Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hey, Phil Bronstein Agrees With Me About Gavin Newsom

And thanks, Phil Bronstein, for saying what I said, with more actual evidence:

As San Francisco and the blue state majority of California nurse their election euphoria hangover, let's point out the obvious about the passage of Prop. 8:

Gavin Newsom screwed it up.

Voters are the ones who make the decision but no one person handed the Yes on 8 campaign a more persuasive and compelling sound bite than our own mayor. Even if there were other flaws in the anti-8 operation, he was unquestionably the poster child for the pro-8 push, whether you like it or not.

And unlike Willie Brown, whose 70s high afro and muttonchop sideburn photo got used as a thinly disguised racial scare tactic in the 80s by some Republican candidates for the State legislature (nothing he could do about it), Mr. Newsom willingly and imperiously handed over the ammunition in yesterday's election.

While No on 8 campaigners like Alex Tourk, who I talked to recently, were agonizing over whether they'd win and were working every angle, Mr. Newsom was out stumping against the proposition this last, critical weekend. Where? In Solano, the only Bay Area county to vote for 8? In Contra Costa, where the tally was pretty close and some minds might have been changed?

No, the mayor was hitting the bricks in the Castro. How many people in that neighborhood do you think were undecided on same sex marriage? But it sure must have been fun getting all that adoration and applause. No boos there for Mr. Newsom, not even on Halloween.

Thank you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Haight St. Whole Foods/Apt Building Update: Well Look At That, They Approved It

Okay, yes, as usual, I didn't mince words when discussing the ridiculous NIMBY baloney that was driving the discussion of a mixed-use building for the long-vacant lot at Haight and Stanyan. The whole thing seemed all too familiar, a typical San Francisco notion that any development whatsoever is bad, because it might not exactly fit the supposed character of this city-in-a-bottle, or whatever, and so let's just keep the crack-pipe-filled parking lot since that's obviously working so well for us. But perhaps my outrage has contributed to a turnaround (well, it's possible). As Socketsite reports:

Last night, the Planning Commission voted 6-0 to approve the Conditional Use for the 690 Stanyan project, the mixed-use proposal with Whole Foods as the anchor tenant. During the four hour hearing, we produced nearly 400 letters of support, a spreadsheet showing 244 supporters for the Draft EIR, and a list of nearly 260 supporters from This, in addition to the dozens and dozens of supporters who came to speak and show solidarity to the project, I believe, convinced the Commissioners that this was indeed a project that had overwhelming support.

Halle-freakin'-luyah. Now we'll see if the damn thing gets built. And while they're at it, any chance they could do something about this useless empty triangle? A mini-Ikea and a cheap sushi bar, plus someplace that sells socks, would be my suggestion.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gavin Newsom: The Savior or Saboteur of Gay Marriage?

Call me suspicious, paranoid, a pessimist, but my celebration of San Francisco's brief "legalization" of same-sex marriage in 2004 was tempered by deep concern, something I tried to keep hidden in order to support my friends who were taking advantage of the moment to tie the knot. While most San Franciscans immediately hailed the decision, I felt worried about the actual effects down the road.

There's a certain political chaos theory that seems to come into play a lot of the time, where actions taken eventually have the opposite of their intended effect. Look, for instance, at President Bill Clinton's attempt to end the military's anti-gay discriminatory policy, or his and Hillary's attempt to put together universal health care. Both were handled so terribly that they caused an enormous backlash, which, in my opinion, set both causes back 20 years or more. We humans have such emotional reactions to politicians that I find it useful to look at the actual results, the real effects, of their actions: while Clinton was an inspiring speaker on gay rights, and hired lots of gays and lesbians in the White House, what were the effects of his eight years in office? DOMA and "Don't Ask Don't Tell." It's sad we have to play that game, but it's something we don't think twice about doing with George W. Bush, whose every word seems to be the direct opposite of his actions and their effects.

