L.E. Leone

Sunrise at 90


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS They said we could stay and eat, but most of the band already had plans for dinner, and loved ones to eat it with, and East Bays to be in, etc. Me and Earl Butter, city dwellers, poor fucks, hungry, looked at each other. We looked at our hostess, and I popped the question: "What’s for dinner?"

By the book, beggars aren’t supposed to be choosers. But did I say we were beggars? No. I said we were poor fucks. We were invitees, and you have to be careful at these places. Sometimes they invite you to stay and eat, and what that means is institutional meatloaf, instant mashed potatoes, over-reheated canned green beans, sliced white bread with margarine, and other things that old people can chew. And that poor fucks like me and Earl Butter eat at home every single day. So what’s the point?

"Hold on. I’ll go ask," our hostess said.

And we finished setting up and played our songs. A sweet woman with black plastic glasses as big around as corn tortillas danced by herself, then with another woman. Then they both danced with a younger guy. Dude with a walker with a small paper plate full of snacks stopped in front of the stage and, oblivious, stood there eating. There were drinks too. A stooped, handsome man with eyes like William Burroughs and maybe Parkinson’s disease was sloshing a glass of red wine all over the white carpet and his white pants.

Rock ‘n’ roll, I thought. Right on! But I still didn’t know what was for dinner, so I got distracted and muffed my solo. It didn’t matter, of course, because nothing does.

When our hostess asked again, afterwards, if we wanted to stay and eat, I said, again, "Um, what’s for dinner?"

"Trout," she said. My eyes must have bugged. "We have a French chef," she explained. "It’s good food."

Goddamn it, now I have to get rich so I can afford to live in one of these places some day when my glasses are as big as tortillas. Just when you think you finally know your place in the world (with the meatloaf) … someone or something (such as trout) bonks you on the head and it’s right back to I-ain’t-good-enough.

I want to eat trout when I’m 90. Slivered almonds, twist of lemon. Side of real mashed potatoes, whipped to perfection, butter butter, and a salad bar. Actually decent coffee …

Forget it, kid. I can barely make my rent. In fact, I can’t. That’s why I had to sublet my place. How am I supposed to sock away savings into my late-life trout account? Forget it!

And Earl Butter’s worse off than I am. We treated this, therefore, like a special occasion. A taste of the good life. Dinner for two on top of Cathedral Hill. At a nursing home, yes — but still it felt almost like a date.

It wasn’t a nursing home. It was the Carlisle Sunrise, an independent-living facility. Meaning the people there can make some choices for themselves. The dining room is more like a restaurant than a cafeteria. Cloth tablecloths.

A man in a suit and tie served us wine. The tomato-basil soup was delicious. And they waited until we had finished our salads before they brought out our trout. Then they showed us a dessert menu.

"I’ll have the mouse," Earl Butter said.

The waitress looked horrified. "Did we misspell it?" she asked, looking over his shoulder at the menu. He’d been flirting with the waitresses all meal long, either ruining the illusion that we were a couple or strengthening it. I can’t decide.

"Kidding!" he said. She laughed. He laughed.

I was disturbed. It had nothing to do with his mice or my cattiness. I was sociologizing. I’d noticed something about the way the old folks were arranged around the room. There was a big, round table in the center, full and boisterous, another cluster of talking, laughing people at one long table, and then a lot of little satellite tables, some with pairs of people, and some with just one.

The woman eating alone at the table closest to ours reminded me of me in high school. And me at camp a couple weeks ago. And I thought that even if I live to be 90, and even if I get rich, and even if I change change change change change … some things just stay a certain way. Probably. And that can be sad. *


Not really a restaurant

Frugal feasts


>>Click here for FEAST, our guide to sexy suppers, classic cocktails, and more hot eats for the season

At Cowgirlpalooza, I ate four bowls of gumbo. I’m not bragging, just setting a scene — a scene featuring the smell of gumbo and the flavor of gumbo, with heart-shaped corn bread and phallic biscuits that were possibly supposed to resemble guitars or banjos or drumsticks but, uh, didn’t. The patio at El Rio, early evening, Outer Mission, lemon trees, blue sky, the chill of oncoming fog, Denise Funiami, five or six twangy bands, and the sticky syncopation of flip-flops on the dance floor …

Every time I made eye contact with Denise, whom I personally consider the queen of San Francisco’s country music scene (although she was conspicuously absent from the stage that day), she would raise her eyebrows questioningly. I would look at the current bowl of gumbo in my left hand, look back at her, and hold up however many fingers. When I got to three, she cursed me loudly, over a sea of cowboy hats, and she cursed my whole family with our hollow legs.

I get bored with drinking. And broke with drinking. There was a $10 cover charge. My family doesn’t have hollow legs so much as empty pockets. This is Gastro-Economy 101: $5 for a beer, and the gumbo’s free. What, are you kidding me?

As usual, I was the soberest person in the place. Afterward I staggered home like everyone else and opened my refrigerator door, like everyone else, and stood there stuffed, with my eyes half open, in a sort of a swoon. Was everyone else looking at what I was looking at? Do you keep a jar of salsa from Papalote Mexican Grill in your fridge? Do you treat it with respect and reverence? Turn to it for solace and support in times of need, boredom … loneliness? I’m talking about the stuff with roasted tomatoes and pumpkin seeds in it.

If you came into a kitchen in a house in the middle of the night and saw me licking this San Francisco delicacy off a stick of celery (in lieu of tortilla chips), my eyes glazed and my lips on fire, my hardly hollow legs already weak with gumbo … I don’t know if you would fall in love with me or not, but you would almost certainly invite me out to eat sometime.

Everybody wants to eat with me. I’m not bragging — just exaggerating. A lot of people want to eat with me. Even vegans, and that’s a journalistic fact. A dude I’ve known for years but have hardly ever eaten with (so for all I know he might be magic) says, in an e-mail, "I would love to make you a salad."

Bam, crash, boom: I’m seduced. No matter which way I take the simple sentiment, I am so there. I love salad and would love to be salad.

Someone else has a new favorite Korean restaurant, ohmigod, the Kim Chee, or a barbecue joint, and they want me in on it. And I want in on it! I’m the luckiest little chicken farmer chick alive, and don’t think I don’t know that. Miraculously, given my two-year campaign to destroy my credibility as a critic, if not a human being, by declaring every single place I eat my new favorite restaurant, people still think I know shit.

Or they want me to. Or something.

Truth is, philosophical fine points aside, as well as semantic silliness (but no way am I giving up hyperbole, so don’t ask), there are certain things at certain restaurants, yes, that I dream about and drool over and want to marry and couldn’t live without. Flavors, textures, smells, memories, fucking feelings that can call out to me even after a burrito or four bowls of gumbo and bring me to my knees. I’m talking about my favorite favorites, if you will, for real and in no particular order. I love each and every one of these dishes more than madly. I love them beyond numbers, alphabets, art, or laws of gravity and with all my hollow heart, until death do us part and then some.


There’s this thing in folk music or blues, right, or … I don’t know where it comes from originally, but you have to have heard at least one take on it: "When I die, don’t bury me at all/ Just pickle my bones in alcohol/ Put bottles of whiskey at my head and feet/ And then I know that I will keep."

My song substitutes butter for alcohol, of course, but in real life, between me and you, I would prefer to be preserved in barbecue sauce. I just couldn’t think of anything that rhymes with it.

Since Cliff’s closed, my go-to rib joint has been Memphis Minnie’s in San Francisco, only I don’t get no ribs. And — surprise — I don’t much care for any of the three kinds of sauce they keep on the tables either. If you mix the so-so vinegar-based one with the so-so tomato-based one, that’ll put you somewhere between North Carolina and Texas, or in other words, Birmingham, Ala., which has fine barbecue, but Christ, Flint’s is just over the bridge in Oakland. If you want ribs or brisket, go to Flint’s.

But if you want chicken wings, and I, for one, do, Memphis Minnie’s not only has you covered, it’s got you covered in the best barbecue sauce I know of right now. It’s sticky, a little bit sweet, and a lot hot, and why it ain’t in bottles on the tables with the so-so ones is for better minds than mine to figure out.

You have to order the Smoky Mountain Wings if you want that particular sauce. If you don’t want the wings, get them anyway and lick and suck them dry. Chicken is hit or miss at barbecue joints, I know. But two out of every three times, you do want the wings. They’re smoked and fried, for crying out loud — on the starters menu for $5.75. Order them twice, if you must, or once, with a side of my favorite slaw (no mayo!) and a big glass of sweet tea.

Who the hell else serves sweet tea around here? That in itself would make Memphis Minnie’s one of my favorite favorite restaurants. The Smoky Mountain flap-flaps just seal the deal. And the tart and tangy slaw sweetens — or sours — it.

576 Haight, SF. (415) 864-7675, www.memphisminnies.com


Now, I’ve been carrying on for years about fried barbecued chicken, or barbecued fried chicken (which is the order I do it in). But actually, my all-time favorite favorite way to cook meat is not to cook it, not even once.

I’m thinking specifically about that raw beef salad you sometimes find at Vietnamese restaurants. At Le Cheval, which is just a great place, period (although not undiscovered), the bò tái chanh ($9) will make you fly out of your seat and zip willy-rip-snort all over the place’s considerable atmosphere like a blown-up-and-let-go balloon. I’m speaking figuratively. Although, if you’re a vegetarian, you might in fact have visions.

Otherwise, expect to be instantly hooked and almost explosively happy when your teeth and tongue hit this thin-sliced, lemon-drenched meat, with 1) cilantro, 2) mint, 3) ginger, and 4) onions. I mean, come on. It’s almost not fair to stack the deck like that. These are, if not the essential elements of our universe, the exact ingredients that make it wacky and wonderful and that cause the people in it to have to sing. Cilantro, mint, ginger, onions, lemons.

Not to mention peanuts and sesame. (I was afraid if I put them all in the same paragraph I might lose my readership.) And not to mention the meat itself, which kind of half seviches and half stays pink, and in any case is wholly succulent and tender.

If they put a bò tái chanh stand at either end of the Golden Gate Bridge, you would never again have to hear or think about the words suicide barrier in connection with the span. I’m convinced of that.

1007 Clay, Oakl. (510) 763-8495, www.lecheval.com


I’m also, of course, a clown. The first time I ate at Penny’s Caribbean Cafe in Berkeley, I was moved to go out to the van and get my steel drum and come back in and serenade the chef and the server and the proprietor, in fact the only person in the place, Penny.

Since then I have been back at least 30 times with at least 30 different people. My mission: to single-handedly or double-handedly or in any case greasy-handedly keep this place in business. Because I’m afraid it’s too good to be true, like those dreams in which your dearly departed loved ones are alive again, in the yard, pecking corn and laying eggs.

I’ll say it: curry goat roti ($8) is my favorite favorite thing to eat, and Penny’s is my favorite favorite restaurant. And Penny is one of those rare people, like Fran of the late Ann’s Cafe, whom I love even beyond her capacity to cook. If bò tái chanh literally did contain all the most fun pieces of the universe, Penny might be the universe itself. I just want to hug her, to disappear into her floury apron and kitchen smells, then decide for myself whether or not to come back.

Know what I mean?

Then maybe you should give this place a try. It’s a dive, in the divine sense: it has two or three tables, and it’s not always exactly all the way clean, or quick (she makes everything to order). Neither efficient nor organized, Penny’s is not a well-oiled machine. But you will be after your roti, which you eat with your hands, like Ethiopian food.

Just so you know, West Indian roti is nothing like East Indian roti. It’s a soft, layered dough with chickpeas crumbled into it and enough flavor to start or stop wars, even before the curry goat touches it. You can also get curry chicken, jerked chicken, or just vegetables. That’s chickpeas, potatoes, and sometimes maybe some other things, like spinach. With or without your meat, it’s ridiculously, eyes-rolling-back-in-the-headedly delicious.

But get the meat. The goat. Trust me on this. Goat is actually smoother and subtler tasting than lamb, if you’re worried about it. In which case you must not have ever had it.

2836 Sacramento, Berk. (510) 486-1202


Here’s a dish, larb, that I had and had and had about a million times, on the East Coast and on this one, not to mention most points in between, since even small towns in Kansas have Thai restaurants now. Why I ordered larb so many times, considering that I never once liked it, is a big fat mystery, even to me. Theories include: 1) it’s just an irresistibly funny word, and 2) maybe I knew, deep down inside (where all the weird, oniony dream images hang), that one day I would find Manora’s Thai Restaurant in San Francisco.

