That Thing You Got at the Antique Fair is Haunted

Oh my God, this old wardrobe you bought looks UH-mazing. So shabby sheik! And – no way – only $100? Bargained down from $300? Dayum! You, my friend, are haggling wizard. I’m taking you to my next weekend estate sale spree! Where the heck did you find such a nice piece?
The antique fair? No kidding! You mean the one on the abandoned military base? The one with rows of warehouses full of dead-eyed broken windows? I bought a taxidermy possum there once. Named him Bert-
Sorry. Did you say something? Oh! Haha, I could have sworn I heard you say “Get out” in an unusually deep, sinister voice. My boyfriend is always telling me I don’t listen very well, hah! Guess he’s right!

I really just can’t get over this spackled old style mirror on the front. So vintage! Weird that it kind of looks like it’s not just my reflection but also the reflection of another person staring back at me. It sucks that the extra face looks pale and tormented. Must be some sort of interesting flaw in the glass. I bet a good polish would get that out. Or a mirror specialist? They have those, right? These days they have a specialist for everything. Did you know that a tree specialist is called an “arborist”? I mean, that doesn’t even make sense, right?!

Oh! You opened the wardrobe door!
Pff! “It was locked” and “You couldn’t open it until just now.” What a kidder you are. By the way, a lock specialist is called a lock smith! Bah! “It was locked.” Now you’re just messing with me.

Aww, did you know there was a cute little dolly inside? This must be ancient. I bet the seller is just kicking himself – if he only knew he sold you this beautiful antique and threw in a vintage doll for free… man! It’s a little charred-looking. Kids back in the day probably played too close to fireplaces. I wonder what the story is behind those soulless glass eyes… It’s almost like they’re glowing.

Ah! Haha! That tickles! You know I hate it when people breathe on my neck like that.
What do you mean? Of course you did. I literally just felt you do it.

Where’d the doll go?

OW! What the hell, why’d you shove me? No, of course I didn’t laugh in a high pitched little girl voice, are you crazy?

You know, to be totally honest, I always thought your apartment would benefit more from like a mid-century modern kind of vibe… Did you always have three red scratch marks down your arms? Ok, don’t get pissed, I mean, your cat is kind of a dick.
So if the doll’s not –

MOTHER OF PEARL! An earthquake? Now?! There isn’t even anything to hide under! You couldn’t have found a sturdy table at the antique fair instead?!
What do you mean it’s just the wardrobe that’s shaking?! That’s impossib –

uh oh. Shattered mirror. 7 years bad luck right there. At least it stop – Oh.

The doll.

It’s right behind you.


Ahem. So, what’s their, like, return policy?

A Hopeful Day Dream

Donald J. Trump steps in to his office and shuts the door, his heart full. After so many years – nay – his whole life, he can set out to do what he was born to do. Finally, he can change the United States of America for the better.

Donald heaves a sigh of relief. The campaign has exhausted him. Making sure no one can peek in the office, he unstraps his comb-over shaped cap and places it on the Wig Table. Long ago he had donated all his real hair to children in the Solomon Islands. He pats the wig with contentment. This synthetic one is so much better than the last one, which had been made of steel wool. Science is amazing he muses.

He collapses in his chair and lets the air hit his bald head. Few, if any people knew the REAL Donald “DJ” Trump. Not even Melania knew that the “J” in his name stands for “Jesus,” mostly because, like Christ, he believes in turning the other cheek, but also partially because he is 3.7% Mexican on his mother’s side.

Most people thought DJ was a dumb, narcissistic, xenophobic symbol of everything wrong with the world, but it’s not so. DJ had worked tirelessly at his genius. The Donald J Trump character was solid. Peter Sellers would have wept. Donald J Trump was DJ’s Inspector Clouseau.

In truth, it pained him to call women names & make horrible kissy-lipped advances. He’d anonymously sent them all Rosie the Riveter greeting cards with encouraging notes afterwards. I respect those women so much, he thinks regretfully in his chair, & attaches a safety pin to his lapel. But it was for the greater good.

How else could he provoke the American people? How else was he going to bring out the hidden votes to take the White House? To break the cycle of the political elite?
“Pussy-grabbing!” he’d shouted as he awoke from a God-given dream. “It’s the only way.”

More than anything, he needed to keep the world guessing.

