Wednesday, November 28, 2007

We Got Married in a Fever

Although Tugboat Dave and I seem to have a difference of opinion on who recorded the definitive version of Jackson, I'll be going there Saturday and scouting out Jane Fonda and Harrison Ford, just in case. I've not been there since I was about 14, and the high there is supposed to be around 14. However, I don't think it was this Jackson that Lee & Nancy/Johnny & June were singing about. All the same, I plan to dance on a pony keg if the opportunity arises. The rest of the week will be in comparatively bland Colorado. Maybe I'll drop by to say hello to Dr. Dobson while in "the Springs" as locals call it.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Front Windows

In the spring, I did a stop motion video of the view outside my front window that can be seen here during the course, more of less, of 24 hours. It's odd to look at it, only six months on and realize how much the quality of light has changed this time of year, and even the milieu of the neighborhood is different. New tagging on different doors, a couple of new neighbors. Shift the camera three inches, and you'd view the breath-taking guy in the Italianate frame single-plex across the street whose bay windows face my own eye-to-eye, and he is seated at his laptop as I am at mine. When I moved in here, the crazy nine-dog-woman lived there, followed by the breezy Rastafarian social worker, and now he and his wife are there with their two Audis. I keep thinking of the dramas in Rear Window and wondering if something will go down. Or maybe I'll get brave and take a few shots of him at his iBook, and my readers can decide how many stars he merits.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Stolen Secrets and Other Misdemeanors

I think I've found a kindred Junk Thief named Square America that I appreciate being introduced to by Gavin Elster, a bit of a Junk Thief himself in his ability to cull the most bizarre and obscure postings on YouTube and other cultural artifacts on the web.

Square America features several themes of amateur photography, generally "candid" snapshots dating back to the late 19th century. Any fiction writer looking for inspiration should take a glance at them, such as the party photos which hint at mysterious, potentially dangerous behaviors without giving away too many secrets. Some are disturbing, some are just plain weird, and many more are outrageously funny.

Most of them feel like stolen secrets, mysterious portals into lives we have not experienced and asking us to provide our own context.

Your assignment, class, is to share your description in 500 words or less of what you think is happening in and around these two samples.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Deadly Desires and Pedal Extremities




Sloth:Very Low




Discover Your Sins - Click Here

A tip of the fedora to Huntington for alerting me to this interesting albeit somewhat dubious test. I don't fully agree with the assessment since I'd rank pride being in the high level, but most of the others seem pretty on target. I share the high level lust quotient with Huntington, however unlike him I am morally opposed to flashy jewelry. I can't explain why, but it offends me.

As a typical Thanksgiving ritual, I've been going through a process of various forms of taking stock and being thankful. I am in a far more thankful mode than I have been over the past seven years, having gone through dealing with several years of family illnesses and deaths.

On the material side, I've just completed a photographic inventory of my shoes, something I've done in the past and have found a useful way to keep my shoe lust in check. How many pairs are identical or so similar that they are indistinguishable from each other? Fortunately less than 3% of my current stock. So how many pairs would that be? Well, I won't reveal the exact number, but might run a contest to see who can guess how many digits are in that number. (The ten digits I put into those shoes each day don't count.)

I have mentioned before that one of the tipping points of dumping a guy I dated a couple of years ago was that he took pride in the fact that he could buy his entire wardrobe at Marshall's. (Or was it Mervyn's? Which is lower on the pecking order.) At the same time, I remember being with an ex at the Bloomingdale's at Stanford Shopping Center when a queen chased his significant other into a dressing room screaming, "Oh, no, you're not going to try that on. Not only is it plaid, it's button down!" I turned to my significant other and said, "If we ever get to that point, let's promise each other now that we'll call it quits." We did call it quits a couple of years later but it wasn't due to button down plaid but over whether or not it was insensitive to throw away a gift certificate a friend gave us to Pier 1. Perhaps that's why I ranked a little low on the pride scale because I ended up using the gift certificate. Pier 1 does have pretty decent candles, and once you pull off and throw away the labels no one knows the difference.

