Journey across the top of The Boot: Part II

…continued from Part I.

Since we’re such high rollers, we plunked down EUR € 3 extra for first class train tickets to Venice. When we got on board though, we quickly realized that just because you’re holding a ticket does not necessarily imply that you get a seat. We checked every cabin in the first class car and when we were completely out of luck, ended up standing with all the suckas crowded together near the bathroom (hey, at least it was the first class bathroom!!). The highlight here was the two American bozos who were complaining to the conductor about how, “Someone must be in our seats because we bought first class tickets and every single spot is taken up.” To which he replied in broken English, “Ehhhhh, first-a come-a, first-a served-a (Americani stupidi)…”. People began deboarding about 1/2 way to Venice though, so we were eventually able to find two adjacent seats that let us kick it while watching Italy whip by. An hour or so later we arrived at the Venice train station where we said, “ciao!” to conventional modes of transportation for the next few days.

Just outside the train station we crammed in to the water shuttle which took us straight down the Grand Canal. This being my first real firsthand look at Venice, I was dumbfounded. The walkways and waterways were teeming with life and the buildings appeared to have sprung up straight out of the water. There were tons of tourists taking their EUR € 75 Gondola rides, but there were just as many locals going back and forth in working boats and taxis. At the end of the Grand Canal, we jumped off with our wheeled luggage in tow and joined the fray. 2 canal bridges and a few side alley ways later and we were at our hotel, The Westin Europa & Regina.

Today was our two year anniversary and we wanted to get out and soak up some of Venice. We cruised thorough St. Mark’s square where we watched hundreds of stupid tourists getting their picture taken with pigeons all over them. This is supposedly an illegal practice, yet there are two licenced bird seed vendors smack dab in the middle of the square! Then through St. Mark’s Basilica, which was really amazing, but packed to the gills with tourists. Then out past the Doge’s Palace to the water where we walked by the Bridge of Sighs, which was covered in tourists. I think So! could tell that I was growing tired of the touristy masses, so she pointed us in to the city via one of the mostly deserted alley ways. This was much more my speed. Cool shops, good restaurants, locals hanging out… I started to relax and really enjoy Venice.

Now that we were in our groove, we had some stuff to take care of. First stop, the jewelry store. I promised So! a ring a while back, and because her family used to spend so much time here, she knew exactly from where she wanted to get it. The guy in the shop was really cool and ended up giving us a good deal. So! walked out sportin’ a sweet new ring and was all smiles all nite long.

Feelin’ good, feelin’ great, we moseyed over to Harry’s Bar for some drinks. Sonia had one of their famous Bellini’s (they made this drink up), and I had a Martini. Definitely overrun with tourists, but we got there early enough and the place was small enough that it was still cool to check out.

It was getting to be time for dinner, so we headed back into the deeper parts of the city and found a great restaurant. They were pretty booked up, but So! busted out some Italian and the dude hooked us up. After a few drinks at a really killer wine bar around the corner, we had a table right in the front window. This turned out to be a perfect spot because it was quiet enough where we could talk, but was also busy enough where we could still be in with all the activity inside and out of the restaurant. Some good wine and good food and we were on our way back through the labyrinth that is Venice to our hotel.

Tomorrow we head to Murano…

Journey across the top of The Boot: Part I

Our trip to Italy began with an extended bit of travel. Left the house in a cab at 11:30 AM on Friday, flew from SFOto Frankfurtand then from there to Milano. Once out of the airport, we hopped the train into the Milano city center and got picked up by some friends who were kind enough to let us hitch a ride in their car for the two hour ride to Verona. We finally checked into the Hotel Accademia and immediately plopped down on the bed sometime around 5:30 PM on Saturday.

We were in Verona for Riccardo and Lara’s wedding, so after chillin’ out and freshening up, we met up with some peeps and headed over to the rehearsal dinner. The wedding festivities were kicked off at an Italian Pizzaria located inside an old church. Given that this is Italy, when I say “old”, I am talking old, as in many hundreds of years. From the heavy materials that were used to construct the building, to the significant wall cracks that were noticeable here and there, you could tell that this place had some serious history. We had our fill of antipasti, wine and pizza and then exhaustion crept in. It was back to the hotel for some much deserved shut eye.

Jetlagged as a mofo the next day, we drug ourselves out of bed and into the streets of Verona. We didn’t have much time before the wedding, but Verona proper isn’t so big, so we were able to grab some grub at a local restaurant and then walk around enough that we got to take in most of the major sites, including the Casa di Giulietta (yes, the “real” house & balcony of the fictional Juliet… and the tourists were eating this up).