Manora’s is my favorite Thai place now. It looks like it’s going to cost you, because the atmosphere is nice, as in fancy-framed pictures, cloth tablecloths, candles, flowers, chandeliers, and a waitstaff who all have good posture.

But don’t be scared off. The food is great, and it’s really not any more expensive than anywhere else — just nicer. Larb, basically a meat salad, goes for $7.50. However, whereas most places make their larb with ground or minced beef (or chicken or sometimes duck), Manora’s uses chunks of grilled steak. It’s got juice to it, even pinkness, sometimes even redness, and you know how I feel about all that.

Also: lemon, mint, and hot pepper, hoorah, but the distinctive flavor is roasted ground rice. And I think maybe most places overroast the rice or overrice the roast, just to mess with me. The bastards! If you haven’t tried larb, don’t — not until you can try it at Manora’s.

And if you know of another place that uses grilled, not ground, meat in this dish — take me there.

1600 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-6224, www.manorathai.com


My favorite favorite breakfast place is still Just for You. I love the beignets. I love the cornmeal pancakes. I love the chili scramble over corn bread. I love, love, love the Hangtown fry (oysters and bacon together — I rest my case)…. But the thing that I dream about and wake up craving, of course, is longanisa.

That’s those Filipino sausages I affectionately (and foolishly) refer to as sausage donuts. They have nothing to do with dough. They’re just meat. They’re sausages, only absurdly and sweetly and greasily delicious. Like donuts.

Because they are sweet and pork and therefore good for you, they make a perfect, perfectly healthy breakfast sausage. Why don’t more places have them on the menu? I blame the chicken and apple industries. Not even all Filipino restaurants serve longanisa.

Just for You is not a Filipino restaurant. It’s a New Orleans–y, Southern-style joint with some Mexican touches. For going above and beyond the call of duty to bring me longanisa, Just for You will always be for me.

732 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-3033, www.justforyoucafe.com


Everyone, no matter where they live, has to have a favorite breakfast place. If you live in San Francisco, you have to have a favorite burrito place too. This is a burden. For years, for me, it was easy: Taqueria Can-Cún. Then I finally tired of its on-again, off-again carne asada, its stale chips …

For the next few years I didn’t have a favorite taquería and was so embarrassed that I moved to Sonoma County.

Well, I’m back in the city, for now, and so I had to have a favorite taquería again. Right? No-brainer: Papalote! I resisted it for a long time, because it looked so fancy-pants and hipsterish. But then I got over all my snobby prejudices and gave the place half a chance.

Holy shit, the salsa! Last time I tasted such an earth-shaking, mind-blowing, eye-watering condiment, it was the green bread-dip Peruvian potion at Rincon Peruano in 1996. Papalote’s salsa, served with actually warm, fresh tortilla chips, is roasted Roma–based, flourished by cilantro and hot, hot peppers, and the secret ingredient is pumpkin seeds.

You can bring a jar and fill it up to bring home, but what the hell, you may as well suck down a carne asada burrito ($5.49) while you’re there. I’m not sure I can forgive Papalote for not having lard in its beans, but the meat is grilled to order, not sitting in a bin, and that makes a huge difference.

Then too, they could be rolling up dog food with leftover fried rice and hospital cafeteria beans in a stale, store-bought tortilla, and, drenched in my favorite favorite salsa in the history of the whole wide world, ever, it would still be the best burrito in town. I swear.

3409 24th St., SF. (415) 970-8815


Sorry to take you out of town for this one, but get in the car. We’re going to Santa Rosa. And I’m not shuttling you to no wine country froufrou, chichi chateau either. We’re eating at one of the scariest- and sorriest-looking Chinese dives in one of the bluest-collarest parts of a pretty dumb-ass town: China Light Restaurant, where warehouse workers and truck mechanics break for lunch.

I was pretty much zombied into this place, initially, against even my better judgment, by the irresistible allure of a dish called oil-dripped chicken. It was the most appetizing sounding of seven $4.35 lunch specials.

Five, six, seven visits later, and I still haven’t tasted this sure-to-be-spectacular specialty. I was permanently derailed by a sheet of plain white paper under the glass on the table casually mentioning, among other things (but don’t ask me what else), duck noodle soup ($6.15).

I looked up from those three simple promises with tears of hunger forming in the corners of my eyes and a drop of drool on my lip. I remember there was an old guy wearing rubber boots slowly sloshing from the kitchen, across the dining room, to the parking lot in a manner I would describe, retrospeculatively, as plumberesque.

Don’t fret! Get back in the car! Get back in the car! I have saved the best for last, I promise.

Now, I know there is no shortage of duck noodle soup right here in the city. If anyone wanted me to, I would very, very (very, very, very) happily do another one of those detailed investigative reports on just duck soup. A lot of Thai restaurants and noodle houses have it, and it almost always floors me. In a good way.

In the best possible way.

I just love duck noodle soup, and right now my favorite favorite example of it is an hour away. It’s Chinese, not Thai. It’s like a whole half of a roasted duck, bones and skin and all, chopped up on a bed of thick noodles and bok choy in a dark, rich broth. But you can’t even see any of this other stuff for the meat, and by the time you get to it, you are pretty much full and silly and slippery and just juiced.

China Light’s duck noodle soup makes me crazy and makes me do crazy things — like right now, in my mind, in my hollow, insatiable head, I am driving a little tiny car full of every single one of my readers, even vegans, all the way to Santa fucking Rosa. For dinner. Tonight.

Right now.

Close your eyes.

80 College, Santa Rosa. (707) 527-0558

L.E. Leone is a Bay Area writer and musician and the author of The Meaning of Lunch and Eat This, San Francisco. Her next collection of stories, Big Bend, is forthcoming from Sparkle Street Books. She writes the weekly Cheap Eats column in the Guardian.

› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

Stone’s throw


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS While y’all were at Burning Man, I was in the bathtub. I was taking a bath. I was floating in a swimming pool with a mojito in one hand and a grilled hot sausage on a long fork in the other. I was walking in a fog.

I was eating a popsicle, running naked through sprinklers, stepping on worms.

I was listening to Elton John. In my room. Window open. I was eating salad and salad and salad. The greens were green and crisp, the tomatoes not quite ripe.

I was slicing white onions. I was eating white onions, raw, and hot peppers. I slept real hard and figured out how to open my window and walked around in the sun and the shade, looking people in the eye.

I took a bath and a shower at the same time, and drank ice water out of a glass, the outside of which frosted over, so I licked it. I dressed conservatively.

I hung out in coffeehouses. I am writing this in coffeehouses. Coffee. Iced coffee. Green tea. Italian sodas. This morning I went to a different coffeehouse, and I tried to see if I could eat Korean barbecue with rice for breakfast, in a coffeehouse.

I could! While y’all were at Burning Man, I was at the Pebbles Café in Glen Park, at 8:30 in the morning, eating bulgoki over rice, with a salad. Bulgoki, or bulgogi, means "fire meat" in Korean. In this case it’s beef, very thinly sliced and marinated in something salty and sweet, with onions and peppers and carrots and ohmigod! For having this on the menu, and for serving it to me at 8:30 a.m., Pebbles Café is my new favorite coffeehouse.

I think that people are vegetarians. I say this because I was sitting at a table full of dudes in a different coffeehouse, and they started talking about Burning Man this, Burning Man that. So I cleared my throat. I told them my idea for bringing Camp Chicken Farmer to Burning Man. They looked at me like I was crazy, and I looked at them like they were vegetarians.

The idea for Camp Chicken Farmer ’08 was hatched at Camp Trans, while I was interviewing someone about why didn’t they have eggs. And they said it was too hard to keep eggs without refrigeration, or even ice. Thing is: the freshest egg in the world is as warm as a mug of coffee, and the freshest meat is still moving.

To illustrate this natural fact, I am going to take Camp Chicken Farmer to Burning Man next year, if I can raise the funds and recruit farmers. So far I have one. Well, by myself then, if necessary, I’m going to haul a pick-up truck of live chickens to Black Rock Desert, and a sack of feed, and a hatchet. I’m going to dress conservatively, stay sober, and just fry fresh eggs and butcher and barbecue all week long, go to sleep early.

Now, my attentive readers are going to go: "Wait a minute, Chicken Farmer, you had a hard enough time killing Houdini."

Exactly. And what’s the cure for not hardly being able to kill a chicken? Killing hundreds of them. Anyone could tell you that. On the other hand, it takes a paid professional specialist like me to tell you about the intricacies of coffeehouse Korean barbecue in Glen Park. For breakfast.

Two drunk guys on a sidewalk in Chicago got in my face. They asked impolitely if I was a transvestite.

"I’m everything," I said. "I’m trans."

"You mean you used to be a man and now you’re a woman?" one guy asked while the other started going on about how God made you one way. "You don’t mess with that," he said.

"I did," I said.

The light changed while they were still in my face. "I’d love to stay and chat," I said, flashing them the peace sign and stepping in the street, as if I had somewhere to be.

In fact my bus didn’t leave until two a.m. I had time to kill. The sun was just setting. The tops of the tall buildings were lit, and we were in it, in one sense, like ants under a magnifying glass. I had time to kill, and time was killing me. So while you were at Burning Man, I was still in Chicago on the sidewalk between bums, drunk, hungry, discussing theology, not giving anyone any hand jobs, laughing, and on fire.<\!s>*


Monday–<\d>Friday: 6:30 a.m.–<\d>3:30 p.m.; Saturday: 8:30 a.m.–<\d>3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday

2852 Diamond St. S.F.

(415) 333-2270

No alcohol

Credit cards not accepted

Wheelchair accessible

Socked and odd


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk’s sister Sisterwonk made Socky a sock monkey with multiple piercings and horns, so she named it after herself. She named it Socky. Now I have to call Sockywonk "Wonk" for short, to avoid confusion. We made a fine pair, the three of us — me, Socky, and Wonk — in Kansas, and at Cracker Barrel, and all along the Loneliest Road in America.

Truck stop to truck stop we did not get beat up or even pointed at, we three freaks: the tranny chicken farmer, the punkish weirdo, and the devilish sock monkey with a fetish for road kill. Well, one little kid cried when Wonk showed Socky to him, and that was it.

Yes, you heard me right: Cracker Barrel. It wasn’t my idea, but I admit to being down with it. All I needed to know was fried okra, and Sockywonk kept saying it, like a mantra, "fried okra, fried okra, fried okra." Then when we finally found one she said, "Prepare to be shocked and awed."

I didn’t know about shocked. I didn’t know about odd. All I needed to know was fried okra, and that was what I ordered with my chickens and dumplings. They give you three sides, and I chose okra, okra, and okra. None of them were really worth writing about. I’m not going to write about the chickens and dumplings, either. Don’t worry.

The only thing remarkable about Cracker Barrel, besides the novelty of it, for me, was sweet tea and real butter.

And what Sockywonk really wanted more than mushy beige food, I figured out later, was to be able to call her mom and dad and say, "Guess what! We ate at Cracker Barrel!"

There are some things in life that I understand.

Other things, I am learning, like how to not always look like a chicken farmer. We went into a lot of thrift stores, and Sockywonk played big sister, fashion checking all my purchases. She did let a bit of gingham slip through, but other than that, weather permitting, I am now going to be leggier and chestier than I used to be. Just to warn you. If you see a totally hot chick walking around town without any chickens, say hello because that’s me.

I’m back! Safe, and unsound.

The day after our return, I waited for the Wonk to leave, and then I donned my new gingham pants and orange "I Rock It Old School" tank top, painted my toenails neon green, and drove up to the woods to a chicken coop dedication party. I took my steel drum with me, and my country buddy Mountain Sam, who was stuck in the city and kinda could use a ride home.

We stopped and bought a watermelon. We stopped and got a rack of baby backs, a bag of potato chips, and two big beers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be back in the Bay Area, y’all, and in particular to be back in my beloved Sonoma County, west county, in the redwoods, sitting on a stone wall with the Mountain, and sucking down a rack of ribs. There was a blue grassish band called the Wronglers, and they were playing "Red River Valley," "Home on the Range," and other ideal soundtracks to pork and beer on a stone wall in the woods.

For now, I still live in Noe Valley. But my new favorite barbecue is in Petaluma. It’s called Lombardi’s and they have a whole chorus line of barrel smokers in front, kicking out chickens and ribs and tri-tip, salmon, burgers and dogs, and even nonmeat grillables like corn, asparagus, and mushrooms.

