Sunday, April 29, 2007

Monthly Sidebar Update

Still tied up with real world family health concerns. I appreciate the nice words left on my last post. I haven't really had time to post anything new here (until now), but I've been scanning my favorite blogs when I can, leaving comments here and there, and it's been comforting to feel a part of this bizarre, disparate society. Thanks for that.

And now: Lock up your daughters! Shoot your sons! Be indifferent toward your other relatives! It's time for... the Monthly Sidebar Update!!

This month's Object of My Affection is the scorchingly hot Carla Gugino. She was erotically be-thonged in Sin City, she was the MILF to end all MILFs in the Spy Kids series, she was... in Night at the Museum, apparently. She's had a rough time on TV -- she headed the fine cast of the otherwise mediocre sci-fi misfire Threshold, she was at her absolute best in the brilliant, criminally-cancelled Karen Sisco, and she was legendarily shitcanned in the middle of the first season of Spin City with no warning, and even deleted from reruns of episodes she'd been in! That is harsh. She's gorgeous as all git-out and she's a darn fine actress, but, despite appearing in several box office hits, has yet to truly break through as a star in her own right, as she so richly deserves. Sometime soon, fingers crossed!

I've had a lot of reading time over the past month or so, and have probably read more books in the last four weeks than I read in the six months before that. Thus, an expanded book section for this Sidebar Update.

Among the Recently Read:

--Paul Neilan's Apathy and Other Small Victories is literally the funniest book I have ever read in my entire life. Funnier than Hitchhiker's Guide, funnier than any single Pratchett or Wodehouse. Funnier than anything. It's ostensibly a murder mystery, but mostly it's a hilarious portrait of an apathetic cynic adrift in his own life, caught up in bizarre circumstances beyond his control, and a showcase for Neilan's hysterical sense of humor. A lot of it is fairly mean humor; one of the characters, for example, is deaf, and the narrator mercilessly mocks her. But in an egalitarian way: it would be prejudicial not to mock her, he reasons, just because she's deaf. In the following excerpt, Doug is the narrator's dentist, and Marlene is the deaf dental assistant. Doug speaks first:

"I can't believe how quick you picked it up. Did you speak any sign language before you started coming here?"

"No, I did not," I said, while signing I hate you.

Marlene barked a laugh, then pressed her lips together as her face went red.

"That's great," Doug said, smiling. "Say something else."

"I speak sign language, but I am not deaf," I said, and signed I want to throw my shit at you.

Marlene was trying to strangle the laugh in her throat. She sounded like a gagged hostage whimpering for her life.

"How do you say 'I am a dentist?'" he asked.

I eat my shit, I signed, as Doug haltingly imitated me. Marlene couldn't hold it together. "HMAAA!...HMAAA!...HMAAA!" she blared in a series of atonal bursts....

"Why is she laughing?" Doug asked.

"I'll ask her."

Why do you have sex with my shit? I signed.

Stop it! Asshole! I'm going to get fired!

"She says when we speak sign language it's like we have lisps, and we use broken phrases, like immigrants. She says we talk like lisping immigrants...."

I eat my shit, Doug signed slowly to her, grinning.

And tears rolled down deaf Marlene's cheeks.
Soon we meet the narrator's stupendously perverted upstairs neighbor, Mobo, who is taking his pet guinea pig Ivan for a walk on a leash.

And they went up to his apartment, the guinea pig stiffening his tiny legs but unable to put up any real resistance. Mobo whispered several Spanish-sounding gibberish words as he dragged the terrified animal into the boudoir. Then he kissed Ivan harshly on his little mouth, and turned off the lights. And many, many laws of God and man were broken in the darkness.
Maybe that sounds awful to you. And frankly, I wouldn't blame you if it did. This humor isn't for everybody. But as for me: I laughed out loud frequently and uncontrollably while reading this book, often to the point of having to put the book down while gasping for breath, eyes watering, sides aching, waiting for the laughter to subside. Sometimes this happened several times a page. And for those of you who are in tune with this humor, and you surely know who you are, I shit you not: you must read this book. Right now. This is Neilan's first novel; I can not wait for his second.

