Wednesday, July 25, 2007

and you know when i'm down to my socks what time it's business time

got-damn, but flight of the conchords is just about the funniest thing on tv right now. this is but one of the many reasons why...

Monday, July 23, 2007

all the faces that we used to know, gone from the places that we used to go

last week i was in miami for the first time since i left more than two years ago. the trip was one day's worth of work (well, 3 hours) and a few days of play. luckily my friend karen still lives there in her beachfront apartment, so i had an awesome crashpad.

walking around the university where i used to work and the neighborhood where i used to live, i was overcome by these odd feelings that were somewhat nostalgic and something else that i can't put my finger on. something a bit more complicated. it took me the better part of monday to figure out what was going on.

i left miami in such a hurry that at the time my only thoughts and emotions were of relief -- getting a better paying job at a university where the leadership wasn't dysfunctional, and moving to a part of the country that i knew would be a better fit for me. it was a month from the date of the offer until i pulled my car out of the driveway of my building and headed north and then west. i had no time to really reflect and process the move, it was all a flurry of finishing work, packing and goodbye lunches and dinners.

being back there after two years brought on a rush of emotions and thoughts to which i hadn't given much attention. it was a mix, some of familiar annoyance, thanks to the experience at the rental car counter in miami beach...the car jockeys taking 20 minutes to get my car after i'd finished the paperwork -- a reminder that half the people working in the customer service industry view their customers as annoyances. a similar experience at the versailles airport coffee stand bookended the trip, as the lady who took my order pretty much sneered at my gringo face.

but at my old workplace i had feelings more complicated than nostalgia...there was plenty of "what-if" mixed up in my head. what if i'd made it work better, published as i should have, gotten my personal life settled...would i have been happy, made better progress to tenure? maybe, or maybe not as the experiences of other friends made clear. one guy who published like a fiend is leaving, landing at a tenured gig in southern california. two other friends, who became a couple, are going to leave as she inexplicably did not get tenure and he may but they're both so disenchanted now it's a certainty they're gone.

this isn't to say i was unhappy. i do have an affection for my time here. i had a great apartment five blocks from the ocean and near lots of restaurants, bars, shops. the job was fine enough and my life had no serious complications or problems. after four years it became home, complete with favorite hang-out spots. all in all, it wasn't that bad. not that i'd want to go back and live there -- for me it's the quintessential "great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there" kinda place. sometimes it just takes a detached eye to notice the good things you didn't see at the time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

me, i've never seen dallas from a dc9

i've got two trips already scheduled this fall, both in november. one is to louisville for a conference. getting from the bay area to louisville is a bit of a chore and the connections are mostly atlanta or dallas. nothing through chicago that matches my schedule. even delta doesn't swing me through salt lake, which would make sense. it is, though (for now), less expensive than i imagine, around $300 +/-.

next is to philadelphia over thanksgiving weekend. my folks will be home for that holiday and it also turns out to be the weekend of my high school reunion. but that means traveling over the thanksgiving weekend, the 7th circle of hell for air travel...well, at least for people like me who love to travel but have developed a great antipathy for the process of air travel. and to make matters worse, since it's peak time, the prices are's a $500-$600 ticket no matter what i do.

teleportation can't come soon enough for me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

we expected something, something better than before, we expected something more

my friend linh is moving to china for a year, so we had a bon voyage meal at farina. it's fairly new, in a very striking building on 18th st in the mission. after a little mix-up with their liquor license, they were open at full steam. and so we went...

*sigh*...there really is so much to like. the staff are very friendly. when i called for a reservation, i was *called back* within a few minutes after leaving a message. and got a table for 2 for a friday at 7:30 on just 6 days notice. excellent.

on arriving, the hostess greeted us warmly and took us right to the table. our server, kate, was attentive and all smiles the whole time. the decor is very cool...neo-modern with some classic italian cucina touches. sitting in the dining room you get sweeping views of 18th st from the wall-sized widows. though it needs some sound was way too loud...all that wood and brick...there's not much to absorb all the talking.

for better or worse though, what matters as much as anything in a restaurant is the food, and farina has a way to go, especially given the prices. i've got no problem spending $60/per person on this kind of meal (more bistro vs high end) , but it's gotta be much better than what we got.

overall things were too oily. as a general suggestion i'd say to the chef "ok, the amount of oil you want to drizzle over the salmon atop golden tomato? or on the anchovy? cut it by at least half. the amount of oil you put on the pizzeta? cut by half." and so on. i had a homemade ravioli stuffed with eggplant that was tasty enough, but again *swimming* in oil. it also took a while for the first course to come out, and by a while i mean longer than it should.