I can speak for the baby backs: excellent! We saved some for Veronica. I dipped potato chips into the leftover sauce. Between sets, I whipped out my steel pan and played a handful of chicken farmerly songs, like the one about how I first became a chicken farmer, and the one about how my chickens drink my bath water, and the one about how I want to be a chicken, and the one about how when I die, I’d like for my chickens to eat me, please.

And all the while I didn’t have a single chicken in the world, and lived in a yardless basement apartment with grocery store eggs in the fridge.

Still, kids and old folks loved me. Our hostess said she was going to name one of their new baby chicks after me, and then I knew that I had made it.


Daily: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.

3413 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma

(707) 773-1271

Beer and wine


Switching sides


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The whole time that Earl Butter was with us, from New Hampshire to New York to Michigan, there was something I wanted to ask him but couldn’t quite put into words. That is, until he and Phenomenon hugged me good-bye and drove away, leaving me, at 44 years old, for my first time ever at camp.

Then, as soon as it was too late, the fog lifted from my sentence and the wording was clear and succinct: "How do I learn hopelessness?" Huh? Help me. Bankrupts, scofflaws, dock rats, bottle dwellers, how do you give up and get on with it? Stop writing poetry and start living poetically. Be the poem, or the ball, or the song.

I crunched back into the woods and set up my tent. As usual, I pitched it as far away from everyone else as possible. And every day I kept moving it farther and farther away, until I wasn’t even sure I was in Michigan any more.

What do you do at camp? Besides feeling lonely and displaced, I mean, and plotting your way back to town, to a phone, so you can call your mommy or daddy and say, "Uncle! Come get me! Please!"

Well, the purpose of Camp Trans is to protest the official policy of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival re trans women inclusion. However, nobody exactly knows exactly what that policy is! It’s the most beautifully twisted blur of swirliness since the US military’s famous "Don’t ask, don’t tell" masterpiece. To the best of my chicken farmerly understanding, trans women are, in theory, not welcome. They are asked but not forced to respect the festival’s womyn-born-womyn, cluck cluck. In practice, however, no one’s going to check your jeans or genes. You buy a ticket, you’re in. Some people might be mean to you, and their meanness might be backed by policy, but hey, welcome to the world. Right?

Right. So, Camp Trans aims to change all that. Peopled mostly, I think (but didn’t count), by trans men showing support for their homemade sisters, and open to anyone anywhere on or off the gender spectrum, Camp Trans is young, and strong, and beautiful, and diverse, and brilliant, and radical, beautiful, and very well educated, and young, and the main strategy, to the best of my chicken farmerly understanding, is to have 10 times as much fun as the festies do, and for 300 times cheaper, until people start switching sides and the Michfest bigwigs get real.

Off the top of my head, it’s my favorite political strategy ever. I say this without a trace of facetiousness, I swear, and as the least politically active person in the world, give or take Lars Fiffick.

By the end of the week I had a new favorite singer-songwriter (Lost), a new favorite spoken wordster (Katz), a new favorite lightbulb eater (Emily), and a new favorite lap dancer (Alex). All around me people were making out with other people, laughing hysterically, talking intensely, hugging, playing, partying, holding hands, and womyn-born-womyn from the festival kept crossing the road and saying, "Wow, it’s funner over here."

Personally, I can speak for the food. I did have lunch on Michfest one day. First I tried to sneak in through the woods but got busted. Then I tried to talk my way in at the entrance, where the problem wasn’t gender but economics. Somehow $310 seemed like a lot to pay for a vegetarian lunch. I told them I had a friend in the kitchen (which was true) and that I just wanted to see her (which was true) and eat lunch (which was true). I swore I didn’t want to see any shows (which was true) and wouldn’t stay on the land for one second longer than necessary to masticate my food in a manner conducive to healthy digestion and tranquility.

Then, when the truth didn’t work, I tried lying. "OK, you got me. I’m a journalist," I said. "I’m a food writer. I’m doing a piece on the food here and at Camp Trans."

They were so fuckin’ friendly! They said, "Oh, we have the food right here. It’s what’s for lunch." And they started dishing me out an awesome bean salad and a pasta salad with black olives in it, and a cream cheese sandwich, and a nectarine.

I sat on a hay bale, under an umbrella, and everything was great, but with apologies to my actual friend in the actual kitchen, the food was better, spicier, and healthier at camp. And I’m talking not just vegetarian, but vegan! How can it be?

One word: beets. Beets, and I did have a huge bag of beef jerky in my tent, without which I would have died.<\!s>*

Butterfly bride


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS There was a man on a tractor talking to a man who wasn’t on a tractor. There were a boy and a girl by the road, in the grass, playing with something in a bucket. There were two men going into a broken down building. There was a woman sitting on her porch steps looking at her hands.

I didn’t cry at the wedding, but the next night I came home from a next-night barbecue, closed the door to my room, and Patsy Clined into a saucy puddle on the bed. The pork chops were beautiful, dressed in halved apricots and peaches, also off the grill. There were grilled squashes, eggplants, and even a cucumber, which I had stuffed with bread and tomatoes and wrapped in bacon.

It was a beautiful evening in upstate New York, and I was surrounded by my friends. San Francisco friends. East Coast friends. Mostly they wanted to know if the hot dogs were ready, but still … I was surrounded. It was beautiful. I don’t mind always minding the grill, but what happens is that by the time I eat there isn’t any salad.

I cried myself to sleep.

In the morning Earl Butter brought me a piece of toast. I was in the shower, and when I came out there was a piece of toast on my journal. Dry. It was the thought that counted.

It is customary, I believe, here in the society section, to say something about the bride. What she wore, for example. Who she was …

Bikkets!!! My old best friend, bandmate, kindred spirit, and ex-podner. She wore a white gown that wasn’t a wedding dress but did have big different-colored sequin butterflies all over it. It was spectacular, outlandish, elegant, beautiful, insane, and perfect. One of her other old best friends is a costume shopper for the movies, and this is what you get when you bring a professional costumer and a tranny with you into the fitting room. You get big colorful butterflies all over your wedding dress.

I was standing by a pond and they were saying their vows next to a brook. Some sunlight dribbled through the maple trees and found her sequins, and I was never more proud — not to be there at the wedding, but to have been there in the fitting room.

Honest to Godzilla, while Bikkets was saying her piece, a real live butterfly flitted out of nowhere, circled her head, landed on a stick right next to her, and seemed to pay attention, like it was marking her words or something.

You couldn’t get away with that in the movies, let alone real life! Are you kidding me? I was like: Unh-unh. Nope. No way. The only thing that could have conceivably made the moment more wonderful would have been a big, loud fart.


I am in the back of the van, again, writing to you from the road for the third week in a row. Ohio. Hard rain, lightning, more tornado warnings, Earl Butter at the wheel, and I’m more afraid than I was in Nebraska, driving by myself through something way worse.

In the past 30 miles we’ve seen two overturned accidents. We’re trying to make it to the last gig of our tour, and then, if all goes well, I will be camping in this shit tonight, in wet woods in Mosquitoville, Mich. That’s if things go well. If they go otherwise, I don’t know what. I don’t have tickets, directions, a ride, or exactly a home of my own to come home to.

I have a new favorite restaurant! It’s in the Mission, on 22nd Street between my two favorite bars, the Make-Out Room and the Latin, so when I do finally sally my silly self back to San Francisco, you will find me there, eating tortas and reading the paper, almost all the time.

If only I could remember the name of the place, or what the hell I had. Just kidding. It’s Tortas el Primo, and I had a carnitas sandwich. Which was a goofy thing to order because, as I recall, I’d been eating week-old pork all week that week, the week before I left.

Which is why we have friends in the world. Right? Wayway, who turned me on to Tortas el Primo and went there with me, ordered carne asada and swapped me half of his. Everything was great!

Instead of cake, they had wedding pies, blueberry, apple, peach … Twenty-seven of them, made in two days by Deevee and Phenomenon. I helped. *


Daily, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

3242 22nd St., SF

(415) 642-0771

No alcohol


Wheelchair accessible

Home sweet home


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS First windmills we saw were in Wyoming, and I was in the back of the van writing about Don Quixote. So that was cool. I like stuff like that. Then in Nebraska it was my turn to drive and we went through a tornado. It was just getting dark out, and at first this was amazing. Lightning was everywhere all at once — not just bolts but balls and flowers and roadmaps. Explosions of pure pyromania, like fireworks or a war zone. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I was in the van by myself. For a while we had two cars, and Phenomenon was in the other one with Fiddlesticks and our fearless leader, Chief. So they had all the bravery with them, but I had the snacks.

The van goes like a boat in the wind. I was giggling and hooting, scanning my music for something to live up to the light show. I had snacks and iTunes. When a speed limit sign twisted out of the ground and flew away, things changed for me and I very immediately had back problems. Neck. Shoulders. If I lived, I was going to need a massage.

Besides bravery, the other car had all of our toll money and leadership skills, but for some reason me and snacks were calling the shots. So long as I didn’t see any actual twisters, and I didn’t, my strategy, now that we were in it, was to just keep driving. The lightning was indistinguishable from the thunder, or anything else. Everything was just light and noise, rain and us, all rolled up and rolling. My knuckles hurt.

Drive, drive, drive, drive, drive, and then right when we’d finally outrun the mayhem, my fuel light came on. I got off at the next exit and gassed up, sirens whooping from all the nearby Nebraska towns and the wind whipping plastic cup can lids around my ankles. The food mart woman was standing in the doorway of the store saying, "Tornado."

"Which way’s it coming?" I asked.

"From the west," she said. Like us, meaning: my massage would have to wait. Not wanting to tempt the tempest, we skedaddled. We dragged that weather system all the way across Nebraska and never got wet.

I ate some wonderful food in Youngstown, Ohio, of all the crazy places. My hometown. We played outside in an alley at this café called Selah, and they fed me ricotta gnocchi with fresh spinach and cream sauce that was as good as any gnocchi I’ve eaten in any San Francisco restaurant. So I take back everything I ever said about my old hometown.

Even though technically Selah is in Struthers.

And then this morning I woke up in my other old hometown, Portsmouth, N.H., where I ate brick oven pizza that rivaled Tomasso’s and top-notch carne asada burritos across the river in Kittery, Maine (of all the other crazy places). Loco Coco or Coco Loco. Southern California transplants, I believe, but they do put rice in their burritos, and I’d just as soon have another one of those than anything I can think of in the Mission.

I’m not saying all this to dis my city. It’s more like: Hey, look at this! Or: Wish you were here. It’s a postcard. And I do wish you were here, and also wish I were there, instead of in the back of a van spinning down the East Coast now, Earl Butter at the wheel, Phenomenon all neck-cricked next to him, drooling into his western shirt.

We lost our fiddler and our chief, Chief, and picked up Mr. Butter, who is rapidly becoming every old person’s favorite young person. On the other hand, he’s not entirely certain he’s a licensed driver anymore. And he’s driving. I backed into a deck a couple days ago and sharded our back window into all our gear and sleeping stuff. Now we’re counting on plastic and duct tape to keep our stuff in and the weather out.

After seven shows in three days in Bangor, Maine, I’d had it up to here with outrageous friendliness, mosquitoes, and "King of the Road."

If all goes as planned, tomorrow we will wake up near an unpronounceable, unspellable tidal river in Rhode Island, and we’re going to rake for clams and hopefully have some homemade chowder for breakfast.

Then: Providence. Then: Albany, N.Y. Then: Bikkets’s wedding, and then, old folks be damned, we start sallying slowly back to home-sweet-home and my new favorite restaurant. *

The horse’s mouth


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS My favorite novel is Don Quixote. I’ve been reading it since I was three. Or so. Over and over and over and over. But I’d never seen Man of La Mancha, even though it was Crawdad de la Cooter’s favorite musical. On road trips, we would listen to her old tape over and over, singing along, dreaming the impossible dream, and so on.

Then I saw Man of La Mancha. The Sixth Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa was putting it on, and my woodsy neighbor Slim Jimmy Jack James, meat eater, landed the role of Don Quixote’s horse. He told me and Mountain Sam about it around the smoker, and we patted him on the back and hooted and tipped our beers and wine bottles and clinked pork ribs.

"That’s my favorite musical," I said. "I’ve always kind of thought I should see it some day."

"June and July," Slim J.J.J. said, and while he and Sam were playing with the catapult, shooting rocks into buckets and putting each other’s eyes out, etc., I went inside and found a calendar. It had pictures of food on it, recipes, and nothing at all marked for June or July. I circled both months with a big black marker and went back outside to administer to the wounded.