So, while seeing long-time couples finally tie the knot in the dramatic rotunda of San Francisco's City Hall was undeniably emotional and affecting, let's talk about reality. What did those marriages "mean"? They were issued in defiance of state and federal law, they had no legal weight whatsoever. It was almost like the couples were being used, their emotions toyed with: here, sign these papers that would be legal in any other circumstance, but for you, they're just a "protest." Then, in a couple weeks, this "marriage" you thought you had will be dissolved, but Gavin Newsom will get all the credit for "fighting the system" in a way that had no real consequences, and his approval ratings will go through the roof, assuring him of reelection.

Actually, I take that back: there were real consequences, and they were negative. A country unsure about this whole gay thing was treated to visions of their most-hated city enacting "play" gay marriages, enacting every concern they have. Not to defend their points of view, but we've seen how rhetoric and terminology are important recently with John McCain and Sarah Palin inciting nutbag supporters to scream "Kill him" at their rallies, so I think we can all agree that understanding how to "play a crowd" is a vital part of politics. While McCain/Palin seem to be fanning flames of hatred with secret whispers and winks (although McCain, at least lately, seems to have come to a sobering realization of what's going on), Newsom's unilateral marriage stunt was like making Frankenstein's monster do a breakdance in front of an angry mob: just a useless taunting of a dangerous crowd. Of course, we all know what happened in 2004: John Kerry lost a close election and state after state amended their constitutions with bans on same-sex marriage or any recognition whatsoever of same sex couples.

Now, in the wake of this year's California Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, Proposition 8 is on the November ballot to ban it again. For a while this summer, it looked like it was going down, but new polls seem to show it winning. What, pray tell, is part of the reason? The San Francisco Chronicle has an idea:

The mayor has become the reluctant face of the campaign opposing same-sex unions with the help of a prominent Yes-on-Proposition-8 television ad. Conservative blogs have been atwitter about Newsom last week officiating at the wedding of a lesbian teacher whose class of first-graders took a field trip to celebrate with her.

In many ways, Newsom has become the single best campaign tool for proponents of Prop. 8 - and that might have been inevitable, political experts said.

"His pictures have become the rallying cry for Prop. 8. It's unfortunate for him, and it's unfortunate for the anti-Prop. 8 campaign," said Barbara O'Connor, a professor of political communications at California State University Sacramento. "I don't know that I would change his behavior, because he's representing his constituency, and he's been totally consistent in his position. But he's become everyone's worst nightmare."

Of course, in all truthfulness, I would be a terrible politician: I'd just blurt out whatever I was thinking at all times without any regard for the consequences, and I'm sure I'd screw things up. But that's why I don't run for office. There are people I know who have deified Gavin Newsom, and I've had to listen to them give tearful tributes to him at more than one wedding, as though he alone has made the marriages possible. On the contrary: there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the 2004 stunt did anything but energize the opposition and complicate the inevitable court case, and his naive, self-serving actions are now galvanizing the forces who would take these rights away again.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oh, Blue Angels, Please Crash Down Upon South of Market and Release Me From This Mortal Coil, You Sweet Angels of Death

Hey everybody, it's Fleet Week time again, and in addition to drunk, horny sailors, you know what that means: Blue Angels! As I type this, five of these blue-and-yellow aeroplanes just went right the fuck over my street, with that terrifying noise that starts out up in the high registers, a hiss of impending doom, then suddenly, massively deepening into a gigantic, thunderous rush, becoming louder than you think it's possible for a sound to be, and then when you think it's as loud as it's going to get, it gets louder, and all the car alarms in the neighborhood go off.

Okay, okay, sure, fast airplanes are neat, and I get giddy like a little schoolboy watching them zoom around in bonkers formations, wing tips inches from touching. But the whole thing strikes me as completely, utterly insane. First question: doesn't anybody in this town have any work to do? Like, say, some of us, who maybe have work to do that has to do with, uh, audio?!? So, sorry, clients, all your shit is going to be like 5 days late since I can't hear a goddamn thing.

