Tuesday, January 09, 2007

George Sanchez by Chloe Dickson

George Sanchez walks into the sterile looking room in Fromm Hall with a group of professors and co-workers trailing behind him. George keeps a straight face as he and his partner Julie walk to the center of the room to address the crowd. It has taken George four years to get to this point, and tonight is about him, his partner and their controversial yet informative documentary.

Although his face is not too animated, a look of passion juts out of George’s dark piercing eyes as he stares back at the faces in the crowd. He is professional in appearance and somewhat resembles a more youthful Andy Garcia. His jet black hair is perfectly combed to his head, and his ear length sideburns are immaculately trimmed. His square framed glasses awkwardly match his dark suit. Both are slightly too big for his 5ft 7inch frame. The hemmed sleeves of his jacket surpass is wrists and his pant legs bunch over a pair of black and white vintage Doc Martins.

When he speaks it is hard not to notice his voice. It is light and airy. Much different from his specific look, which calls for a gruff and hardened voice.

Through most of the question and answer session, Sanchez is sitting on the sidelines letting his co-worker Julie take center stage. Its as if he is examining her every word. When she speaks he watches her intently with his hands in his pockets and his legs crossed at the ankles.

Every time a question is thrown his way he pauses, scratches his goatee and thinks about his potential answer. When he gives one, his small figure suddenly comes to life. His face fills with expression and his hands come out of hiding to help him describe his experiences.

As he explains the difficulty of interviewing people in jail, he says, “we had our film confiscated once on a prison ground.” He pauses and a smile cracks across his face “That was pretty cool.” As he makes the joke his entire look changes. He beams back at the laughing crowd and it is evident that he has dropped his professional image. But as suddenly as he lets it go it is back. Ever so quickly he crosses his legs, shoves his hands back into the depths of his pockets and lets his face turn back into stone.

Turbulent Thai by Alex Anderson

What’s good about not having a knife at a tasty restaurant? You get to lick your fingers. I only noticed the missing utensil once my appetizer of “Angel Wings” was placed on my small orange table inside the bustling Marnee Thai restaurant. After lifting a sticky brown chicken wing to my lips and biting into the tender morsel I fell victim to Marnee Thai’s appeal.

It has an informal atmosphere of turbulent clamor, yet amidst the flurry it spits out plates of comforting sophistication.The doorway into the eatery is thin, and the walls are hidden beneath umpteen restaurant reviews commending the tiny restaurant for it friendliness and succulent cuisine.

Through a glass partition to the left, the cooks can be seen hopping from grill to grill in frantic dance. On a busy night you may be waiting in the tight doorway with a few others looking over yellow paper menus. The restaurant consists of eleven 2-seater tables lining the entirety of the right wall and a couple 4-seaters to the back right.

A thin aisle down the center separates the tables along the left wall with the kitchen, wine bar, and dish washing area on the left. A round woman, wearing a shimmery blouse of gold and brown, hobbled down the aisle violently spouting something in Thai to the frenzied chefs. When she reached me, she produced a warm smile and led me to my table.Hisses burst from clouds of steam in the kitchen, and the song of clanking plates rattled against a metal sink.

My waitress wobbled back and forth down the aisle. Out of the chaos a worried looking waiter slid a fresh cup of ice water across my table. He and a slender woman in a red kimono were the only others serving alongside my waitress.

She plopped an order of veggie spring rolls packed with crispy greens on my neighbors table. The plate was jammed between two other dishes piled high with sauce-smothered meat.“You like this,” she said frankly. Then she was gone. Back on her two-way journey back and forth.

Not as spicy as the menu cautions, the appetizer of “Spicy Angel Wings” (deep fried chicken wings) is a delight, priced at $7.50. The modestly spiced garlic sauce sticking to the delicious nuggets of meat makes for some serious mouth watering. The sauce proves its point without overpowering the taste of the tender chicken within. The garlicky goo was hot to the touch, raced straight from the grill to my mouth. The dish is sprinkled with delicate wisps of basil leaves that crumble into nothingness on your tongue.

While I sat lost in a world of decadent tastes, the waitresses still hobbled and zoomed past my table and past the cluttered bar directly across from me. On the bar stools, plates were piled atop stacks of menus. More of these towering stacks rose from the top of the bar. Behind these stacks, a row of potted plants were propped up at different levels, their price tags dangling from strings. A portable phone sitting next to the cash register rang sporadically through the rumble of dinner conversation and the random outbursts of commands from my waitress.

My Pad Thai ran a little late, and the chefs were instantly informed. My waitress bumbled up to them and yelled fervently while stabbing her pointer finger into a notepad shoved through the glass partition. The kitchen fell to near silence and diners gossiped softly.

She returned with an ecstatic smile and nodded saying, “It’s coming.”Marnee Thai’s cuisine is a tad pricey, but the sauces of sweetness, sourness, or spiciness make up for it. Serving lunch and dinner, the restaurant’s cheapest dish is $5.95 (fried rolls inside a concoction of ground meats, mushrooms, cabbages, and noodles). The more expensive choices involve prawns, like the chef-suggested Pad Phong Ka Ree (A mixture of sautéed prawns, mushrooms, curry powder, egg, bell peppers, and onions), at $11.50. Marnee’s portions are generous.

