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San Francisco, Home to the Original Party Park.

April 25, 2013

There is one thing that has remained consistent in my life since moving to san francisco at the age of 14 to start high school, and that has been drinking beer and smokin’ weed in parks. If you aren’t from San Francisco, or have never visited here that probably sounds really fuckin’ homeless. Well, it pretty much is, and over ten years later I’m still doin’ it, and yanno what, I actually DO feel kinda homeless sometimes. Like when I’m drinking a Barefoot Bubbly/Peach Kearns mimosa out of a Giants souvenir cup and the guys next to me are grilling fancy meats on their hibachi and sipping banner year pinot out of stemless wine glasses. Here’s what I have to say to them: Welcome. Welcome to San Francisco. Welcome to the beauty that is party parks. That could be the city slogan: San Francisco, home to the world famous party parks.

Well, it wasn’t always cornhole and Bi-Rite, babies. I’ll tell you that much. In fact, I’m pretty sure no one went to Dolores Park with pure intentions when I was a kid. I honestly don’t remember ever going there. It was one of those places I envisioned strewn with needles, where guys in black hoodies hung out by the train tracks. Basically it was a place that attracted lots of cops, which definitely wasn’t ideal for a bunch of 16 year olds with a warm keg. That place was cutty, but just not cutty enough for the wholesome teens.

In order to party there, the park had to fit 3 qualifications:

1. Really difficult to access, mostly involving bush-whacking and long walks over squishy dirt in the pitch black. Like that random homeless summer camp in Douglass Park, directions go something like this: walk across the soccer field, through the weird trees at the edge of it, go through that loose piece in the chain link fence and you’ll see us by that log!

2. Fucking freezing. Best spots were typically located in the windiest, coldest or dampest spots in the entire city. Randall Hill? Good thing those eskimo jackets with the fur around the hood came into popularity sophomore year so that I could avoid getting wind burn while still being able to withstand the 40-mile an hour gusts on the sheer side of that cliff.

3. Epic views. Unless it was Big Rec or maybe the Lyon Street Stairs, but those places had “stadium seating” which kinda made up for it. A view of SF, combined with the false sense of badass, passin’ a pint of Royal Gate or a Mickey’s 40oz, (or maybe some southern comfort, if you had a part time job) and sharing a blunt with 50 of your BFFs in the middle of the city and getting away with it, that, now that was magic.

So, next time you’re enjoying a craft beer on the privacy of your own Pendelton blanket, just pour a lil’ out for the homies, I like to think we blazed the party park trail for you.

you down with OPP? Original Park Partier’s?

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Portlandia is a Feeling.

February 26, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I found myself in Jenner, California, a tiny, picturesque town along the Sonoma Coast. It’s the kind of place far enough away from the city, but still close enough to where hippie meets hick and tourist meets tweaker. I imagine it would be a very odd place to grow up, but on a sunny day, driving the curvy cliffside road that drops straight down into the Pacific is true Northern California perfection.

We stopped to get a cup of coffee on the way home at a random roadside cafe, and that’s where things got weird. The place was essentially a bungalow perched on a small hill right above the last part of the Russian River just before it feeds into the ocean. The decor gave off a  “space age mermaid” vibe, shells and fishing nets hung from the ceiling, broken surf boards jutted out randomly along the wall and a beverage fridge stood empty in the corner save for a few organic sodas, three different types of coconut water and someone’s leftover lunch.

The funky vibe inside was intensely funkified by the bearded and dreadlocked middle-aged dude-duo “jammin'” on drums and electric-acoustic guitar on a makeshift porch/stage behind the cafe. A random assortment of burnt out locals, European tourists and day-trippers with their babies and dogs were spread out, eating breakfast and drinking coffee at the picnic tables on the grassy knoll. People who had presumably been strangers moments ago were making pleasant conversation with one another, the vibes were taking over! Life long connections were being formed! A scraggly grey-haired man in Teva’s and socks rode up on his bike, started snapping pictures of the band, and broke out into an improptu seizure/flailing type of dance.