Second, perhaps more important question: has it occured to anyone that these daredevil flyboys, performing intricate maneuvers in their fuel-filled super-jets, are doing so over the most densely-populated area west of the Mississippi? And if one of them was to, say, get a little distracted for a split second while buzzing the Bank of America Building and plow into North Beach, they're likely to cause death and carnage on a scale that the human mind can barely comprehend?

Wow, honey, North Beach coffee is so tasty. Wait, what's that noise? And, kablooey.

Not to mention the jingoistic, military symbolism of the whole thing. All of this seems a bit crazy for liberal San Francisco, right? Well, the good old Board of Supes has tried and failed to get in the way of this juggernaut of military showmanship and daredevilry, thinking that perhaps they could appeal to the Bay Area's senses of, you know, peace and love and all that. But they failed, as all efforts to stop the Blue Angels and their vertigo-inducing maneuvers over our city, and I think I know why: it turns out there's something stronger even than our lovey-dovey liberalism here in San Francisco, and that's our longing for death.

Not only does the Bay Area have a rather high suicide rate, the Golden Gate Bridge presents an almost irresistible opportunity for the morbidly, er, morbid, and is often cited as "the most popular place to commit suicide in the world," with someone jumping to their death about once every two weeks.

Whether it's the city's reputation as a glowing haven for the unconventional drawing people who are intrinsically more likely to off themselves, or it's something about the dreary fog and insanely high cost of living, San Franciscans really just want to call it quits. But of course, everybody knows we're all supposed to be life-loving liberals in a place that's held up as an example of how to live for the rest of this trashy, red-state nation, so there's no way we can actually say that. Instead, our death wish spurts out in other, random ways, like say the way we drive, and also the invitation to our military to do some crazy dangerous shit right over our heads. Well, Blue Angels, I for one openly salute your death-defying ways, and invite you to aim right for South of Market, because not only would your crashing explosively into my pad save me from enduring more of this soul-crushing Curb Your Enthusiasm episode that's masquerading as my life, it would also be really hilarious: Party Ben, killed by a falling angel. Hold on while I go paint a target on my roof.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Haight-AshburyTurns Down Whole Foods+Apt. Building: More Evidence This City is a Hippie Moron-Filled Shithole

Curbed has the skinny on a proposed multi-use development for the long-empty parking lot (and former terrible grocery store) at Haight & Stanyan, which was to contain a fancy whole foods on the ground floor and fancy condos above. Apparently, the neighborhood association is fighting it tooth and nail, and the project appears to be dead:

The Whole Foods-pimped, Haight Ashbury Improvement Association-approved project, which would replace the now-defunct Cala Foods with 62 condos and a Whole Foods on ground level, has been met with staunch opposition by the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. (Do we have a neighborhood brawl on our hands here? Oh yes, yes we do. How very North Beach of you, Haight!) Though he hasn't gone on record, Supe Ross Mirkarimi hasn't exactly supported the development. Neither has the city, which is reportedly dragging its feet on the environmental review process— the developer has languished in limbo for 2 and-a-half years at this point, and sees no end in sight as the Planning Commission hasn't even granted an initial approval hearing. The dev has spent over $1 million on the EIR, and has "little to show for it except a stack of heavy draft documents."

Okay. Let me just point out again: this is a parking lot. It's in a neighborhood notorious for a shortage of housing, close to a variety of transit lines, and without a nearby grocery store. The site is across the street from the jankiest McDonalds in the city (okay, maybe 2nd after the one on Fillmore) as well as a homeless- and hippie-filled section of Golden Gate Park. It's a craphole, just down the street from the plasma bank and a bong store. But God forbid we put something useful there! No, the supposedly most liberal area in the supposedly most liberal city in the country would prefer a big slab of concrete for gas-guzzling cars in their neighborhood, instead of condos that might be, you know, market rate.