In the past he’d almost been found out. Years ago he’d been so distraught about the death of Mother Theresa and the statistics of pit bulls euthanized on a daily basis that he’d let his acting slip. People began to notice his humble and generous nature.

He’d panicked. “USE THE CHARITY MONEY TO BUY A GIANT PORTRAIT OF MY FACE!” He demanded. When the painting arrived, he’d felt ashamed. That night, he’d added more lashes to his self-flagellation ritual. He couldn’t wait to be plain ol’ DJ again.

Back in his office, DJ sets aside an article on the latest advancements in green energy. He opens Twitter and channels Trump the Character. “Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting! Very unfair!” he types. DJ chuckles. Professional protesters. No one will know what that even means.

There is a note on his desk that the KKK are holding a victory parade in his honor in North Carolina. “Disgusting people,” he mutters. “I will tell them so,” and he writes down a reminder on a post-it.
DJ stands by the large window and looks out over New York city. “My people,” he coos. “I will not fail you.”

His eyes twinkle when he thinks of the diverse cabinet he will appoint, and the weekly Book Club he will start. He thinks of how he will offer warm hugs to every American, all while metaphorically punching Vladimir Putin in the face under the clever guise of frenemies. He chokes back a sob imagining the speech when he’ll tell the American people he prefers to be called Papa Bear. He hopes one day to encourage all people to donate their hair to children in need.

DJ picks up Mr. Mewmew, the Persian cat he keeps in his office for special occasions such as these, and gently runs his fingers through it’s fur. It is shedding rapidly from anxiety.

“That’s right Mr. Mewmew,” he whispers, and Mr. Mewmew bats at DJ’s bald scalp. On his phone, DJ opens a news broadcast of the Occupy Oakland protestors and wipes away a single tear.

He begins typing, and chuckles thinking of the last tweet that he’d sent not long ago. “All I need is to keep them guessing for a little while longer.” he says, and presses ‘Send’:

“Love the fact that the small groups of protestors last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!”

“Time to make America Great again,” he whispers.

Mr. Mewmew dives for the Wig Table.


The Blessing of the Boutique Shop

A good boutique store can solve any last minute gift-for-your-friend-from-high-school need in a pinch. The Bay Area, priding itself on being able to make any “Shit-I-Need-A-Candle” panic as short-lived as possible, offers many locations to put your mind at ease.

Now, I love a good hip boutique store as much as any Average Joe or Mediocre Marvin, but if you can’t identify these stores in a pinch, you might find yourself unnecessarily frantic before your 17-year-old neice’s graduation party.

While in San Francisco, Oakland, or Berkeley, be sure to find a commercial street that has at least 3 bike racks (depending on the length of the street, there may be more).  If you see several women wearing lulu lemon yoga pants, you’re on the right track. Make sure you keep your panic at bay this whole time. There is nothing worse than Sister Frances finding out you had a nervous breakdown while searching for her birthday card of a letter-pressed Jesus with a mustache (Sister Frances always had such a great sense of humor).

Uncle Clyde might like this gem to celebrate his new job down at the docks.

Uncle Clyde might like this gem to celebrate his new job down at the docks.

Find the nearest coffee shop, and pray that it’s one that has rustic wooden tables paired with modern looking chairs and/or high stools. On a rare occasion, you might be able to spot an organic ice cream store instead. If the price per scoop is less than $6, you are in the wrong neighborhood. Better to turn the corner and hope you see a business with a facade made of weathered driftwood.

Soon enough, hopefully right before you erupt in to tears of failure (what will Daniel think of you if you forget to pick up a tin of mustache wax and a typographical print with a dick joke on it for the anniversary of his coming out party?), you’ll come upon the right place. The floors will likely be hardwood, and the walls will be covered in shelves adorned with jars containing mini cacti, over-priced felt hats, and taxidermy foxes/rabbits/hamsters.

Immediately you will feel the calming powers of the boutique store. Float over to the section containing locally made candles and lip balms. Drift your way in to the forest of garments dyed with beet juice and green tea. Cartwheel over to the jewelry case and try on as many thin knuckle rings and triangular pendants on long chains as you can muster! Here, you can smell new smells, like the perfumes made by someone who started their business in an antique bath tub. Here, you can fill your mind with wisdom as you read the framed posters that say things like, “Life Begins At the End of Your Comfort Zone” and “we could be in the clouds.” Here you can chuckle to yourself at the prospect of owning a floral-printed notebook that shouts from its cover in all-caps: “BITCH, PLEASE.”

