Monday, December 24, 2007

Slowly pimping my blogsite

For years I have resisted adding any design features to my bare-bones blog design. I think I did this out of laziness more than anything else. Or perhaps I was influenced by the editor of a small newspaper where I used to work. It was a black-and-white rag --- and when we dared to suggest that he consider adding color to the newspaper, he shot back: "I will NOT have this newspaper dolled up like some dime-store hussy!'' Well, I'm finally making a concession to modern times. I've added an actual graphic to this blog, featuring my unsmiling face during a desert survival hike some years back. I took this photo of myself, using a disposable camera, during a heatwave, as the thermometer edged to 105 degrees. At the time of this photo, I had just escaped from an ornery, grazing bull, and had returned to the trail after taking a harrowing 'wrong turn' that consumed about seven hours.

Anyhow, I hope you like this new design feature. Who knows? I might even mess with the logo one of these days. Have a good holiday. I'll file a new report after the New Years.

My interior national strike has been resolved

OK. I'm convinced. The strike is over.

By the way, I am now available on eBay. More to follow.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Beer Woods: the best hiking trail in America?

This week is the 100th anniversary of Muir Woods. To mark the occasion, Amy and I went on the best day hike in America. The scenery is very nice --- old-growth and second-growth redwoods on bluffs marching out toward the Marin County coastline --- but this is hike has the best amenity that I've ever seen in the woods --- an actual, functioning beer bar, smack in the middle of the forest!!!
You don't even have to hike out of the woods to get to it. You just walk right up and there it is, right on the trail, like some kind of hallucination. (that's what I love about this San Francisco area. People are always thinking of interesting ways to combine unhealthy and healthy activities in one convenient package.) This bar in the woods has wheat bear, lagers, and dark beer in enormous tankards. My only pieces of advice: don't arrive there on an empty stomach, and be careful returning to the woods on your way out. There is quite a drop to the right of the hiking trail leading into the valley. I didn't see anyone tumble into it, but it must happen from time to time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Some thoughts about toadsucking

In my blog, I run an occasional item about the various Dan Whites of the world. This week's Dan White (no relation)is a prosecutor who commented recently about the illegality of toadsucking. Here is the actual article, from the Associated Press:

"Law enforcement authorities have discovered that people are willing to go to great lengths to get high, including a troubling new method that features a frightened toad.

"Toad smoking," which is a substitute for "toad licking," is done by extracting venom from the Sonoran Desert toad of the Colorado River. The toad's venom - which is secreted when the toad gets angry or scared - contains a hallucinogen called bufotenine that can be dried and smoked to produce a buzz.

In October, a Kansas City man was charged with possessing a controlled substance after Clay County authorities determined he possessed a toad with the intent to use its venom to get high.

Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White said possessing the toad is not illegal, but using it to get high off its venom is.

"It is easier to get it, and law enforcement might not immediately know you use it to get high," White said. "It's sort of a New Age way to get high. You convince yourself it is OK because it is something you get naturally from our environment.

"There are a lot of things that are created naturally but they are still not legal," he said.

White said that for years people experimented with "toad licking," and now toad smoking is considered a substitute. To do so, a person heats up the frog's venom to break down its toxins and preserve the hallucinogen, which is dried.

He said some Internet sites feature an instructional video on how to extract the toad's venom.

Police found the toad when they went to a northern Kansas City home to investigate a suspected meth lab. They later arrested David S. Theiss, 21, and charged him with three counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possessing drug paraphernalia - the toad."

Anyhow, I thought this was a fascinating story, and highly coincidental, considering that the very first record that I ever owned featured a song called "Toadsuckers'' by a folksinger named Mason Williams. The lyrics are as follows:

How about Them Toad Suckers,
Ain't they clods?
Sitting there suckin'
Them green toady-frogs?

Suckin' them hop-toads,
Suckin' them chunkers,
Suckin' them leapy types,
Suckin' them plunkers.

Look at Them Toad Suckers,
Ain't they snappy?
Suckin' them bog-frogs
Sure makes'em happy.


There's more, but you get the picture

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wipe the Christmas spirit from your shoes

Well, it's that time of year again. The Christmas spirit has descended on the Haight Ashbury section of San Francisco. The free television -- donated by some generous soul -- still sits on the street corner, waiting for adoption. With every passing day, someone takes time out of his or her busy schedule to kick over the television set, or scrape it with a sharp object. Now that the holidays are upon us, people are slowing down the pace, engaging in witty repartee, and excusing themselves from the pesky burdens of every day life, such as bothering to clean up after their dogs. Just the other day, I saw a hale fellow and a young woman sharing a laugh as their waiting dogs relieved themselves copiously on the sidewalk. Four days later, the souvenir of their conversation remains at the corner of Waller and Masonic, just waiting for other people to trod upon it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Domestic porn?

Yesterday, I surprised my wife by volunteering to do the dishes.
"Can I watch?'' she said.

Pimp my cataracts

You won't believe this. Yesterday, I went into a San Francisco spectacles store, hoping to buy a new pair of eyeglasses. I was trying to pay attention to all the fashionable oversized glasses, with huge black nerdy rims, but found it very hard to concentrate. Why? Because there was a DJ spinning and scratching records right in the middle of the store! There I was, squinting at the merchandise, looking at price tags, and trying very hard to ignore the WACKA WACKA WOCKA WOOKA WOCKA racket coming from the speakers, and the scratching, and the 20-something DJ wearing earphones and grooving to himself. I asked Amy why anyone in his or her right mind would put a DJ in the middle of an eyeglass emporium. "It's the hipsters,'' she said. "They want eyeglasses to be a 'hip' experience.'' Now I understand. They're trying to make medical problems funky, social, countercultural, cool and fun! I'm going to get in on the action by opening up an after-hours peridontal surgery bar.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A prose poem about a stranger's generosity

Someone left a battered TV on the sidewalk near my house this morning.
The electrical cord has been snipped.
A fretwork of cracks extends across the casement.
Dust covers the exterior. A dog has relieved itself on the side of television.
The whole thing looks like someone either stomped on the top of it or smacked it with a baseball bat.
And, to top it all off, someone left a yellow Post-It on the back of the TV set with the words: "FREE!! REALLY WORKS!!''

I didn't want to let this overwhelming act of generosity
to go unheralded.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The other Dan White: non-protester causes a non-stir at non-event

Every once in a while, I like to check in on the other Dan Whites of this world and highlight their strange behavior. There are many of us out there (hundreds!) Most of us Dan Whites are peculiar but harmless -- with the exception of that one truly terrible "Dan White" that will never be mentioned in this blog.
My favorite recent "Dan White" item comes from a BBC news website, which mentioned a nonprotester named "Dan White" (no relation) who organized an undemonstration about nothing in particular.
He held a a cardboard placard signifying nothing, with no message of any kind. His utter purposelessness fuddled the cops. They didn't know quite what to do with him. Did Mr. White need a non-protest permit to hold his un-demonstration? When asked what he was doing, Mr. White refused to say. The police gave up and left him alone. According to an excerpt attributed to the BBC, he planned to return with several other nonprotesters and resume his un-demonstration later that week.

Mysteries of the Haight

Why are there so many crepe places in this neighborhood?

How come you never see anyone eating at any of those aforementioned crepe places?

What's up with all the enormous puppies on hemp leashes?

How come there are two "People's'' coffee shops --- and they are right next door to each other?

Why does the smaller organic food store near Clayton have only one employee -- and he seems to be there, and wide awake, 24 hours a day, whenever you pop into the store?

Why does our only local taqueria put peas in their burritos?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The mysterious Mr. Pooh

Right now I am in the middle of doing the final grades for my writing students --- but I am running into a slight bureaucractic glitch. The English department sent me a list of student names next to their essay grades. Most of the names are clearly recognizable. However, some of the names are a little strange, and I can't figure out if they correspond to actual students or if they are imaginary people who exist only in another realm. Take, for example, the mysterious Crajantan Pooh. Crajantan Pooh did quite well on the University Essay. In fact, he scored well above the median. On the down side, I have never had a student named "Pooh" here or anywhere else. I put Mr. Pooh's name into a worldwide Google search and nothing came up, not even when I narrowed the search to "Hangers-On of Christopher Robin,'' "Tigger Has a Posse'' and "Eeyore's Therapy Group.'' Now, I'm trying to figure out who this "Crajantan Pooh" might be, and get to the bottom of this issue, so to speak. Oh well. As they say, Pooh happens.

A man who needs no introduction

One of the student essays included a reference to "Jesus --- the renowned religious figure.'' Usually, I don't see a clarifying statement used in that kind of situation. It's like saying "Buddha -- famous peaceful entity'' or "God --- a world-famous overwhelming presence that controls everything.'' I guess the student was afraid that the graders might mix him up with "The Jesus" character from "The Big Lebowski.''

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Such a frigid end!!

Avoid these sentence constructions when writing political manifestos:

"The cessation of both opposing directions leads to the absence of the very substance that brought this country to life.''

"It is frightening to think of the world coming to such a frigid end!''

"The anonymous article, written by William Bennett ...''

"Such thinly conceived faiths shed much war onto any attempt at cival uniformity.''

"A force overtly apparent ...''

"Terrorists taking over the nation? Or our nation being reduced to the perplexity of complex capitalist conformity? Neither option is particularly amusing.''

"What it boils down to is: this is a war between values (America) and a nation of terrorists (Iraq.) That is not a value judgment.''

Monday, December 10, 2007

Santeria -- the clean version.