The wedding was being held at a villa on the outskirts of Verona, so later in the afternoon we got on a bus that was chartered for the occasion and were taken over with the rest of the wedding goers. After the extended Catholic-Jewish, Italian-English ceremony finished up, it was time to party. As you can probably guess, we ate and drank like royalty. Started off with an insane assortment of antipasti and cocktails, followed by a just long enough sit-down meal, then on to the after dinner cheese bar (with over 40 different kinds of cheeese!!) and finally dessert and some groovin’. Beats were provided by two of the “most popular DJs in all of Verona” and other music by some Italian Wedding Singer-type band. The band pretty much blew, but I felt kinda bad for them because they only got to play like 4 songs. Every time the DJs went off and the band went on, the floor cleared. Every time the DJs came back, the floor filled back up. The band dudes eventually got the point and sat the rest of the nite out. Good times.

Bussed it back to the hotel and sat up for some late nite drinks with Matteo and Kim. Woke up the next morning jetlagged and hungover, said goodbye to everyone and jumped on a train headed east.

Next stop, Venezia…

I got to say it was a good day

Man, today was a good one. It was 80+ degrees farenheit with tons of sun and a slight breeze. Weather this all-around perfect doesn’t show up very often in San Francisco, and it’s even more rare when it does on a Saturday or Sunday. So, unless you’re a fool, taking advantage of a weekend day like today is a must.

Smokey and I started the day off by hooking his moms up with a big ol’ stack of Morinaga Japanese hotcakes, fresh strawberries and a glass of Tangerine Juice. Tasty. Then So! and I hopped online for the 10AM onsale of the Radiohead Berkeley Greek Theatre shows taking place June 23 & 24. Both shows sold out almost immediately, but our lightning quick ‘net reflexes enabled us to land tickets for both shows. Score. After that we took Smokey up to the Corona Heights dog park, which has recently transitioned from mud bog to dust bowl. He spazzed out with other dogs and chased the tennis ball for a while, but wore out pretty quickly given the cloudless sky of the warming day. Headed back home for a quick bite to eat and then it was off to Doggie Obedience Class at the SF/SPCA.

An hour later we were done with class so we cruised over to the San Francisco REI for their 20% off sale. I picked up a super lightweight wind/rain Marmot Essence Jacket, which is something I’ve been needing for a while now. Spring and summer bike riding is gonna be so much more comfortable with this thing.

Then we swung back by home, tried to call my Mom to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, picked up some stuff and headed to Duboce Park, where we proceeded to kick it for over two hours. We played fetch with the Smoke Dogg, caught up on some reading (I finally finished up a “page turner” novel that took me over three months to get through) and chilled out with eachother while soaking up some of the sweet sunshine.

5PM rolled around and we decided it was time to start thinking about dinner. Went home, was able to get in touch with Mom, talked to Grandma and then rolled over to the Safeway to purchase some fixin’s. Back home again, stoked the grill and the beer can chicken was roasting away in no time. An hour later I pulled the chicken off for a rest, slapped on some double skewered okra and soon after we were chowing down.

Days like today are too few and far between…

All that glitters is not gold…

So, in one of my previous posts, I talked about how great Future Primitive was and how bummed I was that their shop, Future Primitive Sound Headquarters, had gone out of business. Well, since then I’ve run across Mike Giant’s page on REBEL8 and found out that FPSHQ went out of business in a terribly sketchy fashion. It’s too bad that they couldn’t stay afloat as a company, but much much worse that they burned a bunch of bridges on their way out.

Here’s what MG had to say:

On October 13th of last year, I had an opening at Future Primitive in San Francisco. The show was called “Sweet Sixteen”, and I set it up as retrospective of the last 16 years worth of graffiti. I showed a photographic timeline of graffiti work and numerous illustrations. I had a lot of hesitation going into the show because the person who organized it quit working at Future Primitive a month or so before the opening, leaving me to wonder if the owner, Mark Herlihy, would be able to pick up the slack. Evidently not, considering the fact that Future Primitive is no longer in business.

Currently, much of the work from that show has been recovered and is now being stored at the REBEL8 warehouse. I have not heard from Mark about getting my percentage of art sold, and frankly I don’t plan on hearing from him. If anyone has given Mark or anyone at Future Primitive money towards purchase of any of the pieces in the show, please contact Josh. He can sort you out.

