This Apartment is... Nice?

San Franciscans have been through it before: scouring craigslist for a place to live and then showing up at an open-house with about 50 other desperate individuals who are ready, willing and eager to sign their lives away to spend one awful calendar year in a makeshift abode.

They clench copies of credit reports, bank statements, letters of recommendation, proofs of employment, proofs of citizenship, birth certificates, social-security cards and so on and so forth. If this is your first open-house experience, you poor sap, you are likely holding none of these documents, and you certainly do not end up living in said place. Onward and upward.

My two most favorite apartment-hunting stories both involve death, which is pretty cool if you ask me.

First, I knew something wasn't quite right when the building manager came across as being incredibly nervous. Building managers, clad in sweat pants or dirty jeans, care little about their personal appearances. Using this logic, individuals who care little about something as basic as their own face will not have much concern for other things. But can you really blame them? Why try to impress throngs of people when they will clamor over any apartment, regardless of its condition? It's just too easy.

Anyway, he was hiding something. Then he came out with it.

"Um, so, yeah... It's been newly repainted, has clean hardwood floors and... likeImentionedtheprevioustenantdiedherebecauseofaheartattack. The front room also gets great sunlight in the afternoon."

"Whoa, whoa! Did you just say this place is vacant because someone died here?"

"Huh?! Oh, that? Well, I mean, yeah, technically... I think we have to tell you that, you know? Like, obligated or something. But yeah. Yes."


For the second story, I beg of you to remember this: do not tour, consider living in or live in apartments that are next to, across the street from, above, in or part of transvestite strip clubs. These are usually not the safest areas in town.

The building manager wore coke-bottle glasses and was cross-eyed to the point where he could carefully examine the pimples on his nose. Unlike the man in the first story, this guy was not nervous at all, but instead was just a really creepy person.

"Just repainted the entire thing. New paint all over. We don't require a security deposit. Or a credit report. Or a background check."

***WARNING!*** If you ever, ever, ever hear these words, turn and leave immediately. Start screaming and running and pay the transvestite strippers and hookers on the corner no mind as you make your way home to safety.

I did not heed such advice, primarily because I had never received such advice. Bummer. So I went up to see the room, and when I say the place was a murder scene, I mean the place was a murder scene. The "new paint" was haphazardly thrown on walls, minus the one wall that surely needed it most - a wall with a huge blood spray on it. A freaking blood spray. The spray was strewn in an arc that led up to the ceiling, and then I noticed the chandelier also had blood flecks covering it, inside and out.

"Fresh paint, huh? What the hell is this then?"

"Oh. Well I'll be... That there must be wine. Yup, gotta be the vino."


Never Ever Sleep With Candles

In the summer of 2006, my younger brother and I decided to drive the 600 miles from Detroit to Manchester, Tenn., for the Bonnaroo Music Festival.

We may as well have not packed clothes (God knows we wouldn't have been the only ones), for Tennessee is not all that chilly in June. With little more than a van, a tent, some crackers and select beverages, we prepared for something we were so very unprepared for.

For those who have been, you know Bonnaroo is quite a ridiculous scene. You are all too familiar with 21st-century hippies, stark-white/translucent nudists covered in mud, overflowing port-a-potties and the sheer visual calamity of drug-addled masses. But in those four hazy, dirty, downright filthy days, you also probably saw and heard some great musical performances, which, after all, is what brought you to a 700-acre farm in Tennessee, right?

After setting up our tent the wrong way (and deciding not to do it over again correctly), Drew and I found out just how muggy, sweltering and disgusting Tennessee, or any place for that matter, can get. That evening, behemoth mosquitoes came out of the fields and forests with rebel force.

All Drew and I had to protect and defend ourselves was our poorly constructed tent and two citronella candles, which we at first wielded, which we then swung around like light sabers, which ultimately failed us quite miserably. We were being consumed.

So what would have been the next logical solution? Sleep in the car or a port-a-potty, perhaps? Barter with nearby hippie hoards for mosquito repellent? Smear mud all over ourselves as a cloaking agent?

Unfortunately we didn't consider a single one of these. No, instead we chose to zip ourselves in our tent with the citronella candles. Smart!

