Happy Year of the Tiger!


I got shut out of this show for dragging my feet on the buying of tickets, but that’s ok cause a week later they played for free(!), outside(!) at Cal & I didn’t have to cross any big water for that.

Eating: brown rice, pinto beans (from a can, even), the first Hass avocado, Bariani olive oil, Maldon salt. Feels like cheating: you aren’t really cooking but it tastes so good, you can’t imagine eating anything better. Unless you’re steaming Dungeness, which also doesn’t feel like cooking. Ditto the first artichokes (boiled) & the first asparagus (roasted). I like this theme.

Rearranging: furniture. (Lest you think I’ve gone all lazy, with those non-cooking meals & all.)

Smelling: plum blossoms!

Gazing in wonder: the tulip magnolias are stunning right now. No picture can do justice. Go out & look, if you haven’t already.

Labels: , , , ,


Thinking & writing: about how that last decade kicked my fucking ass, but I did some kicking right back too

Eating: Taco Grill’s pozole de pollo (thank you, Peggy)

Re-reading after many years: Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Mitchell translation (thank you, Shahara)

Drinking: sencha (thank you, Birgit)

Knitting: wristwarmers that match the sencha

Listening: Furthur (thank you, Bobby & Phil)

Swimming: as always

Trying: not to get sick

Happy New Year, blog readers!

Labels: , , , ,



Michael’s blackberry honey on Alvarado sprouted whole wheat. Every once in a great while, & I mean like every several years, a perfect jar of honey & a certain mood of mine align to give me a whole loaf’s worth of incredibly satisfying bread & honey. The honey varies but the bread is always Alvarado. This time the honey is dark brown, partly crystallized between liquid & solid, & yes, it does taste like blackberries. I don’t see Michael anywhere on the web—figures, for a guy with hand-written labels. You can get his honey at the Berkeley Bowl, & his last name is Huber, which may or may not mean that he is a direct descendant of François Huber, the father of beekeeping. That would be too neat. I mean that both ways.

Dave Rawlings Machine “Bells of Harlem”, off the new album. Steady rotation. “Ruby” is pretty damn awesome too.

Toe-up socks! How can you not knit in this weather?!

Labels: , , ,


This is what I want for Christmas. Framed, please. Oh, except I don’t DO Christmas. Doh & double doh! I knew that anti-consumer attitude would come back to bite me in the ass some day….

Edited: I don’t have wall space for it either.

Labels: ,


More love!

At the Women’s Building tonight, Sherman Alexie (looking spiffy in cufflinks) tried to explain to the young people in the room what they’re missing in their lives. Citing Joan Jett’s remark that there is no anticipation anymore, he delivered a long, evocative rumination on the beauty of not knowing what you were going to hear when you so carefully placed that fresh vinyl on the turntable for the first time.

Then he laughed at himself for sounding so old: “That’s how fast things are moving now… 43 is the new 80!”

Dude! How true is that?! I sometimes forget that part of what makes me love Sherman so much (aside from his obvious greatness) is that I totally lock in with his pop cultural perspective because he & I are the same age.

Folks who hang out with me, consider yourself warned. You can look forward to me saying “43 is the new 80” for some time to come. At least until I turn 44, heh.

Labels: ,



Gillian Welch & David Rawlings at the Fillmore: More than worth the backache from standing all night long. That hallowed room is really not for creaky old bodies, but 10 feet from the stage with the flawless crystal sound, Gil & Dave working their magic, breathing & creating as one organism, it’s so good, it feels like love.

Warren pears: Almost not of this world—but they are of this world, they come from the ground, they grow on trees & aren’t we lucky beyond belief? It seems like insanity to eat any other fruit right now. (I am insane, though, & cannot refuse the last of the melons & stone fruits.)

Gourmet magazine: A different kind of love, more material & mundane perhaps, but no less real. I grew up ogling those centerfolds every month, year after yummy year. I refuse to say RIP! Will someone come in & rescue it somehow? Am I in denial?

