skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Friday, 27 May
I Prejudge Movies Again Because I'm So Very Lazy
So it's been a slow week here, huh? Sorry about that. After devoting about nine million words to the SF trip, I have found myself mired in the old routine of days, and as a consequence, I've been kicking at a rather large hunk of writer's block. Which I hate.
I hate it so much that last night I came very close to writing about this wretched game show I happened to torpidly watch called "Dog Eat Dog." Fortunately, I stopped myself before that happened, but I'll give you the short version: Racky host, racky and/or ripped contestants, pointless physical endeavors usually involving the contestants getting wet. Remember a more innocent time when girls swooned over croutons like Scott Baio and guys furtively jerked off to the bra section of the Sears catalog? Well, me neither. (I stole Oui magazines from gas stations.) But make no mistake, "Dog Eat Dog" is really just spank material as imagined by the good people at Circuit City.
And since we're on the topic of lazy writing habits and manufactured spank materials, let's prejudge some movies!
The Longest Yard
From a pure marketing standpoint, it makes a good deal of sense to pair up Adam Sandler and Chris Rock: they are both beloved by the Rohypnol crowd, and those people have money. It hardly matters that Sandler, who is not funny at all, and Rock, who certainly can be when he isn't being lazy, are totally immiscible--call them comedy's Black and Tan--this movie will nonetheless make a mint. And it's not like it took much effort: the film is a remake of a 70s Burt Reynolds comedy, for Christ's sake. It's almost too bad: the idea of a convict vs. prison guard football game could lead to some wickedly pointed commentary about race, homoeroticism, and all kinds of social fuckall, but I am assuming that those will all be swept away in favor of Sandler's eternal manboy obsession with the gunk that comes out of our bodies along with a thoroughly surgical defanging of whatever Rock might have to say about racial issues.
Do you enjoy watching Adam Sandler work up his usual tired spittle-flecked rage act? And do you also enjoy watching Chris Rock dutifully stitch on his high-wattage grin when he has nothing else to do? This is your movie.
This is Dreamworks' latest perverse attempt at demonstrating how inferior they are in every way to Pixar. Huzzah, Dreamworks! I applaud your ongoing Quixoticisms! Though I will never watch them. Why would anyone? (I realize I say this as someone who is not cursed with the yammerings of children.) Why eat at Arby's if the cost of the meal is the same as a good steakhouse? Dreamworks has failed every time with this shit, but again, you have to admire their moxie. Especially after such dreadnoughts of horror such as Antz and A Shark's Tale.
But maybe Dreamworks smells a hit here! After all, they shelled out top dollar for such vocal talents as Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock (hey there!) and Jada Pinkett Smith. Me, I smell something else.
Is it incipient failure? Is it bottom-drawer talent? Is it Andy Richter?
BONUS I PREJUDGE MOVIES EXTRA!
IMDB tells me that yesterday was Helena Bonham Carter's birthday! That's nice. My wife absolutely detests you! Happy birthday!
It would be awfully easy to get irritated with Russell Crowe, given his overexposure in the media and his tendency to behave like an obnoxious boor, but the fact is--this always burns me--he's actually a good actor. No, he's really good, even when he's relegated to mindless horseshit like Gladiator, a film that is insulting on so many levels that it's virtually non-Euclidean.
No, the real enemy here is Ron Howard, good old Richie himself, who has somehow, impossibly, found a weird, unassailable perch in Hollywood from where he seemingly cannot be dislodged. He is a humorless gargoyle of cinema, and it seems that nothing can remove him, not even memories of laughable dreck like Backdraft, whose most hilarious claim on trivia is that its theme music was adopted by the original Japanese TV series "Iron Chef."
Look, I can't even deal with shit like this, honestly. Ron Howard is my total enemy in movies these days, and I've tried to keep my end up on this, but as I said before, I'm having trouble lately, so I'm going to cheat. Here's a verbatim comment from IMDB about this miserable fucking thing:
Howard makes the Depression a visceral reality with the scene of near-hopeless men at the docks, begging for a day's work; a stolen salami; Crowe's giving his daughter his breakfast piece of bologna, telling her he dreamed he was full.
Mmmmm, visceral. Thank goodness we've gotten past the days where men begged on the streets for work! Well, white men, anyway.
It suddenly occurs to me that I would like this film a lot more if it were a Ron Howard Huge Important Film In Burnished Tones Just Like All Of My Other Fake Important Films That Actually Have Nothing To Say Nor Any Viewpoint At All, and he could call it: Breakfast Piece of Bologna.
Actually, I'm a little suprised that the title didn't end up being He Dreamed He Was Full. Maybe because it would beg the question: Full of what?
Tuesday, 24 May
One Adam Twelve, See The Asshole
The wife and I were hanging around the apartment on Friday night, not having much of a plan at all; maybe a movie later? I had noticed earlier that the evening's offerings included Closer, which I am profoundly uninterested in seeing (see also Garden State. This is known as the Natalie Portman Effect, where movies I would normally take a chance on become fatally poisoned by the presence of this willowy weirdmouth schmactress.) However, I also saw that the movie Elektra was playing, and my interest was piqued: this is the kind of obviously ghastly movie that my brain eats like dark candy.
