Nothing pounds your brain into thin gruel quite like six hours on a plane. Here’s what I can remember from my trip to San Francisco for the Paul Williams tribute at Litquake.
“I wasn’t sure if you were being serious,” remarked my friend Wes as I entered his home, his gaze cocked downward at my electric blue sneakers. Prior notice had been sent out regarding the color of my footwear so I’d be easier to spot amongst the throng waiting for rides at the airport (Wes’s wife Erica was ultimately tasked with retrieving me). I guess this could speak to Wes’s suspicious nature. More likely it speaks to my infamous inability to project authenticity. Still, who would lie about such a thing? What’s to gain from giving your contact false clothing information, especially on the eve of a transit strike? Yeah, just look for the guy in the Big Bird costume. Contrary to popular opinion I did not want to spend my nights in San Francisco sleeping under the Golden Gate Bridge.
That night I had pizza from some generic pie place that didn’t totally offend the Brooklyn pizza snob in me. In fact, it was pretty darn good. Of course I had to go Hawaiian on the toppings, because pineapple is a fruit whose nutritional value is obviously not dulled by layers of molten cheese and slices of ham.
This fanciful dog is typical of the kind you see in San Francisco. You can’t really tell from this angle but he’s wearing a Darth Vader sweater vest.
Bay Area Rapid Transit was officially on strike as of this day, so I caught a ride with Erica over to Amoeba Records, a.k.a. music obsessive mecca. I forgot how overwhelming that warehouse can be. The clearance section for rock CDs alone is the size two regular record stores. The clearance section for rock CDs is so big I actually got physically tired flipping through its racks. Didn’t find anything revelatory in that archive but elsewhere I found cheap as dirt copies of the MC 900 Ft. Jesus disc with “If I Only Had A Brain,” the Angry Samoans album with the graphic head injury on the cover, and some CD-ROM the Meatmen put out in the mid-nineties. Bought all those along with as much Rocket From The Crypt I could carry. Then I walked across the street with my unshowered self and used the facilities at Whole Foods. I looked beyond homeless but the employees remained cordial. They’ve probably seen worse.
“We’re taking you to this place where you’re gonna have the goddamn biggest sandwich of your life!” said Erica after my Amoeba excursion. The eatery in question is called Deli Board and while I’ve had bigger hoagies or grinders or whatever you wanna call ‘em the bastard I ordered (the Zeke; turkey, sprouts, and some other yaz) was mad big n’ tasty. For reasons unknown Wes and Erica both saddled me with their complimentary pickles; not one to waste food, I stuffed the green spears in my pockets and they became my go to snacks for later in the day.
Riding around San Francisco via car is like being on a roller coaster that never gets out of its moderately-paced introductory speed as you cruise up and over utterly ridiculous inclines and around unbelievably sharp curves. It’s one of the neater urban experiences you can have here in the States. Have they already based a Grand Theft Auto on San Fran? If not, they should. Talk about character. Now, this is all coming from a passenger’s perspective. I remember actually having to drive around the city in 2009 and my stress levels piloting a rented vehicle were definitely at Code Morton Downey, Jr.
There is street art all over San Francisco. This Ghostbusters/Simpsons mash-up spaketh (bespoke?) to me.
Dinner (all anyone cares about is food, right?): I met my former Crawdaddy! editor Angie Z in the Mission District for Thai at Thai House 530. Amazing chicken pad thai at that joint, and we managed to get a window seat so we could pretend to be zoo animals for all looking in. It sounds like I’m dissing that table but I’m not; we sat there long after the bill was settled because it was cozy and chill. Topics of conversation included NBA superstar Larry Bird, deceased humorist Michael O’Donoghue, and the Carrie remake (Angie endorses it).
While waiting for Angie to arrive before our meal I was standing around the corner of 18th and Valencia, just minding my own business and probably looking like an out of towner via my trusty Mets cap. A couple rounded the corner; the male, a trim slightly graying gentleman, was deep in explanation with accompanying hand gestures until my sneakers caught his gaze.
“Ooooh,” he said quietly. “Look at those shoes.” His face snapped up to look at me. “I like your shoes!”
“Oh, thanks.” What about the rest of me, big boy?
A subplot I have neglected to mention until now is the fact Wes and Erica were in the midst of preparing to move to Oregon during my stay at their humble abode. Saturday morning they left; luckily three other people live in that house, so it wasn’t just me and the carpet for the rest of the weekend. Two of these residents, Josh and Scott, are guys I know from those years in college I had myself convinced I was the next Mr. T Experience waiting to happen. We all spent a good chunk of this morning waxing nostalgic about the Central Florida punk scene of the Y2K era. We each have our little victories to still brag on (Scott and Josh’s band got on a Sex Pistols tribute album; my band opened for the Nobodys…sure, I had already quit/been canned, but I’m counting it). Josh’s girlfriend Tav cooked a fine brunch of eggs and hash browns and thirty-five pounds of bacon which was all delicious and insured I’d be nice and logy for the rest of the day.
I tried to take a nap before the Paul Williams tribute at Aquarius Records but I was too nervous about having to speak there. Solved this problem by walking to Walgreens and purchasing a couple Mountain Dews. Old habits die hard.