And as you weigh your options between a set of straws that make the users look like they have mustaches and a photography book of girls standing in wheat fields entitled “YOLO,” you might just be able to feel confident that Franklin “Hitman” Scottsworth won’t feel so unappreciated at his adult bar mitzvah. Congratulations on your conversion, Franklin.

Pat yourself on the back. Buy yourself a tiny ceramic bowl decorated with a cartoon otter for all those knuckle rings you’ll invest in later.  You’ve done it.  And don’t worry if you don’t remember the name of the one you found all those treasures in. You’ll find another store just like it very soon. If you’re lucky, the next one will have industrial chic furniture.



Ergonomics: Because You’ve Been at Your Desk Way Too Long

Those who have any type of desk job, work in the tech industry, or just play World of War craft for days on end are often in one position for a very long time. One can imagine the strain that causes on posture, neck, arms, toes, eyeballs, and whatever body parts happen to be knowingly or unknowingly engaged. One practice that helps victims keep their body pain-free at work and in their lives is good ergonomics.

For those who are concerned, ergonomics is not that class you failed in high school, nor does it have anything to do with stock market.
Ergonomics is the study of positioning yourself and your surroundings in ways that allow you work efficiently and comfortably for long periods of time. If you do not have an ergonomics resource at your company, here are a few tips.

What am I doing wrong? 
You are probably doing everything wrong. Here is an example of how not  to sit at your desk during long work hours:

Please note strain on neck, shoulders, and eyes

Please note strain on neck, shoulders, and eyes

This is Roger. He has been browsing WebMD forums for hours. By now, his butt is numb and he is drooling. Roger stopped blinking 30 minutes ago. His cat is also hungry. Roger’s posture has been stooped for so long that it will remain like this forever.
Do not fall prey to bad ergonomics like Roger did.

How can I start doing things right?
Take Gertrude here as a prime visual example:

Please note the defensive posture, which allows her to push herself away from the desk quickly with ease

Please note the defensive posture, which allows her to push herself away from the desk quickly & with ease should her boss ask her to follow him down the hall.

Gertrude has just installed the latest version of AOL, and boy is she comfortable.
Her positioning creates the least amount strain on her back and neck muscles, so that she can stay in the chat rooms all day long. Because her feet are slightly raised on a resting platform, circulation continues to flow through her legs. This prevents that pesky sensation we call Prickle Pants.

I don’t have Gertrude’s set-up. What can I do?
Don’t fret! Gertrude’s situation is this way because it’s what works best for her. Here are some other tips and tricks you can try to suit your own needs:

  1. Stand Up – If you have the ability to install a desk lift, do it! Not only will this allow your body the freedom to both stand and sit at your desk, but you will also be in a better position to look condescendingly over at your cubicle neighbor. Don’t have a robotic desk? Peasant!
    Why not try an old fashioned turn crank? It’s a great workout and gives off an air of vintage hipness.
  2. Don’t Sit in a Chair – Ah, the classic “Sitting-on-A-Yoga-Ball” scenario. True, a yoga ball is different than a chair and allows for core stability improvement, but it’s over used. Get creative to find what suits you best.
    Why sit on a yoga ball when you can sit on a a bean bag chair? A diving board? A whoopie cushion? Personally I’ve been trying to get a miniature horse, but they keep saying they don’t have the funding. All of these options provide versatility for your desk life.
  3. Look out the Window Every Once in a While – So what if the great outdoors is totally overrated? Your eyes don’t do well if they are only used to look at a screen that’s at a certain distance from your face. Ergonomics is all about variety. Every 20 minutes or so, find a window to look out. If there are no windows, find a hall to stare down. What is the farthest thing you can see? Focus on that and remember to blink.
    If the farthest thing you can find is another screen, a wall, or a dead-eyed soulless coworker, you might be in a casino. Or prison.
  4. Stretch at Regular Intervals – You don’t need to be a Cirque du Soleil performer to incorporate stretching in to your daily life. If your eyes need stretching, so do your limbs.
    The most important thing to remember while stretching is not to be shy. Roll your shoulders backwards and then forwards. Move your neck to one side and then the other. Stretch your legs as far as they will go, even if it means tripping someone in the hallway (your long term health is at stake. They should have been watching). Do not neglect your wrists. Roll your hands around in the air like you’re conducting an orchestra, and feel free to play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as loud as needed to feel inspired. Swing your arms like Michael Phelps warming up to consume a Subway sandwich. Rotate the hips in a way that would make Sir Mix-a-Lot weep tears of joy. Although less necessary, stretching one’s vocal chords can also be useful to those who get little human interaction during the work day. I recommend warming up with a simple Johnny Cash song, then launching in to Adelle and finishing off with Freddie Mercury’s Killer Queen.

