Entries tagged with “No Name Bar”.


Hello again. After posting on this blog every week for 10 years, I abruptly stopped without explanation 14 months ago. Well, I’m back. Here’s what happened.

Keeping me away had been some damnable eye problems: first, temporal arteritis (an inflammation of the artery through my temples that feeds blood to my eyes); second, botched cataract surgery on my left eye.

The temporal arteritis began with an extreme headache in my scalp that ultimately required half a day in Kaiser’s emergency room. I was prescribed a lengthy — perhaps too lengthy — regimen of Prednisone (a steroid). It stopped the pain and prevented me from going blind, but some of its side effects are still with me. My balance standing and walking is not what it should be.

The botched surgery, which occurred in January, is also continuing to take its toll. I should have been forewarned when the surgeon often seemed impatient discussing the operation in advance. During the surgery, she nicked the inside of my left eyeball, causing the lens to start falling out.

The result was double vision and poor focus. I’ve now received two more operations from another surgeon to repair the damage. The lens has been stitched onto the eye’s retina, and my vision is improving. I won’t need another operation if the progress continues, but that won’t be determined for sure until November.

In any case, as a result of my Prednisone problems and damaged left eye, I needed some R&R and stopped posting.

A secondary problem with the cataract surgery was to postpone dental surgery that was glaringly needed as a result of breaking off two front teeth last December. Because of the eye surgeon’s concern that the dental surgeon’s painkillers could interfere with her cutting into my eyeball, I had to spend half a year without two prominent teeth.

In an unsuccessful effort to hide the gaps, I began wearing my moustache extra long. Finally, after the last eye operation, I was able to get my dental surgery, which, in turn, meant I could resume trimming my moustache back and no longer feel slightly self-conscious whenever I smiled in public.

Dave Mitchell at the No-Name Bar in Sausalito

The No Name Bar in Sausalito is an unusually friendly place, and now that my moustache and teeth are fixed, I can again openly enjoy the Michael Aragon Quartet. (Photo by David Fischer)

Like many people in frustrating circumstances, I’ve dealt with my woes by hitting the bars. I was already going to the No Name Bar in Sausalito almost every Friday night to mingle with Bay Area illuminati and listen to great jazz. As it happens, I’m a fan of the Michael Aragon Quartet, which has performed at the No Name virtually every Friday for 33 years.

The No Name has a patio out back where there’s frequently a chess match, and smoking is permitted. People mingle easily as if they were all at a cocktail party. My usual “cocktail” at the party, by the way, is an Irish coffee.

Sarah Burke, server, and J.J. Miller, the barkeep, at the No Name.

I don’t know if it’s coincidence or merely that I like coffee, but the other bar where I hang out is Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. Most days in early afternoon, I sit at an outdoor table reading the morning Chronicle, drinking a mocha, and chatting with friends as they walk in and out of the post office next door.

Toby's coffee bar in Point Reyes

Reading The San Francisco Chronicle while getting a tan at Toby’s Coffee Bar. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

It’s a cheerful spot, and I spend enough time there that a few townspeople have started to refer to my table as my “office.” Were I consuming booze instead of coffee, by now I’d be one of the town toss-pots (the term at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Shakespeare uses for sots).

Barista Jenna Rempel of Inverness at Toby’s Coffee Bar.

Barista Jenna Rempel of Inverness at Toby’s Coffee Bar.

Because I’m now living life in the slow lane, I’m able to resume blogging, but it remains to be seen whether I’ll be able to do so every single week as in the past. At least for the moment, I have enough material on hand to keep going for a while. So goodnight for now. It’s good to see y’all again.

This posting is a short one because I’m still recovering from a fall on Saturday while doing yard work at home. Argh!

My Memorial Day weekend started out chaotically and soon got worse. Friday night Lynn and I went to the No Name bar in Sausalito, as we always do, to listen to jazz. I brought along a small roll of $2 bills so I could add a few to my tips, as I always do. Usually, the servers are happily surprised to get them.

