The Presidio Brat

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Books + Local Talent = Awesome Holiday Gifts

I tell ya, the Presidio Trust knows how to do a tree-lighting ceremony. It lasted about 10 minutes. Everyone got in a big circle and did a wave, then the lights went on and - voila, it's over! You can head on over to the Y for free cider and oranges. PERFECT. In my opinion that's the way every holiday event should be.

I bumped into Presidio res Jessica Stiles, a friend from grad school who is back to writing. (Woo-hoo, Jessica!!!) Her husband, TJ, won the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his biography, The First Tycoon, about Cornelius Vanderbilt. So you see, we do have a local celebrity! It's such an incredible book I'm going to recommend it as ONE FRICKIN AWESOME HOLIDAY GIFT. Or if Vanderbilt isn't your thing, how about TJ's first biography about Jesse James? Don't tell me no one in your family likes Jesse James.

And just in case a mystery novel floats your Aunt Mathilda's boat, you can always go for the amazing, super-excellent City of Veils. The sandstorm scene in the Saudi desert will shock her right out of her Christmas stockings. (And you might enjoy it, too!)

Friday, November 5, 2010


According to Officer Torche of the park police (yes, that's a link, check it out!), there's been a bit of theft on the Presidio lately, and the police want to encourage you all to use their free courtesy checks while you're out of town. They'll swing by your home a few times a day for however long you're gone. (And even occasionally your neighbors will notice and report the surveillance to...the police. Yes, it's happened. They're keeping people on their toes.) Maybe we can even get them to come by on horseback. So don't hesitate to call:

from a cell: 561-5656
from a landline: 561-5505

There's an interesting article that goes with that horse photo, check it out here.

The other thing the police do is focus on a particular issue for a month. In October it was stop signs - and those who blow right through them - and this month it's cell phone use while driving. (Yet another reason you should come to the town hall meetings: to get the heads-up on this month's theme.) Someone said it feels like cheating. And it sort of invites the idea that now that it's November, you can brazenly blow through stop signs, just don't be texting while you're doing it. But I was happy to hear that they're focusing on cell phones, because DAMN people. You know what I mean.

Town Hall Notes

It seems like we talked about animals a lot at this week's Town Hall meeting. Community gardens attracting all the raccoons. Coyotes getting evicted from the PHSH area during construction and moving deeper into the park. Birds nesting on people's houses. Silverfish in someone's drains. I mean, yeah, this is a national park. We have animals. But THAT, my friends, is a coyote.

Just sayin.

Town Hall meetings are excellent. First, it's a great place to learn about everything that's going on in the Presidio. The Trust folks are there, the police give a blotter, and residents show up to discuss issues in various neighborhoods. It's also a good place to bring the Trust's attention to issues you might have -- with anything, literally. To get yourself on an email list for these meeting, send an email to presidiotownhall [at] gmail [dot] com. They generally meet on the first Wednesday of every month.

Next month, the meeting will coincide with the Log Cabin event "Filming Nature in the Presidio". It's at 7 pm on Thursday, December 9th. Filmmaker Melissa Peabody has been filming the Presidio for five years, and the event will screen two of her short films, "Oasis" and "The Daylighting of Thompson Reach".

Peabody also recently produced a documentary about coyotes. Check it out:

I like that the coyote expert they talk to is named Camilla Fox.

Open House!

First, an invitation: everyone is welcome to come to the Presidio Fire Station's open house on December 3rd at 3 pm to meet the firemen and see the station. It seems like this will be a great event for kids, and there's a tree-lighting ceremony afterwards at 5 pm.

The Presidio Fire Department was made defunct this year after 93 years of service. It was originally created after the tragic fire that killed General Pershing's family in 1915. While Pershing was off pursuing Pancho Villa on the Mexican border, the lacquered floor in his Presidio home caught fire and killed his wife and three of his children. Only their 5-year-old son was saved (by an "aged negro servant" named Johnson.)

That's the house after the fire. Today, the main post flagpole marks the site where it stood.

So our new firemen are actually from the San Francisco Fire Department (although some of them are original Presidio firefighters who were able to keep their positions), and the Open House is a sort of welcome-to-our-part-of-the-woods event. So come on out!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dances With Zombies

An important tidbit from last night's Town Hall meeting: the Presidio is collecting winter clothing to be donated to the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota. Why? Because our cops do rotations there to augment the BIA police. They see the need and they're asking for your jackets, sweaters, pants - anything you don't really need here in San Francisco anyway -- go on, admit it. What was it, 75 degrees today? And doesn't that photo make you just a little cold? They have snow. So head down to Building 34 or to the police station to drop your stuff off before November 17th.