Sometime around 4 a.m. Drew and I completely passed out, exhausted, tattered with bites and probably a couple quarts shy of the average or preferred human-blood level. The blood feast was one that would have made the Red Cross jealous, and we later felt the itchy repercussions.

I was the first to come to, and I immediately noticed the remnants of the citronella candles lying next to me, smoldering in a black pile of ashes. Those candles had burned like cannon fire all night, and had completely torched themselves into oblivion... all within the confines of our tent. How the entire thing didn't burn to the ground is beyond my comprehension.

When I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes I noticed a thick black film on my fingers. And then I saw poor Drew and his face. Oh, his face!

I soon realized we had slept in a smoke incubator throughout night. Drew's face was just absolutely tarnished, completely covered in soot. He looked like he was wearing one of those mud masks you get at a spa, or had been up all night sweeping Tennessee's chimneys, or had been mining for coal deep within the bowels of the earth, or was some sort of human phoenix birthed from the ashes of his former fiery self.

He awoke, and the whites of his eyes had the most magnificent contrast with the sheer blackness of his soiled face. And then he saw me! I had the same thing going on! We thought this was hilarious, but then were dismayed at how stupid we were/are. We started coughing and blowing our noses and discovered the soot was not just on us, but in us as well. Our noses, our throats, our lungs, our eyes, our ears, under our nails.

Since there is little to no water at Bonnaroo, we washed ourselves with Budweiser, which made even less sense, and only attracted other creepy-crawly things in the coming days.


So I broke my first chair. And let me tell you, there's nothing quite like taking something so commonplace for granted - such as your seat - and then spontaneously plummeting toward the earth... all before 9 a.m.

Talk about a rude awakening.

Sad story. This, probably the culmination of my weight, has been a strange and trying time. Truth be told, there is probably no way to feel good about breaking a chair, especially an office chair that was designed for long-term use by fatsos. Yes, it seems I, too, have taken durability to school. And it don't feel all that great.

While reading the newspaper, I suddenly found myself staring at the ceiling, falling backward, to the side, then down, down, down, until finally the ground was left with no other option than to try its turn at holding me up.

Now, it's one thing to break a chair, and it's another thing to break a chair in a crowded conference room. People tend to notice something like this. Those astute pricks. Carry on! Pay me no mind! So what if the ass of this chair is now detached from the body? I don't know how I did it, but I did it! I'm gonna pick myself up off the floor now, and when my head breaks the surface of this table, it would be swell if I didn't see 12 faces staring at me, k?

Buuuuut no. There you all are. Hi! Yeah, it was me. The chair is now broken. Good morning to you!

Readings From the Gospel, According to Al

(Note: I also posted this on Unspun.)

Apparently being a former U.S. vice president, Nobel Peace Prize- and Oscar-winner does not necessarily make an individual a messaging maven. What a shame.

The context for this post is Al Gore's recent speech on environmental activism and his incorporation of (brace yourselves) religion into the topic.

Oh no he didn't. Yup, he went there.

On Jan. 31 in Atlanta, Gore stepped on stage before 2,500 Baptists at the New Baptist Covenant Celebration, green Bible in tote. That was not a metaphor - the Bible was literally green. He was also introduced to the crowd as a "Baptist prophet."

Gore then addressed the state of our environment and delved into how those of the Baptist faith can do their parts in combating global warming by supporting programs like scientific research, green technology, renewable energy, recycling, apocalypses, oracles and prophecies.

Well now you've got my attention, Al.

Using strong verbiage, dramatic pauses, stirring PowerPoint animations and other tools like doctrine, fire and brimstone, Gore then quoted Bible verses to support his save-the-earth message. He also warned of Old Testament-style famines and floods, should earth not clean up its act.

Following are some quotes from Gore's speech and my personal reactions to each.

Exhibit A: "'When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have set in place, Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?' I think that there is a distinct possibility that one of the messages coming out of this gathering and this new covenant is creation care - that we who are Baptists of like mind and attempting in our lives to the best of our abilities to glorify God, are not going to countenance the continued heaping of contempt on God's creation."

Reaction: Whoa. What's with all the Scripture? And can't the fight against global warming be a non-denominational one? What the heck is this?

