August 2006

Monthly Archive

We’d actually joked about it in the past, how one of us would end up living there somehow because there really wasn’t any other way… My mind may have rolled the thought around a little more than rationality should allow but in the end Patrick said I wasn’t allowed to use the shower at the apartment nearby and people already seem to have enough trouble liking me without my wandering around with a week’s worth of accumulated filth to deal with. In the end Mikey took the office with no windows and water and I stayed with my parents. Cable lived in the loft for a little while but now he’s gone and Bret’s got some sort of dog-bed looking set-up and GiGi’s got a pillow under the VCR.

It’s closing down, well it’s closed now. Last night was the world’s last opportunity to wander in on a drunken weekend bender and marvel at the twisted rebar staircase that kept Bret from sleeping or to timidly ask if we had any dildos or if we did piercings or, for a little while, if we made fake IDs…

Four years and change I occupied the dark little hovel coasting somewhere between misery and an emotionless trance. Back when I didn’t have anywhere to go I’d hang out with Amanda on Sundays when she worked and we’d watch movies and smoke cigarettes and I’d run out for tacos or coffee or whatever… Started helping out and before anyone knew what was going on she was leaving and I had a second job.

It’s a video store and it was a time when videos were giving way to DVDs and DVDs were going to start coming in the mail soon… It was a decline and now it’s done and the landlord wants rent which he’ll have to make do without. Hey, we didn’t bother you when the fucking ceiling fell in chunks, the pipes in the back corridor rained, the winter came through the roof and ran down the walls or even when you skipped town for a month without paying the garbage bill and all the apartments lined our back door with their trash. Boris and his Russian maffiosos next door at the used car dealership flooded the back with oil and water and we griped about it as we flicked cigarettes into the murk, griped about those Mission kids with their cool clothes and their hair always unable to pay those late fees but always able to go out every night and drink themselves into a good time… We grumbled and drank in our dark little hovel and chased the crazies away after they’d watched too many movies standing in the middle of the room.

I’ve got this unfortunate tendency to invest heavily in places. Being dedicated in some way to something’s not bad but I’m not working for Doctors Without Borders or helping the infirm or the impoverished or the maligned. There was always more

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of a need to sit up till midnight pricing down videos and figuring out what to sell off than to get a band together or write a story or make friends.

When you spend so much time somewhere I guess you get attatched to it and you get attatched to the people who filter through. You look back at it and you see goods and bads and a lot of in between. Leaving was a hard thing to do, which is strange when you’ve pretty much scraped the bottom your choices are jumping ship or going back to drinking pints of gin all day and being reviled as a bastard. I left and it was liberating. I’ve been back to try and help clean up fifteen years of destruction and I feel strangely attatched.

Lots of life:

Bandaged a woman’s hands together when she wandered in one night, wet with rain. She said a spider had bitten her and the clinic was closed and the gauze was soaked. Her fingers were three times their size, the skin peeling off the bone and we had scotch tape and toilet paper. She came back in a cheap poncho with a yellow wig and tried to give me speakers which I turned away. She came back a week later and I took the record player she offered– I didn’t want it but I didn’t want her to feel bad.

Cops a couple of times. One guy writhing on the ground screaming, knocking things over, crying about insulin. It’s the only reason I called the paramedics but they heard him over the phone and the cops showed. They wouldn’t come pick up a guy who looked strung out, mumbling, delusional who asked me to have them come pick him up… I closed the store down and walked him to the cop shop the block down, smoked a cigarette with him and left him at the door of the station.

Frog and Andrew had an art opening for their window display. DJ behind the counter and a marching band played all night out front while the creme de la creme of the art-damaged kids swilled cheap wine and videotaped things. Regular customers avoided it like the plague but where else could you just have an evening hwoever you want an evening to be? Much better than when I sat watching Buzzcocks videos until four in the morning while some girl hung her puppets; she showed up hours late and was I supposed to chase her away with all these puppets?