That was a couple months ago. Cut to a couple months later, and I don’t think I ever in my life looked at that calendar again. I don’t even know where it came from. Maybe it wasn’t mine, but I was sitting somewhere in Noe Valley, with my head in my hands, reminiscing about the pond where me and Mrs. Jimmy Jack would be sitting right now with our feet in the water, watching turtles, if I hadn’t closed up shop at the shack and sallied back to the city, dopey me.

Hey, the play! I found a phone, called up Mrs. Jimmy Jack, and said just that: "Hey!" I said. "The play!"

It was still July. Yeah, there was one more weekend, she said. So then I called up the Mountains, and then I called the box office, and we threw a combined $60 to the wind, in advance, demonstrating an almost uncanny commitment to the arts. (So long as we are personally acquainted with Don Quixote’s horse.)

My point is this: go figure. For three years I shack in Sonoma County and conduct all of my cultural and most of my social life in the city. Then, in the 10 days I’m stationed in San Francisco, between life as I know it and my next cross-country adventure, I keep finding reasons to go out up there. Willie Bird’s Restaurant. Fourth of July. The Hellhounds are playing at the pub.

In this case, of course, I mean, you know, the cat who’s playing Don Quixote’s horse … it’s a no-brainer. And, granted, I’m no theater reviewer, but Slim Jimmy Jack James, meat eater, is long and tall and entirely skinnier than a lot of vegetarians. Plus hairy, so he got to be Jesus in a play within the play within the play, and then he really stole the show.

Seriously, I don’t know how to tell you how great Man of La Mancha was, so let me see what I can do about Willie Bird’s Restaurant.

The thing about me and Mountain Veronica is that, like twins or sisters or something, we get hungry at the exact same time, always. On a day that I’m thinking of, we coincidentally had doctors’ appointments at the same time, right around the corner from each other, and Mountain Sam was along for the air-conditioning, kicking back in V.’s doctor’s waiting room, then mine, then hers, and then finally we were all checked up and MRI’d and together in one place, and me and Mountain V. said, almost in unison, "I’m starving."

"Willie Bird’s," Sam said. I’ve been wanting to check this place out ever since the first time I lived in Sonoma County. It’s Santa Rosa’s famous family restaurant. Big food, drinks. Homegrown turkeys, turkey this, and turkey that, stroganoff … I got whatever sounded closest to smoked, because that’s my favorite way to eat turkeys. And everything was delicious. And everything was more than we could eat, even me and V.

It comes with soups and salads, and before that they load you up with bread and butter and antipasto stuff like salami, olives, and artichoke hearts.

Big food in Santa Rosa. And I don’t know where in the world I’ll be next week, but the time to sally is nigh. So … *


Daily, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

1150 Santa Rosa, Santa Rosa

(707) 542-0861

Full bar


Wheelchair accessible

Lonely enough


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I don’t even know the name of this river. Three, four, maybe more years in a row we’ve been coming here, and the women bring magazines. My brother and Wayway and Jolly Boy go fishing and don’t catch fish. I sit on the rocks with a pen and don’t catch poetry.

At the bottom of the river, on a slimy rock, sits a barrel-shaped bug with four black legs sticking out of its head, an off-center orange dot, and — I swear — barnacles …

Nature is so punk! Here’s a duck with a Mohawk, and eight cute little ducklings, then the next day seven. Then six … The river speaks for itself, no fish, no poetry, all rocks and swirl, and yesterday a young woman from the campground wandered downriver to us, on something and full of questions. Where are you from? Are you white? Do you have kids with you? Who here don’t you like?

Dogs lick toads to hallucinate. Cats like catnip. Nature uses. Our "innocents" high on s’mores and we in our various states of adult intoxication decide, sitting around the fire, that the young upriver woman is a serial killer. This distracts us temporarily from the very real fear of bears, who have been knocking over our bear boxes, breaking into cars, and sniffing our tents in the middle of the night.

If the campfire is town square, or San Francisco, then I pitched my tent in Sonoma County, in a dense, dark cluster of pine trees. Why? I’m lonely enough. Do I still need distance? Seclusion? I’m not brave. I have nothing to hide, even less to prove.

But when I get up to pee the stars comfort the fuck out of me. And when I curl back into my warm, soft wrappings, I am surer than ever that I am dead. The adamant meat eater’s comeuppance: to play the juicy part of a bear’s burrito. I lie awake and breathless, listening to pine cones decompose, and seriously consider just sitting outside until morning. On a rock. With a pen.

The river speaks for itself, but Taqueria San Jose needs me. One tiny shrimp taco has 10 times as many shrimps on it as Papalote’s. But the salsa’s not great.

But no line. In fact, no one at all. A newspaper clipping on a post says San Jose’s are the best tacos in the world. I wouldn’t know, but I can tell you it’s my new favorite taquería.

My companions barely touched their food.

The Maze, just back from New York and St. Louis, couldn’t believe that his chicken was chicken. Anyway, it wasn’t the way he’d wanted it. And his friend from work didn’t seem too thrilled with her quesadilla. I tried to interest them in tasting my tiny taco, or side-order ceviche, but they weren’t biting. I think they were put off by the place’s unpopularity.

I don’t know why I love empty restaurants. Maybe it’s the same impulse that makes me pitch my tent where no one else is. And maybe it will be the death of me, by mauling, exposure, broken heart, food poisoning, serial-killing camper chick … One thing: I won’t die of starvation.

The Maze, who might, asks as many questions as our campfire killer. Although, admittedly, his make more sense. I’d wanted to hear about his adventures in New York and St. Lulu, but mostly we talked about the usual: ethics, spirituality, chickens. I’d missed the tangling tree roots of his forehead and tried to keep him perplexed with my goofball philosophies.

At the bar I mostly talked to her. We had the same favorite restaurant in New Hampshire! I didn’t know if they were on a date or what, but she left first, and he walked her out, then came back and walked me home. Not that he meant to; we just couldn’t stop talking. He had a million questions and it was a beautiful night. I don’t think he knew if he was on a date either.

Something had happened between them, and he seemed wracked with amazement and uncertainty. "How do you know …," he asked, rhetorically, and before he could finish the question I said, "You don’t."

My stomach growled. We were standing outside of Sockywonk’s, whispering, so as not to wake her neighborhood’s dogs and babies.

I already knew the answer (no), but anyway I invited the Maze inside. I wanted his burrito, and never have I meant a thing more literally. He had most of his rejected dinner with him, in a bag. If he didn’t want it, I did.

Does my longing speak for itself? Does it have a name, or fish in it, or poetry? It kills me how few people have ever even heard of Richard Brautigan. *


Daily, 8 a.m.–11 p.m.

2830 Mission, SF

(415) 282-0203



Wheelchair accessible

A new kind of reverb


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Call came at 10 at night. I remember where I was. I was sitting at my new desk, deciding between not doing this thing I needed to do, not doing that thing I needed to do, or just going to bed and not being able to sleep because I had so many things to do. It was the perfect time for the phone to ring.

EARL BUTTER I got paid! I have pork! I have rum!

ME I’ll be right there.

Used to be I needed a constant, flowy fix of Third Things — or Plan C’s, as I call them — to save me from the paralysis of This vs. That. Now I find myself frantically scratching for Plans D, E, and F. It’s alphabet soup in here, swirling, steaming, ready to blow.

[Enter pork, stage left.]

I’m rooming, temporarily, with Sockywonk in Noe Valley. So I opened her freezer door and said to Houdini, "There’s pork. See you later."

Her head is in there too, between some beans and a Popsicle. Mountain Sam is going to bury it (the head) in his yard, then he’s going to dig up the bones and make Houdini-head art. As testament to her greatness, Sockywonk is thrilled to have my famous chicken in her freezer. I didn’t show her the head.

"There’s pork," I called to Socky. "Wanna come?"

"No thanks," she said. We’d just had dinner. She was in the tub.

Earl Butter said I eat like a caveman.

"Cavewoman," I said.

We were sitting around an aluminum bucket, me, him, and Jolly Boy, surrounded by dirty dishes, wadded aluminum foil, and half-empty glasses, listening to Jolly Boy’s songs. They’d been drinking since morning and had recorded 11 of them.

"It took me three weeks to record 11 songs," I said, "and then I accidentally deleted them."

"That’s why we paid a professional," Jolly Boy explained.

"You went into a studio?" It never ceases to amaze me, the things you can do with a real job.

"There’s a new kind of reverb," Earl Butter said.

It did sound good. "How do you get it?" I asked.

"You ‘shoot the room,’ " he said. Neither of them knew what that meant.

Walking back to Wonk’s through the Mission at 1:30 in the morning, I felt good for the first time in days. And some people won’t even eat pork! Vegetarians. Orthodoxical Jews. Sockywonk. If anyone would have seen me on the sidewalks that night, and some people did, they would have thought: there goes the chicken farmer.

But they should have seen me three nights earlier at my shack in the woods, picking up and putting down the ax, trying to sing "St. Louis Blues" and only gurgling. Hating myself and hating the world because I couldn’t do it for a change. I’d been crying and trying since sunset, strike one, strike two, and now the stars were on the edges of their seats, watching, waiting, and wondering.

Good thing I’m a good two-strike hitter, I thought. Then I thought: that’s little comfort to the chicken you’re trying to kill. Then I thought: what am I thinking? I never even get to two strikes. I swing at the first pitch I see, and ground out.

Twice I’d had Houdini stretched on the stump, and twice she’d broken free, unscratched. The third time wasn’t close. She freaked. Strike three. I let her back in her home and went into mine, deflated and ashamed. Not that I was missing. I couldn’t even swing.

It was 10 that night too when the phone rang. Mountain Sam. "Chicken Farmer!" he said.

"No. I need a new name," I said. I cried. I managed, in pieces, to explain myself. I wasn’t a chicken farmer. Surprise! And yet: this chicken. To be dealt with. My subletter was moving in next day and had no idea (until now) how close he came to being a chicken farmer.

What friends are for: the Mountain not only there-there’d me, he tickled his tired brain, pulled real hard on the precious hairs of his beard, and said, "Maybe sleep? Maybe in the morning?"

It was just the thing. I set my alarm for 5:30. It would be just light enough for me to sort of see, and not light enough for her. Didn’t get to sleep until 2:30, which was probably for the best, because basically I was walking in my sleep when I did what I did. Which took the breath out of me, but nothing more.

It’s a different, dreamier reverb at dawn than at dusk. *

To get to the other side


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Florentina Morales Espanola, 88, is going to pray for me every day for the rest of her life. She showed me where she goes to church and told me the name of it, but I forgot. She has 63 grandchildren in the Philippines.

I came down for the weekend with Mr. and Mrs. Mountain, and we did everything on "Indian time," which means you get there when you get there, according to Sam. And sometimes not even then, according to me. You take the scenic route, the coast, the trees … places where time turns into time. Sidewalks.

Missed the trans march completely, threw down our blanket anyway in Dolores Park, and sat there being bumpkins in our straw hats and ponchos for about 10 minutes, then went to eat hamburgers.

Mountain V’s new favorite restaurant is BurgerMeister, at Church and Market. Mine too. The bacon cheeseburger was so good I forgot to even put ketchup on it until it was almost gone. And the garlic fries were so generously garlicked I could have gotten a to-go container and made spaghetti for a week.

Late and alone for the big parade, I cruised the banks of the bedlam for beautiful people. Which was like trying to find hay in a haystack.

You know how every now and then, against all odds (like lack of sleep and garlic breath), your radar is just … on? I didn’t know where I was going. I willy-nillied my way toward Market and practically straight into the arms of Florentina Morales Espanola. She was standing about four feet high, staring into the backs of, say, 10,000 people. On the other side of the street there were 10,000 more.

I have no idea what I’m talking about, mathwise. But I’m pretty small too, so I looked at my new favorite person and smiled. She was wearing a pink wrap and a colorful scarf.

"I can’t see anything," she said. Tiny voice. Accent. She looked more like a feather than a bird, and I fantasized about hoisting her onto my shoulders, wearing her like jewelry. Instead, I offered to clear a path to the front row.

"I’m just waiting," she said, "to cross the street."

This information floored me. Just waiting. To cross the street. "I’m a chicken farmer," I said. "Where is it you’re trying to get to?"

Her son’s house. Minna and Natoma.

"You’re not here for the parade?" I said. "You have to go around. You have to go down to Van Ness and cross over there."

She looked at me like I was crazy. "Too far. I’ll wait," she said.