--Max Barry, Company. Barry actually is quoted on the back of Neilan's Apathy. The two authors share several viewpoints on the American workplace, and its absurdities and iniquities. Company is more of a conventional satire than Apathy, but it's very clever and funny: what if a crazily unfair office workplace were actually a massive experiment, designed to see how workers rise or fall under varying conditions? Good stuff.

--P.G. Wodehouse, The Adventures of Sally. I'll read anything I can find by Wodehouse (I must have gone through a good two dozen, minimum, by now), and I happened to find this in the discount bin at Border's. It's not Jeeves and Wooster, or Blandings Castle, but it's still typically solid Wodehouse entertainment.

--Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird. The night Vonnegut died, my mother told me she had acquired a couple Vonnegut hardback first editions (despite never having read or wanting to read any Vonnegut herself), and would I like them? Yes, very much, I said. Next morning, I woke up to news of Vonnegut's death. I'm not sure how, but I can't help feeling that I or my mother killed Kurt Vonnegut. Sorry. After that, I felt the least I could do was read the books my mother had given me. The first was Jailbird. I've read every Vonnegut (mostly during high school and college) up through Timequake, but I didn't remember anything of this book. I was prepared for it to be one of his lesser works. It was not. It was fantastic. Filled with the usual Vonnegut simplicity and incisiveness, it's the story of an accidental Watergate conspirator, but mostly it's about money and the labor system, and the many ways in which they are unfair and incomprehensible. When Vonnegut died, I mostly remembered him as a wickedly ironic cynic, but Jailbird, as much as any of his best novels, showcases the steadfast humanism at the core of his most painful plot twists, the humanity and the yearning for human decency at the heart of his most pathetic characters. Jailbird is a beautiful work of art, and Vonnegut was a beautiful artist.

Among Current Reading:

--Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday. I just began this collection of short stories, letters, essays, plays, and other miscellany. This was the second of the Vonnegut books my mother gave me. I have the feeling that I'm not going to stop here. In fact, I'll come right out and say it: in 2007, I will read every book Kurt Vonnegut ever published, both the majority of his works I've already read, and those few I haven't. I think I'll go chronologically from the beginning after I finish Palm Sunday. Next up: Player Piano, his first novel. (In case you were wondering -- and I doubt you were, but I'll tell you anyway -- my favorite Vonnegut, and probably one of my five favorite books ever, is Cat's Cradle.)

--Gary Shteyngart, Absurdistan. I picked this one up on the basis of good reviews and a good recommendation. I'm not very far into it. But it's reminding me very strongly of A Confederacy of Dunces so far, which is by no means a bad thing.

Back-Burnered Reading:

--Neal Stephenson, The Confusion. After conquering Quicksilver, I thought I had the momentum to get through the second part of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle without much problem. But I got bogged down again, as I did so many times in Quicksilver. What I intended to be a brief break in reading The Confusion, to breeze through Apathy, has turned into a full stop. I'll pick it up again soon, I'm sure -- say, in a week or two -- but for now, it's on hold.

Wow! That's a lotta damn books! Don't I watch TV anymore?? Why yes, yes I do. Currently I'm Watching the season 4 DVD of Futurama. I picked it up for half-price at Wal-Mart this weekend. You know, in theory, I hate Wal-Mart and its censorship policies and its oppressive treatment of its workers, but god DAMN do they have good bargains! I am evil.

I'm Listening to Ted Leo's excellent new album, Living With the Living. It turns from scathing punk indictments of the Bush administration and the Iraq war to lovely, lyrical flights of fantasy on a dime. It's really tremendous. And I'm using one of its songs for Lyric of the Month as well: a snippet from the semi-spoken word anti-war anthem, "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb."

