L.E. Leone

Taking the heat


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk lost her mouth on account of the chemo. We were sitting around wondering about lunch, which is one of my three favorite things to wonder about, and she said (and I quote): "I wonder if I have my mouth back."

I looked up from my prayer book, or food journal, and asked, "Excuse me?"

"I wonder if I can handle the salsa at Papalote," she said. She’s been off the sauce for a couple months and off chemo now for maybe one month. Her head’s starting to get fuzzy, but she hadn’t yet tested her capacity for spicy hot — which used to be considerable. For a while even black pepper was fucking with her, mouthwise.

Weird, huh?

Well, a lot of things are weird. Golf … and I’ll never understand why San Francisco lets churchgoers park in the middle of the street on Sundays. Excuse me? Separation of church and state?

My bright orange skirt was perfectly color-coordinated with my flower-print shirt, which screamed every color of the rainbow and then some. It was sunny and warm and lunchtime in Noe Valley. Sockywonk looked about as badass and beautiful as ever, with her old-man-style Florida-style straw hat, bald head, blue jeans, watch chain …

"That’s a man," some guy said to some other guys sitting at a sidewalk table on 24th Street. Not only did he not try to conceal his voice, he seemed to say it louder than normal. Sockywonk pretended not to hear, poor thing, but she had to, unless chemo took her ears too.

Now, I was never one for chivalry, not even as a dude, but it occurs to me retrospectively that this was perfect weather for new leaves. Spring!

I’m so lucky to have this wavy-world restaurant column in which to do everything over again. Instead of just keeping walking, I grabbed on to my dear girlfriend’s elbow, turned her to face the speaker, and corrected him: "She’s not a man," I said. "Look. Tits!"

And there isn’t a shade of a dot of a doubt in my mangled mind that the Wonk would have lifted her shirt — had this actually happened — and showed them. And his friends would have hooted and high-fived us, and the guy would have felt like an idiot, and Socky’s dog, Barkywonk, would have sniffed his pant leg and pissed on it, assuring him that he was, in fact, an idiot.

You don’t make fun of sick people, everybody knows. And, for the record, Sockywonk has long, pretty, and very girly hair when she doesn’t have cancer.

The question was, did she have her mouth back?

She did!

The test was that zip-zooey orange salsa they have at Papalote, made with roasted tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. It’s ridiculously good, and nice and spicy, and Papalote is my new favorite taquería on the strength of this salsa alone. But everything else was great too.

The chips were fresh, warm, free …

We got a fish taco and a shrimp taco that time, and then a couple days later, when we had to go back on account of bad days, we got a Soyrizo burrito and a carne asada burrito. I’ll let you guess who ordered which.

Chorizo is probably my least favorite kind of sausage in this wide world of wonderful sausages. Soyrizo … well, Sockywonk swears by it, that’s all I’ll say.

And they don’t have carnitas, which is strange and tragic, but the carne asada was great, and the tortilla was griddled, not steamed. And the salsa is addictive. You can buy a jar of it for six bucks, I think, and five bucks the next time if you bring back the jar. Sockywonk used to do this before chemo took her mouth. Even though she lives a short walk from 24th and Valencia. Because you never know when you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night needing a little heat.

Speaking of which, we both had unreasonable plans of getting lucky later, since it was St. Patrick’s Day and all the boys in the world and a lot of lesbians would be drunk. She went to a show; I went to Oakland. I was supposed to meet some friends at opening night of the new lesbian bar Velvet. Oakland’s first? That’s what my friends said. I didn’t believe it, until I saw the two block–long line waiting to get in.

And just kept driving. *


Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.

3409 24th St., SF

(415) 970-8815

Takeout available


Credit cards not accepted


Wheelchair accessible


Such a woman


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Cousin Raym is a doctor and works at Kent State. He gets to come to San Francisco for conferences, and I get to take him around for sushi, and clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, and all the things he loves that you can’t get in Ohio. Good sushi, I mean. This has happened two years in a row, and that means he has seen me more than anyone else in my family who doesn’t live here.

Raym is 50 years old and still plays tackle football. We tried his hand — or feet — at soccer, and he didn’t get a lot done but did have fun. Most of the time he looked like he was looking for someone to block or thinking about a blitz. Then we went and had sushi. Like me, Raym is a kind of a chatterbox. He has an especially expressive face: open and curious. The people he works with in Ohio say he’s "such a woman," and my cousin takes it as a compliment and goes and plays tackle football.

So he’s my hero, and his teenage daughter Megan, his oldest, is probably the person in the family I most take after, we decided. Even though I’m almost 30 years older than her. I say "we decided," but technically I already knew, ever since I saw a picture of me that made me go, "Holy crap, I look like Megan! How’d that happen?"

I was excited to show this picture to Raym, and I can do that now because I finally entered the modern era and bought me a brand new portable typewriter. So we’re sitting upstairs at the Boudin Bakery on Market Street during one of his lunch breaks, and instead of clacking out this restaurant review — ding, return — like in the good old days, I slide my sleek MacBook out of its bubble-wrap sheath and show him the picture. Yep, he says. Megan. And that’s how we decided. But he also thinks I look like my sisters, which of course I do, lucky me.

I say I take after Megan (lucky me) because in addition to the slight physical resemblance, she hates mayonnaise, loves sushi, and plays fast-pitch. Whereas I don’t know that any of my sisters have ever even tried sushi. Sushi sushi, I mean. The kind that features, you know, raw fish.

But Boudin’s is bustling, and our clam chowders are a long way off still, so I get to show my cousin some pictures of Sockywonk too: us hugging outside Just for You, me holding an egg next to her bald head. Here we are with our identical ugly monster teddy bears. I didn’t show him the boob shots she took earlier that morning while I was trying on clothes at her house.

My new portable typewriter has a built-in camera, conducive to these kinds of shenanigans. My online dating career is about to take off. But it’s not what you think: I’m not going to learn PhotoShop and cut and paste all my girlfriends’ breasts onto my body. No. In fact, instead of using pictures of me, which just ain’t working, I’m going to show those boys What’s for Dinner. Like the other night, I made a fresh tomato sauce with homemade sausage over penne, and I held the steaming plate in front of my fancy new typewriter, click.

A picture fit for a cookbook! And in the background, in the dark, you can just barely kind of see a shadowy corner, maybe, of an apron-sporting chicken farmer. Went on Craigslist, got a date.

Yeah, right. Anyway, our clam chowder bread bowls came and were everything that clam chowder bread bowls are supposed to be: lunch!

I wish I could have showed Sockywonk to my cousin in person. He’s a doctor. He knows cancer professionally, and, actually, personally. I remember catching a touchdown pass on a slant pattern. The quarterback was almost nonexistently skinny, and bald, with a little lump under his shirt: a morphine pump.

But I wondered if Raym had ever seen someone take cancer for as wild a ride as Sockywonk is taking it.

"Calls herself ‘the happiest cancer patient ever,’" I said. "She’s all excited about the tattoo she’s going to get over her mastectomy scars. Something monsterish, with long tentacles."

"Really?" he asked.

"It’s inspiring," I said.

He seemed inspired too, and in a sea of downtown lunch-breakers and tourists, we ate our little soups. *


Mon.–Fri.: 6:30 a.m.–7 p.m.

619 Market, SF

(415) 281-8200

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible


Of blood and blintzes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The hawks are looking hungry. My chickens are scared. Me too. We spend a lot of time in the bushes, plucking and preening and trying to act casual. And while they’re scratching for bugs, I’m collecting dandelion greens for my salad. The price of lettuce has literally brought me to my knees.

You’re thinking: Lettuce? The price of lettuce?

Yeah, well, maybe you don’t know how much salad I eat. (A: a lot.) My favorite statistic says that when they have unlimited access to grass, chickens will eat it more than anything. Up to two-thirds of their diet will be green. That’s why true free-range eggs glow the way they do, the yolks. And true free-range chicken farmers glow too, in case you haven’t noticed.

Because probably two-thirds of what I eat are greens. And the other third, instead of bugs and spiders and stuff that chickens eat, is chickens; and chicken-fried steak; and big, bloody, rare burgers; and, of course, eggs.

All of which has nothing to do with what I’m doing in the bushes, let alone my new favorite restaurants. I’m on a secret surveillance mission. The mission: to find out how my escape-artist chicken, Houdini II, is finding her way out of the chicken yard and into the neighbor’s flower bed.

The method: to learn to think like a chicken, eat like a chicken, fear like a chicken, crave neighbors’ flower beds like a chicken, escape like a chicken, and, failing all that, to cut a chicken’s head off and make gumbo out of her.

My chicken-farmerly reputation hangs in the balance, like, like, like … like a foot-tied headless chicken draining into a bucket. Also at stake: the copaceticness of my relationship with certain flower bed–having neighbors.