The pieces posted here are available for purchase, unless someone can prove they already paid Future Primitive for the piece, in which case the artwork will be delivered immediately. I won’t get any money for the pieces already sold, but I’d still like the art to be in the rightful owner’s hands. If any of those who’ve paid for pieces used a credit card, please contact your credit card company and see if you can cancel the charge in lieu of their going out of business. At least then I can get the money for my work instead of a shady business man getting the cash.

-Mike-

I guess I’m changing my stance from “R.I.P. F.P.S.H.Q.” to “Good Riddance F.P.S.H.Q.”. We don’t need companies like you screwing the artists that we love and support.

These clothes don’t fit us right

So my boy Todd Gack calls me last nite at 1:35AM Eastern time and leaves me a voicemail saying that he’s at the Georgia Theatre in Athens and REM is playing. I was going to write it off given that it was Apirl 1st and all, but his message also included about 1/2 the song that they played, so I guess the joke’s still on me. Here’s what he had to say in an email today…

Yeah Man, last nite was pretty cool. Had a busy nite checking out an art show at the Georgia Museum of Art. Lots of folks who have hung art in our shop had a big show on campus. Really cool, world class shit. Went downtown and had some drinks, then went to head toward the car to go home bout midnite. Walked by the GA Theater and bumped into some friends. This band the Minus 5 was getting ready to go on. Its basically Pete Buck’s side project with Scott McCaghey who is like the 5th member of REM. Long Story Short, we check it out, half way through the set the stage clears and you see Bill Berry hit the stage first and so you know it’s on. The rest of the crew comes up and they do a killer rendition of Country Feedback. And thats it. Everyone was all REM! REM!, but they didn’t come back out. Anyway, it was still a killer moment. They are such a great band. You forget how awesome they are, and what a killer vibe they can put forward. I really wish they would pull their shit together. If nothing else just to go out on a high note. Well, it was cool that you could hear it over the phone. Stipe can still belt it out.

Jealous? You know it, but more than anything I’m beyond stoked that they’ve still got it. You see, I’d like to consider myself one of the biggest REM fans of all time, up until two albums ago. I’m not going to go into a big rant right now, but let’s just say that Reveal more than disappointed me, and with Around the Sun, I gave it one listen on MySpace and decided that my wallet was going to be staying safely put in my back pocket this time ’round.

So REM, if you’re out there, listen up. Your fans want you back. We don’t want any more Beach Boys wannabe albums followed by ginormo ampitheatre tours where we have to sit far back on the lawn with our binoculars with all the other yuppies who only know “Shiny Happy People” and “It’s the End of the World”. Get Bill back on board, cut another real REM album and do a theatre tour. You know, venues along the lines of The Fox Theatre in the ATL or The Warfield in San Francisco. Go that route, and we’ll forget the two most recent albums even exist.

I’ve got my fingers crossed.

RELATED POSTS:
http://www.murmurs.com/story/26_years_hence_r_e_m_plays_the_feedback
http://www.redandblack.com/vnews/display.v/ART/443070653ddbe
http://aquariumdrunk.blogspot.com/2006/04/re-united-rem-country-feedback-2006.html

R.I.P. – F.P.S.H.Q.

So!, Smokey and I were walking through the Lower Haight today and found ourselves in a bit of a shock as we strolled up on the Future Primitive Sound Headquarters at Haight and Fillmore. They were closing up shop and it was their last day in business.

The first time the Future Primitive name really struck a chord with me was back in mid-1998 when I picked up the Live at the Future Primitive Soundsession, Vol. 2 CD that was mixed in SF by DJs Z-Trip and Radar. On this album these dudes fused hip-hop and classic rock on 5 turntables in a live setting, and actually made it work (years before the “mashup” craze, I might add). The funny thing is, just days later we got invited to a Christmas party at an ad agency, and guess who they had booked as the entertainment that evening? Yup, Z-Trip and Radar. Hip-hop and classic rock fused together on 5 turntables right in front of my face, and it actually worked really, really well. The place was absolutely going O-F-F.

Fast forward a few years and Future Primitive had grown from a small label with a couple of compilation releases to a small collective consisting of a hand picked group of musicians and urban artists. One of the coolest things about this crew was that they they decided to showcase themselves in an easily accessible storefront setting smack dab in the middle of the Lower Haight.

