Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last call

I'm almost done with my second Cactuseaters Readers column; there is still room for one more bio. Send it in right now -- and I will post next week (or the next.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Calexico rocks

It was very cool to see a mention of The Cactus Eaters on Calexico's Twitter feed recently. Calexico is one of my favorite bands; I first became aware of them in 2001 when I heard them at -- of all places -- a pre-San Francisco Marathon spaghetti feast. Their richly textured music evokes a genuine sense of place -- especially the wide open spaces and desert landscapes of the Southwest. Don't miss their appearances on Saturday at the Independent and on Sunday at Outside Lands right here in SF.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Poisoning pigeons in the park

From time to time, I like to post interviews with various folks that I admire. Here is an oldie but a goodie -- my discussion with the legendary musical satirist Tom Lehrer. This will (eventually) be part of an online clip file that I am compiling for Cactuseaters, mostly for my own organizational purposes. If you aren't familiar with the work of Tom Lehrer, go out and buy one of his live ones, "An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer.'' It is still incredibly funny, roughly a half-century after he recorded it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mysterious unbearable odor wafts through San Francisco

If you live out here, you may have smelt something awful last night and this morning. Don't blame it on your poodle or your gym clothes; it was something in the air. According to the latest news reports, "the stench could be smelled for a time in the Financial District'' (and they're not being metaphorical.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Zooming across the Pacific Crest Trail: Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley

Thank you, Mike Palmer, for sending me news that superhikers Scott Williamson and Adam Bradley have apparently shattered a PCT speed hiking record set by David Horton. Scott, if you're reading this, send me the details. According to a forwarded message I received a few minutes ago, "they hiked the trail in typical thru/hiker style in an incredible 65d9h58m. This incudes dealing with all their own resupply, etc. Mind boggling."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heartbreak in the liquor aisle: hook-up attempts thwarted at Trader Joe's

Yesterday, I witnessed two hook-up attempts at a local Trader Joe's.

Both of them were shot down in flames.

It happened while I was hanging out near the legendary liquor aisle, trying to choose between Full Sail Ale or the horrible-tasting, recession-priced Simpler Times. I saw a nice woman -- maybe 50 -- flirting with a good-natured, portly guy, a bit younger than her. They got into a conversation about beer options: Red Oval Classic versus Simpler Times. Then the woman asked if she could take him home with her, and that way they could taste-test the beers together and have some dinner, too. Instead of taking her up on this friendly offer, he rebuffed her: "Get in line, baby!'' he said with a smile.

So the woman backed off, and the guy walked over to that place in the back where they serve you free samples. There, he started flirting with a woman -- at least 20 years his junior -- who was handing out bits of salad in paper containers.

"You do your job very well,'' he said to the young woman. "Man, do I love this place! It's got everything I want. Just a minute ago, this lady tried to pick me up in the liquor aisle. I told her, 'You'd better get in line, baby!''

The young woman gave him a wan smile, turned the other way, and went on to doling out salad.

I saw the man a few moments later in the back of the store, emptying several free containers of spicy peanut slaw into his mouth at the same time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Can you boycott a store if you've never shopped there in the first place?

I am extremely annoyed with a Haight-Ashbury boutique that (apparently) bans babies and children from entering the premises. The boutique has a note near the door that says NO BRATS with a picture of a weeping child. (huh? weren't the store's owners and employees children at some point in their lives? and did they never cry?) The problem is this; the store sells ugly knicknacks and clothes, and so I've never shopped there in the first place. Is it possible to boycott a store when you don't shop there anyhow?

I'm thinking of going in there, buying a couple of items and never shopping there again. That'll show them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Aerosmith drummer cancels Haight Ashbury visit.

This just in from Booksmith

"Unfortunately, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith has had to cancel his visit to The Booksmith, following Steven Tyler's fall last week. We wish the best to the band and will still be stocking Joey's memoir, Hit Hard, for those who are curious about life on the road as a rock 'n roll drummer.''

Still to come this month, Peter Coyote will read from his memoir and we'll host a community forum on homelessness in the Haight with guests authors Violet Blue and Mark Bittner. Also, the Found in Translation reading group meets, Sean Chiki displays his art and comics, and Kemble Scott reads from his new novel, The Sower.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The street poet of Haight/Ashbury (he gets paid in cash!!)

I have an inspiring story for all you writers dealing with the recession.

The other day, I met a young poet named Lynn Gentry, who types out instant poems at the famous corner of Haight and Ashbury. He composes his poems behind a hand-lettered sign that reads: PICK A SUBJECT AND PRICE, THEN A POEM.''

