San Francisco City Guides; Mission Murals

Dream Mission Murals

“Dream” by Lady T, Lilac Alley, Mission © 2015 Susan M Hall

San Francisco City Guides is a non profit organization with 200+ trained tour guides who lead free walking tours in the city of San Francisco. It is sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Parks Alliance. The Mission Murals tour is one of approximately 30 tours that visit neighborhoods in San Francisco. Our guide was Patricia.  The tour starts at Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School which hosts five murals including one created by students with bits of broken plates, glass and tile dedicated to United Farmworker (UFW) co-founder Delores Huerta.   The tour ends at Balmy Alley with murals memorializing Bishop Oscar Romero, “Enrique’s Journey” and my personal favorite “Greetings from the Future” featuring an anchor surrounded by the words “I refuse to sink.”

Mission Mural tribute to Archbishop Oscar Romero

A Tribute to ArchBishop Oscar Romero by Jamie Morgan, 2001, Balmy Alley, San Francisco. © 2015 Susan M Hall

On 24 March 1980 Bishop Oscar Romero was assassinated in El Salvador while celebrating Mass. The upraised sections are milagros, religious folk charms, that represent paint cans and brushes.

Mission Mural Enrique's Journey

“Enrique’s Journey” by Josue Rojas, Balmy Alley © 2015 Susan M Hall

Mission Murals "Greetings from the Future"

“Greetings from the Future. I Refuse to Sink.” © 2015 Susan M Hall

Mission Mural about gentrification.

Mission Makeover; Gentrification of the Mission District by Tirso Araiza and Lucia Ippolito (2012) © 2015 Susan M Hall

At the end of the tour Patricia recommended that we visit the Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center and the Roosevelt Tamale Parlor on 24th Street.  I ordered a chicken tamale covered in red sauce and melted cheese with rice and beans.  There are additional murals on Cypress and Lilac Alleys.  400+ murals in the Mission District.

San Francisco City Guides: Free Neighborhood Walking Tours of San Francisco.

Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center
2981 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 285-2287

Roosevelt Tamale Parlour
2817 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 824-2600

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Micro Quest 6/57: Habitat for Humanity Build-a-Thon

Is it straight? Siding is a job for the perfectionist. Each piece overlaps the piece below it and you don't want the nails to show. No two seams should be lined up with each other. 1/8 inch between the ends of the pieces for expansion.

Is it level? © 2015 Susan M Hall

Siding is a job for the perfectionist.  Each piece overlaps the piece below it covering the nails.  Pieces are staggered at 12 feet, 9 feet and 3 feet for structural integrity.  No piece should be less than 3 feet in length.  Leave 1/8″ between the ends of the pieces to allow for expansion.  Back the 1/8″ gap with tar paper to protect from moisture.

I mastered driving a nail before the end of my volunteer stint at the Habitat for Humanity Build-a-thon New Orleans. It turns out you can’t tap the nail like it’s a thumb tack or a push pin. You have to clobber it.

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Micro Quest 5/57: 9th Ward Rebirth Bike Tour

The 9th Ward Rebirth Bike Tour is a “beginner” level bike tour on old fashioned single speed sixthreezero cruiser bikes with kickstands, handlebar bike baskets and reverse pedal type brakes.  The four hour tour begins in the Marigny District and crosses the St. Claude Avenue Bridge into the Lower 9th Ward.  The tour helps support revitalization efforts in the Lower 9th Ward by connecting cyclists with local residents, restaurants and the House of Dance and Feathers museum.

9th Ward Rebirth Bike Tour.
"Doullut Houses" or "Steamboat Houses" in the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans.

“Doullut” or “Steamboat” House, Lower 9th Ward © 2015 Susan M Hall

Cajun Joes

Cajun Joe’s Seafood © 2015 Susan M Hall

Our guide Nick recommended the shrimp po boy “dressed”.

House of Dance and Feathers.

Mardi Gras Mask, House of Dance and Feathers. © 2015 Susan M Hall

The House of Dance and Feathers is Ronald W. Lewis’s backyard museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians, Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs, Second Lines and the Lower 9th Ward.  Mr. Lewis, the curator and director of the museum, is a central character in Dan Baum’s book Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans.  He co-authored the Neighborhood Story Project book The House of Dance & Feathers which is available for purchase at the museum.

After lunch we cycled by the Lower 9th Ward home of rock and roll legend Antoine “Fats” Domino, Jr.  Nick gave us an overview of Domino’s musical legacy and his trademark pattern of piano triplet-figures which influenced Jamaican ska.

Levee and canal construction converted this cypress swamp into an open-water brackish marsh.  The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a shipping channel completed in the 1960s, brought salt water into the freshwater wetlands, killing the cypress trees, eroding the land, and destroying tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that buffered the Lower 9th Ward.

Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle © 2015 Susan M Hall

The final stop on the bike tour was the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle.  The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), a shipping channel completed in the 1960s, brought salt water into the freshwater wetlands, killing the cypress trees, eroding the land, and destroying tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that buffered the Lower 9th Ward.  Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge was funneled into the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans via the MRGO.

9th Ward Rebirth Bike Tour
632 Elysian Fields, New Orleans, LA 70117
p (504) 338-3603

Cajun Joe’s Seafood
6024 N Claiborne Ave
New Orleans, LA 70117
p (504) 942-8040

House of Dance and Feathers
1317 Tupelo Street
New Orleans, Louisiana USA 70117
p +1 (504) 957 2678
Donations accepted.

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Micro Quest 4/57: Hammerstone School Basic Carpentry Skills 101

“Micro Quest” 4/57: This weekend I learned how to use a circular saw and other carpentry tools at the Hammerstone School Basic Carpentry Skills 101 in Trumansburg, New York.


Maria Klemperer Johnson, Owner of Hammerstone School. © 2015 Susan M Hall

Maria Klemperer Johnson, the owner of Hammerstone School, entered the trades as a carpenter and received a lot of pushback in a male dominated trade.  She not only teaches the two day 16 hour Basic Carpentry Skills 101 and offers contracting services but is in the process of setting up a carpentry apprenticeship program for women.  Maria was assisted by TA Miwa Oseki Robbins.  The class project was to build two sawhorses.

Multiple women using carpentry tools.

We learned how to use a hand saw, the Makita and Worm drive circular saws (both straight and beveled cuts), speed square and a power drill, as well as, how to snap a chalk line, “burn the lead” (start at 1 or 10 on the tape measure to find “true zero” to compensate for the jiggly hook on the end), common markings on a tape measure and the definition of “kerf.”  There was a lot of emphasis on using multiple approaches to problem solving i.e. calculating angles by using trigonometry, the Construction Master Pro app, a speed square or a custom-made jig.

FYI, 2x4s are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches.  The drying process and planing of the board reduce it to the finished 1.5×3.5 inches.  This is useful information when you are cutting the gussets to stabilize the legs on your sawhorse.


Snapping a chalk line. © 2015 Susan M Hall


Mastering the Circular Saw. © 2015 Susan M Hall

For more information or to register for Basic Carpentry Skills 101 visit the Hammerstone School website.

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Navigating From Point A to Point B

I am the self described “Mr. Magoo” of traveling. My sister Jayne was noticeably rattled when she instructed me to “not leave my hotel room under any circumstances” when I spent the night in Guatemala City prior to an early morning flight to Oakland. (I did go on a short excursion to the Hard Rock Cafe which I could see from the Radisson hotel lobby.)

Recently when I visited the Meow Parlour cat cafe in New York City I “googled” the public transit route from the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the East Broadway subway station in lower Manhattan. I disembarked at East Broadway and headed confidently in the direction of the Meow Parlour.

A couple of blocks later a Greenpeace volunteer flagged me down to ask about the camera dangling from my wrist. We chatted for a couple of minutes about cameras, photography and the cat cafe. I admitted that I was lost. She pulled out her iPhone, typed in the Hester Street address and her and another Greenpeace volunteer agreed that I should go back to the subway station and start over.

Next I asked a beer delivery guy for directions. He pointed in the direction from which I had just come and said that the cross street, Orchard Street, was about ten blocks in the opposite direction.

At that point I was getting dangerously close to my one o’clock Meow Parlour reservation. Once again I stopped to re-orient myself. I must have looked flustered because a kind fellow stopped and asked if I needed help, pulled out his iPhone and pointed me in the direction of Chinatown which borders Hester Street.

It turned out to be a series of navigational “auto corrects” that reminded me of a metaphor I once heard about air flight and life. Before the plane takes off the pilot has a flight plan from point A to point B.  During the flight countless variables cause the plane to go slightly off course and the pilot “auto corrects” to bring the plane back to “center.”

I accepted an early out retirement from the Transportation Security Administration on September 3, 2014, with the express purpose of pursuing a “start up” as a photographer.  A couple of weeks ago I panicked and submitted two job applications; the first for a temp casual mailhandler at the U.S. Post Office and the second for a Customer Service Associate (CSA) at American Airlines.

I interviewed for the American Airlines position.  I responded to the gauntlet of questions as if my life depended on it;

Describe how you handled a conflict with a co-worker.

Describe how you handled a difficult situation with a customer.

Describe what you liked least about your job.

When the manager asked what I liked most about my most recent job, I quickly responded  “The diversity of the federal workforce.”  I probably didn’t score points when I mentioned that a passenger had inadvertently put their dog thru the x-ray machine.  Or that I had worked for the Letter Carriers Union.

Yesterday I withdrew my application from consideration.  I’m back on course after a slight navigational miscalculation.

