Saturday, May 31, 2008

In Your Heart, You Know He's Right

Just as Barcelona's L'Eixample has a Dreta and Esquerra (left and right) or that there's a Left and Right Bank and an Upper East Side and Upper West Side, so there are two sides of the Mission. It's hard to say if it's Mission or Valencia that is the dividing line. There's more than a couple of blocks that separates these two main arteries, but it's surely Valencia that would be the Passeig de Gracia of the Mission. You'll see outdoor dining on both streets, but on Mission it's usually people eating out of trash cans.
I wanted to venture over to 17th and Guerrero where I'd noticed earlier the great window shade (at the top of this post) of Barry Goldwater in the same flat that is campaigning to protect rent control. As LBJ said, "In your gut, you know he's a nut." Just a few doors down is the equally glorious sign for the 500 Club that is (not) open at 6:00. AM. (Pardon my journalistic training, but shouldn't that be 6 p.m.?)
All of you surely know about the famed troll altar run by Alfie at 18th and Valencia, but is the juvenile division of the Mission Police Station now trying to copy him? Or were these dolls taken from the clutches of naughty little children and are left in the window to taunt them until they shape up their acts? They certain lack Alfie's great style and creativity.

I didn't have time to linger and ponder this question since I was cutting it close for lunch at Picaro with an individual whom I can't refer to even with an alias here and am being risky just by giving out this much information. It was pleasantly foggy and cool enough to allow for perfect outdoor dining, though I faced the street and the aforementioned individual sat facing me to avoid being seen by the passing pedestrians/psychopaths.
Paying the bill and parting, I soon heard a ruckus coming up the street as this little group came marching up the street and handed me their handbill for PROUD/UNION/QUEER.
And barely a block later, I turned and saw this sign for a seance being sponsored by Gay Shame, a group I keep thinking I should get involved in but have been waiting around for Gay Avarice instead.

My visions of L'Eixample must have driven me to enter Forest Books with its nearly Zen by Oppression air of incense where I discovered a book by Catalan author Eduardo Mendoza called The City of Marvels. This book set in late 19th century L'Eixample was too hard to resist with this promotional blurb:

Young Onofre first stays at a boarding house whose permanent residents are a distingué closet transvestite, a lady fortuneteller who treats her clients to large doses of doom, a garrulous barber who also pulls teeth, and a scullery maid who protects her virginity with the aid of a ferocious cat.

My kind of book. And what else did I see. Here's a peek.

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Here's Litter in Your Eye

As if Man Babies wasn't disturbing enough, now there is Cat Ladies. When I asked Bunter if he'd like us to submit a photo, he snarled at me and said, "What next, you're gonna make me go see that G-D Sex and the City movie?" and then stormed off into the back of the JunkPlex. Millie, however, said she's game if I find the right glassed eyed woman to pose with her. Thanks again to the ever with-it Gavin Elster for bringing this to my attention.

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Kyrie Eleison

Even more obscure than poor Dory Previn, a beloved singer-songwriter from the 1970s has been calling out to me recently. Dead for nearly three decades now, Judee Sill is an ultimate test for pop snobs and freaks. On one level she's the most annoyingly sweet voiced, long-haired hippie chick that makes Joni Mitchell look like someone as crass and shallow as that Madonna creature or Cher. But she was also bisexual, a heroin addict, Jesus freak and wrote a tune covered by Cass Elliott, "Jesus Was a Cross Maker". Hers was a tale of struggle, addiction, prostitution, near death, redemption, creative flourish, a long path of sobriety, fame lurking on the horizon, and sudden tragic fall by overdose.

Hers is not the usual three act tale of VH1 Behind the Music that ends with peace and redemption, and thus not very well known. The underlying sadness in her tunes foretold her fate. Yet there is also something healing in her music at certain moments and her "The Donor" of "The Kiss" (below) call out to me with their eerie Baroque pop grandeur and simplicity in the wee hours of the night. They are the "Angel Eyes" of the granola era. I recall them calling out to me during my very early teens from a tinny table top radio in my grandmother's kitchen tuned in to an obscure campus station, the likes of which were long gone by the time of the Ford Administration. I hope I am not alone in remembering her. Rest in peace Judee as you bring me peace tonight.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

You Are Now in Junk Thief Country

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What Part of Third Do You Not Understand?


