Sunday, August 2, 2009

The End Of An Era

It's the End. . .
Geneva Avenue the day of Michael Jackson's death.

Something at the spot where things ended up.

Well folks, it's the end. Two months without blogging here might have told me something. Interest started to wane. The doldrums ran high. But now it's done.

The end of my year-long residence in the Excelsior is in its second day.

Back behind the funeral parlor, the sidewalks get crowded.

I'm sorry to let you down: I really really wanted to like the Excelsior. I might have actually liked it, like oozed with glee about it, if certain things in the house and hearth had gone better.

And maybe in a way I did like it because it was thanks to living there that I grew as a writer, an observer and, mostly as a stilted, flawed piece of humanity like all the rest of us who just tries to get through the day with a minimum of discomfort. Except the discomfort ran high. As did the beefy fumes. The passive-aggressive, socially-antagonistic housemates. The absentee landlord. The broken bathroom. All of which makes for better stories in the long haul.

Places I will go back to in the Excelsior:
Mama's Art Cafe
Broken Record Bar
Boos Voni Tortas
Cayuga Gardens
Even McLaren Park!

Things I forgot to take pictures of:

tons of murals and graffiti
The Neon Funeral Parlor
many colorful back alleys
many colorful abandoned trucks and vans

Places I forgot to go inside of:
the Philippine restaurants
the Nicaraguan restaurant
Pissed Off Pete's
Pass Time Bar
Doc's Bar

Something I ate a lot of:
Pho at the Vietnamese place at the corner next to the Popeye's

In special remembrance of Gustave the Snail: I left him outside and now he is gone.

Anyway now I'm a citizen of Bernal Heights, a very small neighborhood full of babies and mothers and gay couples and dogs and children and old men and old women and fog and views and trees bending in the breeze. Lots of wind. Lots of barking. Lots of hopeful noise in the air.

I will remember you Excelsior.
I will honor you.
I will exploit your lessons faithfully.
I will remember the Revelations of Cayuga Garden and its Promise Of Future Revelries.
I am admittedly glad to be done with you Excelsior but that doesn't mean I'll stop remembering.

R.I.P. Excelsior Blog.
August 2, 2009

Sincerely, Michael L. Berger

Feel free to follow my continued exploits of a more pompous nature over at
Underground Medicine.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Parrot On My Block That's Just Asking For A Poison Pretzel

"Watch your back Ellington Parrot. You are too loud in the morning. Nobody needs you to greet them so many times in such an annoying voice because eventually your greeting will backfire and become more of a slap in the face or a symbolic kick in the pants. You are a winged car alarm that is always going off. You are like something you buy in the back of Boy's Life with cereal receipts and then regret forever. Although your plumage is pretty I wish it had a mute button. People may be amused by your mimetic qualities, but these people must also hate themselves."
-Overheard on Ellington

News From The Excelsior: New Housemate!

Gustave's "natural" habitat, including proximity to Ibuprofen and William T. Vollmann's Rising Up, Rising Down.

Gustave makes quick work. . .

Go Gustave Go!

The Ellington Lounge has a new resident: Gustave the Snail. He emigrated from the lovely yet clearly "boring" Cayuga Gardens to live in the nonstop booty-shaking residence of Maxima Poonani and Pierre Comelovely. He likes lettuce, exploring, pooping, faces, and textbook paper. And exploring faces too. A combination for intrigue if ever there was one. Initial appearances suggest he is a rather docile version of your common California garden snail which, I've been told is analogous to those French snails that taste so delicious. Never fear though, Gustave will be spared!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Consumer Pleasures

I was on my way back home with a bag full of freshly-harvested greens when I was sidetracked by a sidewalk sale. It was your typical spread: cheap Chinese-style vases, t-shirts, compact discs, lampshades and of course, a giant bin of PORNO MOVIES. And a gentleman in dark sunglasses, a windbreaker and a comb-over was eagerly rifling through this bin of prurient pleasures, and giving me a distinctly disturbing grin. I don't want to insinuate that he looked like your typical avid consumer of pornography except that he did and I don't want to lie to you, my gentle readers. Of course there is also the vehicular version of porn, as I've seen on several occasions in my neighborhood. Such as this monstrosity:

The 4 D-bags of the apocalypse will come riding into town at the helm of a Hummer stretch limo and I'll be ready for them. But luckily recently, as I was riding around in a car with Seth we came across the following, which constitutes a "sweet ride" and not really a "death car of the Apocalypse." If you zoom in you can see the sinister pilot of this sweet ride staring at us.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Magic Garden Update Part 2

In lieu of more verbose updates, I'll just say this: I've posted more photos via flickr HERE.
And I'm currently looking for more people to initiate into the Mysteries of Cayuga Garden.