But then a phone call came for the wife. It was from our friend J. And she had been foully dumped, out of the blue, by her boyfriend of some months. She was sobbing horribly--a sensible reaction when a loved one decides to move that adjective into verb past tense--and was also terribly concerned about cigarettes. "I think I'm going to smoke!" She had quit a few months ago with good success, but there's nothing like extreme emotional stress to get your brain to start playing funhouse mirrors with your sense of priorities. The wife of course made immediate plans to go over to her place to comfort her, while I, being a man, made plans of my own involving deep cover. Occasions like these are not exactly times when the male perspective is welcomed.
I made myself comfortable in my chair after the wife had rushed out. I figured this was going to take some time, and probably a not inconsiderable amount of drinking (and, of course, attendant hellish introspection, reflexive self-loathing, sudden vituperative skyward howls, etc.). At least, that's what I've always done.
Time ticked off idly while I watched SportsCenter for a while, and I took a savage kind of flagellant joy in seeing virtually all of my fantasy baseball players performing as if they had belladonna suppositories forced up their rectums, or perhaps just falling to sniper fire as they emerged sulkily from their dugouts. I'll trade all you dirty fuckers, I seethed inside. I'll trade you for beanies. Then I'll be the Beanie Guy, the guy who walks around wearing nothing but beanies, and people will point and hiss, "It's Beanie Guy! He drafted Scott Rolen and David Wells! And now he walks around in beanies!" And other people will say, "I just wish he'd wear pants." So, you know, guy thoughts.
And then the phone rang. It was the wife. "Listen, we all need to eat. You want to meet us on Broadway for a bite?" I squeaked a little. "She's okay," said the wife, reading me easily. "Come on, meet us." I glanced at the clock. I was pretty hungry, and it was getting a bit late. "Okay," I said.
I should point out that I don't write any of this to poke fun at J. I think we all know that being dumped is really one of life's shittier things, and I feel badly for her. So it's not to mock her that I write anything--that would be pretty cruel. But there are certain near-universals when it comes to Sudden Relationship Oh-Fucks. There just are.
J. was obviously a little drunk, and hey, you go girl. "I'm drunk," she announced unnecessarily. "And I'm going to get drunker." "I support your endeavor," I intoned gravely. I made a mental note to make sure J. didn't pay for a goddamn thing that night, because nobody should have to lift a finger for anything in these situations.
If I was on edge meeting up with them, the feeling dissipated shortly--happily (for me), J. wasn't in a generic Death to Men mode. Well, maybe one man. The ensuing conversation--broken here and again with drink orders--consisted mainly of circular, searching self-questioning peppered with the occasional spate of deeply unkind comments regarding the guy in question, which were inevitably volleyed back by the wife and I with loose variants on the phrase "He's an asshole!" Because there are rules. One rule is: the dumped person is allowed--nay, encouraged--to voice the most venemous possible things about the other party. Another rule is: As the friend, it is your duty to vigorously agree with these assessments, regardless of whether you have any idea as to their veracity. Because they are your friend, and they are hurt, and people who hurt your friends are, until some sort of irrefutable evidence comes along to suggest otherwise (and frequently not even then), fucking assholes.
So. Fucking asshole indeed. J. was, I must say, more composed than I have been in past similar situations; whether this was due to our steadfast reliance on the "He's an asshole!" tack, or her inner reserves, or the numbing amount of alcohol we were consuming is anyone's guess. In the end, we walked her home, of course, despite her assertions that she was fine. Sorry, nobody is fine on nights like that, and fuck walking home alone. Her cat was there at her apartment to greet us, perfectly outraged at being left alone for a few hours and vocal about it. I unkindly guessed it was a male cat.
So, J.'s former boyfriend: Boy, are you stupid.
So, J.' cat: Cut her some slack and lie quietly on her tummy.
So, Beanie Guy: Get over Scott Rolen. And put on some pants.
But most of all, J.: He's a fucking asshole.
There are rules.
Friday, 20 May
The Wrath Of Grapes
Oh, what else did we do in the Bay of Dogs? Well, lots of touristy things, of course. I mentioned a few posts ago, for example, that we went on a little tour of the wine country, and I was going to devote a whole post to it, but it probably doesn't merit that many words, and I've been plenty wordy this week anyway.
Instead of going through the hassle of renting a car and driving all over hell and gone, we opted to buy tickets for a tour bus and have ourselves be driven around all over hell and gone. Another bonus, besides not driving after an entire day of drinking wine, was that we got picked up and dropped off at our hotel. (We had rented a room for a couple nights to treat ourselves and also to give our good hosts J. and A. some time to have their apartment back.)
So we lit out at 8:30 in the morning with the promise of wine hitting our lips at around 10:30--Breakfast of Champions. We met another bus at Fisherman's Wharf and boarded, and (I had predicted this, but it wasn't exactly a hard call) we immediately noticed that everyone else on board probably had a good 20 years on us at least. There were visors, lots of visors.