But all this talk of blood and gore and ruffled feathers is reminding me of my weekend last weekend, when I got to go to my ex-wife Crawdad’s baby shower and hug my ex-mother-in-law, Crawma, for the first time in my new format.

She didn’t recognize me, I don’t think.

"Crawdad," I said, "introduce me to your mom."

Then she recognized me but did seem a little weirded out, and who could blame her? It was a baby shower! What could be weirder? Everything was nice and pretty and cute, and afterward I needed to go to the roller derby.

I have a new favorite sport!

The Richmond Wrecking Belles beat the crap out of the SF Shevil Dead, and I ate a hot dog. But you’re probably more interested in Saul’s Delicatessen, huh?

Saul’s is Berkeley’s way of saying "hey" to New York. And just like Zachary’s does Chicago pizza better than Chicago (you ask me), I believe Saul’s would out-apple the Apple in belly-to-belly competition. But what do I know? I’m just a chicken farmer.

Well, sure, because of local-grown organic produce and Neiman Marcus designer meats, Saul’s might boast. But I like it better than New York for my usual reason: it’s closer. By a lot. And they have everything Jewish and wonderful, like potato latkes, blintzes, matzo ball soup, and so on. And bagels.

I got salami and eggs, and it was great. I mean, the eggs were just eggs, because we didn’t make them, me and my girls, but the salami was good and plentiful, and the latke, which you can get instead of hash browns for a buck-fifty extra … it’s worth it.

I love latkes. They’re those potato and onion pancakes, you know, served with applesauce and sour cream. I love that they were used, according to Jewish legend, to put some Assyrian meanie to sleep and then chop off his head.

And I love Saul’s. It’s a cheerful, comfortable place to hang out. I sat there with my new friend Thingpart, the famous five-minute cartoonist, and we blah blah blah blah blah’d like two old hens for way more than five minutes. We must have sat there for over two hours, I’m thinking, because what we ate was breakfast, and it was lunchtime by the time I left. And between this, the beautiful day that day, a great soccer match, a baby shower, and the Bay Area Derby Girls, I was one happy happy farmer.

Last weekend. But now it’s the work week, and, if you’ll excuse me, I have to whip up a potato latke, so to speak, for one of my girls. Here, Houdini! *


Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

1475 Shattuck, Berk.

(510) 848-3354

Takeout available

Beer, wine, and cocktails



Wheelchair accessible


Getting lucky


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The word she uses is "flexitarian." I seldom run retractions. Not that I never get anything wrong; on the contrary, my impressions of reality are so impressionistic, it would be a stretch to say that I ever exactly get anything right.

This can cause problems.

Give you an example: I want to know what time Penny’s opens for lunch. I look it up. Cheap Eats, Penny’s Caribbean Café, says right there: 11:30 a.m. So I write to Lisa Bitch Magazine, and I say, "Dear Ms. Magazine, Hi! How are you? 11:30 a.m."

She writes back and says stop calling her Ms. Magazine.

And: No. Noon, she says. Flexitarians always have weird rules about eating meat, like only free-range, organic, or only at home, or only in restaurants, or, in Lisa’s case, once every six months, and never before noon. If it’s goat.

I’m assuming she makes early-morning exceptions for bacon. Actually, my assumption is that all vegetarians make exceptions for bacon, all the time. Because how can you not eat bacon? It’s bacon!

(Have I dazzled you yet with my simplemindedness?)

Cut to 12 o’clock. Noon. I’m standing outside Penny’s Caribbean Café, waiting for my new friend Lisa. And for Penny, because I’ll be damned if she’s open. Which goes to show: you can’t always believe what you read in the paper — even if you wrote it.

Sign in the window says CLOSED. No lights. And still I’ve got my nose to the glass, both hands visoring my eyes, like, Come on, come on, Penny. I know you’re in there. Come on.

I love Penny. I LOVE Penny and not just because of her curry goat roti, either. There’s the jerk chicken and pelau and … I don’t know, we just seem to live in very similar worlds. Where Einstein is taken perhaps a tad too literally and time is extra relative. And space …

Nebulous is one of my favorite words.

So hey, here comes Lisa, responsible journalist, on her lunch break. She has exactly this much time, and she’s hungry, and she has agreed to eat her biannual meat with me. Me!

Today! I’m beside myself with honor and anticipation, watching vegetarians eat meat being one of my all-time favorite pastimes, right up there with pitching washers and spitting watermelon seeds.

And I’ve been talking up the curry goat. But Penny is showing no signs of peering around any counters or refrigerators anytime soon, so I give up on the window, pack Lisa into my pickup truck, and whiz us to West Oakland, to the Island Café.

Even though it’s regular business hours for them too, by the book, and even though it smells like meat heaven on the sidewalk outside the place … closed. Cooking, you could smell, but closed. Sign on the door says they’re catering a musical event that afternoon in Santa Cruz, sorry!

Aaaaargh! Whisk us back to Berkeley, the clock ticking on Ms. Magazine’s lunch break. And I’m thinking, damn my luck, she’s going to cave and call falafel.

Know what she says? She says, "Stop calling me Ms. Magazine." And she says this, she says, "Flint’s?"


Flint’s? Not to put too pointy of a point on this, but you would think that if Flint’s — everybody’s favorite Bay Area barbecue (not to mention mine) — was back in bidness, Cheap Eats would know about it before Bitch Magazine. Which is one reason why I try not to think too much these days. Because you never know.

So I point us toward Flint’s, thinking, yeah, right, Flint’s, right, sure, like Flint’s is going to be open, way things are going for us, right….

It is! It’s open, and the rest of the day is like a dream. Lisa gets her meat fix, I get to be there for it, get to see Bitch Magazine with barbecue sauce all over her face, just like she got to see Cheap Eats with beans in her hair.

Flint’s is as good as ever. My new favorite (and old favorite) barbecue. New management. No tables. We sat on the slat-style benches in the corner of the place, paper bags spread out on our laps, and went to work. Well, I went to work. They only had beef ribs. Then, after us, they didn’t even have those and started turning people away.

So, after all that running around and frustration and, you know, goatlessness in general … in the end we got to feel lucky. *


Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

6609 Shattuck, Berk.

(510) 595-5323

Credit cards not accepted

No alcohol

Takeout available

Wheelchair accessible


The power of meat


By L.E. Leone

› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I’m not really going to no wimmin’s music festival in Michigan this summer, don’t worry. It costs money — are you kidding me? And I’m not camping out at no Camp Trans, either, to protest. I already gave up on political actions, restroom-related or otherwise.

Y’all can have your fucked-up ismicistic world.

I have chickens. I have fire and wheels and weird words that nobody knows but me. Ismicistic means everyone’s got to be a somethingist and embrace somethingism. Not the chicken farmer, not no more. I embrace nothing. I lay down my arms, my sword, my pen, my heart. So that means I give up on romantic embracement too.

Hey, maybe the only time anything really really buttery ever happens is after you’ve already surrendered to the bread: the plain old dry, crusty facts of your actual life, exactly what you actually have (e.g. chickens, chicken shit).

I really am going to Michigan, though. In August. I’m going to karate chop my chickens, pack up my pickup, and pitch my little one-farmer tent right smack in the war zone between the wimmin-born-wimmins and the boy-born-girlies, and I’m gonna eat nothing but raw red meat for a week, and lie around in the dirt, naked. Then when all the mosquitoes that bite me start biting everyone else on their vegetarian asses, they’ll all be infected by a meaty, greasy, good-natured carnivorousness, and the world will have been saved without anyone even realizing it.

My Michigan-born-wimminfriend Kizzer deserves a Nobel Warmth prize for teaching me to go to bed with hot water bottles, in lieu of lovers. I giggle and smile and think of her warmly every night as I crawl in under the covers and play footsy with Mr. Hotbelly. Talk about personal growth … I used to sleep with my socks on!

So Kizzer calls me at my brother’s house on a recent Sunday, says she’s been walking around Berkeley all day, smelling meat.

"Let’s be more specific," I said, searching for my pen, which I’d just laid down. Somewhere. "Barbecued? Braised? Broiled? Barbecued? What? Talk to me."

"Grilled," she says, after honestly thinking about it.

"OK, that’s kind of like barbecue. Let me make a few calls, borrow someone’s laptop, see what I can come up with."

K.C., Everett and Jones … been there, done them. There’s another one now called T-Rex, but it looks like high-brow barbecue, which is an oxymoron. And as much as I love oxen and morons, Kizzer and me had just accidentally dropped 40 bucks apiece at some Italian restaurant in the Mission the night before. We were both still reeling and a little nauseous over that.

So I called up Wayway, my go-to Berkeley eats consultant, and said, "Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap. Cheap."

"Chicken farmer?" he said. "Is this you?"

It was!

Taiwan Restaurant, he said. Next door to McDonald’s on University. He said it was his favorite place for cheap Chinese food. Ever. Anywhere. And Chinese food ain’t barbecue, I’ll be the first to admit, but when Wayway described the pork noodle soup with mustard greens, it sounded like soul food to my ears. I told you I have this thing for soup right now. In fact, I’d almost rather eat soup than meat — so long as the soup has meat in it, you understand.