Exhibit B: "Come, let us reason together and tell one another the truth, inconvenient though it may be, about the crisis, including the opportunity that we now face. The ancient prophet laid the choice before the people. Life or death, blessings or curses. Therefore choose life so both thou and thy seed may live."

Reaction: The "truth, inconvenient though it may be" reference flirts too closely with being a shameless plug for his own documentary (now available on DVD!). Ew, Al.

Exhibit C: "The evidence is there. The signal is on the mountain. The trumpet has blown. The scientists are screaming from the rooftops. The ice is melting. The land is parched. The seas are rising. The storms are getting stronger. Why do we not judge what is right?"

Reaction: Honey, grab the kids and cat and head for high ground! Eternal damnation is upon us! But seriously, I don't like scare tactics. You can just picture the PowerPoint frenzy going on with this one. Yawn.

To be honest, I found a lot of value in "An Inconvenient Truth." Regardless of your political, religious, economic or environmental beliefs, the 30,000-foot view of the documentary's message is a good one: being aware of our earth's health is imperative, and can greatly benefit us and our future generations. After all, they'll have to live here too (unless they ever revive that whole life-on-Mars thing). But messaging that's crafted in the above fashion is very likely to alienate (no pun intended) a majority of your audience - part of which probably agreed with you in the first place. They will then only feel embarrassed for listening to what you originally had to say. Not good.

From a professional standpoint, Al, if you absolutely must attend New Baptist Covenant Celebrations, by golly, spread your arms wide and be broad and all-encompassing! According to your film, we all need to do our parts, not just the Baptists. So why not invite us all to the party?

Sadly, this is not the end of my post.

Perhaps more startling than all of this put together (and then multiplied… by three) is the fact that Gore's presentation was officially closed to all media. "Why?!" you ask. Gore didn't want the PowerPoint slides with Biblical allegories to be leaked on the Internet. (Insert myriad jokes about Al Gore as the creator of Internet here.)

Well then. Where do we begin with this one? For starters, this approach never wins over journalists and other staunch supporters of a little ditty called the First Amendment. On top of that, banning the media creates the allusion that you're hiding behind a murky veil of dishonesty. If you are truthful and confident in all that you do, stand behind your messaging and facts, be transparent and let the knowledge flow.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Goreacle hath spoken.


All right, let's get this over with since I've managed to let it go unaddressed for eons. The premise is quite simple, something you have all undoubtedly experienced in your lifetimes...

The look-alike.

That is, when a third party believes he/she has uncovered a profound resemblance between your own sad appearance and that of a better-known entity. Sometimes, but not always, this entity is that of a celebrity (OMG!).

Relax, because more times than not, this is an unglamorous revelation. In fact, it can be downright humiliating when this can of worms is opened up in the presence of other people - people who you might not necessarily know - but who are fully capable of comparing your physicality to said public entity. And they're also capable of swooning, laughing or looking mighty perplexed, which are the only three reactions that are possible when a look-alike scenario presents itself.

So enter yours truly and his look-alike story.

Now, the people I know seem to experience the exact opposite of what I continue to experience. They are the dashing, beautiful, memorable, handsome, sultry and sexy actors and actresses who sell tickets, populate marquees and provide lesser people with the necessary motivation to do things like, say, work out.

Then there is what I experience.

What on earth could be possibly be worse than being mistaken for (and/or even remotely resembling in any way, shape or form) Rick Moranis?

"Rick... Moranis?" you cringe. "Lord, probably nothing is worse than that!"

Yes, on several isolated occasions, separate, independent factions have each compared my mug to the likes of the Canadian-born beau who broke millions and millions of hearts through his paternal roles in blockbuster, ahem, "films" like: "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"; "Honey, I Blew Up the Kid"; "Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves"; and "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience." (What a franchise.)

I am still shocked and dismayed that anyone managed to put this together, because I, myself - who should be the most acclimated with my own unsightliness, right? - did not come to this conclusion before people who are not me. So I Googled "Rick Moranis" and confirmed my fear - right there, practically the first result, was an image of Rick Moranis that looked more like me than him! Aw, are you kidding me?! Come on!

The portrait was/is basically one of my high-school yearbook photos with Rick's name under it. And with glasses added. Horrific, horrific stuff.