I looked at her like she was crazy. "Do you know how long that will be?" I asked. She didn’t. "Hours," I said. "What’s your name?"

"Florentina Morales Espanola."

I had to bend down and lean close to understand all this, and I took her hand. I took both of her hands and looked into her eyes. "My name is Dani," I said. "I’m a chicken farmer. My specialty is why, not how. But if you wait here, Florentina, I’ll go see if there’s any way we can get to the other side. OK?"

"I don’t hate anyone," she said. "All people are good."

"I get that," I said. "You have a beautiful name. Me, I love everyone."

"OK," she said. "Me too. Thank you for helping me, Dani. I was praying. God pushed you to me."

The first sober person I found was a BART cop, who said the only way was to go down into BART and up the other side. The escalators were not working. By the time we got down and over and up, I knew about Florentina’s grandchildren. I knew she lived alone. I knew how old she was, and she laughed when I said, "Eighty-eight? You don’t look a day over 87!" We had told each other, "I love you," several times, and on Seventh Street between Market and Mission, we hugged and kissed and hugged good-bye, and that was when she promised to pray for me. I said I’d pray for her too, and I was totally lying!

Back in BART, I wrote her name in my journal and cried a little, then went and found my mountains and told them, and now I’ve told you too so that, God be damned, Tom, Dick, and Harriet now know about the miracle of Florentina Morales Espanola. So maybe that’s like a prayer. Or maybe I’m just bragging about helping an old lady cross a street.

Or maybe it’s just another thing that happened to happen while I was kinda paying attention. *


Daily, 11 a.m.–midnight

138 Church, SF

(415) 437-2874

Takeout available

Beer and wine

Credit cards not accepted


Wheelchair accessible

When she comes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Turns out I have an aptitude for accidental deletion. My most recent masterpiece entailed the loss of three weeks’ worth of all-day, every-day home recordings, 11 songs and about 10 gigs of GarageBand files: gone and unbacked-up. In fact, to illustrate my flair for spectacular failures, it was in the act of attempting to back up the files that I deleted the whole folder.

In other words, I’ve spent the last month neglecting my friends, missing deadlines, and annoying the bejesus out of Weirdo-the-Cat for nothing. When I finished hyperventiutf8g, I went outside and sat with Houdini.

Yep, that’s the one, my last-left chicken I was telling you about, the escape artist and egg eater I meant to have for dinner months ago.

I’ll be traveling for most of July and August, and then again in the fall, so there’s no restocking my flock until probably next year. In the meantime, I can’t even give Houdini away, in good conscience, on account of her antiestablishment ways. And it’s not like she’s gonna taste any good, either.

She’s an ugly fuck, half plucked already from entanglements with fences, flower gardeners, and realism in general. Dusty, ragged, balding, thorn-stuck, and stinking, she is all the way out of this world.

Other day, to give you an example, I saw Houdini in the coop, pecking hay, and I safetied her up for the night. I closed the chicken door, locked the people door, checked the egg-get hatch. Everything was secure, I swear, and in the morning when I went to let her out, she was already there — out — standing on a log, looking at me like, "What?"

"I love you," I said. And I opened up her coop so she could go in and get water.

Still don’t know how she did it, and neither do any of the skunks, weasels, foxes, possums, and bobcats who scratch and circle and knock every night, looking for a chink in the armor, a breech of security, a chicken-farmerly slip.

So this time I was sitting on the log with her, head in hands, warm, woodsy evening. Right behind us the smoker was smoking, barely — my dinner long ready. In light of what had just happened indoors, however, appetite was out of the question.

"You do realize," I said to Houdini, "that you are dead."

She looked up at me in that quizzical, twist-necked, tilt-headed, one-eyed way that chickens have. "And you?" she said.

"I’m going away," I said.

She looked at me like, "Ah, ‘going away,’ as they say."

"I mean it," I said. "I may be dead, but you are dead dead." I sang "The Midnight Train," "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "The Lonesome Valley," and "Oh Death" but stopped short of "St. Louis Blues," because that’s always the last little ditty I sing to my chickens, when the water’s aboil and the ax is sharpened. Believe me, if you’re a chicken, you shudder to hear the Chicken Farmer sing, "I hate to see … that evening sun go down."

I did "go away" (as they say), next morning. But it was only a practice run up to Oregon. Garden party, and a backyard barbecue for mostly kids. Sad and distracted the whole time, I became probably the first person ever to burst into tears during "Coming ‘Round the Mountain." And it wasn’t even the "kill the old red rooster" verse that got me, "when she comes."

It was the one about having to record all those bass lines and uke parts, steel drum, harmonies, and tissue-comb harmonica solos all over again, and you don’t even have no friends left to back-pat you ’cause you blew them all off all month, "when she comes."

At least that’s what I thought he was singing. My brother does make up stuff. (Runs in the fambly.)

On the way back home to Houdini we hit Granzella’s to cheer up a bit. This is that famous Italian joint with the long wooden porch in Williams, up in olive country, off I-5. It’s a restaurant, deli, and sports bar, and I don’t care how hot and humbled and beaten you are from the air-conditionerless road, if you can’t get cheered up in a triangle like that, then Jack, you dead.

Pesto pizza with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and fresh tomatoes. And they got muffuletta spread at the salad bar! Where you camping this Fourth of July? If it’s up north, check out my new favorite restaurant. *


Daily, 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

451 Sixth St., Williams

(530) 473-5583

Full bar


Wheelchair accessible

Tamale soup


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Some week for the chicken farmer. Starts out in the city, my hand in a late-night pot of boiling water, fussing with unthawable frozen tamales, and ends in moonlight in the woods, digging a very sober hole for a very dead chicken.

Foxes have found me.

In other news, there’s a spot on the back of humans, below the neck, below the first few vertebrae, between shoulder blades, the soft, special niceness of which will haunt me now for the rest of my life. I woke up one week ago with my nose there, and I nuzzled and kissed and breathed in the catastrophic smell of someone else for a change. It was way too early to even wonder where I was.

I was in a strange bed, with an even stranger stranger, whose waking words were, "Don’t write about the tamales."

Still in that same sweet spot, I had no intention of ever leaving, let alone writing about tamales. I smiled and spoke into it. I said, "Okay." I was thinking that there would be more meals together, more sober ones, with every chance in the world for redemption and reduction sauces. No need to dwell on drunken, emergency snack-food soup.

Oof. This is going to make a weird country song. My new best friend is the bottle. But it ain’t me doing the drinking. It’s everyone else in the world, and it will be interesting to see how many times out of 10 they already have a girlfriend. They’re in love. Why one would want to drink enough to forget that spectacular fact, even for one night, both baffles and thrills me. And that’s why you will find me now in bars.

In search of temporary sweet spots between shoulder blades.

Neither forgetter nor forgettee, I’ll be the designated driver. You’ll invite me in. Whether you have a long-distance lover or nothing but dead and doomed chickens to occupy your mind, a body gets tired of sleeping alone. I know that, and I know things happen in bars that have absolutely no relevance in the world outside bars. No problem.

If it hurts a little, so does life. A lot! Like one minute you’ve got your eyes closed and headphones on and telephone ringer off, and you’re recording your heart out into a microphone, imagining a small cult following, and the next minute, click track marching in place behind you, you’re chasing a fox through blackberry bramble, tripping over tree trash.

It did let go of the chicken, and my farmerly diligence was rewarded by getting to lie in the dirt and watch my penultimate hen die a slow, useless death. This took days. I’m hungry and scratched, and I need a bath.

In retrospect, I should have Dr. K’d her immediately. But retrospect is easy. She wasn’t bleeding and didn’t look broken. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but it’s hard to tell with chickens — unlike chicken farmers, who put it in the newspaper.

My new favorite chicken, by virtue of being the last one standing, was my least favorite only yesterday. It’s the egg eater. Chickens are intensely social animals. They go around together, they have their pecking order, and at night they line up on the roost, all tight and snuggly, for warmth. Or, for all we know, for love, comfort, reassurance …

Teeth hurt. Thorns hurt. Biting into a dumpling full of scalding pork juice hurts. I didn’t do this, by the way. I’m a patient and paid professional Shanghai dumpling eater. It happened to a personal friend of mine, in Millbrae. She grew up there and still knows where to go.

The Shanghai Dumpling Shop, for example, rocks — even the things we got that weren’t dumplings, and weren’t pork buns, and weren’t "lion head" meatballs. I’m thinking of the "bean curd sheets" with spinach. It was like fettuccini, and it was miraculously, meatlessly delicious.

Wednesday we went. Lunch time, and it was like an oasis, a rest stop, a catchy chorus or bridge. We all need little islands of sanity (or, in other words, rivulets of warm pork juice on the tongue) in the middle of our crazy work weeks full of chasing foxes, being foxy, and digging deep holes in the moon.

I have one last, live chicken to be with, and I’m going back outside now to be with her. Sorry I wrote about the tamales. *


Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5 p.m.–9 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.–9 p.m.

455 Broadway, Millbrae

(650) 697-0682



Wheelchair accessible

Like breathing


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Oh, I gave up on Internet dating a long time ago. Like: March? Then, on June 1, this:

My response to his personal ad left him breathless, he said, because blah blah blah. (I’m paraphrasing.) But he definitely said "breathless." I know because I peed my pants when I read it. To leave someone breathless … that’s big. That’s every girl’s dream, or, at the very least, every transgender chicken farmer’s dream.

Touched (and wet and uncomfortable and stinky), I scoured my "Sent" folder for the response in question. It was dated March 19.

To leave someone breathless is huge. To leave them breathless for 71 days … that’s downright life threatening. I resisted the urge to write back and say: Breathe!!!! Immediately!!!! Where do you live?! What do you need?! I’ll be right there! Please stay alive!! I love you! Sincerely, Chicken Farmer.

My new strategy is to play it cool. For example, instead of asking guys out, I look at them. Instead of telling them I love them, if they do ask me out, I go, "… OK …" With as many dots as possible, and without even one single exclamation mark.

But they don’t, of course, ask me out. Generally speaking. I swear, ever since I unleashed myself on the straight male world, the marriage rate has risen. The divorce rate has declined. Traditional family values thrive. Statistics show this.

Or at any rate, I have eyes. I mean, I walk down the street, exuding sexuality and chicken shit, and people fucking cling to their partners. Previously blasé dates compose and perform extemporaneous sonnets, hands on hearts, in the middle of the burrito line. Noncommittal rocker boys drop down on stage-dive-scarred knees and propose marriage. Even gays and lesbians want in on it. Polyamory, until very recently all the rage, is out the window.

These two, moments ago, were throwing things through windows, packing bags. Then, out of the corners of half-closed and tearful eyes, they see me down below on the sidewalk, looking blurry but available, and they fall into each other’s arms and make passionate love for the first time in seven years.

Sometimes they don’t even have to see me. They sense me out there somewhere, looking for dates, and reconsider the harsh words on the tips of their tongues, or the crass act.

This is great! Without lifting a finger or so much as my skirt, I have inspired reconsideration, forgiveness, conciliation, peace, love, and, you know, compassion and shit. You think I’m on drugs, or drunk, or crazy, but tally it up and you’ll see: I’ve done more to promote peace and quiet and interpersonal harmony than Jesus and Doctor Phil put together.

Of course, I suppose if you factor in the Crusades, modern-day old-fashioned Christian violence, rapist priests, and, well, Dr. Phil … then everyone else in the world, even Mike Tyson, deserves some sort of peace prize too. So once again I have come crashing and clanging to the bottom of the page without actually saying a goddamn thing.

Except I think what I was driving at, before the train wreck, was that I didn’t e-mail back and profess anything or in any way return this guy’s breathlessness. The institution of marriage and the notion of traditional family values need me right now. I wrote back and said, in effect, "OK."

P.S. Who are you?

Because I didn’t have a clue. And still don’t, since he still hasn’t re-responded. I can wait. I’m patient, realistic, and good at math. On August 9 I give up. In the meantime: slow, deep breaths, and business as usual.

Speaking of which, my new favorite restaurant? Hide-a-Way Cafe. On Telegraph. Nice patio. Real nice patio. Go on a pretty day. East Bay Matt, who is now of course East Coast Matt, damn him, took me there. And I say took, even though I drove, because he paid, bless him.

Matt’s a genuine, PhD’d perfesser now, and that means that, yes, I love to sit for hours in a place with him and talk about sociological … things, and music scenes and communication and pedagogy. But also it means, when he offers to treat, I let him. I not only let him, I order a steak with my eggs.

