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By: Eric Feathers

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Friday, 4-Apr-2008 06:55 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The Olympic Torch Will Pass Through San Francisco

It's my opinion that, by virtue of its poor record on human rights, China does not deserve the honor of hosting the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Documented abuses include:
1) Chinese occupation of Tibet is an effort to destroy their religion, culture and people.
2) Christians are jailed and tortured for their faith.
3) Products for export are made by child slave labor.
4) China is funding the genocide in Darfur.
5) Organ harvesting from Falun Gong is big business.
6) China imprisons more reporters, and executes more prisoners, than any other country in the world.

The Olympic Torch will pass through San Francisco on its way to Beijing on Wednesday, April 9th and I hope my friends and neighbors around the Bay Area can find the kind of courage we saw in Tiananmen Square during the pro-democracy movement of 1989 when the military crackdown left thousands of Chinese civilians dead. Rallies and demonstrations are being organized around the City and we have to stand up and be counted. We owe it to more than a billion people living under this oppressive government.

Who, what, where and when:
Saturday, April 5th at 11 AM in Union Square.
Tuesday, April 8th at 6PM, U.N. Plaza, 1150 Market Street
Wednesday, April 9th at 1PM, The relay starts at McCovey Cove (ballpark) and moves along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf and back to Justin Hermann Plaza accross from the Ferry Building.

Tuesday, 1-Jan-2008 12:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Into the New Year

