Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Tag: USA

Month of Letters: Day 28

Finally! The last day of this challenge. I think the intent was good, but it takes more time out of your day than what one might expect. I think this would be a great project for people who have more free time than I do. As I’ve mentioned before, after this I’m sticking to doing all my mail on the weekends. If I were to participate again next year, I may reduce it down to one postcard a day. Maybe two.

Anyways, this last batch. The first one is going to someone in Russia who likes local nature scenes–I think I got this one in a tiny convenience store I stopped in while driving around Marin County a while back. The second is going to Belgium to someone who like comics and food (hence the food stamps and decorations and the Superman postcard from the Vintage DC Comics postcard box set put out by Chronicle Books). The third is to an animal lover in France who particularly likes all the animals that I’ve managed to squeeze into this (the postcard is from a set called “The Art of Instruction”). And the fourth is to an old school postcard collector in Germany who had a, um, roundabout way of stating that they didn’t like anything but tourist postcards and no decorations at the back. I also took care to not place any of the stamps over the writing because they specifically didn’t want stickers over any writing. And, you know, all the US stamps are stickers now. They might still not like the stamps, though, because they don’t like art.

Month of Letters: Day 17

The first postcard today is going to a retirement home in Germany–the person requesting this had specified that any postcards sent should be about the location, thus the vintage postcard with a cable car. The second is actually a birthday postcard going to Canada even though it’s a photograph of the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, because the birthday person in question likes historical facts. The last postcard is heading to Italy and it is for a map tag–I have a bunch of Civil War map postcards and this is pretty much the only way I can give them away to people who would actually like them.

Postcards from the Last Six Months

I spent most of this afternoon sorting through the gigantic pile of postcards that I had accumulated for the past six months. I have a system for sorting–first I sort by size. This makes it easier for me to put protective plastic sleeves on them without switching between different sizes with every other one. Then I sort them again by country and file them accordingly in boxes. Below, I’ve documented some of my progress. (This is also in a Twitter thread.)

The stack:

Austria:

Australia:

Belgium:

Belarus:

Brazil:

Canada:

China:

Czech Republic:

Estonia:

Finland:

France:

Germany:

Great Britain:

Hong Kong:

Hungary:

Indonesia:

Ireland:

Israel:

Italy:

Japan:

Lithuania:

Luxembourg:

Macau:

Netherlands:

Norway:

Poland:

Portugal:

Russia:

Spain:

Switzerland:

Taiwan:

Ukraine:

USA:

A Visit to the Beat Museum

Today, on a whim, I went to the Beat Museum which is located in North Beach. I admit, I didn’t know anything about the Beat Generation. I had this stereotypical view that they were a bunch of artists who dressed all in black in the 1950s and recited depressing poetry in dimly lit smokey jazz clubs. I probably should read more of their work to get a better sense of the era. But in any case, I came away with the feeling that these artists had a lot more crazy drama in their lives than the normal person.

Which brings up these questions: Why do so many famous artists have so much drama in their lives? Is experiencing drama necessary for producing art? Are well-adjusted people doomed to never produce good art? Or is that the nature of art itself–as a window to the artist’s angst in which we the viewers are just voyeristic rubberneckers?

ENjf_G1UwAAtjAe.jpeg

ENjf_G4UcAApQMA.jpeg

ENjf_HNUYAAipX3.jpeg

ENjf_HOVAAAPOc3.jpeg

ENjll_1UEAIPMya.jpeg

ENjll_7U4AETgJj.jpeg

ENjlmA9UUAAPONB.jpeg

ENjlmADUcAAAeBq.jpeg

Postcard #285 – From Yosemite

Yes, I’m finally getting to a postcard I sent to myself! There’s a post office in Yosemite, so I couldn’t resist sending something from there.

Postcard285a.jpeg

Postcard285c.jpeg

Bookshop Hunting #5

Note: These are only my opinions and impressions of bookstores, book fairs, book sales, and/or other book-related events I’ve visited. I am not reviewing or ranking them because I’m sure other people will visit these places and have diverging opinions. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences of what a great bookstore should be. If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment on this post and take a look at my bookstore list in progress to make sure your suggestion doesn’t overlap with a place I already know about.

* * *

Paulist Center Bookstore (614 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This Catholic gift shop is located on the edge of Chinatown and to me, seems rather out of place. There’s religious knick knacks and gifts here, of course, but there are also books. Most of it is of a Christian bent so of no interest to me. However, they also do sell a few used books and I was somewhat surprised to find several Danielle Steel novels on sale. I’ve never read a Steel novel, but I didn’t think they were particularly religious…

IMG_3663.JPG

IMG_3665.JPG

Louie Brothers Book Store (754 Washington St, San Francisco, CA) 
I had been here before to buy a few postcards. The store itself is narrow, but neat. The selection here is mostly Chinese literature (in Chinese, of course), but you can also find greeting cards in the front (I bought a Chinese New Year card for my parents here). There are also Asian skin mags near the front counter, which seems somewhat unusual.

