Thursday, February 28, 2008

Capitola Book Cafe

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at my (former) home town on June 19th, when I'm scheduled to speak at the Capitola Book Cafe. I hope to see you all then.

Dennis De Young Museum

I had a great time at the Dennis De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. What a great place. I hate the provisional-looking exterior but the content of the museum is top-notch. I was skeptical at first --- a whole museum, dedicated to the former lead singer of Styx? Fortunately the collection is more than just classic rock memorabilia. There is an excellent installation by Kiki Smith, showing the figures of two children riding a box kite into a 'storm' of hanging raindrops, each one made of handblown glass. They've got a really good Andy Goldsworthy installation, and the traditional art from New Guinea is the best display of its kind I've ever seen. They also have a journal on display with the original handwritten lyrics to "Mr. Roboto,'' which was also cool to see. All in all it was a very good experience (and not too expensive.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Morbidly obese and lazy hawk in Golden Gate Park

I am growing concerned about the morbidly obese and lazy hawk in Golden Gate Park (in a field beneath a copse of trees, not far from the De Young Museum.) It is so waddlesome and lazy that it can barely fly anymore. It looks like a basketball with wings. I guess the food supply (pigeons, rats, gophers, more rats) must be very plentiful this year. Or maybe all that second-hand pot smoke is drifting up into the trees, sending his appetite out of whack.

On the road

Look for me out on the road starting in June. I am taking "Cactus Eaters'' to various cities and towns. This will probably include some sort of slide show/ power-point presentation featuring emigrants, mountains, flora, fauna, pioneer cannibals, trail logistics, little-known factoids, etc. Details to follow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

More information about getting drunk in the woods

Some of you have asked me to provide some more specifics about the phenomenal "Beer Woods'' hike in Muir Woods. (That's the one where you embark on a four-mile loop with a working beer bar right in the middle of the redwood forest.) Here goes. The pub is actually a faux Swiss chalet with stunning views of redwoods and Mount Tam. It's called the Tourist Club, and it's managed by a 600,000-member group called Naturfreunde, with headquarters in Austria (so they know from beer.) The club's address is 30 Ridge Ave., Mill Valley. Call in advance (415 388 9987) to make sure they are open. Also, bring a lot of food before you go there. It's hard to hike back out of the forest, over steep and sometimes slippery terrain, while shnackered.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Montara Mountain

For those of you who are out here in SF, and are looking for a quick escape, and are sick of the crowds in Muir Woods, try this hike. It's just off Highway One beyond the Devil's Slide (near Montara.) It's eight miles round trip -- and the first four miles are straight uphill--- but the views of the East Bay and San Francisco are tremendous. Warning: clear your schedule after you do this. I couldn't walk for a couple of days afterwards.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Allegedly phallic tree revisited

I have been trying, in recent weeks, to make my Cactuseaters blog more focused on the environment, backpacking, trees and "green'' issues. With this in mind, I've decided to republish a story I wrote some years back for the Santa Cruz Sentinel about an "allegedly phallic tree.'' For some reason, this story resulted in a small avalanche of strange attention; I went on various Howard Stern-style radio programs to talk about this particular shrubbery.

Fact or fallacy: Sexy tree too much for some Westside neighbors
Sentinel staff writer
May 8, 2002

A Westside resident called the cops Monday to report an allegedly phallic tree.

Officers responded to the Liberty Street home but found no wrongdoing. They said the 20-footer — actually an evergreen hedge of the Luma genus — is protected by its owner’s right to artistic freedom.

"We contacted the city attorney," said Sgt. Brad Goodwin. "It could be interpreted anywhere from being free speech to being artistic. It’s really nothing we have control over."

All trees can be seen as "phallic," but some would argue this eugenia is especially so. Viewed from the front, the hedge looks to have testicles, or perhaps bosoms.

Eugenia is a common plant noted for white flowers and edible fruits, according to the Sunset Western Garden Book. Sunset says the plant "performs best" in well-drained soil.

The owner of the tree, Gillian Greensite, said she found it peculiar the plant has been there at least 15 years and suddenly someone is mad about it. She said no one has complained to her about the plant.

Greensite, director of UC Santa Cruz’s rape prevention and counseling program, also questioned what the offended neighbor was really seeing in this tree.

