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L.E. Leone

Three! Out!

2

IN THE GAME Home runs are called fuoricampi, which translates literally to outfields, in the sense of “out of the park.” Hits are valide, or “valids.” And a strike out is a strike out. It’s pretty adorable, when the field announcer at Stadio Nuevo Europeo in Parma exclaims, “Strike! Three! Out!”

At one point last Saturday, Parma’s starter Jose Sanchez struck out seven in a row. Over six shutout innings, he struck out 12, so we got to hear it a lot:

“Strike! Three! Out!”

I’m 50.

How it happened was like this: I was born, and it was 50 years ago. And now it’s now. So: yeah . . . fuckin’ 50.

Many years ago I had a sweatshirt with Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians’ politically insensitive logo) on it, only instead of saying Cleveland it said Nettuno. The Nettuno Indians.

Then, when anyone said they were offended by my shirt I would say, but it’s not Cleveland; it’s Nettuno. Which admittedly didn’t solve the problem. At best it diverted attention away from it long enough for me to sneak out a side door — you know, while my assailant’s pot-addled brain was flipping through his rolodex of planets, from the sun outward, looking for Nettuno.

Is “rolodex” still a word?

In either case, we couldn’t believe we missed the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park earlier this spring, so, so long as we were in Europe for my birthday we thought we’d go see us some world baseball. Which is to say, Italian baseball. Which is to say, Parma vs. Grosseto. Which is to say, Enegan Toshiba Grosseto. Which is also to say, the Grosetto Mastiffs.

The names of the teams are very confusing over there. And they tend to change a lot, sometimes even between innings. In fact, sadly, I don’t think the Nettuno Indians are the Nettuno Indians anymore. Probably Cleveland sued them. Or someone pointed out that Native Americans were inherently American and, by extension, from Earth.

Anyway, we had hoped to make it to Nettuno, to find out, but they were away that Saturday, playing a doubleheader against Saturno. Italian baseball only happens on weekends, see. There just isn’t enough interest in it, when Hedgehog and I aren’t around, to support more games than that. Even with us, attendance for the game in Parma was 139. I know because I counted.

I also used my passport as a straight-edge to line some squares into a piece of paper and I kept score. All so I could tell my loyal and baffled readership back here at home in San Francisco that Parma beat Grosseto on Saturday 9-3.

Leftfielder Massimo Pesci, hitting in the nine hole, crushed a two-run homer off Grosseto starter Rafael Garcia in the second. Parma added two in the fifth, chasing Garcia, then blasted Coronado Angel Marquez in the sixth with five straight hits, capped by a Luca Scalera two-run shot.

With the game securely out of reach, Parma reliever Alexander Tabata Velasquez came on in the 7th and earned a three-inning save.

Grosseto got all three of their runs in the eighth. Francesco Di Mattia led off with a pinch single, Rafael Lora walked, and Bernardo Encarnacion singled to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Nelwin Sforza came through with a sharp single to center, scoring two, and Vincenzo D’Addio followed with a sac fly to right, plating Encarnacion.

There. I just wanted to say all that. Because I’m 50, so I can.

Winning pitcher: Jose Sanchez. Losing pitcher: Rafael Garcia. And if you’re wondering why all the Italian league pitchers have Spanish sounding names, it’s because they import them from Latin America. I think because Italians in Italy don’t play enough baseball, growing up, to develop into pitchers. This is just a guess.

But it could explain why Italy tends to surprise then fizzle in international competitions like the World Baseball Classic. This year, for example, they upset Mexico and Canada in the first round, then lost out in the second. Their starting pitching holds, and then all hell breaks loose when you get into their bullpen.

Such is the state of soccer-dominant Europe, when it comes to trying to use their hands and arms at something. There’s a promising Italian national in the Seattle farm system (Alex Liddi), and one of my favorite current major leaguers is Netherlands-born shortstop Didi Gregorious, of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oh, and the Bundesliga in Germany has a team called the Dohren Wild Farmers. That’s who I want to play for.

When I grow up.

Three! Out!

2

By L.E. Leone

IN THE GAME Home runs are called fuoricampi, which translates literally to outfields, in the sense of “out of the park.” Hits are valide, or “valids.” And a strike out is a strike out. It’s pretty adorable, when the field announcer at Stadio Nuevo Europeo in Parma exclaims, “Strike! Three! Out!”

At one point last Saturday, Parma’s starter Jose Sanchez struck out seven in a row. Over six shutout innings, he struck out 12, so we got to hear it a lot:

“Strike! Three! Out!”

I’m 50.

How it happened was like this: I was born, and it was 50 years ago. And now it’s now. So: yeah . . . fuckin’ 50.

Many years ago I had a sweatshirt with Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians’ politically insensitive logo) on it, only instead of saying Cleveland it said Nettuno. The Nettuno Indians.

Then, when anyone said they were offended by my shirt I would say, but it’s not Cleveland; it’s Nettuno. Which admittedly didn’t solve the problem. At best it diverted attention away from it long enough for me to sneak out a side door — you know, while my assailant’s pot-addled brain was flipping through his Rolodex of planets, from the sun outward, looking for Nettuno.

Is “Rolodex” still a word?

In either case, we couldn’t believe we missed the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park earlier this spring, so, so long as we were in Europe for my birthday we thought we’d go see us some world baseball. Which is to say, Italian baseball. Which is to say, Parma vs. Grosseto. Which is to say, Enegan Toshiba Grosseto. Which is also to say, the Grosetto Mastiffs.

The names of the teams are very confusing over there. And they tend to change a lot, sometimes even between innings. In fact, sadly, I don’t think the Nettuno Indians are the Nettuno Indians anymore. Probably Cleveland sued them. Or someone pointed out that Native Americans were inherently American and, by extension, from Earth.

Anyway, we had hoped to make it to Nettuno, to find out, but they were away that Saturday, playing a doubleheader against Saturno. Italian baseball only happens on weekends, see. There just isn’t enough interest in it, when Hedgehog and I aren’t around, to support more games than that. Even with us, attendance for the game in Parma was 139. I know because I counted.

I also used my passport as a straight-edge to line some squares into a piece of paper and I kept score. All so I could tell my loyal and baffled readership back here at home in San Francisco that Parma beat Grosseto on Saturday 9-3.

Leftfielder Massimo Pesci, hitting in the nine hole, crushed a two-run homer off Grosseto starter Rafael Garcia in the second. Parma added two in the fifth, chasing Garcia, then blasted Coronado Angel Marquez in the sixth with five straight hits, capped by a Luca Scalera two-run shot.

With the game securely out of reach, Parma reliever Alexander Tabata Velasquez came on in the 7th and earned a three-inning save.

Grosseto got all three of their runs in the eighth. Francesco Di Mattia led off with a pinch single, Rafael Lora walked, and Bernardo Encarnacion singled to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Nelwin Sforza came through with a sharp single to center, scoring two, and Vincenzo D’Addio followed with a sac fly to right, plating Encarnacion.

There. I just wanted to say all that. Because I’m 50, so I can.

Winning pitcher: Jose Sanchez. Losing pitcher: Rafael Garcia. And if you’re wondering why all the Italian league pitchers have Spanish sounding names, it’s because they import them from Latin America. I think because Italians in Italy don’t play enough baseball, growing up, to develop into pitchers. This is just a guess.

But it could explain why Italy tends to surprise then fizzle in international competitions like the World Baseball Classic. This year, for example, they upset Mexico and Canada in the first round, then lost out in the second. Their starting pitching holds, and then all hell breaks loose when you get into their bullpen.

Such is the state of soccer-dominant Europe, when it comes to trying to use their hands and arms at something. There’s a promising Italian national in the Seattle farm system (Alex Liddi), and one of my favorite current major leaguers is Netherlands-born shortstop Didi Gregorious, of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Oh, and the Bundesliga in Germany has a team called the Dohren Wild Farmers. That’s who I want to play for.

When I grow up.

Fire fight

1

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

IN THE GAME In a pink dress, with a pink hair tie and those little pink sneakers that light up every time you take a step, she dominated the Alameda High School hardwood. I’m going to guess she was three. How else to explain the dogged determination with which, time after time after time, she took aim at the far-away hoop, and with all her cute-little-cutey-pie might heaved the basketball to a point about a foot-and-a-half in front of her feet. Bounce, plop, and roll …

All around her, Alameda police and fire fighters were shooting jumpers, warming up for the second half of their game, entirely unfazed by li’l Pinkie, or any of the other children who had swarmed the court during the halftime raffle — and weren’t in any hurry to give it back to the grownups.

Pinkie took her shots from the top of the key. From the lane. From the foul line. She shot for two, and she shot for three, and though she never really managed to propel the ball more than a couple feet away from her self, she was on fire.

One jumper went about six inches in the air before coming back down and landing on her nose. But not even this could dampen her spirits. With a huge smile, and the forever blinking shoes, she went right back to work.

I want this! Not the child — although I’d take one — but the attitude. Yeah: there’s a thing I can’t possibly do but it sure is fun to try! . . . Maybe I’ll start a novel. Learn a new instrument, or language. Or, for that matter, basketball! A sport which has always eluded me. Because I am small, I have always said. But Pinkie changes everything.

I wonder if she’s had ACL surgery. Probably not. She’s three. But I’ll bet she would . . .

In one week I’ll be 50. My second-half goal is to do like her.

It took more than the ref’s whistle to clear the floor for the second half. Moms and dads had to come scoop up their kids. And I missed them, because the third quarter was sluggish.

Carl Rolleri, police officer, who had hit five of five three-pointers in the first half, came down to Earth and missed a shot. Jill Ottaviano, the game’s only female player, who had scored the first two points for the police, was on the bench. The fire department seemed a little burnt out. I speak from experience: half time will do that to you.

The score, 31-20 after two quarters, was only 37-26 at the end of the third. Not that it mattered who was winning — this was Alameda’s police and fire departments raising money for a whole slew of children’s programs — but the police were winning. Soundly, and from the get-go.

They had a mascot, an adorable pet pig named Charlie in a police hat and a fake mustache, who had been walked out onto the court before tip-off, and spent the rest of the game in a baby stroller, tormented by children.

They had a chant: “Let’s go pigs! Let’s go pigs!” . . .

