The Gate Is Always Open For You!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Spend A Meal With Ina In The Haaaaaamptons!


Any obsession that has had a stately rule over me has blossomed out of the lotus of escape. It’s been this way ever since I can remember and it wasn’t until my late teens that I discovered the reason: Reality boars me. Many people have told me that I live with my head floating in the clouds. They are correct, but I’m a lot smarter than I let on to be. I don’t think they understand. I don’t believe anyone truly understands me. Several of the people who have criticized me for my actions are indeed some of the most uninteresting folks I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps something in their life massacred their ability to fantasize. They don’t see the beauty I behold. My good friend and chef John Michael Lerma (who is banned from the Minnesota State Fair baking contests because he’s too good) gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever been given: “Kevin, create your own reality.”

I believe his statement counterparts perfectly with the holy creed of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: “Don’t Dream It. Be It.” He told me this when I was unemployed. The added bonus to his endearing advice was that Barbra Joan Streisand was in such poverty in her fresh years as a chorus girl that she was sleeping in a bathtub in Manhattan and making audition dresses out of the material of her couch which sat stripped down to the frame in her ghastly little apartment.

My mother is a tremendous cook. I grew up watching her cook and bake. She has a genuine passion and is a fine entertainer. She’s first class and fabulously flawless. She once told me that cooking is relaxing to her. Believe me, there truly is something therapeutic about suspending flour, sugar, eggs, and butter into a delicate cake batter. It’s pleasurable browning ground beef, chopping onions, cutting up mushrooms, mincing garlic, adding tomatoes in their juices, adding a dash of sugar, a pinch of salt, some pepper to taste, a sprig of thyme, one bay leaf, some oregano, and a splash of red wine to create a seductive marinara sauce from scratch. I could elaborate more, but I believe you get the picture.

Mom gave me my first exposure and appreciation to foodstuff. I loved observing her methods and watching her hands work fast. I relished seeing the smile on her face as she was creating, and exercising her timeless expression of joy as she watched my father, brother, and I devour her meals. Before I go any further, I should add that she was no Aunt Bea or Stepford Wife. She was a loving parent and wife raising a family. Her kitchen (the heart of any home) was her happy place. I’ll always love the bookshelf in her kitchen that is filled with her well-used, lovingly stained, and tattered cookbooks which are highlighted and annotated with her gorgeous handwriting. One day, I hope I can have her cookbooks.
The Food Network revolutionized my life. It truly is like porn for hungry people. I became a “foodie” in 2000 and later that year, a special show aired entitled Barefoot Contessa, which changed my life. It stares Ina Garten who had previously spent over 20 years running a specialty food store in East Hampton, New York named Barefoot Contessa, which is christened after the classic film starring Ava Gardener.

I had never heard of Ina Garten previously. Her show produced a safe comfortable atmosphere around me. Watching her cook these expensive and elaborate meals in the simplest form was relaxing to me, motivating. Perhaps the best feeling was that after a long day, I could watch her and dream I lived in her gargantuan house (bordered by huge hydrangea bushes) which has a massive garden in the back yard, (constructed by her good friend and renowned landscaper Edwina Von Gal) encircled by her All-Clad set, Le Creuset dutch ovens, Kitchen Aid Mixer, her copper pots, and her luxurious uniform kitchen cooking and throwing dinner parties. Ina Garten instilled in me greatness and long before I became obsessed with Julia Child, it was Ina that taught me to not be afraid to try.

Ina adores the Hamptons and in the show she takes you on scenic tours within her BMW or Mercedes to her local farmers market, or her favorite specialty food store, Loaves & Fishes (owned and operated by her friend and fellow published cookbook author Anna Pump), and other favorite places. The Hamptons seems absolutely enchanting; after all, it’s a playground for the rich and famous.

I was engulfed heavily into her show and started researching her, becoming acquainted with her cookbooks. I possess almost all of them to date. (obsessed much) Ina did not become the Barefoot Contessa overnight. She’s a former Government worker who resided in the White House under President Jimmy Carter. She was responsible for the Nuclear Energy Budget. Dissatisfied with her life and wanting something more, she turned to cooking for relaxation and entertaining. She would throw elaborate dinner parties for her friends as she studied Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking religiously.