"If they want to see phallic, they see phallic, I guess. I see trees," said Greensite, an outspoken advocate of tree preservation in the city.

She added the eugenia was "not trimmed for any particular purpose."

The complaining neighbor could not be reached for comment Tuesday....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amy Sedaris at the Herbst Theater

I thought she did an incredible job. They set it up to look like a sit-down interview with Daniel Handler but it was pure, polished improv comedy, right from the start. She would take some ridiculous, offhand comment from the audience (including an astoundingly tasteless remark about Ms. Sedaris's dead mother in a sexually compromising position), pretend to ignore it, and then refer back to it mercilessly throughout the evening. Comedy is very hard -- it's easy to get up there and look like a shnook --- but she seemed fearless. She sparred a bit with Mr. Handler -- just enough to make you wonder if it was all part of the act or not. I also picked up on a lot of housekeeping tips (how to put google eyes on peanuts, for example.) There were many other weird twists to the evening -- such as Andrew Sean Greer playing the role of a slavish butler, setting down a martini for Amy Sedaris. Someone in the audience asked her about appearing with Martha Stewart, and what it was like to work with her. Sedaris replied that "he'' was very nice

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This just in: a date for the upcoming reading

Please come to the next Steinbeck Fellows reading at 7:30 on March 6 (a Thursday) at the main library at SJSU. Peter Malae and Lysley Tenorio will read from their recent fiction (and I will have a short nonfiction piece.)

Just say no to marathon training while stoned

I know that they are just being friendly. But I'm starting to wonder why so many people are offering me "fat nuggs'' while I am wearing workout clothes and doing my long marathon training runs through Golden Gate Park. It seems counterintuitive.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I just drank a $20,000 cup of coffee (!)

I'm sure you've all read about the new Blue Bottle Cafe, which opened recently in the Mint Plaza. This city is full of places where coffee drinkers go to absurd new extremes to get that perfect cup --- and the Blue Bottle outdoes them all. You've got to see this to believe it. The place is clean and airy, with a staff that is in constant motion, stirring the silt out of the New Orleans-style iced coffee with chicory, monitoring the movements of the $20,000 Lucky Cremas Bonmac 105 siphon bar and tasting the product constantly, sipping the brew from tiny little cups. I ordered up a $12 pot, brewed in a glass globe. Quite frankly, this brew was a little bit above my head; it was delicious but I couldn't quite figure out what was so wonderful about it. However, it packed an insane caffeine kick that lingered for about 12 hours. Check it out, but get there early; it was hard to find a table.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wild Sky Wilderness update, plus upcoming reading ...

I'm keeping a close watch on this one: Washington State preservationists are asking Congress to set aside 106,000 acres of forest, in the heart of Skykomish Valley, as wilderness. The land sounds incredible: old-growth forests, scenic crags and wild rivers, not to mention habitat for bald eagles, wolverines, owls and mountain goats. The proposal has cleared the U.S. Senate. Let's see what happens with this one. If it becomes a reality, I'm loading up my pack and heading out there as soon as the snows clear up. In other news, the Steinbeck Fellows will be reading in March in San Jose. Don't miss it. Peter Malae and Lysley Tenorio will present some of their latest works. Refreshments will be served. (and I almost forgot to mention that I'll be reading, too.)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail turns 40!!!

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. (see footnote.) I'm hoping that lots of people will take leaves of absences and sabbaticals to through-hike this 2,650-mile trail. I might seem like an unlikely advocate for this path, considering that I had a rather extreme experience (running out of water dozens of times, getting lost constantly, getting giardia, etc.) However, many things have changed since I hiked it. For one thing, trail angels are leaving more water caches in the drier sections of the hike. The telecommunications boom is another factor. When I hiked the trail, cell phones were rare, unreliable and clunky. These days, people are blogging right from the trail(!), carrying GPS and maintaining at least some contact with the outside world. Finally, there are so many online resources and publications for people interested in lightpacking and orienteering. I'm hoping to hear from some people who are contemplating a PCT journey this year. Also -- thanks to the many people -- including former classmates -- who showed up to my "postcard signing.'' I appreciate your support!!!!

(footnote: purists will note that the trail has existed in various incarnations for much, much longer than 40 years; however, the PCT was designated a 'national scenic trail' in 1968.)