Eventually we took off and met our driver via mike as he guided us out of the city over the Bay Bridge. He set the tone almost immediately: "I wasn't even supposed to be here today," he said in even tones. "But we're stuck with each other today, so let's get along. I want to set down some ground rules, and the first one is, take it easy. I don't want any pukers today. And you guys look like a lot of alkies." Nervous laughter.
Like a seasoned comedian, he quite obviously had a patter down, and he had it down cold. The only odd thing was the tone he adopted, a kind of avuncular hostility towards the audience, as if he were stifling hecklers that hadn't actually said anything yet. You got used to it after a while, but it clearly had as much to do with behavior modification as it did with entertainment, the unspoken message being: We can all have fun here, but if you get weird on me, I have weapons. At various times during the day, he mocked the elderly (gutsy, considering his human freight): "Don't anyone die on me today. I have a bad back. I'm not pulling you out of here." Cops: "Oh, look, the doughnut patrol. That's your tax dollars, folks." Horse carriages: "Folks, I don't want anyone here riding those things. That could be Mr. Ed out there." And, at one very weird point, Baptists. I wish to hell I could remember the exact comment, but I cannot, but I do remember him following it up with, "We don't have any Baptists here today, do we?" Nervous laughter. I am too areligious to even begin to figure out what was going on, so I promptly fell asleep.
There isn't much else to tell, except that we visited wineries and greedily slurped up their offerings. At one winery, we did receive a bit of golf applause when a couple of the hosts asked who was visiting on a special occasion: when silence ensued, the wife said in a small voice, "Anniversary!" "Great! How long?" asked the host. "Two years," I said. The crowd clapped with warm politeness, and we graciously acknowledged their applause, and quietly exulted in the fact that most of them would probably die before us.
We lunched in Sonoma; the wife and I split off from wherever the majority of the group was going--not because we hated them, or anything, but we just figured, why compete with them for waitstaff? We found an Irish pub off an alley and ordered some fries and drinks. We sat on the deck, as it was a gorgeous sunny day. There was a light wind, and I noticed white fluffy motes dancing in the wind. Seeing these, I felt an icicle of fear slide into my asshole. "Does that look like cottonwood to you?" I asked the wife. She didn't know.
When I was a kid, I had miserable, miserable hayfever allergies. Combine that with chronic asthma, and you've got a real formula for success. Springtime was always a season of misery for me, and I remember my mother crying when she saw me halfway up a staircase, having to rest and catch my breath trying to get to my room, a ten-year-old little old man. And cottonwood was always the worst, it would fuck me up good every year. It wasn't until I moved away to college that my hayfever subsided, seemingly for good. But I still really got the heebies about seeing that stuff floating around in the air.
And for good reason. Within fifteen minutes, I had the sniffles. Five more minutes and I was sneezing. I felt my lungs starting to clamp up, which was terrible. I thought, Oh God! Will I be able to finish my beer? The wind freshened, and the cottonwood started blowing around malevolently again; I ran to the bathroom and promptly soaked half a roll of toilet paper with open-faucet quantities of snot. When I washed my face and then looked into the mirror, I saw a damp-faced thing gazing back at me with raspberry eyes. I hadn't had an attack like this in fifteen years, but good old Sonoma had provoked a histological boxing match embarrassment that was going to be legendary. My mucus membranes screamed "No mas! No mas!" at the Sugar Ray Leonard cottonwoods.
It was time to go, thankfully. And it only took about 20 minutes of recycled bus air to return me to my normal state. We went to a couple more wineries--they were fine--before making the trip back to the city. I of course slept practically the whole time back, probably for a lot of reasons. For one, sleeping was better than listening to the bus driver's litany of misanthropy ("Look at these joggers on our left. He's too old for her. He might die trying to keep up with her." I caught that one.). For another, my body was still pretty pissed off about the cottonwood siege. And finally, Jesus, I'd been drinking wine since before eleven in the morning.
As we got into the city, the bus driver praised our good group. "You guys have been great. I thought I'd see some troublemaking on this trip, but I can't complain." The senior citizens beamed and bobbed their gray heads, as if proud of themselves for, I don't know, not fucking shit up. He continued. "You guys can puke if you want. It's been a good day. I can hose this thing out. I don't care." Gosh, it's like getting a thank-you card! From Bobcat Goldthwaite!
And look at that. It was its own post anyway. I can just go on and on. I should drive a tour bus.
Thursday, 19 May
Let's Go. (They Do Not Move.)
One night in SF we went out for sushi at a tiny little joint out in the Mission called Blobonko (I may have that a bit wrong). Our dissolute junkie friend J.Z. took us there, as she was pals with the owner/chef and her daughter, who was practically the entire waitstaff. We were also accompanied by some other friends, K., an amateur sword swallower (he's actually much funnier as a sword vomiter, but he doesn't like it when I say that), and his lovely wife A., a nonperformance artist--who is, I have to say, dynamite. She treated us to a bit of her act, and stood impassively silent for ten solid minutes while we watched and gently sobbed . . . it's hard to explain how moving it was. Anyway, you can check her out if she's touring near you; the show is called I Ate Grover (the Muppet), Now You Eat Grover (the President): Akinetic Liberty Variation IV.