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Autumn, Cake or Death

I began this year by discovering the increasingly obscure tracks of Scott Walker and am ending it by doing the same with Lee Hazlewood who died earlier this year. I am nearing the point of being a completist with both. After growing up drawn to almost any female songwriter or chanteuse, I seem to keep finding my influences to be increasingly male in recent years.

Though I've been vaguely aware of most of Lee's songs through the years and had a number of his discs, I'm not sure why I never heard this tune, perhaps because its near perfect lyric would not speak to me so directly as it now does and was ringing in my head as I snapped today's shots above:

Kiss all the pretty ones goodbye

Give everyone a penny that cry
You can throw all my tranquil' pills away
Let my blood pressure go on its way
For my autumn's done come
My autumn's done come. Done come

Let those 'I-don't-care-days' begin
I'm tired of holdin' my stomach in
No more slinky folk dollars for me
I'll take Sears & Roebuck dollars gladly
For my autumn's done come
My autumn's done come. Done come

Bring me water short and scotch tall
A big long black cigar that ain't all
Hang me a hammock between two big trees
Leave me alone, damned! Let me do as I please
For my autumn's done come
My autumn's done come. Done come

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Meine Stadt - das hervorragende und das profane

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Magical Mosaic

The thing that differentiates Canada from the U.S., it's often been said, is that while we pride ourselves on being a melting pot where speedy assimilation is almost mandatory, Canada has been able to celebrate its diversity through a magical mosaic. Each culture stands unique and distinct, impeded into the binding materials that make one great nation of shimmering, colorful tiles.

While Barcelona is arguably the mecca for true mosaic work lauded by Gaudi but going back to Medieval times, there is much of the same work to be found here in the city by the bay. All of these are in varying extensions of the 941 plus two zip codes, though most here in the 94110.

A plea to Reya of the Golden Poppy: I've not been able to find the work of your friend Deborah on York Street, unless you're mistaken and it's actually the bench I photographed on 22nd closer to Folsom. Either way, that's one of the best works in the 'hood.

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Feliz Dia de Gracias

A trip to the Sushi Boat, espresso and dessert in North Beach at an outdoor table without those damned outdoor heaters (the whole idea of eating outside is to experience the outdoors, not escape it)and a random stroll through Chinatown, Union Square and back home. That's a enough reasons to be thankful, no?

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Not There and the Light Swallow

We shut down our office early Wednesday, and I managed to go see a matinee of I'm Not There. I'm fighting the urge to go see it a couple more times even though I came away not learning one new thing about Dylan or the times of his greatest work. I'd worried about it not living up to the hype or being humorless. There are some hilarious moments, such as the Cate Blanchett Dylan calling Keith Richards a guy in that great covers band. And the hoopla about the brilliance of Blanchett's Dylan is not over-stated. To me, it's her scenes that get to the core of the story, about why Dylan is still relevant, about why his contention that he is "just a song and dance man" was never said with irony. He was an act, albeit not one with Rockettes or laser shows. Building it all around possibly my favorite Dylan tune, Ballad of the Thin Man, Haynes managed to hit on why our relationship with "stars" or prophets so enthralls us and is also a complete charade. But, at the same time, we need a few charades in our lives to keep certain muscles in shape.

Blanchett battles with a journalist's attempts to project his perceptions onto him/her, it hit on every aspect of what's annoyed me about unpleasant human relationships in my own life. Too often they have existed in a tiny pool of joint delusion of who the other person is while we retreat into ourselves to allow anger about the other person fester. Sometimes that produces great art, other times it produces madness, depression or suicide.

I also loved that it focused so much on how we can project so much of ourselves on a past we did not live -- as Dylan did with Woody Guthrie and his namesake and Haynes does with Dylan's youth. On top of that, seeing an elderly Richie Havens, whose voice I remember touching me deeply as a child, had great resonance.

