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 And here is my addendum to this thoroughly outdated post: thank you, Canada.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|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.