Anyway. I should take a moment to point out that I do not, in fact, really enjoy sushi. In truth, I am a giant pain-in-the-ass picky eater, and well, cold fish just really isn't my cup of . . . cold fish. However, I usually am able to get by at these places, because they almost always have some hot teriyaki dishes or some such that will please me. And this place was no different--sure enough, they had teriyaki shrimp, which sounded great. They also had all kinds of interesting stuff that I'd never seen before, like a pickled bean sushi roll, and the usual baffling array of other things that I generally have no interest in, but the others chattered excitedly about all the weird crap they were going to order.
When the waitress got to me, I happily placed my order for the shrimp. "You want that as a dinner?" she asked. Well, I didn't want it for breakfast, but I thought I knew what she meant. "Sure," I replied. "Okay. You know that's about six or seven dollars more." Whoops. For rice and miso? "Oh, really? Well, then no thanks." But we weren't done. "You sure? You get rice and soup and salad and wizzle wozzle Batman anchor moustache wrenches!" I really had no idea what the hell she was saying, but the gist seemed to be it's totally worth the six bucks, stupid! I caved. "All right then! Dinner it is!" Unpredictably, now she seemed wary. "You suuuuure?" she crooned. Oh, Jesus, I don't even know any more. "Yes! Yes!" I hooted, mad with panic and desperation. "I demand the dinner!"
J.Z. laughed at my contorted state of mind and correctly decided that the immediate remedy would be sake. Quick as a wink it was brought out to the table and poured into our little glasses. "This is unfiltered sake," J.Z. said opaquely. And, appropriately, the sake itself was opaque, and sat in our glasses looking like lotion. I cautiously took a taste, and fortunately, it was delicious. K. and I had also armed ourselves with a giant bottle of Asahi beer, just in case.
The first appetizer dishes arrived with similar rapidity, and everyone set to. There was (I was informed) lotus root, which tasted exactly like something I desperately hoped lotus root would not taste like, which is to say that it was horrible. I was alone in this opinion, however, and so while the others munched away, I drank more lotion. Soon, another bowl of sinister-looking brown Platonic solids appeared. A. said, "Did we order that?" "Compliments of the chef," said the waiter (some other guy), and J.Z. beamed. Seems she was used to this treatment, and I'm not surprised, given her myriad Mob ties. "It's glomple tofu," clarified the waiter. (I may be paraphrasing.)
I stared at it apprehensively. As you may have guessed, I am no fan of tofu either, and this didn't even look like tofu anyway. It looked like a bowl full of makeup sponges impregnated with Medium Bronze base tone. "There's one piece for everyone!" crowed J.Z. fatefully. I resignedly stabbed at a piece with my chopstick, and popped it into my mouth; it was chewy and astonishingly supersaturated with some unidentifiable liquid. (Later our primary waitress, learning that we had gotten the stuff, helpfully offered, "Oh. I don't like that at all.")
There then came a bit of a lull in the service, and J.Z. explained that it was pretty normal for the place: flurry of food followed by a refractory period, then another flurry. We chatted for a while, drank some more lotion (second bottle, now). After about fifteen minutes, K. and I decided that it was time for a smoke, so we retired outside, exchanging tired smokers' jokes about how leaving the table would guarantee that our food would arrive.
And naturally we were right. Upon returning, I discovered a plate at my seat. My shrimp teriyaki! Sure enough, there were two shrimp on the plate . . . wait, two? They rested atop an alarming pile of cold fish chunks: some white fish, some salmon, and most terrifying, tuna. (Yes . . . I also hate tuna.) Around the plate was a nice-looking sauce. I resigned myself to the fact that this very unusual and inventive place had come up with the world's most perverse shrimp teriyaki offering ever. I dabbed the shrimp into the sauce and ate it--it really was delicious! It tasted NOTHING like any teriyaki I had ever eaten, and there were ONLY TWO SHRIMP, but ah, fuck it. It's a vacation. I even soldiered on through the rest of the cold fish on the plate except for the tuna, which I informed my tablemates in steely tones that I had no intention of eating, so dig the fuck in already. They did, and soon the plate was clean. Whew!
Then my shrimp teriyaki arrived. "What?" I quavered. "Then . . . what did I just eat?" The waitress sighed. "I love training new guys. I told him to put that in the center of the table." It was another complimentary dish from the chef, and except for the tuna, I had eaten the whole fucking thing.
Oh, well. It's not like the cold fish chunks had really blasted away at my appetite all that much, so I unskewered the shrimps and started eating: they were delicious, perfect really, and happily conformed to my notion of teriyaki. Wonderful!
Then the waitress returned again. "And the rest of your dinner!" she chirped, and began laying down an ominous array of bowls in front of me. "Seaweed!" she said. Then she laid down a basket full of vegetables. "Pickled crap!" she said. (Not really, but it was.) "Purple rice!" she excaimed. (Again, but it was.)