She became totally unhappy and bored in the White House. Meanwhile, she ran across an article in The New York Times advertising the sale of a specialty food store named Barefoot Contessa. Ina and her husband Jeffery drove up to the Hamptons, looked at the place, and Ina fell in love instantly. Having no experience at all in the food industry, she purchased the store. The former owner spent one month teaching and coaching her in all the tricks of the trade and through hard work Barefoot Contessa persevered, taking on a life of its own, becoming a favorite through word of mouth. Steven Spielberg, his wife, and even Martha Stewart became some of her best customers. (I should add that even though Martha Stewert wrote the forward to The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, their friendship fizzled out when Ina discovered that Martha stole one of her recipes) Ina then proceeded to cater weddings and other significant parties throughout her Hamptons while still managing her own business.

In the long run, she grew tired and sold her store to some of her employees. (The store is no longer in business) The abrupt hiatus in her career turned into a spiraling depression. Her husband recommended she write a cookbook. She thought he was out of his mind. However, the work was essentially already done thanks to her archive of crowd pleasing recipes from her store. But to make sure they were full proof, she went back, tested, retested, and rewrote many of them to form her now classic bestseller The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Not long after, the Food Network approached her about a cooking show which would be filmed in her house. They agreed to do everything they could to make her comfortable if she took their offer. She agreed, and her show is still one of the most beloved programs on the channel.

I should add that many of the folks in the Hamptons were not too happy about the influx of wealthy gay men moving into the neighborhood. Ina saw this happening and gladly took them and their partners under her wings. Her best gay friend Miguel owns and operates the local florist in the Hamptons. I can’t figure out if Edwina Von Gal is a lesbian or not. Ina spent an entire episode cooking up a “Welcome Home” surprise for two of her good gay pals who spent an extended weekend in Paris, France. She sneaked into their house and filled their fridge up with goodies. What an awesome friend. I’d sure do that.

Ina Garten is one of my heroes because she is self-made. She taught me that it’s important to love your friends, and to value time with them. One of the most remarkable things I’ve heard her say is, “I want to fill their stomach and send them home saying, ‘wasn’t that fun?’” That’s what I want to do for my friends. I dream of having my own place. I wish my current landlord would hurry up and call Terminex in order to bomb the kitchen to kill the roaches so I can throw a dinner party. Until then, I’ll keep studying Ina’s cookbooks, Julia’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and Irma Rombauer’s The Joy of Cooking.

On November 13th, Ina will be coming to San Jose's Sur La Table for a book signing. I can't wait to meet her.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Desire In Alamo Square




 Last week, I noticed that my blog has reached over 1,100 views. That excited me. Knowing that the majority of those views have not been from me makes it an even greater feeling. It thrills me to know my blog has a life of its own out there. It’s nice knowing that I seem to have an audience, and I hope my posts are truly speaking to people. With that said, if you are constantly checking back to see if I’ve written anything, thank you for doing so. I’m grateful for you.

If memory serves me correctly, I believe it was Stephen King who once penned the immortal words: “Some things are the hardest things to say…” within his small but authoritative novella The Body which can be found in his collection of short stories Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

I want to write a book, but not just any book.  My aspiration is to write a coming-of-age novel set within the San Francisco Bay Area that not only encompasses the interesting history of the region, but also entails specific landmarks, people, cultures, sub-cultures, neighborhoods, street names, and the events that are held here year round that are not just festivals, oh no, they are tradition. Set in stone. I’m talking magnum opus scale. San Francisco would be my stage and its populace would be my beautiful characters. I would also like to encompass the South and East Bay regions.

I want to write about:

Cinema and torch songs, the Castro Theater, the Castro District, the North Beach District along with the Beat writers and it’s delightfully wicked neon flashing titty bars- Carol Doda’s Condor Club (her nipples flash in red pulses)  and the Hungry-I. I want to write about City Lights Books which is the Vatican of independent bookstores. I want to discuss Folsom Street and the infamous “Land of Leather” within SoMa. Then there’s the Haight-Asbury and all its tie-dye reefer madness, and the music, I can’t forget the music. I want to encompass the media sensation of the Summer of Love along with the psychedelic underground drag troupe The Cockettes who performed complete and utter insanity upon the stage of the Palace Theater. Debauchery, drugs, and drag at its glittering best with shows like Hell’s Harlots, Hollywood Babylon, Gone with the Showboat to Oklahoma!, The Heartbreak of Psoriasis, and Pearls over Shang-Hai.  I want to feverishly engrave upon paper the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Vegas in Space (With San Francisco’s own Doris Fish) at The Strand. I want to write with erotic intrigue about the Mitchell Brother’s sleazy O’Farrel Theater in the Tenderloin which housed their porno empire that started the career of Marilyn Chambers in Behind the Green Door. But perhaps the most bizarre part of the Mitchell Brother’s story is that they were like Cain and Abel. One flew into a rage and killed the other with a gun. There’s also renegade journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his shenanigans with the Oakland based Hell’s Angels. And comedian Lenny Bruce’s drunken nude fall out of the 2nd floor window of his single occupancy hotel on Broadway Street. He landed on his feet, injuring his ankles. There’s also the noirsh side of San Francisco that encompasses the Pinkerton Detective Agency from the novel The Maltese Falcon. Then there’s the cold, haunting fog that drifts in from the Pacific. Then there are the garish porch lights and illuminated windows of the bright and drably Victorians.  