Follow the instructions: set your price, pick a subject and talk it over with the poet. Then he types it out, taking between three to 10 minutes on his Smith-Corona typewriter, propped on a table near Ben & Jerry's. He's so popular, with such a long line in front of him, that it was hard to extract much biographical info from him; he's too busy to talk much. People come from all around to watch him type. In this age of Twitter and (ahem), blogging, Lynn creates work for individual customers and makes no copies for himself; he never sees his words again. "It doesn't bother me,'' he says. "I forget most of my lyrics anyhow.''

Best of all, he's a poet who is turning a profit -- and he gets paid in cash.

A man in front of me ordered up a poem about baseball and marijuana -- two subjects in one for the price of a dollar. Gentry's poem included a line that alluded to both subjects:

"...smell the grass after a good cut...''

I waited in a very long line to talk with him. The crowd was fixated on him, and they wouldn't stop staring at him, even when a freak showed up and started belching out a horrible rendition of "Billie Jean'' by Michael Jackson. A burly man brushed past him and shouted out, "What you are doing is so C-O-O-L.'' When it was my turn, I ordered up a poem about "being a writer during a recession.'' My price was two bucks.

Immediately he got to work. He pecked away at the typewriter, cleared his throat, leaned into the paper and blacked out a couple of vowels with a ballpoint pen. At the end of the poem, he affixed his myspace address. A few minutes later, he handed me the poem, and I'll quote from part of it here:

...when you write in recession
You can write the best book you have ever written
then you have to wait for the economy to change
so that people don't have to choose between
Feeding their kids
and reading a book about the struggle of life after a death
in the family of a low middle class family who lost the father
They want to hear it, they just don't want to have to pay for it.

I thanked him and gave him his two dollars, plus a tip of 150 percent. After all, the economy is in a slump, and writers must help each other out or else. (the total bill worked out to be five bucks.)

Best of luck, Mr. Gentry, and I'll see you out in the street.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Happy birthday to Obese Cat

Today is the birthday of Robert Earl, my hugely overweight, semi-sentient tabby cat, who weighs 18 pounds, eats like a pig-animal and wakes me up every night with his ceaseless whining and yowling. (demanding yet another lump of food.) My pet doctor sent along this personalized birthday e-card, showing a bunch of kitties cavorting and playing and celebrating the birthday of my utterly shiftless feline, who has been attacking me and biting my face and trying to asphyxiate me ever since I rescued him off the streets of Santa Cruz. I am thinking of writing a book about him called The Fatness Eaters: How I Lost my mind – and Never Found Myself – While trying to Look after my Lazy, Snorting, Morbidly Obese “companion animal.” Anyhow, I hope you will send along your birthday greetings to him, or, even better, a sack full of cat chow. He’d appreciate that. By the way, I would post a picture of him here, but he’s so fat, I can’t fit him into the viewfinder.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hello to my blog readers in Korea, Bahrain, Australia, Nigeria, India and Iran

I want to hear from you -- send those bios in!!
Don't be shy.
(I haven't heard from my reader from Iran for a while - If you're out there, I hope you're doing OK)
I think I've got this whole RSS thing sorted out - almost. One of my readers sent me a how-to video showing me how to set it up. I'll do my best.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Wild nights at the Booksmith: William Vollmann, Peter Coyote, the drummer from Aerosmith (and more)

Check out the wild assortment of events at the Booksmith this month at the Haight.

In other news, you might have seen the "poet for hire'' at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. He's got a typewriter, and if you set a price and determine a subject, he will write a poem for you on the spot. I am going to take him up on this and blog his poem next month.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Advice for today: ramp up your confidence with a fake "power salute"

Sometimes - especially during a long recession -- you need to "fake it 'til you make it.'' Here is a heavily pixilated photo of me doing just that: making a fake power salute and victory gesture at the end of last week's marathon. At the moment this picture was taken, I did not feel victorious; in truth, I was exhausted and wanted to fall to my knees and possibly vomit. In spite of this, I used my last little bit of energy to pump my fist at a camera man perched over the finish line.

This strategy worked; it took the edge off my exhaustion, and helped me pick up my speed at the end.

The woman in front of me looks very bummed out.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Keep 'em rolling in (plus, RSS aggravator.)

Thanks for all the great bios and info so far for Cactuseaters Readers in the News round two. At this rate, it's going to fill up pretty fast so keep sending those in as quickly as you can.

In other news, I'm aggravated (slightly) about the fact that my RSS feed is still not working. I'll keep fiddling with it.