I slumped. "I already ate a whole fucking appetizer, you guys!" I whined, not mentioning that I was less than anxious to eat three bowls of seaweed. They, being troopers, helped me out. I did indeed try some of the weed, and hey, it wasn't bad! I tried some of the pickled carrots. Hey, not bad at all! Getting into it, I tried some of the pickled daikon. Hey, it was fucking awful! It tasted like vellum soaked in demon's bile. "Try the daikon!" I encouraged everyone.
Well, we eventually got through all the stuff, and despite all the mean things I've been saying, it really was on the whole good stuff. I know I'm a freak about food; just because I don't happen to like something doesn't mean I can't recognize quality cooking. And this was it. We settled back in our seats, sipping lotion, and waited for dessert.
And waited. And waited. K. and I had a couple cigarettes. We waited for half an hour. Then the whispers started. "This is getting kind of silly. And it's getting late." Ah well. I flagged our waitress. "Hi! Can we get the bill?"
She snorted a little and said sarcastically, "Oh, you've only been sitting here waiting for half an hour, so I guess so." We laughed appreciatively. She remained standing at our table for a few seconds, apparently thinking of something. We waited.
Then she launched into a four-minute speculation on how she was making plans to travel to London, whereupon she would find a way to make the British actor Jonathan Rhys-Myers her boyfriend. (No, seriously. SERIOUSLY.) I grinned fixedly throughout the speech, thinking, "Is this really happening to us?" I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on. J.Z. laughed politely and said all the right things shortly in such a manner as to indicate, No, really, we'd like to leave now. Finally, having exhausted her plans to bed a semi-obscure British thespian, she left the table. There was silence for a moment.
K. tentatively said, "I don't know if she's really going to get our check or not." We nodded gloomily. There was a palling sense that we were simply never going to be allowed to leave, and that we might remain there forever in the little sushi oubliette, wasting away our lives, relieved only by occasional visits by the waitress to tell us fresh tales of unrequited Anglophilic lust. K. and I smoked another cigarette, and when we returned, lo and behold . . . !
Well, it wasn't the bill. It was dessert, forty-five minutes after our last bit of supper. But our resistance at this point was broken, so we shrugged emptily and dug in to what appeared to be some sort of gelatinized substance--beets, I think? That doesn't sound so good, yeah, but of course it was, and anyway, by this time we had been so thoroughly beaten by this strange little place that we would have eaten whole horse hooves had we thought that it would mean we could get the tab.
And so we paid. And so we left. And so we went home. And for me, as someone who doesn't really dig sushi? That might have been the best time I've ever had not really eating it.
Tuesday, 17 May
You Don't Have To Go Home, But We're Not Open Yet
Upon deplaning following a perfectly smooth flight, the wife and I moved smartly through SFO to the BART station, where we would then catch a train to our stop at 16th St. Mission to meet our friends, J. and A.
And so right away I knew that San Francisco was a bit . . . weird. Not that the BART was a nightmare or anything, apart from the wildly intuitive ticket machines. "WELCOME TO BART TICKETING I AM EXTRACTING TWENTY DOLLARS FROM YOUR CREDIT CARD THAT IS OKAY RIGHT?" I yelped a while before figuring out the ridiculous little machine's little wiles and then promptly misread the fare rates and overpaid anyway. But that's not too weird, neither the laughably lo-fi technology, nor my unsurprising failure to really master same--not weird.
What's immediately weird about the BART is . . . who the fuck sets up a mass transit system and then carpets the trains? Rattling towards SF, I had nothing else to stare at but that carpet, whose unlovely grey and every-other-color-stained tones made it look a bit like someone had recently mown over a layer of diseased rats and called it good. I found myself engaging in truly unfortunate mental games such as Is That Vomit? and Which Looks Stickier?
Our tirelessly patient and accomadating hosts, J. and A. met us at the station, and by "met us" I mean "called us from their car." My phone rang. A: "Hey! You see the Payless Shoe Store?" I looked around at . . . well, bums and crazy people. "No," I said. "I see a Walgreen's," forgetting to add, "and also my impending assault by hoboes." "A Walgreen's?" A. sounded perplexed. "Okay, go to Walgreen's." None of this was making sense. Walgreen's? Pick us up! Where the fuck are you? It was like being sent to Fassbinder State Clown College to pick up a salami and two giraffes. Pick us up!
We had little choice. And, freakishly, the "Go To Walgreen's" gambit turned out well, as A. and J. did indeed meet us there, and even made the bold move of getting out of their car. Drunks eyed us weirdly, probably wondering, as I was, why two tourists with their damn luggage were being picked up at this inauspicious spot. We climbed in the car.
"I need a drink," said A. with a casual ferocity that quickened my pulse. "I agree!" we pealed, zooming down the street. Turns out that A.'s family had been staying with them for the last week, had in fact left just that day, making them 1. the best hosts in the world and 2. the most frazzled people in the world. A. revealed a story of two-year-olds and waking up VERY EARLY and going to bed VERY EARLY. "And very fucking sober," chimed in J.
