Bare Essentials

Well, nearly two months since the last post; that may be some kind of record. Not much has happened to me lately, though I did spend a few days in Phoenix visiting a friend over Memorial Day weekend, which was a good time. Mostly I'm looking forward to things happening in the future: the Katrabbit will be coming to visit for a week at the end of June, and then I'll start my training for my practicum in August, and then my sister will be getting married in October, and hopefully Katrabbit will be moving up here to California to live with me (yay!) soon after that. So the next year is going to be extremely eventful (remember when I said 2008 was going to be a hell of a year? Do I lie?).

However, right now I write to give a shameless plug to a worthy cause: my sister's cabaret group, Cabaret Decadance, has finally released their long-awaited (by me, anyway) first album, which can be purchased for cash money right here. (That link also contains a lengthy blurb which I will reproduce in part here for those of you so benighted that you have not yet been witness to the splendor that is Cabaret Decadance.)

"This vampy, campy collection of songs moves through moods and genres like a cabaret dancer trying on pumps at a shoe sale. For all its stylistic promiscuity, it always remains true to its risqué roots in cabaret and burlesque. The album opens with the rushing sounds of a city street and the dreamy, dark meanderings of a saxophone. This haunting and candid torch song sung by Ginger Snap looks in on a day in the life of a “Lady of the Night.” Next Clare de Lune turns a traditional children’s verse into an adults-only cautionary tale of ingénues, fallen angels, and wicked strangers in “Never Talk to Strangers. The third song is “Cheatin’” a funky defense of a woman’s right to flirt. Well, Ginger may be talking about a bit more than flirting; but still, she ain’t cheatin’!

Clare de Lune explores the deep significance of a proper gentleman’s cane in “Walking Stick.” The result is either a teasing burlesque romp or a Freudian nightmare, depending on your perspective. The mood then turns slow, seductive, and fatally irresistible as Ginger sings “Dangerous.” Be careful or you’ll fall prey to her charms! If you do, don’t worry. The hard-hitting blues number “The Bare Essentials” follows, and Ginger lets us in on the secret of what it takes to make a lady smile. In “Topper,” Clare de Lune has some titillating stories for lovers of all persuasions and dares her audience to “top” her wild tales. On the next track Ginger Snap sings: “Can it be that you were never warned, this Rose has thorns,” in this lively cha-cha-cha about a beautiful heartbreaker. Up next is the swinging hot number “Girls from Harlem,” an ode to those beautiful uptown girls. In this upbeat tune Ginger gives us a heads-up that: “if you don’t know how to dance, you better walk right out that door.”

A cool walking bass is the lead-in to “Gigolo,” a song about a character who looks smooth, but may be a bit of a little boy lost. Meet us at the “Speakeasy,” that’s up next. We’ll be honky-tonking in this prohibition era tune about the real old-school gangsters, and molls, and bathtub gin. Then Clare de Lune is at her ribald best singing “I Want It Both Ways”—an upbeat polka about the joys of having it all. But getting what you want is not always that easy. In the snappy, swinging ”Pretty Please” Ginger lets a wandering lover know that he’ll have to ask real nice to get back in her good graces. Clare de Lune cracks the whip in “Discipline,” a funny and frantic circus polka. She points out the many ways men can go astray, but assures us that: “it can work out with a little discipline!” The album concludes with “That’s as Far as I Go.” This old-fashioned waltz features both Clare de Lune and Ginger Snap who are joined by Mortimer Bustos and Patrick Rollinson of Bourbon Knights fame, for a boozy sing-along where the beer hall girls tell us just how far they will go. Once they reach their limit… well, that’s the end of the show!"

Needless to say, I'm a big fan, and I've already ordered my copy, so I encourage all of you lovely readers out there in Reader-Land to swing by the site and pick up a copy, or just grab an Mp3 or two ("Mp3 or two"...that sounds wrong, somehow) from Amazon to try it on for size. You won't be disappointed.

Talk to you again soon, dearest ones!

Better Late Than Never

Well, in all the excitement of making my last post, I completely forgot to actually post a description of the many other wonderful things that happened while I was in southern Illinois. To be fair, getting engaged tends to eclipse some things. But you, my readers, deserve better, and let it never be said I didn't occasionally fail to completely disappoint.

(Actually, while that may be true, maybe it's better if that actually is never said, because the syntax and structure of that sentence is just terrible.)


So, after being met at the airport by a somewhat flustered Katrabbit (her phone had suddenly died on the way to picking me up, so our original plan of having me call her to let her know where to come get me had an unexpected wrinkle), we returned to her place and spent a pleasant night before getting up the next day to have Easter dinner at her parents' house. This was my first chance to meet her sister Jill and Jill's daughter Sophie, both of whom were delightful. I got to hide eggs for the children to find, and played with all three children on the living room floor until it was time to eat. The spread was incredible, far more food than even the nine adults and three children could eat, and I got so stuffed I was actually unable to finish a helping of cheesecake, which is nearly unheard of for me. Katrabbit's sister Jessica gave me a bar of her homemade soap, and we lazed around, full and contented, until it was time to go to my parents' house for egg-coloring.

There, Katrabbit got to meet my brother Tim for the first time, and we colored eggs and sang songs and generally comported ourselves in the manner common to my family until it got late. Katrabbit headed back to her own place while I stayed at my parents' and prepared to get up for Easter festivities the next morning. Because my brother had to work, we did our Easter activities fairly early, so we got up and raided our Easter baskets (even at 27 years old, I still look forward to the treats the Easter Bunny brings me), then had our traditional egg hunt, organized by my father, who somehow manages to get better at hiding eggs each year. My brother left for work, my family went to church, and I laid down to get another two hours of sleep, before we started working on getting food ready for the big Easter gathering my parents were hosting that afternoon. I made deviled eggs (I don't like to brag, but I make a pretty mean deviled egg) and we had delicious focaccia bread from Katrabbit's oven, and when everyone came over the spread was once again pretty impressive. We ate and chatted, and I introduced Katrabbit to everyone (though this was before the engagement, so our official status was still vague at this point). I took a picture of the partygoers, which I post here for your edification.

I'm not going to try to name everyone (because I'd probably get some of the names wrong, because I'm like that) but astute and sharp-eyed readers (and those who were at the party) will recognize my family, as well as Katrabbit, surrounded by a number of our family friends (and if you look closely, you can even spot the elusive Maggi, who generally avoids being photographed--I consider this a rare opportunity to document that she actually exists, and is not a vampire).

After that weekend, the week itself was a mixture of relaxing around Katrabbit's house (prompted somewhat by poor K.R. picking up some kind of plague, which thankfully I never caught myself, but which kept her out of commission for several days) and running around visiting with friends. We planned on heading out to Katrabbit's grandmother's house down in Pope County, but her illness prevented that from ever coming about; still, I got to see most of my close friends in the area, and even got to run a brief D&D game, which I had been missing terribly since my move. Friday night was a hoot, as Katrabbit and I were joined by my sister Bridget at a karaoke bar, where I got good and lubricated before regaling (well, maybe just galing) the crowd with renditions of "Werewolves of London" and "The Joker". Katrabbit did "I love Rock and Roll", and Bridget broke her karaoke cherry with the same song that broke mine: Joplin's "Take Another Piece Of My Heart". Other songs were performed as well, but by that point most of the evening was reduced to a blur; I had an excellent time, and I remember returning home to Katrabbit's place and listening to the B-52's "Love Shack", which we had planned on doing as a duet but had been prevented by the closing of the bar.

With Friday done, that weekend we headed first to my parents' house for a big family dinner (featuring my mother's exquisite corned beef, as well as her equally fantastic French silk pie) which happened to be the site for my proposal. I'll leave the story of the proposal itself untold, to preserve something of its mystery, but rest assured it was a moment I expect to remember. My family was wonderfully supportive, and accepted Katrabbit into their midst with warm welcomes, which I greatly appreciated. I bestowed upon my beloved Katrabbit the ring that I had had designed for her by a smith out in Berkeley, and while I unfortunately neglected to get any pictures of it, I can assure you that it's a sight to behold. Hopefully I'll have pictures to show you all before too long.