I've neglected my journal but the details that make a life have not escaped me. My year end review goes back about 15 months, when I returned to San Francisco from Brazil. Like everyone I've had my struggles and my triumphs; the year has had its share of comedies and tragedies, personal and universal.
In retrospect I have to say that working with the public has provided me with the most noteworthy experiences of the year. Friends and family keep busy and myself being no exception, spend more time at work than with loved ones. A year ago, I was couch surfing in the East Bay and working a retail, holiday schedule in Union Square. Christmas help has to be selected, trained and tested before "Black Friday," a name referring to the color of the ink in the profit column of retail sales on the Friday that follows Thanksgiving Day. I felt a little bit "fresh off the boat" after living abroad for more than 7 years, landing in the heart of San Francisco's shopping district. The land of towering Christmas trees and a menorah that requires a cherry picker to light the candles. I was selling gourmet housewares and designer accressories in a place where people shouldn't be allowed to drink and shop. Norman Rockwell heartstrings are always pulled when I see the windows at Macy's which aren't decorated with merchandise but donated to our local animal shelter in hopes of finding homes for puppies and kittens that will surely have and unpleasant fate without our help...
I had my had my "Hallmark stories" reuniting lost children with their parents, the "Kodak moment" helping 2 men in kilts select their party accessories and even a soap opera scene when a young Brazilian woman returned for a second shopping trip between Christmas and New Years. She became very emotional when I asked when she would visit her "terra nativa." It had been years and she was still too broke to travel. I dried her eyes by convincing here to write letters and make phone calls expressing her desire to visit, at least people feel better just saying and hearing it.
One thing nobody like to hear is, "Bad dog!!" especially in a department store displaying rugs and furniture. When did it become totally acceptable to take dogs everywhere? No respect for people who are allergic or children who get frightened? Does a dog really want to go shopping or out to dinner? I worked at Fisherman's Wharf over the summer and early fall where comedies unfold in rapid fire. At the door of the restaurant, my title vascilated with the ebb and flow of the foot traffic on the sidewalk among the crab pots and refrigerated seafood. Holding the line at the door I am 'maitre de'; receiving diners as they enter I am 'host' and pulling in the few people who are passing by I am 'barker.' A personal best, based on efficiency and pure entertainment; was seating 36 Italians in a small room (20 tables) in only 20 minutes and only one of them spoke English!
Funny stuff:
An attractive woman who stepped up real close to me and asked, "Is it alright if we kiss in there?"
I didn't have a snappy retort ready so while I was gasping for something to say, her husband stepped in to say, "I think she means with me."
Running gag:
The Mexicans in the kitchen used called me 'governador' or 'governator' because they see a resemblance between Arnold and myself. They constantly begged me for a driver's license.
Daily challenge:
Stuffing grotesquely obese people into tiny little booths, sorry no talbes. When did being phat become phasionable? C'mon guys, when was the last time you saw your dick? And if you want to cut off all the hair on the back of your head, I suggest you grab a hand mirror then go to a wall mirror and take a good look back there. Is there a name for that ugly roll of fat?
I've also noticed that young women's voices have changed, what happened to them while I was away? I often hear something like a gurgling sound in their voicebox. Tune in a TV show called "Smallville" and you can hear this "affliction" in the voice of the character called Lana. If it's hereditary then we have discovered a new gene! If it's an intentional manner of speach, then please stop it! It's irritating! Speaking of young women; where's the self esteem? Where's the pride? I suffered a minor shock when I heard a CNN report about one of our representatives in Washington on a drunken tear about a year ago. In the report they carefully tip toed around the 'n' word but casually used the word 'bitch.' They are equally hateful words in my mind. Has Oprah addressed this issue, any word from Condeleza Rice?
Since my return to SF I've seen a number of changes I can't get used to. Cell phones everywhere! I always think people are walking around talking to themselves, creeps me out. Pharmaceutical drugs advertised on TV! We can self diagnose and decide what what remedy we should take for an ailment we think we might have. Never mind the side effects. Things that won't go away - Why do people wear camouflauge patterns? Hunting and killing are fashionable, warfare is glamorous and the games are fun! "Shut up or I'll pop a paintball in your ass."
Fast forward the couch surfing and God bless the good friends and family for helping me over a rough patch. One good thing led to another bringing me to a photo studio in a growing art gallery. I got myself a studio apartment in a great location and left the smell of crab at the Wharf to suppliment my part-time income working with caterers through the 'holiday season.' The past 8 weeks have exposed me to the diverse web of life I enjoy in San Francisco. I served Sushi to Robert Redford at a Sundance opening, I was in the Tenderloin serving Thanksgiving turkey at Glide Memorial, served rare beef (I don't make the menu) at a benefit for Tibet attended by close followers of Dali Lama and MC'd by Sharon Stone. In the world of holiday parties I find it ironic that a stockbrokerage rented City Hall and took over the entire building with lights, music and four seperate kitchens, dining rooms and bars. Then leave it to a law firm to rent the aquarium at Pier 39 with its artificial tide pools where you can play with the starfish and a large, clear tube for 'tours under the bay,' (reality - large tanks in the bay) but it creates a strange, visual sensation especially when a school of herring passes. Imagine a bar down there serving drinks to a bunch of lawyers with sharks swimming in the background...
Small, private parties took me into the homes of people hosting family, friends and colleagues in the spirit of the holidays. I helped make 'latkes' at a Hanukah dinner, served ceviche to the people who run the SF AIDS Foundation, poured wine for local gourmet chefs and wine connoissers, tended bar for a gay couple entertaining colleagues and insisting that shoes be removed not to soil the white carpet, (I don't know what they do when dogs arrive.) The funnest event so far was a wedding held on Treasure Island in the 'Casa de la Vista' because of the view of the City accross the water. I didn't realize at first but it soon became obvious we would be serving an elegant, black crowd and they spared no expense on food and drink. They also turned down the chapel in favor of holding the ceremony and the reception in the same room. A sax player backed by a fully loaded keyboard did a beautiful segue from "Silent NIght" to the weding music that traditionally introduces the bride. The DJ took over after 'live dinner jazz' and played everything from Sam Cooke to Black Eyed Peas. In a flagrant breach of protocol, the bride caught me dancing around behind the dessert table then jokingly tried to get me on the dance floor. My New Years gig was cancelled because of a sad and strange turn of events. Someone had rented the Zoo as the site of their year end celebration but last week a tiger escaped its enclosure and killed someone. That tragedy ended when after the tiger attacked two more visitors then threatened to attack the police so she was shot to death. Her name was Tatiana. The subsequent closure of the Zoo bounced me over to a private party serving hors d'oeuvers and pouring champagne. The guests turned out to be a bunch of 30 somethings who all brought their babies and small children to the party. I immediately made friends with the nanny caring for three of the babies who seemed to know her way around the kitchen. Turned out to be a Brazilian from Sao Paulo. My beautiful table of appitizers was soon crowded by baby bottles and dishes of creamy stuff. Keeping the garbage seperated was a challenge getting the dads to put beer bottles on the right; and moms, disposable diapers on the left. By the time the New Year arrived I had washed more breast pumps than champagne flutes.
God help us if we have to start praying, but the human race appears to need help getting through the next year. Light a candle for those who have passed before us and raise your glass to 2008.