They had a guy in a wig and one with hearts on his socks, and they had the game’s only woman.

But I was rooting for the fire fighters, because they had a boy cheerleader. And, for my money, that’s even braver than the many awesome picks I saw Ottaviano set against guys twice her weight.

The Alameda High Hornets cheerleaders cheered on the fire department, and the Jets from Encinal High cheered on the police. The Encinal squad had a couple of acrobats who went flipping across the court once or twice during breaks. Which seemed even more impressive later, when I overheard one of them tell the woman sitting next to me, “We have bad stomachaches from the sushi.”

Anyway, the game got interesting again in the fourth quarter. The fire department pulled to within two. (They might have tied it, but I think the scoreboard operator was just confused.)

It was 42-39, police, with two minutes left. What a comeback!

But, like the Celtics facing elimination against the Knicks earlier that Saturday afternoon, the Alameda Fire Department came on strong and came up short: 44-40 was the final.

We went and talked to Charlie the pig a little bit, but it wasn’t a post-game interview per se. Her owner, a friend of a police, was trying to redirect would-be petters away from the poor pig’s face.

“Pet him back here, sweetie,” she said to one of these children, explaining to me that the smell of cotton candy and such all over all the kids’ hands was “starting to confuse him.”

Who I really wanted to talk to was the little girl, Pinkie — but it was way past her bed time.

 

Just for kicks

0

IN THE GAME It’s not kickball; it’s matball. Which looks a lot like kickball, with one big difference: You can have more than one runner at a time on any given base. You can have up to three, but if a fourth is incoming, someone’s got to go.

You don’t have to stop running, either, when you reach home, in some versions of the game. You can keep going — back to first, and around the bases again. In gym class, this was a way to make kids run laps without quite exactly knowing it.

Here in the adult world it’s just good, clean chaos. Jay Li uses that word a lot — chaos — talking about his co-ed pickup kickball scene.

“That’s the reason we’re playing at Dolores Park,” he said. “You have people, and other variables, that you can’t predict.”

“Like the volleyball net in left field?” I asked.

“That’s one of the variables,” he said.

The volleyball net went up in the fourth inning. Someone came, set it up, and then didn’t play. After grumbling a bit, the matballers turned it into a home run fence. A very shallow one. A “mesh monster” of sorts.

Other variables are self-imposed. There are no force-outs, for example. You have to either hit or touch the runner with the ball, between bases. Or, of course, catch it.

The kicking team supplies its own pitcher. And the kicker gets to choose from a whole menu of balls that lie scattered about the pitcher’s feet. There was a giant one, a tiny one, and a couple of different midrange sizes.

My favorite of Li’s innovations, though, is his loose interpretation of the basepath. Twice during the game runners, thinking they were out, left the field of play . . . only to find they had in fact not been called out; nor were they out for leaving the basepath. And, thanks to Li’s leniency, they had every right in the world to try and get back safely. Neverminding that the base, by that time, was being guarded by a defender with a ball.

Hilarity ensued. In one instance, a couple offensive teammates came charging from the sidelines toward the base, like pulling guards and tackles, to block for the poor, displaced baserunner.

Watching from the hill, with a picnic, I almost choked on my chicken I was laughing so hard.

“That’s the whole idea,” Li said later, when I asked about this particular play. “It hasn’t happened that much, but when it does, I let it happen. It’s entertaining. People get creative.”

Matball is not a low-scoring game. The score was 14-0 before the first out was recorded. It was 15-14 at the end of the first inning — at which point they decided to move the bases back a little.

Li, an energetic, easy-going, backwards-hatted commissioner, moderates the game, photographs the bejesus out of it, and fills in for anyone who has to leave early or turns their ankle. He also buys drinks — alcoholic or not — for the winning team after.

Before Li’s Meetup group, Bay Area Kickball, formed a couple years ago, he played on a team in a league. “I found the game a little too serious. A little too much alcohol,” he said. “It wasn’t that much fun for me.”

Now, once or twice a month, he sets up these more casual (and more sober) coed games through Meetup. If under 25 people show, they play kickball. If more than 25, matball.

The one I saw . . . there was a good mix of men and women, serious athletes and beginners. One with keys jangling from his belt loop, others in cleats. In truth, the athleticism surprised me. I saw one guy run with the ball from centerfield all the way to home plate to bean someone just as they were about to score.

“As long as there are people who can play very well, it kind of keeps the game going, and keeps it interesting,” Li said. “I’m trying to balance all these things.”

He’s doing a good job. Impressively, with all that scoring, and all the chaos, plus the almost-arbitrary divide of serious athletes and just-for-funners, it was, in the end, a one-run game.

The team called Cannibal Sheep won, 36-35. But the losers, the Winners, had the tying run on 2nd base when the final out was recorded.

Oh, and by the way, that “final out” was the fifth, not the third. You get five outs in the ninth inning, so long as both teams agree to it.

Then, before the bar, both teams pile up together for a group photo for the Web page. Which, in this case — as the only member of the press present — I had the honor to snap. Check it out.

http://www.meetup.com/BayAreaKickball

 

Rough, rough

0

Le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

They have cheerleaders at semi-pro football games. They have semi-pro cheerleaders. At halftime the five of them went out to the 50-yard line of the Rancho Cotate High School football field in Rohnert Park and put on a li’l halftime show.

I’m not a dog. Nevertheless, I really really felt like chasing Frisbees. The girls were good, but the halftime show could have used . . . something. Maybe a semi-pro Frisbee dog.

There was a semi-pro field announcer. Semi-pro concession stand. Semi-pro refs — one with a microphone, so the semi-pro spectators had a clue. There must have been about a hundred of us, maybe two, counting players’ wives and such, and their kids, who were running around on the sidelines, playing catch.

Girls from Hooters were trolling the stands, handing out coupons for a chicken wing special. And members of the North Bay Bruisers, Sonoma County’s roller derby team, were rumbling back and forth across the aluminum bleachers, in their skates, trying to sell raffle tickets.

Hedgehog, semi-pro photographer, was down on the field taking some pretty decent pictures of things. Including: a nice sideline catch, a runner crossing the plane of the end zone, and — late in the second quarter — a punter about to get creamed.

He was Angelo Jeffereys of the Nor Cal Knights, who double-dutied as a running back. And probably the play would have drawn a roughing-the-punter call in the NFL, because the punt blocker got more leg than pigskin.

Semi-pro refs are not flag shy, either, far as I can tell. I think there were two or three penalties on that play alone, and at least one of them was a personal foul. Oddly, though, none were for roughing the punter. Who wasn’t getting up.

One of the North Bay Rattlers tended to him — the same guy who I’d seen seeing to the injured Knight’s quarterback earlier in the half, on the Rattlers’ sideline.

Semi-pro football is rough. Not semi-rough. Rough rough.

But (as I might have mentioned) I’m not a dog. I’m a semi-pro sports writer. I was sitting just under the field announcer’s booth, in the sun, scribbling semi-legible notes on the back of a grocery receipt and just generally enjoying my Saturday.

I love Sonoma County. The air up there, the pace, the ten degrees it has on the city this time of year . . . There are many reasons why the North Bay is one of my favorite bays, but the Rattlers, their semi-pro football team, isn’t one of them.

Not that they’re not good. Oh, they’re that — a little overly so, is the problem. They win by scores like 85-0, 60-0, and, last Saturday against the Knights, 56-6.

The Knights had their moments: Two or three quarterback sacks, an interception . . . Early in the first quarter, trailing only 7-0, Jeffereys boomed a professional-quality punt which briefly changed the complexion of the game, field-positionwise …

After that, and a 15-yard facemask penalty against the Rattlers, the Knights had almost even seemed to be “in it.”

But they couldn’t capitalize, and fifteen game-clock minutes later when Jeffereys finally hobbled off the field after the roughing-the-punter non-call, the sense of in-it-ness was long gone. It was 28-0.

It was 35-0 at the half.

But here’s the thing: There are twelve teams in the West Coast Football Association. At least one of them is capable of beating the Rattlers: The Pacifica Islanders. They already met in the regular season (Rattlers 25, Islanders 17), and will likely face off again for the league championship in June.

If you’re a football fan, like me, you’re going to want to see that rematch.

Meanwhile, the Nor Cal Knights, even with last weekend’s lopsided loss, are 3-2 on the season, which puts them in the middle of the pack. They need a quarterback. (They went through three of them, each as ineffective as the last, against the Rattlers.) But against most WCFA teams, on any given Saturday, they are liable to give you a good ‘un.

These guys are big. Fast. Talented. Brave-bordering-on-maybe-crazy. I mean, it’s not the S.F. Women’s Flag Football League, but it’s fun.

And cheap.

There are teams in Modesto, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Reno . . . And the Knights play their home games at Castlemont High School, in Oakland. Check it out.

West Coast Football Association

www.wcfanetwork.com. Click on “application” for info about joining the league.

 

Ringside

2

By L.E. Leone

IN THE GAME Gio Camacho, captain of the West Point women’s boxing team, sang the national anthem into the ring announcer’s microphone, wearing boxing gloves. Then she climbed into the ring and beat the beans out of University of Maryland’s Catherine Breslin, who looked a little bewildered.

This was the first fight on a 21-bout card the second night of the inaugural United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association tournament held at USF last weekend. Incredibly, it was the first collegiate tournament to crown women champions, as well as men.

West Point seemed especially excited about this. The academy sent twelve female boxers to San Francisco for the event (and no male ones). Eight out of nine of the women’s bouts featured at least one West Pointer. A couple were West Point vs. West Point.

West Point had coaches. West Point had uniforms. West Point had chants. West Point had Gio Camacho. After a while, it became pretty easy to root against West Point. Everyone from any other college who stepped into the ring with them seemed lonely and intimidated.

It’s reassuring, I suppose, from a national security standpoint, that our country’s future military officers fought with more discipline, confidence, and swagger than (for example) Pat Cannaday of UNC — who I fell in love with when I saw her laughing in her corner between rounds. Something her coach had said to her.

She was clearly being beaten. But didn’t seem fazed by it. At all. The ref interrupted the fight in the middle of the third because her ponytail had come undone. She had to go to her corner and have it taped.