The next day, we got up early enough (though just barely) to make it to a service at the Unitarian Fellowship of Carbondale, where my godson Brenden Douglas Gallegly was having his dedication ceremony. I spoke a few words, as did my sister, and I took an opportunity during the service to announce my engagement to the gathering. I suspect that this will guarantee that the news will reach every corner of the town before too long, if it hasn't already.

After a farewell lunch, Katrabbit took me back to the airport in St. Louis that afternoon, where we had a tearful parting. I know it's a terrible cliche, but it is amazingly hard to leave the one you love behind to fly back to a place where you have few friends and little family; it's equally hard, or harder, to be the one left behind. But plans are in the works now that may, conceivably, eliminate that necessity; I don't want to get ahead of myself, but stay tuned for developments.

Unfortunately, I don't have any plans to return to my hometown again until my sister's wedding in October, but Katrabbit will be coming out to see me in early July, and there's always the possibility of an impromptu trip made at the last minute, should an opportunity arise. In the meantime, I'll console myself with the loveliness of the Bay Area and the knowledge that my Katrabbit will always be there when I need her, no matter the distance that separates us.

May you, dear readers, always know that there is someone there for you when you are in need. For now, I close, with the promise that I will be here to entertain you again, once something interesting happens. (And if nothing interesting happens, I'll make something up.) Until then, dear ones.

Not a Dream! Not a Hoax! Not an Imaginary Story!

(This post is a copy of the text of a mass e-mail that I recently sent out to everyone in my address book. If you didn't receive it, and you feel that you should have, please let me know, and I'll add your e-mail address to my address book. Further: I've just been informed that I included the wrong date in my original message; it should have read March 29, 2008, not May 29. Uh...oops.)

By this time, some of you will already have heard this news. Others may not have heard, but have had some inkling that news of this sort was on the way; still others will not have had any idea that this was in the works, and to them I suspect it will come as something of a shock. But, be that as it may, the facts stand, and are entirely true, to the best of my knowledge.

The story, in its most brief and proper form, is as follows:

On Saturday, March 29, 2008, I, Jason Michael Shepherd, 27, currently of Oakland, California, became engaged to Susan Katheryn Harrocks, 25, currently of Murphysboro, Illinois.

And there you have it.

Now, many of you--particularly those of you who haven't heard from me in some time--will probably find that this announcement raises a few pressing questions. For instance: who the hell is Susan Harrocks, and why is Jason planning to marry her? When is this theoretical "wedding" supposed to take place, and where? Who's going to pay for all this? Is Jason really getting married--I mean, REALLY? THAT Jason? REALLY???

First of all: yes, THIS Jason, yes, REALLY. Second: I realize that this may be, to put it mildly, unexpected. To be honest, I hadn't been planning on getting either engaged or married any time soon, or, at least, I didn't have any specific plans up until a few months ago. But sometimes things have a way of running off with you, I guess, and in this instance the "thing" is Susie (as she prefers to be called), and the "you" My heart, perhaps. That part of me which makes decisions that affect my future. That part of me which, for the first time in quite a while, knows what it wants in this world, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. Susie has that part, now. She is what I want, most of all things in this world. And the future I make now is no longer for myself, but for us, together.

I know there are still a great many questions I haven't answered (if, indeed, I've actually answered any) but those answers, I hope and expect, will come with time. In practical terms, this "wedding" I speak so abstractly of can't reasonably take place before I graduate, in August 2009, so it will therefore have to take place some time after. This gives us about a year and a half to plan, during which time most (if not all--or some, if not most) of the details will work themselves out somehow. Rest assured that details will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I expect that some of you may want to contact me, with questions or congratulations (or expressions of disbelief or accusations of madness--note that I carefully avoided sending this message out on April 1st, though I easily could have, and wouldn't that have been a grand joke?) and I welcome this, but I caution that I have relatively little time to spend on the phone lately (which is why I made this announcement in this manner, rather than trying to call everyone, and I hope that no one feels slighted in this regard--it was simply a practical necessity). As such, I'll do my best to respond to any calls or messages in a timely manner, but I unfortunately can't promise too much in that regard. The best (if somewhat impersonal) way to contact me remains simply to e-mail me, and as time wears on I'll do my best to call or visit anyone who lets me know they would like me to do so.

(On the other hand, if anyone cares to lavish me with extravagant gifts--such as a pony--please feel free to drop them off at my home in Oakland at any time of the day or night. We must be accommodating, now, mustn't we.)

Finally, I hope this news finds everyone well, and that my joy at making this announcement might be shared in some small part by those receiving it. The fact is that I would never have reached this point in my life without the contributions made by each and every one of you to my own continued well-being, and I owe you all a vast debt of gratitude that my thanks is entirely insufficient to repay. Indeed, though I may sadly never be able to pay back what I owe all those who have helped and guided me throughout my life up to this point, at the least I can offer as reassurance the knowledge that your kindness and love will be carried through into the relationship I am about to embark upon, and that it will live on in perpetuity through the love that I will share with my own budding family. Thank you all, so much. I am happier now than I have ever been before, and the future laid out before my eyes is one of incomparable beauty. Like the man said, that is all ye know on Earth, and all ye need to know.

I can live with that.

Take care, all of you, my dearest ones. There's a great deal to look forward to, and I can't wait to share it with everyone. You'll be hearing from me soon, as events develop.

Until then, I remain,


Jason Shepherd

(Click on the pictures below to see the whole image--for some reason they don't show up in their entirety in the thumbnails.)




Your Man About Town

So, to keep a promise that I made many, many months ago, I finally got off my duff (now that the weather is finally nice enough, and it's light out in the evenings) and took a brief tour around Berkeley, to photograph some of the major landmarks that define my current living environment. Well, some are landmarks; others are just funny things I thought I'd take pictures of. Which is which? You decide! (Actually, I'll probably just tell you. I know, I never let you have any fun at all. Suck it up.)

Let's start out with what is hands down the most important feature of Berkeley's many cultural and artistic offerings:

(Oh, come on, like you didn't see that one coming.) Yes, it's Comic Relief, Berkeley's #1 spot for graphical literature of all stripes, and (obviously) my favorite spot outside of my bedroom. Seriously, it's a great store by any measure, on par with Boston's Million Year Picnic.

Conveniently located just a doorway or two down from Comic Relief is one of Berkeley's other really cool features:

Yes, it's The Other Change of Hobbit, perhaps the world's most famous science-fiction bookstore (which is kind of like being the world's most talented gum-chewer, or something, but still). I don't spend nearly as much time in there as I ought, but with Comic Relief just two doors down, frankly it's hard for me to remember that there are other stores.

Now, moving from Shattuck Avenue eastwards to the picturesque campus of UC Berkeley, my workplace and, actually, kind of a cool place to be, as these following pictures will hopefully show.

Here we see the terrifying edifice of Berkeley's (massive, fearsome) Valley Life Sciences building. Pictures do not necessarily do justice to just how big and frightening this building is--it was the largest single-subject academic building in the US, until Harvard built a bigger one (screw you, East Coast). Note the bovine skulls adorning the tops of the columns. Can you imagine going into this building every day of your undergraduate career? Like entering some kind of ancient Temple of Anubis, going to have your soul judged for the afterlife. Brrr.

Speaking of hugeness, check out another of UC Berkeley's larger-than-life offerings:

It's Doe Memorial Library, a gigantic airplane hangar of a building that houses a fraction of UC Berkeley's literary holdings. But don't let the size of the building fool you--the collection itself is far, far larger (!). Where is the rest of it housed? In the unimaginably vast Main Stacks, which are located under the ground (beneath my feet as I stood to take this picture, in fact), and which occupy a space equivalent to about three football fields (!!). I hear they lose at least three freshman a year to the packs of starving wild dogs that roam those lightless halls.

