Adventures of the Tea Seeker

This week the office has been really cold, at least for me. Thus something hot to drink was a necessity. We had coffee in our kitchen but no tea, so I went off to Full-screenMuisca Cafe, a few blocks away. Pretty tasty. Afterward, I had the brilliant idea of getting looseleaf in bulk and just keeping it around. Bwaha! Looking for local places, I discovered the San Francisco Herb Co., a short stint away, so I decide to take a break and go for a walk.

Pittering around 14th street, unable to find the shop, I stumbled upon an independent tea shop that looked really cute. I was betting they'd know where the shop was. The place was really adorable, but the two people inside were stuffed. "Welcome," the worker said in a voice deeper and different than her own. The were their own puppets, playing pretentious roles that they could not actually fill. The man knelled on his padded stool reading about the tarot. The woman poured tea dramatically, spilling all over the place in her little marble basin. It was designed for her tactics, obviously, but it looked terrible. Who wants to drink tea poured in a marsh? Crazy kids.

They had no idea where the place was, and tried to sell me looseleaf, although the only herbal they sold smelled iffy. She was going to let me try it, but when I said I had very little cash, she let her voice deflate, and it was apparent that it was time for me to go.

I found another tea/coffee shop a ways down, this time they were helpful, although tried to tell me it was closed now and that they had a bag of chamomile to sell. I went back to find the shop almost exactly across the street from the stuffed tea shop. Le sigh.

When I get there, I get a tea ball, a pound each of Honeybush, Rooibos, dried ginger, chamomile, cinnamon sticks, and Herbes de Provence. For $25. Amazing. I'll be going back and if anyone wants stuff, I can get it for you!


William Something Something

Last night I was getting gas when a homeless man toting a bike came up to me. I expected the usual spiel, "Can you help a poor man out?" But instead, he said, "Today's my birthday! I am Fifty. Two. Years old today!"

Leaning back on my car as it guzzled thirstily, tube hanging between me and the man, "Well congratulations, Happy Birthday!" I said with a smile. He went on for a while, and when he was getting to the point of asking for something, I ask, "Have you had dinner yet? Let me buy you dinner." Or something like that.

He pauses for a moment, then agrees, hailing his friend off near the edge of the gas station, "I'm gunna go get Dinner! For my Birth. Day." He tells me his name, William something something--I couldnt hear the rest. We agree on a Chinese place a few blocks down, and off we go, him on his bike, my following him in my car. Slow going, but it works.

Only two people are in the restaurant, both employees. The woman, who seats us and is a little wary of William, and the man, whos pressence is assuring. I realize it isn't the safest thing to do, taking an unknown man to dinner.

He gets wonton soup and shrimp fried rice, I stick with veggie chow mein. 25.60. He does most of the talking, and he does so in cycles. I can smell alcohol on his breath, but not as bad as many I've smelt--I had been talking with him a good ten minutes before noticing. Anyway, the cycles go first, thanking me, telling me God loves all, giving me advice, telling me something deeply tragic about his life, getting really upset, silence. And none of the phases in the cycle were brief, they each had their bulk.

Thanking me included calling me an/his angel and simple thank yous. The "God loves all" cycle include him saying this phrase repeatedly with elongated emphasis on the word "all." And lots of nodding. His advice included going to school (When I told him I had already graduated, he said, go back and stay there. Apparently I'm to be a professional student.), taking care of my parents, and playing the numbers we got in our fortune cookies.

One tragic thing in his life was being in Desert Storm with his brother and his brother dying there (and the dead children on the streets, and how didn't want to shoot anyone, "but you gotta do what you gotta do" times five plus tears). He talk about how his dad was dead, how he used to have a dogwhen he was a kid, how he knew he drank a little too much and couldn't keep a job anymore. Other tidbits about his life is that he has at least one daughter and used to do sheet metal work. And that he sleeps under the bridge at Gilman street most of the time, unless the cops come and he has to move on.

After dinner, he showed me how to play the numbers on our fontune cookie papers, and I gave him more cash than I should have. I met his nephew, who was drunk and who William sent off on his way. He said if he won the lottery, he'd help every homeless man. I don't know if I would have that kind of generosity, and that scared me. I didn't win anything, but I'm glad of it.

There's got to be a better way to help people than giving them cash. I liked that I took William to dinner, that was good, but giving him cash in the end cheapened it for me. I don't think cash is service. It can certainly help, but it can also enable people in bad ways. How does one decide what to do?


not all yelows are ugly

I've heard lots of stories about my female friends being haggled in cities or while riding public transit, but I had never really experienced it until today, only the second day of my working at my new job in the city.

While I was walking from bart to my office, an ugly-yellow (because not all yellows are ugly) blinged up SUV pulls up while I'm walking and the man inside starts talking to me. He said, I kid you not, "What's a pretty thing like you doing here?" I tell him I work here and that I need to go. He says, "What, you don't want my number?" "Uhhh....I need go to work. I like your car!" and with a smile, I turn to unlock the door to the office. Mostly harmless--a little flattering and a little scary. Don't worry, Mom, I'll get some mace.


naïvety of pure democracy

The recent news about the troubles of keeping information about a kidnapping off Wikipedia, in particular the quote that "the idea of a pure openness, a pure democracy, is a naïve one," got me thinking.

Obviously some people know or care more about the small picture, about being right and getting what they think they need, over the big picture, or what is best for the majority of people. Since what is best is subjective anyway, who do we let decide this?

Most western people probably have similar opinions on the Iranian presidential election, for example. The thought of one's vote being stolen or cheated from us is appalling. And yet, what if Ahmadinejad is a more enlightened person than Mousavi and would take better care of the nation? I'm not saying it's right, but if it were as important to protect the Iranian people by cheating the votes as it was to keep the kidnapping new off of Wikipedia, wouldn't it seem more justified? After all, we are talking about a nation being potentially saved, instead of just a man.

Case by case--there is always more information than we think there is. Hard lines made turn out to be wrinkled and blurred. The people with power always end up making the biggest decisions anyway, but how do we let them get there? When do we retract the gift of power? And how? How can we ever truly know if our actions and decisions are right? At some level, we will never know, and must trust ourselves to act with the information we have, with faith that those impacted by our decisions will understand that our knowledge is not perfect.


energy storage

A friend of mine recently pointed out that the real problem with energy is not its creation. Wind and solar are great, but on windless or cloudy days, we're up a creek without a paddle. And then there are source of energy everywhere, from treadmills to lightening. The problem is partially collection, but mostly storage.

We use fuels because they're easy to transport and relatively efficient. The problem is usually that use have to burn them to get the energy. This article talks about the related problem of storing hydrogen as a fuel, and a possible solution. It's not so nice to the chickens, but it may prove to be useful.