Archive for October, 2007

These are some memories that came to mind in the shower as I ran through a series of vocal exercises in preparation for an appearance on a new television program, “Singing with the Falling Stars.” I’m hoping to be paired with Britney.

Once upon a time, a few buddies used to entice me into a bar now and then. We had some preferred spots in a variety of places in the Bay Area.

Geographically, starting South and moving North: San Bruno, San Francisco, Sausalito, San Rafael, Larkspur, Ignacio, Novato, Petaluma.

Turning East: Vallejo.

Then South: Pinole, Oakland (turning East again) San Ramon Village, Pleasanton, Tracy, Manteca.

There are probably more that have disappeared among some pickled brain cells.

Now that I reflect, we covered a rather wide ranging area, but we didn’t make them all in a single night or even in a month. We had several groups, and as a frequent traveler, I’d look up a member or two when in town.

One was a customer service agent for Qantas at SFO. We met in San Rafael but he moved to SF and then to San Bruno. His wife would become disgusted at our antics and blame me for pouring unwanted alcohol down his throat.

And then, another guy I met in San Rafael. Preferred turf: Sausalito, San Rafael, and Larkspur.

Not to forget a few members of our work group. We had favorite spots from Ignacio, Novato, and points North and East.

A couple of us drove to Boise, Idaho, one summer and stopped for awhile in Tahoe and Reno. There, a skimpily-clad cocktail waitress lured me into losing every penny in my pockets on the slots. To top it off, she poured so much free booze in me that I couldn’t find my way out of the casino. When we reached Boise, I placed a contrite call home for living and eating money.

Those were the days when the sights, sounds, and smells of the booze scene were like soothing opiates. The minute we walked in a bar (lounges were for prissy sissies), the odor of stale cigarette smoke and booze-sloshed booths and floors was a natural high.

After a couple of drinks, the world became tolerable. Everyone was a friend. We were intellectual giants, solving all problems. Someone always described the latest brain surgery advance. Me? I was the laugher. Hey, two drinks, who gives a shit?

Evenings always ended in mushy sentimentality as we wandered around saying things like, “I love you, Charlie,” even though we hated Charlie’s guts when we were sober. We were too snorkled to know what a woman was much less make a connection.

Some evenings ended in a few slow-motion blows and hard feelings, forgotten in the following day’s miseries, nausea at the top of the scale, arid cells crying for gallons of cold water, and headaches that responded to nothing.

More than once, I sat in an all day meeting wearing black Top Guns in a state of catatonic inertia, afraid a single word or the slightest movement would result in the mother of all vomitus discharges. When the work day ended, we’d repeat the fun. Amazing how quickly the brain forgets a hangover.

Sometimes things got ridiculous. A close work group friend was a brilliant and capable gay woman who didn’t drink. She thought her orientation was the reason men were promoted ahead of her.

One day, a sympathetic boss ‘splained it to her. “You need to engage in executive talk.” His message? “If you want to get promoted, go out with the boys and get drunker than a skunk.”

One morning, for no apparent reason, I awoke and never had another drink or smoked another cigarette. The most amazing thing happened. My bar friends faded away.

Before long, I could see the sky, smell the air, taste the food. The yellow nicotine stains disappeared from my fingers. My nose and chin became a normal human hue rather than an advertisement for Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

My unscheduled absences and sick leave ceased. I saved loads of money on deodorants and mouthwashes, not to mention expenses under the category of “give everyone doubles.” Sobriety was a strange experience.

Occasionally, I run into some of my old pals. One will always ask, “How about a drink, Bobby.” Another one still in the clutch of adolescence will spout defiantly, “Have a drink, Bob. You’re spoiling all the fun.”

When someone makes a statement like that, I become eternally grateful once again that I decided to grew up.

Non-Preachy Addendum: This isn’t a confession or a plea for drinkers to give it up. Few people are interested in confessions and even fewer in advice or attempts to make them feel guilty.

Hey, when it comes to personal behavior, I am of the libertarian persuasion.

Do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm an innocent person. Wanna smoke pot? Why would I object? Wanna have a little sex? Be my guest. Porno? Go ahead. I’d rather do it than watch it. But to each his/her own. Have fun. I’ll be your designated driver.


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Breaking Eyewitness News from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD

Our on-the-scene correspondent reports that Admiral William J. Crowe, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Ambassador to Great Britain under President Clinton, was buried a few moments ago at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery.

