Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 22 2015


Despite the fact that I managed to hold out until a decent hour before going to bed, I still woke up around 2 a.m. I managed to get back to sleep, waking up at another decent hour in my hotel room. The Park Hotel is an old building that puts me in mind of something out of an old detective story, with all of the old, painted-over fittings, the rounded ceiling corners, the bathtub with feet, the sink in the room, the weighted wooden frame of the window. No need for air conditioning, the weather is cool, almost wintery by Taiwanese standards; fortunately I brought a jacket. From what I gather, some people basically live there. I can understand that as rents in SF were already ridiculous years ago, and they’re still skyrocketing, especially in gentrificating neighborhoods like the Tenderloin.

After a quick breakfast a la Walgreens, I walked down Market Street to the bay and along the waterfront to Pier 24, where I met my friend and fellow BME member Jack Simon. Jack used his considerable influence to get me into the exclusive photography gallery there, and we spent the next hour or so looking and wondering about a Paul Graham exhibit that included three of his photographic series. The space was excellent and the staff supremely knowlegable. My only concern was that the deep frames in combination with the lack of ambient light made for deep shadows across the tops of many of the photos, influening the sense of composition. Graham apparently had o problem with it, I was told when I mentioned it to the staff. Jack didn’t notice it until I told him, and then he said he couldn’t unnotice it. Sorry, Jack.

Afterwards, we walked up Mission to the Tenderloin and lunch with two other photographers, Joe Aguirre and Ben Molina. It was great to exchange and discuss our various work and ideas over delicious chicken and rice, washed down with mate full of lovely, lovely caffeine. We ate out on the red brick sidewalk, cracked with use. Ben possesses encylopedic knowlege of photographic history and artists, which added a lot to the discussion.

Joe had to go start work at his coffee/wine shop at 1:30, so Ben, Jack and I walked through the Mission, taking in a modest Todd Hido exhibition, and also tea at a coffeehouse with a wooden boat in front of it, startling a young white woman from Austin who was wearing dog-themed pantyhose. As we walked towards a grafitti-themed alley, a young black man shouted from his car, “Respect the arts! Y’all got cameras in your hands…” I looked back and nodded my agreement at him.

The grey coolness of the morning evaporated into solid blue skies as we walked, and I saw a handful of potentially wonderful photos, but I have a hard time photographing when I’m engaged in conversation with other people, and the conversation was on point. Perhaps it’s just as well, as I would need to spend a bit more time getting a grasp on the local photographic mores.

The sky clouded over again as we walked back to Joe’s work, where we sat and talked while he served us drinks and occasional tasty pastries . Jack had to leave after a while, and Ben took me to a place called the Super Duper Burger Joint or something like that, and the burgers were indeed Super. The bathrooms had combination locks on them, and the codes were on the receipts, which I found clever. Strange, but clever.

Joe had gotten off work at 9:30 and met us outside the restaurant, but Ben had to go home. Joe took me through Chinatown to a bar where Jack Kerouak apparently hung out, now full of people Kerouak would probably spit on. We sat and talked and drank until around midnight, after which we parted ways, Joe on a bus home and me back to my hotel.

I was already awake this morning when Chenbl Lined me, and pretty much packed, so I was checked out and picking up some convenience-store snacks in half an hour, and on the BART to the airport ten minutes after that. Public transit in San Francisco works pretty well, and now they even have rental bicycles now.

Now I’m sitting in the departure lounge at SFO, having sped through check-in and the TSA circus smoothly, only to find that my flight to Oklahoma City has been delayed until after noon. Fortunately they have wifi, so I’ve been spending the time here to write this account.

I’ve had a great time this time in San Francisco, meeting a lot of great people and seeing a bit of the city. I wish I could stay longer. Perhaps I will do that some other time.


posted by Poagao at 2:23 am  


  1. Just discovered your website after falling into an online Taiwan -related rabbit hole. A close friend of mine moved there recently and I was reading up on the place and found your site. (Any way I can order an English language copy of your book for him?)

    Also next time you pass through SF area, allow me to take you out for a beer in Oakland, where I live. Cheers!

    Comment by Cyrus Farivar — December 26, 2015 @ 10:43 pm

  2. Thanks. You can order the book on amazon or through the Camphor Press website.

    Comment by Poagao — March 8, 2016 @ 10:54 am

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