Sunday, 24-Dec-2006 23:45 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Seen, Heard and Had Around Town

Adapting to San Francisco after more than 7 years in a remote region of Brazil has been an exciting and frustrating challenge. So often I'm mumbling to myself, "That looks pretty cool, can I try it?" or "I haven't got a clue what you're talking about." (or 'who')
Walking around Union Square I passed "Victoria's Secrets" and saw an enormous black and white photo of Gisele, Brazil's most famous supermodel. posing in very sexy black panties and now I'm seeing her in their TV ads. I thought I would miss her image plastered all over Brazilian media but now she's here.
Joke heard in a North Beach bar, "Somewhere in Texas a village has no idiot." Speaking of idiots in Texas, I can't imagine building a fence (wall?) on the U.S./Mexican border.
A sarcastic friend of mine says, "Yeah right. Who's gonna build it?"
I repeated this line to my sister who obviously heard it before, beacause she didn't miss a beat when she answered, "The Irish." (If this is about "Homeland Security" somebody should inform that jack ass in the White House that one of the foreigners who attacked the U.S. on 9-11 entered the country through Canada.)
Later that night in Specs, a woman squeezed in next to me at the bar and ordered a 'Grey Goose and cranberry,' prompting me to look over and say, "That sounds like Thanksgiving." I enjoy a dry vodka martini but I stick to the labels I know. Can somebody tell me what started the Baskin-Robbins of flavored vodkas?
San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsome was walking down Stockton Street in Chinatown the other day with a small entourage and a large video camera waving a stiff arm to people in the shops as if he were a princess on a parade float. Being young and good looking never harmed a politicians career although being single with a 20 year-old girlfriend might have some drawbacks. People are making a big deal about seing her with a glass of wine. Get a life folks.
One day while keeping a slow pace behind a homeless guy pushing a shopping cart through the Tenderloin/Civic Center area, a young woman yelled at him, "You got a syringe? I need a syringe to shoot up my heroin." He just mumbled and kept walking as did I.
Hey Muni! What's up with the 45 Union bus line? I'm glad I have a sense of humor because I'm often left wondering, "Which came first, the screwy passengers or the surly bus drivers?" I sometimes ride that bus through Chinatown from North Beach to Market Steet and in less than two months I've had some rather unusual encounters. It's been my experience that where ever the bus stops along the designated zone is where we board so when I was accross the street zig-zagging through stopped cars to catch the bus stopped at the corner I ran in front of the bus to board the front door. Well of course when I was square in front of the bus it lurched forward and hit me. Nothing major, I instinctively put up my arm and got a bruising from this new bike rack the busses have now. Reaching the curb I found only one other passenger trying to board, an older black guy in a wheelchair and as we both looked at the driver he started yelling at me through the closed doors. "What are you trying to do? I almost hit you!"
"Hey you did hit me but I'm alright. Why don't you open the door?"
"I can't believe I almost hit you."
"You DID hit me, but come on, I gotta get across town."
"I'm not gonna let that drunk on my bus."
I looked at the guy in the wheelchair and concluded he looked a little down on his luck but harmless enough at which I turned back to the driver and shrugged my shoulders as if to say, "What gives?"
Suddenly the guy in the wheelchair jumped up on his one leg and started yelling something incomprehensible at the driver which came to me as a cue for me to give up and catch another bus. A week later I was left wondering if these drivers aren't just a bit sadistic. Why won't they wait for a passenger (me) running in the rain? Maybe they just don't pay attention. I saw a similar incedent to the one that bruised my arm but this time a driver turning the same corner (Columbus and Stockton for the record) stopped to converse with another bus driver headed the opposite way. When he proceeded to curb his bus a pedestrian was right in front of him causing him to slam on the brakes. I was right behind her yelling at everyone to be careful. I then crossed while waving my arms and signaling to the driver NOT to move while I crossed. Boarding the bus I said, "You didn't see her, did you?"
"She's not supposed to be in front of the bus. That's why they have crosswalks."
Sitting sown, I shot back, "Your bus was blocking the crosswalk."
Which came first? continued...
While standing on a crowded 45 Union waiting to pull away from a stop on Stockton Street, a tiny little Chinese woman held us up by putting one foot on the bus while the other stayed planted on the asphalt. She was yelling up the street in Chinese while we started to giggle at her companion weighed down with bags and waddling up to the bus like a busy duck. Giggles gave way to laughter when this tiny woman's little head finally appeared smiling sans several teeth. She was wearing a toy fireman's hat backwards, chin strap in place and thanking the driver for waiting.
The big black woman driving our bus said, "Thank them," referring to the crowd of passengers, "they're the ones you're holding up."
"Oh. I sorry."
Driver; "No you're not. Now go take a seat."