Me and Catie, my travel buddy that day, stood in complete awestruck silence taking it all in, we didn’t even mind that the two flamboyantly gay proprietors with modern euro-mullets and flawless tans were too busy engaging in the most benign yet somehow completely compelling conversations with the other customers in the shop to notice that we were waiting our turn for an individually poured, slow-dripped, micro-roasted cup of organically sustained java. Catie and I didn’t even have to say anything to know exactly what the other was thinking: we had just stepped into an episode of Portlandia. WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF ALTERNATE UNIVERSE WAS THIS PLACE?!

Gay Proprietor #1 to Loitering Customer at counter: Ya, we just got this new roaster, we gotta keep that thing going all day and all night.

Loitering Customer: Yea, I bet that thing works over time, right on.

Gay Proprietor #2: Oh ya! One time a popcorn kernel ended up in there, and we were just like; “how did that get in there?”

Loitering Customer: *Laughs*

Gay Proprietor #1: [pouring hot water over slow drip coffee, completely ignoring us]: Must be some sort of practical joke within the micro-coffee roaster world, right?!

Loitering Customer: Hey, do you guys have like, potatoes to go with that breakfast sandwich?

Gay Proprietor #1: No man, I wish, we gotta keep it simple. Trust me, I love potatoes as much as the next guy, but that homemade pesto foccacia is gonna blow your mind.

Loitering Customer: Right on, right on.

Angsty Teen Cook: [peeks around from behind the wall holding half a bagel in a gloved hand. She looks like Daria from the MTV show, completely uninterested and unaware of the real life version of Hair, the musical she’s living in] Jay, we’re out of crab.

Gay Proprieter #1 (apparently named Jay): [turns dramatically, nods frantically with raised eyebrows at Angsty Teen Cook.]

Loitering Customer: [Mindlessly playing with the hideous $40-dollar handmade felt hats for sale at the counter.]

Gay Proprieter #1 (apparently named Jay): [turns to Gay Proprieter #2 (who is still describing the coffee roaster to an older couple who had been standing off to the side) with a drastic look of concern on his face] TIM. I THINK WE’RE OUT OF CRAB.

Gay Proprieter #2 (apparently named Tim): [continues to ponder how a popcorn kernal ended up in coffee roaster.]

Finally, having had his world shaken up by the crab incident, we are acknowledged by Jay. He asks us if he’s gotten our “Java” started for us. When we say no, he looks surprised, as if he thought he had already made it, and begins the slow-drip process over again.

The only photo evidence we managed to capture.

The only photo evidence we managed to capture.

 

 

 

 

My Interview with an SF Can Collector, Kinda.

February 12, 2013

Here is one of my favorite things about San Francisco: the symbiotic relationship between public drunkards and the can and bottle collectors. The combination is seamless and effective, it truly represents our city’s commitment to green beautification, recreation, and recycling. At the same time, it serves as a powerful reminder of the diverse cultures that make up these 7×7 miles.

These recycling stalwarts are truly some of the hardest working people in showbiz and the stuff of local legends, folk heroes if you will. Hardcore Dolores park dwellers may know the cast of characters by name and will even go as far as to save their bottles and cans for one in particular, swatting away other can poachers out of true loyalty.

I have spent a lot of time over the past years observing and pondering these scavengers, watching as they carefully bob and weave through crowds of  bare-chested, corn-holing, forever-frat-boys, fallen bike carcasses, flung carelessly next to their bearded owners, burning man fire hoopers and street kids on acid. The Chinese ladies are easy to spot, always wearing Giligan’s Island style bucket hats secured under their chins with an elastic strap and the same 1970’s style sweater vests, shuffling in oversized tennis shoes, hands covered in gardening gloves, clutching a dilapidated 10-gallon rice bag. Do they all work together? Depositing their collections off at some “home office” deep in the heart of Chinatown and taking a cut of the total haul at the end of the month? Or are they all out for themselves, brutally defending their grounds in all-out turf wars? Whenever I see a lone one, picking through a trash can on South Van Ness, I can’t help but wonder, is this what she has to resort to? Are all the good spots are already taken?

My personal bias lies with team “Latino Can Collector”, for starters, my rudimentary grasp of the Spanish language allows me to communicate with them on a basic level, and secondly, they often bring their children along on collecting missions, a well-played move that tugs at the heart strings. However, my loyalty was truly won a few weeks ago as I attempted to take out the recycling at my friend’s parents house, which I had been housesitting throughout the holidays.

