Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hammer Time!

Adam and I went to the Giants Yankee game on Sunday. We had great seats and we won! As we left, Adam goes, "I think MC Hammer just walked by." I saw a guy in a white shirt and silver cross around his neck. He was surrounded by a family type posse. I walked up to one of them (not one to miss a celebrity sighting) and said, "Excuse me, I feel like I know (pointed at Hammer) somehow." The guy who is holding a baby said, "That's my Dad."

Adam insisted he was 100% sure it was Hammer. After that, Hammer said, "Yeah. You probably right. You probably right." Then he turned to pose with me for the picture. As Adam snapped the flash, I could hear people all around me saying, "HAMMER! I knew it was you, man!"

I felt bad for outing him, but thought you should know: "Can't Touch This!" is a myth.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Little Blue Saab, Baby U're Much 2 Fast

Last night we went to my old neighborhood in Russian Hill. The Red Devil Lounge is a two level bar that plays rock concerts for usually formerly known rock stars, or musicians you're just as likely to see on Celebrity Fit Club. Since I know the city best, I directed Leanne up through the Tenderloin, past Nob Hill to Polk Street. After a couple of blocks, Leanne wanted to park the car in a garage. She has self-admitted "parallel parking" issues. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a parallel parking master. That's what living in San Francisco, navigating your parking brake on a hill while rolling into the parked car beneath you will do.

I also believe in parking karma. I call it Parkma. I was feeling the parkma last night, so Leanne and I Chinese-firedrilled it so that I could get us a parking spot. About four blocks later, just past the parking garage, a wide open space. And the parking? I should offer parallel parking lessons to teenagers.

We ate some decent Pad Thai and some kinda scary Curry Chicken at a restaurant I hadn't seen before. (Thai Spice?) Anyhow, it wasn't as good as Lemongrass, but we would have had to walk six blocks, and I was vetoed by the Leanne's. (Leanne's friend Leanne was with us...) We stopped off at the Red Devil Lounge and saw Pop Rocks, a cover band that was dressed in country outfits with large foam cowboy hats. This getup was misleading, because Pop Rocks plays covers from the 80's and 90's. We got a prime spot on the top level, which was great, except it's sort of isolated (and the floor shakes, which is a little scary).

Two drinks in, we were rocking out with the rest of the crowd. The lead singer often let the audience sing entire sections of songs. As previously mentioned in other posts...I have and even worst voice than American Idol's WIlliam Hung. But, surrounded by other enthusiastic bad singers, I fit right in. You haven't really lived until you've seen (and heard) and entire concert crowd rock out to Journey. Guys were air guitaring and then air guitaring each other's air guitars. These people were seriously into it. Even the air guitaring dude (Tiger Claw) made an appearance. He was wearing an Incredible Hulk shirt, a terrifying version of just the Hulk's eyes, teeth and clenched fists. You know how I feel about the Hulk...

While I lived in New York, my friend and I went to a karaoke bar. I really hate karaoke--doing it, hearing it, watching the karaoke "professionals." I got the bright idea that we should sing "Little Red Corvette" by Prince. We did. It was awful, or better known as "let's go outside for a cigarette" time for the regulars. This isn't the first time this happened to me. When I was 22, I went on a cruise to Alaska with my sister and my mother. I signed my sister and I up for "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." We evacuated an entire room, leaving my mother sitting there clapping enthusiastically. "That's a really tough song," she would tell us as the DJ took out his foam earplugs. That Cyndi Lauper is no joke. The year previously, in college, my roommate Amy and I sang "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch." We were too drunk to understand how bad we were...We actually thought we were the stuff of legends until we realized that the DJ had turned off our mics.

So public singing is not my thing. But screaming cheesy 80's music with other karaokaphobs, apparently is. I sang Little Red Corvette, realizing that "Little Blue Saab" doesn't have the same ring to it. But since everyone was tone deaf with the sound of their own voices, I improvized.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Countdown to Iowa City

I'll be writing/studying in Iowa City again this summer. Tonight I was looking at some old manuscripts and seeing how transformed they are from last year this time. It's hard to recognize the progress of something until you look at it on paper.

My classes are geared toward short story craft instead of novel, like the one I took spring semester at Stanford. Short stories tend to come easily to me, and if I can find time, I am inspired to write a couple of new stories to have workshopped for class in Iowa City. Writing short fiction is a very specific exercise which develops (for me) the writing muscle by reminding me about timing, minimalism, and plot. Surprisingly, I have developed more as a writer because of my advertising experience as a copywriter. Every project becomes an exercise into distilling a product into one compelling strategic message. I find when I have only seven words to say what I really want to say, I edit out the words that are not absolutely necessary and meaningful. This practice into the ecomony of words has served me as a writer.

The weather here has been unseasonably hot, and I am particularly sensitive to heat. I take cold showers and drench my head in cold water, although the only thing that seems to make me comfortable is being in the lower half of the house (my room) where it is cold. Suffering through the winter cold has it's summertime perks, but I won't be here to enjoy it since I'm leaving for Iowa in July.