Moving from big to tall, take a look here at a landmark that can be seen from just about anywhere in town:

Sather Tower, otherwise known as The Campanile. It's something like the third tallest free-standing belltower in the world (after the one in the Plaza San Marco in Venice, which I posted pictures of here on this very blog, once upon a time), with a 61-bell carillon that plays concerts three times a day. You can go up to the tower, but I haven't done it yet, mainly because I don't want to go by myself and each time I've had the chance to take someone, it hasn't happened for some reason. But I'll get up there, have no fear. Just look at it--how could you not want to go up there? Also, due to its incredibly sturdy construction, it's rumored to be the most earthquake-resistant building on campus. Wouldn't think it to look at it, would you?

On the steps leading to the Campanile, facing east, you get this lovely view:

What makes this view so nice? Well (since, you know, you asked) it's the fact that the view itself is a nationally protected landmark--it's illegal to build any structure that would obscure this particular sightline. I find that pretty damn cool. That water in the background is, of course, San Francisco Bay, and if you squint you can see the Golden Gate Bridge smack in the middle of it.


Like a phoenix from the ashes, the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library will rise again!

Enough fun stuff, let's take a look at where the work gets done--specifically my workplace, Boalt Hall. Well, technically I don't work in this building, exactly; I work in the North Addition, which addition, slightly to the North. Guess they ran out of interesting names after Campanile. Anyway, it's not a bad place to work, and this cool plaza-type area is right out front, so I don't complain. (Not where anyone can hear me, anyway.)

One more major landmark of campus: here we see Sproul Plaza, home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960's. In 1964 ten thousand protesters crammed themselves into this space to protest the arrest of more than seven hundred students who had occupied the campus administrative building (the largest mass arrest in California history). The second picture is a closeup of Sather Gate, which was once the southernmost edge of campus (obviously it has spread out a bit since then). Through the gate is Sather Bridge, which crosses Strawberry Creek, the lovely little creek that runs through most of campus.

Finally, we close with some shots of another notorious Berkeley spot:

Telegraph Avenue, where there are things. Many of them. Seriously, there's a lot of stuff on this street, including (on the weekends) the booths of local artists and vendors, as you can barely see here. Handmade jewelry and other pieces of art can be picked up for ridiculously low prices, and any number of noteworthy characters can be spotted roaming around (I could have posted a pic of the guy who always wears a pink tutu, but I thought that might be disrespectful).

The same street, facing the other direction.

And, to close, I'll leave you with this:

Yes, that's actually the name of the restaurant.

No, I haven't eaten there.

I honestly don't have the nerve.

Stay beautiful, dear ones.

Orange Ball of Love

I'm back, dear ones, to describe for you in vivid detail the week I spent enjoying the company of my beauteous Rabbit. And, as I am a generous Your Man, I will deign to share with you some small fraction of the Rabbit's storied beauteousness, through the reproduction of photographic images. Captivating!


She Of The Rabbitude arrived on Friday afternoon, February 22, after a harrowing flight that involved her being stuck overnight in Houston, Texas, after having missed her connecting flight, which necessitated a change in her arrival airport from Oakland to San Francisco. This meant that, instead of driving out to pick her up, I would have to take the BART down to the SFO stop to meet her and take her back to my car, then drive her home to rest after her journey while I returned to work. This was a significantly longer trip, which I didn't mind particularly, but when I arrived at the airport and called my Rabbit on her cell phone, she announced that her luggage had been lost--it had, apparently, remained on track to go to Oakland even when she had not. This was frustrating, but more frustrating was the fact that she and I just couldn't seem to meet up with one another in the airport, no matter how many landmarks we identified. Finally I waited at the BART station until she made it there--only to discover that there are multiple BART stations at SFO, so when she got to one, I wasn't there.


After a good bit of running about and rough triangulation, I finally managed to find the station she was at and sneak up behind her, indulging my penchant for startling people. That aside, it was a passionate reunion, and we gratefully boarded the train back to Berkeley with the plan of eventually putting the Rabbit to bed while I checked in at work to see if there was any point in me coming back in. Eventually we made the plan a reality, the Rabbit bedded down while I went back to work for a short hour of noodling about with Word documents. I came back home and introduced the Rabbit to my praiseworthy roommates, while I cooked her up a supper of omelets and hash browns. We ate well and took a brief nap so that we could get up at about 10 PM and head out to the Oakland Airport to retrieve her wayward luggage. This turned out to be a bit of an adventure, as the hourly parking was closed off when we arrived, requiring us to circle the airport a few times until an attendant could repair the faulty gate. Then, the office of the airline she had flown (I won't name any names, to protect the innocent, but it rhymes with "Shmontinental") was locked when we arrived, so although we could see her garish giant green suitcase through the window, we had to commandeer a worker from the check-in desk to unlock it for us. It was a bit late when we finally returned home with our prize, and we immediately fell into bed, hoping to sleep well enough that we could get up at a moderately reasonable hour the next day.


Saturday: contrary to our plans (though not unexpectedly), we didn't get out of bed in any kind of hurry the next morning, though we did eventually extract ourselves and set out to explore the downtown Berkeley Farmer's Market and the Telegraph street vendors. Unfortunately, the weather did not agree with our plan, as a major winter storm was blowing in up the coast and we found it both rainy and so windy that the tents at the Farmer's Market were actively blowing away as we walked by. Huddled shoulder to shoulder against the wet and the chill, we headed to College Avenue to get some food at a little Japanese place (the Rabbit being a voracious consumer of sushi, and our coastal locality very much exciting her for this reason) and do some shopping. As we drove back home towards the end of our venture, it actually hailed on us--a first for my time in California. We made it back safely and curled up on the couch with some hot chocolate to watch Daria, then retreated to my room to watch an episode of Heroes using the Rabbit's Netflix on Demand. We discussed our plans for the next day, then, as the hour grew later, the Rabbit suggested we find a bar to visit. My worthy roommates suggested checking out the Albatross, a fun pub which offered not only spirits but an endless supply of board games and other diversions. We headed out and hunted it down, and though it was crowded we squeezed ourselves in with a Scrabble board and enjoyed a footloose game (no scorekeeping, few rules), while I sampled my first-ever taste of Laphroaig (an interesting experience, and hard to describe effectively; I guess it was somewhat analogous to drinking a glass of fine whiskey mixed with mingled smoke, daydreams, and wood varnish). When we'd had enough of the social scene, we crawled back home and gratefully headed off to bed.


Sunday: We largely lazed about upon rising, eventually mustering up the energy to head out into the town to do some clothes- and grocery-shopping. I proudly showed off my usual grocery haunts (including the dreaded Trader Joe's) and we stopped by a thrift store to check out the wearable wares. Contrary to expectations, the Rabbit didn't buy anything, but I picked up a new pair of pants, bought under my new assignment of "wearing clothes that actually fit". I'm not sure how I feel about this development; I'm so used to only wearing clothes that drape upon me like the tents of the Greeks on the shores of Troy that putting something on which actually touches all sides of my legs at all times feels mightily unnatural. Also, because I still don't have any shirts that fit me that closely, wearing these pants makes me look kind of like a ruffled stork. But I digress.


After shopping we looked around for a good Mediterranean place to eat, as we were determined to hit up as many ethnicities of food in the area as we desired (with a few extra slots left open for sushi), and from there made our way to the theater to check out the much-hyped romantic drama Atonement. Reactions were mixed; the performances were mostly good and the story was interesting, but the style was overdone in places and ultimately what could have been effective subtlety was abandoned for heavy-handedness. Three stars, I guess, or something. Anyway, we discussed our reactions as we headed back home, cognizant of the fact that I had to get up the next morning and head off to work, leaving the Rabbit to her own devices for eight hours or so until I returned in the evening.