The house, a classic San Francisco Victorian, lies on one of the steeper grades of Castro Street. It was a Tuesday afternoon as I began to drag the bins out to the curb, the recycling bin was filled to the brim with the detritus of five-weeks worth of housesitting; pizza boxes, wine bottles, dozens of beer cans, and an unhealthy amount of cheap champagne. The bin began to wobble unevenly under the pressure, and as hard as I tried to keep it steady it crashed onto its side with an embarrassingly loud rattle, sending the glass contents careening down the slope, and me, screaming obscenities chasing down after the loose junk like a crazy person. I imagine the full busload of people passing by on the 24-Divisadero that witnessed the whole incident felt quite sorry for me.

As I was making my second pathetic trip up the hill, arms full of broken glass, hands bleeding, I heard, what could have been the call of an angel running up behind me, “SENIORITA! SENIORITA!” he bellowed, panting from charging up the hill. I turned to find my savior, a tiny man in a Tasmanian Devil T-shirt and flannel jacket with a MEXICO baseball hat on his head. He proceeded to explain in Spanglish that he had been working painting a house around the corner when he heard the crash and came running. He wanted to get there before anyone else did, because “it sounded like a lot!”

Together we loaded his satchel with the recycling, he took every last piece, even the broken ones. “It’s still money, girl! If it was my party though, there would have been a lot more tequila!” We ended up talking, me in horrible broken Spanish, him in horrible broken English. He grew up in the Mission, he collects cans and bottles for his Mother, and today he had “hit the jackpot! At least 1o dollars!”

It took a couple of minutes to fill his bag and then he walked lop-sidedly down the block, weighted down by about 15 pounds worth of recyclables over his shoulder. I was left with a huge smile on my face. My knight in aluminum armor!

A true San Francisco moment. One girl’s empty bottles are another man’s treasure…

 

my friend Biggs supporting the local can-collection economy in Golden Gate Park.

my friend Biggs supporting the local can-collection economy in Golden Gate Park.

 

A Summer Vignette

June 19, 2012

If summer isn’t your favorite season you are what the French call “les incompétents.” I spent my childhood in Washington, D.C. and nearby suburban Maryland, where summertime is no joke, but the summer I turned 13 we bid adieu to the swampy June’s and July’s forever and moved to San Francisco. Summer in San Francisco is a bit of a wild card with the micro climates that sometimes border on Arctic, but this never seems to change the fact that the dawning of the “longest-day season” always triggers the same imaginary, elementary school countdown to freedom in my mind.

______________________________________________________________

THE POOL

It still smells like warm chlorine and sunscreen, I want to dive into the deep end (even though I know this means getting about a half-inch of water in the bottom of my googles) to retrieve the nickels that my mother has deliberately tossed into the water from the safety of her chaise lounge island, under the brim of a straw sun hat, an issue of the New Yorker always at her side, crinkly and warped from the splashing and the sun.

When the harsh and elongated whistle calls for adult swim I will look around at the other kids, waiting to see who will tempt the fates and be the last one out. And then, if Tony, the Good Humor man hasn’t pulled up to the curb yet with our Screw Balls, and Strawberry Shortcakes and Astro Pops, we’ll just sit on the rough, concrete edge of the pool, which has the same effect as sandpaper on the bottom of my swimsuit. Dangling our feet in, we’ll impatiently wait out the 20-minutes, my best friend just learned Cats Cradle, she’s teaching me how. Some of the rambunctious boys, the ones who are put on Ritalin during the school year, are warring on the jungle gym in the grass behind the diving boards. One of them, having fallen victim to a yellow jacket hiding in the clover comes running, red faced, back towards the mothers under the umbrellas. He’ll retire next to us, soaking his wound in the water. 10-minutes left.

Aside from a slight ripple caused by the lone grandma swimming side stroke in the far lane, the pool is as perfect as freshly fallen snow, or an ice rink after the Zamboni comes through, just waiting for us to destroy it. The lifeguard is only 16 but she seems about 25 to me, sitting high above the water in her throne. She’s wearing a very official bright red Speedo two-piece with LIFEGUARD across the chest in white block letters. The way she expertly twirls the lanyard with her whistle on it is something I endlessly mimic at home with a strand of fake pearls I found in my dress-up trunk.