Mission Still Life - Friday Afternoon

On my way to lunch on Valencia. No, not my lunch.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Music and Meaning

We met for tea, juice and scones the way we used to meet for real drinks and fancy sampler platters at half past six in some spot looking down at Market. I drink much less now, and he drinks not at all. The dog I gave him for the holidays six years ago may be dying, and I agree to tend to it Saturday night while he's on a date.

"Provided you don't have a date," he says with the usual after-the-fact concern that is more than familiar.

He laughs with genuine amusement when I counter, "A date, at my age I'd settle for a fig."

Hasn't he heard this a thousand times before? I've lost track myself of how many time's I've offered it like a plate of circus nuts.

We saunter across the street to Virgin Megastore, and he seems genuinely concerned when I mention speculation that it may soon be out of business, the final big box retailer offering music as tangible collateral, not some abstract concept that might disappear with the passing of a giant horse shoe magnet.

Both of us mask our likely disdain for the others selections as we sort through discs. All those years ago when he appeared at my door, he expressed such interest in what he might learn from me, like Ms. Doolittle arriving for tutoring to work in a shop or Leonard Bast following one of the Schlagel sisters through the rain from the "Music and Meaning" lecture, filled with pragmatic intent to recover his umbrella now lost in a sea of others in an exquisite porcelain vase in the hallway.

We part once more, neither finding anything of interest. I saunter up the hill, compelled to buy The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, a volume that called out to me months earlier but disappeared into some obscure mental cubbyhole. I realize that he never cared about the difference between Ives and Yves Saint Laurent, and I find myself searching for why the former once meant so much to me.

Walking home in solitude, its very essence brings a faint second of despair, and then I begin humming, finding new meaning in the lyric:

Flying too high with some guy in the sky
Is my idea of nothing to do

Music, meaning and lost umbrellas make me glad to be heading home.

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When the Walls Come to Life

I've not been to Buenos Aires in at least seven years and really need to get back. It's such a simultaneously arrogant and chaotic city, two flavors that speak to me. I'm getting really addicted to the works of Blu who makes public art and murals that make the ones in the Mission look downright tepid by comparison. Blu's animation with the music of Andrea Martignoni will mess with your head in a very good way.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

All Over Tea in the Mission

Bunter and I had a couple of guests over for tea this afternoon and introduced them to Millie, the glass-eyed wonder cat, who has been a member of my family since before I was born (She's that lovely creature featured with Junk Thief in the current -- as of this posting -- profile photo).

Although everyone enjoyed the conversation, the black rose and premium Oolong offerings and plates of tiny savories, there was far more comment over our cups, such as the one featured above. I don't know its exact lineage but think it's been in the family at least as long as Millie. Although I've talked earlier today about my garden journals, I realize I've never kept tea journals, which is a shame. Perhaps I should start some retroactively. There have been tea parties under the baby grand at Aunt Louise's house in thimble size cups with all the guests in hand made hats with my famed Cousin Ginger; malaria crazed Touareg tea in Segou, Mali, in the early 1990s; high tea at the Empress with my eternally on-again-off-again ex from Newfoundland; Sunday teas with local exes at Lovejoy's in Noe Valley, the arrondissement next door, where there is often a passionate fraction of a second when our eyes lock and we both (likely) wonder why we parted and then comfortably go back to the tedium babbling about how we occupy our solitary days; and various trips through Hong Kong just to visit the Museum of Tea Ware where I've acquired a number of favorite pots and tiny cups.

But I always come back to the above, favorite cup, which I've often called the tea elf. It's always reminded me of having a tea party on the order of this scene.

As my guests departed, I could not help but think about how thinly fragile yet sturdy much of these tea cups and pots are yet will long outlive all of us and the rivers of tea that will flow forward with us into obscurity.

