Tuesday, February 8, 12:52 p.m. when I arrive...


Feb 7-9 Plein AirPoem at The Swiss Café: Day Two

India Hixon Radfar

“Beauty in art consists of truth imbued with the impression we received from the contemplation of nature…whatever the site, whatever the object, the artist should submit to his first impression.”      -Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)

“Your first impression is the right one.  Stick to it, and don’t budge.”   - Plein Airpainter Eugene Boudin, 1824-1898.


Tuesday, February 8, 12:52 p.m. when I arrive.  Can’t settle in the corner I took yesterday because of some light construction work going on there now.  

Today, different color in the sky.  Paler, hazy.  Some fluffy clouds off to the side.  Ocean steely, sand color muted.  No street vendors the whole front of the café and further up towards Santa Monica.  

Does no one sell if there are only clouds and no sun?    

One of the singers from yesterday just finished his set.  He drinks coca cola from a bottle while leaning against a wall then walks across the parking lot to the public toilets.  A woman watches over his stuff, or maybe she’s just standing there.  

A grey-haired woman with a large dog by her side and an all-white cockatoo on her shoulder passes the café.  Her dog stops to eat some dog food left under a table by a previous customer. The bird wears a homemade bib to keep it from pulling out its neck feathers.  Same woman as yesterday looks for bottles and cans.  

The dog finishes the food.  The musician picks up his guitar and starts playing the blues. He’s tapping his foot on a tambourine and he’s also got a harmonica waiting around his neck. The microphone is good.

Young white man, shirtless and tattooed, wheels by in his wheelchair. The cockatoo raises her head feathers into an umbrella-like plume. She likes the music and sings along. A man behind me laughs while I just think of laughing.  The cockatoo squawks nonstop and is taken away like a crying baby. 

I’m all the way outside today.  The sun is diffuse and making the light hazy. Less hot than yesterday, less yellow.  The radio is still on inside the restaurant.

Two men race each other on bicycles joyously.  The construction in the left corner resumes.  Sailboat just off the beach, white sail not bright today.  More clapping.  Jack hammer. More blues.  The singer is a distinguished-looking black man with grey hair. Double bicycle snakes around the children’s park.

The woman with the bags of cans is wearing a black sweatshirt today. Air not warm.  I’m drinking coffee.  Yesterday I drank iced tea.  

All joggers come from left and go right.  All skateboarders come from right and go left.  (Check on the veracity of this claim.)  Mountains clouded out of view.  Scooter goes from left to right.  Neither/nor.  Now a man is looking over my shoulder trying to decipher my handwriting.  Turns out he’s not in control of his faculties for some reason and the waiter sends him off.  

Lots of dogs.  I’m forgetting to mention that.  One skateboarder ruins my nascent theory.  A man walks by with his hand in a sling.  Another skateboarder goes from left to right, crushing my now erroneous theory.  

A blue double bicycle passes the other way with only one rider on it.  

A trash digger, two female roller-bladers, man with a cigarette in hand grooves to the music in a green shirt.     

The musician has picked up his tempo.  An elderly jogger wipes his face with a pale green handkerchief. Pigeons circle gracefully to the left. 

A sea gull cries nearby and I turn around to watch the customers sitting behind me. 

Light orange bicycle parks in front of the café.  Large, white pick-up truck enters the lot.  Small girl runs ahead of her mother to the playground. 

Ocean metallic, mercurial, sky washed out and there’s an uncomfortable 


Four people and one dog exit the large, white pick-up truck.  

Several young men seated in the café comment unnecessarily on a girl with an angular style who is walking by.  

Three identical red town bikes pass, then a pink one like mine. 

Sea gulls continually circling to my left.  A dip in the sand reveals a small bit of the white crest of the waves breaking on the beach.  

A stranger begins to sit on the ground near the singer but falls the rest of the way down, revealing that he is possibly not sober.  He requests a song.  Oh, it’s the same man who was looking over my shoulder earlier.  

An Elder wearing a bright pink sweater goes by on a motorized chair, high red flag at her back.  Boy with a red light saber and sun’s heat strengthens.  The fellow on the ground calls out for another song.  This time he gets one brief harmonica riff only.  

Three more people stop to sit at the café.  One of them photographs the graffiti on the building to our left: skulls, snowmen, all types of creeps smoking, a skull that is dressed as a clown and a mushroom all depicted there. 

Not many people wearing t-shirts today. 

No one leaves even a small contribution for the musician.  

Two men lean their bicycles against the wall behind the singer without locking. Then they come sit in the café. 

The man with the probable dual diagnosis drifts towards the unlocked bicycles.  