And it looks like it's a good thing the reservation is doing a police surge, since Standing Rock features so heavily in this Amnesty International report on this country's failure to protect indigenous women from sexual assault.

On a related note, the American Indian Film Festival opens in San Francisco this week. They say:

"In film we find...a vehicle for Indians and non-Indians alike to "unlearn" damaging stereotypes and replace them with multidimensional images that reflect the complexity of Native peoples."

I can get behind that. Not to mention that Saturday night is fright night. WITH ZOMBIES!!!

And then there's the documentary that's going to make you realize who the REAL zombies are:

But first: Big, plush down jackets. Warm woolen sweaters. Those fur-lined boots you mistakenly thought you'd need for a hike to Mt. Tam....BRING IT ON!

A Grave Mistake

Um, excuse me, ma'am, can you tell me where to find the Presidio's famed Pet Cemetery, home to PeeWee and Laddie?

Why yes, it's right beneath that 50 thousand tons of freeway!

But thanks, CalTrans, for leaving what - 5 feet of head room?

Here is one person who is never - I repeat NEVER - going to be caught dead (wah-wah) beneath the new Doyle Drive with an average of 80 cars a minute roaring overhead in the most dangerous earthquake zone in America, thank you very much. I guess I'm going to have to stand at the lip and toss my flowers onto Fluffy's grave.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blue Angels

Spectacular as always!

Thanks sweet Serenella and brave Bernhard.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

She's Glowing in the Fog

I love getting off the 28 at the bridge plaza in the fog. The tourists always look sooooo confused. They stand in the bus stairwell, asking: Is this the right stop? Where's the bridge? And some smart ass bus driver is always like: What bridge? (Yes, yes, it's there. Get off. Just trust me.)

What I like about this photo is the faint orange glow of Miss GG.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Diggin It

The real highlight of the Town Hall meeting was a presentation by Presidio Trust archaeologist, Eric Blind, on a recent discovery: an old tunnel dug in 1853 and then mysteriously abandoned.

The tunnel was meant to transport water from Mountain Lake all the way through the Presidio and part of the city to Telegraph Hill.

Blind had suspected the existence of this tunnel for years, but lacked the budget to excavate it. When the Trust finally decided to remove 42 feet of landfill in a southern part of the Presidio as part of their landfill project, Blind finally got his chance to go snooping. His team found the tunnel.

The tunnel project was huge in its time. The equivalent today would be if the city decided to put an anti-suicide netting beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Something the whole city would be talking about. Back in the gold-rush days, SF had a problem with fire, so getting water to Telegraph Hill was truly essential.

However, while digging, they hit an unexpected spring of water (probably El Polin), which flooded the tunnel. The speculation is that Chinese immigrant laborers were doing the work -- digging with hand tools, a bit like being in a mine shaft -- and that they were in the tunnel when they hit the spring. 65,000 gallons of water pouring into that small space would have been lethal to the 200 or so workers. Did they die when the tunnel flooded? The newspapers of the time were sketchy on the reasons this "Herculean" project suddenly went bust....

Maybe the project ran out of money and time (the expiration date on the city permits put the pressure on), but given the importance of the project to the city, it's remarkable that it would simply be abandoned.

For an interesting KQED interview with Blind, click here.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spoiled Brat

So one of the highlights of tonight's Presidio Town Hall meeting was hearing Park Police Chief Woo say, "You guys live in ... well, Disneyland."

And he's RIGHT! Go on, we live in a magical place. It has everything a person needs for a good life: sun, mythology, walking trails -- and your very own police force.

I have friends visiting from Europe right now, and when they got here, they were floored. They were blown away by the gorgeous bay views and the happiness of Crissy Field and the fact that you can actually get espresso at the Warming Hut (as opposed to that metallic crap they serve at Muir Woods - don't swallow). For the past week they've been wandering around in a daze, fantasizing about moving in with me. And tonight, I came home bragging "AND we have our own POLICE!"

Did you know, for example, that their average call response time is 2-5 minutes? The San Francisco police are so overburdened that they don't respond to traffic accidents anymore unless there's an injury. But the Park Police motto is, I quote: "No call is too small."

(If you call from a cell, better call 561-5656, so you don't get routed to a Vallejo office or something. From landlines call 561-5505.)

Did you also know that they get absolutely no money from traffic citations? However, they still give citations, which is fine as long as I'm not the one receiving. Because you know the minute I get a ticket, your sweet little Briar Rose is going to turn into

They'll do a free safety check on your baby car seats. Their mounted police force will visit your kid's school. They'll even check on your house if you go on vacation. (Woo even sort of hinted that his guys would go above the call of duty on that, so I'm totally going to be like: "And will you water my plants?")