Thursday, 2-Nov-2006 12:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
My Country is at War (Again)

This is the beginning of a new chapter in the ongoing chronicle of my life. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I returned to San Francisco after living in Brazil for more than 7 years.
The move was filled with doubt and trepidation because a lot can happen in 7+ years and it did. My family has changed in the wake of two deaths; my career, photography, took a radical turn then accelerated with digital technology, leaving me in a desperate race to catch up; and finally my country was irreversibly altered by a muderous attack and subsequent related events. My country is at war. The president has launched two unsuccessfull military invasions and the American people appear to be in denial.
Since the September 11 horror show, I have been glued to CNN International, the online London Times and New York Times. I've seen Michael Moore's controversial film, "Farenheit 911," and I've had a number of emotional conversations with Americans, Brits, Isrealis, Australians and Spaniards, not to mention South Americans. Among all of these sources I can say, without hesitation, that the general consensus is that the U.S. president is a blundering fool who is provoking more violence. At this point I have to get out my soap box and vent my personal feelings about the commander-in-chief of the U.S. armed forces, before moving on to express my disappointment with the American people.
First of all that man never should have set foot in the White House - suspicious election - to close to call - Do over! Do over! His re-election? I have to take issue with the voters. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." said the people to the president.
A military invasion of Afghanastan made sense to me. After all it was the U.S. who armed the Taliban against the "Big Red Threat" of the Soviet Union so DISarming was like a moral obligation to the region. (Better late than never.) And while you're there do something about the al Qeda military training camps would ya? Osama Bin Laden? I suspect he's back home in Saudi Arabia or holed up on some Indonesian island. In either case he's probably armed with cel phones, internet connections and credit cards. This campaign was a dismal failure. 5 years later the Taliban is participating in Afghan politics, Bin Laden can't be found, al Qeda has moved operations to Pakistan and Iraq and the opium trade which finances the Taliban and furnishes heroine to Europe and the U.S. has reached an all-time high! Invading Iraq against the consensus of th U.N. was the work of a madman hell bent on world domination. A peaceful solution to the "Saddam Hussein problem" was already in place; economic sanctions weakened their economy, the no-fly zone kept their airforce grounded (missles too) and the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq all held the "menace" at bay. The Bush agenda was clearly fabricated from paranoid dillusions or his thirst for Iraqi oil. He didn't have any real evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction or any terrorists operating in Iraq. On the contrary, the largest stockpile of WMDs in the world iis in the U.S. and Saddam would never tolerate terrorists in his country. In fact, one of "America's Most Wanted Terrorists" was in an Iraqi prison but Bush wouldn't pay Saddam the million dollar reward (sanctions) when he tried to turn him over. Before I get down from my soap box I want to remind the president and his followers that Hans Blix, the scientist leading the U.N. weapons inspectors was quoted as saying, "Global warming is a much bigger threat to the world than Saddam Hussein." Another reminder: well before the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, North Korea was moving ahead with its nuclear ambitions and Sudan was already suffering from years of "ethnic cleansing." Why did the U.S. president choose to ignore the clear and obvious crises in persuit of his hallucinations AND why did people let him?
It's been 5 years since the World Trade Center was razed and there are many people who believe that our country is safer and more secure due to the U.S. military invasions in the Middle East. Huh? Was anyone paying attention to Hurricane Katrina? Millioins of dollars spent on "Homeland Security" to protect American shores from disaster and destruction, for what? Hell, the whole world saw that one coming and where was the emergency response? ("Homeland Security" is a new name for "Big Brother," don't kid yourself.) You better keep your prescriptions filled because if your meds wear off you might get a glimpse of reality. Check the daily body count and evaluate the loss of precious resources to the tune of one and a half million dollars a week. Yes, I'm wagging my finger at the American people. I've been in California only a month now, quietly observing and noting the changes in the land where I was born and raised. I arrived in San Francisco during "Fleet Week," when the U.S. Navy fleet sails into the Bay and docks here to give the sailors and pilots a little R&R, rest and relaxation. The "Blue Angels" put on a show of their precision flying and the bars and massage parlors filled up with horny sailors. I don't know if it was by design or by coincidence but I also South Korean sailors on shore leave in SF. They were much better behaved than our own. They bowed as Korean women on Market Street handed them flags of their homeland along with U.S. flags. I also saw a pathetic war protest of a few thousand people each with a different axe to grind.
One night in a North Beach bar I heard a naval officer proudly proclaim, "The Middle East is my life. I've been there four times." When he raised his glass to take a drink I saw his wedding band and my heart went out to his wife. In a conversation with a friend recently she told me of her daughter's divorce from a veteran of the war in Iraq. After living on base in Hawaii agonizing over the welfare of her husband overseas he finally returned uninjured but not without emotional scars. He refused therapy for his irrational and erratic behavior and the poor girl concluded that she couldn't stay married to an abusive husband that she really didn't know.
I hope the people I see driving SUVs and Hummers, Governor Arnold's car, a gas guzzling vehicle designed for military use that even comes in a limo style; will stop and think about all the blood and tears that are shed to keep their gas tanks full. My country is at war. Again.