I laughed out loud at the new Nintendo commercial, showing a bunch of freshly scrubbed kids sitting under a sunny tree and strumming along to -- of all things -- "Santeria'' by Sublime. The kids are all smiles as they sing, "I don't practice Santeria, I aint got no crystal ball, I had a million dollars,'' etc. Then the kids skip directly to the chorus -- conveniently eliminating the lines about popping a cap in Sancho and slapping her down. Hmmm. Is Nintendo advocating that the youth of America perform "the clean version'' of every pop song in public from now on? I'm looking forward to Nintendo commercials featuring the squeaky-clean versions of songs by the Sex Pistols, NWA and Cannibal Corpse.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Painting chimps

I enjoyed the New York Times article about the colony of painting chimps in the Hamptons. ChimpYaddo, ChimpBreadloaf and ChimpMacdowell are soon to follow.

P.S. Amy's blog, once moribund, has been revived. You can find the blog at www.amyettinger.com

Also, I still don't have a voice.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Speechless

I have (literally) lost my voice. This may come as a surprise to people who know me. To paraphrase one of my students, I could talk the potato off of a couch.
My voice loss happened gradually. During my last two days of classes, my voice sounded like a claw rasping against a window. Then it cut out altogether --- right in the middle of class -- and I wonder when it will ever come back.
It's hard to get by with no voice at all. Going to the grocery store is strange. Boxboys say, "Paper or plastic?" Cashiers say, "Credit card or debit?'' Then I point at my tonsils, and make a throat-slashing gesture to signify my voicelessnes. They don't understand. They get cross with me. They think I am threatening them. Last night, I woke up to find my cat, Robert Earl, biting me on the arm. I opened my mouth to shriek. Nothing came out.
It's not all bad. Normally, if I clap my hands really loudly to get my wife's attention, she would take offense at this. This week, I'm allowed to clap at her, snap my fingers and point to stuff that I want. That part of it has been fun. I'm boning up on my Pictionary and miming skills.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Now, who is going to call me Professor Diddy and D-money?

My last day of teaching at SJSU is this Friday. I guess I'll have to back to being boring old "Dan White.''

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tales from Cupertino, part VII: Mother-in-law nearly arrested in sushi restaurant!!!!

You won't believe this. My mother-in-law was hanging out with a pal in one of the most illustrious sushi restaurants in Silicon Valley. I've been there many times; it is quite good. Anyhow, my mother-in-law (M.I.L. in future references) ordered the sushi as usual, but her friend ordered a hot-chicken dish, which came out uncooked and gross!! The friend sent it back to the chef, who sent it back to her still cold and completely unchanged. The friend sent it back to the chef again, and this time it was shoved into the microwave and was slightly warmed up --- but it was still rather rubbery and unpleasant. Anyhow, when my MIL and her pal challenged the bill, the waitress said that they had better pay up or they would both be arrested! Trying to get to the bottom of the problem, my MIL approached the chef herself, and he growled at her. He said that the friend was at fault because she should have eaten the warm (but uncooked and gross) chicken when it first arrived on her plate. Anyhow, I think it's wrong that people, in this day and age, can go out to lunch for a little moriawese, and end up being a cause celebre for Amnesty International. I'm probably going to write a nasty letter about this. I would identify the restaurant but I am a little bit scared to do so; you should see the knives that this guy uses on the fish.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Why does this city smell so bad this week?

As everybody knows, some sections of Haight Ashbury smell like essential oils, pot and and reeking B.O. However, bad smells are not confined to my neighborhood. The Financial District smelled quite fishy and moldy when I was walking through it yesterday. Foul aromas wafted from every vent and manhole as I hurried through the streets en route to the new Nicole Kidman film. It's hard to walk when you are holding your nose and closing your eyes and not breathing through your mouth. I think someone should spray this entire city down with Axe.

A Guggulah-Muggulah for Amy Winehouse

The undeniably disgusting Guggulah Muggulah cured me of my bad cold this week and restored my voice. I'm wondering if it might have a similar wholesome effect on Amy Winehouse, whose personal tsuris is preventing her from carrying on with her tour. I think a good strong cup of Guggulah Muggulah might put her back on the straight-and-narrow. But in her case, I would leave out the rum. I would just go with the straight up milk, honey and butter combination.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tales from Cupertino part III: my very first Uggulah-Muggulah

"This will make you nauseous. Then you will gag.''

That is what my mother-in-law said as she handed me my first Uggulah Muggulah, an Eastern European folk cure that is supposed to sooth sore throats and restore your voice. I was sick as a dog that day, barely able to speak at all. My voice was a pitiful croak. My mother-in-law prepared for me a slimy concoction of melted butter, milk and honey, all stirred together and heated up in the microwave until frothy, warm, and indescribably vile. Somehow, I was able to drink several tablespoons of the nasty beverage --- and, lo and behold, it restored my voice for the rest of the day! Here, then, is the recipe for an Uggulah Muggalah. It's truly disgusting and phlegmy but it really works, if you aren't squeamish about drinking butter:

one half a cup milk
two tablespoons butter
one tablespoon honey

chop up the butter into little pieces and float it into the viscous milk, then add the glob of honey. Heat it up into the microwave until the mixture is frothy but not quite boiling. Then, hold your nose and try not to vomit as you sip as much of the Uggulah-Muggulah as you can bear. Wait a few moments, and I guarantee that your voice will come back if you've lost it. If it's late in the day, you might as well add a jigger of rum to your Uggulah Muggulah. It couldn't hurt.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Downward-facing dog

Last weekend, Amy saw some lady trying to smuggle her dog into the opera. It was a small dog, stuffed into a purse. Someone saw the little dog and asked the owner: "Does that dog enjoy opera?'' The owner replied that she "really did not know'' if the dog liked opera or not. That is a reasonable answer. Who the hell knows what dogs, or animals in general, think about anything? But then the dog owner added that her ratdog preferred ballet and yoga. I find this hard to believe. Dogs can't stand upright for longer than a couple of seconds. They can't brachiate (extend their arms in a rotating fashion.) I can't see how a dog could do a Sun Salutation Pose without serious discomfort.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wondering why no one from Canada ever looks at my blog (updated, revised and reconsidered -- thank you, Canada.)

I'm getting some email inquiries from Singapore, Israel and Algeria. I've heard from England a couple of times, and Icelanders have discovered this site. But I'm wondering why no one from Canada ever writes in. I am trying to think of ways to make Cactuseaters appeal to Canadians more overtly. At the same time, I don't want to pander by throwing in references to the obvious Canada-related topics such as grizzly bears, Seth Rogen, Sealtest Ice Cream, Neil Young and Neal Peart's lyrics to "Subdivisions.'' Stay tuned. I'm going to mess with the formula to make Cactuseaters more Canada-friendly in the future. And here is my addendum to this thoroughly outdated post: thank you, Canada. In the past few months I have received many heartening and inspiring messages from people living in all parts of Canada, including one who recently bought The Cactus Eaters and a two-year subscription to Catamaran Literary Reader!! It just goes to show that my efforts to make this blog more Canada-friendly have paid off in a big way. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bagel update

I hate to say this, but after all my kvetching and moaning about the bad quality of bagels on the West Coast, I just baked up a batch of bagels that are, if anything, even worse than the ones I've eaten here!! The bagels I've eaten in this state are flavorless and insipid. They aren't real bagels. They are nothing but dinner rolls with navels, and I doubt the bakers even boiled them or used even a speck of malted barley powder or syrup, not to mention high-gluten flour. But this doesn't excuse the fact that my own home-made bagels are slimy hockey pucks, too gooey in the middle, and with crusts so hard that biting down on them could pull your jaw right out of your skull. I'm not going to give up on bagels just yet but I promise to stop whining about bagel quality until I can come up with a better recipe.

I am available at Target

I never thought I would say this, but I am currently available at Target. Actually, that is not quite accurate. What I mean to say is that I can be pre-ordered in bulk through Target's website.

I first saw the listing today at http://www.target.com/gp/detail.html/602-6017599-0079026?asin=0061376930&afid=yahoosspplp_bmvd&lnm=0061376930|The_Cactus_Eaters:_How_I_Lost_My_Mind—and_Almost_Found_Myself—on_the_Pacific_Crest_Trail_(P.S.)_:_Books&ref=tgt_adv_XSNG1060

This is exciting for me because Target is the place where I buy all my Grape-Nuts as well as my padded retro telescoping ladder chairs and paper towels.

In other news, my students have stopped calling me "Dan White'' or "Professor White'' and have taken to calling me "D. Money'' and "Professor Diddy.'' I have no idea how this happened.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making my own expletive bagels

Driven to madness by the wretched quality of California bagels, I am taking matters into my own hands. After scouring the city for high-gluten flour and barley malt syrup, I am attempting to roll my own. I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Marie Antoinette

This weekend, my mother and father took me to a special exhibit about Marie Antoinette in the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. The exhibit shattered many preconceptions I had about Marie Antoinette.

Here are some things that I learned during the exhibit:

1. Marie Antoinette's actual name was Maria Antonia Josefa Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen.

2. Marie Antoinette was quite homely.

3. The Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Palace of Fine Arts are two separate places in San Francisco. They are nowhere near each other. If you arrange to meet somebody at one of the palaces, but show up at the wrong one, you will experience humiliating shame.

6. To get away from the suffocating splendor of Versailles, Marie Antoinette built a suffocating splendid outbuilding in her yard.

