Thursday, November 30, 2006

two nights

a cottage of wood-paneled walls
garden views and cozy intimacy
like a mountain retreat in the city

strung with lights
redolent with coffee aroma
warm with the bodies of friends

surrounding the table
feasting while Elvis sings about Christmas
sharing stories tender from our past

laughter uncontrollable
understanding familial quirks
bonding as family ourselves

in another night, repeated regularly,
we three congregate in our living rooms
giddy with wine

finding each other hilarious,
witty, delightful
simmering with jokes and possibility

sharing the confusion of waiting
the pain of loss
is as acceptable as laughter

and both happen
over "Sex and the City"
over martinis and chocolate

on a simple weeknight
where we accept all that we are
and love it completely

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Restaurant Review: The Front Porch

The Front Porch, Mission District, San Francisco (

In the pouring rain on a blustery Monday night, we entered a packed new neighborhood restaurant, The Front Porch, in the Outer Mission half a block from the incomparable Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Tucked into what looks like the bottom floor of a house with a front patio (as opposed to a porch) of rocking chairs and tables, the heat inside enveloped us as we ducked in out of the wild wind and rain.

For a Monday night, the place was packed and festive, requiring a 30 minute wait for a table. They only take reservations for groups of five or more so thankfully, with a group, we were seated right away and set up with an affordable carafe of Pinot Noir. The décor was eclectic, funky, yet laid back with warm, candlelit ambience. The welcoming atmosphere was slightly marred by the cacophonous din, requiring leaning in close to be heard.

Pondering the menu, it read as “upscale Southern comfort food” without the upscale prices, the most expensive item being $15, with most entrees around $11. The collard greens with tomatoes, onions and lightly fried potato ‘poppers’ were satisfying though slightly underwhelming. There was nothing exciting about the dish, no distinctive flavor, merely a straightforward, decent presentation of vegetables.

A bigger hit was red bean and coconut soup with spicy avocado mash. The mash was barely spicy, but the dish satisfied in textured beans with a hint of coconut offset by creamy avocado. Addictive and interesting, it raised the expectation level for our entrees.

Moving on to sweet corn grit porridge with Dungeness crab, habanero, lemon and scallion, we could barely finish the large, filling plate. An appetizer and the entrée were plenty for two accompanied by tasty, complimentary corn mini-muffin-like bread. The crab was fresh and sweet, soaked in lemon and scallion, but the dish had almost too much porridge without enough contrast or spice from the nearly non-existent habanero. Still, the overall effect was gratifying and well worth the price.

My vegetarian friend was delighted to find the daily vegan/vegetarian options in an otherwise meat-laden entrée selection. The option was a butternut squash dish with various roasted vegetables, flavorful and hearty.

We ordered the dessert special: a chocolate, peanut butter and banana “fried” sandwich, which seemed to be just some bread with chocolate, PB, banana and whipped cream rather than actually fried. The chocolate was dark, the peanut butter rich, but the bread a bit dry. The Southern “fried” sandwich we were hoping for was not what we were presented with.

A disappointing ending to what was a patchy yet very promising meal. It is immensely better than its overrated sister restaurant, Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack, which is lauded as a ‘hipster’ neighborhood spot, heavy on atmosphere but after multiple visits provides nothing but bland, boring food and obnoxious noise level. The Front Porch is already a huge improvement: cozy, interesting, and affordable with the rare SF option of eclectic Southern American food (thankfully, becoming more popular of late), making me desperately want this local spot to succeed. Having only been open a few months, one hopes that the “kinks” will be worked out and the magic suggested by its warm, intimate glow and front patio rocking chairs will carry over into consistent food … an ideal neighborhood treasure.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Where are you?

After hearing Brian McLaren speak at Grace Cathedral yesterday - so humble yet with prophetic voice and open clarity:

If only there were more like him in my city: open, hungry, still evolving no matter what age, reaching the deepest, freest, most honest parts of faith and life as they mature, rather than becoming more dogmatic or 'comfortable'.

If only there were more like him to partner with, dialogue, seek, wait and be whatever we may be on that journey towards authentic, beyond- slogans-and-Christian-culture faith. Faith that affects all parts of oneself, not the parts that feel 'safe' to show. Rather than the constant effort and emotional attempts towards 'being stirred and on fire' towards revival that lead to little or no character change or healing of the heart, but more often to disappointment when one finds themselves unchanged and still not seeing revival, I crave the effort of faithfulness, to be honest wherever one is at, to seek God's face whether absolutes are shaken or even dissolving, to wait before God and just be, not have to prove anything with any effort, even prayer, to know that grace is a lot more encompassing than we even dared hope.

Where are you postmodern, emergent leaders who do not need or want even those labels but who cannot remain in the confining box of modernism and consumer Christianity? Those who cannot continue on with status quo of organized church and Christianese another day or it will kill your spirit? Those who must seek fresh, authentic ways of expressing faith - not more words, but more of a heart transformation towards freedom and acceptance of others and yourself. Where are you? If we could share our hearts and journeys, this gaping loneliness of evolving faith would not disappear but it might find a path of flesh and bone in our city. I know you're out there by the thousands ... I read your thoughts online, your books, hear your speeches (like McLaren's yesterday). But I find so few of you in my day-to-day, in my city: it seems as if we are still alone, longing for kindreds in the midst of blindness and complacency masquerading as 'faith on fire' yet without substance.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

upon reading Wendell Berry

“Works of art participate in our lives; we are not just distant observers of their lives. They are in conversation among themselves and with us. This is a part of the description of human life; we do the way we do partly because of things that have been said to us by works of art, and because of things we have said in reply.” - Wendell Berry's "Style and Grace" Essay

What a beautiful thought! Reading Wendell Berry essays (I'm reading: "What Are People For?") is always thought-provoking in areas of religion, the environment and US and world economies. Essays such as "Why I won't buy a computer" can initially seem immature or irrational but stir interesting thought and responses (that particular article was published in "Harper's" and received almost all negative responses). His essay, "God and Country", expresses well how the Church at large buys into the same economy as corporations - it must to keep its organization/structure alive, thus drawing the line between "ministry" and 'other' Christians who must serve God 'in their spare time'. That ever present separation of sacred and secular; to spiritualize those who use excessive God/Jesus language (i.e. those who make the name trite or shallow due to overuse or not meaningul use) and acts that serve the Church structure, if not the actual community (local or world) or 'the body'.

"... ‘full-time Christian service’, which the churches of my experience have used exclusively to refer to ministry, thereby once making of the devoted life a religious specialty or career and removing the possibility of devotion from other callings. Thus the $50,000-a-year preacher is a ‘full-time Christian servant’, whereas a $20,000 or a $10,000-a-year farmer, or a farmer going broke, so far as the religious specialists are concerned, must serve ‘the economy’ in his work or in his failure and serve God in his spare time. The professional class is likewise free to serve itself in its work and to serve God by giving the church its ten percent. The churches in this way excerpt sanctity from the human economy..." - "God & Country"

It is interesting how Christians often lift up those who devote their time to prayer or the church or even a missionary who is out "saving souls" as most holy, while those doing practical work to meet needs either physical or emotional, actually 'feeding and clothing Christ', are overworked and unrecognized, with few to partner with them. Acts of love are every bit, if not more, sacred in the difficult drudgery of the day-to-day, not just in grand acts, 'ministry' settings or when able to be seen by others.

Having worked for some years in ministries myself, where this feeding and clothing was actually happening, as were a lot of other clearly contrary acts to the message of Christ (as it is in any group of people), even having spent months doing life-altering work in remote slums or third world villages, none of it is quite as character-building or powerful as learning to give that love in my daily 'grind', in my own household, to difficult acquaintances and friends, on the streets outside your door, and sometimes hardest of all, in finally accepting vs. loathing yourself.

The economy of grace and love is here at every moment. The most sacred is right in front of us, not in hours of prayer or service, though these can be healthy, important pieces of our lives. They are never the whole, though, nor even our closest moments to our Creator. If we would but open our eyes, we'd see God in the 'insignificant' now, right in front of us, and we would weep with the sheer beauty and the immense possibility to give love... and receive it... in every humble moment.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Last night was the opening of the play "Doubt" at the Golden Gate Theater. One of Dan's favorite playwrights, John Patrick Shanley, won the Pulitzer for it last year, while Cherry Jones won a best actress Tony.

The original cast was here in San Fran following their Broadway run - so we had to enjoy the rare opportunity to see the NY cast. Jones was perfect in mannerisms, accent, expression and restraint. A transformation from other characters she has played in film or TV, one both harsh and sympathetic.

Her role exemplified the spirit of the play in general: the duality of each person, the dark and light existent in the same heart. The cancer of suspicision and gossip is clearly displayed... as is the absolutely righteous nature of justice and calling for the truth.

In the complicated reaches of the church, the possible molestation of a choir boy by the priest initially seems to be another scathing indictement of the church's sexual wrongs. Yet the play was nothing of the sort. It was a rich, layered exploration of the capability for error in each of us, the well meaning mixed with the downright awful, the doubt that lurks in even the most confident, certain mind.

When the audience frequently gasps in a play with no greater action than conversation in a church, you know it is well written and acted. One of the best plays we've seen (along with the incredible "Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train" - the best), with all the acclaim I suspect the translation to film is possible - and could be as riveting a film as a play.