It's something you see repeated over and over in this myopic, naive little burg. Years ago at the Castro Street Fair, I happened across a booth with the banner "SAVE OUR BAY BRIDGE VIEWS." The staffers were there to protest the then-planned construction of skyscrapers in SOMA that might block a tiny sliver of the Bay Bridge that they could see from their Twin Peaks homes. These spoiled, pathetic turds were lucky enough to have houses on the hill with phenomenal views of downtown, the bay, and the East Bay hills, and yet they had the astounding narcissism to demand that the city in their windows remain completely static, for ever and ever and ever.

Even if you get approval for a new building, you better make it a chintzy Victorian or a staid and columned retro-boring classical piece of crap. Interested in having a flagship Prada store with a not-exactly-world-shattering metallic facade? Sorry, nope, that's just crazy, make it look like a bank!

It's the great secret of San Francisco: since we have to fight off the Bill O'Reillys of this world calling us sinners since we dare to think the gays should be able to get married, we all can be self-righteously proud of how extremely liberal we are. We're all so progressive! But it turns out that San Francisco is, really, profoundly conservative: afraid of change, unable to evolve, willing to look the other way as the streets fill with homeless and trash, electing Clinton-esque political machine mayors every single time. It almost makes you think about repealing rent control: it would knock most of these moldy pseudo-hippie NIMBY dipshits out to the suburbs where they belong.

Look, I'm all about responsible development, and I'm not entirely sure that cookie-cutter skyscrapers with block-wide bases are the best solution for SOMA. But the neighborhood is 14 steps from downtown, and yet it's had acres of empty parking lots for years and years. The East Village may be the ideal (as Jane Jacobs says) but we're not going to get it, and really, in the most dense urban area west of the Mississippi, any development in the urban core is good development. A parking lot is bad for multiple reasons: it's a blight on the neighborhood and a subsidy for suburban commuters. Even Jane would tell you: just build something!!!

California is young, and the growth of its cities is awkward and sloppy. While Los Angeles has ridden the roller coaster of development to a sudden, fascinating adolescense, having finally filled its usable geographic area and turning to creative reuse and infill and innovative transit projects, San Francisco filled up early. It makes it attractive to tourists, but since we never had a massive exodus from the downtown core, for instance, we don't have a resurgence like in LA, with its Standard hotel and downtown lofts. None of our downtown buildings were ever empty, so there have been only rare opportunities to bring residences into the area, meaning our downtown still languishes as a 9-to-5-only area, not unlike financial districts in Houston or Omaha.

What's the Matter with Kansas wonders why midwesterners vote against their own interests, focusing on pointless, destined-to-lose anti-abortion initiatives while their pockets are being picked. But it turns out this emotional myopia is universal: San Franciscans will fight the future as hard as they can, just because it might alter their fantasy vision of their city, reinforced by "Tales of the City" and TV and movies about as unrealistic as the "Friends" apartment in New York. But that fantasy is long gone, and holding on to it is a fallacy, and grasping a long-dead vision from the past is actively damaging the present: slowing development, stopping infill, legislating architectural conservatism, putting the brakes on innovative transit development. Well, we can be a dirty, concrete-filled Amsterdam if we want: a charming, impractical vestige of another time, with one subway line and a moldy vision of social liberalism. Cute, but if you want a real city, look elsewhere.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A List of Everything That Went Wrong on My Trip Back from New York Yesterday

1. United. I'd requested upgrades using those stupid (but free) 500-mile certificates on both legs of the trip. Those dumb things expire after a year or so, but 99% of the time they don't give you the upgrade if you request one, since any other upgrade request takes priority. I had 6, enough for either SFO-JFK or JFK-SFO. So I requested both, just in case the first didn't go through. Happily, the upgrade went through for the flight out (a helpful text message was sent to me at 4:00am to announce this). So yesterday, I'm in Manhattan, and I go to check in online for the return flight. The web site sticks me in an endless loop: it shows I requested an upgrade, and asks me to confirm how I want to pay for it, giving me only the option of spending 6 500-mile certificates, which I don't have any more. I was not allowed to cancel the upgrade, only to purchase 6 more certificates for $200, and if I didn't do that, it would send me back to the first screen. When I called United, the Indian dude said I had to check in at the airport, and then asked, "Why did you request an upgrade if you don't have any certificates?"