6. Marie Antoinette enjoyed pastries. She had a pug, and many shoes.

The coyotes of San Francisco

I'm amazed by the variety of creatures that live within city limits. Bears, raccoons and many other animals have been seen throughout this seaside burg. Recently, someone took a bunch of pictures of a lone wild dog prancing through a meadow in Noe Valley. The images are inspiring. A hawk lives just outside my window. Every day, I hear him screech. Sometimes I take long walks through Buena Vista Park, where a family of good-natured squirrels squeaks out their good tidings while the sun pours down on their auburn fur. The other day I was shopping at Walgreen's on Castro, and an opposum filled my prescription. He did a very sloppy job of it but I think it's pretty cool that marsupials are making their way into the workforce. Every day, I see pigeons and woodrats standing on street corners, flagging down taxis and MUNI with forceful flicks of their claws. Just the other day, I saw a coyote order a double martini with a twist of lemon at the Alembic. His hair was perfect.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Watch my politeness increase

Lately I've become very interested in etiquette. I am trying to learn new manners every day. With this goal in mind, I went to the library yesterday and checked out a 709-page book on the subject. I've already read 110 pages. Here are three lessons that I learned for today.

1. "Walk down the street with a deliberately pleasant expression on your face (not a suffering frown ...)" >:

2. "A smiling face, symptomatic of an upbeat personality, is like the flame that fascinates and draws the moths."

3. "Act fascinated by the new people you meet, even if they look very boring indeed."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jerry Garcia and Palmolive dish soap

I just heard a story (possibly apocryphal?) that Jerry Garcia refused to wash the dishes when he was living in the famous communal Grateful Dead house on 710 Ashbury, which is roughly a three-and-a-half-minute walk from where I live. According to the story, Garcia made a case that the Palmolive dish soap would soften the calluses on his fingers, therefore harming his guitar playing. Recently, I tried a similar argument in my household to get out of doing the dishes. She isn't buying it, though.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not the same cactus eater

I have learned about some disturbing cactus-eating activities in Cyberspace. Someone told me about a hair-raising video that apparently shows some guy consuming a cactus with sauce dumped all over it on YouTube! I also heard about a site advertising "penetration cactus-sex.'' (yuck!) Let me assure you that these extreme cactus-related ventures have nothing to do with me. Personally, I think people shouldn't trifle with thorn-covered plants. They will always get you in the end.

Obsessed with Kidrobot

My neighborhood (the Haight) has a few mildly annoying things, including hipsters posing for photographs while flashing the peace sign in an ironic way at the famous intersection, and the sheer number of people who ask if I can show them the famous Victiorian where Jerry and pals lived together under one roof like The Monkees. However, the place has some interesting new things, including the brand-new Kidrobot store, an emporium/museum featuring some of the craziest 'action figures' I've ever seen. In case you are unfamiliar with the term 'action figures,' they are, basically, plastic dolls with muscles and glazed expressions. Those qualities allow companies to sell them as "action figures for strapping young lads'' instead of "dolls for sissies.'' The Kidrobot dolls are much more original than the Yodas and helmet-haired Luke Skywalkers I collected as a youth. The store has a stunning Storm Trooper doll that costs over $100 and can bend and pose in every conceivable way. It has a large Mickey Mouse holding a lethal-looking samurai sword (Did Disney give permission for this? It's fun until somebody loses an eye!!!), a Sid Vicious doll and a blood-spattered, camo-wearing teddy bear with no eyes or facial expression. The store also has a sinister fireman wielding a battle ax and various members of the Gorillaz, Damon Albarn's trip-hop version of the Archies. I plan to make a stop at Kidrobot a part of my daily Haight Ashbury ritual, along with buying produce from the hard-working grumps at the larger organic food store, and staring at the brand-new mural at the corner of Haight and Masonic, which looks like a collection of smiling psychedelic condoms.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Get back on the horse"

My wife wants to give the aforementioned Italian restaurant another try! She thinks they were just having a bad day, and she said she liked her dinner just fine. "You just have to get back on the horse,'' she said. While I respect her compassion for the people who run the restaurant, I thought that "horse'' was an unfortunate word choice, considering the mystery beef that they piled on top of my gnocchi.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Searching for myself on "Ask Jeeves'' --- with unfortunate results

I was distressed this evening when I entered my name in the AskJeeves search engine -- in search of other places where I might place large advance orders of my own book --- and the following hits came up:

"Dan White 1978 Twinkie
Dan White Twinkie Defense
Dan White Trial
State V. Dan White
Dan White Insanity Plea
Dan White San Francisco."

Yikes. I'm going to have to change my name once and for all.

Horrible meal at new improved Italian restaurant

What's the Italian phrase for "flat tire with tomato sauce dumped on the top of it along with some shriveled mushrooms" ? The answer is: "pneumatico sgonfio a la fungilli shrivilloso con salsa pomodoro disgustioso.'' This is what I consumed during my highly unpleasant recent visit to the 'new improved' Italian restaurant that I frequent in San Francisco. Until last week, the restaurant was brilliant. They had a nice way with pastas, sauces, wines and the like. The service was kind of pushy at times, but hey. In the past week, the place plunged off a cliff in terms of quality. They became overly ambitious and highfalutin. They started putting wild game and other assorted creatures on the menu, while experimenting with peculiar new sauces. My wife ordered something that looked, pretty much, like a soggy, insipid bird's nest with cheese on it. Translation: "Nido di uccello inzuppato y banale con fromaggio.''

Friday, November 09, 2007

Meeting Salman Rushdie

Yesterday I met Salman Rushdie. I shook his hand and talked to him for about two and a half minutes, though I can't remember exactly what I said because I was very, very nervous. When you meet a literary celebrity, it is best to pin down at least something that you have in common and dwell on it for as long as you can. In this case, we both talked about how we don't really like to grade papers very much, and how a pass/fail system with narrative comments is just fine with us. That was one thing we definitely had in common. Afterwards, I calmed myself down by eating a large helping of Pepperidge Farm cookies from the free food buffet.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I want to pre-order my own book in bulk

I was just searching through the internet, and I stumbled upon a site that allows me to order my own upcoming book in bulk! I think I'm going to place an order right now just to see what happens.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I have returned from the spooky canyon

I just got back from the beautiful but slightly creepy canyon in Utah. I drove up a chewed-up road with no guardrails for 10 miles over some very steep sandstone cliffs until I reached a parking area with a skull (a bear skull perhaps) lashed to a post. I explored some gold-tinted hills and cliffs with ancient granaries perched on the edges of sheer drop-offs and took a close look at some beautiful, and quite chilling, petroglyphs etched out of the walls. One of the petroglyphs showed a 'fallen man' who seemed to have tumbled down a cliff face. Another showed a figure with bird feathers emanating from his head and a long snake-like body. I saw pictures of dancing shamans, rams and hunters all clustered together on a long wall. I also saw a bear cub running around, a bunch of wild turkeys, elk tracks, deer and rabbits all over the place. Some of the wall art looks so fresh, you'd think someone came up and etched it out last week instead of ten centuries ago. As I walked up and down the canyon, it was hard to escape the feeling that I was being watched.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Spooky canyon

I'm taking off at this moment on my journey toward the spooky Southwestern canyon full of Fremont-era granaries, petroglyphs, pictograms and other remarkably intact ruins (they found actual corncobs in in some of the granaries!). The place was inhabited about a thousand years ago but the people deserted it quickly for mysterious reasons. The other strange thing is the fact that they built their shelters so far up on the rocks, out of reach from water on semi-vertical cliffs. In fact, you would need to be a fairly skilled rock climber just to reach many of the cliff dwellings in this place.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Exploring ancient ruins in Utah

I'm heading off to Utah to take a look at some very old pictographs, petroglyphs, granaries and other ruins in a remote slot canyon about three hours from Salt Lake City. I'm doing this for a magazine assignment. I'll give a full report when I return next week. I'll make sure to bring plenty of water this time!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Revolting "healthy snacks" for Halloween

I've never liked Halloween, America's annual nod to Satanism, but at least I took some cold comfort in the junk food: infant-sized versions of Mars Bars, York Peppermint Patties, Milk Duds, Junior Mints and Raspberry Spree. In the past, if a parent departed from the protocol and tried to drop an apple or an organic cracker into your treat bag, the response was simple: you reported them to the police. Now, the kids of today have nothing to look forward to in terms of Halloween. Health-conscious parents are phasing out the wonderfully slimy and bad-for-you artificial snacks of yesterday and replacing them with sustainable "health food'' options that take all the fun away. Listen to these stomach-churning new Halloween snack options that parents are handing out to unsuspecting corpses, Darth Vaders, Vampires and pint-sized Tila Tequilas:

1. Small lumps of artisanal cheese. In the past, if someone dared to hand you a lump of cheese for Halloween, you would call Child Protective Services and let them handle it. This year, parents are handing out lumps of three-fourth-ounce reduced fat farmhouse cheddar to the little Britney Spearses of the night.
2. Vegan options, organic and gluten free.
3. Organic Fruit Splooshers.
4. Organic Prunes. (Can you imagine someone handing you prunes for Halooween????