Cannaday lost. Rachel Luba of UCLA lost. Jules Squire, a jangly and wildly strong, free-swinging slugger from UMD, lost, goddamn it. Mei-Le Keck of UCLA lost.

West Point took every weight class from 112 to 152. I started to lose interest. Then I saw three people sitting in another section of bleachers off to the side at the Koret Center gymnasium. They didn’t look “above it all” so much as, yeah, “off to the side” of it.

The woman was wearing a WVU hoody, her hands in the pockets. She wasn’t shadow boxing, chattering nervously, or eating power bars. In fact, it was hard to tell she was a boxer.

Her coach didn’t look like the other coaches, and her boyfriend didn’t look like anyone else in the place: beard, bandanna, shorts and flip-flops . . .

My people! I thought.

When I saw her legs, I knew who was going to take West Point down.

Sadly, though, Jennifer Moreale of WVU never had the chance. She fought Eileen Macias-Mendoza, USF. She fought the home team! And she won, by TKO. First round. Probably the USF boxing coach saw what I’d seen. In fact, he had the best view in the house of where Moreale’s power was coming from, and he threw in the towel. I saw this. It was literal. Towel. Over. First knockout of the night.

The second came in the other 165-pound fight, in which West Point was taken down, finally, by Elizabeth Brunton of Georgetown. Brunton, another likeable fighter, had a strong upper body and an old-fashioned brawler’s demeanor, but bird legs compared to Moreale’s.

Now, the next night, they were going to square off for the 165-pound collegiate title. That’s the heavyweights, for women. Brunton vs. Moreale. It had a ring, for me — like Ali-Frazier or Foreman Grill. I was hooked. Brunton-Moreale. The rest of that evening, and all the next day, it was the only thing I could talk about. West Virginia vs. Georgetown.

In collegiate boxing, they count the punches landed, that’s all, and — barring a knockout — it is how you win or lose. Three rounds. Two minutes apiece. It goes fast, from the outside.

“When you’re the person in the ring, you’re in it alone,” Moreale told me after. “The only voice I hear is the corner. And I feel the punches. And I feel what I am going to do next. But that’s it.”

Brunton went the distance with her, and fought well, but Moreale won. She looked like a different fighter the second night: more bob and weave. “I discovered some things that I always thought I could do,” she said. “I surprised myself, too.”

Counting her half-round TKO the night before, this was her fourth fight ever.

An Italian native, Moreale is two years into her PhD studies. Economics. But she has wanted to box since she was little, when she would practice on a stuffed duffel bag, wearing ski gloves.

“When you believe in something,” she said, two hands on her giant, gaudy, championship belt, “it’s possible.”

I said that I agreed.

 

Let it roll

0

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

It’s between the airport and the ballpark in Oakland: the Dry Ice Arena, home of the immediate Bay Area’s thrivingest inline roller hockey scene. There’s a parking lot in back, and a store where you can get you your gear: skates, shirts, helmets. They rent these, too.

Against the windowless outside wall of the building, as you walk along looking for a door, you will find an occasional walk-in rat trap, badly parked cars, and a plastic bag full of crackers, which I wanted very badly to stomp on but didn’t.

Inside, Giant Robot was squaring off with the first-place Gentlemen’s Club in the Sunday Silver League B2 semifinals. The Gentlemen’s Club, top seed going in, had beaten Giant Robot during the regular season. That’s all I knew.

It’s five on five — a goalie, two up, two back — and they have a rule that any player can only score three goals. Which rule came in handy for the Gentlemen’s Club, or they might have lost even worse than 12-3.

Giant Robot team captain Len Amaral, who missed the whole first period on account of Giants’ game traffic, said he didn’t feel comfortable with their lead until near the end of the game.

“They can score in a hurry,” he said. “They’re a fast, good team.”

When he saw 4-1 on the scoreboard coming into the arena, he said, he thought at first his team was losing.

Nah. It was never in doubt. Thanks to some great goalie work by LeMarr Mojica, who had about a gazillion saves, Giant Robot never let the Gentlemen’s Club feel anything other than frustrated.

They extended their lead to 5-1 early in the second period, and by the end of the period it was 8-3.

A nice thing about roller hockey: since it’s not on ice, the puck moves a little slower, or seems to at any rate, and is easier to follow.

Another nice thing: no fights.

Seriously, I don’t believe I’ve watched a whole hockey game since the USA vs. Russia in the 1980 Olympics. And one reason pro hockey has eluded me, fandomwise, is the fighting. Not that I’m a pacifist; it’s not even that I’m a “good sport.” It’s that most of the time, under all that armor, you can’t tell who’s winning.

I’ll have my boxing in a ring, thanks. Without shirts, when possible.

Amateur hockey, though. Roller hockey . . . fun to watch!

We decided to stay for the championship game, but were too hungry to sit through the other semi-final, which would determine Giant Robot’s opponent in the finals.

Dry Ice Arena has a snack bar, but all they have is frozen fried things and candy bars. In retrospect I wish we had stayed put, because the takeout Indian we scored down on International was even inedibler than chicken nuggets.

We should have known. There was a calendar on the wall next to the refrigerator of this joint (which shall remain nameless), and it was still set to March.

“I hope they pay better attention to expiration dates than they do calendar ones,” Hedgehog observed.

“Don’t worry,” I said. I’d seen him take our food out. Of the freezer. It wasn’t going to make us sick. It just wasn’t going to taste any good.

Plus we had to wait forever for it, so we missed the most exciting game of the tournament. Empty Net and Apuckalips went down to the wire, swapping goals in the closing minutes, and Empty Net won by one to advance.

Problem: they didn’t have any subs.

Roller hockey, like the icier kind, is an incredibly strenuous sport. They sub often, when they have them. And Empty Net went into the championship already exhausted.

Giant Robot scored first, and fast. Their initial goal came 14 seconds in, and that was all they’d need. For good measure, they added six more.

Final score: Giant Robot 7, Empty Net 0.

I was them, I’d give the game puck to Mojica. Not only did he pitch a shutout in the Championship game, but he’d skunked the Gentlemen’s Club the final period of the first game. Remember? That’s four straight scoreless quarters! For rec-league hockey, I think, that’s pretty impressive.

Can you skate?

The Dry Ice Arena has beginner leagues, youth and adult leagues, co-ed, and even pickup. Check it out.

Dry Ice Arena, www.dryicehockey.com

Food fight

0

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

SPORTS Did you see what Jed Lowrie (swoon) did last Wednesday, on the very day my column about him hit the streets? He propelled the A’s to their first win of the regular season, going 3-3 with a walk, the game-winning 2-run double, and a home run. In fact he hit two doubles that game, then two more the next — also a win.

This means he loves me too. Although . . . it’s hard to imagine he got a very good look from way down there on the field.

Well, I stand by everything I said about the new A’s shortstop. In fact, taking his lead, I double it.

Almost everything else about last week’s column, however, I have to retract.

Or correct. As in: of course the A’s record-breaking 20-game win streak was in 2002, not 2001. Last year was the 10-year anniversary, and last year was 2012. And math is math.

More importantly, and even more wrongly, I said that AT&T has better concessions than O.co.

What I meant by that careless assertion was that AT&T has a greater variety of fancier (and generally bad) things to eat for even more money than O.co. I know because Hedgehog and I got ourselves to two of those Bay Bridge Series warm-up games, one on each side of the bay, by way of our own li’l Spring Training.

Surprise surprise. I can’t believe a) how many people go to those games, b) how many innings they are willing to miss while standing in line for garlic fries, and c) that Oakland’s garlic fries are better than San Francisco’s.

What the — ?

I thought I remembered AT&T’s garlic fries being awesome, not to mention edible. True, their fryers, like Marco Scutaro, might not be in mid-season form, but you would think at least some of the fries would have at least some amount of crunch to them.

Nope. Greasy soggy seagull food, every single one.

O.co’s garlic fries had a little more crunch to them for a couple dollars less, but then they don’t have the gluten-free hot dog option over there, or gluten-free beer. I asked around, for my boo, who — believe it or not — is more into the game of the game than I am. Plus she was test-running a new score-keeping app she’d paid $10 for and couldn’t leave her seat.

At AT&T, I’ll tell you: the gluten-free stuff is at section 112 in the Promenade Level. Otherwise, you don’t have to walk far in any direction to find all kinds of tempting yummies. To name a few: carving board sandwiches, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, Chicago dogs, and, for the tourists, clam chowder bread bowls and Dungeness crab on sourdough.

After about four-and-a-half innings of prowling, I pulled the trigger on a Cha Cha Bowl from Orlando’s Caribbean Barbecue in the center field food court, and I paraded it back to our seats like a hunter bringing home her kill: Look, Boo! It’s gluten free too!

Yeah, but not very good. Dry jerk chicken, white rice and black beans, with shredded carrots and zucchini. Best thing about it was the pineapple salsa on top.

Whereas . . . and this is a big whereas: O.co’s gluten-free kill turned out to be barbecue barbecue. As in sloppy, sopping spareribs and sliced pork, or Ameri-cue. And it also turned out to be awesome. Not just for stadium food, either. It was legitimately good ‘cue. And to think, last season I couldn’t even find barbecue at Oakland games. Now this: Ribs n’ Things.

Ribs n’ Things, it turns out, is an actual restaurant in Hayward, and — at the risk of reviewing a restaurant in my sports column — let me tell you that I would go there, if I ever went to Hayward. That’s how good it was. The best of both stadiums.

Okay. I conclude my two-part baseball season preview with sauce on my pants, yes, and the smell of barbecue under my fingernails. But as much as I love these things, and Jed Lowrie, the closing shot comes from the first night of the Bay Bridge Series, in San Francisco.

Not too cold, but not exactly warm either. It’s been a beautiful Spring, rain and all. Hedgehog and I are huddled together in the upper deck, facing the bay, and there is that classic late-inning blizzard of seagulls going on around us. Really, it looks like it’s snowing big white bird-shaped flakes, aglow in the stadium lights. The game and the greasy garlic fries have long since lost our interest, but this is something. It feels like we are on a first date. There’s a big orange moon rising up over the water, attended by wisps of clouds. A plane flies in front of it. Its lights go: blink.