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Status Update:

I wrote six (6) times my self imposed 750 words this morning. 4179 words to be exact. I applied for two jobs yesterday; at the Post Office as a temp casual and at American Airlines as a part time customer service rep. I woke up this morning thinking “WTF?”

I recently read a New York Times profile of Gaza artist Nidaa Badwan which triggered a latent interest in the Middle East.

The Bike Palestine Tour from Jenin to Jerusalem includes a turkish bath in Nablus, a swim in the Dead Sea and a visit to a brewery in Taybeh.  It seems like a fairly low key, low budget way to meet and talk with local Palestinian’s and get the lay of the land.  There is also the fact that entering Israel as a “tourist” has an exponentially higher success rate (Israeli authorities control the border) than entering as a “activist” according to the International Solidarity Movement website.

I completed a series of self guided “bike tours” in my teens and early 20’s; a “test run” down the Pacific Coast Highway from Salinas to San Luis Obispo, Seattle to San Francisco on the roughly 1061 mile Pacific Coast Bicentennial Bike Route and a memorable trip from Flagstaff to Tucson, Arizona, with my brother Paul.

It was snowing when we disembarked from the Amtrak “Southwest Chief” in Flagstaff. We accidentally set the picnic table on fire at a Sedona RV park after we had assured the manager that we would keep a “low profile” in the “members only” RV park.  The wind was whipping, the kerosine fueled camp stove had tipped over and Paul was trying to put the fire out with a space blanket.

I did a cursory Google search under “do what you love and the money will follow” with 418,000,000 results.  There are a myriad of skeptics, of course, including Forbes contributor Rob Asghar who quotes Thomas Merton, Confucius and Steve Jobs in Five Reasons to Ignore the Advice to Do What You Love.

My retirement annuity provides a roof over my head and basic needs including health insurance. So there’s that.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Micro Quest 3/57: Visit a Cat Café

MEOW Parlour Cat Cafe

MEOW Parlour © 2015 Susan M Hall

I’ve wanted to visit a cat café ever since I learned about Cat Town in Oakland, CA.  For “Micro Quest” 3/57 I visited the Meow Parlour  at 46 Hester Street in New York City.  At Meow Parlour you can play with the cats (currently fifteen cats), use the free WiFi and purchase cookies, cat-shaped macaroons and coffee from the Meow Parlour Patisserie, located around the corner at 34 Ludlow Street.  Reservations are $4. for 30 minute increments up to five hours. Booking opens up 60 days in advance.
Meow Parlour has teamed up with KittyKind, an all volunteer, no kill rescue organization in New York City to find homes for the kitties.  All the Meow Parlour cats are available for adoption.


Amber getting ready to pounce. © 2015 Susan M Hall


Leon © 2015 Susan M Hall


Leon looking for some cat strokes. © 2015 Susan M Hall

My 1.5 hour Meow Parlour reservation went by in the blink of an eye.  Have you been to or thought about going to a cat café?

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An Annual Series of Micro Quests: 57 things to do on the birthday list.

I’ve been a big fan of Chris Guillebeau’s website The Art of Non Conformity ever since I read his book The $100 Start Up.  As luck would have it Guillebeau recently posted a reader profile “An Annual Series of Micro Quests: Nancy Howell’s Way of Thinking about Birthdays” two weeks before my 57th birthday.  On Howell’s 30th birthday she started the practice of completing one new “micro quest” for each year of her life i.e. 30 “micro quests” for her 30th birthday.

I’ve decided that this is just what I need to create some structure in my retirement. Something to hang my metaphorical hat on. To anchor me.

On Saturday I completed my first “micro quest” 1/57 by attending the VII Evolution Tour New York, one of a series of four VII Photo Agency seminars in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago.

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New Years Resolutions

I have been making New Years Resolutions for as long as I can remember. One of the first books that I read on goal setting was Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want (you can access a PDF here). My sister Jayne and I became “Wishcraft partners” when she moved to New York City to study acting after graduating from Alameda high school in 1982 at the age of 17. I was working as a letter carrier at the Hayward Post Office. The internet didn’t exist then. We provided mutual aid via handwritten letters sent through the U.S. mail.


Jayne with my son Robert. 1986

My goal was to qualify for the 1984 Olympic Marathon trials, the first Olympic Games where women were allowed to compete at the marathon distance. Although I didn’t achieve that goal, two decades later at the age of 45 I ran a 3:57:52 St. George Marathon to qualify for Boston. I still have my dog-eared original copy of Wishcraft, as well as, a collection of funny, heartfelt, dramatic and sometimes angst filled letters from Jayne.

“…This is a person of the male gender by the way (no not mail!)  Today he basically told me he thought I was incapable of making a bread platter which I truly don’t give a fuck if I know how to do anyway.  Actually he said that I had not been using common sense in the past two weeks.  “What was wrong!?”  Believe me I’m using common sense but unfortunately Im using it on Stanislavsky instead of Betty Crocker…” excerpt from a letter from Jayne- 1986.

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