If I were smart I would have gone to Aquarius an hour early so I could thoroughly dig through their stacks. Alas, I am not in Mensa, and I only gave myself fifteen or twenty minutes before the Paul Williams thing to peruse. Aquarius isn’t a terribly big space but they do have tons of totally oddball stuff you gotta take your time to consider. With more time allotted I could have come to better conclusions about the Chinese and Finnish rock sections I flipped through. I also found a copy of Move Back Home by the Queers in the used section but immediate memory failed as to which edition of this album I already own (the original or the deluxe bonus track edition).
Came pretty close to buying the vinyl reissue of the Last House On The Left soundtrack until I remembered I had to transport the thing clear across the country. Potential breakage via clumsy packing and/or airport mishandling scared me off.
My friends have excellent taste in decor. I have near excellent taste in haircuts and Army jackets.
The tribute itself, “Paul Williams’ Greatest Hits,” went pretty well. I felt a little weird speaking because I think I was the only orator who hadn’t known Paul personally, but it seems like I did okay. No one threw rotten garbage at me. I just briefly talked about why Paul Williams is important to me personally and also our culture as a whole. There’s a slight chance I wasn’t speaking anywhere near the microphone for most of what I was saying but I think Aquarius was small/quiet enough to hear anyway. Thanks again to Denise Sullivan for inviting me out to participate in this event. Still honored and humbled to have been included.
We (the speakers) all got V.I.P. passes to Litquake’s after party, so we went to check it out. Open bar at a funky night club is cool, but not as cool as the cheap Mexi-Vietnamese tacos Powered By Pork were selling on the street outside. I was in fusion heaven. Aside from that, the highlight of this after party had to be hearing a few Clem Burke stories. Apparently the drummer from Blondie gets it done, by which I mean he doesn’t ever take no for an answer. So if you think you’re gonna be able to keep Clem Burke out of your son’s bar mitzvah, well, think again.
Super early flight home. Watery orange juice is $4 and change at San Fran’s JetBlue terminal. Worst part of the trip by far.
Thanks again to my hosts in San Francisco and all who came out/met up to party. Be back soon.
On this date in 1993, Conan O’Brien made his debut as host of NBC’s “Late Night,” a program many people didn’t think could or should continue without gap-toothed treasure David Letterman. Unlike “The Tonight Show,” which passed through a few sets of hands before it found Johnny Carson, “Late Night” at this juncture had only seen Letterman. The eleven year old outing was soaked in Dave’s DNA, seen by most as an extension of the sarcastic Indiana-bred genius himself. How could “Late Night with David Letterman” have a replacement? How could that replacement be an unknown entity named Conan?
As a fourteen year old Letterman stan at the time, these thoughts certainly swept through my noggin. Conan hooked me from the get-go, though, with that brilliant “Good Luck, Lotta Pressure!” cold open on his first “Late Night.” Talk about a perfect response to the avalanche of criticism and uncertainty the guy was facing. The execution is flawless, too. More importantly, “Lotta Pressure!” set the tone for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” This guy wasn’t trying to project Dave’s oddball detachment. If Letterman was your older brother, the guy who for all his charm you knew would never really let you inside, Conan arrived as your chipper school chum, a kid at your level who wanted to make you laugh so neither of you felt alone and weird anymore.
And such was “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” Though it debuetd at a time when basic cable comedy was entering a golden age, most nights you’d be hard-pressed to beat the clubhouse atmosphere coming from NBC’s 12:30 slot. This is the show that centered itself around a shit-talking dog puppet for a stretch, a Rickles clone that seemed too bizarre/amateurish to make any kind of cultural dent. Yet this puppet feuded with Eminem, this puppet was sued by a dot com, this puppet released an album. There’s another Conan/Dave difference. If Letterman were ten years younger he’d be the one bickering with rappers and getting in Internet entanglements. Conan has always seemed more than happy to let his inmates run the asylum.
That said, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I wasn’t crushed when “Late Night” sold more ad time and could no longer allow Conan to just riff for a few minutes at his desk after the monologue but before the first comedy bit. Some of the funniest stuff he ever said and did was in that pocket. To wit: the Chocolate Lucky Charms spiel from 2005. “They took Lucky Charms, the most decadent horrible cereal of all time, and they made it CHAK-LET!”
This will probably sound stupid and crazy considering all the real problems going on in our world, but watching Conan get chewed up and spit out by NBC is 2010 really wounded me. It was the ball going through Buckner’s legs in Game Six. Sure, Conan rebounded, his TBS show is often as good as anything he did at 30 Rock, but it’s not the same. Turning on the tv that seven months he had “Tonight,” it just felt like victory. They didn’t chase this guy off to another channel. Conan O’Brien had graduated. To watch it go down in flames like it did…well, it wasn’t fun or funny like it usually is to watch something go down in flames. A shitty Stooges album I can handle. This, not so much.