And lastly we come to the (no longer) secret, shameful, secondary Object of My Affection this month: Dana Perino, the Deputy (currently Acting) White House Press Secretary. I have no illusions: she works for the devil; she sells his administration's poisonous lies as the mother's milk of truth. She speaks with forked tongue; she excretes an ebony ichor, acid to the touch. But she's so darn cute! And she references Jon Stewart. Adorable!

And that's it! Thanks to those of you who have been checking back here, waiting for me to speak up again. I'm not abandoning this blog, not by a longshot! And thanks to those of you who are keeping good thoughts in your hearts while I deal with my family issues. Your support helps a great deal.

Hopefully I'll be back again before too long. Excelsior!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Taking a break

I've got family health issues to deal with. I'll be taking a break here for a while.

Friday, April 06, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO: A Series of Reviews, Part 3

Part 1.

Part 2.


Saturday, March 31.

BIA'S I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
After visiting an internet cafe to check up on email and directions to a few other places we'd be going that night (Matt's computer still "didn't feel like working"), Matt and I met Ian for brunch on Haight St. Once again, I am not "completely convinced" that Bia's is actually the place we went, but from the Yelp reviews, referencing "organic food", "outdoor patio", "small portions", and "poor service", this must be the place. I didn't take the poor service as badly as some of the Yelp reviewers, because our waitress actually told us it was her first day, and I've been in that position before, and she seemed "well-intentioned", so I was sympathetic. The food was overpriced, and my mushroom & cheese scramble was tiny, if "fairly tasty". At least the mimosa was perfect. Yep, a mimosa. We were establishing the theme of the day: alcohol, "early and often".

AMOEBA I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
I hadn't checked out the DVD section while I was there on Thursday, so off to Amoeba for us after brunch. The DVD section is nearly as "unbelievably well-stocked" as the music section, with plenty of "obscure titles from cult directors", as well as more mainstream offerings. I could've spent a few thousand dollars in there (if I had it to spend). Instead, I limited myself to three picks: the Criterion edition of Kicking and Screaming (not the recent Will Ferrell movie, but the 1995 debut film from The Squid and the Whale writer/director Noah Baumbach, the greatness of which I've been "pestering anyone who would listen" about for the past ten years), the original issue of Re-Animator (a new edition was just released, with only one additional special feature, so I went with the older, cheaper one), and a random, inexpensive disc from horror pioneer Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Gore Gore Girls, featuring Henny Youngman (!!!). While we were there, there was a live show going on in-store: Brett Dennen was performing. I didn't know who that was, and I wasn't much impressed. 'Nuff said.

Reviews "pending".

TORONADO I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
We walked (more walking!) with our movies (Ian bought Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and... something else, I'll have to ask) down to this legendary bar on Lower Haight. It's semi-divey, with stickers and license plates and other "random crap" all over the walls, like a T.G.I. Friday's with the occasional "scary missing-toothed drunk", but with nice tables throughout and booths in back. The real appeal, though, is that at all times, Toronado has over forty beers on tap, and they're all excellent. Here's the current list. And they've got a generous Happy Hour as well. I had two beers: both of the Russian River Brewing Co. selections, which were the Blind Pig IPA and Pliny the Elder -- both "strong and tasty". Matt had a Wyder's Raspberry Cider, which was "incredibly delicious" as well. And Ian took advantage of the proximity of the Rosamunde Sausage Grill; located right next door to Toronado, you can order your Polish or chicken apple or smoked duck sausage, or "whatever", then bring it right into Toronado to eat it with a beer. I wasn't hungry enough to indulge as well, but Matt and I planned to go back again for lunch some other day (sadly, we never did).

MAD DOG IN THE FOG I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
Like Toronado, I'd been to Mad Dog in the Fog before, when I used to live in the Bay Area. I guess I didn't remember Mad Dog as well as Toronado, because it was much larger and nicer than I'd recalled. We ordered pints and watched some of the NCAA tournament. It was "very pleasant". Apparently, they have trivia contests there some nights. Wish I had known about that in advance.