Monday: I slept poorly, being unaccustomed to sharing a bed (with a nubile and enticing young Rabbit, no less) and arose for work in the morning somewhat groggy and disoriented. I managed to make it to work just the same, and spent the day trying to keep my eyes open and accomplish something of worth, while I wondered what the Rabbit was getting up to in my absence. When work was over I returned home to find that she had discovered the Sweet Adeline Bakeshop, which lies only a few blocks from my house. She immediately became addicted to their passion fruit macaroons, and fortified by their deliciousness had made her way down Adeline Street, stopping in bookstores and antique shops, and generally familiarizing herself with the neighborhood. Once I came home, we turned around and went back out again fairly quickly, heading back to the theater, this time to watch Persepolis, a generally lovely if somewhat unsurprising film that offered a few moments of belly-laughing humor and genuine poignancy. Afterwards we removed ourselves to the Viceroy Indian restaurant, where the food was delicious, though oddly served without a base of rice, meaning that we were offered steaming vessels filled with meat and sauce and nothing to put it on. We enjoyed ourselves just the same, and came home stuffed to the gills. My night of poor sleep caught up with me as I stumbled into bed, this time sleeping deeply and untroubled (though my irregular breathing patterns suggested to the Rabbit that I was experiencing a nightmare, prompting her to wake me from what I remember as being a perfectly dreamless slumber).


Tuesday: My day at work was more manageable thanks to a night of decent rest, and while I was out the Rabbit headed into San Francisco to see the city for the first time (well, those parts of the city outside of BART subway tunnels, anyway). I headed her direction after work and we met up, and she suggested that we cruise to Chinatown to find a place to eat. Never having been there myself, I agreed, and after some trouble figuring out which bus to take (or rather, figuring out that a bus was in fact what we were supposed to take, and not some sort of train or giant saddle-bearing snail) we found ourselves in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown. What I hadn't realized before is that Chinatown goes to bed early on weeknights, and by the time we arrived there was nearly nothing open, and almost no one on the streets. The buildings there are closely packed, as they are in many parts of San Francisco, and in between the dilapidated, squarish apartments there are occasionally buildings done up in the more traditional Chinese style, with flared roofs and columns, standing out from the huddle of discolored brick far more effectively than the multitude of muted neon signs that drape every vertical surface.


As we hiked down one quiet street, looking for an open eatery, we caught the strains of a violin being played somewhere. The Rabbit stopped to answer her cell phone and I searched the area while she talked, looking for the source of the strings, and eventually found that it was being produced by a man sitting inside a closed beauty salon. He sat in an empty chair, slouched down with his feet up, drawing the bow with delicate, practiced strokes. It was a powerful moment, there on the dark, empty street, with the streetlights flickering and blinking above, and the notes of that violin floating into space like ragged scraps of paper ever borne aloft by the odorous breezes off the bay. It was a moment, I think, that will stay with me a while.


Eventually, we spotted an interesting restaurant that offered a second-floor balcony where patrons could sit outside and eat overlooking the street. This was the Chinatown Restaurant, and as we approached we were hustled inside by a woman who seemed part waitress and part carnival huckster, pulling in customers off of the street as though soliciting them for something unsavory. The establishment itself was pleasantly seedy, obviously trying hard to be a polished tourist trap but with a fading coat of paint that could barely hide the sagging walls. The balcony we sought was narrow and somewhat precarious, and our waitress sat us down and promptly forgot about us to go work the streets again. I spotted her some moments later, waving up to us from the sidewalk and hurrying back to the restaurant, shouting up "I'm sorry! I forgot!" as she hustled. Eventually we got menus and decided to content ourselves with dim sum and appetizers, which were a bit overpriced and somewhat greasy but generally very satisfying. Also, it was the only Chinese place I've ever eaten at where you not only got a complimentary fortune cookie at the end of the meal, but also a complimentary dish of cheap pistachio ice cream. I happen to love pistachio ice cream, and I ate mine and whatever the Rabbit didn't want of hers. Afterwards we wandered back out into the city, not entirely sure that we could make it back to where we wanted to be, but before long I recognized a particular street corner and was able to navigate back to a BART station.


That night was a hard one, as the Rabbit was struck by one of her crippling headaches and was up most of the night, and though I slept I was worried for her.


Wednesday: I left in the morning encouraging the Rabbit to rest and recover, but by the time I had returned from work she was still not free from pain. We had plans to attend the weekly poetry slam at the Starry Plough pub, also only a short distance from my home, and as I made supper we debated whether or not she was well enough to make the trip. After much back and forth, we eventually agreed that she would try, and we headed down to the pub. Happily, once we were there, the pain subsided and we were able to enjoy an evening of highly pretentious poetry (hey, it's Berkeley, what do you want) and my new favorite beer: the delicious, lighthearted brew called Fat Tire. We left before the competition had concluded, but it was a pleasant evening in itself, and the Rabbit and I walked home in the balmy night, talking of our plans, for the coming nights, and for the farther future.


Thursday: This was a day of much socializing. A friend of the Rabbit's, who lives in (relatively) nearby San Jose, came by in the morning to visit with her, and we all met up for lunch at the upscale pub and restaurant Jupiter, where we exchanged stories of living in the Bay Area and enjoyed one of Jupiter's creatively-named pizzas, and I had a glass of another new favorite brew, Jupiter's hefeweizen. Only slightly addled by beer, I headed back to work, and finalized plans via e-mail to meet that evening with Carol and Guy, the gracious hosts who had housed me when I first arrived in the Bay Area, and who took such loving care of me when I was desperately searching for a place to live. Ever since I moved out, I've owed them a fancy dinner as a meager attempt at repaying their kindness, but they had managed to contract any number of health problems in the meantime and had been unable to take me up on my offer. However, the promise of meeting the Rabbit lured them in, and I enticed them to Venezia, a fine Italian establishment on University Avenue. We ate and talked for hours, until the restaurant closed and we had to abandon our table. After we parted ways, the Rabbit (who can be a bit inhibited around strangers) commented on how at ease she had felt meeting the couple, and how pleasant their company had been--"When you and I get to be their age," she suggested, "let's make sure we're that cool."


Friday: This was the night of the first of the two Mountain Goats shows I had obtained tickets to--this one at the Bimbo's 365 Club. The Rabbit and I had plotted out our method for getting to the club, via BART and bus, but our well-laid plans were foiled when the bus we had selected as our chariot declined to show up at the designated stop at the designated time. I was getting a shade frantic, as the show started at 8 PM and I had intended on getting there as soon as the doors opened at 7 PM to ensure a good seat, and as the hour crept on towards 9 PM we debated the value of walking there to catch what we could. Eventually we decided to make the effort, and though the weather was cold, the walk was not unpleasant, as it lead us through an extremely interesting part of the city, full of noteworthy restaurants and steamy nightspots. After a surprisingly short trek, we found the club, and as we entered the doors it occurred to me that I had been worried for nothing--there were two opening acts scheduled, and the first one of these was just closing down. The second was Jeffrey Lewis, not an untalented performer but with little stage presence. The Rabbit and I mostly yawned through his set, chuckling occasionally at the hand-illustrated flipbooks that sometimes accompanied his songs, but, as the Rabbit noted, "All his songs pretty much sound the same."


When Lewis cleared out and the Goats prepared to take the stage, it was a different story, however. The Rabbit opted to stay at the table and watch our stuff, but I crammed myself into the crowd surrounding the stage, hoping desperately to make my way up to the front, where I might stand a chance at making contact with the man himself. I never did make it all the way to the front, but I found a few little spaces where I could sometimes see (what the hell is up with everyone in California being so tall, anyway?) and whenever they played something I knew (it's worth noting that I have probably somewhere between 50-100 Mountain Goats songs of various vintages on my iPod, and they only played maybe six-eight songs that I knew during the entire set) I screamed along. Darnielle, a consummate showman, belted the numbers out, wildly strumming his guitar while dancing around the stage, grimacing and smiling, and moving away from the microphone to sing directly to the audience, who dutifully sang with him. He paused in between songs now and then to give background or tell little stories, including a hilarious treatise on why it is not a good idea to go retrieve an album from someone you've just broken up with, especially when you could simply get the music for free off of the internet "like everyone else does".


When the show ended I was jazzed and flushed, and the Rabbit announced that she had liked them a great deal, so I felt fully vindicated in dragging her along. We walked back to the BART station, only to find that the last train had left some time ago, and our only option for getting home besides swimming across the bay was to catch a trans-bay bus, which would be leaving momentarily--and which, in the manner of buses, accepted only exact change, of which I was somewhat lacking. Thus ensued a furious race to change out all of my small bills until I had gathered up exactly $7 in coins, which I dutifully inserted into the proper slot once the bus arrived. The driver seemed somewhat surprised--"You've actually got $7 worth of change in there?"--which surprised me in turn, as how else would one be expected to pay for one's passage across the bay at this time of night? As usual, I suspect that everyone else knows something which I for some reason was never told, lending further credence to my theory that the human race doesn't really like me all that much, and just tolerates me for the moment because it has other things to worry about, but will eventually get around to booting me off the planet when it has five free minutes. Maybe it's just me, though.