Now, even though I never purchased anything from that store (which, if there are more peeps like me, could partially explain the shop’s untimely demise), I did love going in to check out their art exhibits, browse through their T-shirts and dig into their tiny but quality music selection. For me, memorable artists that showed inside the store included Greg ‘PNUT’ Galinsky, Kelly Tunstall and Mike Giant. I had seen both PNUT and Kelly Tunstall’s stuff in the past at the 111 Minna Gallery, and I think the thing that I really appreciated with both of these artists is how well they were able to show in both types of settings. At FP there’s only enough room to hang a handful of small to medium sized pieces, wheras at 111 Minna you’ve got vertical and horizontal wallspace for days. As for Mike Giant, who I believe was the last person to show at FP, I dug how he painted and drew right on the walls, turning the shop into a piece of art, albeit temporary, within which his exhibit was shown.

Probably my favorite feature of the Future Primitive shop is/was the artwork outside on the Fillmore side of the building (it’s still around as of this writing!!). These pieces were commissioned by two very well known street artists Doze Green and Mear One. The Doze one went up first, and to my amazement remained fully intact for a couple of years. It was cool to think that people actually had some respect for these amazing works of art that were right there on prime public wall space… and then, of course, some jackass came along and tagged on it late 2005. And it wasn’t event a good tag, which is probably why the idiot did it in the first place. The Mear One went up more recently, and although Mear and Doze have two completely different styles, they somehow looked right sitting there next to eachother.

So, R.I.P. Future Primitive Sound Headquarters. If y’all ever decide to get back into the storefront biz, you should call on Upper Playground for some advice. They somehow are able to keep 3 (and counting) shops in the Lower Haight going, while only regularly having their main shop open for business. I’d love to know what their secret is.

Dude, you got… an Alienware?

My Dell Precision 620 was creeping up on it’s 5th anniversary as my home workstation, and I was starting to get the feeling that it was time to look for a more modern replacement. The 21″ CRT and Full-Tower Desktop configuration had grown too bulky for me, and I was to the point where I couldn’t justify any more component upgrades. I wanted something speedy, that had tons of RAM, a small physical footprint and would allow me to be easily untethered from the desk in my home office. It was back to the land of laptops.

Being the type of person who typically likes to support the lil’ guy (or rather, anyone other than one of the biggest guys), I immediately ruled out Dell, HP/Compaq and Sony, and quickly determined that I was going to go with an Alienware running Windoze or one of them fancy new MacBook Pros. Turns out that So! was in the market for a new laptop as well, and she was dead set on the MacBook Pro, so I opted to go the Alienware route.

My first stab at configuring a new system on the Alienware website left me with a fully decked out 17″ behemoth that put me in the $5200+ US range. Super sweet, but almost as heavy as my old workstation and close to twice as much money as I had to spend. After I picked my jaw up off the floor and re-tweaked some things on the configurator, I came out with a bad ass 15″ Area-51 m5500 for under 3k. Sold. Estimated ship date, 2 weeks.

4 weeks later, and about 87 visits to the Alienware shipping status site and my machine was on its way… woo, hoo!!! Only one problem: it was being shipped from Miami to San Francisco, via UPS GROUND. I thought, “I’ve waited this long, so what’s the big deal with hanging on for 10 more business days for my super cool laptop that was lovingly put together by a somewhat mom and pop computer company?” And I waited.

8 business days later, I show up to work and I’ve got a stack of emails from friends and coworkers all letting me know that Dell has purchased Alienware. WTF?!?

2 business days later and my new machine arrives. It’s almost everything I wanted it to be, other than one thing: Dude, I got a Dell. Damn.

Heel boy!

My first hands on exposure to the Kid Robot vinyl figures (or “dolls” as PHarrell likes to call ’em) was in 2003 when my buddy BoyKani hooked me with a Brooklyn Qee Monkey Cat Series 1 keychain for my birthday. I thought it was totally cool, and displayed it proudly in the home office (still in the package, I might add), but my desire to go bonkers and start a siiiiiiiick collection was still dormant. And even in 2004, when my pal Peter D was in town from Europe and his UK homey Sums had him in the KR shop picking up new stuff almost daily, I spent a ton of time browsing, but zero time buying. Then again in early 2005when James & Fi from Britian were staying with us, they showed back up at our pad maxed out with KR goodies. “We’re totally freakin’ out, mate. Dunny, Munny, Labbit…”, was all Fiona could say. I thought, “man, that’s pretty cool.”, but again, no urge to partake.

All that changed last summer though when I received an email from Cho’nuff saying that the Gorillaz were sitting front and center, in all their vinyl glory, in the Kid Robot store window. That did it. The wallet was pulled out, the plastic was swiped, and I became the proud owner of one of the (supposedly) limited edition sets of the Kid Robot Series 1 Gorillaz figures. Uh oh.