Thursday, 19-Oct-2006 20:19 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Am I Going To Miss Brazil?

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This is the final entry in the "Gringo's Journal", my life in Brazil is slipping into a place in my heart, memories filed in my mind among others and feelings whose vibrations are becoming echos in my soul. I simply didn't want to leave and upon arrival in San Francisco I have one overriding priority - return to Brazil. Every thought and deed from day-to-day has one objective; a singular purpose, and that is to go back and embrace the thing I grew to love.
Am I going to miss Brazil?
Does bossa nova soothe my savage breast?
Does a samba radiate with "alegria'?
Can a parrot learn to talk?
Is a tropical beach made for sun worship?
I could ask rhetorical questions till the Amazon River dries up but that wouldn't sufficiently emphasize my point. Brazil doesn't grow on you , it grows IN you. She is sensual, sexy and seductive. You can fall in love without knowing it. While you're busy trying to understand a spectrum of new emotions provoked by Brazil, something is quietly growing in your heart. Brazil is as endearing as a child at play, as beautiful as a woman's eyes and as unforgettable as a first kiss.
Brazil is immense, Brazil is diverse, Brazil is exotic, Brazil is ancient, Brazil is mysterious, Brazil is romantic, Brazil is exuberant, Brazil is energetic, Brazil is desire, Brazil is lust, Brazil is far from me and my heart aches with love and longing. (E' pau, e' pedra, e' o fim do caminho...)
Brazil is a promise, a wish and a dream. You can't hold her in your hand but she'll find a place in your heart. Like an ocean wave, you can't embrace her but you can bathe in her. She's both sacred and profane; not a goddess, not a whore, but a free spirit with no shame. She's a gentle breeze, a ray of sun, a sleeping serpant and a gathering storm. Take courage, have strength and keep the faith; she provides in her own way on her time. Don't be willfull, be patient; infinite possiblities exist in Brazil for one with an open mind and an open heart.
Meus queridos brasileiros,
Eu sei que na lingua portugues, o brasil e' masculino mas para mim, o pais sempre vai ser uma bela mulher com poder sedutivo.
Beijos e abracos,

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