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Garden Variety

Is it a sign of one's impending dotage or is it the absolute verification of a full blown, now officially in advance stages dotage to keep a garden journal? I've kept a life journal since I was age nine with never more than a three week gap in entries. There are also travel journals, gym journals, house journals, spiritual journals, and journals on...oh, I'll just let you use your imagination. I swear, I am truly carrying the torch of Brigid Berlin.

One of my exes, a Jewish-Italian American from Connecticut who always said I reminded him of the people from the other side of Connecticut, once remarked that the garden journal was actually the quirk that he found most endearing about me. He kept cooking and entertaining journals. The fact that he was one of a still to be disclosed number of ex-beaus of Jewish-Italian heritage from the states of Connecticut and New Jersey that are a concurrent theme in my life should, perhaps, inspire me to keep a journal on that topic. But, believe me, I've written and typed endless pages on those boys in the other journals.

Regardless, I've had a few recent nudges asking me to post shots from the aforementioned journal. While not spectacular, at least they show my nifty birdbath and those rose rocks in the background of the iron lantern that come from the famed Lazy Acres estate. How many of you have rose rocks in your garden?

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Can't Get Enough of It This Week

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The Violent Galaxies

The old adage that Union Square eccentric Frank Chu who has a Mission Street bar named in his honor is bizarre but harmless may not be completely true. Today, SFIST reveals that his Wikipedia page indicates that in 1985, he took his family hostage and threatened them at gun point.

Whenever I see Frank with his picket sign or pass by the 12 Galaxies bar, I wonder how many years it will be before I take over for him and there's the Junk Thief Saloon on Mission Street.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who's Yo Daddy, Baby? - Dad?

There are man boobies, and then there is Man Babies. The very idea that there is an entire site dedicated to only this topic is so deliciously wrong that it could not be more right. Thanks to ever with-it Gavin Elster for making me aware of this one. I can die happy now.

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It's Just Another Diamond Day

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Always Trust Your Car to Che

I don't think I've ever seen this in Des Moines.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Un peu plus Bardot - Contact

Why has she been speaking to me so strongly lately? Her musical career is grossly under appreciated in the States. This clip proves that she was the bridge between Fritz Lang's Metropolis and Devo.

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Glamour Index in the Mission Reaches New High

Regulars here know that I often refer to my glamorous arrondissement, the Mission District, as the "Pacific's answer to Mayfair". That adage seems to be truer and truer every day. Not only do we have the many chic boutiques and absinthe bars on Valencia, but now you are seeing this on Mission Boulevard itself -- hanging flower pots such as this one at 22nd and Mission. Chic, chic, so unique. That's the Mission.


This One's for Bryce

May has not been a good month for quality media in the Bay Area. First there was the retirement of Dennis Richmond, and now even worse news. Bryce Digdug is retiring from blogging. While I've not had a chance to talk to him about it personally, I suspect this may be more on the order of when Cher and Streisand retired from touring, and people misconstrued that it was a complete retirement from showbiz. Or it could be a Prince-like move, and we'll soon see a site called "The blogger formerly known as Bryce Digdug".

Whatever it is, we'll miss his blog presence, but he's assured me that he might occasionally guest blog here when I'm in Ouagadougou or Bilbao. As a tribute, I thought I'd post one of Bryce's favorite songs, "Tapedeck" from Ronee Blakley's Welcome album. Not only did she introduce this classic in Altman's Nashville but she went on to costar with Susan Blakely (yes Blakely and Blakley on the same bill) in the legendary tele-movie The Oklahoma City Dolls, one of the best films ever made about a women's sports team in the Midwest.

Ironically, when I moved to San Francisco, in a desperate measure to conserve space, I let go of my senses and gave away my copy of Welcome to the Community Thrift Store on Valencia Street, only to buy it back a few months later. What goes around, comes around.

So, if you see a distinguished gentleman driving a tractor (in his case a 1978 John Deere TZ328) wearing a top hat and with Verdi and the Cowsills blaring from his tapedeck, chances are good that it's Bryce. Say hello, or check out his past appearances here as a guest star on Junk Thief TV.