Thoughts on Suburban Castles

April 26, 2012

Here is a serious question I have been silently pondering since the dawn of the docu-reality age: WHY do [nouveau] rich people think that decorating their houses in Baroque, Rennasaince revival decor is the epitome of class and style?

WHY?! Is it because they want to live in a castle? Do they think this will bring them closer to modern royalty? Is it because the “original” rich people lived in castles?

When a reality show brings you into the home of supposed “wealth” [read: people in serious credit card debt] from New Jersey to Orange County to Dallas they might as well just film on a sound stage because all these homes look the exact same.

Must haves: dark stone facades, overly ornate wrought iron fixtures, gothic crosses hung on the walls, candelabras, and gaudy railings on a massive grand staircase. The foyer should be visible from an open upstairs hallway/balcony construction so that you can feel like Rapunzel as you greet guests from the second floor.  The color scheme must be strictly maroon, gold, mauve, tan and merlot (which are all essentially the same color.) Pillows, sofa coverings and curtains should include as many tassels as possible and resemble the dusty tapestries of the Dark Ages. Most importantly, the 4-tennents of TJ Maxx that every fake-rich person strives towards: LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE and INDULGE must be displayed prominently in random places throughout the faux-chateau. In addition, it’s necessary for the kitchen to be equipped with those strange jars of pickled olives and peppers…for decoration? Also–replace silver with gold where ever possible, yes, this means your toilet paper roller.

It’s no wonder the Yankee Candle company is still rakin’ it in at malls across America. You bet your bottom dollar the central air circulating through these suburban castles ALWAYS smells like vanilla lemon zest cookie dough or pumpkin spice latte (and various other scents that seem to have been inspired by the menu at Starbucks.)

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up in cities my whole life so I have a biased aesthetic, but when I make my millions one thing is for certain: I will not invest in a counter-top figure of a butler who holds my bottles of wine.

 

Teresa of Real Housewives New Jersey in her Ivory Tower off the interstate.

 

True Religion jeans go great with modern-gothic.

 

No comment necessary.

“Can You NOT?!” The Gym Edition.

March 22, 2012

People love to make a big deal about “etiquette,” it’s like some ancient art form that no one really practices anymore yet we feel compelled to keep it around as if to show we’re making an effort. Psh! As if anything could make a society who takes secret phone pix of fat strangers on the bus civilized.

The gym is the #1 preacher of modern day etiquette, which basically means they put up a butt load of signs. Every God damn day there’s a new one: what not to do with your cell phone, what to wipe the machine down with, how much time to spend on the treadmill when other people are waiting to use it, how NOT to spray perfume or “other scents” in the locker room, how to properly operate the water fountain. The rules of common decency are super exhausting!

As far as I’m concerned they can put up signs ’till they’re blue in the face at the YMCA, but that’s not gonna counteract some of the shenanigans that have been rocking my world lately. Trust me, they don’t make Microsoft Word Art bold enough to prevent this level of annoyance.

If I was livin’ in a McWorld, these would be my “gym etiquette” signs (hey, it could happen):

> “Please stop silently competing with the person next to you on the treadmill by stealing glances at her speed every 3 seconds and adjusting yours accordingly.”

> “Please do not stand on an elliptical machine you are not actively utilizing so that you can gossip with your friend, some of us are trying to get our heart-rate’s up the old fashioned way, not via tales of your lying, cheating, ex-fiance.”

> “Please refrain from entering the weight room for the sole purpose of awkwardly kissing your fiance mid-pump, there aren’t any spandex-clad asses for him to check out in there anyways!”

> “Don’t use equipment for un-intended purposes. Newsflash: peddling backwards on the elliptical for 30-minutes DOES NOTHING. Neither does holding a free-weight while bending at the side repeatedly.”

> “We are aware that some of our clients take pride in their un-tamed pubic regions, however, as a respect to your fellow members, aggressive nudity in the locker room is STRICTLY prohibited”

> “Denim and velcro shoes may not be worn in place of standard workout attire”

GET IT TOGETHER!

Online Dating: 404 Error.

