Tuesday, May 29, 2007

baby, let me find your obscure seven inch

Sometimes when I go to the city now, I feel like a tourist. I think, "That used to be my city and now I'm just one step away from a German doofus with a fannypack and shorts shorts."

Like last week, when I went to the Haight for some record shopping. I was dying to find a copy of Doug Clark & the Hot Nuts' version of "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box." They always play it at Saturday Soul Night at the Elbo Room, and it's a hilarious, raunchy rocking song (it was also featured in John Waters' A Dirty Shame). I figured if anyone would have it on vinyl, it would be Rooky's Records. Same with Vaughn Mason's Roller Boogie classic "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll," KC & the Sunshine Band's "Boogie Shoes," and, um, Ace Frehley's "New York Groove." (Can you tell I've been hanging out with Roscoe 2000 when he's DJing?)

But not only did they not have any of them, but the very knowledgeable clerk had never even heard of the first two. Heresy! That said, he was probably the nicest record store clerk ever -- I know, I know, that's not really saying a lot, but this guy was like the Mother Theresa of record store clerks. Not to me, exactly, but when dealing with the French dude who was actually buying records. The longer the French guy stayed, the more the clerk offered him. "Are you ready?" he'd ask, and the guy would make no inclination towards leaving, so he'd offer him a free button, a free sticker, and eventually even a free bottle of water. Maybe after I left he offered him the whole store.

I decided to go up to Recycled Records on Upper Haight, because Roscoe swears by them. And that's when I saw that the Lower Haight, my Lower Haight, had changed. Just like the Western Addition, which is now called NOPA by all the finest real estate agents, the LowHate has gotten a serious spit-shine. For one, that futon store off Fillmore has finally, really, truly gone out of business, after about 10 years of going out of business. And in it's place? A superfancy Thai Restaurant, with slanty beams and mood lighting and huge windows -- the kind that no one ever dared put in around there, in case a gangsta or anarchist decided to offer up his brick. RNM is kind of fancy, but they figured out how to be Lower Haight and chic -- you make it look ugly on the outside and don't let people see inside, and you serve fancy White Castle-style burgers.

Next to the Thai place is a boutique that looks like it belongs on Upper Haight. Because it's really roomy and elegant with more moody lighting, whereas the boots down here usually are funky and cool without trying so hard to be exclusive.

Further down the street, An Baudrain or whatever it was called is now Danny Coyle's. Trading Irish bar for Irish bar is good, I guess, and Jake swears by this place. Nearby, though, is Haight Street Dentistry. I mean, come on, what's next? Junkie Daycare?

In another attempt at branding, all the street poles have Lower Haight signs on them, with individual paintings. Some are pretty cool in an Upper Playground-meets-XLR8R hoodie sort of way, but others feature lame-ass bird doodles.

The most disturbing sign of "urban renewal" (aka the rich, white hordes descending), however, was the sign announcing the city's desire to install "safety cameras" on the street corners.

Oh yeah, and Kingfoot Subs has a new, "totally extreme" looking sign. Jeez.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

love is a mixed up tape

I just finished Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, the head CD reviewer for Rolling Stone. I was a bit suspicious of the book -- it sounded like a typical music writer pitch, the kind I can spot because I've been guilty of them myself, the kind where you say, "hey I've got a great idea for a book" before you have really thought out the idea, because you basically need the money. But the book was way better than expected.

It's about being a big old music nerd and finding true love. It's not always easy for big music nerds to find love, or even to talk to girls at all. So this guy was super lucky, especially because the woman he met was quirky and fun and the kind of Southern gal who knocked Irishmen on their asses when they went on vacation because she had a real ass. (The implication being that Irish ladies do not. I did not know this.)

But the book is also about how his wife dies suddenly and inexplicably -- I'm not spoiling anything, it's right there in the first chapter -- and he has to figure out how to go on. If the stuff about his relationship is inspiring, the stuff about coping with her death is heartbreaking. Check this graf out: "It's the same with people who say, 'Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Even people who say this must realize that the exact opposite is true. What doesn't kill you maims you, cripples you, leaves you weak, makes you whiny and full of yourself at the same time. The more pain, the more pompous you get. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you incredibly annoying."

He's a pretty funny writer, whether talking about how often he'd like to experience both Christmas and "Hey Jude" ("every five years, at one-third the length"), the horrific '90s pop that he loves (Tom Cochrane's "Life Is a Highway"???) or the different kind of mixtapes there are ("We're Doing It? Awesome!" being one).

But mostly, it was nice to read a book about someone I could relate to (he loved Pavement and Big Star) who was really in love with his wife and whose relationship seemed quirky, crazy, and wild fun. Plus, he was articulate about being terrified that he would fuck it up. "When everything sucked and I was by myself, I thought, Well, at least I don't have another miserable person to worry about. I figured if you give up your private place and it still turns out to be lonely, you're just screwed."

The only thing that I didn't like is that it didn't come with a mixtape. To paraphrase Dazed and Confused's Wooderson, it'd be a hell of a lot cooler if it did.

Friday, May 18, 2007

me, miranda, and lots of people i don't know

Every once in a while, the right person gets famous. Like Dave Eggers. Or Beth Lisick. Or Nick Hornby. These are people who you feel speak directly to -- and for -- you, like they were one of your own friends, even though they aren't (unless you're Ajax, in which case they are, or at least Beth is).

Miranda July is one of these people, at least for me. I'm sure there are plenty of people who absolutely hated "Me, You, and Everyone We Know," but I walked out of that movie so happy to be alive. She's just quirky and funny and thoughtful, a little bit sad maybe, and so very creative. She reminds me a lot of Ryan.

