The girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island

Courtesy of the Navy League, today I boarded the USS Makin Island as an official ship’s greeter.  My visit was a bit more fraught than past experiences have been, so I thought I’d walk you through the girl’s guide to visiting the USS Makin Island, starting with pre-visit preparations:

  1. Review boarding instructions at last-minute and realize that I’m supposed to wear “slacks.”  Who the heck has slacks?  I live in jeans, either blue or black.  Burrow through closet and discover antique pair of bland brown slacks.
  2. Breath sigh of relief that slacks still zip.  I vow not to do any inhaling for the rest of the day, lest the slacks become rebellious.
  3. New problem:  After a harried search for the sole, and ancient, pair of brown shoes I own, I find that they are scratched and dirty.  This is bad.  Worse is that I have no shoe polish.  A frantic hunt for something oily to help liven up the leather yields only Tea Tree oil.  Did you know that if you polish your shoes with Tea Tree oil you go around the rest of the day smelling like disinfectant?  I know that now.
  4. Leave house in order to arrive at Pier 80 (in the southern-most part of the City) by 2:30, since the last, best word is that I should be there at 3:00.  I figure a half-hour of wiggle room is a good thing.
  5. Halfway to Pier 80, I get a timely telephone call telling me that the USS Makin Island is actually going to be at Pier 30/32.  Under these circumstances, San Francisco’s maze of one way streets becomes the enemy.
  6. Arrive at Pier 30/32 at 2:30, blithely assuming that I’ll be on board by 3:00.  Hah!  But more on that later.
  7. Learn that, because of snafu, while I am approved for entry onto the pier, my car is not.  I begin the hunt for San Francisco street parking.  Rather to my surprise, I find a spot only a block away, a distance even my dodgy knee can tolerate.  I spend a few minutes struggling with the new-fangled ticket machine, which charges me a hefty $12 for four hours of street parking.  Four hours should be enough, right?
  8. Arrive at pier, and saunter self-consciously across a vast parking lot and staging area, which is empty but for a handful of people who clearly belong there, including five spit-and-polished Marines.   Here’s a picture of that vast space:

