Friday, April 26, 2013

In which I make a brief foray into baby blogging; also, a tipping question

You didn't think you were going to get off the hook completely, did you?

Baby Beyonce turned one month old yesterday.  If you recall, getting here was something of a challenge.  How have things been since?  Let's take a look!

Babies from zero to one month old are essentially inefficient, milk-powered alarm clocks that you can't set or control in any way.  They have two goals: sleeping and eating, and when the first one is completed you better be GODDAM SURE you're ready and available to assist with the second one.  Since I don't lactate personally, The Wife takes care of most of the feeding beat - and she does it with aplomb and a resolute cheerfulness that is both reassuring and somewhat bizarre, at least to a crank like me - but occasionally I pitch in with a bottle here or there.  Also, this kid can fucking eat.  Born at 5 lbs 11 oz, she climbed through 7 pounds earlier this week, and shows no signs of slowing down. For now, anyway.  I guess it slows down later or something.

The dog likes her, too.

What else?  Before she was born, other people who already have kids would gravely warn me that I better get used to not sleeping.  They love saying shit like "Better get sleep now!  YOU'LL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN ONCE SHE'S BORN!"  Well, you know what?  It's all bullshit.  People love to try and freak you out, and this is an example of that.  I used to get 6 hours of sleep a night.  I still do.  It's just not CONSECUTIVE.  Here's the actual, real deal, at least with Beyonce: she sleeps about 2-3 hours at a stretch, and then wakes up, demands SOME FUCKING FOOD RIGHT ABOUT NOW WHERE'S MY FOOD YOU BASTARDS and then goes back to sleep.  So you're essentially up for an hour, then asleep for 2 or 3.  No bigs.

All things considered, I have to say she's a pretty good kid.  Anyway, we're way past the deadline to return her.

UNRELATED QUESTION: What do you tip the person who cuts your hair?  Like, how much if the haircut is $50?

Sigh.  Yes, my haircut costs $50, but I only get it cut once every 3 months, so it's really only $200 a year, which I bet is less than a lot of you people spend.   I've been giving her $20 but now I'm thinking that seems like too much.  That's, like, almost a 50% tip.  That can't be right.  Obviously, I can't go back down to $10 NOW, but I'm just curious what you guys think.

Monday, April 22, 2013

In the market for a warm-weather cocktail? Make a pitcher of Tom Collinses at home!

Hello San Francisco!  It's over been over 70 degrees for two days in a row, so "summer" is here.  Naturally, when warm weather unexpectedly and blessedly arrives, we do everything we can to take advantage of it, and that means OUTDOOR DRINKING.  Instead of your usual PBR/Tecate/cheap rosé, try whipping up a batch of Tom Collinses.  They're delicious, easy to make, and perfect for warm weather.  As an added bonus, they have gin in them but don't taste like gin so they're perfect for that one friend who says she "hates gin" because she drank 8 Seagram's gin & tonics once and threw up.


1 cup lemon juice (Around 7-8 lemons. Don't buy lemon juice; squeeze the damn lemons. It's not that hard and makes it taste 1000% better.)
3 tbsp sugar
3 cups club soda
About 1 3/4 cups gin; a little more won't kill anyone
Maraschino cherries

A WORD ABOUT GIN: Don't use the cheapest gin, but there's also no need to waste perfectly good Hendrick's in a Tom Collins.  Maybe something mid-range, like Bombay Sapphire?

Microwave the lemon juice and sugar for 1 minute.  Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Pour the mixture into a pitcher with ice.  Add the gin and the club soda.  Stir for a while.  Serve over ice in a Collins glass.  Garnish with maraschino cherry.  Take a sip, sit back, and say out loud "Where have you been all my life?"

This recipe will make 4 very tall, very strong drinks, or 6 more wimpy drinks.  Use your best judgment.