We dropped off Ian, because he had to work early in the morning, then Matt and I got a bit more dressed up for the evening drinking ahead of us. I wore a tie, even. Oh, yeah. Sure, it was a Disney tie, but it was "very subtle". You had to look closely at the paisley pattern to notice the "disembodied heads" of Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. I think we got some food at some point, but I could be wrong.

STARLIGHT ROOM I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
At long last, Kate enters the narrative. Matt and I stopped by her apartment to pick her up. She was understanding about the pile of junk in the backseat of my car, so right away I liked her. We headed off to the Starlight Room, at the top of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square. Tied with the Parkway Speakeasy Theater, this was "the most fun I had all weekend". First of all, this is officially "Harry Denton's Starlight Room". Who's Harry Denton? This dude:

Dick Van Patten?

If you can't have fun in a place run by that guy, you ain't tryin'. Sadly, we didn't actually encounter the man himself, but there were a number of people who kind of looked like him. I can understand why many of the reviews on Yelp aren't overwhelmingly positive. The place "skews old". I'm 36, and I was still probably "a good decade" under the average age in the place (especially considering there was a surprise 60th-birthday party being thrown for someone at the time). It's got a "retro Rat Pack lounge-era" feel to it, which means "decidedly unhip by current standards in most every way". I can't speak to the cost or quality of the food, but the drinks were a "tad pricey" (though delicious). So I understand the reviews... but I heartily disagree. I loved the vibe. I loved the decor. And most of all, I loved the view. We timed it so we got there about a half hour before sunset, and looking out over the City, sipping our ridiculous cocktails ("Blackberry Brambles" all around!), with clear, gorgeous views in every direction, watching the colors and the shadows as night descended on San Francisco -- it was miraculous. I just enjoyed every bit of it, and was glad I had an old friend and a new one to share it with. I'm just sorry Ian wasn't there, too.

THE WESTIN ST. FRANCIS I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
I always confuse the Sir Francis Drake and the St. Francis. They're catercorner to each other off Union Square. Hint: the St. Francis is the one with the glass elevators. Tom's "cheapskate guide" to the best view in the City: go to the St. Francis, and ride the glass elevators to the top. Cost: free. Which is exactly what Matt, Kate and I did next. It's higher than the Starlight Room, which means a farther view, and it's more exciting, what with the moving. It can be "very romantic" if you're with someone you're interested in; it can be "dopey fun" if you're with "dopey friends", and you race each other back to the ground floor in separate cars. I've done both before.

GOLD DUST LOUNGE I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
Again, I'm "a little hazy" on whether this is where we next went or not. I think it was. Wherever it was, it had $2.95 Irish coffees advertised on a blackboard out front, which sounded "damn good" to us. We encountered an "odd older fella" at the door, who struck us kind of like a Wal-Mart greeter, only creepier. Later, he went up and joined the country band onstage, so -- I don't know what was going on there. We sat at the gorgeous, curved, and crowded antique bar and ordered our Irish coffees. They "contained alcohol", so I thought they were "pretty good". That was my standard at that point. The rest of the bar struck me as "touristy and slightly unsavory". Oh, also, if I recall correctly, this is where I showed Kate a picture of my "pride and joy":

My Pride and Joy

I have had that picture in my wallet since high school (seriously), and it still cracks me up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I will never get tired of it. (Matt can testify to this; he's probably seen it a dozen times, minimum.) I guarantee you: if you meet me, and I have had at least one drink, I will show you this picture. Sometimes I'll even show it when I'm sober, which is "even sadder".

FOLEY'S I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
Full name: Johnny Foley's Irish House. This is a "wonderful and authentic" Irish pub & restaurant, to which I've been a few times before. Great Irish and not-quite-so-Irish (I believe Kate had the "calamari") pub food to go with your Guinness (of course you're going to have a Guinness here -- what are you, a Communist?). And the clock outside displays a motto all should live by:

I concur.