March 20, 2012

OK. I’m coming clean, I’ve tried online dating. A few years ago I signed up for OKCupid for a few months, just like at one point in my life I signed up for Friendster, and myspace and Facebook and Black Planet (true story) and just about every other social site of the moment. What can I say? I live life in the fast lane…on the information super highway.

I was curious about online dating, just like I’m sure everyone is, even if they’re too proud to admit it. First off, all those people who would “NEVER” try online dating: big, fat liars. I’ve come across your profiles while browsing, awwwwkward. The truth is, a shit ton of people are on OkCupid, and not all of them are ugly!  Although, like any microcosm of the real world, there are fugs and there are creeps.

No doubt, there is a stigma behind it, but it’s tempting to think you can browse for potential boos while in your pajamas, on the couch, looking like complete shit. Find a boyfriend without ever turning off the Law and Order SVU marathon you’ve been sucked into for 4 hours! What’s the worst that could happen if you meet someone for a date? Probably score a few beers, a burrito, maybe even a bong rip if you’re lucky! We’re talking OKCupid here people, if you want barrel tastings and Kobe beef you best hoof it on over to AshleyMadison.com

If you couldn’t already tell, this post is not meant to extoll the virtues of online dating. I am not here to tell you that 1 out of 5 relationships now begin online. I am here to tell you that online dating is pretty much a farce, in fact, it’s almost as painful as real-life dating. The main difference lies in the fact that dating sites offer an endless stream of on-demand suitors, meaning you can validate yourself with a new prospect every day of the week if you want! Warning: going on multiple dates within a short period of time will lead to dating overdose. It’s sorta like a drug, and I’m seeing peeps hitting rock bottom left and right.

#1 problem with online dating: people don’t ever have to “settle.” I know your Mom told you never to settle, but this is different.

Free online dating sites are like revolving doors, since you haven’t invested money in trying to find love (and if you are shelling out the big bucks for internet dating you better be a 50+ divorcee or else, you will be judged) you most likely aren’t prepared to be invested in anyone you connect with on the site to begin with. In fact, you probably joined for the same reason I did, because you were curious! I’m pretty sure that if online dating came up in conversation you’d be the first to bash it: “my roommate signed me up as a joke, dude!” See, bad attitude already!

Just like in real life dating not everyone on these sites is on the same page when it comes to what they want, some people are genuinely “tired of kissing frogs, trying to find my prince.” By “these people” I mean women, and majority of women join these sites because they want to find boyfriends, not because they want to casually date. In fact, online dating is marketed as a way to eliminate the casual dating scene/games all together. But, wait, that could never work because you are sourcing your dates from a pool of  men online who are no different from the pool of men you come across in your everyday “offline” life, in fact, they actually are THE EXACT SAME MEN, just brought to you via their spiffy, witty, profiles online in the privacy of your home. Whoa. Meta. For the most part I’m under the impression that dudes (and some lady-beasts) sign up for free online dating because it will up the amount of free offline pussaaayyyyy, bro. Duh. What do they have to lose (aside from their virginity)?

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that free online dating sites rarely lead to relationships, they just lead to a bunch of dead-end dates that help to legitimize the end goal of hooking-up (that is, if your date even ends up looking the same in real life as he did in his pixxx) And hey, if you sleep together on the first date at least there was a date to begin with, right? And here we are again, just re-solidifiying the whole “casual hook-up, commitment-phobic” lifestyle that has been horrifying our elders for years. I’m sure Neil Clark Warren, the 77-year-old Christian Theologian who founded eHarmony would be most perturbed to discover this.

Of course, I’m sure there are some people with wholesome intentions on these sites, but this just opens up an entirely different can of worms. The date may have gone well, this guy/gal could really be THE ONE, but what’s to say either party can’t (and won’t) go home that very same night and tempt the fates by pulling the slot machine handle again? You might come up with with a better hand, after all, thousands more eligible singles are signing up every hour! So why settle for the nice dude you just had a nice date with? For all you know, the OkCupid algorithm has your TRUE prince charming just waiting in the digital wings! It’s just too easy!

The moral of the story is: fate doesn’t translate online. Why don’t you try it the old fashioned way and meet someone through your friends…IRL. (That’s internet slang for “In Real Life.”)

Here is the founder of eHarmony and his wife. How does this man even know how the internet works?!