I had to talk Kizzer into this. "It’s Chinese New Year!" I said. "It’s the Year of the Pork!"

She bit, and I slurped and slobbered and spilt my tea, I was so excited over the heap of noodles and greens and pork swirling majestically out of the broth like Alcatraz or other islandy, mountainous tourist attractions. With noodles and greens and pork all over them.

Get this: $4.50! For a meal-size bowl of soup. Six-fifty for a huge plate of beef and snow peas, and the meat was tender and the peas were snappy. And the pot stickers took 20 minutes to make and were so juicy and meaty and flavorous that you could almost believe in Santa Claus all over again.

Fifteen dollars stuffed us solid, and me again for lunch the next day. So … do I have a new favorite restaurant?

I do! *


Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.–12:30 a.m.; Sun., 10:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.

2071 University, Berk.

(510) 845-1456

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible


Me and my bitches


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I have long, pretty, curly hair, and there’s always food in it — and often branches and leaves and stuff — because I’m a chicken farmer. I spend my days crawling around in the bushes, looking for eggs.

At the famous Womyn’s Music Festival in Michigan, trans women (MTFs, women who were It’s-a-Boyed at birth) are not welcome. I knew that. What I didn’t know, until Bitch magazine told me, is that trans men (FTMs, men who were It’s-a-Girled at birth) are welcome. To explain their quirky exclusionism, the festival heads have invented a new category of people called womyn-born-womyn.

Well, dang, that ain’t me either….

It’s almost enough sometimes to make a chicken farmer feel a little lonely. In the world. In the woods, I am on top of the world, and I’m working on a new song that says so. It’s called "A Thousand Feet above You." Which is what I am, in a purely topographical sense, assuming you live at sea level.

I’m going to put on my own music festival for chicken farmers–born–chicken farmers. I’m going to play my great new song to an audience of none. And it’s going to be sad and weird and safe and healing and … safe … and …

I’m so confused!

But then the food comes, and everything makes sense again. The cheese on Lisa’s enchiladas is moving! It’s so hot it bubbles up. And my own plate of beef and beans and rice is so big and so heavy-looking that I could cry. It’s hot too. Sizzling. You can hear it. In the kitchen, instead of an oven, they have secret access to the center of the earth, and the food is not cooked so much as volcanoed.

Our meals seem to be trying to say something to us. I bend my ear to my plate and do, indeed, learn something that goes universes beyond anything else I’ve ever learned. It’s like a dream, untranslatably wise. Ever the poet, I lift my head, look Lisa in the eye, and begin to search for words. Exact words with precise meanings … even as the understanding itself is retreating irretrievably into a steamy, dreamy sort of nebulousness.

"You have beans in your hair," Lisa says.

It’s gone. Gone. But I have to grab onto something, or I might disappear too. "That’s it! Never try and listen to your food," I say, or pronounce. In italics. Out in the air like that it seems somehow small, incomplete. "If you have long hair," I add, wiping mine off with humility and grace and a napkin.

Don’t worry, dear reader, this isn’t a date. (Or, if it were, it ain’t no more, Ms. Beanhead.) It’s more like a journalistic summit: Bitch magazine vs. Cheap Eats. Except right off the bat you can tell that, refried ends notwithstanding, we’re on the same exact side!

How can this be? Bitch is a smart, cool, feministic take on pop culture. Beyond my decided preference for root beer, I don’t even know what pop culture means. No TV. I don’t listen to the radio. Most of the records I like are at least 60 years old. And I don’t subscribe to any newspapers or magazines or spend a lot of time online. I can’t remember the last movie I went to or rented. And I can’t afford the opera or ballet or real restaurants. (And by real, of course, I mean unreal.)

In short: I’m a chicken farmer. When I’m not having lunch with my new friend Lisa at my new favorite restaurant, Mexicali Rose, in Oakland, I’m crawling around on my hands and knees in mud and chicken shit, looking for eggs. I have branches and leaves — and now refried beans — in my hair.

What’s more, I’m trans, and that translates to misogyny, according to some feminists. Believe it or not, I’ve heard this. And like everything else I’ve heard, there’s a part of me that is willing to believe it.

Fortunately, there are 40 trillion other parts of me. And 40 trillion other voices. And when Bitch and Cheap Eats put our little blabbers together last week and clicked forks — and mind you, I was born with "male privilege" and a little tiny wee-wee, and Lisa is practically a vegetarian, for crying out loud — I swear it was like we were long-lost sisters.

Is there a word for this? Inclusion? Openness? Warmth?

So, OK … August. Who wants to go to Michigan with me? *


Daily, 10 a.m.–1 a.m.

701 Clay, Oakl.

(510) 451-2450

Takeout available

Full bar



Wheelchair accessible


Practical aggression


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS The reason I keep a dream journal is not because I think my dreams mean anything. It’s because where else do you get to write a sentence like He’s always so brittle when he comes back to life and not even blink?

Cheap Eats!!!

This week’s dreamy food-for-all begins on the baseball field. Big Rec, Golden Gate Park. A beautiful summery day for July or August. For early February, it was surreal. I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

On TV, Super Sunday countdown; and by way of a more appropriate pregame show, six dudes were playing touch football in deep left field, creating for us a sort of nebulous, moving home run fence. The center-field fence was a soccer match, and in right field it was ultimate Frisbee.

Some of the guys I play ball with don’t even know I’m a girl. They think I’m just cool or weird. Which I am and am, of course, so I let it ride. Bob ribbed me because my earrings didn’t match my socks, or they did — I forget which. Letting it ride, I lined a double over third. I like being on base mainly because I get to chat with the other team’s players. Weather, restaurants … you know, music.

"Yeah, I have to leave early today," I said to their shortstop, Dave, taking my lead. Then I got all embarrassed because I thought he’d think I was leaving early to watch the Super Bowl. So I clarified: "Book club."

I felt certain he’d have wanted to know what book we were reading, but the batter got a hit, and I had to run. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson, Dave. That’s what I was discussing with my girlfriends over tea and cake while elsewhere in the world Tony was drinking beer and Carlos was winning $500.

The water was the exact same shade of blue as the sky, creating the effect of horizonlessness, according to Robinson. The metaphorical significance of which, according to Kirsten, was a blurring of the line between life and death. It made so much sense. I almost jumped up, pumped my fist, and spilled my tea, but I didn’t. They’re alive, and they’re not alive!

Almost exactly in sync with the winding down of tea and cake and literature, a loud cheer wafted through the open window from an apartment building across the street, signifying, I guessed, the end of the game.

Remember when I was practically a sportswriter? At dinner at Chilli Cha Cha on Haight and Fillmore (Thai Noodle and Food Café is the subtitle), I sat with my back to the TV so that Kirsten’s boyfriend, Peter, who had also missed the game, could watch highlights.

We split a spicy grilled beef salad (Peter and me), and Kirsten poured a whole order of rice into her coconut milk soup, creating a pasty, tasty mess. My favorite thing in the world right now is duck noodle soup, and I turn to it often. My new favorite "food café" floats some spinach in it, and I love them for that. The deep, dark broth, the comfort of noodles, and the ridiculous juiciness of duck, that lovely layer of fat between the skin and the meat … that’s where I want to live.

The night before, in a bar, I’d almost got in a fight, I was saying. A drunk guy kept pinging my steel pan with his fingers. I had to grab his wrist and hold it and I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I felt ready and willing. I would have punched and kicked and clawed in defense of my baby.

Which was weird, I was saying, because before I switched fuels, I was a mess in this situation. On T, I would shake, shut down, and lose the ability to speak or swallow, let alone fight. It didn’t make sense.

"Testosterone affects aggression," Peter said, looking down from football highlights. "Defense is something else entirely." He looked back up.

Wow. He was right. Outside of television sets, football stadiums, and certain select craniums, Peter was absolutely right, and I was going to have to vote for Hillary.

But why do I keep dreaming about Dom, my best friend, teammate, bandmate, and comrade, who died almost 20 years ago? Our dreams are peopled by pieces of ourselves supposedly. And he’s always so brittle when he comes back to life. *


Daily, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

495 Haight, SF

(415) 552-2960

Takeout and delivery available

No alcohol



Wheelchair accessible




› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Earl Butter said it was the dumbest thing he’d ever heard, and that was when I knew I was back. I wish I could remember what I’d said, to mark the spot, something about … something, I feel certain.

We were sitting around a couple of square tables in the back room at Mollie’s truck stop, former home of the 12-egg omelet and current home of the only chicken-fried steak omelet that I know of. It was me, Butter, Phenomenon, the House, and the Horn Section.

Late morning, Klamath Falls, Ore.