The other home team

1

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

IN THE GAME I still think it’s easier to get to A’s games than Giants ones. You get on BART, you get off BART. Tickets are relatively cheap, and really very all-around available.

What the Giants have on the A’s is a prettier stadium with better concessions, including gluten-free hot dogs and gluten-free beer.

What the A’s have on the Giants, besides tickets, is Jed Lowrie.

Not since my Favorite Player Ever, Omar Vizquel, came to San Francisco from Cleveland in 2004 have Bay Area baseball fans been in for such a pleasant surprise.

Mind, Lowrie is not a flashy defensive shortstop with exciting speed, the world’s sweetest smile, and a sexy Venezuelan accent. He’s just an adorable white guy. From Oregon. Like Omar, he’s also an artist. A photographer. Who plays shortstop very well, and — without drawing too much attention — hits a ton. Well . . . 1,998 pounds, let’s say.

Last Opening Day Hedgehog and I were living in New Orleans, where the only baseball we could get on TV was the Houston Astros. The lowly Houston Astros. The 55-107 Houston Astros.

For once in our life we had a television, a 50-inch one, and a giant leather couch, and what was on was the worst team in baseball.

Bu we watched a lot of Houston Astros games. That’s how we happened to see Matt Cain’s perfect game. And that’s how we happened to fall in love — both of us — with Jed Lowrie.

Who was traded by Houston to Oakland in the off-season.

Lucky us. Lucky him, too. From worst team in baseball to playoff contention is not bad.

In a way, interestingly, Lowrie kind of brought the Astros with him. Like a bad smell, Houston drifts this year from the overcrowded NL Central to the A’s division, the AL West. That means the A’s will see a lot of Lowrie’s old team.

I like the matchup. Combined, the A’s and Astros enter the season with a payroll about two-thirds that of the Giants. Combined.

I know what you’re thinking: what does this have to do with me?

Depends . . .

Who are you? Are you Matt Cain? If so, you won’t be pitching any perfect games this year. Are you Brett Anderson? You might be. Are you neither? Just an average every day cash-strapped alternative weekly sports fan? Well, root root root for the other home team this season, I’m saying. They’ll give you more bang for your buck; it’s kind of a specialty of theirs. Remember? There was a whole movie about this.

Good as we’ve got it on this side of the pond, they have Jed Lowrie and Brad Pitt.

Yeah, but we have World Seriousness, you say.

I say . . . yeah, you’re right. There’s that, but I watched that World Serious, and it was boring. Fun, but boring. The good guys won; but kind of boringly, didn’t you think?

League Championship Series, maybe, but I don’t remember much about the Fall Classic. It went quickly. At the Mission and 22nd Street bonfire, I got spray paint on my favorite coat. Um . . . something about a bus.

Ask me about the Oakland-Texas series, though, and it’s synapse city inside my little head. Ask any A’s fan lucky enough to be there the last day of the regular season, the day the A’s came back from four runs down to sweep the defending (x2) American League champion Rangers and win the division; it is etched in their memory like the 20-game win streak of 2001, or the taste of carnitas in mine.

Texas was in first place all season. They came to Oakland Oct. 1 with three games left and a two-game lead over the surging A’s. On a whim, back in June, when the A’s were at least 10 games back, I had bought $2 tickets for the last game of the season, Oct. 3.

And that’s the other thing: BART $2 Wednesdays. This year there are ten of them, starting April 3. Hey — what are you doing after work?

Oct. 3, 2012, was sold out, the only regular season sellout at the O.co Coliseum except Opening Day. I have never witnessed anything like it in my baseball-game-going-to life. It felt like football in there, that’s how raucous it was. It felt like the fans had a say, like in football. And maybe we did.

And maybe we do.

Wednesday, April 3 vs. the Seattle Mariners. My guy Jed will be playing shortstop, batting probably second.

Oakland A’s

O.co Coliseum

http://oakland.athletics.mlb.com/oak/ticketing/bart_2_wed.jsp

 

The fist style

0

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

At the beginning of class, the children of the Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon circle up and take a knee, with their heads bowed and their little fists pressed into the hardwood.

“I am powerful!” one little voice squeaks.

“I am fierce!” shouts the next.

“I am speedy!”

“I am unstoppable!”

It’s so freakin’ cool I don’t know what to do with myself and have to play with my phone just to keep from crying. They are learning something I wish I’d learned at five: how to have a say in things.

“I am somebody!” . . . is my personal favorite.

According to Sifu Kate Hobbs, a fifth-degree black belt and chief instructor of the school, vocalization is an integral part of self-defense. She lists “a voice that comes from deep in the guts” right alongside physical skills, agility, and timing, as factors she hopes will give her students a valuable edge if they are ever attacked.

For her, it’s all about the repetition of techniques and drills.

“I don’t spend any class time talking about what students might do if this or that happens,” she said. “Students are expected to attend regularly, engage fully, practice on their own, and stay for their whole lives.”

Kajukenbo, an American-made martial art, was established in the late 1940s in a violent Honolulu neighborhood by five black belts in five different Eastern disciplines — one of whom also happened to be Hawaii’s welterweight champion. So add a little Western pugilism to the mix.

Through this fist style, stilts the official Kajukenbo motto, one gains long life and happiness. The focus from the start — and Hobbs most definitely carries this torch — was on realism. Street smarts.

“Kajukenbo is beautiful and tough,” Hobbs told me. “It was created so men could kick other men’s asses if they got fronted on.” She described her own two Kajukenbo teachers as tough Irish-American women, and said she has tended — being herself of Irish descent — toward their “practicality and gritty-but-humorous self expression.”

Hobbs, who teaches a “Little Tigers” class for 3-5-year-olds, as well as older kids and adults, quoted Sijo Adriano Emperado, one of the five founders of Kajukenbo, as saying that “a great class was one where blood was shed.”

OK. But also, it’s cute. At least watching kindergartners practice “this fist style” is.

The parents who line the sidelines with me at the St. Columba Church in North Oakland seem sometimes mesmerized, sometimes traumatized, and sometimes proud as punch(es), watching their li’l beloveds stumble and soar through a variety of agility drills, jabs, and kicks.

I can speak for myself. Underlying everything, there is a sense of incredible gratitude, watching the kids I love (and worry about), as if they were my own, learn and practice something fundamentally important: using their five senses, their voice, and their bodies to not only defend themselves, but express what happened afterwards.

Sifu Kate, as they all call Hobbs, has a way with kids, and I feel like I could learn a little Nanny Fu from her, too. Without any perceivable effort, she has their respect and, generally speaking, their attention.

“I think I have a great combination of patience with the wild and unfettered nature of humans, and the timing of the drills and lessons,” she told me.

Watching my charge, Chunk de la Cooter, going through the running drills, forwards, backwards, skipping, grapevining, leaping, twirling — with an athletic grace I hadn’t yet seen in her — of course I couldn’t help imagining her with a soccer ball. And vowed to stay healthy enough to play on her rec league team one day.

When she’s 21, I’ll be 65. But that’s OK. I’m inspired, and she’s in excellent hands.

“Is Kung Fu sports?” I asked her in the car, driving home.

“No,” she said.

Then, after a brief period of reflection, she said: “Yes.”

Then: “We’ll ask Daddy.”

Hobbs, who I also asked, said, “I don’t think martial arts practice is anything like team sports. It is very individual and the competition is personal.

“We partner and we need each other to learn, and we bond,” she said, “but it has a totally different tenor.”

Among the lessons she feels are most important: Commitment, focus, love, self-respect . . . “Connect with the world,” she said. “Be open and curious, not afraid and careful, but large and messy and ugly.”

Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon

www.oaklandkajukenbokwoon.com

sifukate.hobbs@gmail.com

 

The fist style

2

le.chicken.farmer@yahoo.com

At the beginning of class, the children of the Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon circle up and take a knee, with their heads bowed and their little fists pressed into the hardwood.

“I am powerful!” one little voice squeaks.

“I am fierce!” shouts the next.

“I am speedy!”

“I am unstoppable!”

It’s so freakin’ cool I don’t know what to do with myself and have to play with my phone just to keep from crying. They are learning something I wish I’d learned at five: how to have a say in things.

“I am somebody!” . . . is my personal favorite.

According to Sifu Kate Hobbs, a fifth-degree black belt and chief instructor of the school, vocalization is an integral part of self-defense. She lists “a voice that comes from deep in the guts” right alongside physical skills, agility, and timing, as factors she hopes will give her students a valuable edge if they are ever attacked.

For her, it’s all about the repetition of techniques and drills.

“I don’t spend any class time talking about what students might do if this or that happens,” she said. “Students are expected to attend regularly, engage fully, practice on their own, and stay for their whole lives.”

Kajukenbo, an American-made martial art, was established in the late 1940s in a violent Honolulu neighborhood by five black belts in five different Eastern disciplines — one of whom also happened to be Hawaii’s welterweight champion. So add a little Western pugilism to the mix.

Through this fist style, stilts the official Kajukenbo motto, one gains long life and happiness. The focus from the start — and Hobbs most definitely carries this torch — was on realism. Street smarts.

“Kajukenbo is beautiful and tough,” Hobbs told me. “It was created so men could kick other men’s asses if they got fronted on.” She described her own two Kajukenbo teachers as tough Irish-American women, and said she has tended — being herself of Irish descent — toward their “practicality and gritty-but-humorous self expression.”

Hobbs, who teaches a “Little Tigers” class for 3-5-year-olds, as well as older kids and adults, quoted Sijo Adriano Emperado, one of the five founders of Kajukenbo, as saying that “a great class was one where blood was shed.”

OK. But also, it’s cute. At least watching kindergartners practice “this fist style” is.

The parents who line the sidelines with me at the St. Columba Church in North Oakland seem sometimes mesmerized, sometimes traumatized, and sometimes proud as punch(es), watching their li’l beloveds stumble and soar through a variety of agility drills, jabs, and kicks.

I can speak for myself. Underlying everything, there is a sense of incredible gratitude, watching the kids I love (and worry about), as if they were my own, learn and practice something fundamentally important: using their five senses, their voice, and their bodies to not only defend themselves, but express what happened afterwards.

Sifu Kate, as they all call Hobbs, has a way with kids, and I feel like I could learn a little Nanny Fu from her, too. Without any perceivable effort, she has their respect and, generally speaking, their attention.

“I think I have a great combination of patience with the wild and unfettered nature of humans, and the timing of the drills and lessons,” she told me.

Watching my charge, Chunk de la Cooter, going through the running drills, forwards, backwards, skipping, grapevining, leaping, twirling — with an athletic grace I hadn’t yet seen in her — of course I couldn’t help imagining her with a soccer ball. And vowed to stay healthy enough to play on her rec league team one day.

When she’s 21, I’ll be 65. But that’s OK. I’m inspired, and she’s in excellent hands.

“Is Kung Fu sports?” I asked her in the car, driving home.

“No,” she said.

Then, after a brief period of reflection, she said: “Yes.”

Then: “We’ll ask Daddy.”

Hobbs, who I also asked, said, “I don’t think martial arts practice is anything like team sports. It is very individual and the competition is personal.

“We partner and we need each other to learn, and we bond,” she said, “but it has a totally different tenor.”

Among the lessons she feels are most important: Commitment, focus, love, self-respect . . . “Connect with the world,” she said. “Be open and curious, not afraid and careful, but large and messy and ugly.”

Oakland Kajukenbo Kwoon

www.oaklandkajukenbokwoon.com

sifukate.hobbs@gmail.com

 

9 innings, 20 years

3

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

A giant hawk swooped down from the tall trees along the right field line. Against the blazing white San Francisco sky, it seemed all wing span and tiny-headed. And jaggedly, viciously beautiful.

The pickoff play was on.

Greg Snyder, caught completely off guard, dove back to third. Lucky for him, third-baseman Johnny Bartlett was also caught off guard, and the throw glanced off his glove and rolled to the chain link fence in front of the third base dugout, West Sunset Playground.

So I guess that means the pickoff play wasn’t on. Except in the pitcher’s mind. And maybe the hawk’s.

Eskimoed inside my furry-fringed corduroy coat in the stands, I watched with the hawk as Bartlett retrieved the ball. Snyder, with no thought of advancing, knelt on third base and looked at his fingers. The first joint of his right pinky was bent away from his hand at an unnatural angle. He’d jammed it on the bag. First Bartlett, then Sean Paul Presley, the pitcher, came over and had a look, and both turned away, wincing, while Snyder calmly torqued it back into place.

Then, yeah, the game went on.

When we talked later, in the stands, top of the seventh, Snyder had the pinky taped to the ring finger of his throwing hand with a thin strip of dirty white tape.

“Can I get you some ice?” I said.

He said, “Nah.”

“I have ibuprofen,” I said, reaching into my purse.

“No thanks,” he said. “I have some in my car.”

But I never saw him get it. Although he had pitched the first few innings for the visiting team, by the time of the finger thing, he was catching. And continued to catch — six more innings, to the end of a wacky, back-and-forth, 11-inning game.

In the bottom of the tenth, he threw out a runner trying to steal second.

Greg Snyder is 47 years old.

Carter Rockwell, 24, picked up the win in relief, and also hit a home run off his older brother, Will.

Doc Magrane, 69, did not play. But not because of age. He and chemo have recently whipped a little bone cancer into complete remission. He still suits up for pick-up games, puts on some of the extra catchers’ gear, and umps.

Tony Rojas brought a sweater for his dog, Dee Dee. He showed me before the game: black with white skull and crossbones.

“Nice. Does she like it?” I said.

“No,” he said. “She hates it.”

The sweater went on and came back off of Dee Dee, and then she started to shake and shiver and Rojas became worried, which affected his play. He threw high to first, swung at bad pitches . . . had she gotten into something? he wondered.

“We could use a field ump, too, you know,” Doc Magrane called out to me, between innings.

I didn’t know yet that I was a sports writer.

“No thanks!” I hollered back anyway.

It’s been twenty years now since the Mission Baseball Club, as it has come to be called, started. Maybe 21.

In 1992 (or 3), four or five Mission District musicians and poets, myself included, gathered at Jackson Field at the foot of Potrero Hill one day a week to play catch, field grounders, and take batting practice.

Six or seven, eight . . . Once there were nine, we could split into threes and play tiny three-way games, with right field foul and “imaginary runners.”

At twelve we opened right field, and any more than that meant we could have a catcher, so we bought some catchers’ gear.

For a few years there in the mid-90s, the Mission fielded a team in the city’s Roberto Clemente League. We were a ragtag crew, and the only team in the league with women on it. No one asked. We just did it.

Twenty years later: this. Eye black and uniforms. Field reservations. An umpire. As it turns out, a reporter . . . Two teams of 11, arbitrarily decided, share one dugout each week. And the range of play varies. Widely. Some have played college ball. One played in the minors.

Jen Ralston (a.k.a. Hedgehog, a.k.a. my Hedgehog), who at 42 is playing the first baseball of her life, lined a two-strike curve into shallow center: her first hit ever. I asked for the ball.

Eventually she came around to score, and commented later, over fish, that the bases had been softer than she’d expected.

“Are they always like that?” she said.

I said that they were.

Sink and swim

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS At first we called her Papa, and then Center. Not only was she the central figure of a particular circle of friends, she was also the center on our football team. Then she and our quarterback split up, which happens — only afterwards it was too hard for poor Center to have her ex’s hands all up in her stuff, saying “down” and “set” and so forth (I am speaking metaphorically) so she quit the team, and since then I don’t see her as much.

Which sucks, cause I really, really like her.

And now I am going to change her name to Sinker because she doesn’t. She swims. But we’ll call her Sinker in the same spirit in which really gigantic people are sometimes called Tiny. Against all odds and crazy currents, Sinker swims. She swam Alcatraz. Next, she told me over lunch at My Father’s Kitchen, she swims from bridge to bridge.

That’s six miles! In the bay, which is (as I understand it) not no swimming pool.

I am thinking of taking up water polo. Does anybody know how to play water polo? I don’t, but if I get to choose sides, my first two picks will be Sal the Pork Chop and Sinker. My two badest-ass bay-swimming buds.

Anyway, after dating herself (as she puts it) for the past year-plus, Sinker has started to step outside of that relationship. You can see this just from looking at her. She’s glowing a slightly brighter shade of “gettin’ some” these days.

She showed me a picture of her lucky co-getter, who was for sure a babe, but I was more interested in the dating herself thread.

“So, did you bring yourself flowers?” I said. “Did you eat alone in nice places on purpose?” I wanted to ask a million other questions: Where did they meet? What did her mother think of her? Did she ever go out on double-dates with other people who were dating themselves, and then swap partners?

But before I could ask most of these stupid questions, she set me straight: This was more just a way of looking at things. Taking care of business, getting good with yourself, which everyone has to do at some point if not many many points in life, turning self-hatred into self . . . well, likedred, in my case.

What I love is pho.

So, yeah, My Father’s Kitchen. Vietnamese comfort food. It’s a tight, warm, friendly li’l place on Divis near Sutter, in the Medical District — where I have to go for physical therapy for my knee, or in this case a mammogram. Before and after which, comfort is a pretty good idea. Right?

There are only twelve things on the menu, and three of those are appetizers. I got pho, and Sinker got imperial rolls with rice noodles. How she stayed happy, I don’t know. For 12 clams, it was just imperial rolls with a plop of plain vermicelli next to a pile of lettuce and mint. No grilled pork. No chicken.

And she needed comfort food, too, having just had a weird time with a second-string gynecologist.

They did look good, though, those imperial rolls. Just a little bit paler than golden, but still crispy. And I think Sinker said, in fact, that they were great. But I forgot to get me a taste.

I was a little overly focussed on pho.

To warn you, my fellow soup-dwellers: if you plan to drown any medical sorrows (or brace yourself for getting your boobs squished) in a giant bowl of pho, this ain’t that. It’s northern Vietnamese style, meaning small means small.

So get the large.

Also: The rice noodles are wide ‘uns. BYO basil and bean sprouts, if you are a devotee of the southern-Vietnam style pho, which is apparently what we are accustomed to here in this here country.

The broth was subtle but delicious, once I tacked on a couple jalapeno slices. And no, I didn’t mind the absence of everything else. It was the not-at-all-rare rare beef — and not a lot of it, at that — that discomforted me.

But not as much as what was to come, damn the heavy-handedly careless crank.

MY FATHER’S KITCHEN

Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat 11am-7pm

1655 Divisadero St., SF

(415) 829-2610

AE/D/MC/V

Beer & wine

 

Punting for Peru

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS First time she touched a football it was a wonky, bouncing punt, and she plucked it up and ran it back 180 yards to the five-yard line. I say 180 yards because there was a lot of zigging and zagging involved. Coach’s grillfriend Zeezee is a professional surfer, and ever since that punt return (October), I have had newfound respect for the athleticism of professional surfers. Not to mention which, a bouncing punt is the hardest kind of football to pick up cleanly.

So . . . nice hands!

Her dad down San Diego way teaches surfing, as far as I know, and music. He made a cajon, which is that Peruvian box drum that you sit on while you play. I’ve seen Zeezee play the cajon, and she played the kaboodle out of it. In fact, ever since then I have had a newfound respect for punt returners. As musicians, I mean.

Anyway, Zeezee lives in S.F. now, so we get to have her for a full season this Spring, so long as she doesn’t get a job. That’s right: If you are looking for a rad-ass surfing teacher with great hands and cajones, look away. Please. We need her. Sunday mornings, at least.

For Hedgehog’s birthday I bought a cajon from Zeezee’s dad. It’s beautiful enough to be furniture, and Hedgehog has been spending a lot of time on it. She uses her hands, uses brushes, wears her washboard . . . Somehow I knew she would know what to do with a beautiful box.

But there is something about February makes me mad. Maybe because you never really quite get your money’s worth, rentwise. I don’t know. Or Valentine’s Day, which bugged me this year very literally. One of my cute little charges got sent home from school on account of lice, and me and her mom had to pick through her and her sister’s hair looking for and yanking out nits.

Then their mom went through my hair and found one there, too, so I had to sit on the edge of the tub just like them and get sprayed and combed and just all around humiliated. All on account of one lousy nit, yuk yuk.

And also, yuck.

So that was how I spent my Valentine’s evening: at the laundromat, washing our clothes and towels and bedding and everything, while the lovers passed two-by-two on their way to Delfina.