Saturday: We gratefully slept in, though I didn't reap as much benefit from this as one would expect, and spent the day feeling a bit groggy and out of sorts. Our lethargy prompted us to scrap most of the elaborate plans I had formed for the day's outing, and after a perfunctory trip downtown (which was not so perfunctory as to not include a meal of fine--though not spectacular--sushi), we returned home to relax and veg out watching Nausicaa. I'd planned on taking the Rabbit to watch the sun go down near the Campanile, but we simply couldn't be fussed (as the Rabbit would say) to move from our comfortable spot until the movie had ended. Afterwards, we headed to Kirala for some truly superior sushi. Unfortunately, the popularity of Kirala meant that there was a significant wait, made much more significant by the fact that I missed hearing our names called, and the maitre d' assumed we had left. Eventually we secured a seat, and the Rabbit enjoyed the finely-crafted nigiri while I sampled the more plebian fare of the robata grill.


Not wishing to repeat the mistakes of the previous evening, this time we decided to head out for the night's Mountain Goats show (this one hosted at the Independent by car, bravely trusting me to navigate the San Francisco city streets, and to leave much later, as we had no particular interest in the opening acts. Despite our late departure, and the rather predictable trouble we had finding a place to park, we still managed to make it in long before the second opener act had finished. Unlike Bimbo's, the Independent was not a club but more of a warehouse, where everyone stood elbow-to-elbow. At least this time I had the Rabbit by my side when the Goats took the stage, and we bobbed and swayed (not enough room for dancing) as they worked their way through a set that was, thankfully, slightly varied from the previous night's, and included a great many more songs I knew. The banter this evening was even more entertaining, as one member of the crowd persisted in bellowing out requests and comments throughout the night, prompting John to announce, "If anyone's hiring for the position of 'guy that shouts stuff out during a concert', I recommend this man--I'll write him a letter of recommendation." Unfortunately, the Rabbit's experience was less positive than the previous evening's, as John made several drug references that didn't sit so well with her, but though this was a bit awkward I still enjoyed myself thoroughly and was delighted when the band finally gave in and played the fan-favorite tune No Children during one of the encores. (However, both nights it was made painfully clear that there would not be--that there would, in fact, never be--any playing of Golden Boy, which disappointed everyone.)


Exhausted by the night and the long week preceding it, we headed to bed
for our last night together--a somewhat bittersweet pleasure to be sure.


Sunday: We arose the next morning, not sure how to handle ourselves. Again, I had numerous plans, but somehow running about wildly seemed not only overly tiring but inappropriate, as we wished to enjoy every moment we could with one another, rather than expending our attentions on other things. However, this didn't stop us from heading out to do a little grocery shopping, and stopping in on a rather forbidding psychic fair held at the Berkeley Psychic Kindergarten (no, I swear I'm not making that up). It wasn't much of a fair, but we agreed to have a free aura healing, which mostly consisted of someone walking around you waving their hands (again--not making this up; Berkeley, remember?). My skepticism must have been palpable (perhaps they were a bit psychic after all) because when my aura healing was finished they asked me to wait outside while they finished the Rabbit's. I was a tad miffed at this, but largely this was just because I disliked the idea of being separated from the Rabbit when we were facing a more significant separation in just a few hours.


The fair behind us, we headed to a little Chinese spot called the Mayflower where we picked up some tasty and cheap (if a bit greasy) dim sum which turned out to be more than we could eat in a sitting, so we took home leftovers and munched on them as we watched several episodes of one of the Rabbit's favorite shows, Firefly, which I am rapidly become somewhat fond of, if simply because of the association with my beloved Rabbit. Each episode brought us a bit closer to parting, and though we lamented it there was no getting around it, and eventually there was nothing left to do but pack her up and drive her reluctantly to the airport. We kissed goodbye (for a good several minutes, no doubt to the disgust of the other passengers) and I watched the Rabbit walk down the security corridor towards the gates. To her credit, she only turned and looked back once.


Then she was gone. I drove back, stopping only at an In-N-Out Burger (beware, that's a mighty obnoxious website they've got), a chain I've never had the opportunity to sample before, to buy myself some comfort food. I ate until my stomach hurt, then went to bed, knowing I would have to get up the next morning (hurting stomach and all) and get on with my business. And that's exactly what I did.


In the few days since the Rabbit has been gone, I haven't had much time to sit and think, due to a paper I desperately need to finish for my class this weekend--and maybe that's a mercy. When you care this much about someone, and you have to accept that you simply can't see each other as often as you'd like, there's not much benefit to being able to think about it. Accepting it, and looking forward to a future where that's no longer the circumstance, is about the best you can manage. I may be something of a fool, but I like to think I'm not stupid; I know this world isn't in the business of handing out happy endings to everyone who wants one. Things worth having must be fought for. I don't act much like a grownup most of the time, but I guess there's no denying that I am one, now. I see a future in front of me and I'm going to head towards it, and if that means going the whole way uphill, against the current, then I guess that's the way I'm going to go. It can be done--I believe it. If it can be done, then I can do it. If I can do, then I will. And whatever happens to me, whether I get to where I want to be or not, can stand as something of an object lesson for anyone else who thinks they know what to do to get to where they want to be, but isn't sure if they can make it that far. Because if I can do it, it stands to reason you can, too.


So, vague philosophizing aside, let's get to the good stuff: I promised you pictures of the radiant Rabbit, and I am a man who (occasionally) delivers. Check it, yo:



The Rabbit, caught from the side.



The Rabbit and myself, improperly estimating when the timer on my camera was about to go off. It's a cute picture anyway, so I'm keeping it. D'aawwwwww!



Not quite centered in the frame, but good enough. See those people? Those are two happy people. That is what two happy people look like.


Here's hoping that a little bit of that happiness finds its way into your lives, dearest readers. This has been a long, exhaustive entry, so kudos to any brave soul that actually made it this far down. When shall I post again? Hard to say--but I'll be returning to southern Illinois at the end of March, to visit with family and spend more time with the Rabbit, so there will no doubt be further lusty tales to tell at that time, and perhaps something interesting might actually occur between then and now. We shall see!


Orange balls of love for each and every one of you. Be kind to yourselves and one another. This is Your Man Out West, signing off for now.

My Life In Art

Another absence of nearly a month since the last post, but this time I have the excuse that my life has dissolved into a fetid cesspool of misery and despair, from which I have been unable to extract myself long enough to put down a single word.

Oh, wait, that's not true. My life has been going great. I just haven't felt much like posting, that's all. So I'm a big jerk, basically. But I'm a jerk with a great life, so I can't complain.

How great has it been? Well, I've been blessed by the entry of a beautiful Rabbit into my world (trust me, it makes sense to us, just not anybody else) who has brought me no small share of joy. I've had a clear future in mind for myself for the past several years, and it's one I've been looking forward to, but all of a sudden a significant and unexpected element has been added to this future, which now has a certain clarity and buoyancy that it had lacked before.

On the spur of the moment, in response to a clear cry of need, I decided to fly back to southern Illinois the other day, and not only got to spend about 48 hours with my Rabbit (the first time we've had that opportunity, and it was glorious) but also got to see my family and take them entirely by surprise (sorry to everyone in the area whom I didn't get the chance to see; it wasn't exactly a trip that was planned far in advance, and as it was only about 48 hours long all told, there was a limit to how much visiting I could do). I got to meet my Rabbit's family, and they got to meet mine, and everyone seemed quite taken with one another. But perhaps the most meaningful exchange that took place was the exchanging of gifts between me and Rabbit. My Rabbit has given me a feather, that I might know my way home, and I have given her my horns, that she might hold all that is best in me. Cryptic, I know, but that's what happened. If you've ever really been in love, and loved with your entire heart and mind and soul, with every atom of your body, with every fiber of your being, you know what I'm talking about. If not, well, I hope you do someday. It is, to coin a phrase, nice.

