Not in San Francisco, but a few miles to the south. Mountain View. I’m at a coffee shop dosing myself with excess caffiene, and using the wifi because the motel wifi doesn’t work. I cannot connect to Google. In Mountain View. I would be able to pick up Google on my dental fillings here.

Hey, I can use that line tomorrow in the speech. Which reminds me: NEED TO WRITE A SPEECH. Seriously. I am here to give a speech, and I don’t have one. I mean, I do, but I haven’t talked it out. Lucky are the people who have speech they can give to the National Chemical Syndicate and the Organic Kiwigruit Advisory Board, with only cosmetic adjustments and local references. Maybe I should get myself one of those!

Except I hate saying the same lines over and over. I don’t like pretending I haven’t said this ninety-nine times before, so I don’t. And now here I am. Well, not a problem. Memorize the bullet points, then walk around up and down the street talking to myself until I have it.

Good flight here, I guess. Except for my Sony wireless noise-cancelling headphones, which I hate. They periodically issue a distracting BONG. No idea why. I think it might be alerting me to a change in cabin pressure or altitude, which might require recalibration. It’s that sensitive. Or, like an adolescent, it wants to make you think it’s that sensitive. It accomplishes one thing, which is to wake me from the thin and miserable slumber one gets on a plane.

I was actually in the zone while we waited to take off, close to sleep, major-key ambient playing - that hearts-of-space-type gassy stuff they turn out by the yard. I noted my mind was starting to come up with stuff on its own, not driven or directed thoughts, and that realization is a tricky moment. Examine it too much and the mood is broken. You almost have to pretend you didn’t notice it. Lie to yourself. But it’s possible to return consciously to the details that had come unbidden, and will yourself back into it.

Does any of that seem familiar?

Anyway. I’m also here at the Peet’s because the hotel is undergoing renovations, shall we say, so a nap is out of the question. Bandsaws next door zzzZZZZZRRRRRMMRMMZZZzzzzzz.

The area is basic endless commercial districts, and the oldest buildings are from the 60s. Some California designs here and there, now looking ancient and forgotten, like the totems left behind by a civilization that once ruled this land. No one believes in those gods anymore.


Across the street from this Peet’s is an office building that decided quite correctly that enormous abstract art is the key to getting tenants.

Love the cracked and sunken brick where once a tree was imprisoned.

Well, I have to write a column, then go to dinner with the event coordinators, so back to work.

It’s been a long long day, and all I’ve done is go from Minneapolis to San Francisco. Isn’t that odd? Once upon a time that took days; now it’s something you knock off in the morning.

More tomorrow, and if it’s as thrilling as this you may want to lay aside some compounds that slow the heart rate.



I think I intended to find a better banner picture for this week, but I haven't the time tonight, and this has a nice hallucinatory character.






These may not be accurate; improvements may have been made. After all, a light rail system traverses the street.

Not being sarcastic; that often helps. It gentrifies the area, and the disorder and abandonment decrease.

I don’t know why I ended up here; perhaps it was the peculiar nature of the abandonment, which is different than small towns. It's messier, and bigger. Grand ruins are more disheartening than small ones.


Whatever its last use was, not a trace is left.

Someone long ago thought this was an improvement on an old classic industrial / commercial facade:
Someone was wrong.
Next door, this gutted thing, looking as if it would prefer just to collapse and be spared any more of this pain.
"Howard Street as the center of upscale department and specialty store shopping until decline and eventual store closures in the 1970s."

Some places still look as if you could bring them back with a snap of your fingers, or look as if they’re fine - until you look closer.

Then there’s this! I have an idea what this was; there are tell-tale elements. The mast gives it away, if I’m right.
Googling . . . <edmcmahonvoice> You are correct sir.
Theaters are a good way to gauge the prosperity of the place in its past and judge the paucity of its present:
Run the Google Chronovisualizer back a few years, Mr. Chekov
1904. Its builders had a duty to give beauty to the street.

So what was it?

Today the Mayfair Theatre is another vacant theatre building in downtown Baltimore City, and has been vacant for more than three decades. Its roof collapsed in February 1998 and it was further damaged in a fire that occurred in an adjacent building in September 2014.[1] As it was in general disrepair, engineers stated the crumbling building was a threat to public safety, and the structure (except the facade and the front lobby) was demolished in 2016. It remains, however, a designated Baltimore City landmark, which sits in the Market Center National Register Historic District.

Slated for inclusion in a new project, last I heard.

The sidewalk suggests there was one of those “improvement” movements that figured people would be brought back by a certain hue of brick. It would look up-to-date, tasteful, and yet historic.
Marble facade, not contemporaneous with the original design. The last gasp of prosperous times.
It’s like a crime scene they preserved, but they never came back for the body.
Stern stone modernism: I always like this. It’s so severe. It’s grown up and uncompromising.
But . . .
I love this more. This is pure 60s jewel-box perfection. Of course it was a bank.
America has miles of this. I suppose it’s inevitable; before these went up, there were blocks and blocks of older buildings in similar states of disrepair. But still.
An old chain of stores.

This is from 1932, when a canny merchant planned ahead for the prosperity that was right around the corner.

Founded in 1858. Expired in 1990.

We extend our best wishes and hopes for the future to Howard Street.


That'll do; happy to be back in the 1 degree weather, he lied. See you tomorrow.




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