Enjoy!  We'll be back to Irish coffee within a couple of weeks, no doubt.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In memoriam: Scott Miller, 1960-2013

Bay Area musician and songwriter Scott Miller died on Monday at the age of 53.  No radio station is going to play his music all day long, and crowds aren't going to gather weeping outside his house.  But to me, personally, this is maybe the single biggest loss in music at least since Elliott Smith died, and maybe ever, because Scott Miller was pretty much the biggest musical influence in my life.

In the late 80's I was in college and a good friend of mine urged me to listen to Game Theory's album The Big Shot Chronicles.  It is an understatement to say I was immediately hooked; that album, along with Game Theory's other albums, became a borderline obsession, and I listened to them over and over again.  Scott Miller formed Game Theory in Davis in the early 80's and they became college radio darlings, including at my college radio station, and the mix of unbelievably hooky power-pop and lyrics dripping with literary and cultural references was irresistible to me.  I can remember driving around with my friend Pete trying to figure out what the lyrics to Erica's Word meant.

Game Theory's masterpiece was probably the double album Lolita Nation (inevitably described as "sprawling"); it's long out of print, and copies of the CD go for well over $100 on eBay.  It's an incredible album, full of lush, carefully crafted pop songs as well as quirky little oddities.

Game Theory eventually fell apart and Scott went on to organize a new band, the Loud Family, which put out a string of albums that I still listen to regularly and can't get out of my system.  Their first album, Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things, is probably the album I've listened to more than any other.  The only other one in contention might be Abbey Road, and that's mostly because it was on constant repeat at the art studio where I studied drawing and painting in high school.  Anyway, PBRT is chock full of great songs, like this:

 About a week after I moved to San Francisco, in 1990, I was walking down Haight Street (cliche alert! I know, but still) and I spotted a flyer on a telephone pole advertising a Scott Miller solo acoustic show at the Hotel Utah later that week. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I went to the show, of course, and watched my musical idol spin his way through 10 or 15 of MY FAVORITE SONGS OF ALL TIME.

 I would go see Loud Family a number of times over the next few years, to the point where Scott kind of recognized me and we talked a few times. I was more than a little awestruck, but he was totally cool and down to Earth and everything else you'd want. I hadn't really focused on Loud Family's last couple of albums, but a song from an album Scott recorded with Anton Barbeau recently came up on shuffle and blew me away. I've been listening to it over and over again for like 2 weeks. It's pure pop magic.


I have no idea what he died of; people don't normally just die at 53, and the official website is mum on the details. I guess it doesn't really matter. Even though Scott unfairly labored without widespread mainstream recognition for most of his musical career, he had a deeply felt effect on a lot of people, including me. I write songs, too, and I can hear echoes of his much better work in almost everything I do. I'm bummed we'll never get to hear another new song from him.

And write the obit when you do
He never ran out when the spirits were low
A nice guy as minor celebrities go
All right all together now, very minor I know

- "Together Now, Very Minor," 1987

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

CNN has some updates! Let's listen in.

WOLF BLITZER: I understand we have an important update.  There has been an arrest in the Boston bombing case.  Deborah, is that the case?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: That's correct, Wolf.  According to our sources, there has been an arrest and there is a suspect in custody.  We don't have any further information about the suspect at this time.

WOLF BLITZER:  Deborah, do we know of the suspect is of Middle Eastern descent?  Was the suspect wearing a headdress of any kind or any other native garb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: No, Wolf, we don't have any information yet about whether the suspect was wearing a ghotra, keiffiyeh, or other type of Arabic headwear.

WOLF BLITZER: Deborah, did the suspect speak with a noticeable accent or was he wearing a soccer jersey of some kind?  Was the suspect perhaps carrying a plate of kebabs and mujaddara or other distinctive food?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: No, Wolf, we have very little information along those lines.  We don't know, for example, whether he was carrying a tray of delicious falafel and babaganoush or whether he might have had a prayer rug or a Hezbollah employee manual.

WOLF BLITZER: What do we know about the suspect's motivatons?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: It's somewhat unclear at this time, Wolf, but I think we can safely assume that the suspect has been guided by a deeply-held, disturbing belief matrix that has little basis in reality. He probably suffers from serious, organic mental illness, and may worship an animal god, such as Baal, or may be an anachronist.