It was also fun to be at a movie the day it opened, especially one with so much buzz. Oddly, at the 3:15 matinee, there were maybe three dozen people in the theater. I was one of five under 65.

I followed the film with Puccini's La Rondine with A____ who has tickets as part of the Rainbow Series. A____ and his cohorts insisted that I need to get Rainbow Series since its a chance for me to meet my soul mate. I recoil at that thought but would like to see more Puccini live. La Rondine is definitely a minor but pleasant part of the Puccini catalog. Although I knew Canzone di Doretta and Ore dolci e divine, I'd never heard the entire score or seen it live. A____ and I agreed that it was all very pleasant but more memorable for sets and background action. I mainly remember the maid and a chorus member who stood in an apron smoking a cigarette during the second act scene set in Bulliers. The Belle Epoque vibe was a nice retreat back to the sensibility of L'Eixample, but as A__ and I both said, not operatic enough.

I was humming Going to Acapulco on the BART as I headed home.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Meanwhile Back in the 94110

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And Still Very Dead

In general, I agree that it's wrong to celebrate the anniversary of anyone's death as a reason for hope, but today on the 34th anniversary of the death of General Franco there is good reason to do so. There were already celebrations commemorating the end of his rule when I was in Barcelona two weeks ago. Living in a nation that has endured seven years of absolute night, it's worth looking at what has happened in Spain over the past three decades to realize that the U.S. might one day actually return to the civilized world. It's a stretch, but if Spain could make such a remarkable transformation, it's reason for inspiration for us as well. Though, I am increasingly thinking about becoming one of them and giving up hope on the U.S. I agree that it is a nation worth saving. I just am not sure I want to see it through on these shores.

Thanks to Kimy for reminding to get around to reading Mark Kurlansky's The Basque History of the World, a great celebration of the ultimate rewards of persistent resistance to oppression, even if there is a high cost.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Tagged Once More

Okay, only because she is both charming and salty, I will indulge Salty Miss Jill's tagging request for a second time. If you missed my list from July, it is here. I'm following Joy's lead by bucking authority and nixing the last two rules.

They are:

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

It's fairly easy to do random and/or weird. Fortunately interesting would be beyond my skill set:

1.) I briefly dated a guy who was a collector of reptiles and had 30-40 snakes in cages in his tiny apartment. They were in their glass cages that were from floor to ceiling, facing his bed as their little eyes peered down at any activity that took place in the room. He was also a classical guitarist, landscape architect and prone to having accidents in his Jeep. He volunteer with the reptile rescue society and said iguanas are the hardest to place and prone to chronic depression.

2) I despise any form of chocolate and sweet drinks of any kind. I ordered an iced tea over the weekend that was sweetened without my permission, and I fought the reflex to spit it out on the table. It took 24 hours to get that nasty sugar wang out of my mouth. Sugar or sweetener in coffee or tea? Don't speak such heresy!

3) I have two cousins with webbed toes.

4) My sister did not have a middle name until she got married and was able to use my last name as her middle name. One of my cousins with webbed toes also doesn't have a middle name, and his first one only has three letters.

5) I played the glockenspiel in middle school marching band because I was the only percussionist able to read music.

6) My apartment in Park Slope Brooklyn previously had Alice Walker and Mira Nair as tenants.

7) The previous tenant in my first apartment was murdered in the unit's living room.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

El Born on a Monday Morning

Arriving early in the day, I had a chance to watch the Medieval barrio wake up before the Japanese tourists descended on the Picasso museum. Now one of the priciest neighborhoods and minutes away from the beach, it reportedly is a place with a couple of bars where you can still buy absinthe. I've already seen enough green faeries in my lifetime and was in no mood for them on a Monday morning.

