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Posts tagged “san francisco

Book Review: How to Grow Up: A Memoir by Michelle Tea

How to grow up : a memoir

I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up lately. My 30’s have been entered. My mindset and lifestyle might be a figurative punk house, but I have the kind of jobs that grownups get, there’s some money in my savings account, and my hair is dyed a single color and cut relatively symmetrically. I shop from the grownups section of the thrift store and I own practical “work” shoes that had triple-digit price tags (before I got them on sale! ha!)

My late teens and early and mid-twenties were speckled with Michelle Tea’s plethora of writing and literary events around San Francisco. She was writing about lives like mine ( but in a really smart and creative way that made things like being dead broke or having mice seem a little romantic even when it was the worst), and was also cultivating this crazy extensive movement of writers in similar boats in the turbulent waters of unlikely to be published in the mainstream. I learned about so many awesome artists and writers! Thanks dude! My life is so much richer with all your work!

So I was really excited when I learned that How to Grow Up was coming out. It’s her first on a mainstream publisher, so I was really interested to see what this meant for an otherwise mostly indie and small press kind of author. I went to the book release event, bought the book, read it. Some of the chapters are ridiculously awesomely written! They are hilarious and relevant and poignant and all that. The book it “worth” the $ for those alone. My impression is that other chapters (none are bad, but some I wouldn’t consider “required reading”) might be a result of some weird thing with the publisher or the editor or something who was like “write me a whole chapter about XXXXXX” (even if there maybe needn’t be a whole chapter). Or “give me X more pages in this section!” There was also a weird inconsistency between the chapters re: how openly queer they were. It’s hard not to see everyone’s business in a small place like San Francisco, so I knew who many of her pseudonymous characters were standing in for– and Tea has the right to write a memoir however she wants to– but I had the distinct feeling that there may have been some editor action making sections seem way more hetero than they were originally intended to be– in an attempt to make the book more broadly appealing. I’m sure this happens all the time in publishing, but.

But over all, it was good! Check it out!

Book Review: Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me

Beau, Lee, the Bomb, & me

Just a quickie (even though I think this book deserves more) :

If you’re looking for a super-smart teen protagonist, good (both rich and witty) dialogue, and lots of feelings, check out Beau, Lee, The Bomb, and Me. Our protagonist Rylee is super-smart, but fat and an outcast at school– she ends up going on a surprise road trip to San Francisco with Beau, a bullied gay kid at her school, and Leonie, her bff (of circumstance) who’s basically the class ho with a heart of gold (and as it turns out, lots of really good qualities).

While I didn’t find the entirety of the story 100% believable, lots of the different parts are really heartfelt, interesting, and awesome. Read it. You’ll get through it in about a day, and you’ll totally be googling the author to see if there is more. check it outtttt! Or buy it. It’s on sale for under $7.

Book Review: Nochita by Dia Felix



I kinda bought this one on impulse when I went on vacation and read though the book I brought faster than expected.  Glad that happened!

If you like postmodern/experimental lit or queer lit or feminist lit or lit in general you should check this one out. There are two distinct parts and they’re about the same person but they’re both really different. The narrator is not always reliable, and don’t expect to ever fully touch down in the plot. But. What the author has done with language and feeling is really awesome, and was enough to keep me reading and fascinated. The idea of re-reading a book generally makes me feel a little sick inside (I will never be that person who says they’ve read Jkjsdfghkjl x many times because they love it so much), especially when we have so many choices– but I’m kinda tempted, now that I’ve got the plot down, to go back through this one and savor the language and style a little more.

It’s published by the City Lights/ Sister Spit Collab. Omg, buy it or check it out.

Book Review: The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin

The Days of Anna Madrigal

The Tales of the City books were a big part of the wonderful literary freakshow that lured me (so passionately) to San Francisco over a decade ago. I loved that they were fast-paced and full of quirk– but still really, really real in their dealings with stuff like AIDS. They kept me awake, encouraged me to explore the city once I arrived, and made me feel so lucky to peer in on other people’s lives (even if they were fictional people).

The Days of Anna Madrigal marks the end of the series, as Anna is now an old woman (no longer independent, but still totally brilliant), and the other remaining originals are middle-aged (but not boring). Included elements and mentions are: more detail into Anna’s past, burning man, feminist blogging, San Francisco’s current gentrification…

I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down to do things like shower and go to work. Sometimes “final” books of series can feel like let downs, but this one didn’t. It’s up to the minute, tender, funny, and still a little mysterious. If you haven’t read its predecessors, read them first.