No matter how you choose to exercise your ergonomic powers, know that the key to keeping a body functioning comfortably is diversity. Our ancestors did not sit for hours while running away from cheetahs in the wild. They did not stand for days while boxing kangaroos in the vast Down Under. We are not meant to stay in one position for long periods of time. Movement helps us to feel fulfilled and relieve stress.
Whether you’re engineering software in the San Francisco Bay Area, filling out Excel spreadsheets in Oklahoma, or binge watching episodes of Friends in your mother’s basement, your body doesn’t have to be the victim of a sedentary lifestyle.

Program responsibly, millenials.


Virtual Reality: the Toddler of Future Technology

VR (Virtual Reality) is being looked at as the future of technology and entertainment. Murmurings of VR have been around for years, but we are only now seeing it emerge in to our world with real potential.

A few weeks ago I found myself at a VR film festival in the heart of San Francisco thanks to a generous friend. As many events do in their wee baby forms, this festival was hosted at a nightclub. The space was half-lit and the cocktails were fruity. The lines were confusing and the people themselves were confused. I could not blame them, considering that many of them had large devices covering their eyes and ears. These people wobbled to and fro on their feet, giggling in soft manic undertones and apologizing to inanimate objects as they on knowingly jostled into them.

My exploration between pockets of onlookers brought up many questions about this new tech entertainment medium: “What is the difference between the Oculus head set and the other head sets? Where is the demonstration for Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride from Disney Quest in Florida? Which company here will be the first to admit they’re developing immersive virtual pornography? Is there a line for that somewhere?”

Ladies and gentlemen – the future.


I found a queue to stand in for a long while. It led to a green room where a couple more people with large boxes on their faces were smiling and saying “Woah” to no one.

“Excuse me” I asked, “Is this the line for the immersive volcano jumping experience?” I asked.

“No,” said the young man with a nervous laugh. “I don’t think there is one of those here.”

“Good.” I said. “That would be too scary for me.”

Following a series of nods and polite smiles with strangers, I finally made it to the front of the line. Another young man in a black shirt asked me which device I wanted to wait for. I chose the first one that was available, partially to appear like I was just happy to be there, but mostly because I didn’t know any difference.

The fellow in the black shirt spoke to me in a mumbled monotone, “Just sit here. You click the mouse to go forward and otherwise you can look around by moving your head. It’s an interactive social software, so you can meet people from around the world. You can play games with them or even just surf the internet with them.”

He placed the box over my face and then some headphones, and suddenly I was in a fancy room with no sense of the real world. My real ears were covered and so were my real eyes. There was hardly a hint of the noise coming from the real people that had been in the room with me. This new fake room was a little blurry around the edges, and I struggled not to feel too disoriented.

I frantically clicked the mouse and led myself in to a wall or two. There was a large fake television screen, and a big fake balcony over to the left overlooking a fake river. The room was full of floating robots, which I assumed was normal for a fake reality. Once I finished staring at the walls, I floated over to check out one of the robots, for observational purposes only. When it turned towards me and spoke at me with a human voice, the sense of panic rose quickly.

“Hi,” it said. It was the voice of a young male who sounded slightly uncomfortable at my forward approach. “Hi?” I responded, not even sure if it could hear me. The mouse couldn’t click me away fast enough.

It was like I had just waked in to a store to look at the clothing on a mannequin, but all of a sudden the mannequin was a bored sales assistant looking for commission pay. I hastily found another wall for my fake self to stare at and finally removed the VR device and head phones from my real cranium. With a quick Thank You Goodbye and a mixed feeling of nausea and relief at seeing people with real faces, I exited the green room and found another line to stand in.

This new line was for immersive films, in which we did not need to talk to strangers in robot form. I watched a movie called Butts, which was supposed to be about anxiety and depression but was really just about butts and some glitter. I highly recommend it.