We don't have to spend all that much time on the first night, since it is all variations on this theme: when we arrived at the apartment, J. hauled out three gigantic bottles, one of Jim Beam, one of Maker's, and one of Glenlivet. Brown liquor it is! Appropriately, since later on we all browned out a little bit, particularly after we went out to a bar for more.
The next day we went on a little hike over to Haight St. (you will find that we did a LOT of purely touristy things) and ambled along its busy sidewalks and cliche-spotted. "Green buds, green buds!" Psychedelia. Head shops. Presently we wandered over to Amoeba, the intimidatingly large music store that, I am given to understand, was formerly a bowling alley. A concrete cavern, Amoeba has the ambience of a particularly depressing mausoleam overrun by antlike creatures who plumb its grey depths, hunched over music racks, running through CDs with a chittering noise that fills the whole place. After only fifteen minutes or so, the insectile rattling of plastic on plastic got to me, and I started to have hallucinations that I was surrounded by thousands of chatterteeth Cenobites and soon hooks would descend on chains and rip me apart while Pinhead's booming laugh bounced off the gloomy walls. Plus, I already had three CDs picked out in that short time anyway, so I had to get the fuck out of there. J. and A. didn't even last that long.
Later that night the four of us went out to dinner at a lovely little crepe place called Ti Couze, which my brain unfortunately insisted on translating as "The Cooze," which is just what you want to be thinking about when contemplating a meal. We were joined by another couple of friends and dispelled any lingering cooze-associations by promptly ordering three bottles of wine and then a big pail of some kind of cider, which was then decanted into . . . bowls.
Like I say, SF is kind of weird. Whatever. We cheerfully Fidoed that shit down with a minimum of actual lapping at the bowls. Later, J. and A. begged off, citing exhaustion, while the other friends, one an old college friend of the wife's and the other being J.Z., a renowned pornographer, repaired to some loud dive joint called the Warm Ass or something like that, where they actually played Falco. Eventually, J.Z. drove us home, and we tiredly staved off her attempts to get us to do a bit part in her upcoming biblical porn opus called The Loads and the Bitches.
We met up with J.Z. again the next day to go to MOMA, thereby fulfilling that one undodgable requirement of traveling: MUST SEE ART! And boy did we! There were some interesting video installations, and also of course some stuff like a saloon door with some beer cans stuffed into its slats. There was another piece that looked like someone's closet had vomited. There was yet another piece called, I believe, "Women I'd Like to Fuck in Time," which is possibly unique in the art world for deriving its apparent inspiration from Throw Momma From the Train. At another display, I was staring at some terribly cramped and hard-to-look-at painting of some sort, and J.Z. piped up, "My friend Henry does art like this." "Oh, really?" I asked. "He's eight." she said. And that was it for us, as a storming case of the crying giggles forced us out of the room.
The next day was Monday, and so J. and A. had to go to work. The wife and I decided to roam again over to Haight--there was a bookstore there we wanted to hit--and then maybe wander back over to Divisadero area to scope things out, and then maybe back to the bar that we had gone to on our first night for a late afternoon cocktail. It's vacation! And this all worked out well, right up until four o'clock or so, when we finally did make it back to that bar.
It was closed.
Again, I must point out how weird San Francisco is about small shit like this. What kind of fucking bar doesn't open until four? DO THEY NOT HAVE BARFLIES IN THIS TOWN? Does NOBODY drink before five? Because, look, sometimes--vacation or no--you feel like a drink at two in the afternoon. I can't be alone in this. But this shit happened over and over. For instance, the day we went to MOMA, we wanted some lunch. I know, crazy! And let me also point out that that particularly day was Mother's Day. What did we find ALL OVER THE PLACE? Closed restaurants. Downtown. On Mother's Day.
Another example, though I admit part of this was all our fault. One day the wife and I were down by the Square, and just wandering around seeing what was what. And we fucked it all up: we walked right into the shopping district. Great. Prada. Sharper Image. D&G. Even if I could afford these fucking places, I can find this shit in Seattle. Or the internet. I began to hunt for a hole in the wall where I could escape the awful looming upscale retail, but I had picked exactly the wrong neighborhood. "Does this fucking town not have one goddamn hole in the wall where I can duck in for a drink and a sandwich?" Well, the answer is of course "yes," but not where we were, and in any case, it probably wouldn't open until five anyway. The wife helpfully pointed out a restaurant at one point. "It looks like it costs a million fucking dollars," I helpfully snarled. Don't you wish you were married to me?
We ended up in the Square morosely drinking a beer and a wine while staring at all the people with their fucking cell phones screwed into their ears. (Look, I finally got a cell phone, and I think it's dandy--and certainly useful--but there are times when I just want to go after these people with a heavy shovel. You know who I'm talking about.) In the end, however, we left kind of happier for sitting and peoplewatching if only because SF is a real dog town, and hey, people with dogs. [COUPON: Entitles the bearer to one free annoying public cell phone conversation provided they have a hilarious dog. Not valid with other offers.] I mentally rechristened the city as Bay of Dogs.
