After living in San Francisco for forty years, exploring it, writing about it, I thought I knew it. However, this is the magic of our beautiful city; it always shows a new side.
Recently, I drove Max to his dog-sitter. There I found out that the destination for morning dogs’ walk was Alta Plaza Park. When I got there I recognized the area because I’ve driven on Jackson Street in Pacific Heights many times. The green lawn blended with the tennis courts, and when I got to the top of the terraced hill, I saw a children’s playground with incredible 360-degree views of the city. I knew that I have to come back after sundown to take photos from the hill at night. There were many parents with their children and dogs on leashes. It took me awhile, when I finally saw Jim—the dog handler who brought seven “best friends” to the park, where one area is designated for dogs to off leash and to play with balls, generously supplied by Jim. Max was surprised to hear my voice and excited to play ball with me. An hour later the pack was taken back to the van to go back home to rest. Later that afternoon, the dogs will go on another walk into a different park. But for me it was enough. I had my images. What makes this hilly park unique is its role in San Francisco’s history. Until 1877 it was a rock quarry, when the City purchased the 17 acres parcel for park development. It was conceived and executed by John McLaren, the designer of Golden Gate Park.
Alta Plaza Park has another special role in San Francisco. It is one of 114 sites with an Outdoor Warning System siren. In the case of actual emergency the siren tone will cycle repeatedly for 5 minutes and people should go indoors and immediately tune to a news source on one of the local media stations. I just wonder where other 113 sites are. It seems I have more stories to share with you.
P.S. I love to photograph dogs, not only Max, who as you can see, leads the pack. If you have been in the park with many dogs, you probably noticed that each of them has a different way of behaving, as you can see in these four images.
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We usually associate the word “celebration” with the special events in our lives – birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and restaurants are one of the natural destinations. But COVID-19 changed everything.
Every day, when I open the San Francisco Chronicle, I learn about the number of people who got infected and died, growing. It seems that someone purposely wants to get me scared or upset. The information about the disease is confusing, and instructions how to protect ourselves change all the time (did you read about 3 feet social distancing?). Not everyone follows the Shelter-in-Place orders. Just visit Golden Gate Park over the weekend. It is filled with people, who come here to celebrate life and other life events and are not stopped by the government restrictions. When I recently drove through Chestnut Street, I was surprised to see how many coffee shops and restaurants built sidewalk sitting arrangements, which were filled with diners.
One of the major changes in our lives that was a result of COVID-19, was that we have to eat at home all the time. Of course some restaurants offer take-out meals or outside sitting arrangements, which is better than nothing, but all of this misses the fun, the atmosphere and the ambience. Pre-Covid, our favorite restaurant was Zuni Café on Market Street. We first had lunch there in 1989. Since then, this popular restaurant became our favorite dining destination. We’ve gone there for breakfast (in the early days), lunches and dinners, either by ourselves or with friends. This was the place where we would first dine, after returning from our travels, and for birthday celebrations with our friends.
Over the past thirty years, we got to know the staff and the owners, and when I called Gilbert Pilgram, the executive chef and the current owner of Zuni to find how he is copying, I found out that they had started take out service, as well as provide meals for the needy people through the World Central Kitchen.
When I recently received a text from Gilbert that on Sunday there is going to be lunch on the sidewalk, we were delighted. It was also the day our daughter Alona and her boyfriend Jeff came to San Francisco, which was a good reason to celebrate.
One of the reasons we like to eat in Zuni is the food, which is consistently delicious. We ordered chicken for two (eaten by three, with leftovers) and I ordered salmon. The food was familiar, but the experience was different. We were not accustomed to sitting in front of the windows, which were covered by plywood, after they were broken during the demonstrations against the police. Since Mr. Pilgram is a very creative person, the plywood was painted over with beautiful pictures. I know it’s going to be a gradual process for us to return to the dining experience we carry in our memory, but we are ready and patient.
P.S. It just happened that this was the day of the miniature Gay Pride Parade, and some of the participants who walked by were happy to pose for me. I also captured an image of Adrianne, who usually greets the customers at Zuni with a big smile, not covered with a mask.
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I recently visited our family doctor for a minor issue. He just started seeing patients in his clinic again, since the Stay at Home order. After going through sanitizing my hands, lifting face mask to cover my nose and checking my temperature, I was allowed in. After suggesting the necessary medication, the doctor and I had our customary chat about families, and our views on the pandemic. When the doctor expressed his concern, I offered my typical response, “And this shall pass”. “Will you put it in writing?”, he asked. I said, “I will”.
I do not know about you, but when there is a fog in Monterey Heights, the area where we live, it is very difficult to imagine that in just a fifteen minute drive in any direction; there might be sunny weather. So it goes with other issues in our lives, regardless of how serious it may be at this moment, like it’s in a joke about a boy who comes home from school upset. “What is going on?” his father inquires. “I have a huge problem,” the boy answers. “I understand,” Father says. “Do you remember last year when you had a huge problem?” “No, I don’t.” “Next year you will not remember this one either.” Every day we are bombarded with negative information. Either medical, political, social, financial or emotional. It seems that all the problems are interconnected and there is no end in sight. So, on what grounds can I claim, “this shall pass”?