We were fueling up for an afternoon show at a nursing home where, weeks earlier, the director was shot and killed by an angry crazy person who probably had religious beliefs and almost certainly political ones. But we didn’t know this yet, over eggs.

Someone tried to tell me once that I was wise and witchy, and I made the mistake of actually believing them. For a while. This is one of the most idiotic mistakes you can make in life, right up there with holding your hand in the fire.

So I went around for maybe a month or two thinking I knew some things, and then the skin between my fingers started to blister and smoke, and I accidentally showed my true colors. I screamed.

My true color is red. My favorite colors are green and blue, and I wear a lot of brown, but my true color, apparently, is red. It expresses itself in millions of little tiny flags sticking out of my skin on millions of little tiny flagpoles, waving in the wind.

And I wonder why people don’t want to date me!

I’m like head cheese. You know that someone, somewhere, considers cute little fiery white chicken farmers of ambiguous gender and unambiguous stupidity a wonderful delicacy or a rare treat. Meanwhile, everyone else in the world, myself included, would rather be eating chicken-fried steak. Hash browns. Biscuits.

Or Thai food.

I decided to sit out our afternoon show in order to check my e-mail. And I borrowed my brother’s laptop and found a Thai restaurant with free wireless Internet. So while my comrades clippity-clopped a crew of traumatized Oregonian elders into working it out on the dance floor, I was eating plah goong with highly suspicious shrimp and wilted iceberg lettuce, checking my e-mail.

Nothing. I put the laptop away and wished with all my idiotic might that small-town Oregon would turn into San Francisco, at least long enough for me to finish lunch. Say at Little Thai on Polk and Broadway, where the prawn salad with mango is to die for, not to die of. And the yellow curry chicken, leftover, forgotten on the floor of your pickup truck and then eaten cold the next day ($7.95) will taste 10 times better than anything this kitchen can come up with.

My new favorite restaurant! Little Thai, I mean. Not this one. And so long as I’m sitting here dreaming and old people somewhere in the world are dancing, let me have a carpenter my age named Joe to talk to. Or let me be standing on Broadway in the dark in the cold, watching his lit, balding, bowed head in Little Thai’s warm, steamy window, reading a newspaper. I don’t care who that guy is, I think, waiting for the light to change. I’m going to cross this street and give him these eggs.

At a country dance that night one town down, at the community center, Earl Butter discovered brandy. I wasn’t drinking, but I couldn’t lay off of the chicken wings. By the middle of our third set, Earl was too brilliant to play the drums by himself, and I was too fried to play the pan.

So I sat splayed on the floor next to his neglected kick drum, and I took off one of my boots, held it by the toes, and tried to give the dancers a downbeat to land on in between his ups.

"Stop it!" he said. "Stop it! Stop it!" he kept saying, but I liked being on the floor and felt useful.

After, I went outside across the parking lot in front of our van and peed in the weeds. There was a field, and there were railroad tracks. It was a clear, icy country night, the stars almost tickling. A train came, shattering everything, and for the gazillionth time in my little life, I closed my eyes and wondered where in the world I was. *


Lunch: Tues.–Sat., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m. Dinner: Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 4–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 4–10:30 p.m.

2065 Polk, SF

(415) 771-5544

Takeout and delivery available




Wheelchair accessible


Missed connections


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS My new favorite songwriter is my old friend NFC, which BTW stands for "new friend Catherine," not National Football Conference. Of course, I sometimes call her Ms. Conference or National or Nat just to confuse matters. And to confuse matters further, I’m rooting for her in the Super Bowl.

So while these people are going, "Go, Colts!" and those ones are going, "Yay, Bears!" I’ll be sandwiched between them on the sofa, with my fingers crossed and my knees all a-rattle, going, Catherine, Catherine, Catherine, come on, Catherine!

Probably under my breath — in case anyone still wants to invite me to their Super Bowl party.

Confession: I’ve been neglecting my old friends in order to meet new people. And the more new people I meet, the more I love my old friends. I can’t decide whether this makes me a people person or a misanthrope, so let’s just stick with chicken farmer for now.

NFC, my new favorite songwriter, only has three songs. For as long as I’ve known her, she has had the same three songs, and we sit in her heater room with coffee and guitars and a cat named Juicy Toots, rewriting and rewriting them. She rewrites. I close my eyes and concentrate on having an opinion. This one used to be a folk song. Now it’s the blues. That one has a slightly different melody. The other has a new, improved bridge, retrofitted to withstand earthquakes and open mic jitters.

By the time she dies, NFC will have either the three most exquisitely perfect musical compositions ever written or a very bad headache. My money, as usual, is on both. But that’s not what I wanted to tease her about.

I wanted to tease her about a certain evening we spent together recently. It was the coldest Thursday on record. Ever. Anywhere. Many of my dearest, warmest, longstandingest loved ones were gathering out at Gaspare’s to break pizza in honor of our prodigal pal One-Cents. I chose instead to accompany NFC to a house concert in Oakland. Where I wouldn’t know anyone.

Which is how I like it, my top priority in life these days being my unreasonable, hopeless, quixotic quest for romance, the kind with nudity in it. And that just ain’t going to happen between me and my friends, I’m afeard. (And they’re relieved.)

So: new people, I’m thinking. Girls! Boys! Boths! Couples with a sense of adventure! Single people with a sense of humor! Sensitive artists with a sense of worthlessness! House concert! Yay!!!

Come to find over preshow dinner at Manzanita that our hostess, NFC’s friend, is 80 and that everyone else at the party will be senior citizens, except us.

"Oh," I said. I love old people. "What about the bands?" I asked.

"Only one. My friend’s son," NFC said. "He’s visiting from Nashville."

Mind you, this news is broken to me at Manzanita, which is an organic vegan macrobiotic joint, two big cities and a cold, cold bay away from Gaspare’s, where all my other friends in the world are just then deciding what all to put on all their extralarge pizzas. Sausage, I’m thinking.


"Yum. Aren’t these whole grains and unseasoned greens delicious?" my new favorite songwriter asks, sprinkling a shaker of almost tasteless toasted brown things all over her plate, in lieu of salt and pepper.

I’m thinking: olives, pepperoni. Salad with salad dressing on it. "Yes! Delicious!" I say. And I really do clean my plate and enjoy it. And feel pretty good, kind of.

I love my friend NFC, and I love old folks and country music. But it turns out Ms. Conference had the wrong night. The house concert wasn’t until Saturday. I probably could have gotten across town, over the bridge, and across town again to the Richmond in time for a glass of wine and some crust, except that NFC’s friend invited us in anyway, bless her heart, and her son, bless his, played a whole set of his new country originals, by way of rehearsal.

We sat on the couch with cookies and water and watched and listened with big, big smiles on our faces, and I wouldn’t trade this cracked, cold Thursday for any Thursday in the world. *


Lunch: daily, 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m. Dinner: daily, 5:30–9 p.m.

4001 Linden, Oakl.

(510) 985-8386.

Takeout and catering available

No alcohol



Wheelchair accessible


Ways we were


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I was sitting at the bar drinking whiskey with Hobosack, talking about art and writing and waiting for the band to go on so that we could move our heads and close our eyes and rattle on the inside. It’s like being back in grad school, I thought, and this was a warm thing to think on a cold, cold night, until I realized that … why the hell would I want to be back in grad school?

Actually, I can think of some answers to that question: namely, Dash would still be alive, and the Bomb. I wouldn’t be scared. Angelina’s sausage calzone and pasta fagioli at Tony’s … It’s warmer on the East Coast than the West one right now — but then, of course, it wouldn’t be now if I were back in school; it would be then. And snow would be piling up on top of my trailer, the roof sagging and starting to drip.

Nostalgia is a funny thing, innit? Why would we want the way things were? Even if times were great, they are history, and history sucks. Because it’s gone.

Whereas the here and now is here, and now, and still has everything, including sensation, whiskey, a strong backbeat, new friends, old memories, Thai food, and — begrudgingly I admit it — candy.

They said on the radio recently that looking at photographs releases more happiness chemicals in the human brain than chocolate or a stiff drink or other stiff … stuff, or drugs or even hugs — although this starts to seem improbable, so maybe I’m malremembering.

Anyway, I was out in my storage shed looking for something else when I accidentally came across two pictures of Yatee-Yatee-Bing-Eh-Eh-Eh, and then some ones of Crawdad de la Cooter, Feather River. Happiness chemicals were nowhere to be found in my human brain. In fact, these images brought me to my knees, and my storage shed floor, so you know, is concrete and cold and covered in rat shit. My tears were not tears of joy.

There were in the same box so many pictures of the Bomb, from baby to buddy, that I could have put them in order, if I were an orderly person, and made a flip movie of his life and a big bowl of popcorn to go with it.

Not a happy ending.

Hobosack is a man who cries, and this is in fact how we became friends, even though he doesn’t eat meat and actually prefers dessert to main courses.

We were downtown, trying to find a Vietnamese restaurant I keep thinking about and can never quite locate, when suddenly there was Banana House, and then: parking.

