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We had a big cheese contingent at the Neko Case show last night. Neko was amazing. I actually left liking her music more than I did when I went in, and I liked it plenty upon arrival. It’s poignant, sad, hopeful, nostalgic, and filled with the detail of every day life, sometimes all in the same song.

When we all got to the BART/MUNI stop after the show I was struck by something. Maybe it was a reflective mood inspired by an hour and a half of Neko Case. While we once all lived in walking distance from Rainbow, now I was the only one left in San Francisco. This entry/article/rant has been said many times before, to be sure. But I felt the sadness for a moment. Our communities that once existed and the way they could have grown – and we could have grown old – together.

It didn’t help when the first song that came on this morning as I sat down to the computer was J Church’s “The Satanists Convene” which is a song about everything this city has lost. And of course we’ve lost Lance too. His songs occasionally made me cry when he was alive. While his songs were also part sappy/part serious, some certainly have become more poignant since his death.

Perhaps returning to the Warfield also contributed. I hadn’t been these since (I think) a 1992 Cramps Halloween show. Just to prove how old we are, I attended that show with friends whose youngest daughter was one-ish. These are wonderful people that I’ve been friends with since the ‘80s who fled the Bay Area for more affordable living in rural Pennsylvania, but returned last year. Earlier this week that daughter won a $10,000 scholarship for her singing from Beach Blanket Babylon. You can’t predict these things. And some of these things are good.

I suppose poignancy was the theme of the last 24 hours. I didn’t choose that theme. It just happened.
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You may have already seen this but if not check it out. BART cops have been more rogue than other cops for a long time now and community activists have been pushing for some kind of oversight for decades. Oversight isn't perfect by any means, but it is certainly better than nothing.


I know you have heard about the shooting death of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer. Did you know that BART police have been accused of using excessive and unnecessary force in two other shooting deaths in the past? And that BART has resisted creating a civilian oversight board to provide public accountability?

We can do something about that. Click the link below to learn about Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and State Senator Leland Yee's efforts to create a civilian oversight board, and join me, the Courage Campaign and Color of Change in signing a letter in support of their proposed law -- and to demand that they pass the strongest bill possible:


The officer who shot and killed Oscar Grant must be held accountable. But that alone will not ensure this never happens to any other BART rider again.

We all need to talk to our family and friends about the importance of bringing accountability to the BART police to ensure this tragedy never happens again.

That is why I am asking you to sign this letter in support of Ammiano and Yee's bill, and help build the progressive movement for justice in California.

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It's obvious. When it's mid-morning and nearly 90 degrees… when you are across the street from a church and it's a weekday. … when you are not only the only people on the street, but also the only people dressed in long pants, long sleeves and dark colors. Occasion clothes. Clothes that aren't worn much . Obvious no matter what your job is, these aren't work clothes.

It's obvious when you are in a Bay Area city that, at least in this section, still feels like a small town. It's obvious that you are not dressed correctly for the weather so you must be dressed for something else. Even if people don't know there's a church there, the graveyard is only a few blocks South.

Cars will stop and let you go. Because this town still feels like a small town. Because the drivers, air-conditioned and closed off from the weather, can still sense there's something… something wrong. Maybe in the winter you might blend. But not in summer . Not in Santa Clara in a heat wave, when it's mid-morning and nearly 90 degrees.

Traffic stops out of respect. Small gesture to be sure, but still a gesture.

It's the obvious thing to do.
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I'm not a native Californian. My parents moved to the Bay Area in 1970 from the Midwest, though Michigan was only a stopover for them on the way west from New Jersey.

When we moved to California, they stopped going to church. How can you spend a weekend day in church when all the natural beauty of the Bay Area is there to be explored for the first time? We probably hit every beach in Marin and Sonoma counties those first few years. Still, this wasn't exactly the California my parents expected. Bay Area beaches are almost always windy and cold. Perfectly planned picnics were abandoned due to wind-cause earaches and too much sand in sandwiches. To this day when I think of eating on the beach, I think gritty frustration and hurting teeth.

We lived on the other side of a mountain from the coast. While that placement caused our neighborhood to have the most rain in our county, the fog generally burned off early. At 6 AM it may be thick enough that you couldn't see the next house, but by leaving-for-school time it would usually be sunny and getting hot.

The first time I realized I was different from other kids was that I always cheered against the sun. Every summer morning fog made me think that, maybe today, it would be overcast, cloudy, not so hot. I got my hopes up every day and then got disappointed.

I'm the only real Californian in the family. My parents were still East Coasters at heart and my brother and sister had their formative years in a Detroit suburb. I was the only one who knew I could take the sun for granted. My parents operated on the scarcity values of their youths though so when it was sunny, you couldn't waste the day. I was an active kid. I played sports in every season. But I've also always been a reader. Many a summer day was spent trying to find a place to hide from my parents so I could finish a book.

Some folks think it's odd that San Franciscans complain about the heat fairly easily, but to me this town is a refuge. SF is at least ten degrees cooler every day than my hometown 15 miles away. I love the fog. Today, after two hot days, it's back. San Francisco is cold again. Just the way I like it.

Home Turf

Mar. 22nd, 2007 08:30 am
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Hey, Bay Area kids.... who remembers Home Turf? It was the show that would have segments about kids doing cool and unusual things, I think it was on Channel 4. It was hosted by Dominique Di Prima (Yes, daughter of Diane) who introduced every segment with a rap.


The segement that I was on (though you totally wouldn't find me unless you knew where to look) has just resurfaced. I don't speak or even get fully on camera not in a crowd, but it was fun for me to watch. Someone once said, "You couldn't grow up in the '80s in the Bay without being on that show at least once."
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I had to get new boots last week so I went off to my favorite boot store. It’s a grumbly place to strangers but welcoming to longtime shoppers. I’m proud to have earned my way into a friendly greeting at the door. It’s down in a mall in Stiff City. I only went there the first time because I was looking for a certain boot and no one in San Francisco had it in my extremely common size. It’s a bit of a trek but one I make because I like both the mom and popness of the store and the take-us-as-we-are-or-leave anti-mall store vibe.

Something was different when I entered. Where before it had always been, well, just mom and pop, now "mom" was behind the counter and two muscly 20-something guys were working the floor. And truly one seemed to be chosen because he was a hottie because when I asked for my boots in my size he said, "Well, we don’t have any 11s, how about a 12?"

But it wasn’t until I was making a purchase that I knew "pop" was gone. The slogan for the store, as long as I had shopped there, was "Shoes for the Working Man". Now the business card read "Shoes for Working People". Yes, 1970 had come to Colma!

Mom was ringing up the guy in front of me in line. He, half joking, said that because he was in two unions he should get a double discount. Mom disabused him of this notion very professionally and quickly, Then he said, "You know, people talk about the Jews being cheap, but they got nothing on us Irish." Mom said something non-committal, and he added "We need that extra money for drinking."

I’m still trying to figure out how I would respond to that statement if someone said it to me. Luckily, I wasn’t part of the conversation. "Hey your friends might be anti-Semitic, but at least you’re self-deprecating!"

Mom started ringing me up after cajoling me into buying the extra-support insoles I was going to buy anyway. "Always listen to your mother," she said. "You work in a grocery store right? Are you UFCW?" I had to admit that I wasn’t union and stopped trying to explain our worker co-op about 20 seconds in because her eyes started to glaze over. I did tell her that we didn’t accept scab deliveries though.

"Well, in that case… I have to charge you full price. But I’ll throw in a pack of socks."

"Seeya in a couple of years," I said, "Thanks."
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Making observations on the people you see while driving across country is fraught with the danger of pretentious first-year-in-college prose. It feels so right and Kerouacian (or even Cometbusian. Actually, I don’t know why I wrote "even" since I like Aaron’s writing better than Jack’s) but that’s only because it’s usually so thread bare as the tires on the trucks of the Oakies who left the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl years.* Salt-of-the-earth, how-do-people-live-like-this, or oh-shit-they’re-gonna-Easy-Rider-us, we’ve all read the narrative. They write themselves as most cliches do.

We stopped in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Food Co-op we found on the internet. We needed to replenish our sandwich supplies both because it was cheaper and neither of us could deal with stopping at Perkins twice a day. It was exactly the way a small city Food Co-op should be: a commingling of hippies and punks. The punks were so cute I wanted to take them home and cuddle them. I still feel guilty that I laughed when one of them asked if we had just moved to town from San Francisco. I mean, it could happen…

But we were the walking cliches, in town for a half hour. First stocking up on food and then both yacking on our individual cell phones in the parking lot because it was the first place in 1000 miles we’d gotten reception. ([livejournal.com profile] tubyred that’s where I called you from). What a couple of urban assholes!

No, what I feel qualified to write about is the dashboard of the car. And other tourists. And the bad indie rock [livejournal.com profile] prof_southbay likes so much. Actually she was very nice to not inflict very much on me. It was, after all, her car. She never made me listen to Interpol, for example, though we did listen to Postal Service. I’m sure it says something deep that these angsty boys name their bands after government agencies. Is it about being so filled with emotions when the world is an unfeeling, faceless bureaucracy? Or just pure lack of imagination? When I start my indie rock band I will call it "Weights and Measures". Feel the awesomeness.