I want to write about San Francisco’s loveable and eccentric Emperor Norton (who carried a sword at all times) who envisioned an underwater transportation system that linked the East Bay with San Francisco. His dream finally became BART-Bay Area Rapid Transit which turned 40 years old this year. Then there’s Lilly Hitchcock Coit. She was a firefighter during the time of the 1906 earthquake and fire. She’s responsible for erecting Coit Tower upon the pinnacle of Telegraph Hill. I would love to mention Reverend Jim Jones and the Kool-Aid drinkers of The People’s Temple which was located on Geary Boulevard. There’s also Dan White’s sneaky, wrathful burst into San Francisco City Hall where he assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk (the first openly gay man in office) and Mayor George Mascone. Afterwards, the Gay Community marched through the Castro and down Market Street holding candles. They trudged down to Civic Center where their sadness twisted into a malevolent boil of hate overflowing with rage. The evening went on to be called The White Night Riots. San Francisco City Hall was devastated and crippled. Many people were injured and taken to jail. 

I’d also like to write about the Oakland shipyard cranes in the port that inspired George Lucas’s vision for the Imperial Galactic Empire within his Star Wars universe. Then there’s San Leandro which is home to Russ Meyer, the self-proclaimed “King of the Nudies” who directed the cult classics Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Super Vixens, and a few others. (Tura Satana forever!)

Then there’s San Lorenzo Village which was one of America’s first planned communities. It was constructed in the 1940’s and 50’s when families were moving into the San Francisco Bay Area to work in the shipyards. There were not enough houses constructed, so David D. Bohannon purchased several hundred acres of farmland and strategically worked with the Government to construct a township filled with durable and affordable two and three bedroom googlie tract houses. It’s a gorgeous suburbia that has a charming neighborhood nicknamed “The Vias” which is located off Bockman Road and up Hesperian Boulevard. I’m a sucker for romanticizing, but it sure does remind me of The Wonder Years as I walk through it with my camera. 

Truthfully, the only honest way I know how to write a novel is use my own life. I don’t want it to be 100% autobiographical per se, but I wish to use certain elements of my own life to propel the characters motives, dialogue, and feelings. Of course this goes for the plot and setting as well. I want the main character to be loved, championed, and sympathetic. I want the readers to feel and see everything he experiences through his eyes. I also want this book to be a page turner. I dream of it being well received and becoming a financial success, I want it to become a household name, and I want people to carry it inside of their hearts. 

My first attempt at writing such a story was during my college days back home in Batesville, Arkansas. (I should mention that this blockbuster novel would get my name on the marquee coming into Batesville…it’s about damn time Mark Martin be knocked off his high horse) I immensely enjoyed my creative writing course. That semester I was engulfed in an idea while taking a shower. I was cleaning myself as the hot water burst and streamed out of the shower head and onto my soft, pale, nude body. I remember thinking of the opening credits of Brian DePalma’s Carrie, but without all that crimson leaking menstrual blood. (Plug it up! Plug it up! Plug it up!)  I was longing to be back in my city by the bay, and at a complete dead end in my life. I was lost. I remember the bathroom being filled with steam and I was questioning myself in silence: How can I talk about San Francisco, yet make it scary and believable, yet give it the respect and adoration it deserves? I want to do something that has never been done before. It has to stick with people if they read it, and if they go there in person, I want it to manifest it’s self in their psyche.