It was only $8.50, same as an omelet! And it wasn’t a huge slab of meat, but it was good and juicy and tasty. And the taters were great, home fried with peppers and onions and, yeah: new favorite restaurant. *


6430 Telegraph, Oakl.

Tues.–Fri., 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., 7:15 a.m.–3 p.m.

Cash only

No alcohol

Wheelchair accessible

Bras and barbecue


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Mountain Sam has many last names; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the same one twice. My personal favorite, because it’s the only one I can remember right now, is Two Bears.

I met Mountain Sam and his wife, Mountain Veronica, at an open mic in the Castro called Retool and Grind. I sang about Sonoma County and being a chicken farmer. I sang the one that gives directions to my shack, and they came up to me after and said, "We’re neighbors!"

First I thought they meant they lived close to each other. "Good. That’s great," I said, packing up my drum. Then it hit me.

"Windsor," Veronica said.

I’m not used to having neighbors. Mountain Sam offered to help me carry my drum to the truck, and by the time we got there we were all best friends. It’s a half hour drive to Windsor from Occidental, but the roads are winding and wonderful. You see deer, foxes, wild turkey…. Sometimes they’re even alive.

One of the first things me and Mountain Sam talked about was eating roadkill. He comes from Oklahoma and is part Indian. He reminds me of my uncles, who live in Ohio and aren’t any Indian at all, but do hunt deer, of course. I love venison. For a while I started taking the curves a little faster at night, but then I realized that, given the size of my pickup truck, it was just as likely the deer would have me for dinner. Which would be a really ridiculous way to go, deer being vegetarians.

Veronica is from Arizona. She’s beautiful, calls me honey, thinks she can eat more than me, and can. Her favorite food is KFC.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have friends in my own county. Their doctor is in Occidental. We meet at the Union Hotel for a beer. I need a chicken-sitter. Sam accidentally defrosts too much sausage. They have a hot tub. Cable TV. Netflix. Bags and bags of frozen hot wings in the freezer.

In the city: I introduce them to carne asada burritos at Cancun and cool free music at the Rite Spot. We sit on the grass in Dolores Park.

While I was away, Sam built me a catapult. Veronica wants to go shopping with me.

This is what I mean by question marks in thought balloons: you wake up on Memorial Day morning, and it’s a beautiful, warm day outside. Everyone in the world, not just the chicken farmer, is thinking: barbecue.

Even the chickens are excited. They come running now as soon as they smell smoke, because they know what it means: the other white meat, pork. Their favorite food in the world. Mine too. We sit there on the log together and smell it happening.

You know me. I barbecue in the snow and the rain, early morning, late night, any day of the week. The last thing in the world I would expect to be doing on a sunny Memorial Day is not barbecuing.

However, Veronica had the day off from work, and Sam was in Virginia, and that was how I, the chicken farmer, wound up spending the meat of a barbecue holiday at the Windsor Wal-Mart.

The good news is I scored two cheap bras and some brake fluid!

Veronica got a dress, some pants and a shirt, a pair of shoes…. "Honey, is there anything else you need?" she said, while we were wandering (I hoped) toward the checkout.

I looked at the things in my hands. Bras, brake fluid … "Nope. I’m all set," I said.

"Come on, honey, I want to buy you something," she said.

"Charcoal?" I suggested.

"No, honey," she said. "An outfit." She led me back into the clothes section. Which is like leading a horse to a parking garage or "a skeleton walks into a bar."

"Do you guys have a grill?" I asked, wildly and desperately scanning the racks of Nobo and White Stag for something, anything, that I would be caught dead in.

"Honey, we’re going to Subway!" Veronica said.

Mountain Sam says something like I do about waking up wondering who he is any given day. It was five in the afternoon.

"Subway?" I asked.

"I’m hungry, honey!" Veronica said. "I already took a chicken out this morning," she said, "but we’re sure going to need something to tide us over while it’s on the spit, ain’t we?"

It was like waking up in your own bed. My eyes stopped darting. I let her pick me out an outfit, and some day soon I will wear it proudly. *



The asterisk


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk fell down backward on the street. It was the story of her life, she told me, while I shouldered her to my pickup truck, trucked her home, and tucked her in. She was smiling, laughing. Dropped on her head as a baby, she said, and 40 years later … still falling down all over the place.

The next few days were hard. With surgery and chemo behind her, she now faced a bigger, blurrier challenge: the rest of her sinking-in, falling-down life. And the uncertainty was killing her.

She cried on my shoulder. This felt nice. I felt so honored and connected and scared too that I don’t know if I properly there-thered her. We’re all in basically the same boat. I cried and clung and felt finally human.

In case you haven’t felt that feeling, it feels kind of like being alive, only with an asterisk. Soul, spirit, and self-consciousness be damned, in my boat the asterisk has nothing to do with metaphysics and everything to do with sharks. Not our awareness of them drawing incessant underwater circles around us. All animals have that. But we’re the only ones who make whole fucking movies about it.

The asterisk is Jaws. Yep, like it or not, we have Richard Dreyfuss. And popcorn and popcorn and popcorn.

I’ve been watching and watching this documentary about sharks. I got it out of the library and renewed it once. So I thought I knew what Socky was talking about. What I didn’t get was why oh why, in the meantime, she kept forgetting to eat. Three days, she said.

I unburied myself from her shoulder and her from mine and looked her in the eye. Nice as arms and necks and eyelashes are, there comes a time when empathy and hugs no longer quite cut it. I call that Pancake Time.

Three days is too many days.

"Socky, sweetie, you don’t need to worry about the rest of your life," I said, thumbing from her face another couple tears and blinking back my own. "What you need is breakfast."

She smiled a little and nodded even less and said weakly, "I am hungry."

"Let’s go," I said, getting up and tugging on her hand.

Where? Toast.

What?! No, not Toast, you say. It’s overpriced! It’s so so so so yuppie, even for Noe Valley. It pisses on the grave of the late great and relatively down-to-earth Hungry Joe. Two bucks for a cup of coffee! No! Not you, not Cheap Eats, not poor Sockywonk.

You say all of the above, and I shake your shoulder and say, Wake up. You’re having a nightmare. Things change, and I have no choice now but to accept that and say it and say it and show it. I don’t know about you, but I blink alive every morning with nothing but question marks in my thought balloon. Time ticks. For now. That’s all I know, and all I ever will, probably, know, from breakfast to shark food. Time does tick, and the implications seem to include both tooth decay and gentrification.

Besides which, their hash browns are amazing. Do you know how hard that is, for hash browns to amaze? Well, they’re perfectly crusty on the outside and perfectly creamy underneath. Toast! My new favorite restaurant. Not that I’ll ever eat there again, but we did thoroughly enjoy our blueberry pancakes and Mediterranean scramble and hardly cried at all during the whole meal.

And speaking of crusty and creamy, I can’t remember if I told Sockywonk this over breakfast, but in case not, I’ll tell her now that my favorite predatee in the shark documentary reminded me of her. And it wasn’t an octopus but an old slow-ass sea turtle, which, after a not-very-fair chase, didn’t quite exactly give up so much as it turned around and started chasing its chaser, surprising the hell out of it and me and the film crew.

It had slowly enticed the shark into shallow and shallower waters, positioning itself for a last little meal, at least, of its own. What guts does it take to swim toward your predator! Albeit at an angle. The turtle broadsided the shark and took a taste out of its gill.

The shark wigged, of course, and retreated to deeper waters, to find a cheaper restaurant. And the turtle, suddenly faced with the rest of its life, bopped around a bit, in no particular hurry, on the beach. *


Mon.–Sat., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

1748 Church, SF

(415) 282-4328

Takeout available

Beer and wine


Wheelchair accessible

On death and dining


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS When he talks, his whole face participates, but especially his forehead, which snakes into road maps of thought, and I get lost. When he listens, he listens. This guy went to medical school, completed his residency, and then went, Naw, I reckon I’d rather work in publishing. And for this my new friend Maze is a kind of a hero to me.

A hero and a proofreader.

Phenomenon’s new favorite restaurant is Phnom Penh, a friendly little Cambodian wonderland on the edge of Oakland’s Chinatown. Phenomenon swears by the barbecued chicken, but I ate with the Maze.

And I don’t remember where we were going after, but I guarantee you we were late. I’ve always been a slow eater. Now I’m that plus a chatterbox.

Maze asks about chickens. You almost have to, to be polite. (And then, an hour later, you start to wonder if politeness is perhaps overrated.) I talk about chickens as pets, chickens as dinner, chickens as funny little philosophers, escape artists, workhorses, lessons in vulnerability, art….

I describe in detail how beautiful it looks inside a hen when you butcher her: the bright colors; the next day’s egg, a culinary prize, fully formed; then maybe a soft-shell one; then a full-size yolk; and a winding, twisty twirl of progressively smaller bright yellow globes circling back to the fictional future — which, it turns out, is a clustered galaxy of distinctly astounding yellow dots. I cried the first time I saw it because I didn’t have a camera.

"So in med school when you were dissecting human cadavers and shit," I said, "did it change the way you felt about death?"

The Maze’s brow did what it does when he fixes to speak. He worries about words and sentences them with care. That’s why I really like talking with this guy. "No," he said, finally, thoughtfully. It made him more concretely aware of the fact of mortality and perhaps a little leery of old age — but he was already those things.

He speaks of the smell of formaldehyde, the auxiliary presence of a "prosected" cadaver (in case you can’t find some parts or accidentally mash them or something), and the necessity for keeping things moist, lest "everything starts to look like jerky." And while he is speaking (of these things) … I eat.

Squid salad. Duck curry. Shrimp soup. White rice. Everything was great! Everything was moist! Nothing was missing or mashed or jerkied. Although … never mind.

The squid salad, the squid … There weren’t any tentacles, and that’s my favorite part. The lip ticklers. And the parts that there were seemed almost too nice, too white, and not quite as slimy or chewy or fishy as I like. Which most people would probably see as a plus, I know.

The duck curry had potatoes and string beans and was very mild, maybe coconut milky. And the duck pieces were big and tender and juicy. Delicious!

But the soup had more zing. It was a little bit like canh chua, that Vietnamese hot-and-sour stuff I love, with pineapple and tomatoes. And the shrimp and the zing, but the similarities stop there. This was a different zing, more lemony, more … I don’t know, Cambodian.

Well, I like jerky. I don’t know about cadaver jerky. But beef jerky, turkey jerky, elk jerky. All of these things I have had and enjoyed immensely. Especially on road trips.

But how did I get here? And, more importantly, are we there yet?

No. We are still at Phnom Penh, talking, eating, and being late. There’s a scene of a city or town. I don’t know how to describe this. There must be a word. There is wainscoting, and then above that a kind of continuous strip of low buildings and cool trees and walkways. Not painted or pictured, but protruding, in 3-D or kind of 2 1/2–D. Relief?

All one color. Gold?

And I don’t necessarily recommend this, but if you stood in the middle of the restaurant, spinning around like a ballerina, and were four feet tall with your eyes open, it would be a lot like traveling, looking out the window of a fast car.

Until you fell down and dreamed scrambled eggs with cheese.

"Have nice days," the door of the restaurant says. I’m trying. *


Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–9:15 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–9:45 p.m.

251 Eighth St., Oakl.

(510) 893-3825

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible

Tattoo you


CHEAP EATS She had tattooed knuckles. One hand said PORK and the other said CHOP. I expressed my adoration, and she said, "You should see the other ones."

"Should I?" I asked.

She has a girlfriend in Canada. This was not a date but a business meeting.

Business = new favorite Vietnamese restaurant. Pho Clement, between, I think, Third and Fourth avenues on Clement Street. One hundred and seventy things on the menu, not counting appetizers and sandwiches.

Over two bowls of soup big enough to paddle two small canoes in, I said to my new friend Pork Chop, "What else ya got?"

"Bacon," she said. I think she said it was on her stomach, but I kind of passed out at that point, and when I came to we were making whole different sentences.

Something about Michigan. Turns out, thanks to Pork Chop’s encouragement, I am going to go there this summer for that wimmin’s music festival. Pork Chop works in the kitchen and has been attending the festival for six or seven years. Says it has changed her life.

I’m sure it will change mine too. For one thing, I won’t be as pretty as I am now, what with black eyes, broken teeth, and every manner of structural damage.