5. And, last but not least, Airborne Power Pixies.
Yes, I swear I'm not making this up. Adults are actually handing out little packages of "immune boosting formula'' to kids on this night of fake bloodletting, fang-wearing, cross-dressing and sugar gobbling. Don't get me wrong. I support Slow Food, organic produce and all kinds of low-impact eating options --but Halloween is supposed to be the one night when a kid can rip his fillings out on Juju Bees and eat Abba Zabbas all day long. I say, leave the prunes and Fruit Roll-Ups alone and pass the Sweet Tarts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

San Francisco has the ugliest couches in the world

In light of all the terrible things going on in the world at this moment (and, when you think about it, every moment) it might seem flippant to complain about this city's selection of utterly hideous sofas and couches, and the fact that Craiglist in San Francisco offers nothing for sale other than the most stained skanky cat-claw-punctured sofas and futons I have ever seen. However, I think it's worth mentioning, considering there is so much ugly furniture in this town. So far I've gone to about a dozen stores in search of a bearable sofa. I've seen sleazy black leather couches (the salesman assured me that they "never wear out, they only wear in.'') horrible mixed-plaid couches, and showroom couches that looked like they were dragged from the side of a Kern County highway. After more fruitless net searching, I decided to stop looking for nice couches and focus on the hideous ones. Thankfully, I found a one-stop shopping site (http://www.uglycouches.com) with a great selection of truly vile couches. Check this site out. They are even worse than the ones on Craigslist.

Southern California blazes

I am watching these California blazes with grave concern; I have family not far from the fires, as well as a backpacking friend who is out there hiking in the backcountry, solo, not far from some of the blazes! Be careful down there.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Frank Zappa's posthumous beer

The other day, I decided to celebrate my recent graduation by ordering extra-spicy Thai take-out from my favorite restaurant in Cupertino, and then washing down this meal with a bottle of Frank Zappa Kill Ugly Radio, a commemorative offering from the Lagunitas brewing company. The bottle has a picture of Frank's face from the Mothers of Invention years. Anyhow I ate a huge mouthful of pad thai noodles, and it was so fiery hot that I poured myself a large helping of the beer and tried to cool off my mouth with it. For some reason, the Frank Zappa beer only made the situation worse! The beer, like Frank Zappa, is complex, surprising, and more than a little bitter. Somehow, the Kill Ugly Radio beer, combined with the thai spaces, caused a fiery sensation to wash over my mouth, quadrupling the agony. I think Mr. Zappa would be pleased.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Graduating today

This week I am graduating from Columbia's MFA program. I am very excited about this. Three years ago, around this time of year, I relocated myself, my wife Amy Ettinger, and Robert (our huge, obese cat) to New York City for the program. I can't be there in person, so I'll have to hum the "graduation song'' remotely while I extend my congratulations to all the other writing folks who are getting degrees this week:
Fayne Ansley
Pranav Behari
Jeff Bender
Augustine Blaisdell
Thomas Blaylock
Michelle Brotherton
Marie Elia
David Francis
Ruth Galm
Cristine Gonzalez
Nadine Gorelik
Alena Graedon
Matthew Hamity
Melissa Heltzel
Adam Katz
Adina Kay
Doretta Lau
Elyse Lightman
Krista Manrique
Filip Marinovich
Joshua Martinsons
Ashley Murray
Matthew Passet
Gabriel Pilar
Miriam Schiffer
Anna Selver-Kassell
Chandler Klang Smith
Patricia Sonntag
Rhena Tantisunthorn
Stacy Torres
Johnathan Donald Wilber
Alexis Wolff

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dancing the MUNI macarena

As I've said before, this is a nice city. However, I am not enjoying MUNI. Part accordion, part bus, part cable car, part marionette, the MUNI takes forever to arrive and makes strange squeaking noises as it makes its slow, poky way through the city. I hate sitting on the little reversible seats while waiting for MUNI. They aren't really designed to hold a human being's weight. In fact, they have a tendency of dropping you right down onto the indescribably filthy sidewalk if you aren't careful. But the worst part of it is the 'transfers' they give you once you pay your fare. The transfers are printed on what seems to be one-ply Charmin Ultrasoft Toilet Paper. These transfers start to disintegrate the moment you put them in your hand. Also, they are insanely easy to lose. That's why you always see all kinds of panicked people on the MUNI, clutching their chests and hips while making all kinds of desperate faces and mad gyrations as they tear open their wallets and turn their pockets inside out in their efforts to find the vouchers. It looks as if they are dancing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mindful suffering in a natural setting

Last year, one of my students turned in an essay that really summed up my feelings about the outdoors.
"I think it's very important that we all take some time out of our busy schedules to commiserate with nature,'' he said.

Haightful behavior

You shouldn't hang out in my neighborhood unless you like revisionist hippies who were born long after the Summer of Love (a period of peace and harmony that revolved around the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets and lasted --- according to cultural historians -- for approximately three and a half seconds.) I don't understand the embittered people who skulk around the Haight just so they can scrap with helpless hippies. The other day I was hanging around near the organic food store -- the same one where I knocked the strawberries into the street -- and I saw a small bulldog of a man screaming at a hippie who had asked him for spare change.
"I won't give you a handout,'' said the bulldog man. "I'm not the government.''
"The government takes money away from me and gives me nothing,'' said the hippie.
"But I'm not the government so leave me alone.''
"But if you're not the government, why don't you just give me money anyhow?''
The conversation devolved to the point where the bulldog man started threatening to stab the hippie in the neck with a set of car keys!
Anyhow, the point of the story is: if you dislike people who smoke Thai stick while wearing pilled-up alpaca sweaters and walk the streets in packs of 11 or 12 people while carrying ferrets and walking huge clumps of dogs tied to leashes made out of hemp, you might want to go somewhere else. Personally, I have no problem with these behaviors. After all, I'm from Santa Cruz.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

and I almost forgot --- more info on the Steinbeck Fellows reading

A few of you asked me for a more detailed run-down on last week's Steinbeck Fellows reading at San Jose State University's MLK Library. Peter Malae read from his novel. Lysley Tenorio read a short story. I read a brief nonfiction piece involving my thirsty trek across an arid region of the southern Sierra Nevada range. It was great to get a good-sized (and enthusiastic) turnout. I was also glad to see so many SJSU students there. In fact, the evening went so well that I hope we can get even more people into the next event. By the way, I'm hoping that we'll do a reading up in SF soon (I'll post that as soon as I get the details.)

The other Dan White

It's very strange to be named Dan White and live in this particular city. I'm a calm, quiet, law-abiding person --- and it feels strange to share a name with such a notorious local person. Imagine how you would feel if your last name happened to be "Manson" and you found yourself moving, for some reason, into the Panamint range. People would talk. Or what if your last name was Ripper and you found yourself living in Whitechapel, England? I've already had a couple of mildly awkward interactions because of this.

"Hella"

I think it's time that people phased out this awful expression. What does it mean, anyhow?

Hipsters

I love San Francisco. However, I'm noticing a small problem. Skinny, vintage-clothes-wearing, Conor Oberst-worshipping, authentic-dive-bar-seeking hipsters have taken over this city. They are starting to affect my life. For example, I am in serious need of new glasses but I can't find anything that doesn't have thick black wire rims to broadcast an ironic-nerdy look. I'm afraid that if I wear such glasses, the irony will be lost on a lot of people.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A recap on the Steinbeck Fellows reading. Plus --- John Prine returns

Thanks to everyone who showed up to the Steinbeck Fellows reading. It was a great time --- and the crowd was so much bigger than I expected (standing room only. Cool.)

in other news, John Prine played for free at an enormous festival at Golden Gate Park this weekend. I joined a small throng of Prinefreaks who made a single-file line that snaked its slow way to the very front. Prine is one of my heroes; his songs are so precise. (no word or phrase feels out of place to me. He can switch gears from heartbreak to comedy and back again. Sometimes he'll even figure out ways to combine these things in the same three-minute song.)

Prine sounded great to me; he battled throat cancer a couple of years ago, and, if anything, his voice sounded scratchier, deeper, croakier and more distinctive than before. More than this, it was great to see all the twenty-somethings and teenagers close to the front, 'discovering' his music at long last. His songs sounded more relevant than ever (especially his Vietnam-era classic, "That Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore,' which drew a lot of rueful laughter from the crowd, along with an almost violent rebuttal from a fellow standing close to me who decried the song as "disgusting.'' Prine must be doing something right if he can get under someone's skin like that.)
As I was walking home from the set, I heard an unusually beautiful live version of Nick Lowe's "What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding.'' Upon further investigation, I realized that Nick Lowe himself (!) was the man on the stage singing the song. All in all it was a fantastic festival. My only quibble is the fact that so many people showed up to the festival for the sake of talking very loudly, in braying tones, during the performances. That's just plain rude. The louder acts held up just fine but quieter acts (such as Gillian Welch and David Rawlings) got lost in this sea of lame kibbitzing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Steinbeck Fellows Reading Tonight --- reminder

Come out and see us read at the MLK Library, fifth floor, at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday, October 4.) I will be reading a very sad story about cacti (and one cactus in particular)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thanks a lot, cheese lady

It's official --- I've moved to San Francisco -- and weird things are happening already. I went into a high-end cheese shop in Noe Valley and asked the woman behind the counter if she had any good-quality fresh-made ricotta cheese. She said, "Absolutely,'' and reached into the fridge. She pulled out a huge tub of ricotta cheese. "You would really like this stuff,'' she said, smiling, as she dipped a tasting spoon into the cheese and skimmed off a delicous looking sample. And then, instead of handing it to me -- she ate it herself!! "Ahh,'' she said. "That was really good. You should try it sometime.'' Also, when I was in the Haight, I said hello to someone I recognized. She did not remember me -- and, on top of that, I knocked over a container of organic strawberries, which spilled all over the filthy street. Trying to cover my tracks, I stuffed the strawberries back into the plastic box and was putting them back onto the shelf (not very nice, I now realize) when a homeless man came up and screamed at me for putting the strawberries back on the shelf. Oh well. The apartment is really nice, though.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bad barber

I just discovered that the aforementioned barber left a small, lightning-shaped dent (a tribute to Harry Potter?) in my hair. I also discovered a bunch of wasps hanging out under my car on two separate occasions. I'm worried that there's a wasp's nest growing deep inside the chassis of my car. More later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Steinbeck Fellows reading in San Jose

It would be great if you could all come out to hear Peter Malae, Lysley Tenorio and me read on October 4 at 7 p.m. on the fifth floor of the lovely MLK Library in downtown San Jose. Light refreshments will be served. The event is free.

Tales from Cupertino part two: My shapely hair

Yesterday I went to a neighborhood barbershop in Cupertino. These days, barbers don't need a whole lot of instruction or advice when it comes to my hair. I tell them, "Use a one and a half on the sides and a two on the top.'' They scalp me every couple of weeks. Anyhow, the female barber took out the clipper and was buzzing away at my skull. She stopped, looked at me through the mirror and said, "You don't have a lot of hair, but the hair that you do have is shapely. Your hair has a good shape.''
I just thought I'd pass that along. Next time you see me, make sure to compliment me on my shapely hair.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Professor Diddy: the origins of a nickname

I'm not quite sure how this happened. Some of the students in one of my comp classes at San Jose State University call me Professor Diddy. HOw on earth did I get such a nickname? I must admit, it's my fault entirely. Here (I think) is what happened: A couple of my students were trying to figure out what to call me in class. They threw out a whole bunch of possibilities. "Dan.'' "Mr. Dan.''"Professor Dan,'' "Mr. White.'' "Professor White.'' I could have chosen any one of those options and it would have been just fine. The problem is, I overthought the situation. "Mister White'' sounded a little too much like a hated PE teacher, while "Dan'' sounded too informal. I didn't like "Professor Dan'' because it sounded a bit too much like "Ranger Rick.'' I'm a lecturer, technically speaking, but "Lecturer White'' sounds weird to me, like a character for a Phillip K. Dick novel. I said that they could probably call me "Adjunct Professor White'' but that is very wordy and awkward-sounding. Finally, I said that I didn't really care what they called me, as long as they don't call me something ridiculous, such as "Diddy.'' Voila. A nickname was born!

Songs from the 80s I want to forget

I kind of stole the inspiration for this entry from a conversation I had last night in SF. Anyhow, it's strange for me to hear about 80s 'nostalgia' parties and hear 'flashback' weekends highlighting the songs of my adolescence. I'm wondering if anyone in my age group remembers (with a shudder) the following ditties that tormented me on KROQ during my teenage years. I'm talking about the kind of songs that had me in a mad rush to change the dial, even when I was hurtling down the 405 freeway at 85 miles an hour.

"Shanoo, Shanoo'' by Haysi Fantayzee

"I Eat Cannibals" by Total Coelo.

"Pepperoni Ice Cream" by Killer P ....

"Oh! My Janitor" by Suburban Lawns.

"Slang Teacher'' by Wide Boy Awake.

"We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off'' by Jermaine Stuart.

"Rappin' Duke'' by John Wayne.

"P-A-J-A, Pajama Party!" by (I couldn't remember the name for this one, but the singer sounded like she is about six or seven years old.)

I think that 'authentic' 1980s nostalgia parties --- and 1980s oriented karaoke gatherings --- need to draw more deeply from this dark well of noxious tunes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Willing to live in a storage facility

(I accidentally deleted the second half of this blog entry; here's the restored version from some years back.)

That might be the best way to go. I would just move the lawnmower out of the way and set up my sleeping bag and Therma-Rest.

This is a tough market. San Francisco -- way too expensive. East Bay -- it's the Brooklyn of the west, but it's too far away (one of my colleagues says it took him two hours and fifteen minutes to get to campus yesterday!) and about to become very expensive. Santa Cruz --- you've got to deal with Highway 17 and the fact that there aren't jobs. I've never done the 'blind dating' or internet dating thing but it must be similar to this. The advertisements on Craiglist are always quite different from the reality (i.e. crackhouse by the beach, scary apartments, etc.) I'll keep you posted -- and let me know if you hear of anything.

I should point out that my standards are pretty reasonable at this point.  When it comes to living situations, I am as far from a snob as you can get. At this point I've lived in a hippie commune-type house on the Central Coast, and in a household of nudists in rural New England, where the keeper of the manor and his girlfriend would engage in clothes-free skeet shooting and lawn-mowing,  among other things. I've also lived in an illegal "granny unit" owned by a prominent law enforcement officer. At this point I can get used to just about anything.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Leg in holding pattern

Three days after the hornet situation, my leg now looks like a leg again. I'll keep everyone posted. I'm learning that I have extreme reactions to insects as well as venomous plants, especially poison oak. The weird thing is, yellowjackets, poison oak, and most of my other enemies, are not "non-native invasive'' species. They are all "natural'' and native to California.

More on hornets ...

It's not just that I'm very allergic to hornets. They also, for some reason, find me attractive. They swarm all over me -- and instead of just flying around me in an exploratory way, the hornets usually sting me without provocation. Anyhow, my leg still looks weird but I think the situation is under control. However, I am going to be a bit gun-shy about hiking for a while. I might start hiking with a thick, full-body raincoat or a suit of protective mesh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hornets -- nasty little beasties.

I have a fraught relationship with nature --- and my trip last weekend to Point Reyes reminded me of this. It was beautiful there --- fogbound, lots of deer, the rolling Marin Headlands, egrets and herons everywhere. And then, in the middle of a trek, I somehow disturbed a wasp's nest. A bunch of them descended on me. I was stung about four times -- and I had some sort of nasty histimine reaction, causing my ankle (and, really, my entire left leg) to swell up to frightening proportions. Still recovering from this. Keep a close watch for these nasty little beasties. (They are ruthless.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The rats are disgusting in Richmond

My rat-o-mer is turned down pretty low after living in New York and being exposed to that sort of thing every single day. But I saw a rat in Richmond that beat all previous records. He was at least a foot and a half long from his filthy head to his unspeakable tail. It was a major turn-off from an otherwise nice and sleepy neighborhood.

Cactuseaters blogsite: one billion sold?

Hey, readers --- feast your eyes on that little box at the bottom right of this blog page with the little number in the middle of it. That is my brand new reader-counting thingamabob! Many thanks to Kara for helping me install this wonderful new device that allows me to track the number of 'hits' I get into the site. This is huge for me. Each of the numbers that you see on the screen represents my total number of readers -- in the hundreds of thousands. In other words, if the little box says "nine,'' that means that 900,000 people have read my site. If it says, "10,'' I've reached my one million readers mark. This means I can now accept gigantic advertising clients for my site (and retire comfortably by next year.) T-shirts, cross promotions, action figures, and a special CactusEaters cactus-flavored cereal, are sure to follow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sea Monkeys: not a good memory for me

What can I say about Sea Monkeys? They are actually shrimp, they mail them to you in a weird little vacuum-sealed package, and when you put them into the plastic tank, they flail around for a while and die off very soon. The weird thing about sea monkeys is, they never reproduce. There is nothing you can say or do to make sea monkeys take a romantic interest in one another. They just float around and ignore each other and, eventually, they all plotz, one by one. There is nothing you can do about this. In about a month, you've got a useless plastic tank with a bunch of floaties in it.

So far, no break-ins by rats, and no more ants in my car

I have a lot to be thankful for. In the past week, I haven't seen a single ant farm taking shape in my car. That's pretty amazing, considering the size of the antfarm that was living in my car for the past month. I finally got tired of it and sprayed my car down with Fantastic, which did the trick. Also, as of this moment, no rats have tried to break into my house. In New York, rat break-ins were a frequent occurence. Once time (I swear, this is not a fabrication) I had to defend myself from a rat by bopping it on the head with a short work of experimental fiction.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The rats have found me.

I can't believe this, but the rats apparently followed me from NYC to Silicon Valley. I joined the Rat Witness Protection Program but I guess someone "ratted'' me out. The other day I was jaywalking (fun to do in Cupertino, and you need to jaywalk some of the time because the sidewalks end so abruptly) when a giant rat --- the size of a shoebox --- came charging out across the street, with a look of cruel intent in his eyes. In his jaws, he carried a coupon for a $100 I-phone rebate. I got out of his way. He was in a hurry.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Still searching for a house.

I am now living in a peaceful, gorgeous house as part of my very last house-sitting gig. You would not believe the loveliness of this place. There is a pomegranate tree in the front yard, and pears and apples galore in the backyard. Anyhow, once I leave here, i will be living, temporarily, in a smallish tool shed. It will be cozy in there (six by four feet!) and there are lawnmowers and things in there, so it's going to be a bit of a tight squeeze but it should be ok.


By the way, I am temporarily in Silicon Valley, and, as far as I'm concerned, the place gets a bad rap. I had no idea that the place had so many forests, hiking trails, etc. They have a lovely open-space area called Rancho San Antonio -- rolling chaparral foothills, hawks, deer everywhere, quail squeaking around in the bushes, and bobcats skulking around after dusk. I think it's amazing that a place like this thrives in the information nerve center of the world. You see young couples with strollers and joggers all over the place. It's our little Central Park out here.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Another anagram attempt

Given that i misspelled Ms. Lohan's first name in that last post, here's another go at it:

'Lyndsay Lohan arrested again'
anagrams to ...

'Dastardly as annoying healer.'

Not quite as snappy.

Anagrams can save your life, and help you figure out current events

I believe in the power of anagrams. Whenever I'm feeling confused about a current event, a scandal or a situation in my life, I try to enter that situation into an anagram-generating machine that will puzzle out the hidden meaning within.

Here are a few anagrams for your consumption:

The anagram for 'Lyndsey Lohan arrested again' is: 'Rantingly analysed sorehead.'

The anagram for 'Should senator Larry Craig resign" is ... 'Harlot's coarse-grained slurrying.'

more to follow!

Let's hear it for my favorite blogs

Hi everyone. I want to direct you to a very funny blog, http://semprelaltracosa.blogspot.com/ Take a look at the list of blind-date-evasion excuses in the latest post. If you want to learn about life in the Bay Area, this is the blog for you. I also dig "dogpoet" (which is extremely well-written, and makes me feel kind of bad about the fact that I write my own blog entries in about two and a half minutes, tops.) and the shocking but very funny "stereolabrat'' blog. I am jealous of the fancy fonts in some of these blogs, and the fact that the bloggers are technologically savvy and know how to put slide shows and films and three-dimensional twirly-swirly decorative stuff while my blog is just blocks of text, with the exception of the "Today Show'' entry, in which you get to see me on television for about nine and a half seconds.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Who knew that crack houses had ocean views?

My wife and I have started our 'house search.' Sometimes the listings are too good to be true. Yesterday we took a four-hour round trip slog in Memorial Day traffic to see an allegedly "nice'' space with an ocean view. It sure sounded cool in the advertisement. Anyhow, the carpets had some sort of organic scunge on them. The whole place looked scraped up. Dingy. Stinky. Dark as a dungeon. I should have known by the thousand-dollar price tag. That's how much Jennifer Connelly paid for her apartment in "Dark Water.''

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A four-wheel antfarm?

Hi everyone. Last week, I discovered an ant colony living in my car. How is that even possible? I close my car windows all the time when I'm not using it. Did the ants spring to live spontaneously? It seems supernatural to me. Anyhow, Windex took care of 'em. I haven't seen a single ant in a couple of days.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The bagels here are disgusting

Enjoying California but the bagels here are, basically, circles of air with ropes of mealy dough around them. I'm sorry, Noah, but this is not a bagel. This is a dinner role with a bellybutton in the middle of it. California needs artisanal bagels. Maybe I'll have to open up my own store.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I don't recommend living next to an ice cream parlor

I live (temporarily) near an ice cream parlor in Santa Cruz. It's called Marianne's, and it's probably my favorite ice cream parlor anywhere. Fresh. Great flavors. Prompt service. The only problem is, it's literally right across the street from my house, which means that I'm eating trough-loads of ice cream for every meal. This is bad news for me, especially in light of the article that my friend Sam sent me about porcine authors who never leave their homes and weigh 500 pounds. Tomorrow we're moving to another location just to get away from the ice cream parlor. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stink-eyed at Rite Aid

I was standing in line at Rite-Aid, just minding my own business, reading the Us magazine article about Britney Spears and the sleazy college student in the hot tub, when I looked up and saw that a guy in another line was staring at me in a very threatening manner. I am not sure why he was staring at me in this way. Anyhow, I had a friend with me in the line who stink-eyed him right back. I'm wondering if the starer is the same person who has been texting all those NFL scores into my cell phone.
In other news, I watched two DVD movies in the past two weeks. One was "The Host,'' about a man-eating slime monster in Korea. The other was "The Pursuit of Happyness,'' starring Will Smith as a guy who spends the whole movie chasing people up steep hills and hauling machinery around and shouting through traffic. I thought "Pursuit'' was way more scary than "The Host.''

Monday, August 13, 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Questions raised about my "Road'' review

Someone has raised a few questions about my short review of "The Road.'' This particular reader said she perused the book quite carefully and could not find any references to Starbucks in the book. Here, then, is a quotation from page 343 that directly addresses the Starbucks situation. I think it should put the issue to rest:

"The day dawned, ashes swirling, the usual pallor across the sky. The man and the boy saw a light in the distance, a pale burning in the middle horizon. Perhaps it's a farmhouse, and someone is home, thought the man. Perhaps there will be shelter, or tomatoes and cucumbers in jars. But when they got there, it was just another Starbucks. Disheartened, they walked inside, knowing there would be nothing to eat that day except a 'Heart Friendly' egg-white Swiss cheese sandwich on focaccia, a maple-nut scone and an extra large macchiato split between the both of them.

''I'm sick of Starbucks,'' said the boy. "I'm sick of all the sugar and caffeine and carbs.''
"But we've got no other options,'' said the man. "It's all we've got right now. Okay?''
"Okay,'' said the boy.''

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mammoth Lakes and the New York Times.

It was a little surreal to open up my favorite paper and see my story in there on Friday. I wrote about the Eastern Sierra -- specifically, about Mammoth Lakes. My family has been visiting that place, almost every year, for nearly four decades. It was scruffy in an appealing way back then. Lately it's been a real estate hot spot, with quite a few celebrity sightings. Pink proposed to her now-husband at a motocross there. Justin Timberlake (apparently a snowboard enthusiast) was seen hanging out in the Village, a relatively new lodging and retail complex not far from the base of Mammoth Mountain. When we first started visiting the place, it was as far from chi-chi as you can get. There were one or two "fancy'' restaurants. In the off-season, it was mostly a fishing village/backpacking retreat. Now you can get $300 bottles of wine with dinner, get an herbal mud wrap and eat foie gras sandwiches. I like the fact that some of the best "old stuff'' has survived, including Schat's Bakery, etc. Here is a link to the article...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"The Road.''

I am really scared right now because I am reading Cormac McCarthy's outstanding novel, "The Road.'' It's a vision of the future, uncompromising and bleak. Basically, civilization has been blotted out, and there are roving groups of thugs with sack cloths and swords. The two heroes of the book are a young man and his father. They are on the run. Dead trees line the road. Trash and shrunken heads are everywhere. There are no institutions that have survived the unnamed cataclysm in this book, with the lone exception of Starbucks, which somehow thrives. So anyways, these roving bands of thugs, all hopped up on coffee and pastries, are going around laying waste to cities and forests. Great book, except for the many product placements (Pennzoil, Chuck E. Cheese, Amoco, Twizzlers, etc.) which I found discouraging. I'm also reading a great book called "On Chesil Beach'' by Ian McKewan. Basically it's about this neurotic British couple who are trapped, for 48 hours, in a washroom in the back of a Peet's Coffee in Oakland while on their honeymoon. McKewan writes with tremendous subtlety about class distinction, sexuality and deferred dreams, plus he describes the Peet's bathroom extremely well. (you really feel like you're stuck in there with them.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Published authors' drinking and eating habits

My friend Sam Autman, out in NYC, sent me a very interesting article from the New York Observer talking about the dark side of being published. Basically the article said that a lot of the authors become very large (physically) and isolated and end up eating way too many Entenmann's pastries because they don't have time to manage their health. They interviewed a nice assortment of authors for that piece. After reading that article, I've decided to eat more holistically and start marathon training again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The dark and secret world of marmots

I've dug up tons of research that I can't fit in my book; I just can't find a place for it. I'm thinking that I'll post some of this excess useless research on my blog because I have no other purpose for it. The first blurb of research involves marmots. They look like guinea pigs but they're the size of a small dog, have russet or gray fur, and can stand up on their hind legs like human beings. These mammals are quite common in the California high country, in elevations 9,000 feet or up. They look cute but can be quite savage. One of my friends, a former park ranger, said marmots wage war against parked cars. They slither up through the chassis, nibble through the plastic tubing, and suck out all the radiator coolant or brake fluid -- and for some reason the chemicals do not harm them. Rangers try to subdue marmots by injecting them with hypodermic needles filled with a serum made from a PCP derivative. But the marmots are incredibly resistant to such chemicals. In one case, a ranger used enough of that sleep serum to put a full-grown black bear to sleep for a while -- and the marmot would not go under. In fact it was wide awake! just thought I'd share this with you all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter, Matt Damon's "dorky'' boots.

A lot of people are going around blabbing about the Harry Potter ending. I still haven't heard what happens. Please don't tell me. I'm still mad at the chubby kid in my bar mitzvah preparation class who told me that Darth was actually Luke's father. Also, I read the GQ interview with Matt Damon the other day. He's apparently still furious about GQ's previous interview with him -- just because they made a dismissive remark about his boots!! Apparently the previous interviewer called Damon's boots "dorky.'' Damon said that the interviewer did not have the "stones'' to call the boots dorky to his face.

By the way, we're back in the Bay Area now. Where are we living? It depends on which day you're asking. We're basically living all over the place.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cactus craziness

My book will be called "The Cactus Eaters.'' It will be coming out next year, and the book has required me to do a lot of research about cacti. The book is not about cacti per se, but a cactus figures prominently in one very painful backcountry scene that takes place about a quarter of the way through, in the middle of the desert. For this reason, I've been looking for all kinds of ephemera and weird facts about cacti. My wife dug up a great piece of information: she found a document that suggested that a prickly pear cactus caused a shocking international incident in California about a half-century ago )I won't go into any more details -- you'll have to read the book to see exactly what happened.) I also found out that Aztec priests used cactus spines to scourge themselves as part of a painful-sounding purification ritual. Anyone with other strange cactus facts: please post them here.