My own lover was in New Orleans, out with her single work friends. I called her, I was so depressed, and she sang “You Are My Sunshine” to me — wisely leaving out the verses. The day before she had sent me flowers with the sweetest little note attached. I forget what it said, but I read it again that night once everything was finally folded and put away, and I went to bed.

Her birthday is the real holiday, and she was back for that, like I said, slapping out straightforward 4/4 rhythms, as she ain’t Peruvian. She’s rock’n’roll. But for dinner we went to her favorite restaurant (and mine), Limon Rotisserie — not even thinking that it completed the Peruvian circle.

Next morning I woke up a little later than usual, threw on some clothes, sprayed my hair down with tea tree oil, and risked life and limb and driving record only to get to work two hours early. I had forgot (as usual) to look at my work calendar.

And this is where Olivia’s comes in. Olivia’s Brunch and Fine Dining. In Bernal Heights, down from Holly Park on Mission. Instead of driving all the way back home, during rush hour no less, I decided to kill two hours with two eggs.

Huevos Rancheros!

Good ones! With pinto beans, avocado slices, ranchero sauce, a corn tortilla underneath, and a whole damn quesadilla on top. Note: That’s two meals in one. Yeppers, Olivia puts the unch back in brunch. Which wasn’t exactly what I needed, since it was still pre-9am. But it did help kill the time.

There was no one else in the place to talk to. Just Mona Lisa, a painting of a mounted deer head, a charging elephant, and a very crooked picture of our lord and savior Jesus Christ pulling some crazed dude out of a pretty turbulent sea. Either that or pushing him back in. No no, he’s got him by the arm. See? They don’t call Him lord and savior for nothing.

Nice place. Good food for under 10 bucks. Boom, back to work.

OLIVIA’S

Mon-Sat 8am-2pm, 5-9pm; Sun 8am-3pm

3771 Mission St., SF

(415) 970-0375

AE/D/MC/V

Beer & wine

 

Up the game

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS K-3PO lives right in the neighborhood and claims to have played ping-pong with me in the ’90s. He also claims to have photographed my old band, and on this score I believe him.

We write at the same coffee shop. Right now, for example, I’m writing about him and he’s sitting across the room from me, either oblivious or not. Who knows?

He doesn’t have a cell phone. He has a weekly planner, with a black cover.

“Remember these?” he said, trying to make a dinner plan with me.

“Oh yeah. You’re old-fashioned,” I said, and he feigned offense. “I mean that as a compliment.” (The truth.)

Anyway, yeah, we had tried to go eat barbecue one night last week at the new neighborhood smokehouse, Hi-Lo, and luckily for all of us — but especially Hi-Lo, I’m thinking — they were closed for a private function.

I buy my pork steaks at that divey little market, 19th and Mission, and my bread at Duc Loi, so I walk past Hi-Lo pretty often, “doing the block.” There’s always some kind of friendliness marking the spot, lately. Like, a couple weeks ago a guy was standing outside and Hedgehog had already told me that barbecue was going in there, so I said: “Open?”

“Not yet,” he said, “but go on in and look around.”

I did. It must have been like a dress rehearsal, or something. Waitresspersonpeople were everywhere, the kitchen was all a-bustle, smelled like smoke . . . The one thing missing was customers. Of which I would have gladly been one, if they were open open.

I also wish they would have showed me to the basement, where they keep their three-ton smoker, but that didn’t seem to be going to happen, so I went on ahead to the market and got my pork steaks, and to Duc Loi, and home.

Then, when we tried to go with K-3PO, there was a sign on the door saying closed for private function. I must have looked sad, cause someone came out and gave me a little paper bag of cookies.

Those cookies were good! They were not barbecue, but they were sweet and salty. And buttery. I ate them at Baobab, while we were waiting for our red curry prawns, red curry chicken, and some other kind of chicken. With black-eyed peas.

None of which was barbecue, either. But: good. But, according to K-3PO, overpriced. I give up on anything ever being cheap anymore, in the Mission. I just wish that places would step up their game a little, to earn it. In addition to going, OK, it’s the Mission so let’s charge 20 to 30 percent more, go: it’s the Mission so let’s also make our food 20 to 30 percent more amazing.

It’s too close: I will, eventually, give Hi-Lo a chance, but people on Yelp are saying 15 clams for three to five slices of pretty dry brisket, without any sides. So they better step up their game. I can get friendliness and cookies for a lot cheaper than that, even without leaving the ‘hood, and I have a smoker of my own. Albeit not a three-ton one.

Wait. Why would you want a giant smoker? If the idea of barbecue is to impart smoke to meat (and it is) . . . seems to me that smaller spaces full of smoke would make meat smokier than bigger ones. But there’s probably something I’m not factoring in.

Anyway, this isn’t a review of Hi-Lo.

It’s a character study of K-3PO, who — this is what he’s been up to: “watching hundreds of archived mental hygiene films from the ’40s and ’50s,” he said.

Because that’s what he does. Here in the teens. He makes mentally hygienic films, hisself. I saw one, one time. It was freakin’ beautiful.

Another thing we talked about was almost dying, and how each of us has done it, in life. K-3PO told the story of a hike he took in Israel, in the desert, when he and a friend got stuck on the trail overnight and almost froze to death.

Hedgehog, turns out, just missed being torpedoed by an exploding fire extinguisher while she was in film school.

And I … I ate too many pancakes.

Bowled over

3

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS It started when our friend Stringbean texted that their mom and pop were going to New Orleans, where should they tell them to eat? Hedgehog was preparing a long, thorough, annotated email response while I texted back one word: Bacchanal. And then we both looked at each other and started to cry.

The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl were tough — even tougher than the two days after. I actually listen to sports talk radio, see, on my way to and from work, and all anyone was talking about, even more than football, see, was po’ boys, etouffe, jambalaya, and gumbo.

And even when they weren’t, they were talking about Hurricanes and Pimm’s Cups and how many everybody had and then-what-happened. Until I even started to miss that side of it — which I never much participated in anyway.

Almost by accident, on Super Bowl Sunday morning, we had brunch at the Front Porch, and I’m trying not to say “new favorite restaurant” anymore; but sweet baby Jesus the shrimp and grits!

Poor Hedgehog is still kicking herself for going with chicken and waffles. Chawing on her fingers, rending her garments, and thrashing in her sleep . . . you would think she called for a fade route on fourth-and-goal at the five, or something.

“We get to go back,” I keep telling her, over me-made chicken and other anti-depressants. “Possibly as soon as next weekend!”

But I do see her point. It was one of the wonkiest mal-orders in Meal History. She’s gluten-free, and so are shrimp and grits. Whereas waffles are not. San Francisco A.G. (Anno Gravy’s) is not a fried chickeny town. It’s just not, and probably never will be. I can go on and on: she wasn’t hungry. We’d just had breakfast and were going after brunch to Binko’s Super Bowl party, where there would be giant vats of chili gurgling on the stove.

She even asked me if she should order the chicken and waffles and do you know what I said? I said, “No!”

But she audibilized at the line-of-scrimmage and the rest is mystery.

Possibly she was distracted by the radiance of our brunching companion, Lalalala “Happy” Valentina, one of my favorite people to sit around a campfire with, although we haven’t sat around one for several years. Her dad played pro baseball. Made it briefly to the majors, I forget who with, and Hedgehog gets flustered around the progeny of ex-major-league-baseball players.

So there was that.

Luckily, I kept my own wits about me and ordered what Hedgehog should have ordered: shrimp and grits. So good. So so so so . . . whereas the fried chicken was just so so. I mean, sustainable, free-range, vegetarian, home-schooled chicken, no doubt, but that is exactly why we will never be a fried chickeny town. We care too much.

Even I do.

But at least it was fried to-order. You know because they warn you it takes 25 minutes. Fine. Hedgehog and Happy had a lot to talk about. For a long time they’ve both been on the nuts-and-boltsy end of making TV and picters, and both have big, good, sometimes somewhat similar ideas about writing and producing. One gets the feeling if they put their big good heads together, either amazing things or lawsuits will happen.

I’m telling you: best shrimp and grits I’ve had this side of Luke. Fluffy and flavorful, with a poached egg nestled into the top of it. As you read this, I’m realizing just now, writing it, Hedgehog will be eating at Luke without me. It’s already in our calendar: Happy Valentine’s Day, dang it. She’ll be in New Orleans, working for a week, and I’ll be here haunting the Front Porch.

Beignets, fried okra, gumbo, red beans and rice, even po’ boys . . . all of it’s at least a little overpriced, but what I love is the atmosphere is down-to-earth. The front porch itself. The checkered floor, wooden tables, what Happy’s li’l son calls “the chocolate bar ceiling” . . . Wait, there’s nothing down-to-earth about a chocolate bar ceiling. Or any other kind, come to think of it.

I just can’t believe it took me this long to get there.

THE FRONT PORCH

Dinner: Mon.-Sat., 5:30-10:30pm; Sun., 5-10pm; Brunch: Sat.-Sun., 10am-2:30pm

65A 29th St., SF

(415) 695-7800

AE/D/MC/V

Full bar

 

Ride ’em

1

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS “It’s amazing how Ohio still exists,” said Shawn Shine out of the blue. I think it was in Salt Lake City that an old woman, on her birthday, referred to him and my brother Phenomenon as “a couple of real cowboys” — and this made their day.

Phenomenon of course is a real cowboy — as surely as I am a real chicken farmer. It’s what he does, in other words. Puts on a western shirt, a bolo tie, boots, and a hat, and he sings “Home on the Range.” Shawn Shine plays the banjo and stomps his feet or slaps his thighs. He wears flannel shirts and a trucker-style baseball cap with the letters ROY G. BIV embroidered on the back of it.

Couple a real cowboys, yipee-kai-yai-yay.

Technically, Shawn Shine is more of a trail blazer. For real. I’m pretty sure he actually gets paid to blaze trail for National Park Service, sometimes. He gets a job, then he takes a train to somewhere, sleeps out on the trail, under the stars — with his ROY G. BIV hat pulled down over his eyes, as I imagine it.

Hedgehog and I befriended the bejesus out of Shawn Shine while we were all on that cute little tour together last month. In one of his songs he sings the line: “Now I can’t hug you goodbye if you’re covered in bees.”