Oy, the things we do for a story, eh, fellow hard news reporters and investigative journalists? I tell you. I for one am not a fan of pain or mosquito bites. Yet there I will be, in Michigan in August, getting my ass kicked by both bugs and backward-thinking lesbian feminist separatists. Ah, but someone’s gotta go see what these girls are having for dinner, and there’s no question I’m the tranny for the job.

Oh: I say backward-thinking because their definition of wimmins is stuck all the way back on what Mr. Doctor had to say about it, overriding all present tense appearances to the contrary. Because everyone knows that the last-century medical profession, or in other words, "the Man," interprets reality more accurately and certainly more definitively than we do, its living and kicking and messy subjects, prone as we are to the pesky revisionism of tick tick time, the great editor.

To review: trans men welcome, beards and testosterone and homemade wieners and all; trans women, no, nope, not welcome, sorry.

But now I have a friend on the inside. In the kitchen. With tattoos! And I don’t know why I love soup so much, but with all due respect to pork, if I could have tattoos on my knuckles I think they would say SOUP and SOUP. Big bowl of steamy, sopping noodles on my belly … but it’s always only a dream because as much as I love tattoos, and seeing them on other people and thinking about them on me, and soup, I can’t take the pain, personally, like I said.

So … "Do you regret any of them? Your tattoos?" I asked.

Her bowl of pho was way bigger than my hot and sour shrimp soup, yet she was almost finished and I was just getting started. I’m a slow eater.

She thought about it. "No," she said, finally, tentatively. Then: "Maybe ‘pork pies’ instead of ‘pork chop.’"

But that’s editorial. That ain’t regret.

Pork butt, pork buns, pork soup, pork meat, pork beef, more pork, I thought, savoring my pineapples, tomatoes, and celery. Sometimes with shrimp and sometimes with catfish, I’ve been ordering canh chua for as long as I’ve been eating in Vietnamese restaurants, and it hadn’t occurred to me until now to ask for noodles too.

The waitressperson had seemed delighted by this suggestion, and I was certainly delighted by the outcome. Only it came out in two separate bowls, and one reason I was so far behind was because it took me 10 minutes to decide whether to add the noodles to the soup, or the soup to the noodles.

Anyway, it was great, and nobody was in no hurries. And I left when I left with a sloshy stomach that worked weirdly well on the soccer field. At least at first. I scored a goal early, then kind of went to sleep in the grass and dreamed about doughnuts. *


Daily, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.

239 Clement, SF

(415) 379-9008

Takeout available

Beer and wine


Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The closest chicken fried steak to my shack is at the Route 1 Diner in Valley Ford. You probably know it, if you’ve ever been to Bodega Bay. And if not, what the fuck? The Sonoma coast has the prettiest beaches in the world. Surfers don’t like it because they get eaten by sharks, but, other than that …

Anyway, I’m not a beach reviewer.

Two chickens, like I said. That’s all the chickens I have left is two chickens. One lays eggs, and the other one eats them. Or: tough times for a chicken farmer. Oldest trick in the book is to suck the egg out of an egg, then fill it up with Tabasco sauce and put it back in the nest.

But I treat my chickens with a little more respect, I like to think, than most backyard farmers. Instead of Tabasco sauce, I’m whipping up a little roux — butter and flour — then adding onions, fresh jalapeños, tomatoes, and hot sausage. Season to taste, and this way if the oldest trick in the book doesn’t trick her out of the nasty habit, she’ll practically already be jambalaya.

One way or another, I’ll be eating lunch again in no time, by my calculations. But right now I’m still eating breakfast because it’s only 10:30. And I’m all-the-way out of money, so I have to put it on the card, but there’s a $10 minimum, so I have to have coffee too, even though I’m already overcaffeinated, and therefore I can’t stop writing on napkins.

Guess what. Now that I ain’t getting any at home, I can order eggs in restaurants again! Chicken fried steak and eggs ($8.75). Route 1 Diner, Valley Ford, on the way to Bodega Bay — for you. For me, it’s on the way to the city and back.

The eggs are not as fresh or as free-rangy as I’m accustomed to, but the chicken fried is great. Big, thick slab of cubed steak in a nice, crispy breading, draped over a mound of hash browns and just drowned in gravy.

Speaking of which (gravy), Satchel Paige the pitcher was here with his little Thai fambly, and his big American fambly threw a little picnic party for him recently. In Sacramento! So even though I didn’t get to ground out weakly to second against him, or eat no all-you-can-eat sushi with him, or laugh at his little tiny daughter for almost choking to death on cantaloupe instead of chicken bones, I did get to see my old big old friend, and hug him and stuff. And talk about how good the chicken wings were, just like in the good old days.

Except this time I was in Sacramento, which can be very disorienting. Warmth. Mosquitoes. Fireworks. A keg. And when I got back to the Bay Area, you’re not going to believe this, but I swear to you there was a small, compact car on fire at the MacArthur Maze, on the ramp from West 80 to South 880. Couple fire trucks, police, flares, one lane open, and traffic slowed some but not too bad because it was one in the morning, or at any rate after midnight.

Went to sleep in West Oakland, and by the time I woke up, in West Oakland, the media had blown the whole thing entirely out of proportion. Other people had to have seen this. Right? I swear, it was an old Pinto, slapped on the ass, or something. No big deal, a little campfire fire, they were roasting hot dogs and marshmallows.

And by four in the morning it wasn’t a Pinto anymore, it was an oil tanker, spun out and exploded. And the freeway had melted and collapsed and the MacArthur Maze as we know it was no more, snarling traffic all day, affecting the travel plans of generations to come and just generally ruining everything.

You’da thunk I’d have heard something like that right outside my window. Big rig goes boom, couple football fields of freeway crashing down, sirens, states of emergency, and so on. Yeah, right.

My point being: damn, those were some damn good chicken wings! Eh, Satch? To knock me out that hard. I must of ate about a bucket of them myself. And if I knew the name of the Sacto deli that battered and fried and buttered and hot-sauced them, I’d review it.

But I don’t, so … *


Mon. and Wed., 6:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 6:30 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sun., 6:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

14450 Route 1, Valley Ford

(707) 876-9600

Takeout available

No alcohol


Wheelchair accessible



CHEAP EATS There’s only one thing in my refrigerator, and nothing at all in the nest. It’s come to this, then: two chickens left, and one of them has developed a taste for eggs.

Two weeks ago today when I flapped my wings (venison lasagna + Ativan = liftoff, plus or minus an airplane ticket), I never felt more like I needed a vacation from my life. And yesterday evening, upon touching down again at SFO, I burst into tears, grateful to be not only alive on Earth, but alive in my exact life. And dying to see Sockywonk and Weirdo the Cat and my newest and littlest love, Z.Z. de la Cooter.

Z.Z. being 15 years and 11 months away from a driver’s license, and Weirdo the Cat being a cat, Sockywonk was the one who I called, from a pay phone, as soon as I stepped off the plane.

"I’ll be right there," she said.

I got my luggage and went outside into California and waited, blinking, my mascara smeared and swirly. My neighbor from the plane walked past – an older-man businessmanperson who had stared at spreadsheets on his laptop next to me as intently as I’d been staring at pictures of little Z.Z. on mine, trying to beat back the panic with incessant cuteness.

We hadn’t exchanged more than four words on the plane – "excuse me" and "thank you" – but now he gave me a warm, almost intimate smile. I smiled back. For all I know, he has a fear of flying too.

The Wonk was in a bit of a postsurgical state still, it turned out, and I was more on drugs than she was. Plus starving. So she could hardly even talk, she was so busy being such a good driver, and it was all I could do to sit up straight, with my hand in her head of half-inch hair growth, and sort of slobber.

What I’m getting at is that last night, at any rate, the two dogs in the backseat would have been more qualified than either of us to choose a restaurant.

Me and Sockywonk, it so happens, are two of the last four people on the planet without cell phones, or else we might have maybe thought to call someone for help. It’s easy enough to think that now, fed, slept, and caffeinated. But yesterday . . .

And anyway my brother Phenomenon, my own go-to one-phone-call bastion of all-around competency, was unreachably out of the country.

Innit funny, though, how notorious goofs like me and Socky tend to have siblings whose specialty it is to take care of bidness? Just fucking get the job done? For lack of any better ideas, the Wonk drove us to her house and parked. When we went inside, I kid you not, at 8, 8:30 in the evening, her visiting sis from Florida, Sisterwonk, was under the sink in the kitchen, hammering. On her visit so far she’d already tiled the kitchen floor, which had looked more like a garage than an apartment, as I recall, rigged a new light over the dining room table, and painted the walls a cheerful yellow.

I knew immediately that, dinnerwise, we were in good hands. Sure enough: "Why don’t you get a burrito?" she suggested, without even scratching her head.

You’d have thought that we’d have thought of that, being the San Franciscans.

"Mexicana’s good," Sisterwonk said, anticipating my next question.

I looked at Socky, who had already found parking, and she nodded. "It’s right around the corner," she said. Less than two blocks. As easy a walk as two junkied goofs have ever had to walk. And just like that I had a new favorite taqueria.

Mexicana! Who knew? They steam their tortillas, but the chips are good, and the salsa’s good, and I can vouch for the spicy chipotle chicken burrito, about a third of which is the one thing in my refrigerator right now.

Probably I could have knocked it off last night. But I think instinctively I knew, deep down below the Ativan, how sad it would be to come home to an empty refrigerator.

For lunch I’m going to make me one big pan-spun homemade flour tortilla, and I’m going to chop up and reheat last night’s burrito, wrapper and all. As far as I know, it will be the world’s first ever burrito butt burrito. And I can’t tell you how happy I am about that. *


Daily: 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

3917 24th St., SF

(415) 648-0477

Takeout available



Wheelchair accessible

Sympathy for the (she) devil


> le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS They don’t have kickoffs. They just start the game. It was the Lexington Club Bruisers vs. the Diablas, and we were the only two people in the stands. Again. Me and Twinkle Wonderkid.

Crocker Amazon. The weather: football weather, foggy and freezing … I had every intention in the world of rooting for the Bruisers. I don’t know, the Lexington Club just kind of feels like the home team to me. Plus I like the pink shirts.

However, there was a lot more pink on the field than there was blue. First I thought all the Diablas were lost in the fog. Then the Kid helped me count, and it was eight to five. And the mismatch was not only on the field; the Lexington Club had a separate offense and defense, a few extra subs, and two cheerleaders.

So the five Diablas on the field were going to have to play both sides of the ball, every play, whole game, and cheer for themselves too. They didn’t look very cheerful. They looked defeated, shoulders slumped and faces blank as blankets. They seemed sleepy and soft, as if the fog were on the inside too.

"Oh no," I said.

Twinkle stated the obvious. "We can’t exactly not root for the underdog," she said. Then: "Can we?" She’s not as experienced a football fan as I am.

"Oh no," I said. "Oh no no no no no." I wasn’t thinking about rooting for anyone anymore. My cleats were in my pickup truck. My truck was in the parking lot. The parking lot was just on the other side of the playing field…. I come from Ohio. Rooting be damned, I wanted to play for the Diablas.

I stood up, sat back down, stood up, and then, like a good Sunday morning Catholic, knelt. The thing was that, technically speaking, I was on a date. Twinkle Wonderkid and me are positively hooked on girl football. It’s our thing. Sunday mornings, Crocker Amazon. We pick up some chicken adobo or a mess o’ meat meat meat at Turo-Turo or the South Pacific Island Restaurant, and we tailgate in the Crocker Amazon parking lot, or picnic on a blanket in the grass, and then cross the field to watch the games from the bleachers. If I got to play, Twinkle’d be sitting in the stands all alonesome, and what kind of a date is that?

"Go ahead," she said, being pretty saintly for an ex-sailor and a cowboy girl. "Are you kidding me? I’d love to watch you play football."

I decided not to say, "Really?" – not even once – for fear she would change her mind. I also decided to wait a while, until the Diablas were getting crushed. Outnumbered eight-to-five on the field, and at least eight-to-none on the sidelines … it didn’t take long. They play 20-minute halves, and our girls were down to the Bruisers 19-0 by halftime.

"Wish me luck," I said, kissing Twinkle on the cheek, and I crossed the field in my shit-kicker buckle shoes and swirly skirt to ask, for the first time since I was seven, if I could play.

I asked the Diablas, the Bruisers, the refs, and the league commissioner. They all said the same thing: I couldn’t play. I could play. I mean, I couldn’t not play because I was trans, but because it was too late to get on the roster, halftime of Game Four being on the wrong side of the sign-up deadline, apparently. Well! …

I wished the Diablas the best of luck, told them we were on their side, hang in there, they were my new favorite football team, could I play for them next season, here’s my phone number, gimme a call, next season we can be outnumbered eight-to-six, etc., and I clomped back across the middle of the field, trying not to feel like a halftime show.