Life Without Rats

It's weird to live in a place where there are no rats, or where the rats, if they are here at all, are keeping a low profile. In New York, my life was rat-o-centric. I saw rats all the time. Rats fighting. Rats jumping through the laundry area. The last week I spent in New York, I even saw a rat hanging out in a poisoned rat trap! I asked it what it was doing, living in a poison-filled chamber in the middle of an alleyway. "Location, location,'' he replied.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Falsely accused beagle is now suing me over missing eyeglasses

I am looking after a beagle right now near the beach. Anyhow, the other day my glasses went missing, and I was sure -- absolutely sure --- that the beagle had eaten or hidden them. I asked the beagle to give me some clue about the glasses and where they might be but she refused. In desperation I searched every bush and section of the yard, trying to find the beagle's stash, and ended up more than an hour late for my sister's birthday party at the Star of Siam restaurant in Soquel. So I searched the grass and my suitcases and drawers to no avail, which increased my suspicion that the dog had indeed gobbled the glasses. Anyhow, it turns out that I threw the eyeglasses in a garbage can by mistake. The dog had nothing to do with it.

The Innocence Project has intervened on behalf of the dog, who is also filing a "wrongful accusation'' claim against me. The dog is being represented on a pro bono basis by a well-known attorney. I will probably lose my shirt over this one.

I made up that last part.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Weird week, lost glasses

This week we drove all the way across the country. During this time, we saw some strange things, including a strange man in Wisconsin, riding a jet ski through a drainage ditch off the side of Highway 94; intense snow falling all over us in Idaho -- on June 5!! --- and the nearly deserted downtown of Minneapolis, occupied solely by vagrants. In California, I was walking on the beach just the other day when I saw a guy listening to a garbage can, sticking his face in it, collecting its inner vibrations. It turns out he had one of those itty-bitty black and white TV sets connected to a generator and an extension chord and shoved into the bottom of the garbage can. The TV set had a radio attachment, which he had set on full blast. "Wild Thing'' was playing on the TV set. Only in Santa Cruz! Also, I am now dog sitting in Aptos, California. The dog is very nice and much calmer than last year. I falsely accused the dog of devouring or burying my prescription glasses, but it turns out that I was the one to blame (somehow I threw my glasses in the trash accidentally.)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Coffee jerk

Tried to get an iced coffee from Cafe Fresh, the attractive but not-very-well-managed coffee place across from campus, on Amsterdam Ave. I went in and the guy barked, "We're not open right now." I asked him, "Well, when are you going to open.'' He said, "I'm not getting into the details of why we are not open.'' So I repeated, "No, no,I didn't ask WHY you aren't open, I wanted to know WHEN you are going to open so i can have an iced coffee.'' He replied, "I don't feel like having a conversation right now about WHY we are not open.''

And so I went to Starbucks. Nuff said. Their coffee was delicious and they were nice.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Mountain extravaganza

I've just returned from a grand tour of the mountains for a freelance writing assignment. I threw down a 12-mile trail run into the backcountry, explored a creek and a briny lake, hiked through a field full of swallows and dragonflies, traversed a national park, learned a lot about mining and earthquakes, ate a duck, toured an Ayurdevedic spa, interviewed 20 people, spent the night in an historic lodge and watched the sun set over the humpbacked mountains. It was a terrific experience though I'm sleepy now and trying to get some rest but my cat is mauling me. Tomorrow I'm back in NYC (but only for a couple of days)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Return of the human boomerang

I just had a strange realization about my life in relation to geography. I was born on the West Coast, and then my father moved us all to the East Coast when I was two. At age three, my family moved back to the West Coast, where I stayed for 15 years. Then I moved to the East Coast for six years, at which point I returned to the West Coast for six years, at which point I moved to the East Coast for three years. Now, I'm about to move to --- guess where - the West Coast AGAIN!! I am a human boomerang but didn't realize it until this moment.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The tease continues

So check this out. I went into our friendly local grocery store the other day, the one that sells tomatoes that look like someone hurled them against the wall -- and for once, they were unblemished, tasty and beautiful. I decided to try my luck in the 'student rush' ticket line for the Broadway show, "Talk Radio,'' expecting to get shut out and yelled at by nasty people. But guess what, there was no line, the tickets were cheaper than dirt, we got second row, dead center, and Liev Shrieber just tore the roof off the place. In fact, the guy at the ticket counter sold me the tickets 15 minutes before the box office was supposed to open! How weird is that?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

New York is a tease

This city has been showing its very best side to us, now that it knows we are leaving.

We have been going to the Shake Shack and getting their vanilla ice cream cones, then watching the Empire State Building flash a strange new color each night. We've been going on long hikes and runs, snarfing the famous banana pudding at Buttercup Bakery and strolling through the cherry blossom esplanade in Brooklyn's surreal botanical gardens. I know that if we changed our minds and decided to stay out here, the nice weather would vaporize in an instant, and cockroaches (as big as spaniels) would crawl into our apartment and throttle us in our sleep. But this is a perfect, gorgeous time in NYC, a time when there is no better place on the planet. Everyone is having fun, throwing Frisbees all over the place, and even the rickshaw drivers near Columbus Circle are almost smiling. In three or four weeks, the weather will be hot and disgusting, and desperate people will pay good money to see Sandra Bullock movies just for the air conditioning. But in this two-week grace period, the city is accessible, overflowing with options, good humor, art, music and dogs of all shapes and outlooks. I'm scrambling to take advantage of it.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dreading the bagels but full of anticipation

I am moving, for the time being, to the Bay Area --- lovely place, brilliant people, great weather, although the bagels are dinner rolls with bellybuttons. Though I am excited to be out there again, I am not looking forward to the bagel withdrawal. As a result, I've been mainlining H and H and Absolute bagels like you would not believe --- just opening my mouth and shoveling in fistfuls of bagels to make up for the fact that I will soon be eating Noah's bagels, which are so insipid. One time at Noah's Bagels in Santa Cruz, I asked for a toasted bagel with cream cheese on it. Instead, the guy ignored me and microwaved the hell out of a bare bagel. When I complained, and clarified what I wanted, the guy took the microwaved bagel, stuck cream cheese on it and then put it in the toaster!!! It was like eating a shingle with mouth-searing, melted cream cheese on the top of it.

However, I am very much looking forward to seeing loved ones, being able to afford sushi (the kind of sushi that I can afford in NYC looks suspiciously like the stuff that they drag behind fishing boats in shark-chumming contests) and enjoying a wonderful fellowship (the Steinbeck, through the auspices of San Jose State University) which will allow me to finish my book, develop a second book, and get going on some intensive research. I will miss the Chelsea pier, cheap student tickets at the Metropolitan Opera and the staggeringly good vanilla cones at the Shake Shack. I won't miss our stomping, thumping sociopath neighbors and the rats in the laundry room, but I will miss my colleagues at Columbia's School of the Arts (though I've been told that a huge contingent of them lives in the Bay Area.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The sweet misery of free ice cream

Yesterday, I waited in line with thousands of other people to get free ice cream at Ben and Jerry's in the Upper West Side. I'm not sure if the delicious frozen treats were worth the volley of verbal abuse. You should have seen the ice cream servers screaming at everyone! "WHO WANTS CHOCOLATE? I KNOW SOMEONE SAID STRAWBERRY!!! MOVE THE LINE ALONG!! GET MOVING!! WHICH ONE OF YOU SAID CHERRY GARCIA!! MOVE YOUR BUTTS RIGHT NOW!!'' When I finally got to the front of the line, I was sure that the server was going to start pounding on me for no reason or at least lob a big lump of ice cream on top of me. "WHAT DO YOU WANT??"" she roared. "Cherry Garcia,'' I replied, sheepishly. She reached into the vat and scooped me up a big wedge of ice cream and practically stuffed the cone up my nose. I grabbed up my treat and got out of there as fast as I could. In the ice cream servers' defense, they had to wait on an endless crowd of mopy, rain-drenched people and they probably got carpal tunnel syndrome from all the scooping. The other weird thing was the line itself: A kid, no older than 11, took it upon himself to herd the line into single file. He would not let my wife and I pass by until he was sure that we were walking in an orderly fashion. This sort of behavior scares me. Pre-teens are supposed to resist authority and not behave in such a crypto-fascist way.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Graduating, sort of

When I was checking out grad schools, I crashed on the floor of a fiction writer who took me to a protest the next day while dressed up as a cow. (He was protesting the cost of tuition. The cow suit was relevant to the protest. It's a long story.) It's hard to believe that three years have passed since the angry-cow incident. These are my final days in the Columbia MFA program. I will definitely miss homework (reading two books every week) and having a dozen or so smart and dedicated people close-edit my work. I'll also miss the study alcoves at Columbia, the lectures about crazy short stories, the constant visits from writers and the occasional beery hangouts at Toast and the Amsterdam Lounge. This has been great (and the three years have gone by in a flash.) I'm grateful that the program has given me a chance to teach Ivy League freshmen, work as a research assistant to an NY Times editor and shape a full-length manuscript. Now I'm marking the end of my time here with a little get-together this weekend in the Upper-Upper Westside. I guess this means that I am graduating -- though that isn't true technically (I'm still fiddling with the thesis and probably won't do the graduation "walk'' in June.)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Vodka in matzo balls: Don't knock it til you try it

I'm in the middle of a Jewish soul-food blitz right now. This week I made a big batch of matzo balls fortified with a full two tablespoons of Popov vodka in the batter. They have a nice "kick'' that your run-of-the-mill ordinary matzo balls don't have -- a bit of a sting at the top of your mouth when you bite them --- but I'm concerned they aren't Kosher for Passover. (I know there are strict restrictions on certain grains and legumes during Passover, though it's also true that vodka is made out of all kinds of different things. Perhaps there is a matzo-flour-based vodka that's out there somewhere on the market.) Anyhow, I'm wondering if anyone else has tried this concoction. I got it straight out of the New York Times Passover Cookbook. In case you're curious, it also involves a cup and a hald of matzo meal, four to five farm-fresh eggs, a tablespoon or so of cooking oil, a tablespoon and a half of chicken broth, salt to taste and the aforementioned tablespoon and a half of vodka. Boil in broth for 45 minutes. I strongly recommend cooking them in canned chicken soup for that time and then transferring them into a big vat of Zabar's Homemade Chicken Soup.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Here's the Today Show Link



Click here to watch my interview about the male biological clock.