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High Tea at the Junkplex

Care to join us? Write us at for details.

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The Mission, the Day After Carnaval

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Medical Action Figures of the Mission

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Carnaval 2008

I am a little worried that my hard earned reputation as a curmudgeon is at risk. Getting up reasonably early this morning, I decided to check out the Carnaval parade. And dern it, if I didn't end up having a good time. Since I didn't go into the fray of Mission or 24th but caught the floats on both the north and south end of 24th of Bryant, I was able to get nice views without the annoying crowds.
Does that mean I'll be going to the homosexual festival on Market Street next month? No way, while I commend the "gay community" for embracing one of the seven deadly sins, why just that one? While we have Gay Shame, we desperately need Gay Sloth, Gay Greed, Gay Gluttony, etc. Gay Pride? What is this, 1974? And while Gay Pride is mainly about fat white queens from Antioch and Des Moines ogling drugged out white gym bunnies on display and wrapping their pride around corporate logos, Caranval is about all ages, body, types and races riding on trucks with "corporate" sponsors on the order of Sam's Sign Shop of San Mateo. Much more fun and truly embracing diversity. On top of that, look at how much cooler the Aymaran flag (held by these lovely women who posed for me) is compared to the Rainbow Flag that is a cheap rip off of the far more attractive original.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Mission - Faux Real y No Mas

Is there anything in San Francisco more annoying than Carnaval? Yes, plenty of events that I'd like to see eliminated forever -- Pride, Up Your Alley, Folsom Street Fair, Hairison, etc. I actually like Carnaval in theory, but not the hassle of having no parking options for two days, noise, drunks from Pleasanton, and noise out my front window before I'm ready to wake Sunday morning.

Here are a few images in the calm before the storm. (And for those that are not locals, yes we celebrate Carnaval three months late because it's too cool in February to strut down 24th Street in those skimpy costumes.)
UPDATE: Having an odd hankering for Pepperidge Farms Verona cookies, I stepped into Samy's where the man himself was behind the counter babbling in his heavily non-Spanish accented Spanish. "Quantos años?" The baby-faced youth replied, "Uh...viente...uh, no, viente...viente..dos,, viente cinco..."

"ID! ID! Tiene ID?" Samy screamed.

"Uh, no...mis amigos tienen..." the youth slurred, and then turned to me pleading, "Tiene una ID?"

"No ID no cerveza!" Samy screamed.

All of this was going down while George Hearn was singing "Epiphany" from Sweeny Todd on the TV behind the register and that wretched new song by that Madonna creature was blaring on a boom box outside. I thought her four minutes were already up.

That, my friends, is Carnaval in the Mission.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Anchor's Away

Channel 2's Dennis Richmond is gone, baby, gone as evidenced by Flickr user tingley at 24th Street at Osage Alley.

Here is his final broadcast and his sign off. I don't think Taralyn Jo's departure garnered such response nor will the inevitable farewell of Katie Couric.

UPDATE: Here is Junk Thief's take on the same scene this afternoon (May 25) on his way back from Noe Valley, complete with a musical Requiem.

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Next Time on Junk Thief TV

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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Cats

I am embarrassed to admit I've not been keeping up with The Pinky Show the way I should. Maybe all those fascinating things Jeremiah Wright has been saying that have distracted me. So when I got an email from Bunny this morning, I headed straight over there to learn about Oceans of Trash, Peace for Korea and domestic violence. Pinky always manages to get interviews with leading scholars and analysts that Barbara Walters only dreams about.

If you want more feline world view after visiting Pinky, you might want to visit Cat News where Julie Klausner's life partner Smiley Muffin tackles topics such as people that move things and lesbians.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting My Verve On

Besides being a huge fan of Strange Maps, I've recently discovered Verve Earth. How else might I find out who's blogging in Greenland? (How to Kongregate is, since you asked, a site run by a cyber-chick into games. Not my cup of tea per se, but you've got to find something to do during those long North Atlantic nights). You can find me in the 94110, and there is a pretty decent navigation and zoom system where you can find bloggers right down to your neighborhood.

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