2. Subway: Endless wait for an E train due to some sort of delays (the station announcements being even more incomprehensible than that old SNL sketch).

3. Subway: Horrifically crowded E train once it came.

4. Subway: Conductor announces "There's a totally empty E train one minute behind us" so I get off to take that one; when it comes, it's just as crowded.

5. Subway: 20 minutes down the line, the conductor makes a barely comprehensible announcement; I deduce that he means that this train is actually going to follow the F line and not the E line to the JFK AirTrain stop, so I have to get off again and wait for another E.

6. Subway: 15-minute wait for another E train

7. Airtrain: Before going through the AirTrain gate, I check my MetroCard: $6, enough to cover the $5 fee. I run it through the gate and it says "swipe again." I run it through again and it says "insufficient fare." I go back and check how much it has: $1. AirTrain ate my money.

8. Airtrain: Endless wait

9. Airtrain: Arriving at the airport, I think I'll be smart by jumping off the train and taking one in the other direction since my terminal is #7 on the list of stops out of 8 terminals, and the inner airtrain line just circles around in the other direction. (See right: going from 1 to 7 on the black line once you arrive is faster than going all the way around on the blue line). I get off at Terminal 1 just as another train is pulling away, and then wait for 12 minutes, more than enough time for the original train to have made it to Terminal 7.

10. United Check-In: Middle seat in back. Attempt to transfer upgrade request to 15000-mile regular fee results in waitlisting.

11. JFK: Attempt to walk through duty free store to get to food court (saving 5 minutes in walking) denied by meanest woman in New York who demands to know my destination. I say "The food court?" "No, sir," she says, angrily, sounding like Fran Drescher on steroids, "where are you flying to." "Canada?" I say, and she demands to see my international ticket before I even set foot in the store. I take the long way to get my $18 sandwich and soda.

12. United: Gate agents start announcing upgrades after they start boarding, meaning you can either wait in the boarding area and lose out on overhead bins, or give up your possible upgrade. I board.

13. United:
Flight sits on tarmac for 30 minutes.

14. Dell: Laptop battery dies just at climactic scene of movie I'm watching.

15. United: Flight arrives 20 minutes late.

16. SFO: It's 11:35, but I know I can make it to the BART station for the last train (at around midnight) since I know the secret passageway by gate 70 to the international terminal. I run all the way only to discover this passageway is, for some reason, locked. This requires me to backtrack all the way around tot he main security entrance, then go the long way to the International terminal and BART station.

17. Life: I arrive at BART station to watch last train to SF pull out of terminal.

18. Taxi: No taxis at International terminal. Taxi attendant guy seems stoned. Wait 15 minutes.

19. Taxi: Taxi arrives, driver seems stoned. Bugs me with lots of questions about my flight. As we speed up 101, suddenly I see flashing lights behind us: that's right, my taxi gets pulled over for speeding.

20. Taxi: The kindly officer comes up to ask for registration and proof of insurance, and lo and behold, it turns out our driver does not have proof of insurance. He spends a really long time making a show of looking for it, then makes a lot of excuses about how it's not his car and it's not his fault. When the cop comes back with the ticket, there's another endless back-and-forth where the driver says the address is wrong on his license, and then gives another wrong one to the officer, then corrects himself again. The officer finally exhorts him to "stop wasting this young man's time." Tell that to the whole fucking world.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Random Thoughts 1: Love, Love is Boring, So Much More Boring Than Hate