Lucky me! If they would have let me play, I wouldn’t have gotten to watch the greatest, most inspired, most inspiring comeback in the history of sports. Remember: I watched Joe Montana work. And Steve Young. Hell, I remember John Brodie to Gene Washington, a playoff game against the Redskins. And I’ve never seen anything like this.

By the closing whistle, me and the Kid were all screamed out and piss-pantsed, the score was tied 19-19, and I was madly in love with five of the badassest ballplayers I’d ever seen play ball.

Turo-Turo’s a fine, fine restaurant, but I like South Pacific Island even better, so … *


Tues.-Sat., 8 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

2803 Geneva, Daly City

(415) 467-1870

Takeout available

No alcohol


Wheelchair accessible

Making it


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The Craigslist ad said "blood-soaked carnivore." And I wish I could remember the rest of it, because it was unusual and well written, but all I needed to know, really, was "blood-soaked carnivore."

By the letter, it wasn’t even what I was looking for; it wasn’t M or FTM or F (w/a SOD)…. It was BSC. Blood-soaked carnivore.

That’s my favorite kind of carnivore!

Talk about a hook with my lip written all over it…. It’s almost not even fair. It’s almost cheating. It’s like deer hunting with land mines, or something. I didn’t need to see no pictures or nothing. I was stacked steaks in white paper, brown tape; and I wrote back immediately and was all, like, "WheRE do you wAnt to EAt?!?!"

She mentioned some places, and we ate at all of them. We ate bacon burgers, chili burgers, barbecue, and Filipino food. Her name is Twinkle Wonderkid, and she lives in Cowgirl City, which looks a lot like the Tenderloin to me. And I know that’s a foofy-sounding name, Twinkle Wonderkid, but this BSC used to be in the Navy and the Merchant Marines, and I think she used to be a cow puncher too.

What else she used to be was a dude. The one thing I said I wouldn’t do!

Well …

Three words: Blood. Soaked. Carnivore. And you can ask her yourself if I ain’t the cuddliest, snuggliest, heat-producingest little campfire she ever poked.

So: thus endeth my 2 1/2-year drought, the longest length of itlessness I’ve had to endure (in case anyone was wondering) since the 19 years it took me to lose my male virginity.

Speaking of which, it’s kind of ironic, probably, that I got axed to the prom for the first time ever on the same day I got made into meat. It wasn’t a pimply, awkward high school boy who asked me, either. It was an all-growed-up and entirely cool chickenscaping client of mine named Aunt Stink. We were having kind of a business meeting. In exchange for dinner, I was going to help her conceptualize her budding Pacifica backyard chicken farm.

So that was what we talked about, chicken farming this and chicken farming that, over a vegetarian burrito for her and a big huge bowl of fishy soup for me.

Then she invited me to the prom. (I love my life!) Well, it wasn’t like that exactly. I mean, she did invite me to a party, and it was a prom-themed thing, but she already had herself a partner. And I didn’t know if I wanted to third-wheel it with them or go alone or go at all. Or … I mean, the thing was that I didn’t have anything to wear. I’ll be damned if I’m going to finally go to the prom, in my 40s, and not wear a prom dress.

And I don’t even know what that is, so … maybe in my 50s.

But this soup! The name of the place is El Toro Loco, or crazy fuckin’ bullshit, and it’s my new favorite restaurant. Best place to eat in Pacifica, anyway, according to two different people and now me. The sopa siete mares, or seven-horse soup, is just fish fish fish, mostly tentacles, which I love love love.

And I’m in my element, right, advising Aunt Stink on all the philosophical intricacies of chicken farming, like hawks and raccoons and shit, with calamari tentacles dangling out of the corners of my mouth most of the time, when all of a sudden it occurs to me that I’m famous. In my own small, farmerly way.

People contact me when they want to know about chickens. They see me in a bar and go, "Chicken Farmer!" And in one case, recently, I was paid $25 and two free drinks to stand up in front of a couple hundred people and talk about chickens. People want to eat with me, on them, and if that ain’t making it …

Well, it’s not the kind of making it I been looking for. And that’s why as soon as I got back to the city I started calling everyone I know and asking, "You got a prom dress I could borrow?"

First one to actually pick up the phone was the Wonderkid, and she’d just lost her job and had cried herself to sleep. Didn’t feel like going out, but if I wanted to come over and watch a movie …

She had popcorn, she said, and a bottle of wine.

I got the movie. I got the flowers. *


Tues.–Sat., 12–8 p.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

1624 Francisco Blvd., Pacifica

(650) 355-5548

Takeout available

Beer and wine


Wheelchair accessible


Love’s labours


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I’m a fickle fucking farmer, I know that. So … sorry, Doc, I’ve got a new favorite person. Her name is Zidane de la Cooter, and even though she only weighs 6 pounds, 13 ounces, she just about broke Crawdad’s back trying to bonk her way into this sad and blurry world.

I got to be there for part of it. Not that I was invited exactly, but that’s where my press pass comes in handy. I was brushing aside doctors, nurses, midwives, midfielders, and middle linebackers, flashing my credentials and saying, "Excuse me, excuse me, sorry I’m late, damn the traffic. OK, push. I’m here," I said, looking at the wristwatch I don’t wear. "Let the baby begin."

Just kidding. Really, they said, way back at the front desk, "Press pass?"

And: "Chicken farmer?"

There were two of them. And as much fun as I generally have fielding goofy little questions like these, just this once I didn’t have time for philosophy. I went straight for my trump card: "Listen," I said, "those unmuffled screams and cries and curses … that’s my ex-wife we’re waltzing to out here. And if you don’t think she needs me in there right now, then clearly neither one of you has ever been divorced." I paused for effect, then added, "Which, frankly, strikes me as statistically unlikely."

Blink. Blink … Bingo! Tears, hugs, apologies, phone numbers, passionate three-way sex, earthquakes, floods, the sound of birdies tweeting, and — blink — I was in the room. There was my brother Phenomenon and Deevee and Trotwood. There was some woman I didn’t know. A guy with a camera … scooped again by the daily news, damn it.

And there was Crawguy de la Peter, proud father-to-be, at the place of honor, right in Crawdad’s ear, saying all the right things. I tapped him on the shoulder. "OK, Dad, great job," I said. "You can go to the bar now. I’m here."

Aaaaaaaaahhhh!!! How the hell did I write myself into an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm — which I only saw once and didn’t even like? I’m trying to be funny here, and this is a serious Cheap Eats moment. This is huge! It’s Crawdad de la Cooter’s baby. This is no time to try to be funny. I must succeed. Now more than ever, my sanity depends on my being able to find the joke.

When in doubt, I always say … surrender. Immediately. Give up. Fall back on the truth, even if it ain’t funny. The truth is I’m not an idiot. I’m a chicken farmer, and this was one of the most joyous and difficult days of my life for a variety of reasons.

I was wanted, and I wanted to be there. There’s probably nobody in the world whose happiness I care about more than that of my ex-wife and beloved friend Crawdad. And there’s probably nobody in the world whose pain I feel more feelingly. The truth is that I am not strong or competent. After a couple hours of her pain and agony, I needed an epidural myself. So I went and got me one: a burrito.

Early evening. Walnut Creek, of all the unfamiliar planets in my solar system …

When I jittered out, all twisted and wrung and traumatized, the attending professionals were just starting to look at each other with question-marked eyeballs, and I was either hearing or imagining words such as suction, vacuum, surgery, toothpaste, and maybe corkscrew.

When I returned, rubbing my own pregnant belly and breathing more or less normally for the first time all day, Zidane "Z.Z." de la Cooter existed. Crawdad was all stapled up and very much on drugs. My assumption is that Phenomenon performed the operation, but I could be wrong.

The important thing was that everyone was OK now and that, through some miracle of lucky timing, I got to be in the recovery room when they brought Crawdad’s new little soccer star to her, all measured and crusty and shit, just squirming and kicking with wonder. Cutest thing you ever saw. And there ain’t a dry eye in my house every time I think of the look on Crawdad’s face when, finally, they set her baby against her skin.

The daily newsman was gone now so, appropriately, I got to hold Crawguy’s movie camera for what will likely remain the most profoundly beautiful sight I’ve ever seen: little Z.Z. finding out for her first time ever what was for dinner. I can’t speak for her. For me: carne asada. (Old friend!) Thanks to which, like a drunk on drink, my hand did not shake. *


Daily, 9 a.m.–9 p.m.

1359 Locust, Walnut Creek

(925) 932-8987

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible


Wing clippings


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS My new favorite person is this guy Doc who I play baseball with. He’s not a medical doctor. He knows about chicken wings. We weren’t even on the same team, and he said between innings, "Have you ever been to San Tung?"

"Never heard of it," I said.

"Best chicken wings," he said.


"Irving," he said. "Between 11th and 12th."

We were in the Golden Gate Park, Big Rec. That put chicken wings pretty much almost exactly on my way home to Sonoma County, give or take a block.

It was a good game, my favorite kind, a pitcher’s duel, nothin’-nothin’ (nothin’-nothin’-nothin’-nothin’) … but I’m not a nihilist or a sports writer. Wait a minute, am I a nihilist? I can’t keep things straight anymore, damn it. Hold on. [Sounds of papers rustling, drawers opening and closing, coffee spilling.] Where’s my identity?

Chicken farmer!!! People have been writing to me and saying, Chicken Farmer, what about Houdini? Houdini being my famously wayward escape-artist chicken, and "what about" being that I was going to eat her, I said, if I couldn’t figure out how she was doing it — "it" being finding her way into the neighbors’ flower bed and being generally disrespectful to the colors, smells, and natural beauty of it.

"It" being said flower bed.

Damn, I really do need to learn to write. No I don’t. I need to learn to chicken farm because, no, I never did discover her escape route. This, in spite of 24-hour surveillance cameras, stakeouts, and the clandestine cooperation of two "plants" on the inside.

Houdini’s a genius. Nevertheless, I didn’t eat her, not yet. Thanks for asking. She was saved by my chicken farmerly surrealism. I’m not a genius, but I do know how to deflect criticism by not making any sense whatsoever. I bought the neighbors an amelioratory bag of wild bird seed, some oranges, and a package of pretty stickers, and informed them in a letter that I was transsexual and should thenceforth be referred to as Ms. Chicken Farmer, if they please.

Essentially, this was a stalling tactic, designed to buy me and Houdini another week, at least, while my neighbors wobbled and just generally lost sleep.

Not long into that week, when Houdini was next found by me to be luxuriating among the forbidden flowers, I held her down and clipped her wing. It was a desperate measure but not necessarily cruel. Chickens are flightless birds to begin with. What do they need wings for?

Well, balance. It’s more like a haircut than surgery, see? You’re only clipping the feathers, and only on one wing, so that afterward they feel all asymmetrical and artsy and don’t crave flowers anymore. Theoretically.

It’s working, but it’s also only a matter of time, I know. Feathers molt and grow. And smart animals, with the possible exception of me, only get smarter.

So I’m packing up the pickup truck, all dolled up for a gig, when my neighbor comes strolling over with his hands in his pockets … thanks for the seeds, you shouldn’t have, and congratulations.

"I don’t know," he said, checking himself. "What do you say to a trans person? Is that what you say?"

"Congratulations is nice," I said, loading up my steel drum and stand. I like my neighbor Dave. We get along, chickens in flower beds notwithstanding.

"So what do your groupies think about this?" he said. He knows I’m in a band but not what kind, apparently.

I smiled. "Dave," I said, "my groupies are 80-year-old shut-ins with bad eyes and Alzheimer’s. Not that they could ever quite tell if I was a boy or girl, but …"

"Well, congratulations," he said. "You’ve got the hair for it, anyway."

And he went back to his flower bed, and I went to my gig, and Houdini gazed into the chicken coop mirror and felt progressive.

Every time I have to clip a chicken’s wing, I can’t help fantasizing that some day, if there is a god, we will have genetically modified chickens that regenerate missing parts. So that chicken farmers can clip off more than just the feathers. We will harvest chicken wings like asparagus and eat like kings or college students.

But there’s not a god, of course, and that’s where San Tung comes in handy. Doc was right. *


Mon.–Tues. and Thurs.–Sun., 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

1031 Irving, SF

(415) 242-0828

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible