...where Maureen Starkey is tonight? I thought I saw her at the SOMA Trader Joe's until I heard a decidly Trenton accent (as I've known from six five-foot-seven, Italian-American/Jewish boyfriends). Just when I thought Cynthia Lennon was my favorite Beatles wife. Least favorite. Hands down. Heather Mills = Sewer Magggot (money hungry ) skag.
It's been a hell of a ride this year -- thrills, chills and spills on the personal, national and global fronts. Whatever this year was, I think that I and the world are at a very different place than we were 12 months ago. There are plenty of reasons to be gloomy, but this year has reminded me of the eternal power of potential, collective and individual will and that hackneyed yet still inspiring word: change.
I offer these images in no coherent order, chronology or priority. As blogger bud Tug Boat Dave says is my philosophy: "It doesn't have to make sense, it just has to take up space." But sometimes, in the mere act of taking space, meaning miraculously emerges. Or maybe it's just what we delude ourselves into believing is reality.
So, here is some verbal junk to accompany the visual junk of the year whose expiration date will turn in about five hours (at least in the PTZ).
Near riots ensue when the Castro Theater cancels The V.I.P.s. Sauntering down Wall Street as panic ensues at announcement of the failure of the first bailout. Sauntering over the Mission Dolores Park for the Hunky Jesus Pageant. Saying goodbye to a feline companion of 18 years. Saying hello to an African canine princess arriving on a flight from Kalamazoo. Blogger meet up bliss, wine and greasy Chinese at 2 a.m. south of Houston Street and far east of Houston, Texas. Walking with the dead on Dia de los Muertos. Living in the shadows of the dead as gang violence ensues in the east Mission. Saying hello and just as soon goodbye to Guru, basenji foster #1. A whirlwind of cuys, mountains and diminishing glaciers in Ecuador. Three trips to LA without time to see my blogger buds there and realizing I've been there one more time than I have been to the Castro. Selling off the family compound of 50 years in the heat of August. Turning 52 and feeling healthier than I did at 28. Entering year three of blogging.Remembering being stuck in George Bush International Airport four years earlier when his son "defeated" John Kerry and then being part of spontaneous dancing at 18th and Valenica on November 4. Watching Estelle Parsons march up and down stairs at age 80 at the Music Box Theater. Taking the last ferry out of Vashon Island in the chilly January night. Hearing a bitter ex say "I'm sorry" 22 years too late and then finding the will to forgive. Having two close, wonderful encounters with Guy Maddin in San Francisco movie theaters. Transforming rooms of my home and feeling that removing old paint, carpet and veneers was a way of also finally burying bitter old grudges. Waking up on a Sunday morning next to Bow with her sweet, forgiving almond shaped eyes that show the ability of all creatures' ability to forgive, trust and extend unlimited love even after being attacked, abandoned and ignored.
An article in today's Times about the Tokyo Tower turning 50 got me to wondering how many homages to the Eiffel Tower there are in the world. I've seen and driven under Torre el Reformador (above) in Guatemala City, and I understand that there is one in Paris, Texas.
Do any of you know of others?
This summer a couple with a Nebraska twang walking behind me blurted out "San Francisco is just like Buenos Aires." When I turned and sneered back at them silently, the woman nearly gasped. Maybe that doesn't happen in Omaha, or at lest Lincoln. If Buenos Aires is a faux Paris, I'm not sure what that would make San Francisco. I just know San Francisco in no way resembles Buenos Aires. We can't even bury our dictators, members of the Doors and elite here.
The Eiffel Tower was greeted with the same disdain the Transamerica Pyramid received three decades ago. Simply surviving, however, is not a guarantee of gaining credibility, let alone gravitas. The San Francisco Marriott, for example, will be considered as hideous in the next Millennium as when it opened in the 1980s and brought Far North Dallas Gauche Faux Deco Baroque to South of Market. The fact that all of the glasses in the penthouse bar broke during the 1989 earthquake proves that there truly are acts of an angry god of art. The building itself, however, will probably still be standing after "The Big One".
Much of my life I've thought I was a fake but feel I've matured into being more mock or is it mawkish? Perhaps I need to go back to Guatemala City, sit under the tower and soak in the proper waves of falsiness.
UPDATE: If you look closely at the clouds to the left of Torre el Reformador, doesn't there appear to be a cowboy hat?
And here is the tower of Paris, Tennessee, that is five feet shorter than the one in Texas.