"You like Thai?" I asked, blinkering the open spot.

"Bananas are two of my three favorite foods," Hobosack said.

I was charmed and alarmed by this information. Hobosack elaborated: banana Laffy Taffy is his first favorite food, actual bananas his third. That his top 10 list also included coffee, beer, and cake cracked me up and made my teeth start to hurt.

"Are you sure you want to have dinner?" I asked.

He did! I agreed to yum hed, which is a mixed mushroom salad, for the sake of the lettuce and the spicy lime dressing ($6.95). By accident, I even liked one of the three or four kinds of mushrooms, and it happened to be the one Hobosack didn’t like, lucky us. It was clear and looked like something you’d see while snorkeling. Anyone?

There was mango curry, a red coconut-milk concoction with basil and peppers ($7.95), and chicken satay ($7.95) so that I could cut some meat up into everything else. It was dry and bland, but it was meat.

And the bathroom was gravy — unisexual — but so cold that I couldn’t stop clacking until we went back to Sack’s for some hot tea. Then to El Rio, where the heat was on and overhead ceiling vents poured artificial warmth down the outsides of us while we poured whiskey into the insides.

And nobody got hurt or lost time or even cried. Although, as nice a night as it was, somehow we’d neglected to have any bananas. And of course they were on the menu — for dessert! Fried, with ice cream or honey, which sounds good even to me. *


Mon.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Sat.–Sun., noon–9 p.m.

321 Kearny, SF

(415) 981-9399

Takeout available

No alcohol



Wheelchair accessible


Make a wish


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Sockywonk came back from Florida completely bald and we sat in the waiting room at the Kaiser lab, looking at pictures. In fluorescent lights, in the hospital hum, in the stony glare of disease … here was Florida, her Florida friends, her Florida sister, sunshine and tank tops, big smiles, water. Here was Sockywonk sitting in the haircut chair clowning for the camera, yanking fistfuls of hair right out of her scalp, waiting for the shave.

The last two things she did with her hair, when she had it, and knew she only had it for a couple more weeks, was she cut it into a Mohawk and then bleached it blond. Nowadays she wears a Davy Crockett hat with a tail, some kind of animal, and you know that I love her for this.

She took the hat off and showed me. There were lingering patches of black stubble, random and Rorschach. I put my hand there. It was warm and bristly.

I made a wish.

Once when I used to shave my head and people, including me, always wanted to touch it, I told a coworker while she was rubbing my snow dome that she could make a wish and she did and got pregnant. This was 20 years ago, more or less, in another time zone, and I can’t remember the mother’s or the father’s name, but I imagine the child of that wish, now more or less an adult, tracking me down and appearing at my door one day with a basket of fruit or a cheese tray.


It had been cloudy and drizzly but mild all morning, and when we came out of Kaiser it was brilliantly sunny and freezing. "What do you really really want to eat?" I said. "More than anything in the world right now, for lunch."

"Soup," said Sockywonk. "Japanese."

It’s not like her to be decisive and I was thrilled. Soup, in particular Japanese style, is one of my favorite things in the world. On our way to my car she stepped in one of my least favorite things. I found an old copy of the Guardian in the back of the truck, opened it to Cheap Eats, and laid it out on the passenger floor.

In Japantown Center, sucking down edamame outside of Suzu because there weren’t any open tables inside, we looked at more pictures while waiting for our noodles. One of Sockywonk’s Florida girlfriends is pushing 60, and looks like she’s 35. There’s a big house, a deck, a river. Sockywonk says something about maybe moving back there.

"Would you do it?"

She doesn’t know. She’s been living in a rent-controlled apartment here for 15, 20 years. Has a lot of cool and beautiful San Francisco friends too. Some of whom, if not all of whom, are bigger than her and will chain her to a parking meter, if that’s what it comes to.

Here was a picture of Sockywonk flashing her boobs.

And here was our soup, finally, and oh-sweet-Jesus I have a new favorite restaurant! Not only do they have karaage ramen, which is fried chicken noodle soup, and not only are the noodles homemade and perfect, but the fried chicken comes in a separate bowl on the side so that, for slow eaters like me, you don’t wind up eating sog-monster mush.

I chopsticked a crispy chunk of chicken, dipped and dunked it into the dark, salty broth, and came up with an unexpected spot of ginger hanging on somewhere, a stowaway. Biting into it was like sex, if I remember correctly. Sex, not soup; the soup I remember perfectly, almost tearfully. The most succulent, deliciousest thing you can even imagine.

Fried chicken soup. Sockywonk had a combination plate, tempura over rice, and udon soup. Oh, and we also had shrimp dumplings and they were pretty good too. But how can someone who’s 60 look 35?

Chemo conks you on the head and makes you move a little slow.

Fried chicken does the same thing to me, so I had no trouble keeping step with Sockywonk on our way up the stairs to the restrooms, which of course are gender specific: one for this kind, one for that. But in this case I didn’t mind, ’cause we got to pee in harmony and wash our hands in harmony and look together into the mirror, thinking about Florida. *


Lunch: Mon. and Wed.–Fri., 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.

Dinner: Mon. and Wed.–Fri., 5–10 p.m.; Sat., 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sun., 11:30 a.m.–9:30 p.m.

1581 Webster, SF

(415) 346-5083

Takeout available

Beer and wine



Wheelchair accessible


Gentle surrogates


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Right now I only have three chickens and a song stuck in my head. "All Her Favorite Fruit," by Camper Van Beethoven. Often I dream I have many, many more chickens than three. They come out of the woods and are colorful, quirky, and wild, but for whatever reason they choose to be my chickens. In my dreams they are welcome both by me and the three real chickens I have. Always they are welcome and weird, these dreamy messengers. I never do figure out what exactly their message is, but my sense is that there is something off about them, like they lay square eggs, are made out of smoke, or cock-a-doodle-don’t.

Whatever the flavor of their surreality, I am charmed and afraid, and invariably (so far) I wake up to exactly how many chickens I have. Which has never been more than nine, at my chicken farmerliest, and is now, as I said, three.

I’m not complaining. Even just one chicken could be a tremendous source of comfort and amusement to me, and if I didn’t have any, which might happen when I move back to the city (I am looking), then I would spend more time than ever with chicken soup, chicken vindaloo, chicken chow mein, fried chicken, barbecued chicken, and so on.

And you would be a little better informed about Bay Area restaurants, I guess … so there’s that.

Right now, however, it’s a warm morning for January, and I’m sitting outside on a log. I’ve been awake for a long time, long enough to feel like I’ve entered another time zone that no one else has ever been in. I’m not tired. I’m drinking black coffee and feeding brown rice to my three exact, awake, real live chickens. I’m feeding them brown rice, chow fun noodles with black beans, red peppers, and cabbage ($6) and spicy green beans without chicken ($8.50).

Last night on my why-why-why way home to the woods I made a wrong turn at Nan King Road in the Sunset. Not that it’s not a great restaurant, and not that it doesn’t have a unisex bathroom, but you know what? I don’t feel like talking about bathrooms or food, and if I did feel like talking about food, I would much rather be talking about bacon, as surely as my three chickens would rather be eating bacon. Rather than brown rice and chow fun noodles.

Bacon is every sensible animal’s favorite food, and the Ebb Tide Cafe, where I’d made a right turn on the morning before, has a unisex bathroom and a bacon platter, which is just that, a platter of bacon, bacon, bacon, just bacon.

And my chickens are looking at me, going, So why are we eating brown rice and chow fun noodles? Tell us again.

I will tell you again and again and again.

My mom and grandma live in the house I grew up in, snow belt Ohio, without electricity or running water. They shit into a bucket. Last time I talked to her on the phone, my mom said, "Don’t put me in your column."

How can I not? This is the stuff I am made of, and anyway she doesn’t read my column. My dad does. He’s a good Catholic and goes to church in Ohio, which I am also made of, and he prays for me and probably all of us. Which is great.

In the woods sometimes when the wind blows real hard at night and the redwood trees creak and crackle outside my window, I fear for my life. I hear every little thing, see absolutely nothing, and wonder how strong this old shack’s walls are.

Weirdo the Cat sleeps under the covers, curled up to my belly. I’m outside now in the dirt, watching my chickens have Chinese. But earlier this morning, like at five, I was in bed on my back with my hands behind my head. Weirdo came up for air, sniffed my lips, rested her little black head on my arm, and sighed and went back to sleep.


I laid there, human, for hours, my brain racing like space probes through the void, trying to find intelligent life inside my strange body — or grace or hope or something, my open eyes watching the air around me change ever so slowly from black to gray to pink to clear.

The chickens that I have were starting to fuss, wanting out. It was time, but no way was I getting up yet, not with this cat on my arm like that, snoring pretty much exactly like a man. *


Daily, 7:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.