I know a lot of people through the place and people still recognize me which invokes an automatic apology. People could always find me if they were looking for me and it’s nice to have a job where you can sit and drink and smoke cigarettes and hang out all night. Met three girls I ended up going out with, to varying degrees of success. One’s dead now, one won’t allow me to exist and one lives in Hollywood and always says she’s been meaning to call. Not many jobs afford you the opportunity to get to know, court, hang out and end up with a girl. Try that waiting tables or doing data entry. Met friends there, important ones and nice people and fuck ups and a couple of dead ones. A little cesspool of humanity standing still against time– the last little outpost was what the Mission was in 1990 crumbling in the bright lights of expensive restaurants and bars, new cars and crowds. I was always a little proud of the decay and the grit and how much it stood out in the end. Like I was of my parents house for all the years it looked like a crack house as the neighborhood grew around it, houses got painted, people dressed nicer, needles disappeared from the sidewalk.

And Bret. I started yesterday off listening to a J Church song about a priest who lost faith and is leaving the church. Bret’s existence as it has been for years has come to an end and we all stood inside the store looking around, polite conversation, moving shelves around a little; the only thing missing was the corpse in the other room and a table full of finger sandwiches. It’s hitting him hard and I’m not sure what I can do except make sure he makes it to a place he can crash before he crashes in the middle of the street. It’s hitting him hard now. He’s said he’s moving to New Orleans where his brother lives.

And in a couple of years Leather Tongue will be some boutique, the kind of place we all mocked. The flyers will be gone, it’ll get painted, the grafitti will be removed. You’ll walk inside and you won’t see your breath in the winter, you won’t choke of stale cigarette smoke and dust, you won’t stab yourself on nails and the person behind the counter won’t have a pint of gin or a 40oz embarassed on counter just out of sight. It won’t make a fucking difference, you’ll forget all about it, it’ll mean nothing to you. Most of the world doesn’t care and why should it?Â

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Depending on the films selected by whatever computer program or malicious human the airlines employ, an inflight movie experience can really help a flight speed by (King Kong and various Hugh Jackman vehicles being about top shelf). On a bad day, it’s like thumbscrews on top of the rack. I spent 12 hours about two and one-half feet away from a video screen. After this Clockwork Orange flight, I’m actually unable to think or write about anything else but what was giving me a headache on the plane.

She’s the Man
GodfuckIt’s as stupid as the title, poster, and previews have likely led you to believe. A friend described his impressions of the film gleaned from the poster thusly: “Slapstick, gay jokes, credits.”

The film claims to be based on Twelfth Night by Shakespeare. The shipwreck thing has been replaced by a preachy-p.c.-gender-soccer subplot and in a clever conceit the entire film functions as a train wreck. Also omitted were the witty dialog and masterful suspension of disbelief.

The doughy faced Amanda Bynes unnecessarily mugs her way through 105 minutes of celluloid–a baffling running time, with 90 minutes or less being the rule of thumb for movies this disinterested and cash hungry.

David Cross is hilarious as the principal of the school where all of this impossible bullshit takes place. He manages to do this by pretending he’s the only one in the scene, by my reckoning.

Movie fans will be sad to hear that the kinetic, intimidating soccer guy from Lock, Stock and Two

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There is a lot of yelling and music cues, and as predicted the film kind of sticks it to the gays–a somewhat baffling development considering that the source material explores a metaphysical view of gender and sexuality that was later to be aped, er, adopted by Virginia Woolf. Imagine if Shakespeare had a sister. Would this sister have been able to run away to London to drink and write plays? Apparently, if she faked a southern accent for no reason at all and taped her tits down, yes.

The Office: An American Workplace
It was ok.

16 Blocks
I spent most of the movie wondering how such ugly blackface comedy stylings made it past the studio suits in this age of tolerance, and was astounded when the credits rolled to learn I had been watching a real black man. Mos Def (referred to by everybody the whole movie as “The Kid”) sho ’nuff is happy when he’s working in this film. Damn it, he’s a simple man who wants to bake and decorate cakes while reforming crooked cops.

