Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cactus Eaters in National Geographic Weekend

One of my readers just sent me this audio link to an interview I did a while back. This is probably the only time in my life in which I will appear in the same program roster as Chuck D of Public Enemy. Cool. (I just so happen to have Chuck D's autograph, dating back to the "Apocalypse '91, the Enemy Strikes Back'' tour. I still have that autograph somewhere in storage. It's on a napkin.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Knock back a beer (or a glass of wine) at your local independent bookstore

Stay tuned for my special report on independent bookstores and what they are doing to stay afloat in this rotten economy -- (including, in one case, adding a full beer and wine list!)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leah Garchik column in SF Chronicle

One of my recent post-Cactus Eaters stories was mentioned in this recent column by The SF Chronicle's Leah Garchik (who I read religiously.) Lately I've been getting a spate of new emails about the unfortunate "other Dan White'' name coincidence.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Cactus Eaters: now available in paperback!

I am very pleased to announce that the Cactus Eaters is available in the paperback format at your local bookstore. Literal minded people will point out that the book was already out in paperback, but let's just set that aside for the time being. In other news, it looks like the book will go into another printing soon -- and I want my Cactuseaters blog readers to know that I've been incorporating their emailed suggestions, though I will not be able to include color photos, at least for now.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An enduring puzzle: the Golden Gate Park spear (updated report.)

As I mentioned in a recent blog posting, I discovered what appeared to be a spear point in Golden Gate Park, not far from the Shakespeare Garden, and turned it over to the deYoung Museum, who in turn handed it over to the California Academy Of Sciences. An expert from the Academy's Department of Anthropology has weighed in on the finding -- and there are many more questions than answers.

While the expert has declared that the obsidian object is "likely a spear tip or knife -- it looks too robust to have served as an arrow tip,'' its provenance is murky. There is some chance that the object was buried before the park was created in the late 19th century, and that a burrowing rodent pushed it up to the surface. But very often, gophers and other creatures actually bury artifacts deeper into the ground, rather than pushing them up -- and there's always a chance that someone brought the object from somewhere else and dropped it into the park. "In short, it is virtually impossible to determine from where and when the item originated, if it is an indigenous piece or a reproduction.''

Is there some hope that this puzzle will solved some day? Perhaps. Otherwise, the scientist would have said "flat-out impossible'' instead of "virtually impossible.''
Until then I'll just have to let the mystery be. By the way, the artifact will soon be on display somewhere in the park. Details to follow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

$1.6 million needed to save SF bookstore

I stopped by Stacey's bookstore on Market Street here in SF and asked if there was anything I could do to help the bookstore and prevent it from closing. One of the employees said yes, I could write them a check for $1.6 million!! Apparently that is what it would take to save the store, which (according to the employee) is paying 65K in rent each month!! So I guess the news is final after all. On the bright side, I can take some comfort in the fact that two top-notch bookstores (Alexander's, just down the block, and a branch of Book Passage, several blocks away overlooking the water) are still going strong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The vanishing mural of Haight-Ashbury (where has it gone?)

One of my favorite pieces of local street art has vanished. Every day, when I'm going on my appointed rounds or marathon-training runs, I pass this color-splashed mural with anthropomorphic smiling faces (some of them with lolling tongues.) I witnessed this project take shape from start to finish. Tourists are always posing in front of it. Locals stop to stare and admire it. And now, boom, it's gone beneath a fresh coating of off-white paint. There might be a rational explanation (perhaps it was meant to be a temporary installation. I'll ask around the block and see what I can find out.) Meanwhile, if you've never seen the mural, here are some photos that I took on pure impulse a couple of weeks back. By the way, there is a great mural on Cole Street near the Haight intersection; it's an 'evolutionary rainbow' featuring fish, reptiles and other creatures. Make sure to check it out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I found a spear in Golden Gate Park!

Yes, you read that correctly; I found a spear -- or, to be more specific, a rocky spear point -- in the park not too long ago, while running through the park on a rare, sunny day. GGP -- long before it was turned into a pleasure garden -- was just one more section of scrubby plants and sand dunes marching out toward the Pacific Ocean. Human habitation has a long history in what is now San Francisco -- reaching back to at least 3,000 years B.C. But this doesn't (necessarily) mean that the relic that I found -- and duly turned over to the de Young Museum, which transferred the item to the California Academy of Sciences, after I provided specific coordinates of where I found this 'surface relic -- is the real deal. Sometimes it takes careful examination to determine whether something like this is authentic or merely a discarded tsoschke from a gift shop somewhere. Stay tuned to this blog --- and I'll give you more answers within the week.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Save Stacey's Bookstore!

Yet another great independent bookstore is shutting its doors. The SF Chronicle reported yesterday that Stacey's Books -- which has been on Market Street for 85 years, including a half-century at its current address -- is closing down in March. If you've never been there, this is a beautiful, airy, multi-level bright spot in the Financial District. They're good about supporting local authors and they are very responsive to the clientele, who help them stock a "local favorites'' shelf. The Chronicle reports that Stacey's, like other independents, has been harmed by the "the rise of national chains...and Web-based booksellers,'' compounded by the lousy economy. Still, the story gave me a small glimmer of hope when it mentioned the campaign to save Kepler's Books in Menlo Park. These independents are more than just booksellers. They are also salons, meeting places and entertainment venues, with free readings by local and national authors. The economy will rebound eventually, but I'm worried that all my favorite stores will be gone from the landscape by then.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Chew on this (cactus, desert and Joshua tree photos from the California hinterlands), plus a day hike recommendation.....

Here are some of the spiny monsters that I admired (but did not eat) during my recent trip into the California outback. Also --if you're out in the Joshua Tree area, I recommend the hike up to the top of Ryan Mountain, which is beautiful and windswept. Compared to the tallest peaks of the Sierra Nevada, this 5,461-foot crag is a bit of an anthill. However, the view from the top is magnificent. Bring shoes with decent arch support, and, of course, lots of water.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Nextbook and Brave New Traveler interviews

I've reposted these online magazine interview links for those who are new to the book and/or blog. They give an overview of Cactus and answer some FAQs. The authors/interviewers are (respectively) Adina Kay and Alexis Wolff.

Here is the Nextbook interview,

and here is the interview in Brave New Traveler magazine.