Corrected updated blog entry about Saturday

As it turns out, I will not be signing some advance copies at the New York Hilton from 3 to 4 p.m. this coming Saturday. However, if you stop by and say hello, I will give you a postcard with some information about “The Cactus Eaters.” These postcards, by the way, are absolutely free. Take as many of them as you want. So far, my visit to New York has been fantastic. I’ve heard readings by Russell Banks, Phillip Lopate, Victoria Redel and many, many others. So far, every one of the AWP presentations has been first-rate. Tomorrow I’m going to see Edwidge Dandicat and John Beryman. I’m attending panels and getting a lot of great advice for creative writing and comp classes. The only cause for worry is my diet. So far, I’ve consumed a large banana pudding from the Buttercup Bakery, a cream-cheese smeared bagel from Absolute, an…

New York

I’m just about to board a plane to New York. I will be out there for the next few days, talking to writers, editors and educators while raising awareness about my book. This means that I will be standing in front of Zabar’s, handing out leaflets and waving around an inflatable cactus. Just kidding.

Someone on my street is keeping livestock in his apartment!

Well, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but someone is raising a rooster out here. It’s a little strange — this is an urban area — but I know it’s not my imagination. Every day I hear the strangled sound of the rooster calling out — “mawk-mawk-magooo!” For a while, the sound stopped, and I felt bad for the rooster. I thought that it was some ‘slow food’ thing, carried to a ridiculous extreme, and that he wound up in a soup or as a capon. But the noises returned yesterday, louder than ever. I love all creatures great and small, but not at 5 in the morning.

My morning drive

My morning drive goes something like this: I race to my car, turn right on Divisidero, and the MUNI lurches up from the curb to cut me off. I switch on the radio. It’s the same song every morning: Dynamite Hack’s mellow folk cover of NWA’s “Boyz-N-The-Hood.” At the corner of Divisadero and Haight, I see the same homeless woman, holding a sign that says “Smile.” I cut straight through the Castro, then down into Noe Valley, where I amp myself with coffee and a fistful of Noe O’s. From there it’s 280 South. Soon enough, I pass the charmingly inept sculpture of Junipero Serra and that Flintstones-looking house with red-brown paint. In San Jose, “She Rock The Hips” beams into my car radio at the same time every morning. Eventually I lose the signal and switch to Greg Kihn in the Morning. An AC/DC cover band is playing “Highway…

The screaming bush of Santa Cruz

I recently visited my old haunt, Santa Cruz, California, to catch up with some friends. I was hanging out downtown, standing in front of a shrubbery near the entrance to Book Shop Santa Cruz on Pacific Avenue. All of a sudden, the shrub began to shake and scream. The leaves parted, and out jumped a pasty shlub of a guy, laughing, while holding a bunch of branches in his hands. When I came to my senses, I realized that the shrub guy was in league with a second man, standing across the street, filming the whole thing. I guess the two of them were filming one of those ‘gotcha’ style comedy movies, where they bother people in the streets and then incorporate the footage into a narrative. Anyhow, the dummies forgot to ask their “victims” for releases. If I see myself in their movie, I’m lawyering up.

Back to school

I’m teaching again, starting this Thursday. My new batch of students has no idea that my previous class called me “D. Money” and “Professor Diddy.” I’m counting on my readers — all eleven of you — to keep this under your hats.

Chocolate and bacon: a bad combination

Some months back, I posted about Vosges chocolates, some of the most experimental chocolate you can find. The people who make them are fearless. They will throw just about anything into their candies — Banks Beer, rum, champagne, dried violets, powdered tea leaves, even dried-up kalamata olives. They have one chocolate that is so fiery spicy hot that it will make your tongue curl up in your mouth. During that posting, I made a facetious remark, saying that I would support these candy makers until they became too “daring” and “weird” and started putting sausage in their chocolates. Well, my fears came true. Their latest chocolate bar includes applewood smoked bacon as an ingredient. I tried a piece of this in Noe Valley and it just tasted … well, not awful but weird and a little “off.” When the chocolate melted away, odd bits of gristle remained.

In training, and plans for tour

I keep myself in reasonable shape; my freelance assignments involve remote, steep places. Because of this, I’ve decided to step it up a bit and train for my third marathon. San Francisco is a perfect place for this. It is pedestrian-friendly compared to NYC. Just getting to Noe Valley and back is a real workout; it’s not long but the hills are steep. I love running on Irving. There are so many places to carb-load along the way (Arizmendi Bakery, for example.) The best part is the long traverse through Golden Gate Park. I love to run from the Haight to Ocean Beach and back, staying in the park for most of the way. Of course, there are occasional drug dealers stepping in front of me (the other day, I had 11 offers) For the most part, they are harmless. I think of them as speedbumps. Also, I plan to…

Gratuitous information: How to tip your waiter in Haight Ashbury

The following is an actual (handwritten) sign that hangs on the wall of All You Knead, a Haight-Ashbury restaurant. “Attention, Foreign Travelers:A quick guide to the wacky American custom of TIPPING.20 percent — great tip, great service17 percent, good tip, good service15 percent, fair tip, fair service10 percent: another way of saying to your server, ‘you suck and I hate you.”


Hoping to see old friends and colleagues at the AWP in New York later this month. I also just found out that I will soon be on assignment, exploring the backwoods of the deep south for a travel piece. I’ll send updates when I get them. If any readers happen to be going to this, please let me know.