UPDATE: Oh, and lest I forget, we have this lovely eight inch Eiffel Tower in the mini-Edwardian greenhouse right here at the Junkplex.
Bow and I took our longest walk yet this evening, venturing all the way over to Mission Dolores Park and back before sauntering up and down Valencia where she was a huge hit with the rush hour pedestrians. She wanted to step into Little Foxes for a new frock, but they were closed.
Back in the mid-1960s, Oklahoma City's youth had an enormous dilemma -- which of the three amusement parks should you favor?
First, there was Spring Lake, the stalwart Beatles-esque playground for the young that, by the 1980s, would be converted into a vocational educational school. I remember my sister going there with her best friend Karen Brown in 1966. They entered a "make-your-own-record" booth where ever witty Karen opened their recording with "This is Mrs. Brown's Lovely Daughter, " appropriately referencing a top 40 song of the era. Across town, just north of the Northwest Expressway was its rival, the upstart, short-lived Wedgewood that would be converted into a similarly named apartment complex during the Carter administration. Its cheeky approach was the Rolling Stones to the more mainstream Spring Lake. Who would have thought that bland Frontier City would soldier on into the 21st Century? I remember my dear friend Molene doing "Who Can Stop the Rain" in drag in the mid-1970s down the block at the wonderfully raunchy trannyshack named The Road House. These memories branded on my brain like a rose tattoo that will neither forgive nor forget.s
Even though I have spent outrageous sums of interweb dollars after one more glass of Mondavimerlot than I should have had on really bad but obscure movies (anyone wanna say Skidoo?), I am resisting the temptation of buying one of my favorite movies of the early 1970s that is listing at $70 and up on the interwebs. It featured Frank Langella (when he was incredibly sexy and not a man of his current but much more boring gravitas), the amazing Carrie Snodgress, Richard Benjamin (early, obsessive pre-teen crush), Alice Cooper (seriously) and Peter Boyle (definitely very pre-Everybody Does Raymond). This is definitely up there with Play It As It Lays as seminal (without the semen) movies of the 1970s that need to be released on mainstream DVDs and makes me really mourn the absence of Pauline Kael. Back in the late 1970s to early 1980s I had fantasies of entering an upscale vegan market and running into Carrie (whom I often mis-named as Carrie SnodGRASS) and Neil Young as I dreamed they would say, "Oh , you must join us for dinner -- you bring the Zinfandel, we'll provide the tahini and tabouli."
Do you have a favorite style of regional architecture? Growing up on the Great Plains, I saw a lot of faux Tudor, Prairie Provencial, Sage Brush Deco, Cattle Baron Baroque and Airplane bungalows. My favorite was always faux Tudor, and I would always get into arguments with my mother when she spoke of it dismisively. "Isn't it redundant to call if 'faux'? As if anyone thinks that an original Tudor mansion was built in Omaha." She would point out that the London Bridge had been transplanted to Arizona, so it would be much easier to dismantle, ship and reconstruct a Tudor home somewhere in Topeka, so it was important to be accurate.
I was always struck that John and Cynthia Lennon lived in a faux Tudor home in Kenwood, letting us know that faux is not a uniquely Midwestern pretense. We always associate John's home with the Yoko years at the Dakota, but that house in Kenwood was always the one that I adored. When I listened to "I Am the Walrus" and John sang the line about sitting in his English garden, I was always annoyed that it seemed redundant to call a garden in Kenwood English. Would someone in Kansas say they had a Kansas garden?
That song, particulary the image of the custard coming from a dead dog's eye, was when my mother started becoming concerned about my obsesson with the Beatles and John in particular. So it was with considerable resistance that she caved in early in 1969 to help me make the transition from clunky plastic framed glasses to uber-hip John Lennon wire framed glasses -- er, I mean faux John Lennon wire framed glasses.
The Lennons' faux Tudor home could have passed for one in Kansas City's Westport or Oklahoma City's Nichols Hills, though it was smaller than the ones there. One thing my mother and I did agree about was that Cynthia was always our favorite Beatle wife. Mind you, I adore Yoko and always came to her defense, but Cynthia's long suffering angst really earned her many a badge of courage. But the name the Plastic Powell (her maiden name) Band probably lacked the level of menace that John was after.