So that's awesome. In addition, my job continues to pay well and not drive me absolutely crazy, which is of course lovely. My new computer seems to work like a charm, and my financial well-being has provided me with the means to surround myself just a little bit more with objects that please me, to the point that I have far more entertainment on hand than I have free time to enjoy it (which is probably one of the signs that the Roman Empire is about to collapse, and take me with it, but for the nonce it's kind of nice to never be bored, no matter how lazy I am of a Sunday afternoon).

Furthermore, I received the wonderful news today that I had been accepted to take a trainee position at the Pacific Center in Berkeley, which I mentioned a couple posts ago. This was my first choice of agencies to use for my practicum, so I'm overjoyed to know that I got the position so (relatively) quickly and easily. I went to an open house and had an interview there, but I honestly wasn't expected to get word back from them for the next several weeks. I must have made a good impression on them, and I'm delighted to have done so. Now I can stop worrying about the entire issue until my training begins in August, after which I'll be besieged with extra work--but it will be the kind of work that I have deliberately shaped my life to allow me to do, so I'm looking forward to it. It will be a big change for me, but--as I predicted at the very beginning of the year--2008 seems to be the year for big changes. This particularly change will, perhaps more so than anything else up to this point, set me firmly on the path towards the kind of career that I feel I am best suited for. If it can be said that each person has a certain work that they are intended to do on this world, I can't help but feel that this is mine. When the day comes that I am actually able to sit down with someone in a room and, through my direct intervention, improve their life, that will be the day that my birth and everything that has taken place subsequent to it will be entirely justified. I yearn towards that day with a desire that is almost painful. It sounds terribly self-aggrandizing to say it, I know, but (aside from being with my Rabbit) all I want in this world is to improve people's lives, and I'm arrogant enough to believe that I am fully capable of doing so. All I need is the proper training to know how to do so most effectively, and the opportunity to put that knowledge to use.

Not long now, I think. Not long at all.

When shall I post again next? Hard to say. In a little more than a week my Rabbit will be hopping up to California to visit me, and I imagine I'll be fairly distracted for the week that she's with me. At the end of that visit she'll be accompanying me to the Mountain Goats shows that I had boasted of before, so I'll no doubt be dropping by the old 'blog to post my reviews of those. Watch for them. Should anything else happen worth noting in the meantime, rest assured that I will discharge my duty and note it here, for your perusal.

Once February is played out, March will see me returning to southern Illinois once again (this time with malice aforethought) to visit my family, my Rabbit and others for a week after Easter. Those among you who may be hoping for a visit from me, please mark the week of March 21-30 on your calendars, and get in contact with me to make arrangements. The rest of you, I hope your spring is bounteous and fertile, and your baskets ever filled with chocolate and brightly colored eggs.

(For those of you--if you actually exist--wondering about my further musical experiments, I've had little time to make progress on them lately, but with the close of the practicum application issue, I expect to be a little more free in the near future, so some movement may be observed. I'll be sure to alert my loyal public here on the Intertube should anything of value develop.)

May my good fortune be shared with all of you, my dearest readers. It won't be long, I'm sure, until I get what I actually deserve, but until that terrible day comes I fully intend to enjoy the fruits of my unearned victories. If everyone could be as lucky as I am, there would be no need for any language on Earth to contain any words except the sounds of laughter. Or so I like to imagine it, anyway.

Till next time, o distant ones.

A Little Piece Of My Heart

The experiments with music recording I mentioned last time have borne some fruit: I managed to post my song on YouTube (under the moniker freeman333tube, which amuses me), and shall post it here for your listening pleasure (and I do use the term "pleasure" loosely in this instance).

Enjoy, if you can. While I'm at it, I think I'll post the lyrics and chords, just in case anyone's curious.

Not Afraid Of The Dark

New Year's Eve

You let me go

I flew back towards a warmer place

G Em D
As the sky grew dark but refused to snow

I call you up

You write me down

Pools of light like streetlamps

G Em D
On a very dark street in a very small town

I'll shut my eyes and smile

You'll wear a paper crown

And true words will cut through the phone lines

G Em A
Like your mother's voice when they shut your power down

It gets so dark here at night

Em G
Neither one of us can see, but

I know you're not afraid

And that's light enough for me.
D A Em G Em D

My arms are strong by empty

Your lips are soft but cold

We'll build a fire in the shadows

G Em D
Too hot to touch, too brittle to hold

And when we've made a hole

And climbed into the sky

We'll hold each others hands and dream

G Em A
That we don't wake up when we open up our eyes

It gets so dark here at night

Em G
Neither one of us can see, but

I know you're not afraid

And that's light enough for me.

D A Em G Em D

It might be a thousand miles, I don't care

It could be a million miles, I wouldn't care

D A Em G
As long as I can feel you moving, I know you're still there

And you know I'm not going anywhere.

D A Em G Em D

Copyright and TM freeman333 productions, ltd., etc. etc.

Not the first song I've written, but probably my best. Certainly the first I've put up for mass consumption. I'd like to say "let me know what you think", but frankly I'm a little scared to find out, so you can keep it to yourself if you want. Just let me bask in my illusions of songwritership.

Though this could have turned out better, I think it actually came out pretty well, considering the limited tools I had to work with, so if I come up with something else along these lines I'll post it as well (unless people ask me really, really nicely not to).

Peace out, music lovers.

A New Year, With New Life, and New Civilizations

Another month, another blog update. Any number of excuses this time, foremost among them being that my old computer, with which I had experiences so many troubles, finally gave up the ghost and became unworkable. I probably could have futzed about and figured out what exactly the problem was and fixed it, but several people told me that once something major goes wrong on a computer like that, it's generally just a matter of time until it breaks down altogether. That, and the fact that I really needed a computer to work on for my class-related activities, motivated me to go out and pick up a whole new unit, from which I make this very post.

Compared to my old machine (lovingly constructed out of parts bought off of the internet by a friend of mine, for an extremely reasonable price) this new one is a real monster, though by most other standards it's pretty basic. But it runs, and runs well, and I'm very happy with it.

So, what of note has occurred since my last update? The main event, of course, has been going home to southern Illinois for the Christmas holidays, which was lovely. It was the longest opportunity to be home I've yet had since I moved out here, and I got to spend plenty of time with my family and friends (though I still ran out of time to see everyone, so my apologies to those I sadly neglected). Needless to say I gave and received many lovely gifts, ranging from the usual trove of comic books (they know me so well!) to unexpected windfalls like new luggage and a new dock for my iPod. Ah, to be materially wealthy is a grand thing, and to be wealthy in friends and loved ones is even better.

Unfortunately, despite all this joy, I managed to forget my camera, so I'm without any new photos to upload from the festivities. Suffice to say I looked great, and so did everyone else. Take my word for it.

Since returning I've been extremely busy, as I've begun my Psychopathology and Treatment class, the most reading-intensive class in our curriculum. I've been familiarizing myself with the dreaded DSM IV, as well as several other diagnostic manuals, which are filled with lovely depictions of disorders and symptoms. Like all beginning psych students, I immediately diagnosed myself and everyone I know with whatever came to mind, so if you're in my circle of immediate friends, congratulations--you're now officially sicker than you know.

Besides that, I've been putting together application packets for possible trainee agencies, which is how I'll earn my practicum hours to put towards my eventual Marriage and Family Therapist licensure . It's still a long way off, but I'm working my way towards it, step by step...

I've been working on a little experiment for this here blogosphere, but thus far I have been disappointed. My idea was to record myself playing my guitar with my new (scavenged) webcam, and thus put myself up on a public (albeit fairly obscure) forum. But I discovered two things while trying to put this theory into practice: A) a webcam in a bedroom does not a recording studio make, and B) even if you're willing to ignore the terrible recording quality (and, having fairly low standards, I very much am), a video recording with sound makes for a humongous file size, far to large to effectively upload onto a site like this. So I'm looking into possible other formats--perhaps I'll figure out a way to record the sound without the video component, which should be significantly more manageable. Or I might put the video up on some public access video hosting site like YouTube (while I'm not overly proud of my performing skills, at least I won't be much worse than the majority of material that ends up there) and link to it. One way or the other, I'll figure something out (or, alternatively, get bored and give up--only time will tell).