On the other hand, seven months is such a small sliver of a two decade span. The positive far outweighs the negative. And who knows how far Conan will go into the future? I’m not a big routine type of person but I’m happy to imagine Conan popping up on whatever dumb gadget we’re watching tv on in ten years. I imagine it’ll need regular tire rotations and some sort of gravity-defying liquid to keep it “alive.”
But I digress. Thanks for all the yuks, O’Brien. The pressure’s off. Have a good show tonight.
I’ve listened to enough black metal to know Odin is the taco supreme of gods in ancient Norse mythology. Still, I looked at this Thor 2 poster today and my immediate reaction was, “‘Anthony Hopkins as Coin?’ Who the fuck is Coin?” It may be time to go to the eye doctor again.
Unrelated: I’m way into Natalie Portman’s armor sleeves. So European.
I was gonna blog about the Minnesota State Fair tonight but then I watched the trailer for the new Robocop and saw Samuel Jackson dressed as Doug Llewelyn and now I’m too depressed to move.
Not really, but can you imagine? All that bloodshed staved because nobody wants Reindeer Games to play Batman. If I worked for “Night Show with White-zo Whiteman” that’s the joke angle I’d take for tomorrow’s monologue. Hey Ben Affleck, no one wants you in the Batcave! [popular quote from Affleck movie twisted and thrown back in Ben's face] [audience laughs, host shoots smug look at band leader]
Meanwhile, hats off to Henry Cavill for not chewing his own face off or shooting up a WB executive board room (yet). I think I would have walked the minute someone told me they were turning my Superman sequel into the next Batman launching pad. Regardless of who’s in the cowl that’s gotta be deflating. Welcome to Hollywood post-Avengers. Man of Steel failed to halt time and space. It was not praised as the new deity, universally drank as the new absolute superhero elixir. Making MOS2 could be a gamble. It might only make $600 mil again! The Twittersphere might not cotton to Gilbert Gottfried at Mxyzptlk!
Fuck it, let’s just make it a Batman instead. That’s a sure bet. Hey, despite its flaws (i.e. everything) Batman & Robin still had the third highest opening weekend of 1997! I know I saw it that weekend. I laid down my coppers to watch Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone shame themselves out of their own careers. That was…delicious.
Look, I just feel bad for Superman. I want him to have his Dark Knight. Of course, Superman’s Dark Knight may have arrived in 1978 in the form of that first Richard Donner outing. How can you top Reeve, Kidder, and that devil Hackman? Maybe you can’t. Maybe it’s time I shift my worries to other DC characters. Yo, where that Wonder Twins movie at? I can see Mila Kunis and a Jonas brother making that work.
Michigan J. Frog bellows many a musical classic during his debut turn in 1955′s One Froggy Evening, but the fickle amphibian’s repertoire includes one song exclusive to his two-dimensional realm. “The Michigan Rag,” a catchy regional anthem that sounds indisputably authentic, was in fact written specifically for the cartoon by director Chuck Jones, writer Michael Maltese, and Warner Bros composer Milt Franklyn. This explains why I can never find that song on any of those massively popular Tin Pan Alley compilation albums—it’s not real.
Well, okay, yes, “The Michigan Rag” is real in the sense that I didn’t imagine or hallucinate it during a massive drug trip, but it’s not real in the same sense “Hello! Ma Baby” is real. You know what I mean. Regardless, the damn thing fits seamlessly into Froggy Evening, suggesting Jones et al could have had a side career churning out pop music (in 1930, at least).
P.S. – I purposely chose this lousy audio/visual presentation to replicate how “The Michigan Rag” would have sounded had it ever been pressed on wax cylinder.
I call this one The Glory Years. I wish it didn’t look so yellowed but I do these late at night and excitedly snap pictures with the only available light source, which is some super old desk lamp that casts everything in such a hue. You’ll see how white it is after I die when it’s hanging in the Museum of Jim Greene.
Sometimes late at night you just get that itch to sketch out Russell Brand, and then you wonder, Hey, what other British comedians can I doodle? How about (clockwise from top right) Simon Amstell, Jimmy Carr, Young One Rik Mayall, Robert Webb, and David Mitchell? Don’t think I’ll be submitting these to The Guardian anytime soon, but plenty good for my blog at five in the morning.
- Serge’s son (Jay Baruchel) joins the police academy to avenge his father’s death at the hands of the Croatian mafia; when he finally graduates after a series of hilarious mishaps, the plucky young cop teams up with the only detective savvy enough to crack Serge Jr’s case—Axl Foley
- having moved to the suburbs years ago, the Judge Reinhold character is living a content life until he discovers his neighbor might be a notorious local pimp/drug kingpin; after a series of hilarious mishaps, Reinhold calls the only detective crazy enough to get involved—Axl Foley
- taking on dual roles, Eddie Murphy plays Axl Foley and Axl’s never before seen twin brother, Ignatius, who is desperate to get a job in mall security despite weighing over four hundred pounds and only speaking in Klingon; after a series of hilarious gastric bypass surgeries (all of which fail), Axl calls the only person sympathetic enough to help his obese brother—Paul Blart
- four words: Axl Foley in space
- six words: Axl Foley in the Amazon rainforest
- four words and a couple numbers: Beverly Hills Cop 4 (InnerSpace 2)