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Zipping Around the 94110 and the 94105

A graphic reminder that San Francisco is not one coherent city but a collection of several samll, almost self-contained villages is evidenced in a trip from my very low-rise Mission District (94110) to the burgeoning urbania of South of Market centered around the new One Rincon Hill (94105) project. Though the tidiness of that neighborhood is refreshing for a little while, it doesn't take long to discover that it has its own rough edges.

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Please Don't Ruin My Memoires

At least when Vicky Cristina Barcelona is released no one can accuse me of it inspiring me to go to Catalonia. However, I plan to wait until the DVD release before watching it, if at all. In the meantime, I think I may rent L'auberge Espagnole, which had the good sense of portraying the Brits as the ugly Americans I had a similar experience with the Brits there who were much louder and coarser than any people I saw from the U.S.

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Who'd Have Ever Guessed...

...that on a quiet residential street of South San Francisco, the self dubbed "industrial city" you'd find this place? In addition to publishing, banquet facilities, a restaurant and cultural center, they also organize handball games. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be that many fishermen hanging about, just a bit too far in from the bay to lug those little boats. And, of course, don't even get me started on the ETA.

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In his comment on last night's post (appropriately #666 in case you're counting) featuring Mitzi Gaynor, Bryce Digdug referenced the famed Dora Hall. Dora is an entertainer I never saw in her lifetime but have heard Bryce mention many time. The wife of Solo Cup founder Leo Hulseman, Ms. Hall fancied herself a great performer. Judge for yourself on this rare clip of her singing Hang on Sloopy as to her actual talents. Today that song may seem about as old as the Great Wall of China, but Ms. Hall was born in 1900, about half a century before those for whom the song was intended.

Legend has it, according to Bryce, that in order to promote Dora's career, Mr. Hulseman would run free record promotions on Solo products. You could check a box of records you wanted, usually a list that included contemporary hits of the time by the Beatles, Petula Clark, the Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, etc. Solo would then mail you an album with a note on the order of "Thank you for your support of Solo products and participation in our free music promotion. Due to popular demand, The Rolling Stones Beggars' Banquet is currently unavailable. We are pleased to send you instead a copy of Dora Hall's Down at Papa Joe's.

Official information on Dora is hard to come by these days, and a clip of her on I've Got a Secret was yanked from YouTube. Since she was so inescapable in her day, this is a bit surprising. I wonder if the same will be true of Paris Hilton in 2037? In the meantime, you might enjoy this unofficial web tribute to the mysterious career of Ms. Hall. Sadly, she never covered You're So Vain.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

17 Emmy Nominations But No Lola Heatherton

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My Little Victorian Pony

First, let me dispel the rumor going around through recycling of some of my emails that my departure to Catalonia as a resident alien is imminent. Possible, maybe even likely but not happening in the next few months.

At the moment I am at an odd state of peace with San Francisco, a place I have never and never will love but am at a point of actually liking on several levels. My days of hating it, loathing it, resenting it are over. However, though there is some handsome architecture here, there are some really hideous buildings. Oakland and Pasadena are the architectural gems of California in my book.

But one of the absolute atrocities of Victoriana at its worst is a few blocks down from me at 24th and San Jose. This makes Julian Schnabel's notorious tower in the Village look subtle by comparison. Is the interior filled with Barney and My Little Pony artifacts? While the structure itself is not that offensive, these depressing colors make me long for the soothing grays and browns of dear old Park Slope, Brooklyn. There is Gaudi, there is gaudy, and then there is this godless atrocity.

It reminds me of the best question ever posed to me about San Francisco architecture that came from a visitor from Singapore. "Why do you people call them Victorians? She was never your queen."

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Don't Make Me Choose

It seems so fitting that there seems to be a theme of life 100 years ago weaving itself through several posts, beginning with the Centennial of Oklahoma through the buildings I visited in Barcelona, most built between 1890 and 1910, and the visions of my home through the eyes of my cat/house sitter looking like an absinthe infused dream of Gaudi and Georges Méliés.

