Tag Archive | San Francisco

San Francisco II

Earlier in October, I went up to San Francisco for the weekend. The reason for the trip was to give a talk in the Berkeley Linguistics Department, but it was an excellent excuse to spend time in a city I like more and more. I arrived on Friday evening and met my friend Dustin for dinner. The place where we met was a stone’s throw from the Chinese restaurant where the banquet I went to before the premiere of Dream of the Red Chamber was held, but we ate at a different Chinese restaurant, which specialized in Sichuanese cuisine. We had mapo tofu and steamed fish over tofu with chopped chilies.

I made my way by BART and bus to the Marina District, where I was staying with my mother’s cousin and his wife, whose wedding in Maui I attended last year. They very kindly introduced me to some of their favorite places to eat. On Saturday, we went to the farmers market around the Ferry Building for chilaquiles (which I had never tried) and porchetta sandwiches. Then they took me to Lands End. Beyond the ruins of the Sutro Baths, the tide was very low, and gulls and cormorants crowded on the rocky outcroppings just off shore. Here by the ocean it was cloudy, and the wind-sculpted conifers stood tall and eerie on the hillside.

I spent part of the afternoon in Golden Gate Park catching up with my friend Katherine (alas, I did not get to see the bison paddock). Then in the evening my cousins and I went out for seven-course beef (bò 7 món), which I had also never tried (or even heard of). NO PHO, a sticker on the door of the restaurant proclaimed, and inside every table had ordered the specialty. The meal consisted of seven courses of beef in different forms, including a salad at the beginning and congee at the end, passing through various iterations of thinly sliced beef and ground beef sausages. Most of the meat was meant to be rolled in lettuce and/or rice paper wrappers with vegetables and herbs. It was fun and very tasty.

On Sunday morning, I went to church with Katherine. It was the Indigenous People’s Day Service, and the sermon was partly about the Nez Perce translation of the Gospel of John and the Nez Perce story of Coyote and his daughter. After church, my cousins and I drove to Berkeley, where we ate an Indian restaurant/market specializing in chaat. I had a mango lassi, and we shared a bunch of dishes served on metal trays. These included lamb biryani, masala dosa, puri, a puffed rice dish, fried fish, and bhature (a.k.a the big puffy thing), with a variety of sauces and accompaniments.

My cousins dropped me off at my friend Jesse’s place, and the next day Jesse and I went into the Berkeley department. I spent the morning at the Free Speech Movement Café and then returned to give my talk, which was on a couple of my dissertation experiments. Afterwards, I went out to lunch with some of the Berkeley folks, including my friend Andrew. Then I made my way back to the airport to fly back to Los Angeles.

Yosemite and Beyond

Next up in my Northern California trip: Yosemite! My mother and I drove there from San Francisco, stopping for lunch in Tracy. Quite by accident, we stumbled upon an Indian grocery store/restaurant called Apna Bazaar, where we ate a delicious meal. Plus there was a case full of different flavors of barfi, labeled in English and (what I think was) Hindi, and the aisles of the grocery store were full of millet flour and pickled mangoes and rusks!

The last time I was in Yosemite, I was not yet born, so this was my first real visit. We stayed in a tent cabin in Half Dome Village in the valley, and we had two full days in the park. On the first day, we walked past/through the prescribed burn in the Ahwahnee Meadow. The smoke billowing under the pines and the flames licking the earth were a rather eerie sight. Naturally, when I noticed the sign for the Yosemite Cemetery, I had to go check out every gravestone and marker. Then we went up to Glacier Point to take in the views and hiked to McGurk Meadow, where we ate wild blueberries.

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Me and Half Dome

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“Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”

On the second day, we hiked along the shoreline of Tenaya Lake (where there were still patches of snow!). Then we went to Tuolomne Meadows and climbed Pothole Dome.

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Tenaya Lake

The following morning, we returned to San Francisco. My mother flew back to Minnesota, while I headed to San Francisco Chinatown. It was in fact the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節) that day, and I was determined to buy moon cakes. I just walked up Grant Ave., impatiently overtaking tourists and keeping my eyes peeled for a bakery amidst all the kitsch. (I must have looked like a tourist myself, pulling my little suitcase and wearing a stuffed backpack.) On one street corner, a man sat on an overturned bucket playing the erhu. I finally found Eastern Bakery and proceeded to buy three moon cakes, a 粽子, and an egg tart, which I promptly ate on the street (just the egg tart).

From Chinatown I went to Berkeley, where I was staying for the night. My friend Isabelle had told me about an exhibit by Alina Chau at a Berkeley gallery called Tr!ckster, so I decided to go see it. I hadn’t realized Tr!ckster was both a gallery and a charming comic book store. Alina Chau’s paintings were gorgeous, and there were so many intriguing and beautiful graphic novels to page through. Best of all, I was invited to an impromptu tea party with the owner, a volunteer, a young customer, and his guardian. It was a magical afternoon. Before I left, I bought Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.