WOLF BLITZER: What's that, Deborah?  An anachronist?  Can you tell us what that is?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: Oh, I'm sorry, Wolf, I misspoke.  I meant atheist.  The suspect is most likely an atheist.  Or motivated by deeply held religious beliefs.  One of the two.  They are both very likely.

WOLF BLITZER: What happens next, Deborah?  Can we expect that the FBI will now question the suspect?  Have you seen anyone bring waterboarding equipment into the FBI offices there in Boston?

DEBORAH FEYERICK:  Well, Wolf, based on standard procedures, the suspect will most likely be offered coffee or some other beverage -

WOLF BLITZER: What about Pepsi or Coca-Cola?  Do they have sodas available?

DEBORAH FEYERICK: I don't have that information available right now, Wolf.  We would expect that the FBI would read the suspect his Miranda rights and then the suspect might choose to not speak to authorities or insist on his right to a lawyer.

WOLF BLITZER: Let's hope not, Deborah. OK, let's turn to our reporters at the scene for some more ill-informed speculation.  Oh, I am now hearing there is no suspect in custody.  There has been no arrest.  This is CNN.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Found this on Deadspin

Candy Land: The Game You Can Play With 30 Of Your Emotionally Stunted Friends

A few years ago, local blogger Jasper Infante served his court-ordered community service in a day-care center for developmentally disabled children and came back with a question: Why can't fully-grown, marginally-employed, overeducated, semi-competent adults enjoy Candy Land?  It sounded silly - but this is a man who takes Candy Land seriously.

On a recent afternoon, Infante is leaning against a vintage server tower in the garage of his Mission District home.  Amidst a swirl of crude photographs of scrawled graffiti, empty tall cans, and flyers for his Candy Land league, a stack of pristine, unopened copies of Hasbro's iconic sweets-themed game sit poised, ready to make their debut.  "You know Hasbro released various versions of the game," he says.  "There's even a fucking Dora the Explorer edition.  We don't fuck with that.  Classic Candy Land or no Candy Land," he says, matter-of-factly.

It's Monday evening - league night - and in two hours, an assemblage of young San Franciscans will pack into a dimly-lit back room of Non Sequitur, a Mission watering hole popular with bloggers and other bloggers.  The back room, or "Candy Castle," plays host to some of the most competitive Candy Land seen outside preschools, and some players even arrive dressed as Princess Lolly or the more recently added Duke of Swirl.

Slowly the players coalesce around a dozen gameboards and, almost imperceptibly, play begins.  The reassuring sound of cards being drawn and tokens advanced on the board fills the room, punctuated by the occasional whoop of delight or a hissed curse that can only mean one has landed on a licorice square.  The crowd is incredibly diverse - young and early middle aged, white and very white, all united only by a love of the game and a noticeable lack of drive.

It's rare that you'll find an amateur Candy Land player who's been able to leave his day job for the craft, but that's what Infante has managed to do.  "Hard to say where it goes," Infante muses, squinting into the barlight amidst the murmur of a room full of Candy Land in progress.  "Are we going to be on ESPN within a year?  Maybe.  Nationwide soon?  Possibly.  Get better attendance than any Marlins game?  Already there. The world is really our oyster.  Or should I say our Gumdrop Mountains?"

You should, Jasper.  You most certainly should.

(Inspired by true events)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Brushes with Fame

Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was friends with my sister in high school.  I talked to him for a while at her HS graduation party.  I advised him to go directly into MLB instead of college.  Oddly, R.A. Dickey ignored my advice and instead went to college, then the pros.  His troubles so far this season are probably attributable to disregarding my advice.

I was waiting for my ex-wife to get off a plane at SFO (this was when you could stand at the gate and wait for people) and Jerry Garcia was the first person off the plane. There were people waiting for him and they hustled him out the door and into a limo.  He looked like shit.  This was about 1993, 1994.