I love driving across the country because it’s empty and relaxing. To be sure, it’s relaxing because I don’t live there. Though I have connections with rural folk through my job, it never really dawned on me that my family has been urban/suburban for all the generations back to people’s homelands. Though I was born in Michigan, my parents were only there a few years between coasts and since we left when I was 2 and a half my only tangible reminder is an "a" I occasionally lose control of while talking. Those formative years really are important I guess.

I don’t want to speak for the Prof, but it was amazing to see her see the old downtowns of small towns for the first time. It made me feel a little like a jaded jerk because I wasn’t feeling the wonder as much. But that stuff is infectious. It wasn’t like we wanted to move to Sheridan, Wyoming but built-to-last, untrendy buildings and a nice café certainly made it a great rest stop. We didn’t get to find out if the "Rainbow Bar" with the neon "Welcome Strangers" was queer or not but maybe next trip.

In rural Wisconsin, where I made us go for the lame-ass cheese replica, the myth of California was still alive, albeit in the confused way that it is for people who don’t know how big California is. The woman behind the hotel desk asked the Prof if she saw a lot of "stars" walking around. I think the answer she got was "not so much". In other places, people were amazed to meet Californians who actually grew up in California.

Outside the Corn Palace, actually inside the "Mad Cow Café", the person in line in front of us asked if the "King City" on my shirt referred to a town in Texas. I told him it was a city in California but a band from San Francisco. He said he lived in SF for a year in the early ‘70s and asked if Nob Hill still a "wild place". I swear he got a little lost in time for a second and was disappointed to hear the answer was "no".

I’m surprised when I see the myth of California living on. But then, having grown up here I’m not sure I really get it either. Sure, I’ve got the inherent smugness of a Californian whose parents moved here, but I long ago stopped trying to get people to move here. In the words of fellow Bay Areans Rancid, who I don’t tend to quote often, "This ain’t no Mecca man, this place is fucked". But it’s still home.

*This hackneyed metaphor was used to drive home the point. The "drive" pun is your bonus treat.
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I know that the chance that anything will happen is non-existent but did people see this article about the fight to change the name of Mt. Diablo?

For outsiders, Mt. Diablo is the highest point in the Bay Area, a beautiful California landmark. I don’t know that the fact that a confused Christian can actually get a name change considered by the Federal Government means anything really. They don’t go into the process that triggers a call for public comment, it could just be that it makes saying "fuck off" a little easier. But The Chron does mention other street names getting changed for their Satanic Diablo names. And let us not forget the changing of Gay Court to High Eagle Road in the height of the ACT-UP era. I've found name-change fights fascinating ever since.

But what is more of an honor to Christianity than honoring one of its prime mythical beliefs as the name of the most visible Mountain in one of the country’s biggest metropolitan areas? Seriously. Does this moron think atheists, Jews, or Satanists named this mountain? Even before reading the article, one would assume it dated from the Mission times and that it indeed supports Christianity by channeling an ideological concept (albeit in Spanish) into everyday use.

According to the Chron, the name does have a specific Catholic history :
The reference to "Diablo" can be traced back to 1804 or 1805, when the Spanish military visited the area in search of runaway mission Indians, according to the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association. At a willow thicket near present-day Buchanan Field in Concord, soldiers surrounded a village but the Indians escaped. The Spanish called the site Monte del Diablo, or thicket of the devil. And later, it was assumed that "monte" meant "mountain."

Yes it’s true. That evil Satan allowed the Indian slaves to escape. That horrific act, which could only be attributed to supernatural intervention against the good intentions of the Spanish military, must be remembered forever.

If only. Instead, it’s a thorn in the side of a Christian hiker, who, ignoring all historical context, attempts to speak for all Christians:
"When I look at that mountain, I see beauty, an entity that was not created by the devil," Mijares said. "The devil does nothing but rob, cheat, steal and kill (and, evidently, rescue Indian slaves. –ed) That is his nature. I've known about this for years, but I've now decided it is time to act."

Not only that. He wants to name the Mountain after its Indian name: Mt Kawukum. Maybe he does get it. Maybe he’s trying to undo a historical injustice. Maybe he’s upset at the linkage of Christian tradition and the eradication of the native people of California.

Nah. According to a little quick internet research, the Volvon Tribe, to whom the proposed name "Mt. Kawukum" is attributed when someone bothers trying to attribute it, were killed off by the Missionaries so no one knows what they called it. The word is in no dictionaries of Californian Indian languages and the "original name theory" was debunked in a 1989 issue of American Indian Quarterly. It was used to market real estate in the early 20th Century though.

Besides, if Mijares really wanted to honor the native people of that area, maybe he’d be interested in toppling the huge statue of Junipero Serra, the founder of the areas missions. It stands above the busy 280 freeway, pointing at those escaped Indians as if to say, "You can’t hide. I’m gonna find you heathen Motherfuckers someday."


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