  9. With feigned coolness, because I’m neurotically certain that everyone there is staring at me, I casually seat myself on one of the comfortable-looking, bright orange security barriers.
  10. Learn the hard way, when my weight compresses the barrier on which I’ve seated myself, that said barriers are filled with water.
  11. Come to terms with the unpleasant realization that an objective observer, unacquainted with the facts, could reasonably conclude that I wet my pants.
  12. Check out spit-and-polished Marines to see whether they noticed that I’m suddenly looking remarkably foolish, not to mention incontinent.  Happily they appear oblivious — or perhaps they’re just too polite to point and laugh.
  13. Try to air-dry my butt as discretely as possible.  This involves my skulking along the parking lot with my back to the cars, trying to get the benefit of the stiff breeze blowing across the pier.  I am suddenly very grateful that the Navy is running late.
  14. Begin casting longing glances at the Porta Potties. Why the heck are they in such an exposed location?  Think dry thoughts (which is hard to do with wet pants).
  15. Due to extremely brisk breeze, my pants finally begin to dry.  I also give thanks for very expensive all-weather hair style.
  16. Begin to wonder if the thrill of welcoming an amphibious assault vessel is worth it. I fight urge to beat strategic retreat.  I remind myself that dry pants are a good omen and, feeling courageous now that my butt is dry, I slink off to the Porta Potties.
  17. The intelligent, knowledgeable half of the Navy League greeting committee arrives.  Thank God!!  Then I get the bad news:  I arrived an hour early for a ship that is going to be at least an hour late.  Oh, and I’m the point man for the Navy League presentation.  Have I ever mentioned that I’m terrified of public speaking?  I’m not shy.  I can show up to a party knowing no one and still have fun.  It’s having all those eyes looking at you (see items 9 and 10, above).  This blind panic is made worse by knowing that those staring are (a) mostly male and (b) mostly younger than I.  When I was 25, this would have been cool; now that I’m . . . ahem . . . my current age, it’s just nerve-wracking.
  18. Go to car to regroup.  I try to freshen up, only to realize that I’ve forgotten to bring lipstick.  This girl doesn’t feel fully dressed without lipstick, but I focus on the fact that I no longer look as if I’ve wet my pants.  I’m ahead of my own curve.  With lunch a distant memory, and no eateries nearby, I eat a stale power bar that my son left in the car donkey’s years ago.
  19. Return to pier, which is filling up.  The USS Makin Island appears.  It is magnificent:
  20. Attach myself like a limpet to my wonderful Navy League point man who patiently listens to me as I nervously babble.  I know I should muzzle myself, but I’ve got so much adrenalin pumping through me at the thought of public speaking that nothing is going to stop my mouth from moving.
  21. Finally!  Only an hour and a half after I first report for “greeting duty,” we board the ship.  Dozens of ridiculously handsome/beautiful, polite, incredibly young people, all of whom look spiffy in their uniforms, are everywhere.  Is it really possible that they’re all staring at me?  Remind myself I am no longer 13, and that it’s not all about me.
  22. One of said spiffy young people leads us to the wardroom, where we receive a very polite welcome and are offered food and drink.  I recoil at the thought of food, but demand water like a starving man in the desert.
  23. Briefing commences.  The Captain welcomes all of his visitors aboard.  I’m shocked.  How can someone be so fresh and young, and have so much responsibility?  I later check out the ship’s web page and learn that Captain Pringle isn’t that much younger than I am — he just looks a whole lot better.
  24. Fortunately, I’m not the first speaker.  Before I speak, representatives from the Fleet Week board, the San Francisco Police Department, and the NCIS speak.  They are all composed and quite interesting.  This worries me.
  25. Oh, my God!  It’s my turn.  There must be about — oh my! — 50 (or could it actually be 3,000?) people sitting there waiting to hear me speak.  I introduce myself and my fellow Navy Leaguer, and am more grateful than I can say that I remember our names.  I’ve been known to forget my own name in public speaking settings.
  26. I subscribe to the theory that, if you’re obviously at a disadvantage and the people you’re with aren’t your enemy, you should throw yourself at their mercy.  I therefore apologize in advance for a few things: (a) I’m shaking with nerves; (b) I’m a vast chasm of civilian ignorance; (c) I’ll be reading from a prepared script; and (d) I don’t have my reading glasses, so I can’t see the prepared script.  I am off to a rip-roaring start here.
  27. Things are going well.  I’m making it through the list of goodies that the Navy League is providing for our maritime guests, and I’m only stuttering a little bit.  I get cocky.  When I come to the part about tours up in Wine Country, I ad lib:  “This is up in the Sonoma/Napa area, north of San Francisco.  It’s really beautiful up there and wine tours are fun.  Just be sure not to drink or drive.”
  28. Did I just do that?  Did I tell a room full of Naval and Marine officers not to drink and drive?  Could I have been more disrespectful to them?  I don’t know if recovery is possible, but I try:  “I can say that, because I’m a mother.”  Okay, just kill me now.
  29. I finally wrap up my mercifully brief presentation with only minimal hyperventilation and no tears.  Showing that they truly are officers and gentlemen/gentlewomen, several of the briefing attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me that I did a fine job.  What nice people these are!
  30. Return to my car three hours and fifty-seven minutes after I first arrived.  Hurray!  I didn’t get a parking ticket.  I go home giddy with excitement.  Mission accomplished!

Despite my own neurosis, I had a wonderful time.  As I told the assembled officers, the USS Makin Island is a lovely ship, and I was truly honored to be on board.  If you’re in or near San Francisco this weekend, don’t let the crowds deter you.  As you can see from the Fleet Week website, there are so many things to do and see, and it’s your chance to thank personally the men and women who serve our country.

Life in an increasingly fascist city — what San Francisco’s plastic bag ban means

San Francisco’s plastic bag ban went into effect today.  Not only does it ban plastic bags entirely, it also forces people to pay 10 cents for every paper bag they use.  The new rule in the City is bring your own bags or suffer.  All the usual suspects are happy.  What’s interesting is that some of the unusual suspects aren’t happy.  For example, an Arab, probably Palestinian (knowing the neighborhood) shopkeeper:

Across the street at the Eezy Freezy market, owner Al Khalidi is not so pleased about the city’s actions. He said he’s the kind of guy who can’t stand to see someone throw a recyclable into the trash, but believes the city’s law goes too far.

“Do you want a free bag or a 10-cent bag?” he playfully asked a customer, before putting his beer can and soda bottle into a small black plastic bag. Khalidi said he was told by a city worker that he can use plastic bags until he runs out.

[snip]

Khalidi hasn’t started charging for paper bags just yet. He wonders how people would feel about the ban if they see an old woman’s paper bag break open onto the street on a rainy day.

“It’s not a big deal really,” he said. “But when a plastic bag is a must, I hope I can provide one and not have it turn into a big thing.”

