Tag Archives: sanfrancisco

Nightlife: Thursdays at the California Academy of Sciences

Each Thursday until October 29, San Francisco’s California of Academy of Science (55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park) stays open late for Nightlife, a 21 and up evening of booze, music, and science. ($10, 6pm to 10pm)

This is definitely something that I’m going to have to check out.

A similar event occurs, the first Friday of every month at LA’s Natural History Museum (900 Exposition Boulevard, LA), aptly named First Fridays. (notcot.com great photos of the LA event.)

My Morbid Fascination

As some may know, I have a morbid fascination with people jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve had this fascination ever since I read “Don’t Jump!” in Salon back in 2001. There was just something about how everyone in that article was just so matter of fact. I think what really got me was the just how wonky it would get. I fascinated by the fact that most deaths are caused by the ribs shattering and puncturing major arteries, rather than drowning, and how ironically suicide jumpers are more likely to survive than people who fall accidently. Most alluring of the topic was that the bridge has about 25 jumpers a year – or as I like to think of it: on average, one every two weeks. (The frequency spikes over the holidays no doubt.)

Everyone, perhaps, thinks about what goes through the mind of the jumper as he falls. We laugh about how if it’s too far down, you have to take a breath to continue screaming before you hit. I on the other hand became enamored with the moment that the jumper’s center of gravity moves over the water, and the inevitable plunge begins. That moment, when your heart skips a beat, and your stomach tenses, and you think “Here we go!” It’s not the moment of total commitment. No, it’s the moment just after that. Did they intend to go just then, or were they just trying to get up the nerve when they slipped? More disturbingly, do they change their mind on the way down?

Of the people that survive the fall (and a rare few do), many do. The New Yorker had an interview with one survivor, Kevin Hines, who jumped, changed his mind, hit feet first, and then survived in September 2000.

Kevin Hines was eighteen when he took a municipal bus to the bridge one day in September, 2000. After treating himself to a last meal of Starbursts and Skittles, he paced back and forth and sobbed on the bridge walkway for half an hour. No one asked him what was wrong. A beautiful German tourist approached, handed him her camera, and asked him to take her picture, which he did. “€œI was like, ‘€˜Fuck this, nobody cares,’€™€” he told me. “€œSo I jumped.”€ But after he crossed the chord, he recalls, “€œMy first thought was What the hell did I just do? I don’€™t want to die.”

In 2005, film maker Eric Steel, created his controversial movie, The Bridge, which captures the fatal plunge of most of the 19 jumpers in 2004. I haven’t seen it.

Then finally, we get to the granddaddy of all articles. The SF Chronicle’s six-part series Lethal Beauty. A tour de force of Golden Gate Bridge jumping. Interviews, maps of jump sites (Notice how they’re biased towards the east side, where you get the more scenic view, and more practically, the pedestrian walkway is located. Also notice how it’s skewed towards the SF side and away from Marin. Apparently people don’t want to bother to walk far to their final act.

The bridge has been called, “the world’s top suicide magnet”. I am not surprised. It’s iconic, and accessible. Unlike jumping from the Empire State Building, or Taipei 101. What I do wonder about is how many people travel from outside the Bay Area simply to jump. Does anyone fly from the East Coast, simply to kill themselves? Maybe.

I’ve been wanting to write about this fascination for a while. Perhaps even after I read that first article some seven years ago. What prompted me to write it now was, this Metafilter post about the Army’s PTSD program. Who’s talking to soldiers about suicide? Jumper Kevin Hines

How I Spent $15 on Two Cups of Coffee

Today I had to go to SF to pickup my visa and my custom timbuk2 bag, and so I decided to spend the day, and check out the nation’s only $20,000 coffee maker imported from Japan at Blue Bottle Cafe (66 Mint, near Moscone Center, NOT the kiosk in Hayes Valley).