Get a copy here.

Book Review: Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames by Beth Lisick

Yokohama threeway : and other small shames

Yokohama Threeway is great because it’s funny. But it’s also low-commitment. Of the fifty-ish vignettes, few of them are longer than a couple pages.

The premise is embarrassing moments, like that one thing you did 6 years ago and are still cringing over. But 50-ish of them. And all of them make you think thank goodness it wasn’t me. Phew! They’re basically little 3-minute bursts of Maybe I’m not too fucked up after all (even if it’s a lie to yourself).

Read it! buy a copy from City Lights/Sister Spit or get it from the library!


Book Review: Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Wish : a novel

The cover of this book is so fairytale blah, but don’t let that deter you!

After her popular and outgoing twin’s death, shy and awkward Olivia and her parents have moved to an old Victorian in San Francisco to start fresh. Alas, the tragedy brings out the worst in each of her parents, their family structure continues to crumble, and Olivia feels terribly sad and alone.

BUT a bit of magic enters her life in a surprising way, and suddenly Olivia has some of the support she needs to start moving on. In addition to the magic, there’s a good deal of real-life stuff that is fairly interesting– and readers who know San Francisco will be amused by identifying different subtle landmarks (and piecing together the sometimes “creative” merging of them). The story is reminiscent of something that Francesca Lia Block might write, but the language is completely different.

In my opinion the mention of clothing brand names weaken the story a bit, as does the too-tidy ending. But all in all, it was a solid amusement that had me looking up the author as soon as I finished.

Book review: Bitter Melon by Cara Chow

Bitter melon

The cover picture is totally anachronistic.The story takes place in the 80’s, and somewhere in this YA novel’s 3o9 pages, it mentions big bangs and Aquanet (whereas the model has reasonable hair and totally 2000’s eyebrows). And what’s up with the ocean in the background? The meat of the story is in San Francisco’s Richmond District, and the ocean is only fleetingly mentioned like once. But gripes aside.

So Frances attends all-girl Catholic school and lives in a 1-bedroom apartment with her mom in the Richmond in SF (totally exciting fame moment if you live in the City). She’s super sheltered, and at 17, has really only been to the Richmond, Chinatown, and Downtown maybe a little bit. Her mom’s pretty strict and intense (and abusive), and plan is for Frances to take Calculus, get straight A’s, and go to Berkeley to become a doctor. The plan goes into action without much fanfare until oops, quiet, obedient Frances takes a public speaking class instead of Calculus and starts winning competitions. Her mom is pissed. In classic YA novel fashion, everything else collides too…

It’s a pretty typical coming of age story, the protagonist is reasonably likable, and she makes choices that you’ll support. Some of the plot was kind of meh, but you know. It won’t necessarily change your life– but the 1980’s san francisco scenery will make you happy.

get a copy here

Book Review: The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz

The infinite wait and other stories

I reserved this book from the library as soon as I finished Drinking At The Movies. Upon checking it out, I read it in like 2 seconds. This volume brings us from childhood to the present-ish, and back again. It’s in 3 segments:

1. Industry (crappy and awesome jobs through Wertz’s life. lots of food industry stuff that I could seriously relate to)

2. The Infinite Wait (moving to SF and getting a diagnosis and living and stuff. oh, san francisco. The author and I may have some different opinions about homelessness, but the rest was lovely)

3. A Strange and Curious Place (about the hometown and the hometown library. yay libraries.)

I liked this one just as much as I liked the other one; I pretty much sat down with it and didn’t get back up until I was finished reading it (when I was doing other things I was totally thinking about getting back to it). The illustrations are alluring, the pace is good, the plot is engaging, and I want more.

get one at the library or from the author

Book Review: Drinking at the Movies by Julia Werta

Drinking at the movies

I really like this graphic memoir by Julia Wertz (of Fart Party, which is not about farts). I’m really tired and I have a headache so I’m not gonna write much– but if you like attractively illustrated creative & cynical misanthropes, awkward bluntness, and truth that is sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad,  Wertz is totally your cartoonist. After finishing this book, I immediately sought out more.

get one at the library, get one from the author.

