Clarion Alley Mural Project

About twice a month, I manage to make it to one of my favorite write-ins, the Friday afternoon Shut Up and Write, at one of my favorite places, Borderlands Books/Cafe, in the Mission District of San Francisco. Borderlands is located halfway between the 16th and 24th Street BART stations. I always choose to get off at 16th Street for one particular reason, so I can stroll through Clarion Alley.

Since 1992, the entire stretch of Clarion Alley has been a canvas for over 700 murals. No work of art is permanent, so the murals are in continuous rotation. If like me, you pass through about twice a month, you’ll almost always see something new. Even if the murals haven’t changed, you can linger over the familiar ones and discover something you hadn’t noticed before.

During a recent walk, I was fortunate enough to catch artist Kenshin Tomoshima working on his latest mural.


Clarion Alley murals often reflect current events and popular culture, such as this one, Rest in Purple by Mel C. Waters, in memory of Prince.


Today, while on my way to Borderlands, I was particularly struck by two murals showing two sides of San Francisco.

Everything Must Go! By Daniel Doherty shows the tragic face of gentrification. Small businesses are being gauged out of San Francisco by exorbitant increases in rent. It’s a sad fact that the city today is not the city of my misspent youth. Much of what had made San Francisco so unique is being bought and sold by the tech elite.


We All Deserve a Healthy and Safe Community by the various artists of Hospitality House shows a more hopeful vision of the city. People of the various communities and cultures come together to celebrate diversity and to rally for an inclusive San Francisco for all its residents, regardless of income. This is the city that still exists and gives me hope for the future.


Clarion Alley is always open and is a popular tourist destination on the weekends. You can find out more on the Clarion Alley Mural Project website.


I live in Millbrae, California, a small suburb about 10 miles south of San Francisco. It’s got a nice shopping area in easy walking distance from my house. Every now and then, I will walk past some random item that has been abandoned on the sidewalk. After I walk by, I always think, “I should take a picture of that.” Last night, I finally did because this piece was truly random.

Now, when I die, Now don't think I'm a nut, Don't want no fancy funeral, Just one like ol' King Tut.

This unlucky pharaoh was left on the bench outside the Kohl’s that closed about a year ago. He’s had a rough time of it, but whoever abandoned him thoughtfully placed him face up and left a portion of his broken beard beside him.

It’s such a “Wait. What?” moment when you pass by something like this. There’s no store nearby that sells such items, so it had to be carried there, but why? Plot bunnies hop around items like this, wanting to take you down the rabbit holes of possibilities.

Is Broken Pharaoh’s appearance on a suburban mall bench mysterious or mundane? The great thing about random items is, it’s all up to you.


New Orleans. It’s a city that evokes a myriad of popular culture images: literary, visual and aural. For me, it’s Interview with the Vampire meets True Blood during Mardi Gras. Festive, crazy, sexy, and spooky, all set to a jazzy/bluesy Zydeco soundtrack.


About to board one of NOLA’s famous streetcars. Destination: French Quarter!

I finally went to this city of my dreams last week to visit my niece, Christine, who had moved there last year. It didn’t meet my expectations. Rather, it changed them. I’m glad I was able to stay in a home rather than a hotel and be escorted by resident instead of a tour guide. You learn different things that way, things that can add knowledge and authenticity if you’re a writer.

For example, I learned you don’t “get” groceries, you “make” groceries. My niece took me to a local grocery store, Dorignac’s, in the suburb of Metairie, where I got to see local products like Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning and Camellia red beans. I found out the residential roads are gouged with huge potholes. I saw that the Mardi Gras routes, like Saint Charles Avenue, have shiny strings of beads, AKA throws, hanging from the power lines and stuck in the branches of the oak trees amidst the Spanish moss.

I also learned to take life a little slower in the Big Easy. No one is in a big hurry to rush to the next thing, maybe because there’s a lot going on all the time. Delicious food and great music are everywhere. You can’t see it all at once, or in one trip, so you might as well slow down and soak it all in.

One of my favorite places to relax was Morning Call. It’s a rival to the more famous Cafe du Monde, open 24 hours and serving cafe au laits and beignets. Their location in City Park was restful compared to the tourist bustle of the French Quarter. The cafe au laits and beignets were to die for. I indulged almost every day during my visit.

Morning Call

Morning Call in City Park. You want to go here. Trust me.

After all, it’s NOLA and it’s all about the food.


Tasty tasty gumbo!

Grilled oysters. So good.

Grilled oysters. Amazing!

This is what they call salad.

Crawfish remoulade salad. Oh so good.

Of course, it’s not a trip to NOLA without a night out on the town. On Saturday, we headed for the French Quarter, natch. Bourbon Street is as insane as you might have heard. We avoided it by walking along Royal Street, which was quiet and lovely, except for all the tour groups. At one point, there was one on every corner. Eventually, we made it to a dive bar on Decatur Street. Then we met up with friends in another place across the street. Somehow, at some point in the evening, going to a karaoke bar on Bourbon Street became a really good idea.

"Oh-oh, halfway there...!"