Midway through the evening, however, I reached into my coat pocket for the roll of bills, and it wasn’t there. I took off the coat, and Lynn and I searched all the pockets. Nothing. We were sitting in the garden area of the No Name, and people around us then joined in searching the ground. Nothing. One customer had an iPhone with a flashlight, and he let us use that to look under tables and chairs. Nothing.

Chess players in the garden of Sausalito’s No Name bar.

The server came out with her own iPhone flashlight, but still nothing was found. By now we had most of the customers who were sitting in the garden involved in the search, so I called it off and paid the tip from the usual cash in my wallet.

The amount of money missing was relatively small, only $30, but it represented repeatedly dropping in at banks to see if they had any twos on hand. Usually they didn’t. In any case, I soon forgot about the loss, but when I got home and took off my coat, there were the bills in an obscure inside pocket. The coat as it turns out has 10 pockets, which is supposedly quite handy but is also enough to disrupt the back-garden customers at the No Name.

A doe and her two fawns help clear grass downhill from Mitchell cabin.

Saturday, I took advantage of sunny weather to weed-whack grass around the house. All was going well as I worked my way up a slope until I tripped and fell backward onto the ground. My rib-cage came down on top of the weed-whacker’s handlebar. Goddamn gravity!

Lynn helped me get up, but when I went inside and tried to lie down, the pain became excruciating. Because it was a weekend, none of the clinics in town was open, and bouncing over the Coast Range to Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda was not an option. The next day was Sunday, so there still were no clinics open. The day after that was Memorial Day, and the clinics were still closed.

Finally today, Tuesday, Lynn drove me, sightly sedated, to Kaiser in San Rafael where a doctor concluded I had bruised a few ribs but not broken any. So now I’m back home again, getting a jab in my side every time I cough or roll over in bed. Getting in and out of bed is pure torture. However, I’m expected to recover.

#ShutdownCanada, Friday’s nationwide protest in Canada calling on the government to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women, was a bit of a disappointment, failing to garner as much public participation as expected.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, last year reported that First Nation women in Canada are being murdered and disappeared at four times the rate of white women.

Although more than 7,000 people had said they would take part in demonstrations planned in Calgary, Espanola, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kamloops, Lethbridge, London, Moncton, Montreal, Niagara, Oshawa, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, according to Ontario’s Two Row Times, fewer than 700 showed up, Warrior Publications reported.

Unist’ot’en camp (Warrior publications photo)

Also joining the demonstrations were several groups trying to stop environmental damage. One of them, Unist’ot’en Camp, describes itself as a “resistance community in Northern British Columbia, whose purpose is to protect sovereign Wet’siwet’en territory from several proposed pipelines.”

The Unist’ot’en clan says, “Wet’suwet’en territory, which extends from Burns Lake to the Coastal Mountains, is sovereign territory which has never been ceded to the colonial Canadian state; the Wet’suwet’en are not under treaty with the Canadian government.”

Since July of 2010, the Wet’suwet’en have established a camp in the pathway of the Pacific Trails Pipeline.

On Friday, protesters also blocked a main entrance to the Port of Vancouver. In Winnipeg, a number of protesters blocked a road. In Regina, a small group blocked a railway line. And in Montreal, protesters temporarily blocked a major intersection and then briefly occupied a branch of the Bank of Canada.

Despite police limiting the protesters’ movements, #ShutdownCanada did cause some disruption in Regina, noted Daniel Johnson, who took part in demonstrations there. “But it was not the success it could have been.” ________________________________________________________________

No St. Valentine’s event, of course, is likely to ever get as much public attention as the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago.

This was during Prohibition, and in a fight over territory, Al Capone’s South Side Italian Gang  captured five members of Bugs Maron’s North Side Irish Gang, as well as two of its accomplices.

The seven were lined up against a wall inside a garage and executed with Tommy guns. (See photo at left.) One member of the North Side Gang, Frank Gusenberg, lived for three hours after the shootings. Although he received 17 gunshot wounds, he refused to tell police who the gunmen were. ____________________________________________________________

Canada on Valentine Eve Friday was lucky to escape its own massacre, which had been planned for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Before the carnage could occur, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took a 23-year-old woman from Illinois, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, and a 20-year-old man from Halifax, Randall Steven Shepherd, into custody on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

The woman subsequently told authorities about plans to attack a mall. Two other men, 17 and 20, have also been taken into custody, and a fifth person, a 19-year-old man, committed suicide when police surrounded his home.