Nothing against Mos Def, as he actually does all right, considering what he’s working with. Bruce Willis is pretty good as well, as a drunk cop who’s so drunk, you wonder how he finds the time to get drunk. Transporting Mos Def the titular 16 blocks from his holding cell to the courthouse proves to be as difficult as not drinking. Things kick off when Bruce Willis stops mid-route to buy a bottle of twist-cap red wine which he starts drinking in the liquor store against the protests of the proprietors. This interval is all the bad guys need to start shooting at Lawdy Lawdy! Mos Def.

Then the cops also turn out to be bad guys and familiar faces slip into familiar roles. Bruce Willis winces in the movie. I think he’s always wincing, actually. He has a bad leg. And then he gets shot in the hand, which leads to more wincing. Mos Def at one point comments that he never smiles.

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This is not surprising, because the movie is never, ever funny–a bad choice given that it doesn’t deliver the sublimation promised by drama.

There is one twist, followed by a turn, and then later everything sorts itself out about twenty minutes after I stopped caring. A Barry White song plays during the credits, so don’t leave early!

Pride & Prejudice
This latest incarnation is worth watching for the scene where Dame Judi Dench royally bitches out the famously A-cupped Keira Knightley, who should really gain ten pounds and be shoved out of the pictures. One gets the sense she doesn’t understand her lines or give a shit. All she can do is crinkle her eyes and fake a warm smile, as well as occasionally get haughty in that by rote manner that’s sort of killed this type of film. Buh buh BUH BUH buh buh buh. BUUH Buh buh buh. Buuuh BUH! *Door slams*

Donald Sutherland seems to get more charming with age, and is well-placed as a kindly uncle. He presides over countrified dance hall gaiety that always feels forced.

Other than that it was too boring to watch, with audience members of all demographics dropping like flies. It was sooo boring. At one point Mr. Darcy was talking to Mr. Bingley out on the moors and I was like, “What the fuck could possibly still be happening in this movie?”

RV
Mercifully not screened despite being scheduled.

Add to this a 24-hour layover at SFO courtesy of the TSA and transatlantic alarmists and maybe terrorists at some point as well and I am hangdog. Maybe you should watch Jackie Brown tonight. Really, think about it.

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Berkeley in the SixtiesThough the title of Berkeley in the Sixties leaves little to the imagination, the documentary itself inspired me enough to write a post about it. The virtues and agendas of student protests on the UC Berkeley campus are debatable – I’m not really sure where I stand on them – but it was nonetheless moving to watch a police car stalled by a bunch of top-heavy utopians in the Cal quad.

As part of the ‘whatever’ generation – a label I derive from the elegant and ubiquitous catch-all that is completely malleable to context and interpretation – it was, and is, difficult for me to take a passionate stand against anything. Perhaps a comfortable suburban upbringing spent lampooning any sort of public message, be it a commercial or a class assembly, honed my criticism while leaving my powers of belief atrophying in the locker room.

At some point it became cool to opt-out. To act was to be vulnerable; to be the criticized instead of the critic. The multitudes caught on and soon it was socially precarious to voice an endorsement of some not-yet-vetted trope. I’d like to think that appendage is purely vestigial, but I get the impression many people my age still rely on it.

If we all lived in the sixties now, many of my friends would be up on the steps of city hall giving fascism what for. Perhaps even me. Are our lives today simply better then they were for kids our age back then? Was more at stake? Do we think protest is ineffectual?

Not only do civil disobedience and street protests seem too one-dimensional for very fractured issues, it’s not clear what all the quasi-revolutions by students in the 60s accomplished. In many cases it seems to have sent people back to the drawing board as to how power is checked and what democracy should be. Or, in our case, we grew up at the drawing board and haven’t seen a plan good enough to spur us into action.

And so I pose these questions: Is there anything we can do now to directly oppose that which oppresses and kills? Are we forever mired in arguing over the definition of those words to put an end to them? What kind of person would it take to fill this vacuum of leadership and convince you to participate?