I hate picking absolute favorites, but if I were forced:
  • My desert island CD would contain the complete works of Debussy, but I would prefer to live on a Mediterranean not desert island since that's my favorite climate. I hate tropics even more than deserts if you're keeping track.
  • I would choose Casa Batlló over La Pedrera. Its chimneys and city views are more intimate and comforting to me, and the crowds are smaller.
  • I'm not that fond of outerspace or sci-fi films, but I would chose Georges Méliés A Trip to the Moon as being vastly superior to Star Wars and Star Trek and slightly superior to Blade Runner. What other film has been sampled by both the Smashing Pumpkins and Michael Todd?
On that bent, I have been watching a lot of Méliés since heading back to San Francisco, and I keep having this dream about being on the roof of Casa Batlló at a party thrown by Proust with Gaudi, Méliés and Debussy as revelers. Reynaldo Hahn and I dance to one of his own chamber compositions as Proust looks on seething with jealousy as I feel Reynaldo's thick Venezuelan beard warm on my cheek as he speaks to me in broken Catalan as the moon plays games of hide and seeks with Gaudi's mysterious chimneys.

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My World Through Different Eyes

No two people see the same things/places exactly the same way. Fellow blogger Jim Eilers/The Blue Elephant looked after Bunter and my place while I was in Catalonia last week, and he had this take on my flat. Be sure to check out his blog which reminds me of some of the observations of Kimy/Mouse Medicine in Cleveland and Reya/Gold Puppy in Washington, D.C.

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Little Yente on the Prairie

Today is the Centennial of Oklahoma Statehood, something that I approach with mostly distant and slightly mixed feelings. Above is a shot of my paternal grandmother in the Oklahoma territory around 1901. And below is the source image of her with her parents and siblings, the Matzenbachers of Noble, Oklahoma, part of the contentious 1889 land run. They participated in this event, having made a journey mostly by train from the Lower East Side. Like most assimilated Jews of the Great Plains, they made a clean break with the past when they crossed Delancey Street and headed west. Looking into the eyes of the little girl that my mother would eventually call "the Little Yente on the Prairie," I can't help but wonder what secrets she suppressed and which ones she held on to until the grave.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Das Leben ist wieder schön

Besides coming home to be greeted by a stunning Baske fisherman, what could be more life affirming than to return from a business trip and reach down to find this at your front door. Nothing spells the holidays to me than dark, dismal Weimar culture, and having Fassbinder's take on it, in all 14 filthy episodes of Berlin Alexanderplatz, his epic swan song. Ive even cheated a bit an sneaked a peak at the short 1931 version of the story in the supplements section. There will be true reason to give thanks this turkey day.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Knobs of the Born

It was exactly a week ago today that I nabbed the photos of these door knobs in the Born, sometime after the Picasso Museum and before lunch in San Antoni. A stated goal of Junk Thief since its launch has been to find the perfect door knob. Not quite there but getting warm. Very warm? Thoughts? Suggestions on appointed points on the map? Photos and phone numbers you might want to forward?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

How's Your Euskera, Irene?

As someone who is in a plane at least two times a month, I have yet to pull out an in flight magazine and find, usually in the first dozen or so pages a full page ad with a photo of this woman. Her blinding white veneers and golden tresses. If I'd come across her photo without context I'd peg her as either a South Florida madame or Vegas realtor. No, Irene Valenti is a self avowed matchmaker bringing together busy professionals in what she calls the "European tradition". I was just in Europe and I certainly never saw anyone with such trashy, flashy audacity as Irene.

According to her online bio, she's originally from Edmonton, Alberta -- which I'm sure is where she picked up all those European traditions. Again, seeing the photo out of context and I were asked to guess where she grew up I'd say Ashbury Park at best, more likely Newark or even lower down on the Jersey pecking order.