Police said the plotters were not involved with Islamic terrorism and merely wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking their own lives. Luckily the Mounties received a tip and found that on social media, the group had revealed an obsession with mass killings. ________________________________________________________

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant.

Also on Valentine Eve, the band Rusty String Express packed Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Marshall. “The musicians play a mix of jazz, Celtic, and other styles — some traditional and covers,” said West Marin musician Ingrid Noyes.

“But they also write a lot of their own material. They give it all their own unique spin, and they have a unique sound with that mix of instruments.”

The restaurant offered plenty of meal specials, and barbecued oysters were served for only $2 apiece, which is the best restaurant price I’ve seen in West Marin in a very long time.

A Buckeye butterfly on Saturday paused for a rest on bamboo that grows in a half wine barrel on Mitchell cabin’s lower deck. Other parts of West Marin matters were less tranquil on Saturday. In Point Reyes Station, so many tourists crowded into town that a couple of restaurants ran out of food. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

No Name bar

The Michael Aragon Quartet on Valentine Eve played what I call “modern jazz” (think John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley) in Sausalito’s No Name bar, as it does every Friday evening. From left: Rob Roth on sax, KC Filson on keyboard, Pierre Archain on bass, and Michael Aragon on drums.

There’s no cover charge; the music is inevitably great; and at times virtually every seat in the bar is taken. When that happens, some customers inevitably retire to a covered garden in the rear to talk, smoke, meet people, or play chess.

She’s appreciated.

One of the attractions of the No Name on Friday nights is its unceasingly cheerful waitress, Sarah Burke. Just placing drink orders with her is part of the fun. I’m hardly the only person to notice this, and as a way of saying thanks, her regular customers signed a Valentine’s card, which she received Friday, along with a potted red rose.

Hunters-gatherers: Two migrating robins forage outside Mitchell cabin last Wednesday.

There are more robins in West Marin than usual this winter. Wildcare, the wildlife-rescue group in San Rafael, reported last week, “It’s songbird migration time…. In the past few weeks, we have admitted 11 thrushes and six robins with head trauma from hitting windows.”

In order to feed these patients, the Birdroom at Wildcare “needs earthworms (good from your compost) and frozen berries (wild blueberries, the small ones, are best).” The group can be reached at 415 453-1000.

Marin County, and especially West Marin, have come to seem like a coastal refuge after last week’s Congressional elections, the conundrum of ISIS, California’s drought, and Stanford’s losing to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

In order to provide a respite from this world of troubles, I’m presenting this week a collection of happier scenes from around Marin.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Nicasio Square. Using locally milled redwood, townspeople in 1867 built the church for $3,000 (about $48,000 in today’s money).

I spent some time in Nicasio late last month, attending the opening of the new Nicasio Historical Society Museum and MALT Day at Nicasio Valley Farm’s Pumpkin Patch. While walking around the square, I was again struck by how unexpectedly well the New England architecture of several buildings fits with the old-west architecture of others, such as the Druid’s Hall and Rancho Nicasio.

Rob Roth on sax, KC Filson on piano, Píerre Archain on bass, and Michael Aragon on drums at the No Name bar in Sausalito. At far right, prominent Sausalito artist Steve Sara sketches the scene.

Last Friday evening, Lynn and I again ended up at the No Name bar  where we often go on Fridays. That’s the night the Michael Aragon Quartet performs modern jazz, much of it in the vein of John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

When the quartet performed Adderley’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy a month ago, they inspired me to see what I could find out about the late sax player (1928-75). Perhaps the most-intriguing trivia I turned up was the origin of his name.

Here’s the story. Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley, a hefty man, already had a voracious appetite by the time he reached high school, and this led his classmates to call him “Cannibal.” The distinction between cannibals and cannonballs is, of course, so minor that most of the public didn’t notice when Adderley evolved from one into the other. __________________________________________________________________

The view out our bedroom window Sunday of a horse from Point Reyes Arabians grazing in the neighboring pasture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Doe, a deer, a blacktail deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun…. A young deer in a spot of sunlight outside our kitchen window last week pricked up her ears as if the hills were alive with the sound of…. ?