I'm about halfway done here, but I'm going to quit for tonight because my fingers are tired, particularly because I have a helluva time typing "San Francisco" for some dumb reason--I fuck it up almost every time--which explains the SFs sprinkled throughout. Also, this is long. But rest assured: I am not done detailing the many reasons why SF is so goddamned weird.
And I haven't even gotten to the bus tour of wine country.
That's a whole post all by itself.
Thursday, 05 May
Not Very Magical Nor Terribly Mysterious Tour
We're gone, daddy, gone! Gone to SF for the next week, so your least favorite alleged comedy site will be dark until the 16th. Maybe by then some of my horridly underperforming fantasy baseball prospects will have climbed out of the toilet! I'm looking at you, Scott "I seem to have gotten my bat stuck up my ass" Rolen! And you, Hideki "But I was to understand that this was a good team" Matsui! And as for you, Miguel Olivo . . . uh . . . be more like . . . er . . . someone else. I guess. I don't care.
Anyway. Sorry to be so brief, but frankly, I'm worn out all to hell. I'll see you back in a while. With a whole new city to enjoy. And, of course, make fun of. I can't wait.
Wednesday, 04 May
This Is How We Disappear
So it is, as of this writing, my two year wedding anniversary. (Hold your applause. Actually, hold it between your knees like a chicken salad sandwich.) This is kind of astonishing to me; it simply does not seem like that long. I polled the wife when she was between amphetamine benders: "Honey? Does it seem like two years to you?" She replied, "Every minute of my life with you feels like two years." And then she broke into violent sobs, but without the actual tears, because her wasted body no longer produces moisture of any kind. The noise was heartbreaking: I couldn't hear what the contestants of "The Amazing Race" were saying. So I told her I had some heroin cut with baby laxative in my sock drawer, and she crawled over to get it, leaving me in peace.
And really, that sort of sums up what married life is like. You talk about the important things, and you figure out how to give and take. In this instance, as you see, we talked about our relationship. Then, she took my heroin. And then, I gave her CPR while waiting for the ambulance. And it worked out! I even got to watch the end of my show while I did the chest compressions. Amber is pretty hot!
But a successful marriage doesn't fully thrive with just the occasional resuscitation or bail hearing. Sometimes you need to get away, find a change of scenery, and duck your parole officer. That's why on Friday we're going to fly down to San Francisco for a week to take a little break. We're pretty excited about this, and not just because of California's backed-up, overtaxed extradition process.
We'll be staying with some old college friends of mine, J. and A., who run a pretty classy indie porn business out of their apartment in Lower Haight--"We don't do snuff," A. sniffs, and I believe her, because these guys aren't that kind of people. They stick to pretty mainstream stuff like lobster crush vids and the vegetable peeler crowd, and I can tell you that those people are lambs. (Truth is, the wife and I might do some filming--hey, it's our anniversary trip! Mum's the word, but be on the lookout for Blown Save sometime in June. It's about a bawdy nun and the relief pitcher she loves. The credits are--seriously--pretty damn classy.)
Oh, we have other friends to check in with down there too . . . there's good old J.Z., a savvy businesswoman if I ever met one, who has a serious thirst for scotch and hash, when she has the time. Her business keeps her pretty hopping, though; a career in Forcibly-Motivated Human Resources is not for the lazy. As J.Z. says, "Look, I want to traffic in only the best slaves. Do you know how hard it is to work in this business and maintain any kind of quality control? It's damn hard."
We'll also be seeing K., a funny guy with his hands in real estate. Literally, actually. He fucked over a client of his on a shady financing deal, who then proceeded to chop off K.'s hands and brick them up in his fireplace. K. and I still laugh about this when we get together for drinks; it always kills me when K. lifts up his martini with his wrists and then starts crying when he spills it--every time. He always says, "I can't even beat off any more!" in this really funny, chokey voice. That guy is a fucking card. (Which reminds me of another funny story! K. used to love to play cards, but he can't any more, because he doesn't have hands. That guy.)
So anyway, we're pretty excited. I think that we're both only about two tricks away from making it happen, and it's only Wednesday. Shit, I can do two tricks standing on my head. I did three like that just yesterday. Kind of fucked up my gums, but hey. It's our anniversary, right?
Tuesday, 03 May
That's How I Get By
I recently picked up the much talked-about novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, written by Jonathan Safran Foer. It's getting a lot of play in the press because 1. it is a novel about 9/11 and 2. Mr. Foer is only eight years old, so his accomplishment is that much more remarkable.
The book does have a lot going for it. It is a hefty tome, but not dauntingly so, so it could be used, say, to flatten chicken breasts in the kitchen. On a more aesthetic level, its professionally bound hardcover version makes a satisfying THWOCK! when hurled against a wall--a sound so pleasing, actually, that I enjoyed throwing the thing against many surfaces, including the ceiling, the floor, and in one memorable instance, my wife, who made her own interesting noise.