1500 S. Van Ness, SF

(415) 643-4399

Takeout available

No alcohol

Credit cards not accepted


Wheelchair accessible


Private revolution


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS I found out on Christmas Day morning that I was a nihilist. Cool. I had always wondered what that meant, and now I didn’t have to wonder anymore and could move on to something else. Nihilists are witchy, weird chicken farmers who love everyone, hate every single thing that anyone believes in, and would much rather lie down in pine needles and watch the way bugs move than fight oppression.

I learned this from a real live anarchist, a kind of political hero of mine, when I tried to express my discomfort with anarchy because it has way too many rules for my liking. It was the sort of conversation that tends to end in only one way: with both parties bonking each other on the head with suitcases — generally speaking, of course. In some instances there aren’t any suitcases handy, so they have to use fireplace pokers or cookware.

So I felt astronomically lucky to be walking away from such talk with our just-friendship — not to mention my cranium — intact. Gastronomically, I was not so lucky. It was lunchtime, but it was Christmas, and I wasn’t raised by wolves, much as I might wish it otherwise, so I couldn’t help knowing that it was Christmas, and what that truly meant: restaurants would be closed.

No one was out on the streets except for homeless people and nihilists. I walked down 16th Street, lost in thought and dazzled by the abundance of available parking spots. The streets seemed surreally wide, and if my little body hadn’t been all tangled and tucked into scarves, sweaters, coats, gloves and hats, I might have sworn I was in Tucson. Instead of … what? Chicago? Cleveland?

It’s a wonder anyone ever recognizes me this time of year — I’m such an overdresser. Or maybe that’s how they recognize me. In any case, I turned the corner onto Guerrero, and there were my friends J and J, and they somehow knew me under all my Great Lakes–wear and greeted me warmly with big smiles and hugs.

"I’m a nihilist!" I said.

"We’re going to get Chinese food," they said. "Are you hungry?"

Am I hungry? Does the pope poop in the woods? I’m starving. Always. For everything. (Without mayonnaise.) Even if I’ve just eaten a whole ham by myself and am lying on the floor, comatose, I’m hungry. I just don’t know it just then is all. And another thing is that I’ve always wanted to eat Chinese food on Christmas.

"Where are you going?" I said.

"Big Lantern," they said. "It’s open."

I’d just walked past it and hadn’t noticed it was open because I was so lost in thought and clothing and deserty amazement. So I turned right around.

Big Lantern! I already knew it was my new favorite restaurant even before I bit into one of their succulent shrimp dumplings from the dim sum menu and slurped my first spicy slurp of hot and sour soup and made love to my favorite dish of all, on a table of favorite dishes: the ginger and onion lamb. I knew it was my new favorite restaurant because I was eating there. On Christmas Day! With friends.

Earl Butter gets takeout from Big Lantern, and he’d told me it was great. But J and J said you have to eat it there. They’ve gotten it to go, they said, and it sucked. So … you see why I write like this?

I don’t believe in hyperbole any more than, say, critical thinking; but I do find it a fun and friendly alternative to intelligence. And I don’t think I ever said so here, explicitly (or maybe I did), but my New Year’s resolution last year was for every place I ate at to be my new favorite restaurant. I did it!

Be warned though that 2007 is another year. If I don’t say that a place is my new favorite place, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. It just means I was distracted from food and ambiance by the bathroom.

I have learned to love indiscriminately. Now, in order to impress my fellow revolutionaries and hopefully make them love me back and let me lick them, I am going to shake off the pine needles and take an actual political stand: in the bathroom, of course. We choose our battles, and this is the one for me, because more than anything right now I need to pee.

Does your restaurant have safe, comfortable, unisex bathrooms? Big Lantern does! *


Sun.–Wed., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thurs.–Sat., 11 a.m.–midnight

3170 16th St., SF

(415) 863-8100

Takeout and delivery available

Full bar



Wheelchair accessible


Identity politics


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS Where were we?

Oh yeah, I was a menace to society — unintentionally, to my credit — and lots of innocent people were going to die or go blind on account of my lack of window-opening prowess. Or did I dream this? It sounds like a dream. Except I couldn’t have dreamed it because everyone’s shirts stayed on and there weren’t any Day-Glo chickens running around or big yellow onions with legs.

I’m so confused. Sometimes I have to go read last week’s column just to find out where I’m at in the world. So this was real. I know because I read it in the paper: the chicken farmer broke a window and spear-shaped shards of glass were raining down on the sidewalk all over Mod the Pod who, being superheroic, managed to escape without a scratch. I still don’t see how.

No one else got hurt either! Just me, and the damage was all to the head. I was traumatized. I haven’t been the same since. I’m twitchy, touchy, and even weirder than my weird cat Weirdo the Cat. I jump at the sound of a leaf landing on the roof. I have to drink out of sippy cups. Every little thing is the crack of glass to me: voices, footsteps. And all I can think about without screaming is Jane Austen novels and soup.

Speaking of which, I scored a scrap pile ham bone from Yard Sale’s holiday party last week at the Rite Spot (thank you, Denise!), and I gotta go stir the pot of split-pea heaven gurgling on top of the wood stove.

Man, it smells good in here for a change.

So anyway … the Pod superheroically came up with a bag and a broom, cleaned my mess, threw a blanket over my shell-shocked shoulders, and led me very slowly to my new favorite restaurant, Just Won Ton. I’ll never understand how we got there because it’s way the hell out in the Sunset on Vicente, and the glass storm happened in Laurel Heights. But isn’t that just like a superhero?

Maybe we drove.

Whatever the case, it happened. Soup happened, and I was on the road to recovery. We had a bowl of wonton noodle soup and another bowl with dumplings, and we passed them back and forth, and both ones were wonderful, but I forget which had fish balls and which had chickens.

I remember a big plate of roast duck on the table between us, and roast duck is another thing that just makes life entirely livable and loveable, no matter what: You’re sick. You suck. You just broke windows over your best friend’s head…. Roast duck!

"Pod," I said, in a small shaky way, between slurps and slobbers, "what do people mean when they talk about ‘identity politics’?"

Mod is a recent escapee from academia. I’m a chicken farmer.

"Who’s talking about identity politics?" she said.

"It was on that radio show you sent me the link to. KPFA? Something about something, Suzy Vacuum Cleaner?"

"We’ll talk about it later," she said. Good superhero. "Eat your soup. ‘Suzy Vacuum Cleaner’?"

"Something like that. And some other people," I said, sinking into my soup, which was delicious, in case I didn’t already say so. So we didn’t talk about identity politics. But later, days later, between wontons and ham bones, when I was feeling a lot better about almost having killed one of my favorite people ever, I called one of my other favorite people ever, my old pal Moonpie, and I said, "Identity politics. Start talking." And she did.

She’s a teacher. I’m a chicken farmer.

These are words, and I still don’t know what anything means. I mean, there are eggs, and there are all the words we use to describe an egg. Like egg. I’m trying, but even though I’m a writer in addition to a chicken farmer, words fall short for me. They don’t do justice to reality, which I find to be almost infinitely complex, tasty, and entirely unpoliticable.

Just Won Ton, for example, serves more than just wontons. A lot more. Duck. Chinese tamales.

It’s a simple, calmingly out-of-the-way place, and it’s a great name for a restaurant. But it both is and isn’t what it is.

Again it comes spiraling to this! And I almost get it, again, and am full of soupy amazement. The ham bone is connected to the ham bone. It wouldn’t fit in any of my pots, so I had to saw it in half with a hack saw. *


Tues.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.