“Whoa, we’re halfway there…!”

I’m standing above the stage, shouting the lyrics to Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer with about a hundred people. Crazy good fun!

After a while, I went out to the balcony. This is Bourbon Street at 2:30 a.m. The party was still going strong.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

NOLA Pro Tip: You can take your drinks with you in the French Quarter.

After that night, we stuck to tamer activities, such as trip to the Mardi Gras Museum. The tour takes you among the actual floats and you can watch the artists hard at work creating next year’s fantasies on wheels.

Beginning of a project.

Lots of fantastical creatures being created.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

Bright, Mardi Gras colors everywhere.

We also toured St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, a famed City of the Dead. Because of flooding, most New Orleans cemeteries inter the remains above ground.

Above ground tombs.

Above ground tombs.

While there, we saw the possible resting place of famed Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Fun fact for those who have seen American Horror Story: Coven: she actually was a hairdresser. People leave hair ties and clips as offerings at her tomb.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Historical plaque for the supposed tomb of Marie Laveau.

Although it was getting steamy hot and will get steamier as the summer progresses, I was sad to leave this lovely, unique and inspiring city. I’m already looking forward to my next trip. Perhaps for Mardi Gras. Until then, laissez le bon temp rouler! Let the good time roll!

Fanime 2012

Or How I Spent My Memorial Day Weekend

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I have attended Fanime, an anime convention in San Jose, California, almost every Memorial Day weekend for the past 12 years. Why would I do such a thing? Because it’s fun! It’s like being in the middle of a huge costume party that runs nonstop for four days. And I like anime, so going to the convention helps me keep up with what’s new and exciting.

This year, I found a new anime to watch called “Tiger and Bunny.” I know. Sounds like something fluffy and light, but it’s actually a superhero story, and it looks pretty good. I  found a beautiful online manga called “Knite.” Can’t wait to see more of that. And I watched a touching movie called, “Sunny,” about seven Koren schoolgirls and the women they become.

In-between, I strolled Artists’ Alley, where talented artists sell their work. Some of the art is specific to a particular fandom, while other artists sell their own work, usually drawn in the style of manga, Japanese comics. I also spent some time at Clockwork Alchemy, the steampunk sister convention to Fanime. One ticket got you into both conventions, with free shuttles running between both venues 24 hours a day. Sweet.

A special shout-out goes to my friend, Jennifer, who attends this glorious geekfest with me every year. We do have fun.

Do I dress up? Not really. Not unless you count wearing cat ears and a Sherlock T-shirt as dressing up (I don’t.) However, I love seeing the people who cosplay (i.e., wear costumes.) Most people make their own costumes and they are incredibly creative. Think about it. They don’t have patterns. They are making costumes based on reading a comic or watching an animation.That can’t be easy.

The front of the convention center was packed from morning to evening with cosplayers posing for photos. It’s a lot of fun to take pictures. Above are some of my favorite photos from this year’s convention.

Next year, where will I geek out: Fanime or Eurovision? San Jose or Stockholm? It’s a big decision. We’ll see which one I choose.

Roller Derby Night

This exciting sport has been making a big comeback in recent years. I loved roller derby as a kid, so when a friend joined the local league, the Boulder County Bombers, that was the excuse I needed to get back into it. My husband and I went to see her first match last night.

The match took place in the gym at the St. Vrain Memorial Building in Longmont. A very enthusiastic sold out crowd cheered on the two teams, the Daisy Nukes and the Shrap Nellies. Both teams are in the same league, so this could be called a friendly, though very competitive match.

Boulder County Bombers

Boulder County Bombers in action

This is the best action photo I could get with my phone camera. In the background, you can see one of the players going down. There were lots of collisions and pile-ups. It’s a very exciting game to watch. The skating was amazing, especially the jammers, the players who can score points.

Daisy Nukes

Battle ready

During the second half, we sat in the Daisy Nuke’s corner. It was fun, watching them discuss strategy and seeing them skate in and out of action.

Daisy Nukes Style

Fierce style

I loved that the players all added their own personal flare to their uniforms.

Roller Derby Name

Call her Muscle Leanie

Each player has a roller derby name, such as Muscle Leanie, Fleur de Beast, Double DeckHer and Feist E. One. A player’s handle must be unique and there is even a registry of roller derby names so that no two will be the same. Players choose their names with care. However, if you’re interested in a roller derby name, there is a Roller Derby Name Generator. You can choose between being a blocker, pivot or jammer. I got Allie DeathWish.

The Daisy Nukes won by a wide margin, though at half time, the Shrap Nellies had come from behind to take the lead. Luckily, we were sitting by the scoreboard and one of the volunteers filled us in. It had been long awhile since I’d watched a roller derby match and I remembered little of the rules. You can still enjoy watching without a lot of knowledge, but I’m going to learn more before the next match.

One thing I also appreciated was the family atmosphere. There were home baked goods sold in the lobby, a martial arts demonstration at half time, and lots of kids watching the skaters in awe. I felt that same awe when I was a kid watching the San Francisco Bay Bombers. Now I have a new team to root for. Go Boulder County Bombers!