We ordered three or four appetizers, just to "fill our gullets" with something other than "Jesus juice", and I recall one of them (aside from the calamari) was pork ribs (so tender the meat was "falling off the bone"), but other than that, I'm a little fuzzy. Everything was getting a little fuzzy at that point, which had been the plan, so I was pleased.

TUNNEL TOP I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
An "elevated dive bar", by which I mean, coming from Union Square, you have to climb a flight of stairs from a lower street to, yes, the top of a tunnel to get to it. It was "gloriously dark and sleazy", but with a "youngish, attractive crowd", rather than "sad, toothless barflies". There was a film being projected onto the wall -- some kind of industrial training film from the '50s, it appeared. Yeah, it's "that kind of place". It's here that Matt, Kate and I proceeded, not to put too fine a point on it, to "get flat-out stinko". We settled in at the end of the bar, and Kate and I drank Jack & Cokes and Matt had gin & tonics, and we all had a lot of 'em, and it was "damn fine". We randomly ran into a co-worker of Matt and Kate's there, a guy named "Ty" (I assume that's how it's spelled), which was "kind of weird, but cool" (leaning more toward cool, despite the awkwardness of trying to interact with someone new when I'm drunk, because he bought us a round of shots).

MURIO'S I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
We made our way back to Haight-Ashbury at this point, and I feared the evening was soon to end, so I suggested another drink. It speaks to the inebriation of Matt and Kate that they agreed. Alcohol wins again! We wound up at Murio's Trophy Room, a dive on Haight to which I've been many a time before. I like the ceiling. Let me explain: the ceiling is covered, absolutely covered by caricature portraits of various patrons of the bar, all of which, I think, are drawn by a fella named "Ant", whom I met there once. His hair is gelled into two points sticking out from the front of his head, like an insect's antennae. Hence, "Ant". I'm a little blurry on events happening from hereon. (Shocking!) I believe I had a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I believe Kate ordered it for me. I don't think I quoted Dennis Hopper from Blue Velvet ("Heineken? Fuck that shit! PABST BLUE RIBBON!!!"), but I sort of wish I had. I remember some creepy dude hitting on Kate that I helped scare away (of which I was inordinately proud). And then at some point we left. (I assume.)

KATE'S APARTMENT [no review, due to brain malfunction]
I have only fleeting impressions of this point of the night. It must've been after 2 AM. I remember there were stairs up to her place. I don't know why we went up there. I think it was to look up something on the internet we'd been wondering about (Matt's internet still being inoperable), but I don't know that we ever did that. (I do recall uttering my battlecry, "To the internet!" at some point during the evening; I think it was when Kate asked me what Robert De Niro's name was in Brazil. For the record: Harry Tuttle.) Also, I know we got to listen to some of her records -- actual record albums, on vinyl, which I dig. I think we had gotten in a discussion about record albums earlier, and I think I mentioned that I had a record player in the trunk of my car (yes, really; it's still in there from when I had to move some stuff when my apartment was being redecorated, then never bothered moving back). She had a lot of great albums, most of which escape my memory; I do recall the fact that she had Neil Young's first album on record won my eternal affection. I remember a nice living room, with a fireplace, and comfortable couches, dimly, weirdly, redly lit; I remember a housecat that I petted while I tried to force myself to sober up a bit. I don't remember where Kate's roommates were, or if we woke them up. And I remember Matt eventually deciding he had to get my drunk ass back to his place to crash, for which I am grateful.

THE EVENTUAL HANGOVER I am a star.I am half a star.
Not great, but not that bad. I've had worse.

I'm mostly writing these entries for my sake, rather than yours, I admit it, but throw me a bone and say something in the comments, would you? I should finish my S.F. recapping soon (though probably not this weekend, because my friend Forrest is flying into town tomorrow), and then I'll get back to ripping on Lost and Carlos Mencia and making long, intricate lists, I swear.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO: A Series of Reviews, Part 2

Part 1.