Adam is flying out here in a week. He's never been to San Francisco, so I feel some pressure to show him everything--my city is so fantastic! I have come to peace with there is no way to show him everything, we will be so exhausted we wouldn't enjoy it. But there are a few key things and places no visitor should go without seeing. Namely, the annual PRIDE Parade. It's the most colorful display of gayness anyone could ever want to see, and an institution of San Francisco. That happens the morning of the Giants/Yankees game, so we'll have to start there. (Incidentally, I am told by my roommates that Giants Singles Game is also on Saturday. So they'll be in the singles bleachers while I'm in Right/Centerfield catching Barry Bonds #756.)

If you live in San Francisco, you should post your favorite place to go in the city. You can post anonymously, so no one has to know that you're really into doggie fashion shows in Nob Hill, or transvestite BINGO (called ba da bingo! not that I would know) in the Castro.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Your Fears are Probably Just as Fictional as Mine

Today Leanne and I took the convertible over the Golden Gate Bridge to San Rafael. We went to an Italian Street Painting Festival. In Italy, I recall the chalk art as large, 3D, unearthly creations by hunched over Italians, only looking up to yell for an espresso. Because that's how they roll in Florence.

I don't know what I expected to see when I sipped on my Italian beer and watched pretentious artists walk around with black chalk on their faces like they were taking on an Ash Wednesday mass-going maration. But I will tell you what I did not expect to see: a snake. A real, live, fat, snarly-eyed snake! Noooo sireeee.

It's a running joke among friends (and legend among the San Francisco comedy scene) that the only thing that scares me more than snakes, is the Incredible Hulk. Yes, the fully fictional, sometimes animated action "hero." This very deep and real fear of the Hulk made me cringe at bus advertisements and billboards that lorded over my apartment in the city. And just when I'd thought that he'd gone away since the torturous four-year season in the late seventies, he reappeared some twenty five years later bigger and weirder than ever.

In 1978, when The Incredible Hulk television series aired, I was barely four years old, and just starting pre-school. Looking back, this was probably the age where I started to negotiate what feelings were to other people on a basic level (smile=happy, crying=sad, etc). I lived one of the most northern parts of Washington State, and because cable pretty much didn't exist in certain areas, we got only Canadian channels. This means, depending which way the tinfoil bent, we got all the crappy Canadian networks (CBC) and commercials (Zed's, anyone?). Since I grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time with my sister, we didn't really spend much time with the television, so my imagination filled in the gaps for much of what I could not understand. I assumed that everything around me was real: plants, animals, parents. So for television to tell me that a man could turn into the hulk because he was exposed to too much sun and scientist chemicals, did not compute.

It was also during this time that my father worked at a cement plant. It was a scary, dirty place with punched out windows that filtered shifts of men with grey lunchboxes through a side door. Smoke churned out the top, and industrial sounds reverberated from it's shaky sides. My Dad worked really hard there as a welder. He showed us big fire pit ovens of spitting sparks as he approached with his shovel and welders mask. He wore white t-shirts under a dark blue uniform covered in soot. It was a factory for nearly heroic people who could manage something as fluid as fire. That's what I thought then.

When the Hulk aired, I could only absorb what I saw: a man in a lab mixing things, getting struck by "rays" and becoming superpowerful when he became angry. The Hulk wore white t-shirts like my Dad and was exposed to a lot of light, so why didn't my Dad turn into the Hulk when he got mad? This kept me up many a four-year old night. I asked my Mom, who said, "You can't believe everything you see on television." But what about the news? That was real. What about the advertisements for real stores? My Dad said, "It's just make believe." But why would they make that up? Why not make up fun stuff, instead of scary stories about widowed men who get mad and turn green? Did all men have these powers, or just Dad's, scientists and strong guys who wore white t-shirts? I became suspicious of men everywhere, thinking they might just have some superpower that I might not know about. I kept hanging out with my Dad, waiting for him to turn into the Hulk. Of course, that would never happen.

Fortunately, in 1982, the television show went off the air. I was already on to my next big fear--snakes. I wasn't a queamish kid, either. I had witnessed calves being born, my dog Molly have her puppies, and seen pieces of a coyote carcass that the animals had gotten to in the middle of the night. But snakes were unexpected and were cropping up whenever my guard was down. They slithered out of hay bails, or around my flip flops in the garden. They whipped themselves around the sides of the barn faster than I could move away. In the summertime, Jamie (who later became James) and I rode our bikes with salt in our pockets to sprinkle on slugs. That was one of my favorite things to do. But if I saw a snake in the road, or in the fields by the creek, forget it. I was doomed.

I realize this fear is just as unreasonable as my once fear of the Hulk. Although I would never go to see The Incredible Hulk movie, I wouldn't freak out at pictures. But snakes have this awful effect on me where I can't seem to even look at a photograph. The worst is being at a movie when they appear and saying to the person next to me, "Just tell me when it's gone." Or, if David Letterman has the animal guy on with a snake I am screwed because then I can't get to sleep.

Today at the art fair, I was standing near a wall and checking out the art, and Leanne says, "Ohmigod. Did you see that lady? She's got a snake around her neck." A million thoughts raced through my head, something of a fight or flight situation was on my hands. I could feel my body stiffen, "Where?!"

"She was over there. I don't know. She's just wandering around," Leanne said.

We were talking to a rocker guy with intellectual glasses who was telling us about a local band, and I knew that this interruption was rude. "I'm sorry, I am terrified of snakes," I said. He nodded. Right then, Snake Lady walked toward us with a shiny green snake kinked over her shoulders. I felt like all the blood was flowing through my body the opposite direction with a sudden jerk. "Oh, shit!" I said, and fell back as far as I could into the brick wall. There wasn't anywhere for me to go, and I know I must have looked a fool.

"Tell me when it's gone!" I told Leanne.

There's just no way to look cool after that. Leanne could tell I wanted to get out of there. "Let's not go that way," I said, pointing into a massive crowd.

"Because there's a certain snake there?" Leanne said.

"Yeah. That kind of freaked me out," I said, and threw my plastic beer cup in recycling.

The rocker guy looked a little shook up. "Me, too," he said. "It should be illegal to carry those things around."

Let me know when you run for office. And tell me where to sign.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Filling 50-Minute Hours Since 1992

In the Fall of 2001, shortly after 9/11, I was living, writing, and painting in a Tenderloin apartment. I paid a stupid amount of money to a landlord who had some savvy marketing skills and knew how to tell a girl like me that I was "four blocks from Macy's" in "Lower Nob Hill" and that, yes, there was a concentration of stubbly faced "women" in the area. It's another time I had a terrible case of Insomnia. When 9/11 happened and I had freshly escaped the streets of New York City, all because a random psychic chased after me on a Sunday afternoon and INSISTED that I do so. She mapped out my life in a way that creeped me out. I was admittedly niave then, and believed in every possible sign. Now I see crazy people where signs once were.

My old job was just blocks away from the World Trade Center on Exchange Place near the World Stock Exchange. I remember going to happy hours and meeting up at bars more or less underneath the World Trade Center. I remember looking up at how totally massive that building was and feeling so small. (If you only knew how big I was at the time, you would know how funny that really is.) But seriously, sometimes when I think about 9/11, I don't think about planes or terrorists or our shitty president. I see a room of loose-tied, laughing, fresh-faced men, and smiling women with manicured fingernails carrying pints of ale to overcrowded booths. I think about how, as difficult as it all was then, it was so easy and given that there was, for all of us, at the very least, gonna be a tomorrow.

Just because I am sleep deprived it is no reason to get all depressing on you, my two cherished readers. I know for a cerifiable fact that at least two of the two of you are currently in therapy, so I will not take up any of the fifty minutes in your therapy hour. I got on the 9/11 track because I was thinking about a painting I did in the fall of 2001 about insomnia for none other than Ms. Kim Cattrall of Sex and The City fame. It was a San Francisco cityscape that I called, "San Francisco: The city that never sleeps for the girl who has insomnia." Kim (with her then husband) let out this punctuated laugh. I told her that I was dating a couple of SF weirdos, and she said, "So you're the San Francisco Samantha?" I wasn't quite sure how I felt about that, but before I could have an opinion my friend Dave overheard and it was nothing but "San Francisco Samantha" jokes and CD compilations after that. If he had the money to make personalized t-shirts for the neighborhood, I'm sure he would have done it.

And you wanna know something else? Like something else totally off subject something else, ready to lose your mind something else? Well, okay then. So guess who is going to see an American Idol LIVE concert this summer? I mean, nevermind that I have tickets to a Giants/Yankees series game and that they haven't played in San Francisco since 1962, and nevermind that I have two tickets to see Feist at the Fillmore in June and there are NO tickets available. Noooo...throw all that and everything else you know and love about the entertainment business out the window. This is American Idol, and I'm gonna see Blake Lewis beatbox, and Sanjaya Malikar get his hairdo on, and LaKisha kiss Simon on the lips, and just one time I hope I see Melinda Doolittle pretend like she is a wide-eyed deer caught in headlights, "What, me? Know how to sing?" That will really crack me up!

And you really wanna know something else? okay, well. This American Idol gig is going down in Indiana. As in Indianapolis. Territory of all things Adam. The place I'll be after school in Iowa. Like a fish out of water, wondering where the palm trees grow.

Actually I hate to admit it, but I kind of caught myself smiling over my bento box lunch with a friend today. It was pretty inappropriate being as we were talking about the breakup of her eight year relationship. But I couldn't help myself: American Idols LIVE! I couldn't shake how awesome it would be if Kelli Clarkson made an appearance. And how I should really take it down a notch and get over my unnatural excitement over these no-name, mostly no-talent singers before I come off a little nuts. (Too late.)

Since I've ruined any credibility I may have had with you, my two dear readers, I may as well blow the lid off things. I secretly kind of hope one of the perks of being a California fish in Midwestern water is that I can finallly get me some Olive Garden and no one can say anything about it.