Okay, I haven't really had much to say lately, so for the 7 people who might actually read this blog, sorry. I have a couple good excuses: Coachella, which I talked about here, and here, and here, and then some vacation time that ended up being work time in a hotel room, and some SoCal gigs. Plus, more seriously, what the hell is the point of this thing? I set up this blog as an easier way to post some updates while I was on tour in Europe, but I've never been a fan of the "here's what I had for lunch today" blog universe, and have always restricted my real website to a) music I've made, b) gigs I have, c) press or amusing encounters resulting from my music or gigs, and d) my self-indulgent year-end best-of lists. Oh yeah, and e) adorable kittens. Then I've got the Riff to jabber about cultural products of interest (although I don't get the feeling that's really working out so well either; I know there are staff members of the Mother Jones who consider any and all arts coverage to be a waste of time for their esteemed magazine, and moreover, I feel a little bit at sea being their only real arts-and-music-focused columnist, since I can't exactly be a one-man Idolator. Well I could, but not with my schedule, and not for what they're paying me). So, what is this little blog for, exactly? Just stuff I'm thinking about? Writing practice? Linking to the Emergency Party Button? Oh, I know, howabout complaining?

I suppose there's little to complain about: I'm making money, doing fun DJ gigs, seeing the world; I've got my health (and, so my doctor says, a record-low cholesterol level--who knows how that happened, I mean, it's not like I'm shoving steak into my mouth for every meal but I'm no vegan... maybe it's all the oatmeal, scrubbing away my veins like a crack team of those Scrubbing Bubbles I used to love). But you know what bugs me? People. Humans. "Bugs" isn't the right word: Confuses, howabout. I just don't understand people. People you think are friends mock you bitterly behind your back, friends who proclaim their absolute adoration of you also do so much annoying crap you can barely stand to be around them, people take your attempts at the tiptoe-iest "I feel x, y, and z"-style expressions of disappointment as huge insults, and guys you go on dates with, and say lots of nice stuff on the dates, never call you again. Okay, sure, that last one is probably another expression of the rule I tell all my friends who date men: "Guys Say Stuff." Indeed we do, and sure, I've been as guilty as anyone in feigning interest in, I dunno, fashion or business or cats, just to try and, um, how do you say, "score." I mean, hell, I've even managed to go on dates with guys who turn out to be Republicans, and I'll pretend that doesn't make me hurl just long enough to maybe get some makeouts. But, I thought I could see through it, myself, right?

Really, I just realized I don't know how to "woo," in the gay world. I find the Neil Strauss "game" stuff fascinating, actually -- as someone who's never had a natural ability to chat people up, and stumbles horribly at small talk or official meetings, I'm attracted to the idea that there are lessons, rules, things you can practice that can at least open the door for someone to pay attention to you. Unfortunately, The Game's heterosexual focus makes it kind of inapplicable. For instance, Strauss talks about managing to snag Britney Spears' phone number after engaging her in a conversation about what he calls "Chick Crack," i.e., horoscopes and personality tests and Cosmo-style gobbledygook. Unfortunately, I just don't get the feeling that would work on most guys, even gay guys.

Then there's one of the most basic tenets of The Game: act disinterested, give backhanded compliments, be, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a jerk. Sure, I can do the jokey "yeah you're okay looking" wink-wink stuff, but I'm not sure how much farther I can take that. Say you get "in there," you get the date, you get the nookie, and you really like the guy; what next? How do you keep up the "jerk" facade without just completely losing touch? Do you have to just wait for them to call you? When can you just be yourself, and call up and say "Hey, I'd like to see you again?" Because clearly I'm doing that all wrong, since the answer is generally "sorry I'm out of town," or something. And there's no obvious signs to me that the date went horribly wrong, other than, you know, the flatulence, and the inevitable revelation of my sex-change scars.

Or is it just that no gay dudes are interested in second dates? I mean, at age 37, I'm no spring chicken, and I get the feeling that any guy out there who really wants anything more than a one-night-stand has probably already found it, so maybe by this point there just aren't any guys out there looking for, er, Lurv.

