Punk Rock and the Mabuhay Gardens



Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco is located at 443 Broadway on a seedy block between the redeveloped waterfront and bustling North Beach. Mabuhay means “Welcome” or “Live” in Tagalog, recalling this one-time restaurant’s Filipino roots.




The doors of the “Fab Mab” are now closed and locked, but the exterior is dotted with vintage posters, an aging Chronicle article about the club, and a 2006 obituary of Dirk Dirksen, its famed impresario.

It was here, in the 70’s and 80’s that the producer Dirk Dirksen transformed a Filipino supper club into the epicenter of punk rock. Groups such as Blondie, the Dead Kennedys, Devo, the Ramones, the Nuns, Crime, and Dirksen’s favorite, the Street Punks performed here to wild and energetic crowds. San Francisco embraced punk rock as a spirit akin to its own: rebellious and anti-commercial.

Robin Williams once played the Mabuhay. He later quipped, “Comedy Hell is opening for the Ramones at the Mabuhay”. Chris Isaak got his start here.

Dirk Dirksen - The Pope of Punk

Dirk Dirksen – The Pope of Punk

Dirksen himself was known for his creative insults while introducing the bands,

“I’m sorry to see you’re that easily pleased. You should try and show some intelligence and sophistication and not just accept any slop that’s thrown in your trough.”


“… the next group is an absolute pimple in the armpit of progress. Now everybody, please pay attention because it’s time to play ‘People Are Stupid.’ ”

Punk rockers were known for their anarchic behavior, including random fighting, optional musical talent, and anti-establishment rhetoric. Lyrics competed for the most outrageous, lewd, and lascivious. There was no line between the audience and the performers in the club. The Mabuhay bathrooms were social spaces for men and women alike. Nothing was off limits…. Outrageous fashion shows, a quadrapalegic performer, tin can instruments.

photo 9In 2009, San Francisco renamed the deadend street adjacent to the Mabuhay Dirk Dirksen Alley for the onetime “Pope of Punk”.



Blending Old and New at Ridge Winery

To get to Ridge Winery from Cupertino you must travel 4.5 miles uphill, along a narrow switchback road, past vineyards and open space, to an elevation of 2300 feet. Reaching the top and looking east, you have a grand view of expansive “Silicon Valley”.


The Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean lie to the west.

Far below is the great rift of the San Andreas Fault, marking the division of the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate.

At Ridge Winery, you are standing on the North American Plate. This small portion of the plate and the vineyard is known as Monte Bello or beautiful mountain. It is unique because of a very rare and desirable limestone subsoil. 100 million years ago this land was near Indonesia, traveling east on the Pacific Plate. Now it comprises the terroir for the cabernet and zinfandel grapes grown here.

DSCN3618To some, a visit to Ridge is a pilgrimage. Ridge Winery is one of the early Santa Cruz Vineyards and Wineries. It was first developed in 1885 by Italian immigrant and San Francisco physician, Dr. Osea Perrone. He terraced the land, planted vines, and produced red wine from his grapes by 1892.


Ridge Winery is also significant because its 1971 Monte Bello Cabernet was featured as one of 10 red wines in the 1976 blind tasting in Paris, now known as “the Judgment of Paris”. This was the event that catapulted California fine wine into global consciousness. When a California white wine (Chateau Montelena) and a California red wine (Stags Leap) took first place in that tasting, the French judges tried to dismiss the results by suggesting that the French wines would prove better with age. But when the same wines were subjected to a restaging of the competition for the 30th anniversary in 2006, Ridge took a decisive first place, proving that California wines were consistent and that Ridge’s wine improved with time.



Paul Draper was the wine maker for that 1971 cabernet and he is still the wine maker at Ridge today. Then, he was a young PhD from Stanford with a degree in philosophy and a short stint wine making in Chile. His manual for making wine was an 19th century treatise that could have been used by Dr. Perrone.   His approach was simple and traditional. He called it “pre-industrial”. Today Draper still uses that “non-interference” approach.

  • Let the grapes ripen, then hand-pick and hand-sort
  • No artificial yeasts
  • No chemicals
  • Minimal sulfer dioxide
  • Age the wine in American oak
  • The older the vine, the better the grapes
  • Let the taste of the terroir come through

DSCN3606It helps that the soil and climate of California, especially the limestone, is very similar to that of the Bordeaux region in France. Draper modestly insists that he had great raw material for his task. Yet Draper doesn’t lack for modern equipment. Ridge Winery may use a spectrophotometer, a liquid chromatograph, deep irrigation channels with carefully monitored water, or a gas chromatograph when necessary. These devices assist the winemaker but restrain his impulse to interfere with the slowly aging varietals.

Draper’s acreage today includes vineyards in Sonoma and Geyserville. His output includes an award winning zinfandel, a Santa Cruz estate bend, and even a chardonnay. But he remains meticulous and artful. He and his associates taste the varietals and create blends of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot.

But the Monte Bello remains Ridge’s signature blend, a wine that is known to taste better after a decade of aging.