I think the tactics of the past are antiquated and too easily marginalized, not just by the media, but by our own cognitive dissidence. We need to engineer a better technology of protest that isn’t just a series of coups, that doesn’t just transfer power, but spreads it evenly. I think most people would agree that it should be very difficult for anyone to grab as much power as Bush has, politics aside. We need something simple enough for people to understand and believe in, but also versatile enough to assuage complex reservations.

What will it take for me to put you into this protest today?

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On a good morning my ritual of coffee and a cigarette on the roof is shared by a raven or pigeon; in lieu of direct company I’m fond of watching flocks navigate the winds… Suppose you could say I’m a casual bird watcher… Outside of work little blackbirds and sparrows provide a safe alternative to establishing eye-contact with Upper Haight denizens which is nice because my neck gets cramped if I have to stare at my shoes too long… The birds of Upper Haight tend to be a desperate variety, similar to the homeless (casual or habitual), kids, hippies and weirdos… Spent half a cigarette watching a small group of blackbirds squabble and peck over one of the free dog bisquits we offer patrons who drag their over-weight pooches through the aisles… An aged and apparantly unimpressed mutt slobbered and gummed a doggie-bone outside before abandoning it to the sidewalk and the blackbirds soon

descended on this sumptuous feast… The bisquit is as big as any of the birds and could have provided for all involved in the little riot but for reasons locked within their primal make-up the birds concentrated more on chasing each other away with pipping noises and sharp pecks than sharing… I left them to it confident that soon a dog would amble by and remove this bisquit leaving the birds to peck and argue over their usual meals of cigarette butts and carelessly discarded gum… More striking was an inter-genus altercation between a large flock of blackbirds and a pigeon… I missed what started it but watched as the pigeon was overpowered by sheer numbers, pecked at in mid-flight and harried until forced with a violent thud to the street… The pigeon gathered its bearings after the blackbirds took to the skies and made a mighty leap directly into the grill of a fast approaching bus with an even more violent and audible thud and accompanied by the groans of all watching from the sidewalk… I know it’s nothing comprable to what ducks do in the Netherlands but it’s a far cry from the peaceful, mixed-race morning trash and crumb noshing of birds on Valencia Street monday morning while I made my way to meet a surgeon at St. Lukes… The birds were calming– not sure if I was having my face slit open in twenty minutes or just talking about it… The waiting room was a small chamber full of uncomfortable furniture which must be why they couldn’t fit a water cooler or a clock inside… I had to ask the receptionist for a key to use the bathroom in the hall and had to keep my stomach from churning acid up into my throat with antacids while I squirmed in my seat waiting… There was a woman who had an appointment before me sitting there as well but the doctor didn’t seem to be in any hurry… After another three people had found their was into the room which already had no room for a water cooler or clock he decided to show up… The woman ahead of me was let in the back; I listened for any signs of screaming… After her very brief visit with no screaming she emerged with a complete lack of lacerations… I bumbled my way into the back room wishing I had borrowed the bathroom key again prior to the call-up… The surgeon suggested that, based on my referral, it seemed I could show better than describe my problem which involved my finger pointing to my face… Oh, no, you’re gonna need plastics… This doesn’t mean I’ll require plastic sugery (and it certainly doesn’t mean you can pay using a credit card because I tried that after I borrowed the bathroom key) but it does mean I need someone good with the implants and the skin grafts to remove my grossness without adding to my disfigurement… The surgeon said he couldn’t do it without leaving (pause) more scars… Great! I woke up at seven… He had the receptionist look up a doctor in the same medical group while I used the bathroom inside the office which required no borrowing of key and handed me a business card with lots of writing all over it… So about my ten bucks? Because it’s cash/check only I had broken a $20 getting change from the woman’s five and ones she’d used to pay… The people who’d come in after me had somehow managed to leave the manila envelope functioning as a cash register devoid of anyway to easily repay my copay… The surgeon said he’d take care of it and pulled out a money clip… Leafing through– Oh wait, I can’t, I only have thousands… I looked at his money clip and, yes, that’s not gonna work… I offered to break a $20 if he had one and after digging he found a lonely bill which he held out… Meanwhile I’m holding a wallet, business card, receipt for my co-pay, backpack and jacket and seem a little unable to dig the ten bucks out of the wallet right this second… He waits, I wait, no help there… I grab the $20 out of his hand with my pinkie and hand him the receipt for payment with my forefinger and thumb and his world stops… He’s staring at me, flabbergasted and his eyes scream where’s my ten dollars?!? With my recently liberated thumb and forefinger I dig the five and ones out and hand them over… We’ve made amends, we’re all friends, thanks for everything… I walk home back along Valencia but fail to notice the birds having breakfast– maybe they’ve moved on with their days and it’s offices and