Book Review: The End of San Francisco by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

The end of San Francisco

Really, I’ve only read one book since August 15th? Kind of tragic, considering it only took a couple days to read. What was I doing, starting a new school semester and having a life or something?

August 16th was my ten-year anniversary in San Francisco. After stalking the place over the period of a few years in a number of ill-planned (but exhilarating) teenage trips here, I finally arrived with a couple suitcases, $300 of student loan money, and a chunk of credit card debt at age 20. When I arrived the air was thinner and colder that where I came from but I felt like I could fully breathe for the first time in my life.

Back then, in 2003, we didn’t have as much of an internet yet. You learned about a place through visits, hearsay, and literature– not the google. Shortly after arriving I used fake ID to go to a $10 benefit at 12 Galaxies I think for Tom Ammiano who was running for Mayor at the time. I learned about it on the Queer Things To Do In San Francisco website, which I leaned about from the Kill Rock Stars site (which if I recall, was purple and hella 1990’s at the time). I took Muni for like an hour and stood alone up on the balcony and watched all these people who I’d been reading books and articles by and about, listening to their cds for years. So much of the obscure stuff that I’d loved as a teenager came together on that stage that night (and apparently all the time around the city, I was thrilled to gradually learn). It wasn’t the sea lions and the golden gate bridge– it was this kind of energy, what these people (artists/queers) were doing and saying– the possibility and energy and politix that their work/art was creating that drew me in.

Compared to San Francisco’s present day circumstance of a jockish yuppie invasion, laughably high rents (fingers crossed my rent control continues), and so many wonderful memories getting replaced with high-end restaurants (that “gentrification” has reached such a point of ubiquity that it seems trite to complain about)– such magic/art/possibility was in the air then. I could feel it.

But, see, recently I read works by by ex/San Franciscans maybe 10 or 12 years my senior, and it turns out that 10 years ago (when I was all full of wonder) they felt the exact same way as I do now. For them, even then, it had gotten too gentrified and fake and yuppie compared to what they started off with. So I think a big part of it is perception. So many of us come to San Francisco to save ourselves. I did. And maybe after we’ve done the basic work of resuscitating, learning to breathe again, making memories in the process– we have time to look around and realize that things are actually fucked up? I’m not sure yet, I guess I’m still figuring it out.

What I’ve gotten so far is that it’s important to support the things that you think are important, if you can (book stores, independent businesses, arts). What I’m starting to get is that new things can be amazing, too. Not the bourgie yuppie crap that’s implanting itself on every corner these days– but new arts spaces, new writers, new organizations, new events. It’s so easy to get caught in a cycle of dwelling on how all the good things in the past are gone. Sure, lots of them are– but awesome things remain and are being born every day– and also, you can make them too.

I guess this was supposed to be a book review for The End of San Francisco. Maybe in some kind of slanted way, it is. I bought this book at Modern Times (which has moved into a smaller space on 24th street, and is currently contemplating whether it has a future or not). It’s a stream of conscious-y memoir about activism, abuse, queer family, San Francisco. It flows back and forth through time, sometimes on the same page without warning, which is fine. People and places are given their real names, and those with pseudonyms are easy to decipher. The book ends but I’m not sure that the story’s over.

Buy this book for a portrait of a mind and a place over time, or get a library copy if you can find one.

Book Review Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott


It had been a long wait since Ali Liebegott’s  previous books, The Beautifully Worthless (2005) and then the Ihop Papers (2007).

Like, really long.

I first heard her read at some event here in san francisco, and have since been very allured to what might just be her signature blend of punch you in the stomach poeticness, honestly, familiar self-loathing, really really good observations and fairly enormous humor. I read her writing like some kind of a secret (but maybe it was spoken a little too loud and those involved forgot to wonder if anyone else could hear).

I guess that this is a really crappy book review for a rather nice book: It was full of stuff I like reading about like queers and gender and a dog and some sex and some addiction and gambling and travel. The story, itself, did not follow certain conventions that I found myself expecting it to follow (a pleasant and disarming surprise). There weren’t typos, and for the most part, the timing was good. I was not disappointed by the writing. The end.

Find a copy at a library or from the publisher (City Lights/ Sister Spit), or on the Sister Spit 2013 Tour.