VR is still in the stages of toddlerhood. There is a world of possibility within the medium that people are still exploring, but that does not mean it won’t cause some disorientation along the way. Perhaps I am not ready to meet people in the virtual world (put me in a bar with a drink or two and I’m much more suave. However, I do about the same amount of staring at walls), but I could get on board with the immersive film making experience for sure – even if it is about butts.


The Joy of Bikram Yoga

The ancient practice of yoga has transcended cultural boundaries and found a home in the modern world. This holds true in the Bay Area as well. Yoga’s power to merge the body and the mind in harmony has made it a routine – and in some cases, a lifestyle – for many folks around these parts.

Over the centuries, yoga has branched in to several different practices. Some people practice standard yoga in varying levels of difficulty. Others do prenatal yoga (note: it is recommended to be pregnant during these sessions), and others take it to a different level in ganja yoga (easy to practice at home). However, the type of yoga I’d like to highlight today is called Bikram Yoga.

Before I explain further, Bikram Yoga is NOT a yoga class lead by the charming Muppet we all know and love, Beaker.


Yogi Beaker

Instead, Bikram yoga (also known as ‘Hot Yoga’) is the practice of doing yoga in a room upwards of 110° F. It’s like spending one and a half hours stretching and bending in the Amazon rainforest, or in a thinly veiled tent in the Sahara Desert. One might also liken it to performing yoga in a musty gym sock. Although it can be assumed most of you do not actually fit inside a gym sock, your imagination will grant you some key sensory imagery.
When a friend asked if I wanted to try a session of Bikram Yoga in Oakland, I was hesitant.
“OH!” Shouted another friend. “You would hate it.”
“Would I? Mayb -”
“You would hate it. You would die. You’d hate it.”

She told me this so many times that I had no other choice but to go.

We woke up at the crack of dawn, a trio of three mostly insane individuals off to a 6:00am session of ‘Sweatin’ in the Dark.’ The building was covered in painted cartoon flames. Giving the impression that one’s yoga studio is on fire is good business practice.

Surprisingly, the inside of the building was actually not charred to pieces. A small French woman greeted us and softly gave us instructions on where to put our things before the session began.

Entering the yoga room was like walking in to a dark church in a post-acopalyptic zombie movie. I was hit was a wall of slightly mildewed heat. Bodies littered the floor, all wearing odd clothing combinations. Some wore tight speedos. Others a sports-bra-n-shorts-combo. All appeared to be napping or in a trance. I quietly lay my mat on the floor, so as not to disturb them. If I didn’t move, they couldn’t see me.

The French woman burst in to the room with a flash of light. My cover was blown, and I was already beading sweat beneath my armpits. The zombies awoke and began to stretch in front of the mirror. The French instructor wore a microphone head set like Madonna (note: I don’t actually know Madonna in person). She climbed up with grace on to a mound of stacked stage blocks in the center of the room, welcomed us, and told us to start breathing.


When you are stuck in a 110° room of mostly naked sweating strangers’ bodies, your only beacon of hope is that accented voice encouraging you through the speakers. Call it Stockholm Syndrome or not, but I held on to every word that tiny Amelie said.
“Now we breathe in deeply, yessss. Stretch down to your toes, bending at ze waist. Lead with your chest not with your head. Push. Push. Puuuuuuush…and change!”

My head was raining.
Once I tried to put the bottom of my foot up against my calf. It slid off.
By the time we were in the last third of the session I was a puddle. We all were puddles, except for Amelie Madonna. She would glide through the room performing brief acts of mercy that involved opening a window for a maximum of 10 seconds.

“At zis time, it is perfectly normal for you to feel dizzy, nauseous, and overwhelmed…” she breathed in to her head set.
A voice in the back of my head said, “Hey… Those are symptoms of fever… and maybe also cancer. Am I having fever cancer? A panic attack? …. I hate cancer fever panic..” Then I became grateful that I was not actually feeling nauseous. “Pregnancy,”  I whispered out loud, realizing that could be another possibility matching her description. It wouldn’t have mattered. At that time I didn’t have a womb. I didn’t even have eyebrows. They had long ago melted in to my face.

When the 1.5 hour session was over, I can’t remember if the instructor gave us a fond farewell. My captor-prisoner romance with her was over and I was up off the floor. Through a few stumbles I found my way out the volcanic tomb before most others, and the fresh air of normal life hit my face like a flock of welcoming butterflies.

The thought crossed my mind that I’d left my friends behind. Thank God we were just in a building in the East Bay and not back in ‘Nam.