With full military honors, he was laid to rest at services attended by former presidents Carter and Clinton. We may have pictures later of them standing beside Crowe’s casket.

Clinton departed in a Secret Service automobile, but before he entered the vehicle, he waved to our reporter.

Crowe was widely regarded as a down-to-Earth Kentuckian who one appeared on a Cheers episode,

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The average voter wanders around in a state of bewilderment. We fit that bill to a T. We know how it is. When it comes down to it and voters step in the voting booth, panic will overtake many of them as they suddenly can’t read the ballot because the print on it is so tiny and the names of the candidates and all of the Propositions are scrunched together so closely that one name overlaps another.

They begin to fumble around. Hands shaking, they inadvertently and randomly cover the ballot with chicken scratches and then create utter confusion by wetting their fingers and trying to erase indelible marks.

We are also familiar with voters, punch-card ballots, and devilish machines that recognize no human hand. With these unresponsive tools, voters reflexively pull the damned lever before the ballot is fully inserted. Result? Electoral disaster. Hanging chads or severed ballots as alarmed voters forcefully yank them out.

We have a suggestion to avoid all of this and more–A ballot proposition which authorizes any natural-born or naturalized citizen of the United States the right to a Designated Voter.

A Designated Voter would be a young person of idealism, good eyesight, a steady hand, an affable demeanor, cool in the face of panic, and a passing score on a “Political Neutrality Test” to assure the Designated Voter doesn’t vote for his or her own slate instead of the legitimate voter’s.

Of course, this doesn’t solve the problem of how the average bewildered voter sorts out the issues, the candidates and their stands on the issues, and a variety of confusing propositions.

The answer here is a Designated Interpreter. Several good ones are on line and available to any interested citizen. Our recommendations, in no particular order are:

  • SFBG’s 2007 Election Center. Detailed voters’ information.
  • Sweet Melissa. Excellent interpretations of government gobbledygook.
  • SF Willie. An inside touch with a detailed knowledge of the issues and the players.
  • Fog City Journal. Best coverage and analysis in the mainstream media. These guys aren’t “alternative” by any means.
  • Gavin Newsom. Wha? No link? Get off of your buns and find it yourself.

The inclusion of Newsom may surprise you. But if nothing else, if you’ll permit him to talk at you, you’ll be struck by his utter confusion. You’ll learn quickly that he is just another bewildered voter.

Now, if we could just get a proposition on the ballot that would relegate him to the status of Ghost Mayor while a real person runs the city.

But, wait. Wasn’t that how it used to be?

Proposition No—No more gibberish out of City Hall.

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I am by nature a cynical and suspicious individual. This is because I know how a lot of things work, especially politics and bureaucracies.

That’s why I greeted the mayor’s State of the City address with major skepticism. Yep, he received the regular glowing reviews from the Chron. That is to be expected.

Still, questions remain. For instance, when Newsom talked about “uncontrovertible” and “absolute” facts, watch out. That’s a deal too good to be true. Don’t buy an insurance policy from this guy.

Keep in mind the old adage “Figures lie and liars figure.” There is no such thing as uncontrovertible and absolute facts.

Remember as well, that all “States of the Whatever,” addresses are puffery. You don’t think for a minute do you that, for instance, Newsom is going to say “Gee, sorry folks. We’ve been asleep at the switch for four years? How time flies.”

The mayor is going to paint a rosy picture of his accomplishments even if the accomplishments were accomplished by his subordinates.

The problem with statistics, charts, graphs, and PowerPoint presentations is that the human factor has been removed. If you want some real emotion and a counterpoint to Newsom’s antiseptic absolutism, check the comments following Cecilia Vega’s glowing review of Newsom’s presentations. As of this writing, almost all of them catalogued anecdotal evidence of a city in worse condition than it was when the Newsom reign began.

Ordinarily, I never endorse political candidates. Yes, I’ll make it clear who isn’t on my list of preferred candidates. But that’s about it. Everyone is a big person who can make up his or her own mind.

But if someone held a gun to my head, I’d choose Chicken John. He’d at least pipe some Okie Porno flicks through the city’s cable system.