I went in thinking, “So how much is this going to be? It can’t be more than four bucks. If it’s ten, I’ll laugh and leave. It’s brew for crying out loud!” I went up to the counter and and saw the prices for the siphon bar. $10 for something that I can’t remember (I thought “Libertine,” but that’s not on their website) and $11 for Ethiopian Gololcha . I got the Golocha. (So much for laughing.) Total with tax: $11.94

I got a number and sat at the counter in front of the $20k siphon machine. The machine consists of a metal box with 5 halogen lamps with metal light dampening filters over them to keep people from being blinded by them. A small glass Florence flask is filled about half way with hot water and brought to a boil. Once the boiling starts, an open cylinder with a long tube at the bottom containing a spring loaded paper filter connected a ball chain, and the ground coffee is lowered into the flask. As the chain touches the water, the water begins to rapids boil (I have no idea really why. The chain isn’t heated or anything.) The cylinder seals the top of the flask, and the water boils up through the tube and into the cylinder. The barista stirs the coffee a bit a with a bamboo paddle to ensure good mixing. As the water cools, it flows/dribbles back down the spring and chain into the flask. Once complete, the they serve you the flask (along with the stand used to hold it over the lamp), two clear coffee cups, and a cloth napkin, and two caramels. The the flask holds about four cups, so I guess it’s more like $3 a cup.

So how was the coffee? The first sips, when the coffee was still very hot, you could really taste the oils in the grounds. As the drink cooled, the it developed a fuller taste. It was a very very smooth drink. Not harsh like an espresso, more like a pressed coffee, but there almost no particulates in the cup, unlike a french press. It was good. It was interesting to taste, especially how the flavor changed with the temperature, and it was interesting to watch it brewed. But as I told two women who asked me on the way out how it was, I’m not entirely sure it’s $12 worth of interesting.

Still, I think you should try it, but go with a friend and split the bill. Perhaps bring two friends.

The Blue Bottle, also has a “Kyoto Style Iced Coffee Machine”. (Actually, I guess they have two. No word if they were thrown in with along with the siphon bar.) The machine looks like a really tall titration setup. There’s a large sphere half filled with water and condensation at the top. The water drains down through a metal funnel into another much smaller sphere that then drains to two independent valve controlled drip spouts. Each spout has some sort of gauge on it, but I couldn’t make out what it was. Maybe it was a thermometer, I don’t know. The water then drips down into a 1.5 liter cylinder below. When I asked the barista about the machine, she said it took 8 hours to fill the cylinders. I guess you have to call ahead, because I seriously doubt they serve day old coffee, but placing an order for coffee the day before sounds absurd.

The two women I met at Blue Bottle, suggested I try the other new fancy coffee machine in SF, the $10k, single cup, clover machine at Ritual (1026 Valencia, in The Mission). I drove across town, and gave it a shot. There, I ordered the Nicaraguan La Union for a much more “reasonable” $3 (including tax). It was much more bitter coffee. Harsh, perhaps is too strong, but I’d call it raspy. The clover is supposed to give a smooth cup, but I wouldn’t call it a smooth drink. Maybe the beans was just the wrong choice, I don’t know. For all the coffee I drink, I know pretty much nothing about it. I’m not a coffee snob. As long as the milk and grounds aren’t scorched in my latte, I’m fine. (As seen in this review of my favorite Cali coffee shop, The Perg. Of course, that guy is a pretentious asshole, as illustrated from his decidedly lukewarm “top tier” reviews.)

What I really look for in a coffee shop isn’t the coffee, but rather the atmosphere. Of these two places, Ritual wins. Blue Bottle has a very pretentious feel, which I guess isn’t surprising given that it has a $20k imported coffee maker in it. Blue Bottle is also a small place. A very cleanly decorated place. White walls, light oak bar and tables. It just has a very clean look to it. Ritual is similar, but they have local art on the walls. The current art are cartoons from Paul Madonna, including this one. Still, neither really have quite the vibe I look for in a coffee shop. Ritual is much closer, but really, I want something with crappy furniture, and some indie art on the wall.

The verdicts: Try the $20k siphon bar, to say you’ve tried it. It’s fine cup of joe, but if you have to choose one to hang out at, hang out at Ritual.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

“Handmade in San Francisco”
“Quality Shit Since 1989”
“Special Limited Edition” (1 of 1)

I needed a new laptop back since my old one developed some tears. (I think it was caused by the D-clip I hooked on to it.) After seeing that Timbuk2 was allowing people to custom order bags, I drove up to the retail store in SF, and made one just for me. A week later, it was ready. It cost $140, just $10 over the normal price.

I think it turned out pretty nice.