San Francisco Carousels

Yerba Buena Garden carousel

Looff Carousel at Yerba Buena Garden

San Francisco has 4 carousels, each one distinct. Three of them are antique works of art—amusements that have been lovingly preserved and maintained. The fourth, a relatively new carousel, has bells, whistles, and lights, making it a glittery representative of San Francisco’s playful side.

The Looff Carousel, in Yerba Buena Gardens, was the first to be built for San Francisco in 1906. Charles Looff and his employees, all expert carvers, created standing, prancing and flying horses with swirling manes and elaborate livery. They embellished their carvings with jewels and horsehair tails, and added other animals (camel, giraffe, goat) for variety. Each animal is a unique creation.

Unfortunately, the carousel detoured to Seattle’s Luna Park after the 1906 earthquake left San Francisco in ruins. It eventually returned to San Francisco’s  Playland at the Beach, where it entertained visitors for almost 50 years (1913 to 1972).

The Looff Company created over 50 carousels, but only 10 remain intact today. Like other carousels, a Looff machine was worth more divided than whole. Suffering wear and tear from outdoor use and daily activity, carousels required expensive maintenance. An operator could break up a carousel and sell it for parts, often profitably. During the golden age of carousels, 1880-1920, about 7,000 carousels were built; only 300 remain today.

Fortunately, the Yerba Buena carousel, now called Le Roy King Carousel, was preserved by a collector and returned to San Francisco in 1998. It recently (May 2014) reopened after extensive renovation. Notice the dynamic positions of the horses and elaborate saddles on the animals.

The second oldest San Francisco carousel is the Herschel-Spillman Carousel at the East end of Golden Gate Park. It was built in 1914 and was brought to San Francisco from Portland, Oregon for the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island (1939 and 1940). It eventually replaced another carousel in the children’s area of Golden Gate Park, sometimes identified as the first children’s playground in the US (1887).   Arthur Page Brown, who also designed the Ferry Building, created a beautiful, classically-inspired open-air shelter for the carousels.  It is now fully enclosed.

This carousel includes a menagerie of 62 animals, with great variety of shapes, colors, and decorations. Notable among the animals is a colorful sea dragon, an armored horse, and a goat carved by master carver William Dentzel. The interior of the carousel contains pastel painted scenes of California.

Notice the variety of animals, the painted scenery and the jester-like faces on the rounding board.

The third San Francisco carousel, located at the San Francisco Zoo, was carved by the Dentzel Company of Philadelphia in 1921 and arrived in 1925 after a short stint in Redwood City. The Dentzel Company was founded in Germany in 1837 and created some of the earliest carousels in Europe and the US. This carousel was one of William Dentzel’s last creations.  He was the grandson of the founder of the Dentzel Company, still family owned and still operating today.

William Dentzel’s carving style was more natural and realistic than Looff’s style, but consistent through many decades. Most Dentzel Carousels were large. This carousel contains 36 horses, 16 menagerie animals and 2 chariots. It is one of only 7 Dentzel carousels in the US today. Interestingly, the previously mentioned Golden Gate Park carousel (Herschell-Spillman) includes one animal also carved by William Dentzel: a goat.

Notice playful jumper cats holding fish in their mouths, and the mirrored well-lit interior.

The fourth carousel in San Francisco is much newer than the others. Created for Pier 39 by the Italian company Bertazzon in the early 1970’s, it contains fiberglass figures. Yet it is striking, with its two stories and 1800 LED lights. In keeping with the nature of Pier 39, this carousel includes sea creatures as well as land creatures. Notice the scenes of California on the exterior rounding board.

What’s missing in San Francisco? None of these carousels has an operating brass ring machine. But good news for those willing to drive a short distance, Santa Cruz has a Looff Carousel with a ring machine, also listed as a National Historic Landmark.



Father Serra on Highway 280

Father Serra

Perhaps you have already noticed the larger-than-life sculpture of Father Junipero Serra on a hillside near Hillsborough as you drive north on Highway 280. Father Serra was the Franciscan missionary who established the first 9 missions in Alta (Northern) California from 1769 to 1784 for Spanish King Charles III.

Artist Louis Du Bois designed the 26 foot tall monument, constructed of steel and concrete, in 1975. Father Serra is kneeling and points his finger aggressively. He kneels on one leg, on a base with 9 sides, each side representing a mission he founded. Father Serra’s pointing finger and draped sleeve suggests the head of a donkey, the usual transportation of the era. In reality, he preferred walking to riding, and stood only 5 feet 2 inches tall.

I parked at the Crystal Springs rest stop and hiked up to the Serra statue, along a steep but landscaped path. I surveyed the Crystal Springs Reservoir located just across the highway to the west. This man-made reservoir sits on the San Andreas Fault, the rift between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. Coastal Mountains rise on the western side of the reservoir, a result of the south-east movement (slip/strike) of the North American plate. The landscape around me is dry chaparral, with outcroppings of serpentine rock. Across the highway the landscape is green and forested.

Returning to the rest stop I read that the architects have incorporated geologic details into the site and landscape plan.

I note the jagged design in the plaza in the paving and along the curbs. A bird’s eye view in Google maps shows confirms that the buildings sit along a similar jagged line.