Around the time Rubber Soul was released, the Camelot Inn opened in Tulsa, and I always forced my parents to stop there on our trips back and forth to Kansas City or St. Louis. They made the best faux reuben sandwiches on the Great Plains. The Camelot was not really a true faux Tudor design but sort of a modernist Tudor homage. I was particularly fascinated by the knights' armour that could be found throughout the lobby. During its eventual demise, the Camelot became even more fascinating than during its heydey. It has long since disappeared, an embodiment of All Things Must Pass and a reminder that it's really hard to find true faux these days.
Even in "this economy" I find myself enjoying Christmas -- and not "the holidays" -- more each year. I enjoy it not in any reason for the season kind of way but more in the way that is woven through with pleasant memories, especially those rooted in optimism that leave me feeling, well, optimistic.
There seems to be something of an arch in my life with Christmas reaching its absolute nadir in my 50th year (a season tainted with death, loss and pessimism) and slowly ascending with each year. I won't quote Cavify's "Candles", but there is certainly much of that sentiment at this point.
For countless years, I dismissed Christmas as a crass, pointless system to support capitalism. It is still very much that, yet I take unusual comfort in things associated with Christmas -- not things I buy or am given this year but those from the past.
So, a couple examples":
* Sometime in the mid-1970s I bought the glass reindeer at the long-defunct Midwest department store John A. Brown. I purchased it with visions of it in my first urban and urbane pied-a-terre in a coastal city where I would be buying presents at Macy's when it was local department store not the company store of the nation. By the time I actually had my first abode, I thought I was far too sophisticated to have such a piece of schlock in my home.
* The tall man on the right holds not special aesthetic meaning on its own. However, my sister discovered it two years ago (on that above mentioned worst Christmas ever) when we were dismantling our parents' home. It was nestled in the back of the mud room closet and was something my mother bought in preparation for the last Christmas she was alive, 2003. She was too disoriented by the time the holiday arrived to remember to send it to me. Getting it three years later made it all the more meaningful. The sack it came in was from a store two blocks from a store two blocks away from the last house I lived in before moving to California. I know that she was not so disoriented that she went there hoping to find me in my old above, but I wonder if she drove by my old house, thinking of the times when we had Christmases together there.
As mentioned earlier, I oddly associate the Beatles with Christmas. Forty years ago, I went to the premier of Yellow Submarine with my best friend, thinking we had seen the most progressive form of animation to descend on humanity.
Finally, I share the introduction to the show I am watching as I write this -- 1988's Pee Wee's Christmas Special. It's a glorious mix of sweetness, wackiness and creativity. And, since one of my presents this year was a Dremel, it's not out of the question that next year there will be a Junk Thief Junk Shack Holiday Hootinanny.
It was a wonderfully sunny and slightly cool day, so I slipped out at lunch to add one more frock to Bow's wardrobe -- it seems fitting for the season and perfect for clear but cool days when we head out for a stroll or just to lounge about the house when there's a draft coming through the front door.
San Francisco does not have anything remotely resembling winter. I remember winter, sub-freezing temperatures, clear skies, snow fluries and occasional rain Here we get something warmer than Scotland and a tad cooler than Las Vegas but wet. Wet and humid and much drearier than a real winter. At least I have Bow's new rain coat that makes her look like a super hero action figure.
With a cast of superstars and an amazing soundtrack, here's this year's holiday special. Hope you enjoy it and, more importantly, enjoy your holiday. Thought you might enjoy a couple of stills from this episode.
It's hard to believe that a month ago tomorrow, I drove down to SFO and waited in the American Airlines baggage claim for what felt like an eternity, until a big crate with a little lady named Bow arrived. Whimpering but willing to give me a chance, she is exciting and charming to me as she was four weeks ago. Is it just me, or is she kind of cute?
Just when I thought Scott Walker and Lee Hazlewood were my two favorite male singers of the 1960s, I've lately been reassessing the work of PJ Proby whom I once dismissed as a light-weight equal to Bobby Sherman. But this amazing clip -- from German or Dutch TV (not clear from the mumbled intros) -- proves the range of Texan. From Motown to crooner, PJ and the visuals here give us mid- and late 1960s converging in a glorious way.
PJ was always more popular in Europe than the US, and maybe that's because you wouldn't expect someone who looks the way his does in this clip moving and sounding like that. To me, at least, that's what makes it so wonderful. That ballad that takes up the second half of the clip is an especially pleasantly bizarre mix for a soup. It as if Charles Manson is channeling Judy at Carnegie Hall with Phil Spector producing the whole beautiful mess.