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school and whatever it is they do… Buy a dozen eggs at the ripoff store across the street from my house and as I’m crossing I step over a chunky red smear partitioned by tire-treads… Cock my head a little and there’s the rest of the pigeon looking a little worse for wear…. I go inside and make breakfast before calling the plastic surgeon to make an appointment… Q&D Chinese Center- SFPL-3rd Floor MAIN391

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Go on, throw it...I’m rarely incited to genuine anger over media biases, at least not the kind that everyone in the media seems to think I should be upset about. Here’s a good example of the kind of bias that actually bothers me.

So, this mom basically can’t take a joke, goes apeshit over her fucked up cars – all in the name of being a rolemodel for her kids – and now some douchey high schoolers are facing felony vandalism charges. The subtext of this article is that this mom’s a hero, and oh my, isn’t it great that Mrs. Housewife took matters into her own hands and found those obviously evil adolescents. By the end of the article, we’re supposed to be jumping up from our seats calling for the blood of these little assholes.

Whoever has TP’d someone’s house in high school raise your hand. Wasn’t

it great? I’m not going to sit here and bemoan the end of a Golden Age of toothless suburban vandalism, but things have taken a turn for the worse.

First, I know this is on par for the immovable ‘slice of life’ category of articles. It will always be around as long as there’s war and suffering to make us look for something a bit lighter from our daily news. This is not necessarily a bad thing.

What really totums my scrotum is the celebration of a vengeful property owner amidst a dirth of publicized civic activism. Where’s the story about a mom investigating where all the money went that used to go to her kids’ music and art programs at school? Is it going towards a media blitz during her kids’ cartoons trying to preen them for future military service? I guess not, since all the recent cuts for student loans won’t really leave them much of a choice. Or whatever the parallel would be for this news turd. (This one’s just for fun)

I know, even I’m bored at the idea of reading that story. But there’s got to be a better way. The pleasure of reading the original article is the American Beauty syndrome, where the routine of not having much to worry about is broken by someone breaking their mold and people feel empowered to do something that’s not expected of them. The image of a regular old mom, or any denizen of normalization, going through security footage at her local grocery store is just too seductive to bear.

This is activist journalism for the economically wronged. It’s condoning vigilanteism as long as a quantifyable crime has been executed against your estate. Most papers try to adopt the neutrality of silence on most boringly relevant issues facing their community, taking a pro-economy stance on everything else. When a civic issue is raised, no matter what the angle, they’re immediately condemned for taking sides.

I think it’s sad that the mom took things to the police and pressed charges. Finding out who the culprits were is one thing, calling for the heads of kids from your community is another. I think these things are possible because no one really thinks of it as a community. Suburbia’s adopted the facelessness of big cities without the excuse of social overload. People are pulling back from the terror of uncontrolled interactions, building castles on the hill, and releasing the boiling oil on anyone who knocks on the door. Meanwhile the anger of isolation just builds and builds, waiting for that first fateful roll of butt-rag to be lobbed through the bare branches of their favorite tree.

Let’s all just get to know our neighbors and try to calm down a little.

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