Friday, March 30.

BOULANGE DE COLE VALLEY I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
Matt and I decided to get some "brunch-type food". We walked (see: WALKING) to Zazie, Matt's first suggestion, which was "crowded as fuck". We opted instead for the Boulange, just half a block down, which seemed equally crowded, but at least did not have a line running out into the street. Nearly every place we ate at while I was in the City followed this "claustrophobic's nightmare" pattern. I was surprised to find things so packed at 10 AM Friday. I was on vacation, and Matt only worked Tuesday-Thursday, but who were all these other "damn lazy-asses"? We miraculously found an available table "jammed into the corner" just after we ordered at the front counter. I ordered the croque-monsieur, which is a "heart attack-inducing" ham and gruyère sandwich dipped in cheesy egg batter and pan-fried in butter. I had an "incredibly bitter" but "face-slappingly strong" coffee while we waited for our food. When my croque was delivered, it had been burned along one edge. The non-burned parts were "cholesteriffic", "heavenly delicious" and "sickeningly hazardous to my health" in about equal parts. That was the theme for pretty much all the food I ate on my trip.

GOOD VIBRATIONS I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
Ian met us after brunch, and after a trip to the Union Square Border's to pick up Ian's paycheck, I drove us out to the Mission District. Destination: the Pirate Store. (See: THE PIRATE STORE.) But first we walked around a bit. (See: WALKING.) Ian said we had to check out Good Vibrations. Turns out it's a porn shop. But not just any old porn shop. It's the Lexus of porn shops. There used to be an excellent bookstore in S.F. called A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books (I was crushed when I found out it had recently shut down). Well, Good Vibrations is "a clean well-lighted place for dildos". There were no shadowy corners, no "shady creeps in trenchcoats"; just friendly staff, tasteful decoration, and "a whole bunch of porn and porn accessories". It was like a LensCrafters, only instead of brand names like Ray-Ban or Brooks Brothers, there was Betty's Barbell, or the Pandora Plug. There were many DVDs, organized by "alarmingly specific" categories. There were books with titles like Tickle His Pickle, and the insulting Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong (look, I may not be Casanova, but I'm pretty sure at least one thing I know is "right"). There were board games that involved "chocolate frosting". And it was all presented in the most matter-of-fact and shame-free fashion, like a Waldenbooks. It was unlike any porn shop I've ever visited. (Not that I've visited many porn shops. Or any. What's "porn"?)

VALENCIA PIZZA & PASTA I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
After some more walking (see: WALKING), back to my car to move it from one parking meter to another closer to the Pirate Store (see: THE PIRATE STORE), we stopped for lunch. I am not "one hundred percent sure" Valencia Pizza & Pasta was the place we ate, but it kind of sounds like it from the Yelp reviews. I had something with bacon, I think. It was "okay".

THE PIRATE STORE @ 826 VALENCIA I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
826 Valencia is a writing workshop for students, established, "as far as I know", by Dave Eggers and McSweeney's. To support the workshop, the front of 826 Valencia is a Pirate Supply Store. For reals. It has peg legs, eyepatches, pirate maps, pieces of eight, and so forth. It also has a darkened nook with a fishtank, in front of which one can sit in "not especially comfortable chairs", and it has "a bunch of swag" from McSweeney's and The Believer and Wholphin. And, best of all, it has a treasure chest suspended from the ceiling, with a trapdoor bottom that the staff can open by "yanking on a string". When this happens, a "bunch of mop heads" fall on whoever is unfortunate enough to be standing below. I was witness to a victim of this prank. It was "tremendously entertaining". There is a sign on the wall that explains this prank is called "mopping"; the victim has been "mopped". I loved that. I bought the latest issue of The Believer magazine.

THE BELIEVER: ISSUE #43, featuring an article about Rock-Scissors-Paper competitions, and an interview with Scott McCloud
Review "pending".

