Blogs from Union Square, San Francisco, California, United States, North America


From Slate: If you want to be in business for a long time, you should choose an industry that’s going to last. Since Kongo Gumi is in the business of building Buddhist temples, it has managed to sustain operations in Japan since 578 CE. Headquartered in Osaka, the company was founded by a Korean immigrant commissioned to build a temple in Japan by Prince Shotoku. That engineer went on to found his own company, Kongo Gumi, which spent the next several centuries constructing countless temples.In 2006, Kongo Gumi was acquired by construction conglomerate Takamatsu following a downturn in the overall Japanese economy, so there are some doubts about whether it can still truly be considered the oldest continuous business. However, it can still boast a pretty incredible corporate resume — the Takamatsu website ... read more
Buddhist temple in Nagoya

As you know, when I travel around this great world of ours, I always am asked, "Where are you from?" I say California, or San Francisco, and they go crazy, almost bonkers!!! Why? It is a state, and city EVERYone wants to visit. They know the City is a special place. I started visiting on a regular basis back in 1961, as a lowly freshman on an honor society trip. My how things have changed!!! Numero Uno of course, the food is fabulous, whether seafood, farm to table, "California" cuisine, and nouveau food truck. Second, is the wine, whether Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, Central Coast, or Temecula. Third, is the geographic diversity, the Pacific Ocean and the Sierras. What else can I possibly tell them? First, the fog, since the City has its own microclimate. We have ... read more
The Painted Ladies

One of the few remaining icons of old San Francisco, is John's Grill. I first became familiar with it, when my waiter , John Konstin, at Jack's on Sacramento Street bought John's in the 70s. Here is some interesting background. Nestled in a building two blocks from Union Square and not far from San Francisco’s big convention center and major hotels, John’s Grill has been hosting celebrities from all over the world for more than 100 years. It was created in 1908, only two years after San Francisco’s devastating earthquake. Indeed, John’s Grill was the first downtown restaurant to open after the quake. It quickly became a bustling anchor in the city’s multi-faceted life – hosting a beguiling and lively mixture of politicians, cops, journalists, entertainers, lawyers, business leaders and the just plain curious who wanted ... read more
Inside John's Grill
And some history

The technical term for jet lag: Whether you call it desynchronosis, time zone change syndrome, or simply jet lag, one thing that everyone can agree on is that it's a challenge when you travel. People can experience jet lag when sleep patterns are interrupted, as when they're traveling through time zones, but also as a result of shift-based work and sleeping disorders. Human bodies are naturally attuned to a 24-hour cycle and depend on consistency in order to regulate hormone levels, body temperature, and REM sleep. When that doesn't happen, people may experience physical fatigue, headaches, poor appetite, stomach pains, and even depression. To minimize the effects, try slowly adjusting to your new sleep schedule before your trip, staying hydrated, and avoiding stimulants and alcohol.A few things I have experienced. I find ... read more

Just to fill your holiday during the stay at home, or rather Ground Hog Day existence we are now living. Some totally useless information that may bring a smile or a snicker. So, let's check into Twinkies, fried chicken, catsup, and apple pie and ice cream. From the NYT: Twinkies as we know them now are simple: yellow cake filled with vanilla cream frosting. But when the sweet snacks first appeared in 1930, the tasty filling was banana-flavored, not vanilla. Twinkie inventor James Alexander Dewar, then a baker for the Continental Baking Company, came up with the treat when he was looking for a way to utilize the bakery's strawberry shortcake machine when strawberries were out of season. He substituted banana cream, and the Twinkie was born. Unfortunately, with the advent of World War II, bananas ... read more
Grandma's fried chicken
Ketchup or catsup?
Homemade apple pie

In the mad rush to celebrate our mothers, I forgot to mention my two grandmothers. Both, in my opinion, were pioneers, and adventurers in a strange, new world. Both were here by arranged marriages back in Japan. Neither spoke a word of English when they reached San Francisco or Seattle via ship. I cannot imagine what they must have gone through. I know more about my fraternal grandmother, Yuki, since they lived across the street from the time I was born until I left for UC Berkeley in 1964. Perhaps most astounding, is that she took care of us four children for almost two years while my Mom was hospitalized in Auberry at a tuberculosis sanitarium. She rose to the challenge, taking care of four children, with myself the oldest at 7 years of age! Another ... read more
Mom with siblings
Mom with all of her grandchildren

Rarely does anyone discuss travel budgets PRIOR to a trip to a far away place. I am so very fortunate to have the inimitable Mr. Mike as the best travel buddy in the universe. We have been all over the world, with rarely a hiccup. He knows how to travel (we both traveled extensively on business during our working days), and does not skimp on anything. Furthermore, we are not joined at the hip, stay in separate rooms, do not fly or sit together on planes, and pursue our own interests once at our destination. But I realize this is a rare occurrence, and most people who know us find this arrangement hard to fathom. We get asked often if people can join us on our trips. And to my great delight, he says I am ... read more

Ashlea from Afar provides a great framework for dealing with travel withdrawal, or as she calls it, "travel grief." For myself, I would not call it grief, it is more like withdrawal. But I am so fortunate to have a wonderful situation here at home, the ability to work as much as I want, and still enjoy a wonderful life. Anyway, she calls it the Five Stages of Travel Grief. Of course, she travels for a living. I do not. She spends half of her year on the road at Afar's Editor at Large. I am fortunate if I go somewhere, even nearby, once a month. The corona virus not only changed her travel plans, it has changed travel. It may even cost her livelihood, at least in the travel business. But better than ... read more
Travel happy

Is the Corona virus altering some or all of your travel plans. Where do we stand right now? The travel industry's refund policies are changing almost by the minute. Here's what they look like now: Airlines are waiving their change fees for flights in March and April.Cruise lines are offering credit for sailings until the end of spring.Hotels are loosening their cancellation policies for certain areas affected by the coronavirus o... read more
Corona?  Which one?

url= Today, March 14, is pi day. That is pi day, not (national) pie day, which is celebrated in January. Pi day is observed on March 14, since the first three significant numbers, in decimal form, are 3, 1, and 4. Was it the former professional and college basketball star, Jerry Lucas, who memorized pi out to hundreds of digits? ... read more
Big Al's birthday is 3-14

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