One possible future item of interest (to me, anyway): I procured tickets to see one my favorite bands of all time, The Mountain Goats , performing in San Francisco for the Noise Pop '08 festival. Another favorite of mine, The Magnetic Fields, will also be performing at the festival, but unfortunately by the time I found out about it, their shows were already sold out. Still, the chance to see the Mountain Goats performing live is something I've been waiting a long time for, and I'm giddy with glee at the prospect. The shows I've got tickets for will be on February 29th (Leap Year Day!) and March 1st, so stay tuned for my (no doubt extremely positive, and likely mostly incoherent) reviews.

I look forward to 2008 being a year of new experiences, from live concerts to actual clinical work in my chosen field to long-distance relationships. If the beginning is any indication, I expect '08 to be a really, really weird year.

Time will tell.

Hope it's a great year for you all, dear readers.

Walkin' With A Ghost

More than a month without an update this time--mostly this is due to my general suckiness, but I also have the excuse that a nasty intertube virus had crippled my computer and shut down my ability to access the internet, among other things. I had to reformat my hard drive, install a new OS and reinsert all my data (a process which still isn't finished) to get it running again. For the moment, it seems to be on the mend, and I'm hoping that, with the help my more tech-savvy friends, I'll be able to fix up this machine until it's running above par, for once. We'll see.

Looking at my last post, I see that I've never taken the opportunity to mention that I now have a new job. I was offered a position at the Advanced Degree Program at UC Berkeley. It's a great job--better pay, better hours, and less demanding work, than my previous job. Getting it has been an enormous blessing, in that it gives me more financial security, more reliable free time, and the opportunity to finally become familiar with the UC Berkeley community, which I had been fascinated by but which I had never really gotten to know. Plus, it's a familiar sort of work for me, being highly reminiscent of the work I did back at the SIU Student Health Center. In many ways, it's kind of like coming home again.

As I predicted, I wasn't able to go home for Thanksgiving, as one of the downsides of my new job is that I haven't yet earned enough vacation time to be taking significant swaths of time off. Despite this, I had a great holiday, since a close friend of mine was able to come and visit me here, and we spent the long holiday weekend running from restaurant to restaurant and theater to theater, eating a wide variety of foods and seeing a number of movies. I highly recommend No Country For Old Men to anyone who likes watching movies about things happening (particularly if the things they like to watch happening include people getting shot). We saw a number of other films, including American Gangster, which was pretty good, and I'm Not There, which was not (though it did feature a really fantastic soundtrack, which I am now very covetous of). Although I missed having dinner with my family, I have to say that my first Thanksgiving away from home was not in any way disappointing. That said, I'm still glad that I'll be getting about ten days to spend back home over Christmas. California is undeniably lovely, in many ways, but it can't replace genuine face-time with my friends and family.

I post now to mention that I had the opportunity to see my first live concert here in the bay area: a performance at Zellerbach Auditorium by Tegan and Sara, a highly excellent grrl post-post-punk (I think that's the proper heading) band of which I am extremely fond. It was an odd setting for a concert of that kind; being an auditorium rather than a concert hall or stadium, there was no place to dance, and we weren't allowed to stand in the aisles, so most of us stood up in front of our seats and gyrated as best the limited space would allow. It was a fantastic concert, just the same--Tegan and Sara are both consummate artists, musically and personally, and not only was their performance first-rate but their stage presence and interaction with the crowd was invigorating and enjoyable.

At one point they asked the crowd to stand up, face the back of the auditorium, and clap over our heads in time with the song--we waited for an explanation of why this had been requested, but all they said was, "That looked really cool from up here." They told long, rambling stories about their first live performance and their childhood memories, sometimes getting flustered in the middle and having to start again. They joked and chatted with people in the audience between songs, complimenting the fashion sense of the people in the first row, and even accepting gifts that someone tossed onto the stage. Because of the close space and the relatively small size of the venue, it was much more intimate that your typical concert; more like being at a party with friends. (In my case, these were several hundred friends that I studiously avoided talking to, but whatever.)

The thing that really made the experience special for me, though, was that I was almost disappointed by their refusal to play any of my favorite songs. They played plenty of songs I don't know--probably from their latest albums, which I haven't heard--and a few I did, but not the ones I had really come to hear. When they announced that the next song was going to be the last, I was downhearted, but I was still glad I had gone, if for no other reason than because it's rare in my life I get to be outnumbered by that many lesbians (seriously, not to sound insensitive but there were more pairs of girls making out in that auditorium than in most Late Night Cinemax skinflicks). When the song was done they left the stage, and the crowd clapped and hooted for several minutes, hoping for an encore.

When they came back out onto the stage, I noticed plenty of people running from their seats down the aisle towards the stage. Throughout the evening, the ushers had been ordering people in the aisles to sit back down, but I figured, if this was the last song of the evening, what could they do? So I joined the rush and pressed in close to the stage. This song was, again, one I didn't know, but I enjoyed my proximity and danced along with the handful of people that were pressed up against one another between the rows of seats. When the song ended, the ushers came to take everyone back to their seats, and I realized that this encore wasn't going to be one song, but several. I prepared to go back to my seat, but I must have been standing far enough to the side that they didn't notice me, because I was allowed to stay where I was--only a few rows away from the stage.

The next song they struck up was "Living Room", one of my favorites, and I hooted and clapped and danced in place like a fool, overjoyed that I finally got to hear the songs I wanted to hear, and this time from only a few yards away from the players themselves. Then they launched into their real last song--probably their most popular number, "Walking With A Ghost", and also one of my favorites. I had been surprised before that they would have gone the entire evening without playing it, but sure enough, they closed out the night with it, and I got to jump and flail in my usual manner, right up near the stage, as they drove the tune home.

It's worth noting that this concert was the last stop on their North American tour; after this, they'll be headed to Europe. So it was a singular evening, for me and for them, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I like to think that this is the start of a whole new trend: finally, I'll be taking advantage of all the events that living so close to San Francisco, in such a vital part of the country, will make available to me. (For starters, I went to see Blade Runner: The Final Cut in a theater in San Fran last night, and as it happens that movie is only being released in a select few theaters around the US, so I'm a member of a fairly select group in that regard.)

I look forward to, at last, plucking the delicate fruits of music, culture and entertainment that hang so lush and heavy and plentiful from the burdened boughs of the Bay Area orchard. (I also look forward to belaboring more painful metaphors, but to be honest I'd be doing that no matter where I lived.)

(Also: While we're talking about music, I should point out that I've added a fancy-schmancy widget to my Livejournal Profile, and have created my own station on the Music Genome Project called "Big Fat Stupid Bag of Love". Both of these represent stations that are specifically mapped around my particular musical tastes, and play music that is either by or resembles music by my favorite artists, particularly the Mountain Goats, the Weakerthans, the Decemberists, Bob Dylan, the Doors, the Beatles, Beck, Soul Coughing, the Flaming Lips, and many, many others. Check them out for a sampling of what sorts of tunes make my world go 'round.)

(Also Also: as you may have noticed, I've recently discovered how to embed links within text using HTML formatting, I fully intend to abuse this newfound ability to a truly ridiculous extent.)

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Whoa, it's been a month since I last updated. A great deal has happened since then--most of it in the last week, though. The rest of the time I've been doing very, very little.

First of all, I took a second trip to St. Louis with my boss, but this time there was an added bonus: not only did I get to see my family again, but I actually got to take a day off to go back to my home town and spend my birthday with my friends and family. It was my first time seeing my home (and many of my friends) in two months, so it was a happy time, even though it was terribly short and extremely frantic, with lots of people to see and lots of birthday food to eat. I also stopped by a Halloween party where I got to see my lovely sister singing her famous cabaret tunes. Here are a few pics I snapped (Dear Lord! A new post with new pictures? The apocalypse approaches!) of the festivities.