LE VIDEO I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
Ian suggested we check out this Sunset District VHS and DVD rental shop, which has an "insanely huge and diverse selection", broken up into categories as obscure and specific as "supermarionation", "jungle movies", "Nazi sexploitation", and "William Shatner" (including, yes, his film in Esperanto). If it's not here, it "probably doesn't exist", though you may have to dust off the VCR to watch it. Made me want to move to the City just so I could rent from here. Warning: has a reputation for high prices, obscene late fees, and "pretentious asshole staffers", though, since we were only browsing, we didn't have to deal with any of that.

S.F. DEPT. OF PARKING & TRAFFIC Johnny's FingerJohnny's FingerJohnny's FingerJohnny's Finger
Although we did have to deal with a parking ticket on my car when we left the store. It couldn't have been more than four minutes after the meter expired, but there it already was, a $40 goddam ticket. They must assign one goddam meter maid per goddam vehicle in that goddam city. That's why the San Francisco goddam Department of goddam Parking & Traffic gets four "Fuck you!"s from Johnny Cash. (Those are the worst kind of fuck yous.)

IAN'S APARTMENT I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
We retreated to Ian's apartment, somewhere in the Sunset, to kill a little time. His apartment has one long hallway, with bedrooms and the kitchen and whatnot to one side, and a series of three bathrooms all in a row on the other. I thought that was "weird". Ian's bedroom looks like the back seat of my car, i.e., "filled with junk". But he had an internet connection, which was nice. We watched David O. Russell freak out at Lily Tomlin on the set of I Heart Huckabees, then we looked up the addresses of other places we wanted to go that night. Notice I said "looked up the addresses", not, "got directions to". That would turn out to be a significant distinction.

COMIX EXPERIENCE I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
Ian is well-acquainted with Comix Experience, and introduced Matt and I to the two staff members present -- Jeff Lester and Brian Hibbs, both of whom I "know" through their comics blog, The Savage Critic(s). They introduced themselves by last names only, which I thought sounded like a "cheesy/cool '70s cop show" -- Lester & Hibbs: Crime Squad! In COLOR. Lester's first act was to ask us if we wanted a beer -- was Red Stripe okay with us? Uh, yeah, that was okay with us. (Mike -- take note!) He disappeared outside and returned with three "cold bottles of Red Stripe". I have "no idea" where he got them. Perhaps he had a cooler in the trunk of his car? (Note to self: install cooler in trunk of car.) Ian informed Lester that I was a "beer machine". Thanks, Ian! Matt and I browsed a bit while Ian chatted with Hibbs & Lester (Murder Patrol!). I hadn't been in the shop since they'd had a signing with Lewis Shiner; Hibbs confirmed my recollection that that was "a million years ago". I picked out a few books, then chatted about "awesomely ridiculous" pop culture with Ian and Lester up at the front counter. Lester was pleased and impressed I instantly knew the name of the robot from Logan's Run -- Box -- as well as his signature line: "It's my job... to FREEZE YOU!" I set my empty beer on the counter, because I didn't know what to do with it. Lester said, "You are a beer machine!" Which would've made me upset with Ian, except it led to Lester giving me another beer. So that was "frickin' awesome". Conversation turned to manga, and when I said I had yet to read any, because I am a "stupid American", Lester showed me a few of his favorites and almost convinced me to give 'em a try. But I didn't. Take that, Japan! All in all, it was the "most pleasant experience I've had in a comic shop" since Mike and Dorian demonstrated the proper techniques of Greco-Roman wrestling, down to authentic costuming ("butt-naked"). Or maybe since Garth Ennis "signed my ass". (Note: one or both of those things never happened.)

FLASH "STARTER SET": issues #31-40 & Annual #3, by the great WILLIAM MESSNER-LOEBS, for only $5.95
Reviews "pending".