Labels: , , , ,


Sorry to be gone so long. Sometimes I just don’t have much to say. Been doing some hard work pretty much sums it up. Not the kind that pays in dollars (well, there was a wee bit of that), but still I needed a bit of vacation afterward.

Herewith, the Art of the Staycation:

NO computers! We bent this rule only to look up information about Approved Staycation Activities: ferry schedules, concert ticket availability, maps to get to labyrinths, that sort of thing. Remember to turn the computer OFF when you’ve completed your mission, otherwise you’ll find yourself checking email after you get home from the delicious concert. Ask me how I know. Talk about a buzzkill.

Set specific starting & ending times for the staycation. We said ours would start at 7pm on Monday night. Ring a bell & leave the house to go out to dinner!

When you come back from dinner, walk around the house saying things like:
“Look at the nice place we’re staying!”
“I’m so glad I brought ALL of our books!”
“Hey, they sure have a nicely stocked kitchen for us!”
“Isn’t this bed comfy?”
In other words, really work the fantasy. If you are a couple & have usual sides of the bed you each sleep on, switch sides!

Themes are helpful. Our theme was labyrinths.

Sibley’s Mazzariello Labyrinth

If you go, note that they have changed things a little bit in the preserve & the labyrinth is now at marker #2, not #4.

Use alternate modes of transportation—all the less-efficient, more-expensive ways of getting about that you wouldn’t use in your normal life. We took the ferry & cable car(!) to get to the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, stopping for some clam chowder & oysters on the way.

I didn’t get a photo of the labyrinth. When we were done walking it, we realized that we had like 10 minutes to make the last ferry, so in true staycation spirit, we grabbed a cab(!) & made it to the dock with just a minute to spare. It was dusk & the full moon was rising as we crossed the bay. (Sorry no moon photos. You had to be there.)

Next day, the labyrinth with the spectacular view at Land’s End...

... followed by The Infamous Stringdusters. Deep Elem Blues! Those boys tore it up. I want to see them again.

Even though our staycation officially ended when eyes opened this morning, we couldn’t resist capping it off with Charlie Haden at Yoshi’s SF tonight.

So decadent! Yet all still incredibly cheap compared to flying (or even driving) someplace where you have to pay for a room. I highly recommend it. Bay Area folks, there’s a reason why all those people come here from all over the dang world for their vacations! Go out & enjoy it!

Labels: , , , ,


I’ve been burning a lot of CDs lately, which forced me to deal, really deal, with a problem that has been plaguing me for a while now: what the hell to put them in. Let’s face it, jewel cases shatter if you look at em wrong, & who wants to be responsible for more little plastic bits in the landfill? Those little paper envelopes get lost on the shelf or accumulate in disorganized stacks. For a while I was folding my own; these satisfied the DIY itch nicely, but over time they start to look kinda wrinkled & unkempt.

What to do, what to do? I wanted sensibly designed, reasonably cheap, recycled paperboard. At first there seemed to be only one game in town as far as recycled goes, but sleeves do not solve the spineless disorganization problem, plus I wasn’t crazy about having an open side. My tenacious googling finally struck gold: Stumptown Printers sells blank Arigato Paks, shipped flat. You can rubberstamp, print, embellish to your heart’s content, or just write on the spine, fold it up & be done with it.

Problem solved! Plus, you get to support a groovy cooperative letterpress shop. What could be better? (Well, if they sold them through a retail outlet in my neighborhood, that would be perfection itself, wouldn’t it?)

P.S. You can fit up to 3 CDs in one of these! I just cut squares of paper to layer between the CDs, & they all sit snugly in there together.

Labels: , ,


Again, still, always…



Let us now praise the mighty force of nature that is Neko Case! Thrill over her insanely fabulous Knight of Swords album cover: is the resemblance not striking?

(Thanks to Learning the Tarot for this particular image.)