After I took a cold shower, I discovered that the locker room had filled with fully naked stranger bodies – my comrades from battle. I was too weak & refreshed to be phased by the onslaught of nudity, even when a very thin hippie woman bent over right in front of me, butt naked, on my way out.

Hey, I thought, I admire your openness, and sauntered out the door like accomplished Jell-O.

I can’t tell if that session of Bikram Yoga was reawakening or not. The challenge of getting through such a feat at a temperature that I normally try very hard to NOT be in was rewarding. That being said, as much as I liked the nice French instructor, I’d be more likely to return if the session were actually led by Beaker.

Art vs. Tech in San Francisco

In the 60s, San Francisco was known as the City of Love. Streets abounded with hippies and orgies. Murals were painted using the dreadlocks of wanton hopefuls. Clothes were woven out of abandoned teddy bears and sea glass. It was a magical time – the rebirth of San Francisco and its new identity: A city of art, peace, and marijuana. Even now, just walk through the streets of Haight and Ashbury and you’ll find yourself back in the age of street art, revolutionary poster design, inspiring ceramics, custom jewelry, and professional thrifting.


Many aspects of the city have not changed, especially when it comes to the marijuana and orgies. Yet more and more artists are finding themselves displaced in the city as the technology industry trickles in. Let’s face it, one of the main reasons this is happening is due to the astronomical cost of living. After all, everyone knows that artists often have to live on very little. Imagine living on very little while also paying $30 for a pizza and $1200 rent per month to live in a literal closet – all while being surrounded by smiling yuppies with really white teeth who are all jogging with very happy dogs.

On the other hand, the tech industry has been a part of this area since before the .com boom. Many people have built themselves up on that microchip-filled proverbial rock. AskJeeves himself was born and died here. You can still visit his tomb right next to the Space Jam website.

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky in San Francisco who have found refuge under the somewhat financially stable blanket of the Tech Cloud. You’ve come with your own hopes to influence the city positively and spread your own kind of love.
Perhaps you are an artist seeking refuge from your expensive closet living and lack of studio space.

Either way, let’s please not forget that art can influence technology and vice versa (the Space Jam website is a profound example). Yuppies, get your big hearts out there with your cute jogging dogs and support a local artist. Yes, custom jewlery and home made ceramics are expensive, but it could be worth it knowing that you’re giving local talent the ability to stay in the area. Ask an artist about their work. Maybe they could give you useful guidance on aesthetic. You might ned it. If so, pay them for it.

Artists, let that good old fashioned San Francisco-bred love spill out of you like the paint on that rusty recycled car hood you’re using as a canvas for your latest project. Explore a start up. Get to know people who are creating from behind a computer screen. They could have some useful and influential insights.

As a city that takes pride in diversity and progression, there’s still a lot of talk lately about the spirit of San Francisco being forced out. The folks from the area may have the power to stop that from happening. Instead we can try to let it evolve in to a new kind of loving hippie era – one with fewer dreadlocks and peasant shirts, but perhaps with the same amount of self expression and a few more wax-tipped mustaches.

Support one another. Lift each other up (not literally please).
Keep the Bay Area weird.

Disclaimer: This blog entry is only partially motivated by my selfish desire to witness an app in which you can have food delivered to your house with custom artwork on the boxes and doggy bags. Well-developed pitch coming soon. All rights reserved by myself just because.

Ladies and Gentrification, Boys and Girls

There’s a term circulating around these parts lately, if you’ve heard: gentrification.
Now, unless you majored in anthropology in college, pride yourself on being a walking dictionary, or are a British sociologist from the 1960s, it’s likely that this term is not as familiar to you as your every day verbiage.

Gentrification is a phenomenon otherwise known as “Things are getting fancy.” When an area gets gentrified it means that many of the characteristics normal to the region (sometimes run down. Often, features unique to the area) gradually get replaced by other things that are more ‘upper class’ and / or that white people really love. For example: When the local dive bar gets replaced by an organic Asian-fusion tiki lounge, or when that alleyway previously known as The Neighborhood’s Natural Urban Toilet gets taken over by a series of pop-up thrift stores and craft coffee shops.

A human example of gentrification: Rugged normal man transformed via swimsuit coverup and Red Bull. White people love Red Bull.

A human example of gentrification: Rugged normal man transformed via swimsuit coverup and Red Bull. White people love Red Bull.

It was not until recently that I witnessed this phenomenon first hand.