1241 Vicente, SF

(415) 681-2999

Takeout available




Wheelchair accessible




› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS My new favorite superheroes are my old pal Mod the Pod and her social-working podner, the Kat Attack. Together they comb the streets and psyches of the Bay Area, looking for people to help, and in many cases that turns out to be me!
If I had a nickel for every time one or the other or both of them together have untied me from figurative railroad tracks or snatched me up in midair as I was falling into snaky pits or the abyss or … well, in this case, I was bummed about having been Just-Friended, yet again, the night before. Not a lot of sleep, and morning found the chicken farmer kind of crying into her coat collar down at Java Supreme.
My coffee was this close to being cold, literally, when out of nowhere our superheroes swooped down in their superminivan, and Earl Butter helped load me into the back. Wasting no time, Mod the Pod gave me a squirt of our favorite perfume, and the Kat Attack told a great joke in which a bear walks into a bar and says, “Gimme a shot and a … beer,” and the bartender goes, “Why the big pause?”
After about a beat, I laughed real hard and rolled on the floor, mostly because there aren’t any seats in the back of this van.
Earl Butter, still choking over my squirt of perfume, was groping around like a mime in a box, trying to open real windows that didn’t really open. (Note: this seemingly innocuous detail is what we writers call “foreshadowing,” so don’t forget to remember it later, OK?)
Well, Jelly’s was “closed for the season,” whatever that means. As if San Francisco has seasons. So we had to go to the Ramp. And we had to sit outside, even though it was practically raining and cold. All the inside tables were taken.
I was thinking: coffee. Hot coffee. But before I could say so, Mod the Pod ordered us four Bloody Marys, and I went with it, reasoning: she’s the social worker.
Sure enough, the sun came out! And food! Huevos rancheros ($10.95), a bacon avocado omelet ($9.75), bacon and eggs ($8.75 times two), and more Bloody Marys (way, way too much money to even think about) … and I told my sad story, and the Attack was her supersweet self, and Earl Butter made jokes and poked me, and the Pod, you know what Mod the Pod did, being a superhero?
She gave me some of her bacon.
To think, to think that earlier in the week I’d almost killed her! But that’s another story.
Did you hear? I shattered glass during my very first session of speech therapy! We were sitting at a long wooden table, Coach Freidenberg and me, and I was saying things into a microphone and she was monitoring my pitch on a computer screen, like the opposite of the limbo: how high can you go? My eyes were mostly closed, not in concentration, but because it was of course excruciating to hear my own voice being played back to me.
“Many men making much money in the month of May,” my voice said. “The murmuring of doves in the memorial elms.”
It was worse than excruciating. It was traumatic. It was psychologically damaging. Stanley Kubrick could prop toothpicks in my ears and make a movie out of it. I was this close to losing my will to live, and then I opened my eyes to see what time it was — because it seemed like an important moment to mark, the losing of one’s will to live.
But instead of seeing clocks I saw, down below on the sidewalk outside, loitering, looking for someone to save, guess who? Mod the Pod! Me, I thought. Save me.
To get her attention, I tried to open the window, which was one of those old out-opening ones with a crank. I wanted to say, “Lunch?” That’s all. And I turned the crank ever so slightly, but it broke. At 11:41 in the morning. The window, glass, shattering, crash, bang, boom, and time stood still for idiot chicken farmers and for pedestrians pushing perambulators filled with gurgling children, and for loitering superheroes.
Would she save the day? Could she? How? With bacon? This being the story of my life and my life being basically a comic book, time stands still for you too, dear reader, until next time, while foot-long shards of glass hang in thick air like enemy arrows.<\!s>SFBG

Mon.–<\d>Fri., 11 a.m.–<\d>3 p.m.
Sat.–<\d>Sun., 8:30 a.m.–<\d>4 p.m.
855 China Basin, SF
(415) 621-2378
Full bar
Wheelchair accessible

The kitchen sink


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS There’s this thing in sports and therefore maybe life where you’re supposed to “act like you’ve been there before.” But how are you supposed to act like you’ve been there before if you’ve never been there? What if every single thing is news to you?
You strike out the big hitter, score a touchdown. Or let’s say you’re not into sports, so you, I don’t know, close the deal, or achieve the … thing. What do people do in life? Or what do you do if you’re me and the whole world is suddenly one big end zone? How am I supposed to not jump around and make a fool of myself, for example, while buying my first bra? At the tender age of 43.
Act like you’ve been here before, said the voice in my head. I’d never been to San Mateo, let alone Lula Lu Petite Lingerie shop.
“Do you know what size you are?” asked a voice outside my head. The only other customer had left and my tiny friend Sockywonk, the famous Godzilla artist, was already in the other fitting room, trying stuff on, so finally our friendly salesgirlperson could turn her attention to me.
I peed my pants.
Unfazed, Ms. Lula Lu whipped out her cloth tape measure. “Hold your arms out like this,” she said, making like an airplane.
I asked if I could do Superman instead because airplanes wig me out.
“Like this,” she said. The airplane. I closed my eyes and tried to think of it as doing Jesus, and that was a little better. Jesus being fitted for a bra … eerie look on His face, like He knows what’s being foreshadowed, oh shit.
Forty inches, that’s the circumference of My chest. The cup size, well, I don’t think there are enough As in the alphabet to describe my cup size. But I do have boobs, I swear.
And so does Sockywonk, and they’re beautiful, I’ve seen them. She can’t keep her hands off them, not even in restaurants. I don’t blame her.
Chemo starts tomorrow, and then, down the road, she loses one. She told me over noodles at Pho Little Saigon 3, across the street, that she’s not going to go for no chest reconstruction surgery. So this bra she’s deciding on in the next fitting room might be the last nonmastectomy one she ever buys.
The food was great! For some crazy reason it was Sockywonk’s first time eating Vietnamese. Barbecued chicken over rice vermicelli ($5.95) and a seafood combo soup with egg noodles ($5.95). We shared and slurped and swirled and it was my way of returning the favor, firstswise. Lula Lu being her idea.
Pho Little Saigon 3. You can’t miss it. It’s the only place in San Mateo that isn’t a sushi place.
When Sockywonk first found out about the cancer was around when I found out I was a witch, so naturally I promised to use all my spells and powers on her behalf, which means basically that I will write like I write and try to make her laugh and want to eat food. Those are my powers, and I think she might need them because chemo ain’t funny, or appetizing.
I love all my friends, and they’re just going to have to get used to that. But I feel like I have extra chambers in my heart right now for Sockywonk, and not just because she wanted to take me bra shopping after coming down with breast cancer. And not just because she’s a freaky and freakin’ amazing painter of monsterish beauty. And not just because she showed me her boobs, either, although of course that helped. It’s all of the above, plus she invited me last summer to that rooftop paella party I wrote about, which kind of kick-started me socially at a time when I needed a kick.
I met some of my other new friends, like Orange Pop 2, on that same roof, and these are Sockywonk’s people and they’re lively, weird, rockingly good-cooking folks. And she knows but I want her cancer to know too that it ain’t just chemo: we’re all coming after it with everything we’ve got. And I don’t mean good vibes and health food, either.
I mean, yeah, good vibes and health food — but I also mean beers and guitar solos and horn sections. Fresh eggs. Funky restaurant reviews. Funny dances, dessert, impossible hats, pretty bras, everything. Good books. Scary dogs. Strong coffee. Combat boots. Bicycle kicks. Everything, and the kitchen sink. The dirty dishes. Big slow curve balls and fast, freaky serves. SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.– SFBG9 p.m.
147 E. Third Ave., San Mateo
(650) 685-6151
Takeout available
Wheelchair accessible



CHEAP EATS I should say a few words about Weird Fish. Not that I didn’t thoroughly exhaust the topic in last week’s restaurant review, but because it’s just so fun to say the name of the place. Weird Fish.
Weird Fish is a new nice little Mission-y restaurant at Mission and 18th Street. On the basis of its great name alone, it’s my new favorite restaurant. The food was good too, but if I tell you how small the plates were, my faithful fans will all write to me and say, like they did when I wrote about Café Gratitude, “Come on! Be true to your roots, man.”
I think roots are great, for trees and, you know, Christians and such. But what can I say? In addition to not having a spiritual bone in my body or bark or branches, I don’t eat like I used to. I just don’t. I don’t anything like I used to.
Now, I know not everyone reads these things as meticulously as I right them (yes, that’s a joke), but I would think by now it would be clear that I’ve come entirely unhinged. I don’t have no roots, man. I live and lie down entirely on top of my planet. And I just love Weird Fish. To eat at and to say.
I met a guy at a party who had just eaten dinner at Weird Fish, and our mutual friend, who was introducing us, said, “Dani just wrote a review of Weird Fish.”
And I said, being a brilliant conversationalist, “Mm-hmm, yes, that’s right, I did.” Or something to that effect. Then I suavely spilled a small sip of wine down my chest and asked, to secure the continuation of our acquaintance, “Wha’d-ya-get?”
“Fish and chips.”
I nodded thoughtfully, as if to say, “Ah, fish and chips,” but for some reason I didn’t say anything. I was trying to remember what I’d had at Weird Fish. Blackened trout? Mango salsa?
Oh, it was yummy, whatever it was, but a lot of good that did me now.
After an awkward silence, my new friend handed me a napkin and while I dabbed at my chest, he became involved in a passionate discussion with our introducer about teaching and I think maybe pedagogy (depending what that word means).
I turned to the woman on the other side of me and engaged her on the topic of poop.
Yes, the dates are rolling in! I have to have a calendar now to keep it all straight — which days I’m doing what with whom and eating where with what. Soon I might have to get a watch or a cell phone. Anything is possible, life remains interesting, love flows. And while you’re shuddering at the thought, let me remind you that I use the word date loosely and love even looselier and that in any case my new pattern is to fall for wonderful, fascinating folks who are ultimately unavailable to me, at least in any kind of horizontal fashion. Luckily, I love to kiss people standing up, preferable with my back pressed against a wall.
So, OK, so: what does this tell me about me, my initial relationship to my overwhelmed, unavailable mom, who passed me off to an aunt and uncle while she cranked out her fifth, sixth, seventh kids? Being now a self-aware, psychologically-minded, in-therapy type of person, I have to think about these things. But because I am also still very much a fool, I get to “persist in my folly” — hooray! — and continue to chase after rainbows and windmills in the meantime. I have permission. From Blake and Cervantes!
I’m not giving up just yet on the queer wimmins, cause I just love the bejesus out of them, whether they want to ever git me nekkid or not. My luck, on that front, may well change. To ensure it doesn’t, I think I’ll switch my focus back to straight men. Speaking of windmills. Yes, question?
Yes. Thank you. So why, when presented with the opportunity the other night to put your weird fishy body into a hot tub with a sweet straight stoned dude who people said was flirting with you … why did you wash dishes instead and then drive the dark, winding drive home? Hmm?
That’s a very good question, and in fact, I’m still bashing my head into the wall over it. If a fool persists in her folly, as the saying says, she shall become wise. Like all good philosophies, this raises more questions than it answers. Mainly: when?<\!s>SFBG
Sun.–<\d>Thurs., 9 a.m.–<\d>10 p.m.; Fri.–<\d>Sat., 9 a.m.–<\d>midnight
2193 Mission, SF
(415) 863-4744
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Full noodle frontity


