Category Archives: The Capers of Solomon Lox

Food & Travel missives, inspired by the adventures of a mythical Vietnamese electrical engineer-turned-chef.

First Review of the Outer-Outers

I have always blindly defended the Richmond district of San Francisco because that’s where I grew up. I now re-focus that devotion to the Outer Richmond and Outer Sunset (the Outer-Outers) in particular because that’s my new hood. So for all you transplants and hilltopping locals, here are the spots to eat, drink, and be merry…

Where the sidewalk ends

In many cases my reviews and opinions are based on a small sample of visits and the chance encounters that occur, but are presented as absolute and consistent truths. There are far too many places in the city to experience and I’d rather hit ‘em all a few times rather than hash out a documentary on the true heart and soul of a few. Besides, extrapolation always works. It’s proven accurate, like, 2 times for me already. Every single time I see Monta score 8 or 10 points in the first few minutes of a game, the phrase “at this rate” pops into my head  and I envision him holding up a little piece of paper with the number 102 crudely drawn on it. That’s how I think.

With that being said, Hockey Haven is a piece of shit bar.

Hockey Haven

Balboa & 37th Ave

“This bar’s for locals,” the bartender suggesta-threatened. My buddy Serge countered with “we are the new locals. Whoooooo.” A quick and funny comeback delivered with such enthusiastic joy that it perked me right up, but it failed to warm the limp pickled heart of the proprietor. No laugh, no smile, nothing. If she wasn’t so beaten down by life, she may have made a real effort to ask us to leave. But we lingered a little while longer until the last flicker of a potentially fun night disappeared. The briefly heated discussion caused the flanking locals to raise their extremely slumped postures to some sadly supported sags. This was the closest bar to my new house. This was the first week of my arrival. Oh well. There’s another bar basically equidistant in the other direction. Tee Off. Guess I’ll have to settle for Tee Off.

Tee Off sucks – discussed in a later post.

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A couple people more “localer” than you

Dive bars are charming, but they need to have the bare essentials: cheap drinks, bar games, and funny bartenders. If all you have are cheap drinks – as is the case with Hockey Haven – you end up catering to a depressing bunch of drunks. I’ve never been the kind to drown my sorrows in a bottle, so I don’t understand the draw of a place like this. All it seems to do is sap the energy from the patrons.

Also, not a single piece of Sharks memorabilia in the entire place. Hockey Haven? Psshhh. Word on the street is that they have a helluva steak feed on Mondays. I’ve heard it from a number of sources and it’s more likely than not the first thing they mention when this bar is discussed. But that only happens during football season. So what? Like 17 days of the year this place is worth going to? Maybe I’ll try it out next time the Niners are on MNF. Maybe the vibe has taken an upward shift in the last 3 years. Maybe aliens visited Earth 10,000 years ago and we’re all genetic hybrids of pigs and fish. I’m not ruling anything out.

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Worst picture ever

And so the very first Outer-Outer rating gets applied to Hockey Haven. Judged on a scale of 1 to 5 raccoons because those little buggers are everywhere out here. You can hear them scrapping in the surrounding backyards at night, see them scurrying up trees, or oftentimes just boldly trotting across the street at fairly early hours of the evening. I can never seem to get a good snapshot of them, but you can see the cool glow from a couple pairs of eyes. This was a pack of four bold roamers who were checking out my front yard and stairway. At like 7pm.

Hockey Haven

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Poets, Pundits, and Wicked Men: The (Side)Streets of San Francisco

My favorite quote regarding San Francisco comes courtesy of Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin. In a piece for a tourist magazine, The Guest Informant, he describes his first visit to the City by the Bay. In 1969, he was a junior naval officer with one day to explore before being shipped off to Vietnam, so he bought a ticket on a sightseeing bus and decided to take in the landmarks.

Minutes later I was climbing into those amazing hills, up where the world is all wind-worn greenery and ivory towers against the blue. There were, I soon learned, no “sights” to be seen so much as a single sight: the City itself – a gilt-edged landscape out of Maxfield Parrish, engulfing as a dream. – “My First Glimpse of the City”

He goes on to advise that the best way to see San Francisco is “to put on your sneakers and start walking.” Maupin’s favorite pedestrian route guides you through a plethora of cinematic landmarks, from All About Eve to Vertigo. This most recent President’s Day Weekend jaunt, however, was inspired by a different kind of landmark: alleys and sidestreets bearing the names of writers who, like Maupin, have literary connections to my hometown.