Clearly, Mr.Khalidi has the immigrant’s (or first generation child’s) appreciation for free choice, as well as a proper understanding of the real world consequences of handing over to the government your right to make decisions about the things that directly affect you.

And then there’s the gal who likes the freedom to make her own choices, which include reusable bags, and who thinks everyone should have that same freedom:

At first glance, Denise Snyder seems like someone who would also be supportive of the change. She had three heavy reusable bags strapped on both arms while she waited for the N-Judah near Safeway. But she said people are tired of being nickeled-and-dimed by the city.

“I think it hurts people that can’t afford it,” she said. “I know it’s an ordinance, but there are just too many penalties and fines and fees already.”

The most interesting comment, though, came from one of Mr. Khalidi’s customers.  To me, it perfectly sums up liberal fascism, and explains why a generation of people steeped in public schools and American universities willingly embraces increasing government control over their lives (emphasis mine):

Back inside the Eezy Freezy, regular customer Michael Donk, a limo driver, said he is a strong supporter of the new ordinance.

“I do think it’s a good thing. It’s not about control,” he said. “It’s about reminding us what’s good for us.”

Didn’t Reagan say that the nine scariest words in the English language are “We’re from the government and we’re here to help”?

I’m paying close attention to this, because bag bans are creeping up in Marin. The Safeway in Strawberry is under an ordinance banning plastic bags; the ones in Corte Madera and Novato are not. You can guess which ones gets my custom.

San Francisco’s pro-tenant laws and ethos drive up the cost of renting

Housing in San Francisco is expensive because the City is bounded on three sides by water and on the fourth side by another city.  Housing in San Francisco is expensive because it’s one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world, so a lot of people want to live there and are willing to pay a premium to do so.  Housing in San Francisco is expensive because, if you don’t mind a little fog, it’s got a delightfully temperate climate that, like Baby Bear’s porridge, is usually “just right.”

And of course, housing in San Francisco is so expensive because the one-sided municipal and state laws favoring tenants make it extremely risky to be a landlord:

Janet Sluizer knew she was taking a bit of a chance when she turned to Craigslist this summer to find a tenant for her apartment in the Mission. What she didn’t expect was that she’d be spending thousands of dollars in a struggle to evict a roommate who she says hasn’t paid rent beyond the first month.

“This is a nightmare,” Sluizer said.

It’s a nightmare that landlord advocates say is all too common in San Francisco, where 64 percent of residents rent.

“What she’s experiencing is not unusual,” said Janan New, executive director of the San Francisco Apartment Association. “The rental housing market in San Francisco is quite complicated and complex to manage.”

According to New, a combination of confusing rent ordinances and an abundance of free legal resources for tenants make it difficult for inexperienced landlords to evict someone on their own.

“If you attempt to evict a tenant, even if it’s a simple non-pay issue, we recommend you hire an attorney to do that,” New said.

Read the whole painful story here.  I can assure you that this is not an unusual San Francisco story.  I knew a couple that spent five years and about $100,000 to evict a tenant.  Interestingly, the tenant wasn’t even their tenant.  They’d rented the apartment to Guy One, whose boyfriend, Guy Two, moved in with him.  When Guy One died of AIDS, Guy Two refused to leave.  Instead, he had his boyfriend, Guy Three, move in with him.  Guy Two then died of AIDS, leaving Guy Three in possession.  The landlords decided it was high time they regain control over their property, especially since Guy Three found rent an unreasonable obligation.  And so began their five year odyssey.  When they regained the property, they sold it.

Another landlord didn’t even bother with the fight.  She simply sold the property, complete with horrible tenant, and gave the buyer a $50,000 discount.  The buyer, a friend of mine, discovered even that wasn’t such a great bargain, as it took him another two years to get the tenant out so he and his family could move in.  Meanwhile, they had to pay mortgage, rent, and legal fees.

I used to do pro bono legal work for people with AIDS.  I had imagined helping them optimize their SSI and other benefits.  What I ended up doing for these guys — for free — was helping them stiff their landlords.  After my third go-round, I withdrew my name from the pro bono pool.  I didn’t have the stomach to engage in this kind of perfectly legal landlord screwing.

It’s no wonder that San Francisco landlords charge high rents.  They need those high rents to help pay their almost inevitable legal fees.

Obama savaged in San Francisco

Aside from getting to see downtown San Francisco without actually having to shlep into downtown San Francisco, I liked Zombie’s latest photo essay because it shows how disaffected Obama is.  The Left hates him, the Right hates him, and he spends time hobnobbing with the rich.  He is not a man of the people.  Indeed, if Vanity Fair is correct, his feeling is “to Hell with the people.”