I was always interested in history, regardless of the subject. The history of pandemics goes back to circa 3000 B.C. Online I found an article about 20 of the worst epidemics in history. The article began with, “Plagues and epidemics have ravaged humanity throughout its existence, often changing the course of history.” COVID-19 will pass as well. To see the outcome, we need to be patient; meanwhile, do the outmost to stay safe and healthy.
It might take longer for the social issues to pass. But eventually they will. The history is the proof.
Jews came to New Amsterdam (which later became New York) in 1654, which started antisemitism in this country, and it took until 1960s when signs reading “Dogs and Jews Are Not Allowed“ finally stopped appearing. This happened not because Jews suddenly became loved; but rather, they became relevant and part of the American society through education and contribution. I do not think antisemitism has passed, but at least its outer appearance did in our country. This is a gradual process, which comes from within. So, the next time you will have a bothersome issue, find something which gives you joy, focus on it and be patient, and the issue shall pass.
P.S. While writing this story, I came across the words of Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940).
“Everything passes away – suffering, pain, blood, hunger, pestilence. The sword will pass away too, but the stars will remain when shadows of our presence and our deeds have vanished from the Earth. There is no man who does not know that. Why, then, will we not turn our eyes toward the stars? Why?”
After I wrote about our visit to the forest in San Francisco a few weeks ago, we went there again with our friend and his son Daniel, who recently turned eight. Our dog Max enjoyed the outing again, since he could run leash free. On the way back at about five, the setting sun lit the leaf, and before taking a photo of it, I pointed out the effect of the light to Daniel. He was silent for a while, and then suddenly asked, “Do plants think?” I paused before answering. “Why do people think?” I asked. “To make a choice”, he answered. “Do plants need to make a choice? Do they choose where to grow, where to get food, water, light?” I challenged him. He thought for a moment again and then said, “They probably think differently than us.”
I mentioned to him that years ago, I read about how words can affect the structure of water. Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto, researched this subject and wrote a book in 2004, “The Hidden Messages in Water”. And since the human body is made up of 60% water and plants cannot live without water, and words can affect our well-being, there might be something in our lives which can affect the way we all process information. However, to be sure, I reached out to my favorite source – Google. When I searched, ‘Do plants think?’ to my surprise, I found out that Daniel was not the first one to ask this profound question. On January 10, the publication “The World”, reported, “New research on plant intelligence may forever change how you think about plants.” Turns out that plants have astounding abilities to sense and react to the world. Michael Pollan, author of such books as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “The Botany of Desire”, says plants have all the same senses as humans and then some.
There is another book written by Daniel Chamovitz titled, “What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses”. Online I found the book’s summary – “Paralleling the human senses, the author explains the secret lives of various plants, from the colors they see to whether or not they really like classical music to their ability to sense nearby danger.”
Turns out that Daniel at his young age knew something that scientists and writers have been trying to prove – that there are so many things beyond our knowledge and comprehension.
P.S. In Golden Gate Park I encountered and photographed Daniel and three other young people, who belong to the generation who ask a lot of surprising questions. It is our job as adults to help them to find the right answers and to learn while doing that.
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Everyone in the world is waiting for a vaccine for obvious reasons – no one wants to die from COVID-19.
As it stands now, there are 23 companies that are working on coronavirus treatments or vaccines. One of them, Israeli Bio-Defense Lab announced on May 5th, 2020 that it found an “antibody that neutralizes” the coronavirus. Those companies better rush, since our daughter, who is expecting her first baby in the beginning of September, informed us that we will probably have to wait until there’s a vaccination before we can meet our granddaughter. There have been cures for plagues for over 3,300 years. The Torah describes a plague, which struck the children of Israel who started sinning in the desert after their exodus from Egypt, and thousands began to die. Moses told Aaron to quickly take a firepan with incense (a ketoret) to go into the middle of the congregation and atone for their sins. “He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was checked. Those who died from the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred.” (Numbers 17:13-14) But what was the incense called ketoret, and how did Moses know about this miracle cure? According to the folklore story, when Moses had ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, the Angel of Death, whose name was Satan, taught him the secret.
However, it took thousands of years and millions of people dying before vaccines were discovered. I learned about this in the book “The 100 Most Important Events & People of The Past 1000 Years.” There I found that “The eradication of one of the worst plagues ever can be traced to a cow. Smallpox caused scarring and blindness and at its peak in the 18th century killed 60 million Europeans, most of them children.”
In 1796, Edward Jenner, a general practitioner from rural England, theorized that cowpox built one’s immunity to smallpox. He extracted a cowpox-infected lymph from a cow and inserted a small amount into the arm of an eight-year-old boy. Seven weeks later, Jenner injected a boy with smallpox. His immune system responded positively. This discovery led to the birth of the science of immunology. Vaccinations became a reality. The word is derived from the Latin vaccinus, meaning “of the cow”.
We live in different times, thousands of professionals in many different countries spend billions of dollars trying to find the cure which might revolutionize how many diseases (not only COVID-19) are treated. It was Satan who told Moses about the cure. Dr. Jenner experimented with inoculating using cowpox. In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which helped thousands of lives. He began a series of experiments involving the common staphylococcal bacteria. An uncovered Petri dish sitting next to an open window became contaminated with mold spores. Fleming named the ‘mold juice’ penicillin. This accidental discovery changed the course of medicine. What will help modern science to find a new cure? Time will tell.
P.S. To photograph cows, I decided to drive to the area close to Tomales Bay in Marin. These four images are the result of this trip.
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