In Tarot, the Swords are the suit of air, & indeed Middle Cyclone feels like some serious wind. I have been playing this thing incessantly since laying hands upon it, & sometimes I could swear I feel my hair blowing back even when all the windows in the studio are shut. It’s not news that the girl has lungs & knows how to use them, but wow, how does she keep cranking out amazing album after amazing album? Despite all the air, Neko herself is a rock-solid dependable Virgo, which only goes partway toward explaining why I love her so.

Let me count the ways:

1) The feeling of enormous spaciousness she creates, which has stayed with me as an unflagging overall impression ever since I heard the first few notes of the Furnace Room Lullaby CD. It’s not just the heavy reverb, either.

2) The old-skool, uncompromising defense of her copyright. No Creative Commons for Neko, no way. Don’t get me wrong, I think there can be a lot of good in all that newfangled sharing, but Neko’s hard line speaks to my heart, as in the Canadian Amp liner notes: “THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR A LIVING. WE HAVE KIDS, BILLS, AND RENT TOO. THANK YOU.” The current liner notes take a more threatening tone, & I love her for it.

3) The constant experimentation & fun & joy & excellence… I never claimed to be a music writer, & enough bytes abound from keyboards more polished than mine. I’ll just say my world would not be complete without her music arriving in fresh batches regularly the way it does, which brings me to

4) The professionalism & consistency. I am in awe of how she runs her operation. How she shows up all the fucking time. No weird drug habit, no moody off nights. No parched, thirsty deserts of endless time between albums. As much as I love Neko, there are musicians who sing more directly to my own soul, & of course they are the ones who dole out an album maybe every 5 years if you’re lucky, maybe because they’re too busy enjoying themselves (yeah, Gil & Dave, I’m looking at you), or maybe because it’s just too hard (I can’t really pretend to know, but Freakwater comes to mind), or maybe it’s just my own natural sympathy for my kin, the unprolific artists of the world. How lucky that we can rely upon people like Neko (& Sherman Alexie, who is going to bankrupt me with his prodigious output) to keep us all going!

5) You know I am a sucker for a really good Bob Dylan cover, & Neko’s “Buckets of Rain” just about breaks my heart. In the best possible way.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this: I don’t think it’s any coincidence that I’ve started making souffles just during this last little stretch of Middle Cycloned time. What food could be airier? It’s like eating clouds. Too bad they always collapse before I think to grab the camera. Put on some brand-new Neko, whip up some egg whites of your own, & then you won’t need my pictures anyway.

Labels: ,


I’ve been busy lately! Coupla weekends ago I had a quintessentially East Bay foodie day with The Witch. First we went to a chicken workshop (yes we have urban chicken fantasies!) at EcoHouse, where I got no good photos of the chickens, but this friendly duck came to investigate my camera:

After that, we dropped by the People’s Grocery garden party, where we ate an embarrassment of padrón peppers & admired this lovely kiwi vine:

Then I felt kinda crappy for a week & didn’t do anything interesting. I think maybe I successfully fought off a full-blown cold.

Once recovered, I had to come up with a goodbye card for the incomparable Steve Woodall, who is leaving (wah!) to run the Columbia Center for Book & Paper Arts after nurturing our own San Francisco Center for the Book from its very beginning. I have always been in awe of Steve’s big, big heart. He is one of the kindest people you could ever hope to meet, & somehow manages to keep tons of stuff running smoothly with the most easygoing manner… I just don’t know how a person becomes like that. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll get to be a little more like him in my next life.

Anyway, you can imagine the pressure was on since I knew that about a hundred killer book artists were all making cards for Steve too. None of this running out to buy a card & scrawling something in it with a ballpoint pen for this crowd, no way. Not when John DeMerritt is making one of his famous boxes to put all the cards in. I was so distracted by the card situation that I forgot all about bringing food to the party until like half an hour before I had to leave. Doh! The fridge looked pretty bare & I thought I’d have to run out & buy something on the way, but you know, that’s not how I like to do things if I can help it. I spent too many years of my life as the person who brought chips & salsa to potlucks. (Although for the record, let me say at least it was always Casa Sanchez. I did have standards.)