There is no sweet smell of success emanating from Obama’s latest campaign.  Just the smell of flop sweat and failure.  I know this can change, but sometimes failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

The streets of San Francisco (or, this is Nancy Pelosi’s city)

Writing a couple of years ago about the streets of San Francisco, in a post I called “Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco,” I had this to say:

Last week, I had occasion to make four separate trips to the City.  Each was unpleasant.

The first trip, I got a flat tire from broken glass in the street.  I know that can happen anywhere, but it’s more likely along the Market Street stretch I had to travel.

The second trip, I found myself at a corner that boasted both a stop sign and a red light.  This was ludicrous, confusing and, therefore, dangerous.  This is manic control run amok.

The third trip, I almost got a ticket when I parked at what appeared to be a non-metered space.  Half the block had parking meters; half the block, the part where I was parking, didn’t.  It was only because a nice pedestrian warned me that I learned that there was an electronic kiosk about 25 feet away from my car that sold parking passes for the car’s dashboard.  Other than that word of mouth tip, there were no signs at all warning that, while half the block had old-fashioned meters, the other half had switched to a computer system.

The fourth trip, my husband and I were walking down Gough Street towards the Opera House at dusk.  Between the failing light and the broken and dimmed street lights, it was impossible to avoid the hazards of pitted, jagged, broken uneven sidewalk.  It was only because we’re in good shape, with decent balance, that the two of us avoided a painful tumble.  I won’t even describe the smell of urine and sewage that kept wafting up towards us as we walked along.

Welcome to Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco.

Well, San Francisco has made this disgrace official, by naming a street after Nancy Pelosi.

Proving, as he so often does, that a picture is worth a thousand words, Michael Ramirez has nailed this most recent San Francisco development.

Just Because Music: The New Seekers “I’d like to teach the world to sing”

I remember the hippies as dirty, drugged-out, pathetic human beings lying on the streets in the Haight Ashbury.  Their continuing legacy is one of drugs, sexual self-indulgence, and mindless statism wrapped up in equally mindless slogans of “love” and “fairness,” as if a government is capable of giving love or imposing fairness from above.

However, the bells and whistles with which the hippies dressed up their drugs, sex, and Leftist fantasies were often quite lovely.  One of my favorite childhood memories is of a rainbow themed art exhibition at the de Young Museum (this one, not this one), an exhibition that would never have happened but for Flower Child imagery.

Likewise, there was something charming, albeit manifestly naive, about the notion of universal brotherhood.  I thought as a child, and still think now, that one of the prettiest, most harmonious, expressions of that naive belief was The Seeker’s I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing:

And for those of you who remember the Coke commercial:

(And don’t you just love the all-Americanism of a vapid hippie philosophy being co-opted by Madison Avenue and a multinational corporation to market a caffeinated sugar drink?)

San Francisco Chronicle columnist warns city’s rational thinkers not to roll in the mud with one specific fringe group

Here’s the lede:

The great thing about living in San Francisco is that it is socially and culturally responsible. The bad thing is, a city that is so socially and culturally responsible can’t resist taking the bait when a fringe group tries to provoke a reaction.

In a non-Bizarro world, one might think that the columnist, C.W. Nevius, is advising San Franciscans to ignore the OWSers camped out along the Embarcadero.  What better way to avoid the drugs, feces and vomit?  Except that can’t be right take on that lede because even San Francisco, with its seemingly endless tolerance for all things Progressive, cleared out the OWS camp a couple of months ago because it was a public health hazard.

Or maybe Nevius is advising San Franciscans to avoid the antisemitic/anti-American hate fest that occurs whenever the Progressive crowd takes to the streets of San Francisco to oppose the wars the U.S. is fighting against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  Nope.  Can’t be that.  Those protests ended when Obama took the White House, even though it took another three years for one war to wrap up and the other is still going strong.

Hmm.  Maybe Nevius is telling San Franciscans to stay away from the annual Up Your Alley Fair, an open air celebration of pretty much unlimited debauchery.  Or the annual Folsom Street Fair, which features less nudity, but more whips and chains.

I mean, frankly, when it comes to “fringe groups” that are trying “to provoke a reaction,” San Francisco certain has more than its fair share.

This being San Francisco, however, Nevius had something even more fringey in mind, something so horrifying that even San Francisco’s usual crew of protesters, the ones who will take off their clothes to protest anything, including their right to take off their clothes, are being warned away lest they get damaged by contact with this extremist organization.  What is this diabolical gathering, the one so out there that San Franciscans need to hide in their homes rather than validate it with confrontation?