I’m trying to better feed my local economy and small industry and stuff that I care about, but this time around I totally crapped out and bought the book on amazon. See, there were these seriously awesome shoes that were discounted to $20. and I needed to add at least $5 to my bill to get the free shipping. And this book. I already knew that I was going to buy it. It’s a process.

Book Review: Homeland by Cory Doctorow

My life kind of exploded for a while, and I was pretty much not reading. There was lots of school work, one epically awful day, and a whole bunch of work stuff. My spring break officially started yesterday, so I can relax and get my life back into the realm of awesomeness (and ideally design a way to keep my life from exploding again). Onto the good stuff:


Confession: I read this book because it includes lots of references to Noisebridge, a place where I go fairly often.

Homeland is a follow-up to Little Brother, which I have not read. Homeland has a Sci-Fi feel (but this shit’s real) with an action adventure edge, with a little nonfiction thrown into the fiction. I have a weirdo librarian fantasy about talking to the author about how he feels about the categorization of his book as YA Fiction. This is entirely possible, as we can both sometimes be found in the same places (see above).

So Marcus’s life has finally chilled out after a massive super-hacker political adventure in the previous book (he, like, saved lives and got kidnapped and got hacker-famous and stuff), and he’s having the time of his life at Burning Man with his girlfriend. And then in the middle of the fun, he encounters and old nemesis who hands him a flash drive filled with lots of really explosive political information, and his new found calm is pretty much instantly blasted into a million pieces.

I was a little slow getting into the book, but after about 75 pages, I got addicted.

The narrative is atypical. Detailed technical explanations of different (real life and sometimes similar to real-life) things (in the voice of the narrator) frequently punctuate the story (I really liked the instructions for making cold brewed coffee and some of the political stuff– but some of the technical explanations were way over my head and I merely skimmed them in pursuit of returning to the narrative). Marcus is supposed to be 19 and super awesome– but his worldly knowledge is a little bit unbelievable (yet still inspirational). The subject matter is all very contemporary (and rooted in real life)– so having your good pal Google at your side will help you make your way through the information-rich text (Also, there’s TONS of tech-talk. google it, and you’ll be mostly ok). I found that I was less-impressed with the story (I don’t think it was unpredictable enough), and more impressed with all of the details that surrounded it. Some kind of super-modern interactive ebook version of this book would be awesome.

Maybe I was simply emerging from my aforementioned funk– but as I was finishing the book I felt energized. I got back into the EFF. I started thinking about how workshops on internet security and intellectual freedom could work at the library. I got angry again about messed up government stuff. It was good.

Also, there’s a really, really chilling afterword written by Aaron Swartz at the end. It’s kind of important to read if you care about intellectual freedom.

Check it out at your library

Book review: In a Witch’s Wardrobe by Juliet Blackwell

In a witch's wardrobe

I’ve never been a mystery person. But when I found out that one of my friends who I really respect is an avid mystery reader– I had to give the genre a shot. I got excited when a book list lead me to In a Witch’s Wardrobe— which combines a number of things that I like: Vintage clothing, San Francisco, Fashion, and a witchy theme.

I can’t really say much without giving away the story, but basically San Francisco Bay Area witches are getting sick and killed. Our protagonist Lily Ivory (also a witch) takes it upon herself to try and solve the mystery of what’s going on. Blackwell’s attention to detail surrounding the case is impressive, and the book moves quickly. The story is nestled amongst nice descriptions of the vintage clothing that is sold in Lily’s shop.  It made me want to forgo my regular responsibilities and just read. There are loose ends– but I think the book is part of a series, so it makes sense.

The author has some really solid attention to detail, which I suppose is logical for a mystery novel. Lily’s character could stand a little more dimension (I was hungry for a little more personal information)- but it’s not that big of a deal. It wasn’t the book of the year– but it wouldn’t be bad for a plane ride or lazy afternoon either.

Find a copy here

The Fun-A-Day January 2012 wrap-up!

The month is over, and I feel rather relieved that I will no longer have a daily frantic moment of searching for a dollar (or for a store that sells lotto) so that I can purchase a ticket and write up a blog entry before the day has ended.

So How much did I win? And how much did I lose?

here’s the rundown:

I spent $32 (day 5 was a $2 ticket).

I won 4 free tickets and a total of $11.