The proverbial lightening flashed violently across my mind. It was a lovely chemical reaction produced in thought that made the dopamine within my head rush enthusiastically. It was as if the electricity of Dr. Frankenstein’s electrical storm high on the craggy mountain top of his crumbling laboratory hit my brain. I swear I could hear him gleefully yelling in ecstasy, “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” 

Here was the idea: 
   
My favorite place in all of San Francisco is and will always be Alamo Square Park which is located in the Western Edition. Many of you will recognize it because it was used in the opening credits of Full House. I knew I wanted to pay homage to the city I’ve had a heated love affair with since childhood. I wanted an Outsider for the main character. San Francisco is littered with people who did not belong where they came from. The challenge of the story also gave me a chance to mentally unearth all the previous memories I had of walking the streets. This involved the smells, sounds, the way people dressed, street life, and the beautiful descriptions of the Victorian and Edwardian architecture. I wanted a character that was easily loved, but mentally troubled and confused, seemingly happy, but unstable. I wanted the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square to drive him insane. To the point of suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge since it is the #1 suicide destination in the world.  Yeah, it’s melodramatic, but I knew if I gave it enough love and craft it would work. I also wanted to give the story a creepy ambiguous ending.

So one night after getting off work from Pizza Hut, I came home, showered, and started composing sentences on an old laptop that used a cast-off keyboard because the one that was part of the computer was destroyed. (The laptop is now demolished and buried in a landfill somewhere in Arkansas) I wrote a story called A Desire in Alamo Square which flowed out of me like a river of melted butter. Once I started writing it, I couldn’t stop. It was as if the story possessed me and everything that ever mattered to me was used. It became the most serious piece of writing I ever fashioned. I was proud that I produced something powerful. Something lasting.

The time came in creative writing class to share an excerpt of what we were each working on. It was finally my turn to read. I took them into the journey of Jeremy Rohrer’s San Francisco and the others were speechless. They each said that they couldn’t believe I had written something so striking. I was flooded with positive feedback, and disbelief. My professor liked what I had produced, but she didn’t like the homosexual undertones. (You have to remember this was written in a small town community college in the South) It was something defiantly different that pushed the limits. My piece of literature transcended into dangerous territory but I was not afraid, nor was I ashamed. I knew it was dissimilar and profoundly provocative, and I stood by every word that was written because it was all conceived in a longing to be back where my heart truly was. I read it to another professor friend of mine and it brought her to tears. She absolutely got it.

Towards the end of the semester, we were assigned to do a public reading for our final. Of course I chose A Desire in Alamo Square and it brought down the house. People were touched, others were made to feel uncomfortable, and some were speechless. It was amusing reading something controversial, nevertheless devastatingly gorgeous about life on the West Coast within those conservative halls of a satellite branch of the University of Arkansas contained in a small town of just over 10,000 people. I received an A in my creative writing class.

When I came back to visit California in 2010 (for the first time in three years) my dear friends took me back to Alamo Square Park and I presented them each with a copy of my short story in a protective case. I dedicated it to my friend Justin since he had given me so much love over the years. He’s one of the greatest friends I have. They assembled in front of the Painted Ladies in the park and had a group picture made. It’s one of my favorites.


 It’s now 2012. At the time, I was living in the thick of the East Bay within Hayward (I’m now residing in a dump in the San Leandro avenues with a roach infested kitchen thanks to housemates who LEAVE a lot of their food out at night) I’m working in downtown San Francisco. During my extensive stay in Hayward the world of Jeremy Rohrer came to me again, this time haunting me. I had become closer friends with Erik. (he and two other people walked into my life when I needed friends the most) We had spent the past months going to dinner, an occasional lunch, talking back and forth on Facebook Messenger, exploring The City on our San Francisco Bizarro tour (which consisted of places like Charles Manson’s former house on Clayton Street and Hunter S. Thompson’s prior pad on Parnassus Avenue) We shared some of our writing projects, and he even introduced me to Charles Bukowski who is considered the “Poet Laureate of Low-Life.” He wrote a masterful autobiography called Ham on Rye which is phenomenal. Read it. In fact, read anything by him. He kicks ass. Bukowski’s alter ego is Henry Chinaski. Erik is also responsible for taking me to the Castro Theater for the first time. He asked me to go with a couple of his close friends-David and Liz. We watched The Mill & the Cross starring Rutger Hauer and Charlotte Rampling. Needless to say, that night was amazing. I felt like a true San Franciscan. There is nothing like watching a flick at The Castro, then stopping by Hot Cookie next door to indulge in some decadent confections afterwards.