About a week ago I went to my favorite breakfast spot, a greasy spoon of a place that’s been in the neighborhood since the middle of the century. They have the best pancakes in the world there. They are fluffy, light and glorious, but not too cakey – the epitome of all things ever named hotcake. I was ready for them to be in my belly.

Up to the familiar doorway I strode. I’d even made sure I had enough cash on me, since they didn’t take credit (ah, classic). It appeared they’d made a new sign for themselves. Good for them – and in a nice minimalist sans serif typeface just reading ‘DINER’ – not what I’d pick immediately for their vibe but who doesn’t like a good taste of Gill Sans Light?
I swam through a curiously large flock of humans near the front door. Passing through the threshold I suddenly found myself looking in to a charming airy cafe reminiscent of Casa Blanca (note: I have never seen Casa Blanca).

“Excuse me,” I said. “Is this the Full House Diner?”

“It was,” said the pleasant blonde hostess, her demeanor bolstered by the extensive sensitivity training she probably had under her belt. “The owner retired and sold the business in February.”

“My God!” I cried. My head was reeling. “I haven’t consumed pancakes from this establishment in 7 months?!” My misguided neglect was appalling. The shame was apparent and bone-deep. I shed a single tear.

“The wait is about 30 – 45 minutes. Did you want to put your name down?”

Add a black and white filter and you're immediately Humphrey Bogart

Add a black and white filter and you’re immediately Humphrey Bogart

I surveyed the comfortable spacing of the tables. None of the booths had holes in their cushions. The walls did not sport any memories of bacon grease or splatters of coffee. Even the ceiling seemed higher, and – was that a skylight? The cafe’s sans serif logo stared up at me from its artfully laid out, perfectly laminated menu.
It was disgusting.

“Sure, why not?” I shrugged. She handed me a menu and penciled my name in to the finely organized sign-in sheet. I surveyed the situation with a new sparkle in my eye. Perhaps their sustainable organic pancakes would be lightly topped with a seasonal peach compote. Maybe they’d be peppered with cinnamon or a lemon and rhubarb drizzle and dolloped with homemade creme fresh. Perhaps they’d be called “Flapjacks.”

My eyes reached the end of the list. There was a hollow pit in my stomach that was not exclusively from hunger.
There were no pancakes.
This establishment did not have pancakes.
I was standing in a johnnycakes-less joint, a crepeless cafe, a hotcakeless hashery. If it weren’t for a lonely, pathetic whole wheat waffle starting out at me from the page I would have crumpled to the floor right then and there.

With a numbness in my fingertips I returned the menu to the podium. A light had gone out in my heart. Screw the skylight and the really, really nice ceiling fans. I wanted my sweaty greasy spoon back. I bet this new place’s coffee wasn’t even watered down… not to mention the diner was named after a tree. A tree we don’t even have in the East Bay. What nonsense.

Needless to say, I didn’t eat at Insert-Tree-Species-Here diner. I have little time for places that don’t consider pancakes to be a legitimate breakfast choice. Instead, I walked past a few boutique shops that had just opened up, passed a new gourmet popcorn store, and slumped in to the sticky bar stool of another diner down the road.

Sticky-bar-stool-diner pancakes were nothing compared to the magic that had once been Full House.
I wept, knowing that someday I’d probably go back to that fancy new cafe up the road. Despite my shame, I’d probably end up ordering that damned whole wheat waffle. It would probably be delicious.

SF, No Reservations: No, there really are no good restaurants that will take reservations

The Bay Area is a progressive region of the United States. We take pride in shaking things up: We make apps dedicated to securing street parking, sell “totally-and-completely-normal” brownies at free music festivals, purposefully challenge gender norms, and will protest any war by riding bicyles through the city while completely naked.

Years ago, one such progressive made a change to the SF Bay restaurant scene that no one will forget. 

“What?!” Shouted Franklin “CrankymcCrabbypants” Beauregard one evening outside Señor Guapo’s Pupuseria. “These people planned ahead? That’s absolutely preposerous. I think everyone should make sure they earn their time in the good restaurants of this town, see? Everyone should have to stand around for two hours during peak times just to get a look at the damned food! I want to feel like I’ve fought a valiant battle! I want my nose to be running and my bones to be quaking in this brisk June fog before I reach the warm embrace of shelter! Kids don’t know how to earn nothin’ these days!”