SPEAKEASY ALES & LAGERS I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
I'd read about this place online, and its Happy Hour on Fridays, and wanted to check it out. It was in an area of town neither Matt nor Ian were very familiar with, near Hunter's Point, the "wretched hive of scum and villainy" depicted in Spike Lee's Sucker Free City. We knew the address, but none of us knew how to actually get there (see above in re: not getting directions). Which led to several "not-so-comical wrong turns in not-so-nice areas". Just as we figured we were "completely screwed", we turned down the exact street we were looking for. Matt says he planned that, but I say he's a "dirty liar". The address was for a warehouse, not a bar, and we figured we had gotten the wrong address and were "boned again". Turns out, the bar is in the warehouse, and it wasn't so much a bar as it was "a counter in the corner of the actual warehouse". We ordered the $10 special (three beers plus a keepsake pint glass, that I wound up keeping myself), and played their homemade horseshoes-type game, which involved throwing steel washers through holes in wooden platforms. At first it "seemed like fun", but quickly proved to be "hellishly difficult and frustrating". We quit after having scored only twice among all three of us (I hit a three-pointer, but Matt hit a five-pointer on his last throw). The beer was "tasty and strong as hell", and the warehouse atmosphere was "dingy but appealingly unique". But it's pretty far out of the way, and I doubt Ian or Matt will return.

GRAND AVE. THAI CUISINE I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
After the brewery, we drove over the Bay Bridge to Oakland. Destination: the Parkway Speakeasy Theater. (See: PARKWAY SPEAKEASY THEATER.) (No relation to Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.) Again, I'm not "totally convinced" that this was the place we ate dinner before the movie, but it seems "fairly possible". I know it was on Grand Avenue. The Thai iced coffee was "sweet and yummy", as it always is, and the food was "not especially memorable", but it was in "large portions", which pleased Ian, since he got to swipe extra food from me and Matt.

PARKWAY SPEAKEASY THEATER I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.
Our attempt to find the Parkway resulted in another "Keystone Kop-like parade of humorous, clueless scrambling". Directions, people, always get directions! We circled Lake Merritt twice before finding the right street to turn on. We are "not very smart". Fortunately, we found it, because the Parkway is probably tied for "the single most fun thing I did on my trip". The Parkway is a "brew & view", meaning you can order beer (or wine) as well as pizza and other dinner items and bring it all into the theater with you. The theater had several "comfy couches" up front, with tables for beer and food (or feet, if you want to get "super casual"), as well as traditional theater seating in back, with the occasional seat removed and replaced with an end table, perfect again for food or beer (not feet). We tried one of the couches at first, but they don't quite accomodate three people, unless they're on more "intimate terms" than Ian, Matt and I are. We moved back to the regular seats, and they were just fine. I had a pint of delicious Boont Amber, I believe it was. And then, "just to be safe", I had two more. Oh, yeah. The whole experience was a "tremendous amount of fun", and I imagine Ian and Matt will be going back again, now that they've discovered its pleasures. This was my idea, by the way. You're welcome, guys!

RENO 911!: MIAMI I am a star.I am a star.I am a star.I am half a star.
The Parkway generally shows second-run movies (with the occasional special show); we saw Reno 911!: Miami. It's possible I'm being a little generous on the rating, since I was "working on my second beer by the opening credits". But it was "very funny" with plenty of "crude humor" and "gratuitous nudity" and "Patton Oswalt". Also, the Rock gets blown up. Yes, that "the Rock". It was awesome.

But probably not. I think we all just went home after that. And I was finally able to rest my aching feet.

WALKING I am a star.
Walking "sucks donkey". It's nice, I guess, that so many things are within "reasonable" walking distance in S.F. (meaning eight or ten blocks), but I am not a "big fan of walking". Especially when it gives me a "huge gross blister on my big toe". To anyone considering walking, I would recommend against it.

Big day! And unbelievably, Saturday was even bigger, and far, far more alcohol-centric. More reviews coming soon.

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