Also, I found some articles about it Right Here and Right Here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Magical Garden Paradise Report, Part 1 Of MANY

So I know I exaggerate and am prone to flights of romantic whimsy. But I sincerely believe that my 6 years of residence in San Francisco (with some time in Oakland) has only been leading up to what I discovered yesterday and just now returned to, camera in hand, heart in the highlands. The following will be the subject of many other posts/investigations but right now I want to post just a few of the representative images from what I came across. In my lazy jog-walk yesterday through the hinterlands of Crocker-Amazon/Excelsior, it wasn't my intention of stumbling onto the Garden of Eden, but I did. And I have proof. I also many other photos besides these. For the time being enjoy. BONUS POINTS to anyone who can guess where this is...
I'll reveal it at a later date. For now I want to cherish the secret. And am genuinely curious if anyone has been here besides me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Random Saturday Shots

My neighborhood has a Croatian American Cultural Center. Awesome. . .

This is the view opposite the really stellar cafe, Mama Art Cafe, where Fair Trade coffees and delicious pastries abound in a very cozy, sunny spot. Plus there's art and shows and nice regulars who actually talk to each other and don't just stare into their laptops. (Except for me, I do that...)

Walking down Alemany, there are lots of abandoned cars and trucks, shaded by the foliage that serves as a barrier from the sidewalk to the funeral parlor. More on that in a future blog.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Some Pictures Of The Same Two Blocks

What's in the shopping cart?

Answer: stuffed animals. (Parked unattended in front of chicken restaurant.)

Night shot of the Palacade.

This is one of the many churches in our neighborhood. This is the one where the band isn't that great I'm afraid. The one just two storefronts down has many more talented musicians.

This is one of the Giant Crows of Ellington. Although this photo doesn't do him much justice. It's better when he's pecking out the eyes of a scarecrow or giving the finger to a meter maid or robbing a bank. But after seeing him here, I watched him try to eat an electrical wire. But the photo didn't come out so hot. But at least it gave me some idea as to the powers of Giant Crow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Houses kissing on Ellington, my street

Notes On Houses And Sidewalks

There are an abundance of neat little backyards in the Excelsior. Tis easy to peak over the little green fences.

Entire blocks of houses here are completely joined together, having the overwhelming effect of one giant, composite house. Sometimes I wonder if the houses have passageways between them, which of course sets my mind to wondering about the story-telling possibilities of such an intriguing arrangement. The above photo is the street of protrudingly flamboyant chimneys.

I wonder about the style of the houses here, and how old they are. Sometimes the colors, the balconies and windows remind me of houses in Vietnam.

This colorful row of houses should be as famous as those three painted ladies in Alamo Square that are featured at the beginning of Family Matters. This is the view when you walk up Geneva towards Balboa Park Station. The Excelsior has no shortage of great vantage points.

This maroon spackle hieroglyph greets me on the sidewalk each time I make a sharp turn on Mt. Vernon to go to the liquor store. It looks to me like part animal skull morphed with a cross-section of a human womb. Soon after, there is an over-grown vacant lot backyard, and some kind of utility box that is always heaped with people's garbage which often includes plastic bottles filled with suggestive-looking fluids. This sidewalk is also where I've seen the Excelsior's otherworldly and no doubt genetically-enhanced scavenger crows prowling around like pterodactyls who have taken fresh tar-pit baths. I have yet to capture them on camera. But soon.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

At Mission and Mt. Vernon Right Where I Almost Live

This billiard-hall is always hopping even on weeknights.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for "Asian Restaurant" next door. Usually it looks like there are full tables heaped with food but no one there to eat any of it. Needless to say, I'm writing a story about its ghostly clientele. Someday soon I will eat there, when I'm feeling brave and more of an iron disposition. I have no intention though of finding out if it has a name other than that marvel of simplicity itself, "Asian Restaurant."

Another view of the "Billiard Palacade." I have to think that "Family Recreation" is a bold-faced lie considering the hordes of happy young men inside drinking beer and playing pool.

There lots of vans like this one in my neighborhood. I like the colors in the morning; they help wake me up. I wonder what these vans deliver and how their drivers feel when they drive them. I would feel particularly good driving them I think. People like my van, I'd say. People want to write on it. They want to improve it.