In typical Top 5 fashion, I present my favorite streets, ranked correspondent to my affinity for the writer (but perhaps influenced slightly by the location of the urban byway in question).

5. Jack London Alley, just south of Rincon Hill, between Bryant and Brannan Continue reading Poets, Pundits, and Wicked Men: The (Side)Streets of San Francisco

Excerpts from the Journal, Shanghai 2011

Sometimes first impressions are all we get. I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in China, let alone Shanghai, so these reflections, formed after just four days, may kick around in my head for quite some time.

October 8

Second-story window view in the Jade Buddha Temple

Striking how much more intimate and compact these areas of devotion are. Western culture has us accustomed to expansive cathedrals and architectural feats to touch the heavens. Shanghai’s glorifying praise is to twenty-first century money — skyscrapers that stream colored lights like a nightly fireworks display, populating the Pudong, an army of freakish sentinels of finance and prosperity. But true temples? Religious devotion? Wooden buildings of two or three stories, a series of rooms holding statuary of no overly imposing size, carpeted in red cushions for brief periods of kneeling, incense burning, or admiration. Beautiful, intricate, but somehow secretive. Perhaps a remnant of private worship before the government made it okay to be spiritual again…

October 9

I joked with Benett this morning that we may have found the cure for his insomnia/involuntary early rising: cigars and alcohol.

My roommate is a fifty-four year old ex-New Yorker who has been living and teaching drama in Los Angeles for over a decade now. He’s enthusiastic, adventurous, and charming. His approachability (or apparent need for female company) had led to dozens of offers for “massage? sex massage? sex?” Always in that order. That, and the ubiquitous pressure by street vendors to sell watches and bags, is all we are ever asked in the streets. Continue reading Excerpts from the Journal, Shanghai 2011

Excerpts from the Journal, Italia 2010

It’s been little over a year since my most recent trip to Italy, which means I’ve already started thinking about how soon I can get back. The da Vinci-esque scrawls that fill up my Moleskine on traveling adventures are perfectly useless (and not just because of the illegibility) as a guide through foreign cities, but chronicling ruminations and observations about anything interesting in our lives is an Idle Time virtue, and one which I ceaselessly promote.

June 29, 2010

A week ago today we made our first trip into Firenze. The five of us, led by Margaret (our rental car’s soothing British-accented navigation device), parked at Piazza Michelangelo above the city, fairly near San Miniato en Monte. As promised by my Rough Guides guidebook (I’m now a big proponent of RG — dispensing with the juvenile snapshot summaries of DK and weary of the snarky pretension of Lonely Planet), parking was free in the piazza, and for €1,20 each we could ride the bus into town (which, honestly, wasn’t that far… we could really have handled a lot more walking on this trip…)

I was happy to show the kids (and Matt) what I remembered from my time here in ’06. Street-level, outdoor views of the Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Maria Novella, Ponte Vecchio, and numerous other churches that I had something to say about — all marginally interesting, and in play later that evening.

The interior catwalk, lower rung

The highlight — and easily the most memorable moment of our time in northern Tuscany — came during our exploration of the Duomo. After exploring the inside of Santa Maria del Fiore we decided to appreciate Brunelleschi’s accomplishment up close by forking over the €8 apiece to climb up into the dome itself. The stairwells were even narrower than the climbs in Siena; the exertion double what we experienced in San Gimignano. The initial egress put us on the first of two narrow walkways encircling the inside of the great dome. A sheet of plexiglass kept us from tumbling down the twenty stories onto the altar below, and above and all around us, the spectacular fresco of the Last Judgment in all its glory. Heads of demons and devils fifteen feet across were just above us — Hell being the lower rung of the artwork — tormenting poor souls with flaming cudgels and flaying skin from sinners’ bones.

Continue reading Excerpts from the Journal, Italia 2010