It could also be used as an effective warding tool for fending off small bats attempting to entangle themselves in your hair, it occurs to me. The book is certainly massive enough to kill many bats, provided your aim was true.
But it must be admitted that the book is not good for everything. Among the things I would recommend against doing with it are opening it, reading it, attempting to enjoy it, or in any way attempting to consider it as an enjoyable piece of literature. Foer's writing is so excruciating, so grating, so cloying that . . . that I'm out of "so"s. I did not last more than fifty pages, and already by then I'd been subjected to a supremely insulting amount of from-the-mouths-of-babes fake profundities, dorm-room blue haze "what if?"s and, to top it all off, CrAZy paaaaage
that I did the only rational thing, which was to fend off the bats attacking my hair. Maybe they were trying to get at the book, in which case I am certainly sorry for killing them.
This book is so intolerable that I can only assume that it's being made into a Hallmark TV movie with Rosie O'Donnell.
But the weekend wasn't all bat-attack this and spousal-abuse that! Oh no! Something quite wonderful happened! I watched a little movie called--stop, my heart!--Cabin Fever!
WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME ABOUT THIS MOVIE BEFORE? If there is a finer film ever made, I'd like to know what it is, because this movie KNOCKS EVERYTHING ELSE DOWN AND THEN DOES THE FRUG ALL OVER THEIR UNHAPPY ARMS AND LEGS!
I need to calm down. Okay. If you haven't seen it--SPOILER STUFF--Cabin Fever is, on its face, a standard-issue Teen Meat Stuck In A Cabin Waiting To Die kind of film, but this film simply jettisons the Jason or Freddy or Michael in favor of something even better: flesh-eating disease! Yeah, run from that, Geek-O! Can't fuck your way out of this one, can you, Hot Slut? (I mean, not that they ever do. But in THIS movie, it's not the hot slut or even the black guy [there isn't one] who gets it first! It's the tease-y virginal type!)
The film takes pretty much every stock teen horror trope and then starts fucking with them one by one. Geek-O Hero is sort of a cruel asshole and not very heroic! Mindless Drinking Lout kinda tries to behave admirably! Skeevy Blonde Guy . . . well, he's skeevy and pretty much hateful, but whatever.
I won't even try to talk about the jaw-dropping scene featuring a demented towheaded kid with . . . biting issues, or the sight gag involving an unfortunate harmonica player. You'll just have to treat yourselves to them.
All of this, and the movie does have some horror chops as well. I mean that in a good way, not in a Rosie O'Donnell or Jonathan Safran Foer way. I preach the gospel now. The gospel of Cabin Fever. (END SPOILERS.)
I also preach the gospel of profligate drinking with friends, and to that end, the wife and I took our friend K. out for drinks on Saturday in belated celebration of her birthday. We went to a tiny little cubbyhole of a place called Bleu, helpfully located mere blocks from our homes.
Bleu's name is somewhat mysterious, as there is nothing identifiably blue in the place, which is all wood grain, dimly lit and claustrophobic. As best as I could tell, the name referred to the sounds you would make into your toilet after a few too many of their lethal drinks. BLEU! (This is an admittedly similar theory to my wife's on how grappa came to be named. All I can say is, maybe it's just that a lot of French and Greek words sound like vomiting noises. I don't know.)
Bleu's M.O., you see, is to charge you a nervy $8 or $9 per drink, but their pours make you see why. Order a martini? Here it is! Oh, and here's a backup glass to handle the overfill--so you're getting like a drink and a half or more per order. This became interesting when I momentarily lost my mind and decided to have a shot of Laphroaig, which is a high-end single malt scotch that, according to K., tastes like "shoes." I received my glass, and the wife observed, "Wow, nice pour." Indeed. It was easily the heftiest shot of scotch I've ever seen outside of my home, my friends' homes, or the homes of casual acquaintance/lushes. I really enjoyed it, as well I fucking should have, as I found out later that it cost me fourteen bucks. (Sadly, not the most I have ever paid for a drink.)
After a delightful while of this, we galumphed back over to K.'s apartment, where she treated us to a slideshow of her recent Hawaiian vacation, gabbling along merrily and tipsily, describing all their adventures (she and her boyfriend), many of which seemed to involve insane things like hiking, enjoying the outdoors, and getting close to lava flows. Her tipsiness also led to some enjoyably fond and nuttily specific recollections. On their little rented bungalow or whatever, she confided happily: "We had a toaster oven." On black sand: "That's black sand!" It sure is!
But this is the way you--well, I--dig on stuff like this. Most of the time, looking at pictures of people's trips and shit like that is a real drag. "And here's a grainy shot of my thumb and half a church! Oh, and this is where we saw a dog! He's not in the photo, though." (Mine are certainly like this.) But sitting around doing the woozy recall two-step? Sign me up.
They had a toaster oven, Jonathan Safran Foer! That was black sand, Rosie O'Donnell! You hear me? Are you listening?
Ahhhh, you do what you want. I don't care. I've got Cabin Fever. That's all I'll ever need.