Thursday, December 31, 2015

Small haven of sweets

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Near my train station, there is an artisanal Japanese sweet shop that is, weirdly enough, something of a sanctuary to me. I don't treat myself to a $5 handmade mochi very often, but even if I know I will buy nothing, I still go in often after a stressful day to enjoy the warmth, the quiet, the meticulous displays, and the traditional instrumental music playing softly in the background.

For part of the year they carry boxes of these perfect little rabbit-shaped pastries called usagi manju (look at them!) that I swear I will have someday...someday when I have $32 to drop on pastries.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Good night to the Lex (4/30/15)

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One thing I'm grateful I didn't miss out on doing in 2015: going to the Lexington Club, SF's last lesbian bar, on its very last night open. The owner had announced the closure, for financial reasons, some six months prior. She gave a good interview here. I really appreciated that she discussed gentrification, and the particular economic vulnerability of lesbians to its effects:
"Why is there only one lesbian bar when there are so many gay male bars? Even if you take queerness out of it, women make less money than men and a two male household is going to have more capital potential to start a business than a two female household. How many bars or restaurants do you see being run by women? So few. And that’s just the supply side. Because women have less disposable income and consume less than men, the spending power isn’t the same when you are talking about having a bar for mostly women."
The Huffington Post did a decent job expanding on this topic (though there is one statement in that article that really offends me with its inaccuracy; see if you can spot it). I don't go out drinking often, and at the time the closing was announced, I'd only been to the Lex once. But it mattered so much that it was there. After I heard the news, I made an effort to make it there a few more times.

I want to remember:
  • The night of my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner, when the Lex was just around the corner and I escaped under the full moon in a long dress and a big coat to drink alone among its crowd and feel free again.
  • The whiskey gingers there on a rainy February Friday night with my lover. We slow-danced in the next bar we went to, a straight bar full of men where nobody else danced, but I knew we weren't alone.
  • This last night, spontaneously decided on. My girlfriend met me after work on the steps of Mission Dolores, already drinking and winding a fresh roll of 1600 film into my camera. I didn't know how much I would succeed at capturing on film, in the dark, without a tripod or a timer, but I knew I had to try.
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Songs for winter darkness



I have listened to Agnes since 2010, when she appeared on an autumn playlist made by a blogger acquaintance, and I am still not tired of her. I still associate the sound of her piano with the snowstorms of that winter. I hope I can see her live someday--her most recent album is one of the few albums I love as a whole.

I read an interview with her recently about it, and have been turning over these words of hers since then, regarding the title of the title track:
Best Fit: Aventine is one of the hills that ancient Rome was built on. Is that what inspired this song?

Agnes Obel: ‘Aventine’ was a song that I wrote on piano first and then I worked with some viola samples. It was very joyful and playful but it had an edge of something else to it as well, which was not necessarily as joyful and playful as its other parts. And then it felt like it was a song about working intuitively, working in the dark and feeling joyful about it but also worrying about it, sort of…what am I doing? I thought of it as walking up a hill, something really na├»ve and beautiful about working like that, like you really believe that there is something out there. So I was looking for an image of a hill or a mountain. And suddenly I found Aventine. For me it sounds like a mountain but it also sounds ancient and not really real. And then I read something about it being haunted by birds, of ill omen, and I thought--ah, that’s perfect for my song.