Whatever. Considering how many of my friends spend time complaining about their significant others' annoyingly pointless stories or ridiculous shirts or tendency to treat their lives like an etch-a-sketch and shake away everything when they get a little freaked out, perhaps I should be happy to be single, and as a bit of a loner (and noted curmudgeon) I usually am. But I dunno, I guess it'd be nice sometime to meet somebody I don't feel like I have to fight for/act like a jerk to so they like me/figure out what the hell.

Of course, all this could be moot, since as Pete Burns says, gay relationships don't work:

Burns, 49, who was wed to stylist Lynne Corlett for 28 years, claimed there were too much "promiscuity" in the gay community for civil partnerships to thrive. He told The Mail on Sunday he had been "optimistic" about his civil partnership, but now he says: "I learned the hard way. It's a total joke." Burns said: "I view marriage as a sacred institution. I think two men naturally are predators. Gay relationships are a commercial break, not a whole movie. The relationships I'm aware of, apart from one ... it's as though there's some kind of emotional inadequacy or narcissism, where they feel emotionally inadequate and need more validation, from either a father figure or a mirror image of themselves. I'm not condemning it, I think it needs researching and help. There's a lot of promiscuity in the gay community. I don't understand why they take that union. How low is their self-esteem? One's on Hampstead Heath meeting men, the other one's hiring rent boys. Surely marriage is throwing anchor and saying, 'This is where I'm staying, I've made my choice and this is all I want because I've been on the up and down escalator, through the revolving door and I want to stand still.' That's what I expected."

He added: "I don't know what goes on in many heterosexual marriages but I know mine was 28 years.

Of course, the fact that you dressed up as a magical geisha and used the mystical sword of Fantasia to confirm your wedding vows wouldn't have anything to do with how this didn't work out. Word:

Actually, that guy is kind of cute, even with the terrible haircut. Maybe if I put on my geisha dress he'll go out with me? Anyway, you hear this a lot, that gay relationships are intrinsically flawed since they're either some sort of outwardly expressed narcissism or a doomed quest for a father figure or whatever. Well, jeez, good thing there's no creepy parental issues or narcissistic searching for mirror images happening in hetero relationships, am I right? Am I right? Is this thing on?

In fact there's probably something to that mirror theory, but in a less nefarious way: I think you look for someone who mirrors you, but in a way where they seem to have solved questions or answered mysteries you can't figure out; the lucky part is when you do the same thing for them. Of course, the question of how you get them to get over their slow-burning internalized homophobia and alcohol-salved self-hatred long enough to actually see that, that's a whole other question. Not that I won't join you for that drink.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Gridskipper Apparently Hasn't Ever Tried Taking a Cab from LAX

Gridskipper, the usually pretty-well-researched travel blog that's recently been redesigned around theme maps, just featured a map of restaurants that are supposedly worth a trip outside the airport if you're stranded at LAX for a few hours. Hmmm, really?

We've all been there: you're stuck in LAX on a layover, cooling your heels with a trashy magazine and a bag of chips, when you learn your flight to Phoenix has been canceled because of poor weather in Boston. You're rebooked for a new flight ... in six hours. You'd love to get out and enjoy a little of the city, but fear straying too far from the airport environs. Well, don't fear! In other major American cities, you'd probably be screwed, but thanks to the wonders of urban sprawl, there are tons of great restaurants within shouting distance of LAX. Get out and get a taste of the city — with ample time to cab back and hustle through security — with our handy map.

This handy map includes such establishments as Tito's Tacos and Buggy Whip. Okay, fine, but has anyone at the Skipper ever actually tried to take a cab from LAX? First of all, try finding one: there are only a few taxi pickup spots, and both times I've looked for one there hasn't been a taxi in sight, only a line of doomed-looking businesspeople. Second, and most egregious: for some reason known only to the string-pulling bossman in "Mulholland Drive," there's a $15 minimum for any trips originating at LAX. That's right, $15, even if you only go two blocks from the glowy columns. Sure makes Gridskipper's recommendation of a quick jaunt to the In 'n' Out on Sepulveda look a little ridiculous, doesn't it -- $15 there, $10 back, that's $25 for a $4 meal. The Burger King in Terminal 7 doesn't look so bad now, does it. Plus, how are you going to catch a cab on Sepulveda?