Here is Mother of Invention Salad. We have fuyu persimmons on the tree right now, so I grabbed two of those, plus an apple & half a head of some speckly chicory (sorry I can’t remember the name of it—you could use radicchio or anything similar). Mandolined the fruit, squeezed some lemon juice over it. Sliced the chicory; the tops of the leaves were too soft to do on the mandoline, so I did that with a knife & then hit the mandoline when I got closer to the stem end. Tossed it all with red wine mustard vinaigrette (thanks again, Orangette!) & then thought it needed some green, so I ran out into the garden & pinched off some pineapple sage for garnish. Done!

Of course, when I got to the party it turned out everybody else had brought chips & salsa, bread & cheese, & wine. Occupational hazard of the book arts: no way in hell do you have time for anything else. Now I remember why I always used to do the Casa Sanchez thing… & why I don’t edition books anymore!

Next night, it was the reception for Road Trip at San Jose Museum of Art. I hadn’t seen the show yet so was quite eager to find out how it looked. I have to say I’m pleased as punch to be in this show. Curator Kristen Evangelista did a fabulous job; how often do you go to a big group show like that & really enjoy most of the stuff in it?!

It was a fun opening too. Five Dollar Suit was playing bluegrass, & the food was thematic, reaching its conceptual peak with these teeny tiny chicken fried steaks, sandwiched in biscuits with gravy, here modeled by the talented, hardworking hands of Noah Lang & Donna Ozawa.

Labels: , , , , , ,


On eating in other folks’ cultures:

I feel a bit of guilt, now that the matzo shortage appears so grim. Even though I bought my 2 boxes before I heard about the situation, well, a shiksa like me can eat leavened or unleavened bread whenever, so probably my matzo shoulda gone to some Jew who at this moment is experiencing major angst over the lack thereof. But it’s too late for that.

We can only hope that emergency matzo gets flown in here before matzo riots break out!

Meanwhile, here is some leavened goodness I enjoyed over the weekend at the Cal powwow.

How to eat an Indian taco: the problem is that you have many many unsecured food bits mounded up on an unstable base (aka thin paper plate balanced on your knees). You are eating in a confined space (very little elbow room) with barely adequate plastic utensils, & you don’t want to be the uncouth non-Indian dropping aforementioned food bits—or worse, flinging the entire thing—upon your Indian (or non-Indian) seatmates. Plus, the distraction of adorable teeny tiny 4-year-old jingle dress dancers.

The temptation is to slice it like a pizza & pick up the wedges with your hand. Do not try this. The motion caused by sawing away with that little plastic knife will cause an avalanche of food bits to tumble off the edges of the plate & onto your lap, the floor, & all surrounding Indians & non-Indians. Also, fry bread is very elastic; when you inevitably lose patience with the pathetic progress of the knife you will try tearing the bread, which could easily result in the flinging action I mentioned earlier.

So. Here is the method I have developed. Pry your eyes away from the cute mighty mites long enough to take your wee fork & eat some of the bits off the top. Eat the hill shape down into a flatter, more spread out & stable arrangement of the bits, preferably so that the puffy edges of the fry bread function to hold things in the relatively sunken middle.

(Note that even with all your best efforts, those stray food bits dangling precariously over the edge will fall to their doom. It’s not about perfection here; it’s about minimizing the damage.)

Now you can try the knife, but be patient & saw all the way through to the bottom. No tugging! For controlled tearing, start with the edge & tear inward toward the middle, rolling the edge in so that the bits get trapped between layers of fry bread. This gets easier as the bread soaks up some liquid from the tomatoes & beans.

I know, nobody likes soggy fry bread, but guess what? You don’t have to eat that part. By the time you’ve eaten all the yummy crispy edges & everything on top, you’ll be too full for that soggy middle anyway. Relax with your comfortably full stomach, watch the dancers, & soak up the drums. Ho!