Earlier, I had shared A Desire in Alamo Square with him. He got it word for word, found it very dark, bizarre, and wonderful. He thought it had great potential and even asked if I considered trying to get it published. I was proud to share it with him, I trust him. Weeks later, I went back and completely revised it. I added more to Jeremy’s back ground and included a lot of what I had recently observed and discovered on Market Street, as well as on my own lonely walks through San Francisco trying to get a feel for it, a greater sense how it all worked. I even talked about some of the things I mentioned earlier about cinema, pop-culture, etc...



 In 2011, I met Erik for the first time. You can go back and read how we met, but I was unemployed at the time and frankly scared shitless. Anyways, he once told, “You’ll move nicely through the world.” I’ve never forgotten that. There are times where that simple phrase almost brings me to tears when I’m feeling rather low and shallow. Not for a second do I believe he was bullshitting me. I believe he was genuinely sincere.

I surprised him one afternoon while having lunch at Applebee’s with the revised copy of A Desire in Alamo Square and the dedication read:

 For Erik Who Once Told Me, “I’ll Move Nicely Through The World.” In A Coffee Shop In San Lorenzo, Ca.

 A few days ago he invited me to his house and I asked to his personal library. You can learn so much more about a person this way. I should add that it’s quite impressive. It’s got something for everybody. It was then that I noticed the copy of A Desire in Alamo Square within his collection of novels. I cannot tell you how cool it was seeing something I had written in someone else’s library. It was a terrific feeling. I’m glad it’s there, safely tucked away with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burrows, Cormac McCarthy, William Gibson, Brett Easton Ellis, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and many others who wrote without indignity with what they were consumed with.                

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've Got The Bug. Squish! Squash! Kill That Roach!

My life has been in a whirl since early September. Perhaps the biggest blow I received was being notified that I needed to move by October thirteenth. If I had stayed until then my landlord would have charged me for those days, so I had no choice but to start looking for a new place and be out by the first. My former landlord hated me. I think it's because I was too friendly. I will say one thing: talking to this Asian lady was like talking to a brick wall. She was severely stubborn and set in her ways. There was no compromise.

The drama started when I first moved in at the beginning of January. I was told I could ask permission to have a guest over and that it would be okay if they knew about it. I asked her if I could have one friend over on a Saturday night and cook a light dinner since I love cooking. She told me that I could not because I was not in a relationship like the other tenant. Her logic was this: "I cannot keep him from having his girlfriend over because they are in a relationship. You want to have a social gathering and it makes me nervous that there would be people in this house that I've never met when I'm gone and I don't feel comfortable knowing strangers have been in here."

Angered and wanting to say, "So if my friend and I were fucking it would be okay, right?" but I did not, because I'm a bigger person. She did sense my infuriated mood though. Surviving two years in an Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible College will give you patience to accept things as they are, but the sinister thoughts that form in your brain will not leave the mind. I was pissed, but I accepted things and continued living there because it was the best thing for me at the time. (I ended up saving close to $900).

Then the cold showers started.

There were many times that I took showers in lower than lukewarm temperatures. I was terrified to say anything to her, but I finally got the nerve to approach the water heater in the garage and turn up the pilot light. The warm showers were refreshing and comforting, and then the cold ones started again. And sooner or later it was a game of turning up and down the pilot light. It occurred to me that she was doing everything in her power to run me out and she saw that nothing was working.

She had already started avoiding me and eventually September came with bad news: "Kevin, we need to talk. I have a good friend coming over from China to visit for one month. I asked my other family members if they could host her and they told me they did not have the room. So I told my friend that I would ask my tenant to move out to give her room. I need you to move out by October thirteenth." Surprised, I asked, "Well what about the other tenant?" She responded, "He's fine." I rushed up to my room depressed and worried and immediately started searching on CraigsList for a new abode. Believe me, it's no fun being thrown into Refugee Mode.

My anger was boiling and my worrying driving me insane. I did not want to ask a close friend of mine if I could stay with him for a while because I did not want to intrude. He told me I was more than welcome to if it came down to it. I love him and I will always love him for that. I will love him forever. Another friend of mine had asked me to move in with him a few months earlier because his current housemate told him he was going to move out of state to chase after his lesbian military bride who he had married so he could get a check every month. Even though she was munching on carpet across the country, my friend's housemate had a girlfriend that was a stripper at Larry Flint's Hustler Club in the North Beach district of San Francisco. That sordid soap opera fell through and his housemate never moved out.