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One of the paintings in the exhibit

紅樓夢 – Dream of the Red Chamber

The second weekend of September, I joined my parents in San Francisco for the premiere of a new opera, Dream of the Red Chamber, based on the 18th century Chinese classic 紅樓夢 (Dream of Red Mansions) by Cao Xueqin. The Chinese Heritage Foundation, a Minnesota organization, commissioned the opera, and the San Francisco Opera produced it. The music was composed by Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng, and Sheng collaborated with Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang on the libretto.

This was my third trip to San Francisco this year, and this time, instead of flying, I took Amtrak’s Coast Starlight up the coast. It’s an 11-12 hour journey one way between Los Angeles and Oakland. I brought the first two volumes (out of three) of Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi’s English translation of A Dream of Red Mansions to read on my trip.

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Ocean view on the Coast Starlight

The evening before the opera premiere, there was a Chinese banquet for the Minnesota delegation to the premiere. I tried abalone, sea cucumber, and bird’s nest soup for the first time. I was also seated next to Kevin Smith, former director of the Minnesota Opera and current president of the Minnesota Orchestra! He played a crucial role in making Dream of the Red Chamber a reality.

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My banquet place setting

The morning of the premiere, we went to the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

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Japanese Tea Garden

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Lotus painted on the ceiling of the gate

In the evening, we arrived at the War Memorial Opera House for the performance. I said hi to David Henry Hwang in the lobby! The production was spectacular, particularly the sets. The score was Western, but there was a qin in the orchestra. The libretto was in English, and there were both English and Chinese surtitles. I amused myself during the opera by attempting to read the Chinese and comparing it with the English. Now and then I could read an entire Chinese sentence, and I also noticed places where the English and Chinese differed (e.g. while the singers said “Red Chamber” the Chinese might say 大觀園).

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Opera togs

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On our way from the opera house back to our hotel, we wound up in the cab of a (white American) taxi driver who turned out to speak Mandarin. He kept up a stream-of-consciousness monologue about the Dowager Empress Cixi selling Taishanese people to the U.S. to build the transcontinental railroad, Ho Chi Minh, and his college Chinese professor’s hatred of 廣東話 (Cantonese). That is, when he wasn’t asking us to explain the character , the second character of Cixi’s name, to him.

I had only read about 26 chapters of the novel when I saw the opera. Now I’m on Chapter 59. I hope to finish one of these days!

San Francisco

I visited San Francisco again this past weekend! Upon arriving late Friday afternoon, I went straight to Casa de Paz, an intentional community in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. There I met my friend Miyuki. The residents of the house were cooking a vegan meal for Friday evening meditation, which I wasn’t going to be able to stay for. Miyuki showed me the amazing gardens, and then we sat on the front steps and caught up. Occasionally someone from the neighborhood would walk by, and I’d try to follow as Miyuki chatted with them in Spanish.

On Saturday, I went to the Bay Area Book Festival with Miyuki, our friend Andrew, Miyuki’s Google linguist friend, and Miyuki’s friend Jonah. All of us but the Google linguist went to Swarthmore.

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Andrew with a cockatoo by the Berkeley BART station

Wandering through the booths, we were hailed by another Swarthmore alum, Books! Books was working for the festival, doorkeeping or some such for an Irish writers panel that included Colm Tóibín (!).

On Radical Row, Andrew was beguiled by a deal at the Small Press Distribution booth whereby he could choose a free book if he wrote a poem. After much thought, he penned an eight-line poem with end rhyme about the cockatoo. Hovering at this booth, I noticed A Bestiary by Lily Hoang and, after leafing through it, decided to buy it.

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Pictured above is Lacuna, an art installation/giant free library set up in a park at the southern end of the festival. Miyuki discovered a Taiwanese children’s book that weirdly featured both bopomofo and a lot of erhua. Andrew found Chieh Chieng’s A Long Stay in a Distant Land and offered it to me. It looked interesting, so I took it.

On Monday, my friend Leland and I walked through Chinatown, stopping at a bakery for some pork buns, and then spent a long time in City Lights Books. From there, we took a look inside Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and then walked to the Coit Tower. We admired the New Deal-era murals, and I particularly noticed this particular section of one:

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There’s this one passage in Sparkers:

He limps to the nearest machine and sits down at it. “This is a linotype machine.”

In front of him is something like a typewriter keyboard. He peruses my scribbles and begins to type. To his left, little blocks of metal engraved with letters begin to form lines of text.

Leland and I took the elevator up to the top of the tower and took in the views of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Angel Island.