Wild turkeys and deer coexist surprisingly well at Mitchell cabin. Obviously neither looks threatening to the other. The biggest dangers to them come from cars and hunters.

In the pine tree, the mighty pine tree, the raccoon sleeps tonight. In the pine tree, the quiet pine tree, the raccoon sleeps tonight. Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh…. ________________________________________________________________

A mother raccoon and her kit at our kitchen door.

Young raccoons are recognizable by the time we get to see them notwithstanding their having been delivered in kit form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________

Lynn and I hear coyotes around the cabin every few days, but we seldom get to see them. Here a coyote takes cover behind our woodshed.

The sloe-eyed coyote emerges from behind a clump of — appropriately enough — coyote brush. Coyotes are close relatives of gray foxes.

Keeping an eye out (and ears up) for coyotes and other predators, a jackrabbit sits in the field outside our kitchen window.

Among the other predators around here are bobcats. They don’t try to stay out of sight, but they trot off when they see humans.

And then there are the gray foxes. They live and breed on this hill, and until recently would show up at the kitchen door most evenings hoping to be fed just about anything — bread, nuts, dog food, whatever.

The foxes still show up occasionally in the afternoon to sun themselves atop the picnic table on our deck. Their nighttime visits, however, have come to an end for now, and I miss their vulpine partying.

It all began in a dream one night earlier this month and ended in another dream during the wee hours this morning. Between the dreams were events of enough moment to command Lynn’s and my full attention.

Here’s how it started. My friend Janine Warner, who in the early 1990s reported for The Point Reyes Light, recently returned from a week of coaching journalists in Chile. Among the subjects she taught was how to use small drones to photograph news scenes. When she and her husband, Dave LaFontaine, called from Los Angeles, Lynn and I wanted to hear all about her classes.

However, conversations between old friends tend to wander onto numerous topics, and somewhere along the way, Dave brought up the topic of urban rats. As it happened, in 1983 during my two-year sojourn reporting for the old, Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, one news story I covered was the replacing of the sewer under Hyde Street on Russian Hill. As I told Dave, the old sewer had been so antiquated that it was made of bricks, not pipes, and rats regularly got into it through chinks between bricks in order to eat fat in the sewage. A bit to my frustration, however, I had a momentary mental block and could not come up with the name of the hill, only of the street.

Later that night, I was asleep in bed when Lynn asked me to roll over because I was snoring. I muttered something that Lynn didn’t understand, and she asked me, “What?” After being asked two or three more times while still only half awake, I said, “Russian Hill.”

“What about Russian Hill?” Lynn asked. “That’s where all the drones and small explosives are,” I replied. “Okay,” answered Lynn, “but please roll over. You’re snoring.” I mumbled, “I will have to do that,” but I was still mostly asleep and just sank lower into the pillow. Lynn got out of bed and went into the living room to sleep for awhile on the couch.

When we later got up, Lynn was curious as hell about Russian Hill, the drones, and small explosives. The first two were obvious, I said. Russian Hill was the name I hadn’t been able to remember while on the phone the night before when we were also talking about drones. As for the small explosives, the FBI on June 2 had made a much-publicized arrest of a well-established political consultant, Ryan Kelley Chamberlain, after a bag of components for homemade bombs was found in his Russian Hill apartment.

The associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

Calzone Restaurant on Columbus Boulevard in San Francisco’s North Beach, an historically Italian neighborhood and birthplace of the city’s Beat Generation.

And now for something completely different, as they used to say on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The youngest of three stepdaughters from my fourth marriage, Shaili Zappa, last week flew out from Minneapolis where she is starting her senior year at the University of Minnesota. Lynn and I see her only every year or two, so when she visits, we like to take her to places that are also out of the ordinary for us.

Shaili (left) with Lynn at one of Calzone’s sidewalk tables where we stopped after picking her up at the airport.