Every night I’d hear him sing that with his eyes closed and some other place’s light reflecting off his glasses, and I would just squiggle and squish inside with admiration and respect for my new friend, the real damn cowboy, Shawn Shine.

Come to find he wrote that line about Jean Gene the Frenchman, my other brother! Shawn Shine explained the whole thing to me and Hedgehog at Thai House 530, other night.

Like a lot of people I meet here, or even in other parts of the world, Shawn Shine is already in with my whole kooky family in Ohio — where the weird ones stay. See, between trails once (pronounced wunst), he took him a class in cob bench making — I don’t know, I guess because he wanted to make cob benches, or something — and the teacher turned out to be Jean Gene the Frenchman. Then the next thing he knows he is helping my brother tear down some old gangster’s house around the corner from my mom’s. Something historical, from the 1800s, hammered together with what Shawn Shine called “Jesus nails — you know, with four corners.”

Anyway, they were recycling what they could for my other other brother’s house around the other corner from mom’s. Some beams, some posts. But the walls of the house . . . instead of insulation and wires or even dirty money, they were filled with billions of bees. And of course Jean Gene got it into his amazing head to recycle the bees, too. (Hot damn do I love that brother!)

So, yeah, they started a sort of a shuttle service for bees — as best as I can picture it, using their bodies as busses. And every songwriter in the world wishes they were there for that, I would imagine. But only this one was, bless him: Shawn Shine, everybody.

Most of the Bay Area, to think, doesn’t even know yet how happy they are to have him here! When Phenomenon drove back to Ohio after the last show last month, he left Shawn Shine behind. In need of a room in a house, by the way, and work. For between roundups.

Meanwhile, dinner’ll be on us. At Thai House 530, as I was saying. Over and over again, since I’ve latched on to that nasty head cold going around, and duck soup is my medicine. Plus the waitressperson there had the very good sense to compliment Hedgehog’s T-shirt, not knowing Hedgehog was not only wearing her T-shirt but had dreamed it up and had it made! To sell off the stage at our shows, even though it doesn’t say Sister Exister anywhere on it.

“I love her,” Hedgehog whispered to me, when she went to put our order in. I did not feel threatened. Just sick.

Hedgehog’s grilled pork was fantastic. The duck soup cleared my head a little bit, but not enough. Perfect: I would have to go back the next day, and the next. It’s good medicine: deep, dark, and greasy with plenty of duck, cilantro, sprouts, and scallions. In a bowl shaped like a football!

Or a boat, I suppose. Would be another way of looking at it.

Eat here on your way to Lost Church this Friday:

THAI HOUSE 530

Sun-Thu noon-10:30pm; Fri-Sat noon-11pm

530 Valencia, SF

(415) 503-1500

AE/D/MC/V

Beer & wine

Continuity

0

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CHEAP EATS Hoolibloo lives next door, where Elsa the Very Very Old Peruvian Woman used to live. I changed light bulbs for Elsa in the ’90s, and reset her clock every time the time changed or the power went out. Or a battery died.

Then, when I moved back into the building 10 years later, she didn’t recognize me. A lot had changed. I tried to explain, but she didn’t understand, but maybe she did and I didn’t understand her understanding. Her ability to speak English started and ended with asking for help and bragging about how very very old she was. And my understanding of Spanish is limited to the meats. So a typical conversation between us would go something like this:

HER: Please can you help me?

ME: (helping her) Carnitas, Elsa. Carnitas!

HER: I am very very old. Very old.

ME: (finishing up with the helping her) Carne asada. Um, pollo.

HER: Thank you. Thank you very mucho.

ME: De nada, Elsa. Hasta lechuga.

And all of us, everyone in the building, would help her up the stairs. Whereas Hoolibloo, my friend who moved in when Elsa (sniff) moved out, takes the stairs by herself — often even briskly.

“Here, let me help you,” I say, out of habit. But she turns me down, arguing that she’s 25.

Fluently! She doesn’t even have to draw the numbers in the air, like Elsa used to do. But I guess that’s the difference between Chicago and Peru, coming-fromwise. Not to mention 50 years.

In spite of her relative youthfulness, Hoolibloo does not play on my football team, or even in a band. Still, she is our closest friend. When Hedgehog and I sit on our couch and she sits on hers, we are only two sheets of drywall and six inches of insulation apart.

She helps Hedgehog make movies, and me find restaurants. Why, just the other day she showed me to Poc-Chuc. We were both working at home, and were craving sandwiches, only when Hooli called up Ike to place our order they said it would take about an hour, that’s how crowded they were.

So then we started to crave empanadas instead.

One thing I love about hanging with people half my age is they talk about interestinger stuff than I do. I’m all, Oh, my knee is gone! I blacked out in the bathroom! What’s wrong with my butt! . . . and meanwhile they’re working out what to do with their life.

Which makes much more lively dinner conversation.

Lunch too, come to think of it.

Over Empanadas we discussed guns, Israel, guns in Israel, and writing. Hoolibloo would like to write something, she said, but not necessarily a whole book.

“You’re talking to the right person,” I said. I start and don’t finish books with a level of expertise seldom seen outside the world of professional bowling.

But that kind of wasn’t what she was talking about.

She had just come back from Israel, where her grandma lives, and was fixing to fly off somewhere else. Her dream job would entail a lot of travel. And autonomy. “But I also really like to be part of a team,” she said.

“I can teach you football,” I said. Ever the recruiter.

Poc chuc, the signature dish of Poc-Chuc, is thinly sliced pork marinated in citrus, grilled, and served with onions, tomatoes, rice, and a small bowl of pureed black beans that I almost forgot to even taste, everything else was so freaking delicious and plentiful.

I don’t normally like empanadas, but I loved Poc-Chuc’s ones. They were less doughy and more flavorful than most, maybe because of the same black bean puree. Which also found its way into the Panuchos. And believe me, as someone who changes diapers for a living . . . black bean puree in the panuchos? That’ll happen.

Really though: really really awesome Mayan food. The Panuchos, which also feature shredded turkey, avocado, and pickled red onions, were fantastic. Kinda somewhat similar to empanadas, only fried.

I can’t wait until Hedgehog comes back from L.A. so I can show this to her.

POC-CHUC

Mon-Wed 10:30am-8:30pm; Thu-Sat 10:30am-10pm; Sun 4-9:30pm

2886 16th St., SF

(415) 558-1583

AE/D/MC/V

No alcohol

 

Quarterback sack

2

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CHEAP EATS Mz. Grizz is tall and beautiful with a gleam in her eyes that says both I have something funny to add and, if you put a football in her hands, I will knock you over like a freight train hitting bowling pins.

If we played tackle instead of flag football, she would lead the league in yardage and touchdowns, and probably a lot of people would quit. As it is, her area of dominance is the defensive line. And the bowling pins are the opposing team’s O line.

I know I wouldn’t want to quarterback against her. Other hand, if I am totally honest (which I mostly totally am), I haven’t always exactly loved being Mz. Grizz’s teammate either. There’s the generational gap that bebaffles me to most of my teammates at least some of the time, and there was this thing I overheard her say once on the sideline: “I don’t care whether we win or lose,” she said. “I’m in it for the personal glory.”

Which statement bristled me for a while, even though I knew she was saying it to be funny — a twist on it’s how you play the game.

I must have been in a bad mood. Meaning: we must have just lost. Because for me, partially, it is whether you win or lose. That’s what makes it sports. And, in particular, team sports. Supposedly, although spelling is not my forte, there is no I in team. But this was a long time ago.

And, alas, there is an I in time.

Like a lot of our team, Mz. Grizz is a med student. Still, she manages to make more practices than anyone. And games. And she plays and practices –- and eats, it turns out — with an endearingly fierce and bearlike voracity.

Coach’s 35th birthday party was not the first time I got to eat next to Mz. Grizz, but it was the one that won me over. All the way, and in spite of any previously held differences of opinion regarding queer politics or English spelling.

Hers was the biggest plate of food I have seen since the days of Ann’s Cafe. And the way she pinned her ears back (in the parlance of pass-rushing specialists) and tackled it … it earned my undying respect and admiration. It was, in fact, glorious. And I understood.

I mean: first of all, we’re talking Celia’s — which should change its name to Surrealia’s — in San Rafael. I forget what they called the plate, but it had tacos, enchiladas, flautas, chile relleno, steak, beans, rice, and just basically all-things-Mexican all over it. And Mz. Grizz picked up her fork and knife with this super-sexy look, and fucking sacked its ass. I’m not saying it was quick. Or easy. You could tell she was using all her moves: the spin move, the stunt, the club, the rip, the hoop, the inside-out sock…

And those were just the ones that I saw! For the most part my attention was drawn to the wide-screen TV at the opposite end of Celia’s banquet room, on which the 49ers were all-of-the-above-ing it to the Green Bay Packers.

Also I had my own plate to deal with: big, yummy grilled shrimps with beans and rice and a big ball of salad dolloped quite pleasantly, thank you, with pico de gallo.

Everything was great. Warm, fresh-made chips and hot table salsa kept coming, margaritas happened, and Coach presided very thirty-fivishly at the head of the table, until the mariachi band came over from the main dining room behind a small flan with a single lit birthday candle in it.

They sang in Spanish. They sang in English. And by the time Coach wished for another winning season this Spring and blew out the candle, her birthday dessert was mostly melted wax. Yum!

While everyone else was woohooing her, I hugged and high-fived Mz. Griz, who was just then putting the finishing hurt on her quarterback. I think it was called “The Perfecto Special.” Look into this.

“You’re my hero,” I said.

Then, very mysteriously, everyone started disappearing into the restroom in pairs and coming back with each other’s pants and shirts on. Kids! Then they all went bowling across the street, but Hedgehog and I, being old, came home.

CELIA’S

Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10:30pm; Sun 4-9:30pm

1 Vivian, San Rafael

(415) 456-8190

AE/D/MC/V

Full bar

 

Going down

0

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS As we were walking to the car we decided: it was not only the best pozole, it was the best thing either of us had ever ate. I should have gone back and told her so, but when we’d left Sal the Pork Chop’s penthouse sweet it was almost midnight and she was in her pajamas. She’d already fallen asleep in the middle of the season premier of “Downton Abbey,” and we’d had to clear our throats and knock on her head after, just to say goodbye. It was a knockout pozole, really and truly.