I interviewed a band called Contocook Line in Richmond, Virginia, back when I was a sometime music writer.  The drummer of that band, who then went by Jonah West, later started calling himself Steve West and joined another band called Pavement. I don't remember much about him because we did the interview in a bar and we were all a little drunk.  Good band, though.  I also interviewed Dave Brockie from Gwar at their warehouse and he wasn't in character and was just a regular, down-to-earth guy.  He had just gotten a NeXT computer (or however you spell it) and was really into it.

I met former 49ers quarterback Steve Young once and it's a really funny story, actually, but I can't figure out a way to tell it without giving away too many personal details, so you'll have to take my word for it.

I ran into Willie Brown at Tosca once and shook his hand.  It was unbelievably rough, like the hand of a manual laborer.  He was super nice and personable.

I brushed up against Uma Thurman in a very crowded bar in West Hollywood in the late 90's.  She was so unbelievably rail-thin you could almost see her internal organs. On another night at this same bar, one of the chicks from Melrose Place and her dbag British boyfriend were sitting at our table because there was nowhere else to sit and they made a very studious point of ignoring us and our friends.

There are probably a bunch of others I can't remember right now.  What's your brush with fame story?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Way We Get Born: A Harrowing True Tale of Love, Birth, and Survival Atop Mt. Sutro


If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that The Wife and I recently spent about 9 days in the hospital and ended up with a child.  Usually it doesn't take 9 days for a baby to be born.  This is the story of why it took so long.  It sounds pretty bad at times, but I want to assure everyone it was all worth it and little Baby Beyonce is the most perfect, beautiful, platonic ideal of what a baby should be.  But getting her out was a mighty pain in the fucking ass.


The Wife called me at the office around lunchtime last Thursday (the 21st) and said she was bleeding a little and was going to the hospital. When you're 36 weeks pregnant like The Wife was, "bleeding a little" has a whole different meaning and significance from when you're not pregnant. When you're not pregnant, "bleeding a little" means "put your finger in your mouth and suck on it until it stops bleeding." When you're pregnant, it means OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING ARE WE LOSING THE BABY. She got a cab and they picked me up at work and we went home and got our car and went to the hospital. Our OB/GYN happened to be there that day so she checked out The Wife a bit and then sent in a medical student we'll call ELLIOTT. Elliott was a sweet enough kid but was nervous as hell and looked like a nerdy comic book store clerk. He asked my wife a lot of questions about her vagina. This made him, but not me or her, even more uncomfortable.  Eventually her Lady Doctor said the (very small) bleeding was NBD and we could go.  Then The Wife had a seizure.

It was amazing, actually.  I was getting our stuff to go.  The Wife was still lying on the gurney in the triage room.  She said she felt lightheaded and then BOOM her eyes rolled up and her head started shaking and she wouldn't respond.  Naturally, I was scared shitless.  I did a total movie thing and threw open the door and yelled "DOCTOR!"and the doctor came back in and tried to revive her and couldn't and yelled out a bunch of medical code words and then there were about 8 people in the tiny room in like 10 seconds all of them working on The Wife and I was starting to feel a little faint myself.  After about 90 seconds she stopped seizuring and opened her eyes and one of the nurses asked if I wanted some juice.  NOT REALLY.

Here's the thing: if you're going to have a seizure, a hospital triage room is like 1 or 2 of the Top 5 places you could pick to have one.  A few minutes later she was totally fine.  But there was no fucking way we were leaving the hospital after that, let me tell you.

WARNING: MAJOR DOWNTON ABBEY SPOILERS AHEAD.  Remember when Lady Sybil caught the eclampsia during pregnancy and died?  That's what The Wife had.  Eclampsia.  It basically means seizures during pregnancy and is caused by tiny spiders in the bloodstream.  No, not really, it's caused by recycling poachers.  No, I'm shitting you.  Here we are, 100 years after Lady Sybil died and NO ONE KNOWS what causes it.  Science!  Anyway, we know it's bad and you can die if you have it, so long story short, The Wife was not leaving the hospital.  And since she's the only one who knows how to work the remote, neither was I.  KIDDING.  About the remote, not about not leaving the hospital.

