Exploring ancient ruins in Utah

I’m heading off to Utah to take a look at some very old pictographs, petroglyphs, granaries and other ruins in a remote slot canyon about three hours from Salt Lake City. I’m doing this for a magazine assignment. I’ll give a full report when I return next week. I’ll make sure to bring plenty of water this time!! http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Revolting “healthy snacks” for Halloween

I’ve never liked Halloween, America’s annual nod to Satanism, but at least I took some cold comfort in the junk food: infant-sized versions of Mars Bars, York Peppermint Patties, Milk Duds, Junior Mints and Raspberry Spree. In the past, if a parent departed from the protocol and tried to drop an apple or an organic cracker into your treat bag, the response was simple: you reported them to the police. Now, the kids of today have nothing to look forward to in terms of Halloween. Health-conscious parents are phasing out the wonderfully slimy and bad-for-you artificial snacks of yesterday and replacing them with sustainable “health food” options that take all the fun away. Listen to these stomach-churning new Halloween snack options that parents are handing out to unsuspecting corpses, Darth Vaders, Vampires and pint-sized Tila Tequilas: 1. Small lumps of artisanal cheese. In the past, if someone dared to hand…

San Francisco has the ugliest couches in the world

In light of all the terrible things going on in the world at this moment (and, when you think about it, every moment) it might seem flippant to complain about this city’s selection of utterly hideous sofas and couches, and the fact that Craiglist in San Francisco offers nothing for sale other than the most stained skanky cat-claw-punctured sofas and futons I have ever seen. However, I think it’s worth mentioning, considering there is so much ugly furniture in this town. So far I’ve gone to about a dozen stores in search of a bearable sofa. I’ve seen sleazy black leather couches (the salesman assured me that they “never wear out, they only wear in.”) horrible mixed-plaid couches, and showroom couches that looked like they were dragged from the side of a Kern County highway. After more fruitless net searching, I decided to stop looking for nice couches and focus…

Frank Zappa’s posthumous beer

The other day, I decided to celebrate my recent graduation by ordering extra-spicy Thai take-out from my favorite restaurant in Cupertino, and then washing down this meal with a bottle of Frank Zappa Kill Ugly Radio, a commemorative offering from the Lagunitas brewing company. The bottle has a picture of Frank’s face from the Mothers of Invention years. Anyhow I ate a huge mouthful of pad thai noodles, and it was so fiery hot that I poured myself a large helping of the beer and tried to cool off my mouth with it. For some reason, the Frank Zappa beer only made the situation worse! The beer, like Frank Zappa, is complex, surprising, and more than a little bitter. Somehow, the Kill Ugly Radio beer, combined with the thai spaces, caused a fiery sensation to wash over my mouth, quadrupling the agony. I think Mr. Zappa would be pleased. http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Graduating today

This week I am graduating from Columbia’s MFA program. I am very excited about this. Three years ago, around this time of year, I relocated myself, my wife Amy Ettinger, and Robert (our huge, obese cat) to New York City for the program. I can’t be there in person, so I’ll have to hum the “graduation song” remotely while I extend my congratulations to all the other writing folks who are getting degrees this week: Fayne AnsleyPranav BehariJeff BenderAugustine BlaisdellThomas BlaylockMichelle BrothertonMarie EliaDavid FrancisRuth GalmCristine GonzalezNadine GorelikAlena GraedonMatthew HamityMelissa HeltzelAdam KatzAdina KayDoretta LauElyse LightmanKrista ManriqueFilip MarinovichJoshua MartinsonsAshley MurrayMatthew PassetGabriel PilarMiriam SchifferAnna Selver-KassellChandler Klang SmithPatricia SonntagRhena TantisunthornStacy TorresJohnathan Donald WilberAlexis Wolff http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default

Dancing the MUNI macarena

As I’ve said before, this is a nice city. However, I am not enjoying MUNI. Part accordion, part bus, part cable car, part marionette, the MUNI takes forever to arrive and makes strange squeaking noises as it makes its slow, poky way through the city. I hate sitting on the little reversible seats while waiting for MUNI. They aren’t really designed to hold a human being’s weight. In fact, they have a tendency of dropping you right down onto the indescribably filthy sidewalk if you aren’t careful. But the worst part of it is the ‘transfers’ they give you once you pay your fare. The transfers are printed on what seems to be one-ply Charmin Ultrasoft Toilet Paper. These transfers start to disintegrate the moment you put them in your hand. Also, they are insanely easy to lose. That’s why you always see all kinds of panicked people on the…

Haightful behavior

You shouldn’t hang out in my neighborhood unless you like revisionist hippies who were born long after the Summer of Love (a period of peace and harmony that revolved around the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets and lasted — according to cultural historians — for approximately three and a half seconds.) I don’t understand the embittered people who skulk around the Haight just so they can scrap with helpless hippies. The other day I was hanging around near the organic food store — the same one where I knocked the strawberries into the street — and I saw a small bulldog of a man screaming at a hippie who had asked him for spare change. “I won’t give you a handout,” said the bulldog man. “I’m not the government.” “The government takes money away from me and gives me nothing,” said the hippie. “But I’m not the government so…

and I almost forgot — more info on the Steinbeck Fellows reading

A few of you asked me for a more detailed run-down on last week’s Steinbeck Fellows reading at San Jose State University’s MLK Library. Peter Malae read from his novel. Lysley Tenorio read a short story. I read a brief nonfiction piece involving my thirsty trek across an arid region of the southern Sierra Nevada range. It was great to get a good-sized (and enthusiastic) turnout. I was also glad to see so many SJSU students there. In fact, the evening went so well that I hope we can get even more people into the next event. By the way, I’m hoping that we’ll do a reading up in SF soon (I’ll post that as soon as I get the details.) http://cactuseaters.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default