9 of the days yielded some kind of a prize.

The tickets that I most frequently purchased were:

Crazy Hearts (10 days)

Easy Grand (5 days)

Silver 7’s (3 days)

Triple Cash (3 days)

And That is the end of January 2012’s capitalism-cloaked Fun-A-Day experiment! Of course, in the coming days I will still need to cash in my winning tickets, trade in my “free ticket” tickets, and catch up on entering my losing tickets in on CA Lottery Replay!

Fun a Day, Day 31

My Final scratcher ticket purchase for January 2012 came from the California Tobacco Center. It was hastily purchased with laundry quarters. Haste causes waste, and  I did not win.

Fun a day, day 30!!

I got this loser at the Civic Center Market. The month is almost over!


Fun A Day, Day 29

Thanks,  Hope’s Sports Cards & Stationery Shop, for selling me a ticket that won a free ticket!

Today’s ticket was a “Double Wild 8’s.” I had not seen this one before (and I’ve been scrutinizing racks of $1 scatcher tickets every day for almost a month now!).

The shop is on the hill between upper Polk and Chinatown, and I had always been intrigued and wanted a reason to go inside. Seeing that I don’t really do sports and I tend to make my own stationery, I finally had the perfect reason. Thanks Hope’s!

Fun a Day, Day 28

Today I bought my scratcher ticket at Cable Car Liquor on Clement street in the Richmond. The guy who sold it to me was really, really intense.

Figures that I lost. At least the cow is happy!


Fun a Day, January 27th 2012

Tonight while out for my evening walk, I felt drawn into SF City Market #2. Sitting amongst the other over-played scratcher tickets (crazy hearts, dragons fortune, silver 7s, easy grand— but especially crazy hearts in my case) was this little gem, left over and feeling abandoned after the holidays. I bought one. I was kindly wished good luck by the store guy, and won a free ticket. Yay!

I’ll calculate my total wins and winnings before the month ends– but one thing on my mind is that I am totally sick of the lottery! I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few free tickets, but I’m going to have to come up with a way to enjoyably use them after the month is over (I’m waiting until the end of the month to redeem any winnings). One of my year’s goals is to try to turn this blog into something that happens regularly, and to post more creative stuff, etc. Maybe I could have a feature called “Scratcher Saturdays?”

Fun a day, January 26th!

It’s day 26 and I am getting lazy!!! Today I went to some liquor store around 16th and Guerro and got this loser!! Sigh.

Refer to my January 10th post for details on what this “Fun A Day” business is all about!!


Fun a day – day 25!

I was lazy and again dropped by the Mcallister Market to grab a ticket on my break. They had crazy hearts tickets in abundance, so I of course felt compelled to go with the comfortable choice. I lost.

Coming soon: a post where I actually get adventurous!!


Fun a day — January 24th!

On my break between jobs, I stopped into the McAllister Market and picked up a Crazy Hearts ticket. I won $2!


January 22 2012 – Fun a Day

I stopped into Fox Liquor and Groceries on my way home from the Farmers Market this morning. I decided to kill my Crazy Hearts losing streak, and purchased a “Silver 7’s” scratcher. It paid off, and I won $2. While there were no sevens about this winning, I think I’ll survive.

Fun-a-Day, Day 20!!

I work right by the gem that is known as Unimart, and I decided to give it a try! I dropped in on my break and picked up yet another Crazy Hearts scratcher ticket. First I scratched off the “prize box” section, and saw that if I lined up 3 hearts, the prize would be $500! I immediately knew that I would not win. I scratched off the rest of the ticket, and was indeed a loser.

So I bought  a few “Crazy Hearts” scratchers earlier in the month– and I have been buying Crazy Hearts tickets for the past 3 days. At the beginning of the month, they had relatively low values in the prize box. Now, at the end of the month, the past 3 have had potential values of $100, $100, and $500. I began to wonder– was it a coincidence, or is it planned for potential values to increase as the month goes on?

I decided to do a bit of shoddy research (I have 11 more days to try harder!). I didn’t find an answer, but I did find this interesting project where the blogger bought $100  worth of the same $1 scratcher tickets, and came out $2 richer in the end! I also found this fascinating amount of effort that someone out into a strategy for choosing lotto numbers (pdf file).  And this (whoa). And this.I had no clue that people were so into this stuff!