I went back into hiding for 6 months until Fiona got back in touch to beg and plead with me to go pick her up a set of the just released Series 2 Gorillaz. I was scared, but I agreed. When I arrived at the store, two things happened. First, a really cool Baseman Dunny had just been released, and it was only $30 (what a bargain!!). Second, there was a poster saying that Frank Kozik was going to be in the house, signing his new Bondage Edition Smorkin’ Labbit on Monday. I grabbed Fi’s stuff (and the Dunny) and headed home.

Monday rolled around and, although I was torn, I knew I had to head back to KR for the Kozik signing. I mean, Frank Kozik is a legendary rock and roll poster artist who I’ve admired for years, and to pass up an opportunity like the one I was being presented with just because I live in San Francisco and have access to all kinds of amazing artists would have been super lame.

So there I was, 6:45PM on a Monday nite, in line on Haight Street with 50 or so other Kid Robot geeks. But I felt good about it and lucky to be there. There were a few people who were there only to make a buck (as a quick Ebay search later proved), but for the most part everyone was anxiously waiting in line, excited to be the first to get their hands on this brand new Smorkin’ Labbit and even more stoked to get it signed by the man.

Finally it was my turn. I paid my $40, my Labbit was pulled out of its box, handed over to Kozik, and he did his deed… right where it counts. Nice.

I even got my picture taken with Kozik, and they put it up online in Kid Robot’s Bondage Labbit Signing Gallery. Supa sweet. Can you guess which one’s me?

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Nope, I’m not going bald, at least not yet. I might have a pretty big forehead, but otherwise things are still nicely filled in. What has happened recently though is a not so insignificant reduction in the length of the ol’ mane. That’s right, I got a haircut. A big honkin’ haircut.

To back up a bit, I never intended to let my hair grow out again, but it happened. It all started in 2002 when So! and I picked up and spent the end of spring, all summer and the better part of the fall traveling. We blew through NYC, Boston, the Carribbean, Australia, Hawaii and Atlanta before settling back into good ol’ SF. When we started in May, my ‘do was short and spikey and freshly bleached. When we finished in November, it was all shaggy and starting to grow out (a la Bo Duke as one of my buddies was quick to point out). It hadn’t been that long in like 8 years, so I decided to leave it alone and see what would happen.

About a year later I got a call from my haircutter Joseph. He was ringing to inform me that he had moved shop and to be sure to keep him in mind if I wasn’t happy with whoever was currently cutting my hair… to which I replied, “Dude, I haven’t had a haircut in 18 months, and you’re the last person who cut it!!” I went in to see Joseph right away, and that’s when it hit me that I was gonna let it grow until it was longer than I ever had it. Joseph was pretty stoked with the idea, so he cleaned me up and sent me on my hair growing way.

A year after that the hair started to really bother me. I was finally to the point where I could pull it all back into a ponytail which was nice, but it also meant that I was to the point where washing it sucked, letting it dry took all day and waking up with it down my throat was happening more often than I would have liked. My “grow the hair longer than ever” goal was still in effect, but it was starting to seem somewhat ridiculous… until I stumbled upon Locks of Love.

In case you’ve never heard of it before, Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hair pieces to financially disadvantaged children 18 years and younger suffering from long term medical hair loss. Their first rule of donation states, “We accept 10″ minimum hair length (tip to tip), not wigs, falls, or synthetic hair”. At that point my hair was just under the min length, so I renewed my quest, making my main objective hooking up a needy kid with a siiiiiiiiiiick new wig… only they wouldn’t get it until I had reached my “grow the hair longer than ever” goal. Sweet.

Fast forward to January 2006 and there I was with a mane running 1/2 way down my back. The time had come. The question now was, “Who gets to cut my hair?” Joseph had moved to a new salon in the Marina district, and even though I really dug the cuts he gave me back in the short & spikey days, I try to steer clear of that side of town, so that was out of the question. My buddy Bob suggested Elana at The Salon. His hair was lookin’ pretty tight, and it turns out that The Salon was only 4 blocks from home, so I made an appointment, went in and let Elana at it.

Over the next hour, Elana had a blast taking my hair from super long to mega white trash mullet to hipster wannabe before finally settling in on ultra short and spikey. She finished off with one of her infamous shampoo/head massage combos and I was out the door and on my way.

In the past, such drastic hair cuts have totally freaked me out mainly because they were done somewhat against my will. Not this time though. I walked out of The Salon feelin’ really good and with no regrets whatsoever. So! was pretty stoked with the cut (although she prefers it a lil’ longer) and I had in my possession a 16″ long ponytail that was going to be donated to a kid who could really really use something to smile about.