My favorite San Francisco restaurant is Calzone’s, two and a half blocks north of Broadway. Not only does it serve excellent Italian fare, its sidewalk tables are great for people watching, which can be fascinating in North Beach. It’s open till 1 a.m. every day, and thanks to heat lamps, one can sit outside at midnight and not get cold.

Beach Blanket Babylon is the longest-running musical review in theater history with more than 15,000 performances in 40 years.

We headed back to North Beach Wednesday evening to take in Beach Blanket Babylon at Club Fugazi on Green Street. I’d been to the theater twice before, and each tongue-in-cheek performance was vastly different from the other but equally wonderful.

A parody of Miley Cyprus twerking and Robin Thicke singing.

To quote publicity for the current show: “Beach Blanket Babylon follows Snow White as she takes a fast-paced journey around the world in search of her ‘Prince Charming.’

“Along the way she encounters a star-studded, ever-changing lineup of hilarious pop-culture characters including President Barack & Michelle Obama, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, Prince William, Kate Middleton and their baby Prince George, Beyoncé and Jay Z, Paula Deen, Katy Perry, Governor Jerry Brown, Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj, Hillary and Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Nancy Pelosi, Michael Jackson, Adele, Lady Gaga and the San Francisco Giants.”

We spent an hour and a half laughing and clapping. Shaili, who had never seen a musical review before, was at least as enchanted as Lynn and I were.

For more than 50 years, the No Name Bar in Sausalito has provided another home for the Beat Generation, and on Friday night we took Shaili there. In the rear is a covered garden where customers go to smoke and drink while socializing.

Drummer Michael Aragon has performed blues and modern jazz every Friday night at the No Name for 31 years. The Michael Aragon Quartet consists of Aragon on drums, Rob Roth on sax, Pierre Archain on base, and KC Filson on keyboard. _________________________________________________________________

Much of Michael Aragon’s jazz reminds me of the late John Coltrane’s. It tends to be free-flowing and spirited but never chaotic.

I’ve followed his work for years, and I’m playing his CD Horizon Line while I write this.

From left: Lynn Axelrod, Shaili Zappa, Dave Mitchell, and Michael Argon at the No Name Bar. ______________________________________________________________

Then came the South Napa Earthquake. Shaili flew back to Minneapolis Saturday evening, and Lynn went to bed around midnight to catch up on her sleep after several late nights. I’m more of a night owl, and at 3:20 a.m. I was still sitting at my computer reading an al Jazeera article when the house began to shake.

Oh, we’re just having an earthquake, I thought. When the quake continued and got stronger, however, I began to wonder if the roof would collapse. As soon as the shaking stopped, I hurried downstairs to check on Lynn.

The shaking had awakened her — sort of. Patting the bed next to her she asked, “Where’s mom?” I was confused. “Where’s our mother?” she demanded. “There’s no mom here,” I answered. “You’re still dreaming.”

Frustrated, Lynn got out of bed to look for her mother and make sure the earthquake hadn’t done her any harm.

Still half asleep, she walked across the room and stepped into the hall where she finally woke up.

Lynn’s mother, Miriam Axelrod (at left), died in 1998.

At first I didn’t fully understand what had happened although Lynn began to laugh about her dream.

As it turned out, she had recognized me but in her mind had blended me with her brother whom she hasn’t seen in years.

Once again I say: the associations the mind makes while dreaming can be amazing.

As for the quake itself, the US Geological Survey website, which Lynn immediately checked, listed it as magnitude 6.1. Hardest hit was the Napa area 35 miles away where more than 200 people were injured, three of them critically including a 13-year-old boy hit by bricks from a collapsing chimney. Fifteen buildings in downtown Napa received major damage, and numerous others in Napa and Vallejo had moderate damage.

In addition, four mobilehomes were destroyed by fire and at least two others damaged, presumably because the quake broke gas lines. The quake also brought down powerlines in Contra Costa County, blacking out 69,000 homes and businesses. Some wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties received extensive damage and lost large amounts of wine in barrels, vats and bottles.

Between two memorable dreams there intervened great food, great theater, great jazz, and great damage. It’s been an interesting fortnight.