Unfortunately, the police station is located in what one Trust member aptly described as "the Bermuda Triangle of the Presidio." Building 1217 is not really enough of a description, and I grew up here. Oh well. This is a totally awesome place to live, so thank you, Park Police, for helping it be that.

10 Trails in 10....Years?

Okay, the Open House inspired an idea: I'd like to walk each of the Presidio's Trails. There are actually 12 big ones, but I'm leaving out the Anza Esplanade, which is the main post, and the Golden Gate Promenade, which is basically all the walking paths around Crissy Field, since I walk my dog there

I'd like to say 10 Trails in 10 Weeks, but realistically....

So here are the trails:

Batteries to Bluffs
California Coastal
Lobos Creek
Bay Area Ridge Trail
Park Trail
Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic
Ecology Trail
Mountain Lake
Tennessee Hollow Watershed
The Presidio Promenade

I invite anyone to join me! I'll post an announcement when I plan the first one.

Presidio Trust Open House

The Presidio Trust sponsored an Open House recently to showcase a bunch of projects going on in the park. I'm one of those people who likes to have someone explain something and show me a pie chart and try to convince me that it's amazing, so I went.

It was great. What interested me most were the proposed changes to the main post. Long term, the main parade ground is going to look a lot different. They've scrapped the building-of-the-unholy-alien-Gap-museum (thank god) and will construct something more modest. They're also getting rid of the big empty parking lot in front of the Montgomery St. barracks and will replace it with grass. YEAH, BABY!!! So what used to be this:

Then became this:

And will someday be more like this:

Beautiful! But what about parking? They say they'll be creating more spots, so the ultimate loss won't be as great as it seems. Empty assurances? Frankly, I don't think they want to mess with the Disney crowds.

They're also going to take down the Herbst Theater. The fate of the bowling alley is still uncertain. Poor bowling alley. Please don't take it down! Here's a good brochure on the whole caboodle.

They showcased the new PHSH apartments. I didn't learn anything that you can't find on the website, but we did discuss the potential closing of Battery Caulfield Road, and the Trust is still accepting comments through October 15th. So far, it's a 50-50 split -- so go on, somebody break the tie.

Ditto the Tennessee Hollow Projects: the website covers the bases. Personally, I get a lot more talking faccia-a-faccia, but for those whose missed it, here you go. I did learn that most of the landfill they're extracting is old army junk, and pretty harmless, like mattresses and bed frames and useless old wood.

My other favorite display was the Hiking Trails updates. The Park Trail is now complete, and a full map of the trails is available online.

Finally, there is, as usual, lots of arts and culture stuff going on this fall, which you can always find on their calendar.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Building 926

So…you have these old airplane hangers kind of sitting by the bay. They’re empty. They smell funny. They’ve got really high ceilings. What the hell are you supposed to do with them?

A few years ago, some smart Presidio Trust person answered that question: build a rock-climbing facility. Duh. Brilliant.

And now they’re answering it again with an even bolder stroke: Build a


Yes, let’s build a trampoline park with neon blue lighting and a penguin logo and we’ll call it….


Genius. I love you. According to their website, they have "aerial and physical training" and "trampoline dodgeball." And the building is already beautiful in its half-doneness. I'm so signing up for this.

Looks like there's one hangar left. So Presidio Trust, or whoever's in charge, I want to know when we'll be able to pull stunts like this:

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sometimes we have a bridge

And sometimes we don't.

Back in Bratness

I know, it's been over a YEAR since I've posted, but I've been busy blogging elsewhere. And now I'm back.

Some new posts coming up about all the construction (hoooooo, LOTS of hunky men, big machines and a humongous freeway being torn down). Some notes for tourists. And just whatever strikes me. So welcome back me! And welcome you. :-)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Yes, we had a Civil War too.

Fort Point: They recently had a Civil War re-enactment there. Yes, you heard me. Not about to be left out of the whole Blue-Gray craze, we San Franciscans proudly celebrate our Civil War heritage.

I have lived on the Presidio on and off for 30 years and have only been to Fort Point twice. It’s dog-ass cold, that’s why. And it’s a creepy place, an old battery, shaped like a beehive with honeycomb passages, etc. I’m sure some eager businessman is thinking up a way to make it a little more friendly. (You’ll need a bike shop, a day spa, and at least two manicure outfits.)

However, last Sat it was the site of some good learnin. I found out, for example, what an enema bellows looks like:

Prompting the wonder: how long do bacteria survive on wood surfaces? Not to mention: um, WHY WOULD YOU NEED ONE?

And that CW doctors used to smoke cigars during surgery. And use "medicinal tobacco” to cure all ills. (Hey, it works!)