Here I am with my lovely birthday cake, prepared by my always-talented mother. I'm fond of having unusual cakes or treats for my birthday, preferring to avoid the typical, predictable routes, and this time I suggested that she blend together different kinds of icing to create an unusal flavor. As we had chocolate cake, cherry icing, and plenty of heavy whipping cream, she decided to make a kind of erstatz black forest cake, which turned out to be exceptionally delicious. My ingenious suggestions + my mother's culinary skill = never disappointing.

Here's a group shot of myself and my family. Back row, left to right: Myself, my friend Jennifer, my sister's boyfriend (and now fiance! Glee!) Seth, my father Gary, and my brother Tim. Front row, left to right: My mother Joyce, Jennifer's daughter Kierra, my sister Diana (still nursing that broken leg I mentioned last time, and as such joining my mother in the Wheelchair Brigade), and my sister Bridget.

...As much as I'd like to offer this one up without comment, and let it speak for itself, the story behind it is actually relatively mundane. I was looking for a Halloween costume to wear to the party that night, and possibly to bring back to California with me (at this point, I was still planning to attend the festivities at the Castro district in San Francisco on Halloween--but those who follow the public news media will likely be aware that these traditional festivities were cancelled by mandate of the police, who, Grinchlike, decided to move on from ruining Christmas to ruin all the other holidays as well). I didn't want something that would cover my face, as A) that would be far too warm for an indoor party; B) I would have to lift it up to eat or drink, and C) I wanted people to be able to see who I was. Fortunately, I discoverd several perfect accessories: the headdress and tail to a poodle/Pink Panther costume that my little sister had purchased but never actually worn. The pink, fluffy bodysuit was far too small for me (sadly), but the headdress and tail fit just fine, so I slapped it on and rolled with it. (My father later commented that, when he first saw me in it, his first thought was, "My God, this is one scary-looking man.")

The party itself was a great deal of fun with me. I got to reconnect with some old friends I hadn't seen in a long while, and danced to an accoustic guitar/mandolin version of Time Warp (no joke). The highlight, of course, was hearing my sister sing. She's the lead singer of the Cabaret Decadance, a local cabaret outfit that grew out of the minds of this particular party's hosts, Claire and John McCall. My sister has no small talent as a signer, and also serves the company as a dancer, along with a number of other talented and lovely young ladies. Above we see my sister (on the left, in her costume as a Freudian Slip) and Claire (on the right, in the wings) belting out one of their filthy ballads. Incidentally, they've recently put their music down onto CD, and said CD should become available for public consumption before too much longer. Stay posted for details.

When my visit was done, it was time to get back to work, and I headed back to St. Louis for a series of near-sleepless nights and harried days as my boss and I struggled to get through the next stage of our business with the University of Missouri-St. Louis. On Wednesday, Halloween, I hopped onto the plane back west and landed in Oakland at about 6:30 or so, local time. I just had time to head back to my house and get changed--realizing I had left my adorable pink headdress and tail back home, I had to fall back on my default costume.

I'm a sucker for 1920's era clothes, especially gangster-style double-breasted suits and fedoras, so this pinstripe suit and hat have been a favorite outfit of mine for some time. I put it on whenever I need to look fancy and don't know what else to wear, and this seemed like a fine opportunity.

On my left here is my enchanting roommate Caley, who is already a bit taller than me, and is wearing massive boots that put her about a head above me (even with the hat on). As my other roommate Devon pointed out, there's something primal in the reaction a male has to a female being that much larger than him. Personally, I don't care how tall you are; anyone wearing those boots and those horns could probably kick my ass, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

My initial plan had been to hang out with my roommates, and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters until it got too late for the kiddies. With our hopes for the Castro dashed, I started looking up various local events that might be of interest to us, while my roommates made a last-minute candy run to make sure we were well supplied. To my shock (though perhaps not surprise, exactly, given how my roommates typically eat) they returned with roughly ten bags of fun-sized candy bars--when I asked why so much, they said, "We wanted to be sure we wouldn't run out." "When?" I responded. "When the sky falls and we have to spend 30 years in a fallout shelter?" "Something like that, yeah."

As it turned out, we only got about two trick-or-treaters the whole night (despite this being a residential neighborhood), so guess where all this surplus candy is going? That's right; if I had dental insurance right now, my dentist would be rubbing their hands together and cackling like Vincent Price.

I found a few events taking place not too far away that seemed interesting to me (particularly a Transvestite Festival showing Hedwig and the Angy Inch and Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a Superhero Ball at a club in San Francisco), but my roommates ended up nixing that idea by being too tired to make a long trip anywhere. I was disappionted, but I had to agree; after my flight back, and a week of little sleep, I wasn't up for much excitement myself. Instead, we went out to Telegraph Avenue in search of a house party to crash, and though we didn't find any (what the hell, Berkeley? I thought you were cool) we did cruise around Telegraph Ave. for a while, admiring the costumes on many of the other residents who seemed to be engaged in the same fruitless search we were. I had my camera, and thought at taking pictures, but I feared my unauthorized paparazzi routine might get me beaten up. Highlights included the man in the chicken suit, the garden gnome, the Santa/Milk/Cookie trio, and Future Warrior woman in a skintight silver jumpsuit (shiny!).

After our cruise was done, we returned home and I went to bed fairly early, which made for an uneventful Halloween but a dearly needed rest. What can I say, sometimes the party/sleep ratio needs to be balanced out a bit.

Since then, things have remained relatively interesting. Last night I got to attend an event honoring the Young Activists of the Year, where I got to meet the Guest of Honor, Angela Davis. (Those unfamiliar with her, check out her Wikipedia page here: Indeed, because I happened to be standing next to her when she came into the auditorium, I ended up being in the background of a number of pictures that various fans of hers took. No doubt a great many exclamations of "Who's that guy?" will soon ring throughout the Bay Area.

The night after that, I intended to attend a free concert given by a band I'm fond of, And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (also to be found on Wikipedia, here: in conjunction with imaginary band Dethklok from the Cartoon Network original show Metalocalypse (why the hell not; check 'em out here:, coincidentally in the same place as the Angela Davis event. Unfortunately, I grossly underestimated the appeal that an animated metal band giving a free concert would have among the locals, and by the time I showed up the line for entry was roughly as long as Jesus's birthday party guest list (yes, I did just make that joke; no, I don't know why). I waited for about half an hour, so far from the site of the concert that I couldn't see it; then a police officer came by on a motorcycle and announced that the building was full to capacity; if we weren't in already, we weren't getting in.

So much for that.

So, what's next? I don't forsee much of enormous interest happening in my immediate future, though I have several options for what I may do on Thanksgiving--unfortunately, probably not another trip back home, but at this point I'm not counting anything out unconditionally, since my trip home for my birthday was completely unexpected. After that, I'll definitely be heading home, at least briefly, for Christmas, and then it's back to California to settle in for my first West Coast spring. Perhaps by that point I'll have worked up the nerve to venture out of my bedroom and actually explore the surrounding area a bit; the forests, hills and coastlines hereabouts are no doubt stunningly gorgeous, but even after two months in the area I'm still a bit shellshocked from the transition, and I have yet to organize myself for any kind of extended trip outdoors. Indeed, I've planned several times to take myself on a brief outing into San Francisco to visit some of the city's many worthwhile locales, but due to one thing and another this also has yet to happen.

Well, no rush; I'm here for two years at least, so I'm sure I'll get a chance to explore the Golden State a bit more thoroughly during that time. And even if I don't, there's no reason I have to leave right away after school is done (assuming, of course, that I manage to plow through my practicum in two years without needed to tack on a third before I collect my degree). In any case, as time goes by I'll no doubt increase my comfort level and start to think of myself more as a resident and less as a somewhat dazed transplant.

And even if I don't, my room is nice. So I can't complain.

Hope this has proven entertaing (c'mon, there's a picture of me wearing a pink poodle head! What more do you people want?) and I'll post further interesting events as they happen. Hell, I may even someday live up to my promise of putting all my Europe photos and journal entries up. Stranger things have happened.

Till then, dear ones.