And with that, Mr. Beauregard spit his cigar out on the ground, adjusted his suspenders, and grabbed his pet teacup pig named Nancy. They stormed down the street, shouting and squealing about life’s difficulties (namely the stock market and the price people charge for gourmet pig slop – “Where can a pig get some decent organic food scraps these days?”) The restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland were never the same.

If you decide to explore a restaurant in San Francisco or Oakland and it happens to have any sort of positive name for itself, it might be best to check ahead of time if they take reservations. Better yet, if they have a positive reputation and they don’t take reservations, it might be wise to look in to a completely different location. There is nothing more frustrating on a first date than waiting 2 hours for macaroni and cheese. No matter how delicious the end product ends up being, Franklin Beauregard wasn’t kidding when he said the waiting would be a battle.

Unless you’ve snacked beforehand, the 1.5 hour wait before you pay $18 for a bowl of environmentally sustainable noodle soup will be a true test for your hanger. Suppress the hangry hulk. Just don’t let it break free.

Luckily, these things can usually be overcome with a positive mindset. And of course a couple of delicious $11 cocktails.

Dodgy Pockets

Note: Cookie pictured does not actually contain pebbles or cilantro.

Note: Cookie pictured does not actually contain pebbles or cilantro.

Think of the East Bay as a large, warm chocolate chip cookie that also contains speckles of something horrible – like pebbles or cilantro.

At first you think “What strange ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie – pebbles and cilantro.” Then of course you remember that it is still a chocolate chip cookie. There are still really wonderful parts of that cookie. So you begin to consume it.

Your heart and tastebuds are full of bliss! There are hardly any pebbles or cilantro in this cookie at all! Until there are.

You stumble across some – the worst! A pebble wrapped in cilantro!
A grimace. Some spitting. But damn, up until that point it was a damn good cookie. The rest is still a damn good cookie. No sense stopping there. Just eat around the bad stuff.

Oakland, as a prime example, is really a very lovely place. Have you ever eaten there? You can find delicacies you’d never dreamed of! Spicy Ethiopian injera and wot, freshly made ramen, deep dish pizzas, mysterious sausages you’d rather not investigate any further, craft beers up the wazoo, or macaroni and cheese comprised of cream cheese, jalapeños, and buffalo sauce that is somehow still delicious!

There are neighborhoods filled with classic Victorian homes, modern mansions, hip apartments. On one corner a garden walk and a dog park! On another, a biergarten and live music!

Yet much like our bittersweet cookie experience, there are still quite a few dodgy pockets in Oakland.

How do you know when you are in a dodgy pocket? In truth, it’s not always obvious.

Photo by Emilie Raguso from

Photo by Emilie Raguso from

Go to Shattuck street in downtown Berkeley during the daytime, for example. It is likely you will be solicited for money at least three times during your stroll. Still, it’s a generally pleasant place with a few good coffee shops, lots of college students, and a really fancy looking CVS. At this time, Berkeley is not a dodgy pocket.

Return to downtown Berkeley after dark. You will be solicited for money less, but will find many more individuals who like to scream at walls and/or mumble to themselves while counting how many fingers they have. This is uncomfortable, yet these individuals are mostly in to themselves. If they had a gun, they would likely not realize it’s a gun. If they had a knife, they might just try to light one end of it in the hopes it would create some smokey euphoria. While you may choose to walk to the other side of the road, Shattuck is fairly populated on most nights. Go grab a beer and relax. This is only a borderline dodgy pocket.

Now travel to San Pablo Street, on the border of Emeryville and Oakland. Take a walk under the overpass towards downtown Oakland.

On second thought, don’t do that. You would pass a nice mural and a tasty barbecue place, but after that it isn’t worth the trouble unless you’re on something that goes faster than a human can run. This is a dodgy pocket. There are flickering lights and “liquor stores” open at all hours of the night. Some brightly garbed ladies of the night might leer at you from dark corners, and the local pit bulls that still have their testicles intact will snarl until you pass by their barred houses.

Perhaps appearances win over truth in this neighborhood. It’s likely not the dogdiest pocket, but as someone who has the street smarts of a skunk (and how many dead ones of those have you seen?), I’m convinced there are better places I could be walking through by myself.

Maybe it’s better if you go up San Pablo instead. Pixar’s up that way, and they’re not particularly dodgy. The area is a little better in that direction.
Except for the CVS. You should check out the one in downtown Berkeley.