After looking for nearly one month I found a place in San Leandro that seemed good. Almost perfect. The house looks very old, it has a large haggard white gable and reminds me of the Sanderson Sister's house in Hocus Pocus. However, its in a gorgeous safe sprawling neighborhood that I am falling in love with. The landlord loved me! She is Mexican and even hugged and kissed me on the cheek to welcome me as she put the keys into my hand. I had grandiose visions at the moment of Miss Madrigal from Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. She even took me down the street and said, "Kevin, I like you and I want to give you special parking in the drive way. If any of the other tenants ask why you park there, just say that you pay extra, even though you do not. It will be our little secret." I guess I do have a special charm.

The first night in that house within the San Leandro avenues was marvelous. For the first time in half a year I slept like a baby on an air mattress that I recently purchased at Target. The bed in the other house was firm and hard as a wooden plank. Not even the cushioning I had for it could take the hardness out of it.

The next day I woke up and one of the other tenants was cooking. (I'm allowed to cook and have company over) He offered me some soup which consisted of pureed garbanzo beans, whole corn kernals, green beans, and freshly fried thick cuts of bacon. He then topped the soup with Tabasco, salt, pepper, and Cojita cheese which is a cheese made of skim milk and has the consistency of grated Parmesan. It was delicious. The house was clean and inviting inside. Octavio then told me his story. His little brother and him moved to America because his brother is on dialysis. He's the only family he has. Octavio is a waiter in San Ramone and is struggling. He's a sweet guy and walking up Dutton Avenue and crossing the intersection of Bancroft I thank God for what I have, and that I make enough money to pay my rent.

I currently live with 6 or 8 Mexicans (I have not met them all) and one black man. Needless to say, I'm the strawberry in the Neapolitan. My parents, God bless them asked if there were any white people in the house and when I told them "no" I could hear crickets chirping on the other end of the line. Poor things. I told them they you cannot think that way when you live in the Bay Area. I said, "Mom, I'm completely aware that I live with a bunch of house painters, but it's pretty. I'm gonna like it here!" I'm actually reminded of the boarding house in that awesome Nickelodeon cartoon Hey Arnold! I can go into my clean large room, kick back and relax as I can hear the faint sound of the BART zipping rapidly on it's elevated track.



That night...it was a Tuesday that will live in infamy...I walked into the kitchen to get a drink of water. I switched on the light and all of a sudden I shrieked in disgusting horror. ROACHES with wings were crawling all over the granite counter tops, by the sink, the gas range, and by the package of Cojita cheese that was left out by the other housemate. I screamed, "ROACHES! MY TRACY IS A CLEAN TEEN!!!" (paying homage to a quote from John Waters' film Hairspray). I rushed out of the kitchen in sobs and went to bed thirsty, disgusted, and ashamed. I wanted to vomit and almost did. The tears streamed down my face as I heard two brothers through the wall yell, "HE FARTED IN MY MOUTH! HE FARTED IN MY MOUTH!"

"Do you want some sugar in your water?"

I think I live in Joe's  fucking Apartment...

I called the landlord the next morning and told her son about the disgusting dark discovery in the kitchen. He said he would take care of it immediately. He also said that they had a problem with roaches two months ago and that they had sprayed. Keeping my composure and temper I said that they needed to call Terminex and bomb the property and that I could not live like this. I also said that I realize the house is old, but I noticed that the other housemates do not clean up after themselves, they will leave cooked food out over night and that THAT is how you get bugs!

I came back that evening, switched on the lights and not as many roaches as before were scattering in the kitchen. Next to the dish rack dryer by the sink was a large bottle of bug spray with a pump. Jesus. H. Christ! I liked to have died. They have just left it there! SICK! SICK! SICK!

I finally told some very close friends about my situation. To my shock they did not think I was disgusting and they were not ashamed of me. They all know I'm clean and tidy. One even said, "This is not your fault Kevin. You did not know. I know you're not nasty. They should have told you. It's not your fault you live with dirty people. Hell, they are probably used to it and think nothing of it...since they are house painters!"

Now I've been trying to look at the bright side since I'm an optimist. I've been reading Lesile F. Miller's obsessive novel about cake called Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Power, and a Pinch of Salt. Towards the beginning of the novel she openly talks about living in a situation like I'm in, around the same age, and making these LOVELY cakes out of love and interest in her roach infested kitchen in Baltimore, Maryland. She would thoroughly clean her stuff up and was very tidy unlike her other housemates.