I love my Secret Agent Lady for a lot of reasons, and now this: We were halfway down the hall when she called us back. “I forgot to give you the leftovers,” she said.

I pinched myself. Hedgehog swooned.

“Steady,” I whispered, hooking her arm and holding on while our hostess and best friend ever was filling up a yogurt container. “We don’t need two faller-overs in the fambly.”

Sal the Pork Chop, everybody . . . New. Favorite. Person. Ever. And (not entirely coincidentally) maker of the pozole that changes everything.

True, she is not technically a restaurant. But then, I am not exactly all-the-way not on strike, either. I mean, agreement was reached, I am thrilled to say, over salt-and-pepper prawns and clay pot chicken at my new favorite restaurant in Chinatown.

Agreement = check’s in the mail. It is not, however, in my hands. So let’s just say that relatively real restaurant reviews are in the mail . . . and keep talking about Sal the Pork Chop’s pozole.

Or let’s hear from Hedgehog first: Dear Sir or Madam or etc. etc.:

Youse’re going to miss me when I’m gone. Like, by the time you read this, you will already be missing me. The long strike of twelve dash thirteen will be over! And right on time, too. I just contacted the accountant, in preparation for the annual clenching of the jaw and wrenching of the wallet and found out that, due to our domesticational partnership status, and additionally due to our residing in the state of happy cows, I get half of what Chicken Farmer doesn’t make, whether I write half of her column or not. It’s called “community property.”

Meaning, conversely, that she communally appropriates half of what I make, as well. I’m trying to train her to become an Emmy-winning sound editor, but I suspect she won’t be kicking in as much labor on my job as I have been on her’s when the time comes so … so long, suckas. It’s been swell, but the swelling’s gone down now.

Most sincerely, etc. etc.,

Hedgehog

P.S. VIVA LA EL CHEAPO SPORTOS!

Yeah but mine has not! Swelling, that is, and gone down, that is, respectively. We decided we liked my face better like this, and I did not let the nose doctor “set” my nose. He showed me how to rub it so the swelling would go down, but I don’t.

I just …

So the pozole: she made it mostly in a blender, she said. The saucy part, which had about eighty cloves of garlic in it and I forget what she said else. This she then fried in a pan, as I understand it, and that she poured into some chicken broth and other things, in which were then simmered legs and thighs until heaven happened, and was garnished at the table with cilantro, radish, cabbage, avocado, and a squeeze of lime.

There. Now you know how to make, more or less, the best thing I ever ate. But I forgot to mention she roasted some poblanos in her broiler and then threw them in at the end. Christ, I wish I’d been paying better attention.

It was my first meal back from the three-day dead I was in. My second was the melty juicy crunchy salt-and-pepper prawns I savored with jalapeno slices in the company of my favorite living Bee Gee, at a big round table in the small, square second-floor Chinatown Cheap Eats gem:

HONG KONG CLAY POT CITY RESTAURANT

Lunch: Thu-Tue 11am-3pm; Dinner: Thu-Sun 5-9pm; Closed Wed

960 Grant Ave., SF

(415) 989-2638

MC/V

Beer & wine

Street music

14

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS It’s like a rubber band. It breaks.

CHEAP MUSIC


by Hedgehog


Happy Current Year from the not-too-distant past! We celebrated New Years Eve at the Manse de la Cooter with good luck sausages, kale, and (for some of us) perhaps a little too much vino.

Oddly, it wasn’t Chicken Farmer who over-indulged, though I expected her to drown her sorrows in the grape since earlier that day her knee doctor broke the news. Or rather, he tore the news: ACL.

"In the wind," as McNulty would say. Only permanently. Like, Chris escorted her left knee’s ACL into a "vacant," and Snoop followed behind with a bucket of quick lime and a powder-actuated nail gun, you feel me?

But, in spite of her bad case of S.A.D. (Sad ACL Discovery) the farmer stoicly sang and storied the Chunks de la Cooter to sleep, and soberly designated drivered me home, where we’ve been burying our heads ever since, recording Sister Exister music.

And so, in deference to my honey’s questionable sports future and entirely unsporty present, I’m going to focus my portion of the column on the thing I now know more about than I did last week: music in San Francisco.

What’s that? The BG already has music writers? So? They already have a food writer, too. My new twist is: Us! That’s right, it’s 2013 and Sister Exister (sisterexister.bandcamp.com) is primed for world domination. We are everywhere. We tweet, tumble, face the book, kick the songs, camp the band, and cloud the sounds with our patented brand of "What the hell was that? Are they serious?"

And it is thanks to my self-appointed role as the band’s link to all things digital that I’ve discovered — gasp — we are not the only band in San Francisco. This epiphany was mostly Soundcloud’s doing, since we never go outside, let alone to bars, let alone to bars playing loud, live, amplified music.

But maybe in 2013 we should because . . . The High Witness Co. (www.soundcloud.com/highwitness)? Digging the "Leonard Cohen and Calexico in a blender" vibe of "Borrowed Time." And the Street Eaters (www.soundcloud.com/streeteaters)? Fuck yeah! And not just because of their name, either.

Chick drummer, fella plucking the bass, and that’s it. And they sound like a full orchestra! OK not really but dang, only two people? Yowza. Check out their track "Blades" and forget what I said about there being only two people in the band. And then be amazed when I say again: all that energy is coming out of only two people!

This, and then all the bands we already know with all the people we already know in them, like the Verms, Yard Sale, the Low Rollers, 17 Reasons . . . In fact, everybody in the greater Bay Area is in a band! If this isn’t true, if you in fact are not in a band then guess what? You, like us, have got a lot of audiencing to catch up on!

CHEAP EATS continued

Yeah but now I can’t go out because I look like Rocky Balboa. I lasted just one round with the bathroom floor yesterday morning and now I have a broken nose, a black eye, and a swollen eyebrow full of dried blood, in addition to my depressing ACLessness. So I can’t even dance, let alone be seen.

For now.

Go on ahead without me, Hedgehog.

I’ll be here on the toilet, where I’ve spent most of 2013, when I wasn’t Hillary Clintoning off of it.

She found me, dear reader, in a puddle of blood. Not Hillary — Hedgehog. And that awesome moment was the highlight of my year this year so far.

Oh. This morning I ate a half of a bagel with jam on it, and I held it down!

Or up, as it were. Other than that it’s been white rice and dry toast on my menu. But you don’t want to hear about this! Go give a listen to happier times, courtesy of Hedgehog . . .

Wait!

1

le.chicken.farmer@gmail.com

CHEAP EATS Anna Yamo has been trying to catch me for it seems like a year now. When she calls it says Restricted Number and that’s how I know it is her, but I am always in New Orleans or Seattle or the bathroom.

“Restricted Number,” it said.

I was sitting on my couch. San Francisco!

“Hello?” I said. This time.

“Danielle!” she said, with her characteristically loaded laugh, which tells me I’m a hard person to catch hold of. And in her characteristic accent, which is, of course, Thai: “When we have lunch?”

“Sunday?”

“Where you want to eat?” she said, then (also characteristically) she told me where: at this crepe place on Valencia, across from City College. News to me.

“It’s a date,” I said, thinking that — who knows — maybe there’d be a check for $3,300 in my mailbox, and I’d be going back to work. Stranger things have happened, although admittedly they usually involve badgers.

Anna and I hadn’t seen each other in over a year and there were so many things I wanted to talk to her about: her son’s restaurant and did she think we could shoot a short movie there … would she teach me how to make duck noodle soup … and why doesn’t she move to Youngstown, Ohio, the town of my birth and the last US city of any size to not have a Thai restaurant in it.

Let the record also show: I love crepes, and these ones were very very very

 

CHEAP SPORTS

by Hedgehog

The rain. That’s all I have to say about sports this week. Jesus H. Christ is in a mother fucking raft, as my mother always proclaimed He would be. And even He is standing in line for Tartine. Or floating. I know what you’re thinking: He doesn’t need the raft, for He can walk on water, but even our Lord and savior likes a good sit-down now and again (see the Book of Mark, 16:19. Also, the Book of Eames, 12:34).

Neverminding the weather, I’m sick of the line at Tartine. I never go in because I refuse to stand in it. I stood in it once. (Once!)

And not for the stupid goddamn morning rolls (which have too much orange zest in them), but for a sandwich. This was back when I ate things like sandwiches, so you know; it was awhile ago.

Anyway, Chicken Farmer had introduced me to the Tartine pastrami sandwich without making me stand in that god-awful line and I wanted to repay the favor by going and getting them the next time. So I “queued up” (as they would say on Downton Abbey) and 30 minutes later, it was finally my turn to exchange money for goods. But the peopleperson behind the counter cut me off, mid-order, to inform me that they don’t take sandwich orders until 11:30.

It was 11:17.

It was a Five Easy Pieces moment if ever I’ve had one, and I’m all for making a scene, but the 30 minutes of anticipation and herd-member-like treatment backfired and the rage shut down my brain. We got takeout from Pakwan instead.

So when I say “I’m sick of the line at Tartine” (like I just did, up there somewhere), what I mean is, “I’m sick of looking at the line at Tartine.”

We have big windows. And a lovely window seat. Overlooking the line at Tartine.

On Christmas day, after we blew the candles out on the pot roast and dished up the traditional Brussels sprouts, our rag-tag group of holiday orphans were entertained for hours by the comings and nose-pressings and then forlorn goings of a steady stream of Tartinian acolytes. Behold: even Thine Holier Than Thou Bakery is closed on this day.

But the day after, it was busy-ness, as usual. Can you see us in the windows, looking down judgmentically at you from our ellipticating albatross?

Well, enough about what’s-their-faces. We got a Christmas tree! And it nearly caused us to divorce before we could even marry. But that’s neither eats nor sports, so…

R.A. Dickey is now a Toronto Blue Jay.

 

CHEAP EATS CONTINUED

Wait a minute! I like Tartine, and — being a people peopleperson, love looking at the line. Though I agree their morning buns are overrated. 

DOWNTON ABBEY

www.pbs.org