The cure for eclampsia is deceivingly simple: HAVE A BABY.  That seems to clear it right up.  If your problem is seizures during pregnancy, don't be pregnant any more, amirite?  So a decision was reached: we were going to have this baby ASAP.


Here's the problem: baby-delivering is not an On Demand process like getting an oil change or torrenting Game of Thrones.  Basically the thing comes when it wants, and Beyonce was not ready to get borned.  Like I said, the original plan was to have a C-section, but once we got checked into the hospital something curious happened: The Wife's vital signs all looked great, she was completely seizure-free, and there was nothing apparently wrong with her.  But since Medical Science has no fucking clue about eclampsia, they had to go ahead and give her the baby cure and get the thing out so The Wife wouldn't have another seizure and die and leave me as a sexy single Dad with a mysterious past and a brooding air.  We were at UCSF, and they have a strong preference for vaginal delivery as opposed to C-sections.  That's cool and all but it turned out kinda shitty for us, as you will see.  ANYWAY, the decision was made to begin INDUCTION, as in inducing labor, which the basic idea of is tricking the body into going into labor.

INDUCTION began innocently enough, with a little pill or capsule or something nestled gently next to the cervix to beckon it to open.  In this innocuous and mellow stage, the capsule was basically a friendly lamb next to the Cervix Gate, baaaaa-ing cutely as if to say "Open up, little cervix!"  This would be the end of such innocent adventures at the uterine door.

The Lamb Capsule didn't work and on Friday, Day 2, the decision was made to insert a Foley Bulb.  This is where things take a darker turn.  A Foley Bulb is some steampunk shit right out of a Civil War hospital that you can't believe medicine still resorts to.  The idea of the Foley Bulb is this: they shove a deflated rubber balloon past the cervix and into the uterus, INFLATE IT, and then periodically YANK ON IT in an attempt to coax the cervix into opening.  A very nice young female doctor (and all the doctors were female, just to be clear) stuck it up there in a harrowing hour-long procedure performed without any anesthesia, local or otherwise.  It took a long time because her cervix was closed for business and not accepting callers, rubber or otherwise.  ELLIOTT stood in the corner of the room and watched, looking stricken.  I wouldn't be surprised if ELLIOTT has since dropped out of med school.  I'm joking about this but my wife was in extreme pain during this and for the next 30 hours, so it wasn't very funny at the time.

That's right - 30 hours!  For 30 hours nurses would come in and periodically pull the other end of the Foley Bulb, trying to pull her cervix open.  This is about as fun as it sounds.  It was about Saturday morning, I think, when we settled on a New Plan: she would fake another seizure so we could GET A GODDAM C-SECTION and stop people inserting painful things into her uterus.

A note here about the Staff at UCSF: They were pretty uniformly great.  Even if we did have our differences about how to proceed, they always listened to us and took our cares into consideration before doing whatever they wanted to do after all.  And it's somewhat unnerving how young they all are.  One of the main doctors on my wife's case appeared to be somewhere between 17 and 19 and looked exactly like the girl who shows up in every club picture in the yearbook.  She was clearly the president of the Math Club, the Science Club, and the Premed Club, and now she's a doctor!  Who gets carded at R movies!


It didn't work. All that Foley Bulbing and she opened up about a centimeter and even the most ill-informed spectator should be aware that there is no way to push a human baby through an opening the size of a Bic pen shaft. So, time to finally get a C-section, right?  SAD TROMBONE, NO.  After a round of drugs that were supposed to open up that cervix like a Jello shot stand on Myrtle Beach during Spring Break but failed miserably, the Junior Docs had a totes brill idea: AN EVEN BIGGER FOLEY BULB.  Who knew?  Maybe if that one didn't work we'd just keep going up the line until we had stuffed a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Deputy Dawg balloon up into my wife's fragile reproductive system.  I forget who presented this genius idea but we kind of said we weren't psyched about it and so they sent in three Top Officers of the Science Club, including one who smacked her gum like a truck stop waitress, to try and lean on us and get us to accept their evil plan.  It was like 11:30 on Saturday night and we were both exhausted and they wore us down.  My poor wife would take another Foley Bulb, as long as Big League Chew wasn't doing the inserting.  I actually asked to make sure she wouldn't be anywhere near my wife's vagina with her massive chaw.  So they put another Foley Bulb in and inflated the fucking thing.  It popped out like an hour and a half later, which meant that it basically worked and she was like 4 centimeters dilated.  We were on the road to victory now, right?  They started some more drugs and assured us that baby would be sliding out in no time.