Then there are the Beat poets and writers like Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg,who lived in North Beach. Even the late comedienne Lenny Bruce. And I cannot leave out Charles Bukowski who lived in Los Angeles. They all write about their run ins with the roaches. And course there is Anne Rice who once lived in an old Victorian in the Haight that had a gas leak. And her husband used to collect food, sit it up around the house, and watch it rot for aesthetic purposes. I'm sure she had roaches. Paula Deen also has a hideous roach story as she was working her way up the restaurant empire Mildred Pierce style. Paula's bedroom was infested with them at one time and she said she could hear them crawling in the dark under her mattress.

I have not eaten anything in that kitchen since I discovered the roaches. I've been stopping by the grocery store and buying sandwiches. I told my friend Erik, "I love you too much to cook you something in that kitchen. You don't deserve that, and neither do I." But maybe, juts maybe I can turn this around...I don't know. I've been looking for a new place, no luck at the moment. However, I have some huge pros by living here:

1. I am one mile from the San Leandro BART station. I LOVE walking through the neighborhood and it's great for my health. Two miles a day plus what I walk in San Francisco...

2. I save money on gas. It's almost $5.00 a gallon at the moment and I save $1.00 by not parking at the station.

3. It's within walking distance to a grocery store.

4. I can save money and that is crucial.

I have depressed myself for days thinking of all this. I feel better writing it all out. The landlords have been wonderful to me. I just wish they would professionally bomb the house and get MEAN with the other housemates that leave their food out. I don't know how long I'll be here...I'll keep looking. One friend of mine asked, "Kevin, have you been in the back of a grocery store?" I said, "Yes." He responded, "They all have roaches. Every one of them. Accept the fact that every piece of produce you've touched is covered in bug shit....so how is the extra company?" I can't help but laugh and the laughter does make it feel better.

The other day my new neighbor (who happens to be Asian) started bitching at me. I told her to fuck off. 
Anyways, I'm happy excluding the roaches and no internet...

 




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Transamerica Time!


I'll never forget seeing director Chris Columbus's Mrs. Doubtfire in the theater back in 1993. Now that I'm living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, it never ceases to amaze me how much that film influenced me. My first exposure to the Transamerica Pyramid happened in that dark, butter scented theater way back in Newport, Arkansas. That theater is no longer there, but it was there that the great city and county of San Francisco swept me over for the very first time.

Towards the middle of the film the camera pans down the length of this impressive triangle shaped office building as Frankie Vallie & The Four Seasons are singing "Walk Like A Man". Mrs. Doubtfire is crossing the intersection of Montgomery and O'Farrel and suddenly gets mugged by a thug. He tries to take her purse, but she switches over to her male voice and fights off the goon with a yowling "Back off asshole! Stupid bastard broke my bag!" and she keeps on walking on. The image of the Transamerica Pyramid never left me. I told myself that one day I would go there.

 
The Transamerica Pyramid is San Francisco's tallest skyscraper. It towers over the city at 853 feet and is the second most recognizable structure next to the Golden Gate Bridge respectively. "The Pyramid" as it's referred to by locals, is located on Montgomery Street within the heart of the financial district. Even though it's the tallest building in the city, it looks overshadowed by the former headquarters of Bank of America ( a gorgeous carnelian granite tower that pays homage to San Francisco's fetish for bay windows), which is located at 555 California Street. Fact: The Bank of America Center looks taller simply because it was erected on a higher elevation. It's actually 779 feet.

The history of the Transamerica Pyramid fascinates me. I've taken on the burden of giving one of my favorite skyscrapers the attention that it deserves.






Way back in the golden glory days of San Francisco, an Italian business tycoon by the name of A.P. Gianini founded the Bank of Italy. That bank eventually became known as the Bank of America. After these tremendous financial successes Gianini decided that he wanted to get into the business of life insurance: thus the Transamerica Corporation was born. The original Transamerica headquarters, which is now the San Francisco Church of Scientology, is actually located across the street from where the gigantic pyramid now stands. In the present, Transamerica no longer occupies the pyramid. In 1999, the company was bought out by the Dutch insurance company AEGON. However, Transamerica kept their logo, which is a picture of their prized iconic structure.

The pyramid started being constructed in 1969. It might astonish you, dear readers, that a great deal of San Francisco's financial district is erected on landfill, the Transamerica Pyramid being the most famous building. Behind the pyramid there's an alley which is consumed with small fine dining restaurants. In the middle of the street of this alley you can see these rippling waves which are etched into the concrete. These waves span the length of this delicious alley. These markings represent where the water used to be. While the basement (a parking garage) and foundation was being dug out and planted for the pyramid, construction workers stumbled upon an archeological treasure: the hull of the whaling ship Niantic which was abandoned at its San Francisco pier during the 1849 Gold Rush. 