IMG_3680.JPG

Sino-American Books & Arts (751 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA)
I had been visiting the fortune cookie factory and I turned a corner and there this store was, squeezed in between some other food stores. When I visited, there was a blaring television and the whole store seemed to channel a paper factory explosion. They do have a lot of manga/graphic novels and books in the same series were tied together into bundles with twine and stacked like abandoned cords of firewood. The aisles are extremely narrow with barely enough room for one normal sized person. Again, it’s mostly literature in Chinese. There might be some great stuff in this store, but the general disorganization makes the neat freak in me cringe.

IMG_3688.JPG

IMG_3690.JPG

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers (261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is the iconic bookstore in San Francisco, located on the edge of Chinatown and Little Italy. Every time I come here, there’s always something new to see. The first time I came to the store, the booksellers were very helpful with finding a book I had been trying to locate forever. The front door to the store is narrow and when it’s crowded with tourists, it’s impossible to navigate (I had gone there once when it was bursting with tourists, but I gave up quickly after one step into the store and found that I could not move anywhere—this would be frustrating for other tourists, but at least I had the luxury of living in the Bay Area and coming at a different time). The second floor is devoted to poetry, the first floor is fiction, and the bottom floor is non-fiction. I spend most of my time on the bottom floor, wishing I had enough money to buy their entire mythology and folklore section. When I visited this place last Sunday, there were a moderate number of patrons, which was great. I really don’t like crashing into other people every time I want to browse books.

IMG_3722.JPG

IMG_3721.JPG

Eastwind Books & Arts, Inc. (1435 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA) | Website
I mentioned this store in a previous post on this store’s Berkeley branch. This particular store is located next to a bank down some stairs on the lower level. Right outside the door of the store are carts of sale DVDs, CDs, books, and magazines. Most of the store’s inventory is Chinese media and literature (the stuff in English is tucked away all in the back). It’s a large, well organized store with books available in many subjects. When I last visited there, they had Chinese New Year cards on sale (without the envelope) and I discovered they had a large cook book section. If my parents visit me again, this would be a place I’d recommend they check out.

IMG_3723.JPG

Coit Tower Gift Shop (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
I walked to the Coit Tower from Chinatown, but if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to scale Telegraph Hill, you can take bus 39 or drive (warning: extremely limited parking). Getting up the tower itself will set you back $8, but if you’re just there for the gift shop, you’ll find a lot of Coit Tower knick knacks, overpriced postcards, prints, and vintage books for $10 each. Personally, I’d say go for the views from Coit Tower and avoid the gift shop. You can get better deals of the postcards and books elsewhere. You won’t be missing much.

IMG_3734.JPG

Bookshop Hunting #4

Note: These are only my opinions and impressions of bookstores, book fairs, book sales, and/or other book-related events I’ve visited. I am not reviewing or ranking them because I’m sure other people will visit these places and have diverging opinions. Everyone has their own ideas and preferences of what a great bookstore should be. If you have a suggestion, feel free to comment on this post and take a look at my bookstore list in progress to make sure your suggestion doesn’t overlap with a place I already know about.

* * *

Warm Springs Book Company (46513 Mission Blvd, Fremont, CA) | Website
I was in the area and Google Maps said that this was here so I figured, why not drive past this place and see if there’s anything? But there’s nothing here, just housing and a busy road. After further Googling, I discovered that this bookstore exists solely online and the address they prefer you to reach them at is a post office box. Anyways, even if there had been a bookstore at this location, it’s probably one of the worst locations to be in. It’s right at Exit 12 on I-680 where cars are exiting the highway and merging straight into Mission Blvd. Trying to get to this place by taking the back roads would be a miracle because there are no back roads.

Half Price Books (39152 Fremont Hub, Fremont, CA) | Website
I arrived at this bookstore approximately one hour before it closed. The arrangement of this store is similar to other Half Price Book stores, so there’s no surprise there. When I was visiting, there weren’t many other customers, so it was rather nice wandering around, browsing the shelves without worrying about bumping into other people. If I lived near here, this would definitely be one of my frequent haunts, but since this takes me about one hour to get here, this will probably end up as an occasional visit depending on my schedule. The easiest way to get here is on I-880, Exit 17 at Mowry Ave.