Labels: , ,


I’m sick. I have that disgusting wretched cold. All those Meyer lemons I was planning to make lemon meringue pie with? They go straight into hot water with honey & garlic for my miserable throat. Meanwhile, whenever I am not asleep or moping around in a foggy stupor, I’ve been surfing the type blogs (don’t ask me why), which eventually led me to this endlessly amusing timewaster P22 Music Text Composition Generator. Check it out, they have many instrument choices, including some of my favorites: banjo, accordion, bagpipe… the acoustic bass doesn’t sound very convincing though. Anyway it’s much more suited to my current condition than trying to appreciate the fine differences between various Garamonds.

Labels: , ,


Oh my gawd the Carolina Chocolate Drops! You know sometimes when you go see a band based on nothing more than a hunch, & then you turn out to be so right? I had torn out an article about these folks waay back when, buried it in a scary giant pile on my desk, then unearthed it just a couple weeks ago during major excavation of my desk. (You can actually see the desktop now! It’s blue.) Article in hand, I found the website & listened to a song, which I liked enough to then see where they were playing. Serendipity called; they were coming to Cafe Du Nord in just a few days.

So, there we were, with pumpkin soup & a big spinach salad, hard pear cider & no particular expectations. The opening duo was pleasant enough, obviously locals with friends in the audience. So far, so good. They finished playing & we finished our food. Then the Drops got on stage & gave us that sneaky stringband trick of a sweet, moderate-paced preamble before dramatically kicking it up to superhighspeed, large & in fucking charge, authoritative, sinus-clearing, hair-raising, fierce playing. Wow! The temperature of the place shot up about 10 degrees. I was instantly in love. & it didn’t stop. They got everthang: showpersonmanship, talent, brains, dedication, humor, analysis, energy, & looks & youth (oh yeah, I did say energy) to boot. If I wasn’t so thrilled just to be in the same room with them I’d go ahead & be jealous. The wacky Dom Flemons plays any & every instrument he feels like, including bones, jug & guitar, & just when you think he’s shown you everything he’s got, throws some throat-singing into the mix too. Rhiannon Giddens does everything too, including Charleston & clogging—barefoot! Justin Robinson may seem like “the quiet one” in comparison but is a mean player & singer himself & a fully worthy, equal member of the trio.

Everybody loved them. Toward the end of one song, someone in the audience moaned, “Don’t let it end!” When they were done with us we made them come back for two encores, then stampeded up to the CD table with fistfuls of cash, crying out, give us one of everything! They graciously signed their CDs for us & we went home with joyously rearranged brain cells. Do I need to say it? Go see them! They’re everything you never knew you wanted in an African American oldtime stringband. If you think you don’t like oldtime, well, they’ll make a convert outta you.



I think I blogged a couple years back about being totally floored by Dave Rawlings singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. Since then I have searched high & low for any documentation of this exemplary cover; here is the only thing I’ve been able to find. (Tapers of the world: I will give my firstborn child, or at least a good bunch of radishes, for something better.)



Hey, look at this cool DIY origami CD sleeve! If you’re a type geek control freak & need to specify your own font (I don’t know anybody like that, do you?), you can open up the pdf in some designy program & go wild. Add images! Print in color! Whatever!



People, it’s film festival time, & you must see Air Guitar Nation. This film doesn’t just rock, it shreds.

Labels: ,


Heads up, those of you who like to have a twangy good time for free: coming right up this weekend is Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in Golden Gate Park. I will be in the front row at Freakwater on Sunday! Take public transit. Traffic & parking are not to be trifled with this weekend.

Meanwhile, you may think I’m all twang all the time, but sometimes even I gotta kick off the old cowboy boots for a good dose of homegrown Bay Area sound: Destani Wolf has a solo album out & it is very yummy, soulful stuff. That girl has a voice! Her CD has pretty much taken up residence in my player for the past few days. (Oh, except for once when I needed a quick shot of Freakwater. Of course.)