this.

Lionel Shriver appears to consistently rewrite the same protagonist: an upper class, middle aged, business-owning white woman with a vaguely ethnic last name, struggling for dominance in her marriage to another rough-around-the-edges business owner (whose name she refused to take), with a salty teen son and a too-pure-for-this-world younger daughter.

I spent all weekend reading Big Brother and counting Pandora Halfdanarson’s connections to We Need To Talk About Kevin‘s Eva Khatchadourian. Though the similarities admittedly irritate me to no end, both novels are ultimately about social decorum, and take place in “universes” different enough that only the women’s internal dialogues match up. Both are heavily concerned with setting a boundary between your self and your title in a female role: a mother for Eva, a sister for Pandora. Both are verbose, with adjectives that send you to the thesaurus and detail lavished on whatever the protagonists are truly passionate about.

Big Brother follows Pandora and her family’s struggle after taking in her older brother Edison, recently couch-surfing and, she discovers at the airport, over twice his former size. Pandora’s husband Fletcher handcarves furniture. You can see where this is going. Fletcher winds up hating Edison so much that he draws a line in the sand regarding their marriage, just in time for Edison to reveal that once he returns home, he has no backup plan. High stakes and high drama: it hooks me every time.

The ending to Big Brother is a truly awful twist and a very cheap shot. I hate it, I feel cheated, and I don’t understand Shriver’s motivation to include it at all… but I can’t stop turning it over in my mind. We Need To Talk About Kevin, incidentally, is one of the only novels that still wakes me up sometimes- and I found myself latched to that so hard that I completed it over my three-day Thanksgiving weekend.

What I’m trying to tell you is this: if you need to go ultraintrovert for a while, you can do much worse than a Lionel Shriver novel. They do not finish with you when you finish with them. Though I’m disappointed with Big Brother, I can’t recommend Kevin strongly enough, but it’s not for weak stomachs. It follows the mother of a school shooter trying to see where she fit in the picture.

Of the bookstores in town, I think you’re most likely to find either of these at Bookshop West Portal: when the Borders nearer the SFSU campus was open, they had approximately the same stock, and the clientele seems the type to eat this sort of thing up. If not, Big Brother is available at the West Portal Public Library down the block- I’m leaving to return it right now.

Happy reading!

Character Sketches: “Jesus Christ Loves You” Guy

I have seen the Guy literally every time I’ve been to Powell at Market, and I have lived here for just over five years. If he hasn’t reached legal landmark status yet, he’s got to be close. He’s not so much of a don’t-miss as a won’t-miss.

Holding a neon green sign reading “Jesus Christ Loves You” on an 8 foot pole, and wearing a matching shirt, jacket, and hat, he stands and silently observes the milieu headed for the cable cars or the Cheesecake Factory or the spot where Rasputin used to be (RIP). His expression remains fairly static, with one notable exception…

I last saw him about ten feet away from a man on a literal soapbox attempting to inform an uncaring crowd that we are all going to hell. The Guy was offering some of the best side eye I’ve ever seen, and returned my gratefully offered nod.

4/30: Musée Mécanique

Weekend Out:

Let me tell you a little story about my first ever date.

We both attended SFSU at the time, met at the M bus stop in front, and ran on down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Gleaning from his profile that he gamed, I suggested the Musée Mécanique, an antique arcade games museum with the oldest pieces dating to the 1800s. On the way we talked philosophy and personal interests, bussing to the Embarcadero and walking the rest. The ocean was absolutely gorgeous and Laughing Sal as terrifying as ever.

This might have had something to do with it… Photo c/o their website.

He annihilated me at Skeeball, the only arcade game I’m even passable at, and nostalgically explained the influence of the 80s and 90s games on the modern scene. I quite easily touched on one of his passions; he greatly enhanced my love for city exploration. Very suddenly, a lot of affection was floating around.

We walked through North Beach to Chinatown, talked about our families and our shared love for four letter words, got dinner, and made out at the Powell Street stop. If I recall correctly, the food didn’t sit right with either of us…

Weekend In:

…but I might not. Four and a half years later, we’re sitting in opposite rooms of our one bedroom in Sunset, both of us too currently loaded on cold medicine to be bothered with that. Needless to say, it went well.

If that story’s too corny for you, I recommend planning out your day like mine (but with less Dayquil, probably): hold your loved one tight and play some more modern games. The passion hasn’t ebbed for boyfriend, who is now a games journalist; last night we played a new-to-us version of Tetris Attack until we unlocked all the characters. I’m still terrible with most games but decent with 90s nostalgia: lately this Jazz Jackrabbit emulator has been doing the trick for me.

The city is as magical as you make it, friends. I hope you feel as blessed as I do today. ❤