Flash Sale – Friends of the Pleasant Hill Library (1750 Oak Park Blvd, Pleasant Hill, CA) | Website
The Pleasant Hill Library hosts a couple book sales during the year, the times which are publicized on their website and the town’s monthly newsletter. I didn’t realize this was a small sale until later so I was a bit disappointed with the selection. Last Saturday, they had a couple tables out in front of the library with adult fiction and history on display. There were more books on sale inside the library, but it was primarily literature geared towards kids and young adults. I was trying to look for travel books and dictionaries, but I didn’t find any. I think the larger book sales occur during the summer—at least the one I went to last summer took up most of the parking lot next to the library—and is probably a better bet if you’re looking for a variety of subjects. The library is about one mile west of the Pleasant Hill BART station. If you’re driving, take Exit 48 on I-680.

The Interval at Long Now (Landmark Building A, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is a coffee shop and bar, but I decided to include this because there are definitely books here. As Google describes it, it has “a librarylike vibe”. Right at the entrance is a large model orrey and a slim spiral staircase leading up to the second floor. Although you can’t go upstairs, the second floor is open to view from below and it’s just shelves of books. The first floor is the coffee bar, but it also has a very modern feel. I like the look, but I also felt very out of place among all the yuppies and I hastily exited after briefly looking around. There are a number of buses that can get you to the vicinity of Fort Mason: 19, 28, 30, 43, 47, 49.

IMG_3605.JPG

IMG_3606.JPG

IMG_3607.JPG

Readers Bookstore (Fort Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd, San Francisco, CA) | Website
This is located in the same area as The Interval, just a building over. The bookstore is another division of the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, so it’s all used books. However, I’d say the quality of these used books are better than the stuff you’d find at the warehouse, so expect the prices to be accordingly higher. It’s a very cozy bookstore with an entire section on local history. A cafe is next to the bookstore. I’m not sure I’d try their chai again, but their sandwiches are certainly delicious.

IMG_3627.JPG

IMG_3628.JPG

Chronicle Books (1846 Union St, San Francisco, CA) | Website
Since I happened to be in the area, I walked from Fort Mason to this location. This turned out to be a fail. I had been looking at a list of bookstores collected by Chronicle Books and since this was on it, I decided to find it. I did, but it’s permanently closed, soon to be taken over by some upscale clothing boutique. I was a bit pissed, to be honest. The neighborhood is upscale, but seriously, how many clothes do rich ladies need anyway? There are already so many other clothing stores on that street but no other bookstores. Anyways, Chronicle Books still has a store on 4th Street. I hope some silly clothing boutique store doesn’t take over that one as well.

IMG_3654.JPG

Protest Posters

I was in San Francisco earlier today doing some bookshop hunting, but I also saw the Women’s March. I was fascinated by the protest posters–it seemed like everyone was carrying one. Here are just a few.

License Plates Observed

Last year, I was pretty bored being stuck in rush hour traffic so I decided to make my commute a little more productive (or useless, depending on your point of view), by making a note of the location of different license plates. The following figure is a compilation of a year’s worth of data:

Slide1

There are several caveats about this geographic heat map. Since the observations were done primarily in California, of course the top number of license plates will be California. I also recorded plates from Canada (a couple) and Mexico (mostly from Baja California and about as many as Arizona plates). I actually saw zero North Dakota plates during the observation period, but about one week after the observation period ended, I saw two separate vehicles with North Dakota plates.

I suspect the map would look vastly different if I lived in a different Californian city (particularly one where there is almost no tourism), let alone in a different state.

The most frustrating aspect about the data collection was that sometimes it was impossible to tell where the plate was from because of the way it was mounted on a vehicle. Sometimes the license plate holders would cover all of the license plate except for the alphanumeric code. Occasionally, I could guess fairly confidently what the plate was if the font/color/design matched the default plate of that state, but if someone had a vanity plate, I had no clue. In the cases where I was unsure, I did not record them.

Postcard #85 – From St. Augustine

Before you hardcore postcard swappers start clutching your pearls and foaming at the mouth and reporting me to the authorities, I’d like to say that this is NOT a Postcrossing card and is simply a card sent to me by a NaNoWriMo friend Tiakall. She also explicitly gave me permission to post this on this blog, so if you want to double check if this is true and I’m not lying, you can contact her. (Although I’m pretty sure an influx of messages from the postcard police would annoy her and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly.)

Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, I will say that this card looks simple with the line drawing of a house. Also the printed message about this restaurant and inn doesn’t make it sound all that scintillating either. But Tiakall says this place is haunted. And I think that’s awesome. Not because I think it’s really haunted (hey, I’m a scientist–I don’t believe in ghosts), but because it makes a cool story. And perhaps this place is also a little weird even if it isn’t reflected as such on the card. I mean, it would have to be weird whether or not there were real or fake ghosts there. It’s billed as a romantic getaway, so wouldn’t it be awkward at best having a (non-)corporeal voyeur drifting around while you get it on with your SO?

postcard085a

postcard085c