It's kind of sad to think that there are people out there that get in touch with Irene, since she's obviously raking in enough bucks to have her work her reputed old world charms. I honestly wish I had some bucks to blow just to have the satisfaction of seeing her expression when I filled out my profile, handed it to her and said, "What I'm really looking for Irene, is a Baske fisherman, with a donkey dong." I bet Irene can't even speak Euskera. Okay, mine's not that great either. However, I did hear from a Baske dude online who's coming to SF in a few months and it didn't cost me a cent. Sure, I hear similar things from guys in Nigeria and Malaysia, but I always bend the rules for the Baske. Are you sensing that there may be a theme coming to Junk Thief in the months ahead? Could be.

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In Your Gut You Know He's a Nut

I'm posting this one with a tip of the beret to Bryce Digdug, who is not above writing about conservative politicians. Funny thing is, today one actually wishes old Barry was around since today's right wingers make him seem downright sensible. All the same, whenever I see this in transit (where I write this using the rare free wifi offered a Phoenix's Sky Harbor terminal, which along with lack of snow in the winter make it an ideal transit point), I have to ponder: "He's terminal? I could swear I heard that he died at least 12 years ago. However, in case I didn't mention it earlier, I was able to confirm that General Franco is still dead. I doubt he'd approve of those tasty little hombres walking hand in hand along Passeig de Gracia, but I sure did.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Discreet Charm of Real Estate Pornorgraphy and Aging with Grace

I think this photo may be my absolute favorite of the 800+ shots I took this past week. Take a moment to click on it and "embiggen" it to catch the focal point of the elderly couple on the balcony which I get teared up just looking at again since it embodies why I will definitely be coming back to Barcelona, perhaps permanently. I began by shooting the charming Forn de Pa sign below them, but first the man came out to gaze at the street in his Dreta L'Eixample neighborhood (the Upper East Side of Barcelona), and then the woman joined him. I felt I was seeing something that was at once very private but also so natural and loving and not in any guidebook. In the flash of a few seconds, just as the warmth of afternoon was about to turn to the end of the day touched me in a deeply multi-layered way that Billie Holiday singing "Autumn in New York" does. Just after putting my camera back in my bag, they glanced down, as if suddenly aware of me, and I went on about my way, and they returned inside.With apologies to Luis Buñel, I found that the bourgeoisie of Barcelona, especially its elderly, had enormously discreet charm and great grace. Almost always elegantly but never elaborately dressed. My favorite moments were watching them going about their daily lives and picturing myself at that age and thought about where I would like to be when that time comes. Most of them, of course, came of age during or some perhaps just before Franco came of age. As Catalonians, even the most elite felt oppression during that dark era, and I found myself longing to pull one aside and ask what it felt like to have so many dreams dashed and now to live in a city so glorious, graceful and able to function without resentment of its many annoying tourists.
Those questions raced through my head as I followed a few steps behind this woman who dashed ahead of me into her local market, a wrought iron charmer. How I longed to walk beside her, help her push the cart along as she filled it with items for an elegant Catalonian Saturday supper that would suddenly increase from one to two.
A couple of days later just after nabbing this shot of a lady in the Born, she turned and glanced back at me with a sly, knowing smile. She didn't look the least bit resentful or angry but perhaps just a tad scolding of a ladrón at play in what has become one of the priciest neighborhoods in the city. In a few months, Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona will let the world know that I am not the only neurotic Jew to descend on their city. And I am not the only one obsessed with real estate pornography, and I am sure we'll get plenty of lush interiors in the Born and Dreta L'Eixample. I've already scouted real estate prices there which are somewhere between San Francisco and Manhattan. When I announced more than a decade ago that I would be searching for and buying real estate in San Francisco, people laughed and said "in your dreams; it'll never happen." When some young ladrón follows me up Passeig de Saint Joan as I saunter home leaning into my cane and carrying a loaf of warm pa and salt cod, I promise to have attained a similar state of grace and will just smile back, having plenty of secrets that I prefer to let shimmer through the gauze of bourgeois charm.

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