Almost every menu item is meant to be shared. The mass of noodles in my Pad Thai concealed plump shrimps and fresh vegetables. The slightly thin peanut sauce was accentuated by tiny peanut sprinkles. After taking a last crunch I ordered a doggy bag.My waitress barked at the chefs as she waddled up to my table, her head craned to the kitchen. The phone rang, a neighboring table waved for attention, she gave me a candy, the check, and a smile. She said, “Thank you,” and hoped I’d return. And I believed her.

Marnee Thai has two locations: 2225 Irving Street(415) 665-9500 and 1243 9th Avenue (415) 731-9999.

Open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and openfor dinner 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. Accepts reservations.

@@-All Right

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A Travel Story with a Bit of a Twist

A long journey need not cover a long distance, don't you think?

Alan Johnson
November 10, 2006
Travel Story

The glistening marble floors of the San Francisco Shopping Centre, home to high priced stores and even higher priced restaurants, extend in every direction under the omnipotent dome of the old Emporium on Market Street. The new carpet and the luxurious seats spread on the top floor of this shopper’s paradise have not lost any of their original comfort. The smells of Italian espresso and fresh baked pastries permeate the air early on a Monday morning. Having passed through the new Bloomingdale’s store just minutes prior, San Francisco Chronicle staff photographer Brant Ward’s eleven student photojournalism class from the University of San Francisco is filled with a sense of wonder and awe as they explore the edifice. For many this is their first visit to the mall. The students have no idea what is in store for them next.

All of this was to be part of a planned class trip to the San Francisco Chronicle led by Ward to familiarize students with what a real working newsroom is like for a photographer. Prior to the San Francisco Shopping Centre stop the class spent some time at the San Francisco Chronicle building itself, walking through the dim hallways and absorbing the smell of instant coffee.

After some of the students devour their rich pastries and consume their warm, but not too hot, specialty coffee drinks under the San Francisco Shopping Centre dome Ward leads them down to market and towards the derelict Tenderloin area of San Francisco. Immediately after crossing Fifth Street panhandlers approach the group of students as if each of them is a cartoon dog and the students each have a big piece of fresh meat in their pocket luring them over. Many of the girls are assaulted with calls detailing disgusting acts. The smell of urine and cigarettes fills the air as the class files down the sidewalk, not daring to move an inch in any other direction than straight ahead. Ward, a frequent visitor to the Tenderloin due to his intensive exposé on the homeless in San Francisco, walks with a cool calm demeanor, even greeting many of the characters lining up for food at a soup kitchen.

The Ward-led beeline stops at St. Boniface Catholic Church on Golden Gate Avenue, a place that opens its doors at night to allow the homeless to sleep on the pews. Ward is searching for someone that he has taken photos of in order to get his name and has heard that St. Boniface is a spot this individual frequents. As the students enter the church, the smell of unwashed clothes and human being cuts at the nostrils. The sound of snoring is overwhelming yet barely there, as it is the only sound in the entire building. The students walk up and down the pews as Ward converses with some people who oversee the building when these unfortunate guests are occupying it.

As the students file out of the church the students become less and less sure where they are going next. Ward leads them to a corner where a man that was featured on the cover of that day’s San Francisco Chronicle often spends his time, looking to show him his picture on the newspaper. Ward asks a couple of people where this man, Michael Dick, is as the students huddle together.
Ward and the students enter a refurbished hotel where many homeless have been taken in by a citywide program attempting to get people off the streets. The lobby of the building looks like a place where a 12-step program would be taught, complete with Dixie cups and a plastic water cooler. The squat lady at the front desk says she knows Dick and says that he should be by any minute. As the group waits for Dick some of the residents of the building vagabonding in the lobby start conversation with some of the students.

When Dick passes through the door he is greeted by Ward jovially and is excitedly led across the street to an amalgamation laudromat/icecream shop/internet café. The proprietor of the business is none too pleased to see a group of young people enter his establishment, so much so that the words “you break it, you buy it” seem to be broadcast from his face. Ward rents some time for Dick to use the Internet and watch a multimedia presentation that he is featured on, only to find that the computer is not equipped with speakers. Ward continues to show Dick his presentation, paying no attention to the fact that there is no sound.

Once the presentation is finished, Ward leads the group now with an additional member, Dick, looking for a friend of Dick’s, Ricky. Not finding Ricky but many others is the menu for the day. One woman that approaches the group claims to have been stuck by a bus and being launched across an intersection just a few days prior. The woman is marked by large gashes across her face but walks as if nothing has happened.

After unsuccessfully scouring the streets for this character and being pushed for cigarettes, Ward concedes his search and takes the students and Dick to a cramped local Vietnamese diner.

Getting This Blog up to Date

Before classes start, I'll post at least one more story from everyone in the class. We had some good ones.