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Shop window in Berkeley.

March 31st, 2001

Penny Lane
The only parade this weekend is the internationally famous Saint Stupid's Day parade to be held in San Francisco's North Beach on Sunday. OK, not so internationally famous. I took a quick look at the link and noticed the photography was organic and crappy. The problem with crappy photography is that sometimes crappy photography is exactly the right choice to convey an image and seeing Wavy Gravy and Kesey in that organic mix makes me think it was done on purpose, great effort expended shooting off balance and out of focus in an attempt at a higher artistic statement. I have found this reasoning of comfort in times of photo disaster.

So, eight batteries behind me in the quick chargers, another two or three sets to follow. The day's been bright and warm and tomorrow the temperatures are predicted to reach the 70's. We need more rain and snow in the mountain reservoirs for summer power generation, but what the hell, spring is here, summer is coming and it's time for pictures.

Saturday. For whatever reason, today was a day to go to Jack London Square and eat SF Chinese New Year parade. barbecue chicken and potato salad at one of those places too cute for a cranky old fart to be eating. Drinking out of Mason jars, but Mason jars with beer mug handles. Paper napkins and silverware stacked inside small metal buckets sitting on the tables. All the slick sheen of a restaurant manufactured in a gimcrack factory, much like, but more up scale than, for example, a Boston Market. A strange, but all too familiar place. American Theme Food. No wonder the world shivers. Still, the potato salad was really good. I have to admit it. Just a scoop on the plate with a chicken leg and a thigh coated with barbecue sauce and one of those Mason jars filled with cold freshly squeezed lemonade over ice refilled twice. A good potato salad start to a Saturday.

I watched two rental movies later in the afternoon, Almost Famous, which I've wanted to see for a while, and Ghost Dog, because god wants me to see samurai movies. Almost Famous brought back a hint of those times in the early 70's. With the exception of an Alvin and the Chipmunks tune chirping an introduction as the camera rolled toward our young protagonist's home in the San Diego suburbs, I have all the music in the movie sitting on my record shelves. Collecting dust. It was OK, a nice little movie, and, who knows, maybe Penny Lane was someone I knew once back in those days when the world was new and I was just out of the army. Maybe Penny Lane was someone we all knew or thought we knew or wished we knew in those days long past. Worth it, I think, for the music. And maybe Lester Bangs.

Ghost Dog had its moments. Forrest Whitaker played the ghetto samurai who putters about with homing pigeons and silenced pistols, killing folks in what is purported to be the samurai manner. Most people think of samurai movies as cross dressed historical takes on violence in the hood, Coffee-san does Tokyo, swords instead of guns, and that's true in the sense there's usually plenty of people knocking one another off, but the good ones, like The Seven Samurai and Jojimbo, focus on the spiritual discipline that is central to the samurai code of conduct and that's gotten more than a few of us hooked on the genre. My addiction was fashioned in the sixties and seventies, a mix of rock and roll culture, direction by Akira Kurosawa and spiritual guidance by T. Mifune and C. Castaneda. And a girl, maybe two, named Penny Lane.

The banner photograph was taken off Telegraph avenue in Berkeley and the young man was photographed at the 2001 San Francisco Chinese New Year parade. The quote is by Jeanne Moreau.