Nationally televised smooch and soundbite on the Today Show

I was, briefly, on national television this morning, (the Today Show) kissing my wife, and talking briefly about male menopause. I was on for about seven seconds.

They had me remove my glasses for the interview and the smooch because the Klieg lights were reflecting off the lenses. It was fun to take part in this. I hope I am on television again.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Cactuseaters on the Today Show

I am on the Today Show, Tuesday morning (Seriously!) at some point between 730 and 8 a.m., talking, with two other dudes, about male menopause and other issues, including male fertility, etcetera. They taped the segment today. Among other things, they had me talking about aging, talking about my Dad, and at one point I smooched my wife in front of a zillion potential TV-land viewers.

On Tuesday morning I will watch myself and find out how I look on TV. They didn't give me any make-up (unlike a cable access program in Santa Cruz, where they put so much pancake make-up on me that I looked like Gray Davis.) It was pretty casual and fun, and I got to check out the Big Room where Al Roker and Matt Lauer hang out. Also, they had me use the same throat-microphone that George Clooney used last week.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Even rats hate rats

The other day I was getting take-out from my very favorite Italian place near here, Max's Soha, when I heard a scream and a squeak. I looked down and saw that four rats were getting into it, having an all-out brawl, right on the street corner near a stairwell, just flogging each other with their tails, clawing, fisticuffs all around, fur flying, literally. It went on for a very long time and they finally scattered in all directions. I guess even rats can't stand rats, which is sad when you think about it. I spend so much time being disgusted by putrid, fat, stinking rats that I forget they are sentient mammals, with self-esteem issues and concerns like everybody else. You'd think rats would be united with an 'us against the world' attitude toward us humans, but being vermin has taken its toll on their self-image. Their response is to brawl in the streets.

Rat prints in the snow

I saw a bunch of cute, mysterious footprints in the snow near my apartment yesterday -- and i was shocked and disturbed when I saw that the footprints led straight into a rat trap! I swear, they were as big as rabbit prints.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Vosges chocolates

This is the wildest, craziest chocolate in the world, and probably the most expensive, but it is delicious. The people who make them are fearless. They throw just about anything into their candies --- Banks Beer, rum, champagne, dried violets, powdered tea leaves, even dried-up kalamata olives. They have one chocolate that is so fiery spicy hot that it will make your tongue shrivel in your mouth and fall off (my tongue actually fell off, no kidding, after I ate it.). They have another chocolate that is made from the mashed-up roots of an unpronounceable, endangered shrub. I got a bunch of these candies for my wife for a late Valentine's day gift and she loves them. She's eating one a day. They come in a big purple box. My only concern is that the Vosges flavors will one day get so "daring'' and weird that they will become inedible. (i.e. sausage-flavored chocolates)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Werner Herzog at Columbia

I managed (somewhow) to get a seat for Werner Herzog's ultra-sneak preview of his new movie (it hasn't been screened anywhere until now and there isn't even a release date.) The packed crowd was told not to blog about it but I can at least say that someone should check and make sure the main actors (including Steve Zahn, who was great in this, and completely believable) are still alive and well. It looks like Herzog damned-near killed them making this movie!! You've never seen such skinny, scratched, tormented and dragged-about movie stars in your life. Anyhow, that's all I can really say, but Herzog was a fascinating presence, talking about the tribulations of movie making and his absolute confidence, which I envied. Asked if he ever doubted himself, he replied, "NO.'' I tried to get my class into this discussion because Herzog directed a documentary called 'Grizzly Man,' about a well-meaning preservationist with a Prince Valiant hairdo who gets eaten by one of the critters he's attempting to 'protect.' Herzog is obsessed with capturing authentic moments on film, which is why he once had the cast of an earlier movie drag an actual ship over a mountain, and, at one point, he reportedly hypnotized a film crew. In this movie, you see a lot of unsettling 'actual' stuff taking place but I don't want to spoil it so I'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Binging can be fun

Today I ate an entire gooey pizza that I baked myself, a huge bowl of Tuscan white bean soup, a chocolate croissant, a turkey burger with everything and an enormous bowl of cereal. And I don't feel the slightest twinge of remorse about it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

FDR's house --- kind of a dump.

I was out at Hyde Park the other day to see FDR's house --- and it is not in very good shape! The paint was cracked and peeling, and the place had that neglected-outbuilding-storage-sheddy vibe, and there were no visitors at all except for me and Amy. It's strange to think that they don't fix the place up a little bit. FDR, after all, was a good president. The whole New Deal thing was impressive, and he made it cool for presidents to use cigar holders. I think he deserves better. The FDR stables were creepy -- no horses in them, and there was no stables-ish smell at all in there; it was just musty, like an outdoor attic. Strange, how people revere FDR and yet his house is such a dump.

It makes me wonder if George W. Bush's house will ever be opened to the public 60 years from now. I would bet against it. They'll probably just knock his original house to the ground, leaving a weedy field, and maybe there will be a small pebble with an inscription, in Magic Marker, saying, "George W. Bush used to live here but no one cares.'' And then the pebble will get stolen. Also, we tried to go to the CIA (Culinary institute of America) but all the damned restaurants were closed!!! It was Sunday, but the stupid guidebook said they would be open. I found a guy wandering around campus and begged him to make us an omelette or something but he refused so we left.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

There's a cool blog about cacti!

Today my upcoming book was mentioned in an unusual blog that talks all about cactuses. I swear. The blog somehow tracks every online mention of cacti. The book is not all about cactuses, per se, though a cactus plays a very important role in the narrative. The blog also included a very cool 'patent' that tells you how to get rid of the spines (which would have helped me tremendously if I'd known about it)

Monday, February 05, 2007

World's Greatest Backpacker

A couple of days ago, I made contact with the world's greatest backpacker --- Scott Williamson, the sport's Lance Armstrong, who is less famous than Lance Armstrong simply because people put so much stock in biking and so little in the sport of backpacking. I've known Scott for quite a while but lost contact with him because he's been out in the woods and changed his email. Anyhow, I want Scott to be one of the people I feature in my book to provide some good balance. In case you haven't heard of him, Scott is the guy who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail twice in one single, sustained effort. I, on the other hand, took two years to hike it, in large part because I contracted giardia and lost more than 30 pounds in the process while recovering in the town of Happy Camp, California. Anyhow, I'm in awe of anyone who can travel 5,200 miles in about five months, in all kinds of steep terrain, in snow, desert, etc.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

See 'Spring Awakening.'

I really think that everyone should see Duncan Sheik's "Spring Awakening.'' (or maybe my real motive is to put something really popular in Cactuseaters so someone reads my blog; this happened some time ago when I mentioned Guillermo Del Toro! No, really, the play was startling, smart, funny, tragic, with a demographic that skewed really young without giving you that sleazy feeling that it's an old-person creation masquerading as youth entertainment. I think it captured the rapturous misery of adolescence very well, and the songs were great. The one reservation: the male lead is great but he is kind of an expectorator, if you know what I mean. What I'm trying to say is, he spat lots and lots of times, and with pretty impressive range, during some of the songs -- foooooooo, saliva just raining down all over the place. I'd think twice about buying front-row seats unless you dose up with Airborne.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Article about cactuseaters

My first-ever press mention appeared last week in a Santa Cruz Sentinel article, and the column also appeared on Posthole.com, which is cool because i'm a fan of Posthole. My friends in Santa Cruz threw a 'pre-launch' party featuring theme food from the book, including salsa made from a prickly pear.

Anyhow, this is the article as it appeared in the paper:


"Success dogs Sentinel reporter

Former Sentinel reporter Dan White, now at Columbia University, sent word he's sold a book to Harper Collins Publisher.

With the working title of "The Cactus Eaters," White's book tells about his trip along the Pacific Crest Trail with a former girlfriend, both of them wilderness neophytes.

But this is no tragic piece of literature.

Instead, says White's good friend and Sentinel feature writer Peggy Townsend, think Bill Bryson on the Appalachian Trail in "A Walk in the Woods"

Like Bryson, White's not exactly a Daniel Boone type.

Consider, for example, the title of White's book — taken from an experience he had when his trail wound through the desert.

His backpack much too heavy, White has already dumped his water when, in the desert, his thirst gets the better of him.

Thankfully, he's read somewhere that cactii hold liquid refreshment.

But for White, the cactus holds only a mouthful of needles.

So, is Dan White's autograph worth big bucks now?

"My autograph at this point is worth about five Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum wrappers," he e-mailed me recently.

Don't know the publication date yet, but when I do, you'll be the first to know.''

P.S. -- my review of Slanted Door take-out was probably a little harsh; I've been hearing from a couple of Slanted Door fans who think I ordered badly and should have just waited to get seated in the main building.