Here's some real advice: fly into freakin' Burbank.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The NY Times Catches Up With My Groundbreaking Trend of Staying in Cheap LA Hotels

Hey, this guy sounds a lot like me:
There was a time, on my frequent trips to the West Coast, when I used to stay at chic West Hollywood hotels, in rooms furnished with designer bottled waters, vinyl beanbag chairs and all manner of pay-per-view television entertainments. Each morning I proudly strode past fitness rooms, spas and barbershops I never visited, and each night I went to bed contentedly knowing that the hotel bar was packed with the sorts of people who would never give me the time of day.

Now, though, with the slumping economy, such sumptuous amenities are as much a relic of the past as the Brown Derby restaurant. Now when I travel to the West Coast, my center of gravity is shifted miles to the east, away from Sunset Boulevard to a far less alluring side of Los Angeles. I can usually be found at one of several low-cost motels in the city’s Koreatown and Thai Town neighborhoods, where the 101 meets Western Avenue and where glamorous expectation meets economic reality.

I know, reporting on the Travelodge as some sort of post-ironic hipster discovery is kind of ridiculous, but I've had the same experience. Bootie LA brings me down maybe once every couple months, and my hipster lodging of choice was the Standard Downtown. Rates there used to be as low as $119 a night, booked online with enough advance warning, and I felt like a rock star, with the Holzer in the lobby and Jose Gonzalez on the stereo on the roof deck. The minimalist rooms were just my style, and upon returning from the DJ gig, half-drunk, at 3:30am, room service was always available with a very tasty burger and fries. Granted, I was usually spending about as much on the whole deal as I was making at the gigs, but whatever, it was a vacation, right?

But things change. First, no longer having the disposable income of my good old LIVE 105 job means budget concerns are paramount; second, rates at the hotel seem to rarely go below $200/night these days; and third, I've stayed a couple non-hipster places and they're really not so bad. My discount hotel of choice is currently the Comfort Inn Sunset, and at about $90/night, it's not like it's free, but I'm saving money on a whole bunch of other things: parking, for one, which is free, and secured, under the hotel, and late-night room service, whose absence forces me to grab a tasty burrito at one of the late-night joints down the street rather than spend $25 on a burger. The rooms are recently renovated, and while the lights all use the worst, flickery fluorescent bulbs, it's pleasant enough, and the times I've stayed there my room faced the building next door, so no street noise from Sunset.

While I've done some work at the desk like the NY Times guy (and utilized the free wifi), part of the appeal for me is that the no-frills room really urges one to get out on the town. The hotel's location a quick drive from Silverlake means tons of cool restaurants and shops are right nearby, and of course Bootie LA at the Echo is just a few blocks the other direction. Since there's no waiting for a dipshit model-turned-valet to get your rental car, heading out is pretty easy.

I'll be interested to see if the Hollywood-area resurgence (a new W hotel is going in right at Hollywood and Vine) will trickle down to the more budget-minded hipster, and we'll see hotels spring up that are no-frills but, you know, cool. I've always lamented that the fantastic Ace Hotel in Seattle (and now Portland) doesn't have a location in every city: while some people might be put off by the hostel-like "bathrooms down the hall" concept, those bathrooms are spotless, like minimalist white labs, and there's a whole row of them -- I never had to wait, ever, and never felt weird about it. These rooms are still just $99/night. But hey, their website says they're opening new Aces in New York and Palm Springs; I'll be interested to see if they keep the low-price but high-style concept. In the meantime, hello, Comfort Inn across from the donuts-and-Thai-food place!