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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