Anyway, she was reading this week at Modern Times from her new book of stories, No One Belongs Here More than You. The store is a decently sized, except that there were something like 400 people there to see her. It was hella hot, so hot that I could feel the sweat beads snake their way down my back. So crowded that she had to go up on the ledge above the books to read. Here she is, right next to a massive sign reading "Hella Gay." I bet a lot of ladies were wishing it were true.

Apparently, it was pretty dusty up there, and then they turned the fan on her to help with the hotness, and it blew a ton of gunk onto her. Can you imagine getting up in front of 400 people (including your mom and brother) in your cute little 60s outfit and then getting sprayed with muck? The whole audience gasped.

But then she told us about a game she played with her brother as a kid when they would get dragged to boring readings. They would pick out words from bookshelves and try to make sentences with them. Like one would say, "Third shelf, fourth book from the right, third word in title, added to sixth shelf, first book, second word" and it would spell something out. She said they did it at home too, and they were always trying to use the book "The Golden Ass."

See if you can spot me here.

She read three stories, each of them quirky and funny and a little disturbing. Here's an excerpt from "The Man on the Stairs":

"Generally, people don't like each other very much. And that goes for friends too. Sometimes I lay in bed trying to decide which of my friends I really care about and I always come to the same conclusion: None of them. I thought these were just my starter friends and the real ones would come along later. But no. These are my real friends."

I used to feel like this, back in the early '90s. Now I look back and think, "Who were those people?" They were indeed my starter friends.

Anyway, after the reading, she answered a bunch of questions, including one about her "creative process" which I felt was very appropriate. She said something to the effect of "I'm like everyone else: one day I say I'm going to work before reading my email, give myself a little reward for working, and it goes really well, so I do it the next day and then it's bad so I throw out that method and start all over again."

I didn't buy her book, because it was just too crowded. I'll buy one later, I promise. But by not doing so, I missed out on the chance to say I know her friend Yuri, or say I know the guy who inspired the creepy dude writing messages to the little girls in her movie, or say I interviewed her for Kitchen Sink during the SFIFF a couple years ago and I felt embarrassed that my shirt was unbuttoned during our talk and also that the piece never ran, or say that I had invited a woman on a date to the reading because I thought it would be the perfect place for a suitably awkward, possibly exciting first date but that she couldn't make it because she was feeding people who had AIDS.

As I looked around the room, I was kind of in awe of the crowd. It was like that Monster Art Drawing event, where pretty much every woman there was cute, quirky, and hip. I wished Miranda would do what Dave Eggers did after one reading, and take everyone out for a beer so they could mingle.

But she didn't. So I went home and watched the series finale of the Gilmore Girls.

How embarrassing is that?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Caves of poop

Last night, this guy was being a dick at the bar. Loud, drunk, obnoxious, full of himself. After playing in the first band, he came up to the bar and demanded two napkins to put on his beers, so he and his girlfriend could go out and smoke. Then he placed the beers directly in front of me and the well, so that if I had to serve a customer I would have to reach around them. I asked him if he wouldn't mind moving them off to the side.

"Oh," he said, "I'd hate to get in the way of the busy bar."

The bar, as you might've guessed, wasn't that busy.

If he wasn't such a dick, I would've held my tongue. It's tough getting people out during festival season, when there are 40 million bands to see. But, no.

"Are you in the first band?" I asked.


"Well, I guess then it's kind of your fault, isn't it, that the bar isn't so busy?"

"I'm not the headliner," he sputtered. Wow, so you didn't bother to bring any folks out to the show because you're not playing last? Or second or third? "When I headlined here, we sold the place out. With the Monolith."

And then it all clicked. I was there for that show too, several years ago. And the guy had been a super dick then, too. How did I remember? Because he'd been just as loud and drunk and stupid then, until he'd found out I wrote for the Weekly, and then he'd been very apologetic.

Needless to say, Cameron didn't invite him to the pants-off dance-off.

Here's this week's Grumpy Guy & Sunshine strip:

Friday, May 4, 2007

One kind of sick

For the first time in two weeks, I woke up today feeling better this morning. Not great, but better. Then I rode my bike to get OJ and drop off a Netflix, and now I feel dizzy and exhausted again. Whatever this illness is, it blows. I've got the mucous-y tissues to prove it.

On Wednesday, I decided to quarantine myself, so I've spent the last three days inside, only leaving to get provisions like chicken soup and the mail. I've watched about 14 episodes of the Office (did you know that Karen's parents are Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton (Mod Squad, Twin Peaks)? That's some hot shit genes) and two movies and finished one book and started another. I missed out on the Elvis Costello concert, Kathleen and Kristina's African Food Safari, the Warriors clinching victory, and several Film Fest movies I'd bought tickets for. I'd be going stir crazy if I had the energy for it.

In the process of writing a preview for the Elvis show, I made a playlist of my favorite tunes of his. It's 45 songs long. I realized that I know all the words to My Aim Is True and Blood and Chocolates. It's funny, but when that latter record came out when I was a freshman in college, I really understood and appreciated it. The weird thing is that it's sooo mean-spirited and bitter, and I was this naïve 18-year-old-kid who'd only been in one relationship, a relationship that I'd ended myself. So why exactly did I so fully understand Elvis' misery and bitterness?

Anyhoo, here's my top 5 Elvis Costello songs at this moment:

1. "Radio, Radio" from This Year's Model
2. "Pads, Paws, and Claws," from Spike
3. "Pay It Back," from My Aim Is True
4. "Blue Chair," from Blood & Chocolate
5. "Getting Mighty Crowded," from Get Happy

Hopefully, I will have the energy to spin discs at tomorrow's Three Kinds of Stupid party. It's at Olive, and Brent made this flyer especially for it. See how multi-talented the Stupids are?

Here's part two of the latest GG&S saga. By the way, you can make the cartoons bigger by clicking on them.