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If you’re interested in the Asian-American experience in America, you might be interested in checking out the works of Milton Murayama. A Hawaii-born author now living in San Francisco, Murayama is noted for several novels about the Japanese-American experience in the U.S. As an 84-year old Nisei (second generation American of Japanese descent), his works are chronicles of a time and a culture most of us are unfamiliar with.

His experiences include life on a sugar plantation, member of the Territory of Hawaii Guard, and a tour of duty in Taiwan where, as a translator for the U.S. Army military intelligence group, he helped facilitate the surrender of Japanese soldiers and their subsequent repatriation to Japan.

Following his release from military service, he attended the University of Hawaii and Columbia University where he received a master’s degree in Chinese and Japanese.

His first major work was All I Asking for is My Body published in 1975. This was followed by Five Years on a Rock in 1994 and Plantation Boy in 1998.

Now, he has a fourth work in pre-publication preparation. A date certain for the work’s completion isn’t known at this writing. My information now is that the book’s working title is A Good Life, but that will probably change.

The University of Hawaii Press published Murayama’s three previous novels and will continue as the publisher of his fourth work. However, as of today, the book hasn’t been included in the Press’s New Books list.

Though Murayama’s works speak primarily to the Japanese-American experience in Hawaii, those experiences are mirrored in all Asian-American experiences throughout the country. San Francisco had its own checkered history as it once prevented Asians from attending schools with whites. And the State of California banned marriages between whites and other races until 1949.

At one time, a real estate developer on the peninsula proposed that the entire peninsula restrict non-whites from white areas. And California had its share of “Sundown Towns,” communities that banned blacks after dark within their corporate limits. We’ve covered this topic in detail in an earlier comment.

In those days, non-whites ranked below Okies in California’s social, economic, and educational hierarchies.

Thankfully, the days of legally-enforced hate ended largely in the 1960s in most locations, and San Francisco has become a cosmopolitan city equal to none.

Still, pockets of ignorance survive. Social and cultural attitudes die hard. How can we kill those attitudes? We could profit as a country by becoming familiar with the works of courageous authors like Murayama. A younger generation is slowly taking its place in the sun. Maybe a young Asian-American will become a Murayama of the near-future. Let’s hope so.

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Have you ever heard this one? “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it a thousand times.”

I have resolved a thousand times and more never again in the history of the world to include THE NAME in this site. And I swear I am not going to include it now.

But then, someone always triggers my craving. To my absolute dismay, the culprit this time was Beth Spotswood.

By some devilish artistry, she has unearthed a picture posted on January 2, 2007, showing Herr Gabbermeister at a party in Allegro Romano. Nothing unusual. But, sitting across from el Gavo–a happy, smiling AT.

Still, nothing of any particular interest. Then Spotswood starts prickling everyone’s nosiness. She thinks that a blonde in brown sitting next to Zorro with her back to the camera is THE NAME.

Boy, that sparked 20-plus comments in short order. Some favored THE NAME. Some said, naw, for various reasons. I was one of the doubters. The blonde in brown looks too short. THE NAME is taller than The Gabber. But, based on the photo alone I had no proof.

Well, needless to say, I examined the photo with a magnifying glass. My guts told me something was amiss, but I couldn’t figure it out. Just a case of bad eyes, I thought.

Then after a closer look, the truth leaped out. Right in front of me, shining blonde tresses materialized. They belonged to a tall woman, as tall as Gavo, sitting next to him on the side opposite Beth’s blonde in brown, almost totally hidden by his magnetic presence. Her top, coat or blouse, was so close to the color of Gab’s blue suit, that a clear distinction was almost impossible using the naked eye alone.

Hmmmmm. The image that popped into my mind was THE NAME.

The interests of scientific analysis demanded that the investigation continue beyond my cursory magnification. Using secret tricks, I ran a screen capture, cropped the image, balanced its colors, and magnified it to wall poster size.

Then with a larger magnifying glass, I examined every inch of the picture. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is my favorite program, not counting Grey’s Anatomy. My professional analysis will devastate Beth.

The hidden blond in black is situated at an angle across from AT. She is leaning forward on the edge of her chair. One hand is in a position to cup her chin. She appears to be listening raptly to AT, who is talking to someone out of the picture.

I’d be willing to lay money on the proposition that the little sliver of a tall blond woman in black is THE NAME I am trying to avoid mentioning.

But that leaves unanswered many mysteries. What’s the identity of the woman Gavo is surrounding in a classic bar tactic once two prowlers decide on one another–screening out potential challengers and setting boundaries?