No, I will not post any Moranis-centric images at this moment.

The Awful Elephant

Every time you are at Elephant & Castle you wonder why you are at Elephant & Castle. It is consistently the poorest option. Really, this place is no place for anything.

Elephant & Castle has all of the traditional sucky-bar traits (poor service, it's nearly impossible to get a drink, loud as hell, overpriced/bad food, uncomfortable environment, etc.), but it also has
the suckiest trump card of all up its sleeve.


Now, I used to be a big advocate for bar trivia. It used to be fun. It used to engage people (strangers even!). That is, until Elephant & Castle killed it.

Yes, bar trivia is dead. Elephant & Castle decided to make Thursday nights trivia nights, and that's when they lost the limited patronage they once had. See, trivia should probably be held on any day from Monday to Wednesday. By the time Thursday evening rolls around, haggard Financial District professionals break out of the woodwork in full force to drown their sorrows and forget about their trite careers and, well, lives.
Not to play trivia.

Even after taking all of this into consideration, Elephant & Castle
might have saved face had they chosen their trivia moderator wisely. But they didn't. No, instead they chose some British dude who is very much tone deaf. Conversations are frequently interrupted by a monotone, soggy drawl, which is downright blasted throughout the bar's speakers. And, yes, no one is playing.

"This musician starred in an '80s fantasy film with a teenage Jennifer Connelly. Teams, your answers please..."

are no teams.)

"David Bowie... The answer was David Bowie... Teams? David Bowie... David... Bowie... Two points if you had David Bowie."

(People start to ponder various ways to kill themselves.)

"This was the supercontinent that existed 250 million years ago. Yes, 250 million years ago, this supercontinent existed. Teams?"

(A craving for more alcohol consumes all patrons. They contemplate satisfying the urge elsewhere.)

"Pangaea. The correct response was Pangaea. That's P-A-N, G-A, E-A. Pangaea. Two points for Pangaea."

(People file out of the bar.)

Hold on! It's Muni Time!

San Franciscans are all too familiar with Muni and its various forms of public transportation. But the Muni Bus offers something that the rest do not...

Utter chaos.

Simply put, Muni Bus is a carnival on wheels. And the most entertaining routes that never disappoint are the ones that run in the hilliest parts of the city. Oh, and Chinatown.

Now, I did say that San Franciscans are familiar with Muni's existence, but I did not say that they're familiar with how to ride Muni.

Ride the 1 California line and you are in for the biggest treat of them all.

Take a moment to picture your most favorite roller coaster from childhood. Got it? Good. Now, you know the cars they strapped you into? Replace them with a giant bus. A Muni Bus. Push "play" and picture that same roller coaster resuming its normal, curvy course.

This is what the 1 California line is like.

With people packed in like sardines - sardines without seat belts - the Muni Bus makes its ascent up the steep hill. One would assume that the daily riders of this route are savvy, quasi-athletic folks who've a great sense of self and the most stable centers of gravity.

That ain't the case.

When the bus hits the hill you will see approximately 40 uber-surprised individuals flying to the back of the bus, colliding with each other like someone has just broke a fresh set of pool balls. They go everywhere.

Through the windows they are only able to see slanted buildings and blue sky ahead of them. Briefcases are dropped; lunches tumble out of plastic bags; someone invariably almost steps on an apple; a small, elderly woman and/or young boy gets stampeded; strangers embrace awkwardly; and a LED marquee at the front of the bus flashes a message in blood-red text - "PLEASE HOLD ON!" Yes, in caps.

Then the plateau. Everything is quiet when the wreckage bears its ugly head. Disheveled people try to put themselves back together and gather their stray articles. In this moment, somehow, amazingly, unbelievably, everyone - everyone - forgets about the sharp dive that's still to come.

The nose of the bus lowers, and we come over the crest to see the street disappear underneath the vessel. Then the opposite of everything that just happened happens. People are thrown forward with mercurial force, and by now the bus driver is laughing uncontrollably. Tumbling fools catch glimpse of the LED marquee that is still taunting them with its message...

And they want to murder inertia.

When the bus finally reaches the valley, smoke, steam and hatred practically spew and seep from the bus' crevices. The doors open and people fall out, in no way ready for the workday that awaits them all.