Leaving the Coit Tower, we wandered through the neighborhood and stumbled upon Schein & Schein, a map/antique print shop. It was magical. We lingered there so long we ran out of time to get artisanal ice cream.

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A page from an old French music theory textbook (our best guess). The text is often quite amusing. For instance, the text above Fig. 14 says, “Third to avoid because of the equivocal chord, unless the song is well-determined, like here”

African Linguistics at Berkeley

Like last year, I spent the end of my spring break at the Annual Conference on African Linguistics. This time, instead of camping in Oregon, I stayed with my friend Andrew, a grad student in linguistics at Berkeley, where the conference was held.

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The Campanile

I presented a poster on Maragoli, the language I worked on in Field Methods last year. Famous Linguist #2 (see last year’s post) came to my poster, and we spent some time discussing the data and the way I transcribe the vowels of Maragoli. I discovered I enjoy explaining my research to others much more than I like actually attending poster sessions myself.

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Me presenting my poster (Photo by Andrew; Logoori is another name for Maragoli)

I had a good time at the conference in general. It was fun to see many familiar faces and to reconnect with friends in graduate programs across the country. I was particularly looking to attend talks on tone that might help me with my work on Efik, the Nigerian language I worked on in Field Methods this year. My greatest work-related success of the trip might’ve been managing to ambush a Cameroonian visiting scholar late on Friday in order to ask him the questions there hadn’t been time for me to ask during his talk on downstep in Babanki.

On Friday evening, I tarried a while in a Half Price Books and ended up buying three books. Then, walking back to my friend’s house, I discovered bookcases of free books on the sidewalk outside Black Oak Books. The store was closing, sadly. Most of the free books seemed to be cookbooks, and I didn’t take anything.

On Saturday, I went to the morning session of the conference and then took a bus to Oakland Chinatown to meet my friend Miyuki. I loved Oakland Chinatown. Every restaurant seemed to have hanging roast ducks and piles of zongzi in the window. We stopped in one for a lunch of wonton noodle soup, bok choy with oyster sauce, and pork liver steamed rice rolls. Then Miyuki took me to the Oakland Public Library–Asian Branch, which has collections in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and more.

From Oakland, I went on to San Francisco to meet yet another college friend, who had also been at the conference. I celebrated Easter with him before returning to Los Angeles.

The 27th Annual All-California Sacred Harp Convention

I spent the long weekend in San Francisco at the All-California Sacred Harp Convention. It was my second time attending this convention in as many years. The All-California rotates between Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego; it was in Los Angeles last year.

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Wrong state, I know, but I picked one of these up in Minnesota in December and can’t resist sharing it. That is a shape note bumper sticker on my cello case, because I don’t have a car.

I rode up to the Bay Area in a small carpool from Los Angeles. We took Route 101, and a lot of the drive was quite picturesque. California has a lot of hills. We saw cows, horses, sheep, goats, and alpacas on green slopes, drove through clouds, and occasionally caught an ocean vista.

San Francisco is a beautiful city, one I’d like to spend more time in someday. I stayed with a friend from college, a fellow shape note singer and linguist. The convention itself was in Alameda, in a park recreation center. It was a big crowd, over two hundred singers, and the singing was excellent. On Saturday, I led the tune Clamanda (whose text appears in disguised form in Ancillary Justice!), and on Sunday, I led Plenary (which has the same melody as Auld Lang Syne). Multiple people at the convention seemed to know of me as a linguist, which I found slightly curious.

A funny side effect of shape note singing is that seemingly random numbers start to take on meaning. A leader announces the tune she’s going to lead by calling out the song’s page number, and Sacred Harp songs are generally referred to by both their tune name and their number. The more singings you attend, the more tune numbers you start to have memorized. So for example, on the journey home, we stopped at a Trader Joe’s to get a few things for lunch. When I saw $3.68 on my receipt, I thought, Huh, that’s 368 Stony Point. Also, back when I was revising (mostly shortening) Book 2 at the end of last year, I tracked the downward progress of my manuscript’s page length by Sacred Harp tunes. I remember passing through 270 pages, which corresponds to Confidence (“Away my unbelieving fear…” I can totally edit this book down!).

An account of my weekend wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the food. At the dinners on the grounds, there was key lime pie and chicken mole and butternut squash risotto and what seemed like half a dozen pans of macaroni and cheese, among many other dishes. At his house, my friend fed me homemade soft pretzels and apple pie, and on Sunday evening we visited another college friend of ours (my fellow co-president of Folk Dance Club, whom I hadn’t seen since we graduated) and we all made crêpes with sweet potato and spinach and ricotta fillings.

Anyway, I’ll have Sacred Harp songs swirling through my head for days, I expect. I hope to be in San Diego next year!