A man and woman eat oranges as they pass, dropping peels. Another woman stops her bike directly in front of the cafe, takes off her earphones, calls out and finds her friend is not working today. Then she rides away.

Now the man with difficulties sits in the shade of the wall behind the musician but not too near the bicycles.  While worrying about his neurology, I begin to think he’s just a pest. He’s still requesting songs.  Soon he returns to the café asking for a light.  Someone gives him one then lights up as well.  

Smoke everywhere.

Boy in wheelchair talking to girl in plaid skirt.

Police car passes, To Protect and Servewritten on its side.  Police motorcycle passes the other way.

Finally I get myself up, give two dollars to the singer and sit back down again.

The pedestrians become a little denser further to our left, towards Venice. Over there people do slow down to look at the vendors’ wares. 

I am continuously distracted from looking at the ocean.  

By pink hair, by whatever is going on.  

And yet the ocean is the special ingredient in this picture.

The ocean, with nothing but the sky behind it.

And yet I keep looking in front, not back there, distracted by someone’s plate of fried calamari.  

Beginner roller-blader goes too fast, loses his balance and grabs a garbage can to steady himself.  At the same time he grabs my attention away from the ocean.

Walk to the ocean, my eyes.  Walk to the ocean.



What if you're the crazy one and not him?


Have you ever thought that you might be crazy?

Like, you might be in a different dimension or something.

Tonight, I went out with a friend and we talked about this. You look at this guy who’s talking to himself and think that he is crazy. But we might be doing it without knowing that we’re doing it.

In their heads, things are making sense. We were talking about that at a restaurant.

“We might both in a mental hospital somewhere, or we might be in a white room, talking to ourselves, but we don’t think we’re crazy.” My friend said.

We went to a bar after dinner. We had a casual conversation, and all of the sudden, my friend said “There’s a guy who’s been talking to himself this whole time. Your left shoulder.”

So I looked behind me. There was a guy standing right outside of the bar patio, facing the patio, and talking to “himself”.

He wasn’t really talking to himself though. My friend continued. “It’s fascinating, he’s clearly having a conversation with more than one person. He looks his right and left, sometimes follows something or someone, and talks to that”.

I saw him out of the corner of my eyes, and he was, “talking” to more than two people.

My friend said, “maybe we’re talking to ourselves now too, we just don’t know”

That guy was literally standing there talking to someone for two hours. Then, it started raining. I looked up the sky, and looked at where he was. He was gone. Really, gone.

He made an eye contact with me just for a second.

I wonder if he saw me or not.


I first remember seeing Frank Chu about 20 to 25 years ago in San Francisco...


I first remember seeing Frank Chu about 20 to 25 years ago in San Francisco...

He’s long been a fixture on Market St but over time you’ll see him all around town, gravitating toward crowds and events.

For those who don’t know his name, he’s often referred to as Sign Guy or 12 Galaxies Guy.

He’s friendly and will speak with just about anyone. I always say hi to Frank when I see him. We’ve had some long conversations over the years.

He believes that he was abducted by the CIA and that he used to work with the CIA and that he’s a time traveler.

Unfortunately, San Francisco can no longer let weird be weird for the sake of weird. It just had to monetize and exploit the situation.

Over the past 10 years or so, he has sign sponsorships. SF Gate (aka the Chronicle) even writes articles on who is latest sponsor is. They can go fuck themselves.

That’s supposed to be news? Pathetic.

The words on the sign change often, and the backside is for sponsorship, but the words 12 Galaxies are staples.

About 10 years ago there was a nightclub opened in his honor, called 12 Galaxies, but it has since closed.

I’ve seen people dress up as Frank for Halloween, which actually outside of San Francisco would be pretty interesting. Literally nobody would have any idea who you were unless they’re from the city, in which case 100% they would know. He’s a weirdo legend.

He believes that Bill Clinton owes him royalties for the time he spent as a movie star, that everyone is stealing from him. I think he has some independent wealth but I’m not so sure. He used to have a resume floating around and it was kind of odd (duh) but I haven’t seen it in years.

If you Google Frank Chu, you’ll see a million and one pics of him over the years.

He’s for sure my favorite and most memorable San Francisco weirdo.

I invited him to a house party once like 15 years ago and he was super pumped to come but he said he could only come if he spent the night but that didn’t work out so we never got a chance to party together but we’ve shared some long bus rides together, back when people took public transportation instead of being boring and Lyfting everywhere (I’m guilty of it too).

Frank is a legend. I’d trade a thousand techies for another weirdo like Frank. Guys like him are the lifeblood of San Francisco culture.