It didn't work.  The next morning there hadn't been much movement and now shit was generally going south. The Wife was getting a fever and the baby had an elevated heartrate, which is Baby for "Stop pushing fucking rubber balloons up in here with me, you fucking idiots."  So it's gotta be C-section now, right?  WRONG.  The Junior Class President said we'd continue with the drugs and maybe it'd only be "a few more days!"  That's when The Wife burst into tears and I almost called the principal on her.  No, no, no, no.  This Science Fair is over.  We talked about it for a while and came up with a deal: do anything you want that doesn't involve inflating shit inside my wife for the next few hours, but if she isn't over 6 cm by 9, you will cut this woman open and pull this baby out.  They finally caved and said they understood and we'd been through a lot and blah blah blah whatever.


It didn't work.  By the agreed-upon time, she wasn't at 6 c and everyone agreed let's go ahead and FINALLY get that C-section.  The OR was already booked at 8 pm so we got in there around midnight.  Amazingly enough, this is done with local anesthesia so The Wife was conscious the whole time.  There's like a blue curtain thing hung at roughly chest level so you can't see them CUTTING OPEN YOUR ABDOMEN and SHOVING YOUR INTESTINES TO THE SIDE and then PULLING A BABY OUT because that shit is even gruesomer than Napoleon McCallum's knee.  Wisely, I was on Wife's side of the curtain because I get grossed out by removing giblets from a fryer and would probably have to be institutionalized if I saw the inside of my wife.  Long story short, it only takes about 15 minutes to get the baby out and voila, there she was.  One of the docs said "Would you like to cut the cord?" and I said "NO THANK YOU!" as cheerily as I could.  Beyonce and a nurse and I all went to the nursery where they scrubbed all the birth film off of her, or mostly.

OK! So now we've got the baby on the same side of the skin as us and so that should be about a wrap, huh?  I'm not even going to get into the whole breastfeeding saga about how premature babies don't really know how to suck and they have to learn and that was a whole trial in and of itself.  Nope, there was yet one more roadblock betwixt us and GTFOing: JAUNDICE.


Jaundice sounds like one of those 18th-century things that people don't get anymore, like smallpox or consumption.  But it's surprisingly common, especially in prematures.  It has something to do with not being able to process blood or something, I'm not 100% sure.  All I'm sure about was when they said we might have to stay longer than the NINE DAYS we were already there, I may have slightly decompensated.  Anyway, there is a refreshingly bizarre cure for jaundice that doesn't involve needles or pain.  The cure for jaundice is GETTING A KILLER TAN.

Actual footage of Beyonce in the tanning bed. Do you love the goggles or do you love the goggles?
Well, not tanning, actually, but lying under bright lights of a certain frequency or something.  Amazingly, this cure for jaundice was apparently discovered when someone left a vial of jaundice blood on the windowsill in the sun!  SCIENCE AGAIN!  I am pleased to report that after 15 hours in the lightbox, Beyonce's jaundice level had fallen dramatically and we were cleared to leave.

So that's the story.  Babies get born!  It's not always this complicated, I hear.  In fact, one woman in the room next to us on Saturday had hers in about 20 minutes, sans an epidural, and believe me, if you heard the sounds that woman made, you would never ever ever want to have a baby.  ANYWAY, we're just as happy as we can be and it all turned out fine in the end.

TL;DR: It was kind of a pain in the ass, but we had a kickass baby.