The best part was Alonso Chattan, who knew anything you could possibly want to know about Victorian medicine.

The thing that really got me was a stranger approaching the table and announcing that those surgeons killed George Washington with their “bleeding” techniques. Yes, they bled him to death, trying to get those nasty “vapors” from his system. She was a very old woman and she said this as if someone had killed her cousin, and I found myself wondering….

So wait, you’re saying: SF had a Civil War? But where has it been all these years? Why haven’t we seen it at the family picnics? Yes, we, the city that likes to spout about “suppressed histories”, have carelessly forgotten that during the CV we were massive Confederate sympathizers. Ooo-OOPS! What??

That might explain why a search for “San Francisco civil war flag” produced this first hit:

Wrong, Google. Wrongskies!

Attention Tourists!

You will come to San Francisco, right? And you will rent bicycles. (You don’t know it yet, but you will.) And you will bike from parts east all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Along that famed trek, you will reach this corner.

The proverbial fork in the road. To the left: a hill leading into a dark forest. It’s so steep that you think it ought to come with a staircase.

To the right: a smooth, flat, winding road leading toward – voila! – the Golden Gate Bridge. You can actually see it.

What do you do? Of course you go right, along the flat surface, toward what appears to be the GGB. But you will only reach....

FORT POINT, a desolate, windswept place where you can SEE the Bridge, and wonder why you can’t REACH the Bridge.

And wonder what maliciousness kept anyone from building, heck, a road to the bridge plaza? You could bike up a cliff right now, you’re that angry.

You bike all the way back to the corner, pissed, not even sure you WANT to reach the damn bridge. Wondering why the bike rental folks didn’t tell you to go left. Wondering why the little map on your handlebars doesn’t show that Fort Point has no connection to the Bridge. And why the hell the Park Police didn’t at least post a sign for those ten million tourists saying: GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, LEFT. YES, THAT STEEP HILL. WALK IF YOU HAVE TO.

Rules for travelers: take the hard road.

Just to be on the safe side, you stop and ask directions. And apparently every time that happens, I will be walking my dog on that corner.

Thank you by the way for finally disabusing me of the notion that everyone in the entire world speaks English and that we Americans ought to be ashamed of ourselves for imposing our white male, imperialist language on you. (In case anyone still believes in our world supremacy, I encourage you to come to San Francisco, a city where almost no one speaks English -- and that includes the people who live here.)

You Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian speakers: A Sinistra. I studied Latin. You’re welcome.

You Russians: nyet-skies. Go left-skies.

You Scandinavians: why do you speak better English than me? Stop it. It freaks me out.

You Chinese: soooooooo-REE! I didn’t mean to stare. It’s just that, when confronted by the sounds of Mandarin after spending my whole life hearing Cantonese, you do sound like an extra from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Hypnotic and strangely sexy. Now fly UP the hill.

We're all in 1491 over here

So today I picked up this modest-looking book by Charles Mann.

I haven't started reading it yet, but the SF Chronicle says it "has chronicled an important shift in our vision of world development, one our young children could end up studying in their textbooks when they reach junior high."

Chronicle, I love you, especially your book reviewers (that’s capital LOOOOOOOVE) but I want to point out that this was the kind of stuff I learned in middle school in San Francisco. I don’t remember everything, but what I do remember was seared into my mind. I can safely tell you that:

We are the bad guys.

We killed all the Native Americans because we were greedy for land and resources, and we just couldn't share.

Did I mention we are the bad guys?

World War II: Yeah, we may have defeated Hitler, but then we blew it by nuking the Japanese, so we're still the bad guys.

Imagine me, army brat, with my loafers and monogrammed backpack, at a middle school where kids were dropping acid in the bathrooms. “But I thought we wrote the Constitution and set men free.” No, darling, the Constitution was based on the works of Hiawatha. Yes, Hiawatha. Oh, we may have written it down, but scribes are just the guys who write shit down.

Scribes, baby.

I don’t have a hard time with that. I have a big imagination, so I pretty much have a hard time with nothing, for a short period of time. But I have to admit to being bothered that most people would probably not agree with a take on the Constitution that picks out the narrow strand of influence and pretends it’s the central feature of the story. Like when you tell someone that your cat died in a car accident involving a green moped and they’re like, “oh my god, a green moped, how weird. What color green exactly?” and you’re like, “excuse me, my cat died.” Priorities, people.

And yet, and yet….with all this digging into forgotten history, we’re still not prepared to admit we were Confederate sympathizers. (Waaaaaaaa! Can you tell I love that? I do love irony. That’s lower case looooooooove.)

Anyway, for all I know, this book really does offer a new perspective. I'll start reading and let you know.