Besides appearing with the Beatles and the Yardbirds, he was better known for how he managed to pour himself in tight pants that often split on stage as a part of his act.
It reminds me of some back and forth emails this week about entertainers in the 1960s, ranging from Mrs. Miller to Tiny Tim who are easily dismissed as novelty acts but were a wonderful mix of the weird, sublime, silly and prophetic. PJ was certainly more than a novelty act and not typically southern. I'll add him to my list with Scott, Lee and -- of course -- Tony Joe White who forever enriched our culture with "Polk Salad Annie" and the class line "gator got your granny".
At the risk of giving our beloved WAT too much praise (which he duly deserves) has anyone else checked out the five-disc holiday album coming out Monday from Sufjan Stevens? I can't think of anyone else who so fully embodies modesty and outrageous ambition. As if his goal to make an album about every state in the union were not enough, now he comes out with the most ambitious holiday album ever. For all his exuberance, he always seems so mellow and unperturbed.
UPDATE: Hmm...maybe I had him pegged wrong. We can hope. Yum. According to Google Analytics, these are the keywords generating the most traffic.
David Essex and Rock On. Okay, I want a show of hands of how many even remember him. In my youth, there was nothing slicker and sexier than this fellow. From 1973 to 1975, I was obsessed with David Essex, and replaced all the Mark Spitz posters in my room with homages to David. (The only thing that got me anywhere near as excited was Murray Head in Sunday, Bloody, Sunday.) And back then you could plop into just about any stylist's chair (Barber? Puh-leeze) and say "Give me an Essex" and you'd need explain no more. It was quite a bit after the mop top, just before the shag and a time when boy toys were gloriously androgynous and not yet fully glittery or swishing to full tilt disco. Amazingly, this weekend, Bryce Digdug told me he wasn't sure if he remembered Mr. Essex. Oh, Bryce, did you sleep through the Watergate era? Ah, but back in the day... Nixon was falling, Jane was back from Hanoi and braless and the recession, maxi-skirts, male chest hair, layaway, that new big box store Target and the Gran Torino were playing in Cinemascope. Oddly, what goes around comes around once more. Rock on...and where do we go from here...
Many of my frequent readers (all three of you, as so many like-minded bloggers often say) know that I also have a Facebook presence which I refuse to completely upstage this little showcase. The challenge with Facebook is how much you want to mix the personal/professional. Everything I post there is G-rated (compared to the -- at worst -- PG rated stuff here), but now and again some of my randier friends will put something in their Facebook status that would be best shared over drinks not where anyone in my family, professional, social network can see. So I get very cautious about commenting on some of their status updates.
Perhaps the most common status updates over on Facebook this and last week have referenced either the weather (and varying comments on parts of their anatomy that are either about to fall off or have frozen solid) or dripping sinuses and more graphic descriptions of physical run 0ff.
Like clock work, I managed to get my early December cold the first week of the month, and I've been over it for about a week. This evening I was looking forward to a meet up with three of my favorite local bloggers, but it seems the pre-holiday crud has forced us to delay that.
Above is my night table with its usual winter accouterments and the lingering drip is the one thing I really hate about San Francisco "winter". The temperature doesn't really but me that much, but the dripping sinuses that seem to keep at it until June or so are no pleasure. Luckily I have Bow around this winter to take the place of a hot water bottle, and tomorrow her new raincoat is supposed to arrive. So we hope to have our winter fashion show just in time to welcome our next monsoon to greet with Winter Solstice.
Just keep remembering, come Monday there will be a little more light each day.
Last year, we shared this holiday classic as evidence that Christmas is not about consumerism, but the spirit of junk thievery repurposing.
So now we offer another favorite below. Casper was the one cartoon character that makes Tinky Winky, Snaggle Puss and Barney look butch by comparison. Even as a kiddo, I was never sure if people reacted sharply to Casper because he was a ghost or because he was so...uh, friendly. No childhood character merits as much Freudian re-examination as Casper. I blame him for how my life went on such a path.
Location: San Francisco, California, United States
JunkThief is your typical Gallic Jew boy born on the Great Plains, went to Gotham and Ouagadougou and Kathmandu before settling in San Francisco's Mission District. Now he searches the dark alleys of that city to find good conversation, Weimar culture and (but of course) the perfect door knob.