The 8th Annual Walk For Life, which will be held on January 21, 2012, in San Francisco.  Last year, this “fringe” group managed to gather around 40,000 people, all of whom frightened ordinary San Franciscans by wearing normal clothes, walking peaceably, and carrying signs that support life.  (Zombie has an illustrative photo essay from the 2010 walk.)

Nevius, who sometimes distinguishes himself by being amongst the more sensible columnists by San Francisco Chronicle standards, embraces San Francisco’s amorality, however, when he says that the City, en masse, should ignore this pro-Life plague:

The best approach, of course, would be to let them [the pro-Life walkers] have their moment, ignore them, and then go back to real life in San Francisco. That’s the approach that will be taken by the local chapter of Planned Parenthood.

[snip]

Naturally, not everyone feels that way, and we can just about count on clashes between the two groups. There will be disagreements about the size of the crowds – protesters claim that the walk organizers overestimate the size of the march, and members of the walk claim that the number of protesters decreases every year.

At the end of the day, it comes down to a classic example of sound and fury signifying nothing. When the walk concludes Saturday, you can bet that no one will have changed his or her position, although everyone will be congratulating himself or herself for standing up for the cause.

I’ve done enough abortion posts for you guys to know that I’m conflicted on this subject.  I grew up totally pro-Choice, focused entirely on the woman’s needs and convenience.  As I’ve aged — and had children — I’ve no longer been able to deny that there is another life involved.  I want to deny it.  If, God forbid, my daughter shows up pregnant at 15, I want to say “Oh, never mind, darling!  I’ll just take you to the doctor and that’ll be that,” but I don’t think I can anymore.  It’s not a woman’s convenience versus a cell’s existence.  It’s a life versus a life.

So when C.W. Nevius says “[w]hen the walk concludes Saturday, you can bet that no one will have changed his or her position,” he’s plain wrong.  The walk may be the last link in the chain for someone who is struggling, as I struggle, with making a u-turn in a profound belief system, one that forces us to confront who we are and what value we place upon ourselves.

Christmas in San Francisco

San Francisco used to be charming.  Now it’s just kind of creepy — or, at least, large parts of it are.  For example, the OWSers are creepy.  Even creepier is what happens when the OWSers come together with the nekkid Santas.  And I have to ask, as I always do:  Why is it always only the ugly people who insist on taking their clothes off?

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, nude world — if you live in San Francisco

The City That Knows How, which is how long-time San Francisco columnist Herb Caen viewed his beloved adopted city, is at it again, this time with proposed legislation saying you can’t enter restaurants nude, nor can you, as a nude person, sit down in a public space without putting something under yourself first.  How about something completely different?  In the interests of decency and healthy sexuality, how about, you don’t let people wander around naked in public!

The human body is a wondrous thing.  To that end, I prefer to keep some of that wonder alive by seeing less of most people’s bodies, rather than more.  Economics 101 holds that, the rarer a commodity is, the more precious it is.  When you have wrinkled old hippies (link is not NSFW) and emaciated drug addicts wandering the streets showing their all, it tends to cheapen the premium we in the West have traditionally placed on God’s (or Nature’s) special design.

In a question and answer he set out in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, Woody Allen pretty much sums it up:  “Is sex dirty?  Only if it’s done right.”  Trying to make the human body as ordinary as yesterday’s newspaper is definitely doing it wrong.

Cross-posted at PJ Media

Dealing with government bureaucracies

I do not understand the liberal love affair with government.  Government is inefficient and it bullies people.  Had a business engaged in the same conduct as the City of San Francisco, it would have apologized profusely or found itself flamed to death.  A government, however, can act with impunity, because it holds the power.

I’m not advocating an anarchic system without government.  I’m just saying that people ought to think very carefully before they vest more and more power in government’s hands.  History shows repeatedly the truth behind Thoreau’s dictum that “That government is best which governs least.”

Only in SF is JROTC a “controversial” program

The news is good, at least for the time being, but I was rather amazed to learn that JROTC, which has been around since before WWI, all over America, is “controversial”:

The San Francisco school board gave the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps yet another vote of confidence Tuesday, ensuring that the controversial military leadership program will stick around for at least another two years in seven district high schools.

The board decided in a 5-to 2 vote to let JROTC students continue to earn required physical education credits through independent study, a decision that ensures the military program can maintain enrollment numbers.