As construction continued the pyramid was raised taller, but not without controversy and a n intelligent serial killer with a grudge running around massacring couples. The East Bay was being taunted and polarized in fear. The Zodiac Killer was on a spree of spreading death and terror throughout northern California. The San Francisco Chronicle was receiving cryptograms with the delightfully devilish introduction: THIS IS THE ZODIAC SPEAKING. The Zodiac Killer was never captured and the case still remains open. The last message sent to The Chronicle, located by the Old Mint on Mission Street was later deciphered, but not all the way: ILIKEKILLINGPEOPLEBECAUSEITISSOMUCHFUNITISMOREFUNTHANKILLINGWILDGAMEINTHEFORRESTBECAUSEMANISTHEMOSTDANGEROUSANIMALOFALLTOKILLSOMETHINGGIVESMETHEMOSTTHRILLINGEXPERIENCEITISEVENBETTERTHANGETTINGYOURROCKSOFFWITHAGIRLTHEBESTPARTOFITISTHATWHENIDIEIWILLBEREBORNINPARADICEANDTHOSEIHAVEKILLEDWILLBECOMEMYSLAVESIWILLNOTGIVEYOUMYNAMEBECAUSEYOUWILLTRYTOSLOWDOWNORSTOPMYCOLLECTINGOFSLAVESFORMYAFTERLIFE
EBEORIETEMETHHPITI


The people of San Francisco hated the Transamerica Pyramid simply because it's design was ahead of it's time. Nothing like it had been constructed in it's likeness, let alone for office space, save the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids which were used for burial tombs and human sacrifice. Herb Caen, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from The Chronicle led a campaign against it's completion. He also had a hatred for Sutro Tower which is a large radio/TV tower located on top of Mount Sutro. It was constructed because the hills blocked many of the air wave frequencies. Caen joked, "Sutro Tower is the crate that the Transamerica Pyramid came in!" I honestly think he was an idiot to advocate a hatred for the pyramid, and personally, I love Herb Caen. His work is wonderful and the love he had for his city was pure and loyal. He later succumbed to the pyramid and included it in his daily column's logo. 

The general public of San Francisco was much harsher no the Pyramid than their beloved journalist. They started nick naming William L. Pereira's masterpiece "Pereira's Prick" because of it's phallic shape. And it should be noted that since San Francisco is Gay Mecca, it only seems appropriate that Babylon-by-the-Bay be dawned with a building to represent all it's radiant decadence. They were also concerned that it's futuristic shape would mare the city's Victorian architecture.

Pereira logical visions for his building are as follows:
1. The pyramid is an ideal shape for a skyscraper.
2.  The building is to have the appearance of an architectural sculpture.
3.  The unconventional shape of the Transamerica Pyramid resulted from careful planning as to how the  building would affect the surrounding area. 
4.  Unlike a conventional skyscraper, the pyramid's tapered design casts a smaller shadow, allowing more sunlight to filter down into the streets than a conventional high-rise. The building's shape was also the result of of the city's unique shadow-restriction laws, which dictate a certain ratio must exist between a building's surface and height.
5. It would be energy efficient. 



The Transamerica Pyramid has 3,678 windows. I order for the windows to be cleaned, they can be turned inside out. It takes two months to clean the windows. The building holds a maximum amount of 500,000 square feet of office space with footage varying from floor to floor due to its shape. The floors get smaller the higher you go. The pyramid has 48 floors, the top floor is a conference room. The two wings on the side hold a staircase and the elevator system. Only one elevator takes you to the top. The Pyramid is composed of crushed quartz which makes it glow, glitter, and sparkle when the sun casts it's rays upon it. Unfortunately, because of the September 11th attacks, the public is no longer allowed to go up inside for a view. This is extremely disheartening to me. I've been inside the lobby and bowed down before it proudly. The Pyramid was completed in 1972 and at the time was the tallest building West of the Mississippi. It's one of the 200 tallest buildings in the world. It has now been accepted by the people and is now one of San Francisco's most loved icons.






Perhaps the neatest feature of the Transamerica Pyramid is the aluminum spire. It's 200 feet tall, its hollow so the fog can pass through it freely, and at the pinnacle there's a 1,000 watt jet light which is lit at special times of the years: predominantly the Christmas season and New Year's.