And then, why is no one looking at or apparently speaking to THE NAME? Small group dynamics come into play. AT is looking at someone to his right. Gaberoroni is engaged with his target. A woman in black across from THE NAME is looking toward someone to the right of THE NAME. And a group of four is clustered at the end of the table with heads together. One of them has his back turned to THE NAME. A quick look might lead one to conclude that THE NAME is in unfriendly territory.

Well, an anonymous fun-spoiling commenter on Beth’s site called on some scientific equipment and destroyed my own budding hypothesis, namely, that the crowd was shunning THE NAME because THE RUMORS were in high gear and no one wanted any connection with THE NAME.

This fun-spoiler pegged the date of the photo as January 2005, a full two years before the picture appeared on the web and, apparently, a substantial amount of time before IT began.

Crap. Another beautiful theory shot to hell. Shows the danger of connecting nonexistent dots.

We may never learn the identities of these two mystery women. But perhaps in years hence, a cold-case blogger will dust off the archive of musty files. Nosy SOBs will always be with us.

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A Half-Act Play

Scene: Mayor’s Conference Room.

Attendees: The Mayor, an undistinguished assortment of department heads, supervisors, commissioners, and senior staff members.

The curtain rises

Mayor: Where the hell is my secretary?

Secretary: Here, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: You’re a man for criminy sakes. Men can’t be secretaries. Eric, get me a damned secretary.

Eric: Okay, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: How about that broad at the end of the table?

Bevan: That’s the District Attorney, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Well, she’d make a damned good secretary, anyway. All right, let’s move on. Now that the election is over and I won an overwhelming victory over Grasshopper and that Chicken whats-his-name, let’s get ready to move in new directions.

Aaron: Mr. Mayor, the election isn’t until November.

Mayor: Oh, shoot. Well, I’m gonna win anyway. What’s on the agenda, guys?

Kamala: Mr. Mayor, I’ve advised you of the legal pitfalls of referring to everyone as “guys” when there are women around.

Eric: Besides Mr. Mayor, the term “guys” is so 20th Century.

Mayor: Well, is there anything I can call people without getting my ass in a sling? Christ! Can’t even ask for resignations anymore. By the way, Kammy, where’s yours?

Kamala: Need I remind you once again, Mr. Mayor that I am an elected official not subject to your peevish and childish whims?

Mayor (pouty): Who says? Where’s my daddy? He loves me.

Aaron (under his breath): Don’t bank on it, pal.

Bevan: Mr. Mayor. I have one item for discussion this morning.

Mayor: Yes, Bevvy.

Bevan: Jeez, what’s gotten in to you? Your lips are out of sync with your tongue.

Mayor: Where the hell is my rehab counselor? I’m having a relapse.

Eric: Now, now, Mr. Mayor, no need for that. We have some orange juice for you.

Mayor: It gives me heartburn.

Eric: We’ve cut the acid content with a little SoCo.

Mayor: Oh, all right.

Aaron: Now Mr. Mayor, we have another agenda item.

Mayor: What’s that, Pesky?

Peskin: You’re scheduled for a wedding in Napa.

Mayor (Pouty): I’m not going. Send Eric. Last time I went to Napa somebody damned near impeached me.

Eric: We don’t impeach mayors here, sir. We just send them to rehab. Besides, it’s your wedding, Mr. Mayor.

Mayor: Huh? No kidding? Who’s the bride?

Eric: You know who—J.S.

Mayor: I don’t want her. I want Kimberly.

Bevan: Don’t you remember? You divorced her already.

Mayor: It’s all a blur. Pour some more SoCo in my orange juice, will you?

Bevan: Sorry, sir. Kammy just poured the last drop in her orange juice.

Mayor: Pooh. Where’s my daddy? He loves me.

Chris (Whispery): Don’t bet on it, pal.

Just then, the door bursts open and a booming voice fills the room.

Voice: Come on home, son. It’s time for your nap.

Mayor: Hey you’re not my daddy. (To Eric) It’s that fricking Noyes. Kill that son of a bitch! (He leaps across the table and attacks Noyes)

Chris: Well at least he made a decision.

Eric: Yep, practicing for a run at the Statehouse.

(The mayor and Noyes attempt to strangle one another as …)

The curtain drops

(Well, we all have our quirks. This is one of mine.)

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