so i really hope they get the food tightened up because otherwise there's a lot to like about the place. the kind of place you'd like to see succeed, if only to make it easier to get a table at delfina.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

pack it up or throw it away, nothing goes in storage

for no particular reason other than a change of scenery, i've been thinking about moving. it's not that i don't like my apartment...i do. the building's well maintained and the propery management company are fairly responsive to maintenance requests. the apartment itself is good sized and the view is fantastic. the parking on my street is probably as good as i can get in sf. and as i've mentioned, i love living next to dolores park.

so why leave? well, again, change of scenery. lately there's been a rush of apartments in nob hill. sadly most are tiny, though a couple have promise. i have no idea if living in that neighborhood will be better or worse than where i am now. i know parking will be atrocious, and there'll be more fog, so less sunlight. the rent at a couple of places is lower as well...right now i'm definitely paying for the view.

mostly though, it's restlessness. a part of me gets antsy after too long in any specific situation. and since i really don't want to leave san francisco, what better way to satisfy my urge to roam than to just move to a different neighborhood?

whether that's enough to justify giving up a good apartment in what's right now probably the most desired neighborhood in the city, one that's close to some friends, places i like to go and my single favorite spot in the city...i don't know.

**update...10pm, wednesday...

ok, after having seen 4 places between taylor & mason and washington and pine (1 saturday, 1 sunday and 2 today [including one with an unbelieveably smug woman from a property mgt. company], seeing what parking is like at various times (horrible), seeing small places that while nice, are smaller than mine and no no need to move. my place may be a bit overpriced but all things considered i have it good. the grass really is greener on my side of the fence.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

do you really love me?

sitting here on july 4, watching the last hour of the devil and daniel johnston. it's a moving account of a man wrestling with some serious demons. but the most disturbing thing to me is that while a few people in the new york & austin scenes seemed sincerely interested in helping johnston with his music and art, there was a "freak show waiting to happen" vibe going on at the live shows chronicled in the film. makes me wonder how many people were there almost hoping to see him melt down.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

spend your summer thinking 'bout the apple...

a while back i had a girlfriend whose dad was fond of saying on july 4th that "summer's over". while i'm not that fatalistic about what the day means, i am a bit amazed that the year is alredy half over. seriously, i feel like just last week was new year's day, and the other day was my birthday. so wha the hell have i been doing the last few months? besides drowning in work, that is.

first, there's been music. lots.

a few weeks ago i finally got around to watching the robyn hitchcock documentary "sex, food, death... & insects" shown on sundance. it's mostly the story of how his new band the venus 3 came together. it was also a view into his artistic process, one that includes both stellar musicianship and songwriting ability and an unmatched gift for improvisation.

i've spent a small fortune on cds and shows lately, mostly to good results (the less said about the disappointing voxtrot show the better). this last week the national/broken west show made me a happy man. i knew going in that i'd like the broken west. their record i can't go on i'll go on is near the top of my list so far for the year. their show was a bit more subdued than i thought it would be and at the start they looked like they'd just woken from a nap. but they finished strong and overall were good. kexp(**) plays the national quite often, but i hadn't yet gotten any of their records. so while i was more or less familiar with them, i wasn't totally sure what to expect. what we got was quite good -- layered guitars, keys and violin that made the slow songs rich and haunting.

upcoming shows include band of horses this week at gamh (if i can find tix on craigslist), and in august an incredible run that includes yo la tengo, patti smith, magic numbers, detroit cobras, and wilco. not to mention the new pornographers in september.

beyond that, it's been trips to pt. reyes, getting my knee healthy so i can get out and play soccer again (and shed some of the love handles i've built up while less active), and this last week getting over a nasty summer cold. no vacation this year (well, there was a plan to go to hawaii, but the break-up scotched that {oh yeah, so that's meant more dating...which is both fun and tiring}). with 80,000 miles in the bank at united and the saving of vacation time, that means a three-week trip very far away is possible next summer. at the moment southeast asia is high on my list, but i'm also intrigued by the idea of spain, portugal and a trek along the north coast of morocco. so many possibilities...

so yeah, summer's hardly over. still much more to do.

** (i should add as an aside that the possibility that stations like kexp might be forced out of netcasting thanks to the stupid and shortsighted decision by the copyright royalty board to increase royalty rates on internet broadcasts. i don't argue that performers should be compensated, but the fact is without the increase in listeners garnered by web radio, many artists wouldn't get as much attention and as a result sell as many records. the riaa and naras {of which i'm a voting member} are only seeing the issue as affecting the big webcasters like yahoo...the real impact will be felt down the line at the more shoestring budget stations, including many college stations. hopefully congress will pass legislation to make the crb's increase a bit more fair to low-budget operators who may serve a decent-sized audience but do not generate much profit, if any.)