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS THE CHICKEN FARMER IS HOT. It took several tries to get the big block letters to stick, but finally I had stated my case — in homemade egg noodles inside the lid of an egg carton, where normally you might expect to read nutritional facts about eggs.
Where normally the eggs would go, I put 12 pretty stones.
The Chicken Farmer is not normal. One of her favorite things to do is to lie face down in the fog for hours at Sonoma beaches, the ones with tiny stones instead of sand, and sift through the pretty colors, taking home a handful of favorites. I’ve been doing this for years and years. Now I have someone sort of odd to give some to.
I was coming to the city to play soccer, and then I had a date with this new Nancy Drew I’ve been trying to tell you about. Instead of an apple or flower or poem or butt of a burrito, I was going to present her with this … piece? Well, Saturday morning arts and crafts project. Well … egg carton.
She would think they were eggs, because that’s what I usually give people instead of flowers, and then she would notice it was too light and kind of rattly, like beans or something, and with a quizzically delicious smile forming on her lips — it was all mapped out in my mind — she would slowly open the carton, know that I was hot, and have to take my clothes off.
I sure do love dating! You can go into a thing with no real expectations, in fact knowing — knowing — with like 99.9 percent accuracy, that that’s not going to happen, not tonight, no way. And yet still you will bathe more carefully, shave more closely, fantasize more prayerfully, and put on your prettiest panties, which you washed in the sink and dried over the wood stove just for the …
Uh-oh … or is this just me?
Anyway, for now I carefully load in to the passenger seat of my pick-up truck this precious cargo, this key to my new improved love life and future nudity, making a mental note not to drive as hard as usual. I consider buckling the carton in and even go so far as to wish I had a child’s safety seat for it.
Already running late for soccer, I linger, close the lid and open it. No damage — the homemade letters will hang on for the ride, I think. THE CHICKEN FARMER IS HOT.
Then, wait …
The chicken farmer is hot? The chicken farmer?
In the movie version of my life (starring Penelope Cruz or OK, Holly Hunter or OK, OK, Crispen Glover in drag), the soundtrack screeches to a stop and all of a sudden everything is wrong. It’s basics! It’s Dating 101! You can’t give someone something saying, explicitly, that you’re hot. It has to say that they’re hot.
She knows I’m hot. She already said so weeks ago when she first found out I made my own pasta. “That’s so hot,” she said. It’s like I was answering, albeit in fettucini, with, “You’re so right. I’m hot.” Instead of “Baby, you. You’re hot! I’m just Crispen Glover. In drag.”
In real life I ran back into my shack and fumbled for the phone. There was no time for a revision, and the actual eggs in the actual carton tangled with my cleats in the back of the truck were already earmarked for another friend whose birthday was on Sunday. “Pick up pick up be home be home,” I chanted into the receiver.
“Hello?” said Moonpie, my oldest girlfriend in the world and most trusted romantic adviser.
In 10 seconds and 1,250 words I stated (or spat) the dilemma of my nature (or vice versa) and asked more slowly, in conclusion, “Can I give this egg carton to her? What do you think?”
“I think it’s funny,” she said.
“Yes.” Right: funny. I knew that and took a breath. “But,” I asked, “at my expense?”
“Well, yeah.”
“Excellent,” I said, and I gave it to her. I did.
Well … back to the drawing board, or rolling pin, for the chicken farmer. Nobody took any clothes off, let alone mine, but it was a wonderful date! Sean Dorsey’s Outsider Chronicles was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. (He dances for the most part to words!) And, oh yeah, Ms. Drew and I have a new favorite restaurant. SFBG
Sun.–Thurs., 9 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sat., 9 a.m.–midnight
2193 Mission, SF
(415) 863-4744
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Time changes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS In honor of my French sister’s birthday I ordered a chicken pesto crepe with fromage and how-you-say, toasted almonds, hold the mushrooms ($8.50). It was eight in the morning.
The waitressperson looked at her watch.
“Is it too early for crepes?” I asked. “Do I need to get an omelet?”
She looked at her watch again, shrugged, looked toward the kitchen. It was five in the afternoon in France, but luckily I didn’t need to argue this point, because she let me have my crepe, pesto and all.
Earl Butter wasn’t eating. I’d offered to buy him something, but he just wanted coffee. I don’t know why he wasn’t hungry, but I do know (because sometimes I sleep in his closet) that he wakes up at four in the morning, has breakfast, and then goes back to sleep. Anyway, he did have a cup of coffee and a lot to say while I was chewing things over.
“Colma has more dead people in it than live people,” he said.
“Is that why you always want to go there for breakfast?” I said.
“Not necessarily,” he said. “I just like being in cars.”
I offered him a taste of my crepe, which was fantastic, because you can’t go wrong with chicken and pesto and feta, I think it was.
“Good,” he said, and he said it again after I offered him a taste of the potatoes, which were fantastic. They were cooked in some kind of a ramekin and then plopped onto the plate, crispy outside and creamy underneath. Fantastic.
So good that 10 days later when I woke up in Earl Butter’s closet again, needing something to eat, I said, “What about that place?”
“In Colma?”
“No,” I said. “On Divis. With the upside-down potatoes. My new favorite restaurant.”
“With the crepes?”
Yes. It came to me: the Bean Bag Café. I remembered because when I sleep in Earl Butter’s closet, I’m sleeping on beanbags, and my body I think retains the information. This doesn’t sound comfortable, I know, but these are my favorite nights’ sleep. Closets are dark, and my chickens have me trained to spring out of bed at the first creak of daylight, no matter where in the world I am.
Except in Earl Butter’s closet, where daylight dares not tread, I get to sleep in, and as a result it was closer to lunchtime than breakfast by the time we were in the Bean Bag, placing our order. Baja omelet for him ($7.50), La Mancha omelet for me ($8.50).
Again: fantastic! Well, mine was, because it had grilled chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, green onions, and provolone, hold the mushrooms. Earl’s Baja, which I didn’t taste and didn’t want to, featured soy chorizo with avocado, black beans, salsa, and sour cream. I don’t think he saw the word soy before he ordered and was expecting the real thing.
So he was disappointed about that and disappointed because this time there were people there. It was late morning on a Sunday. We got the last open table, in the middle of the café. There’s also a kind of a closed-in patio and a couple tables out on the sidewalk.
“Turn around,” Earl Butter said, with a scowl, halfway through our meal.
I turned around, and there was a line winding out the door.
“You didn’t tell me you were bringing me where people were,” he said.
To make it up to him, I washed about a month’s worth of Earl’s dishes, swept his kitchen floor, took the garbage out, then drove him to West Oakland, and put him in a car with my brother, so now, while I’m writing this, he’s somewhere in Nevada or Utah or Wyoming, where people aren’t. He gets to spend Thanksgiving with my family, in Ohio. And I get to cook in his clean kitchen, sleep in his big bed if I want, and go to Guerneville and play cards with Choo-Choo and Ding-a-Ling-a-Ling and all their fabulous friends.
I’ll probably also go back to the Bean Bag at least once, because I do love their potatoes and people and because besides eggs and crepes they also have burgers, bagels, smoothies, salads, and sandwiches with names that make me feel at home: Sonoma, Petaluma, Bodega Bay …
What are you doing for Thanksgiving? SFBG
Mon.–Fri., 7 a.m.–9 p.m.;
Sat.–Sun., 8 a.m.–9 p.m.
601 Divisadero, SF
(415) 563-3634
Takeout available
No credit cards
Wheelchair accessible

Chaste and chaser


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS A picture begins to develop: dating, for the chicken farmer, is turning out to be a sort of exercise in quantum romantics. Things are happening and not happening at the same time.
I’ll start out being totally, over-boilingly in love with a complete stranger, and this gets gradually perfected to a sweet, simmering, and in a couple cases, cuddly friendship — miraculously without me ever getting my tits licked, which is all I really want, really. That and maybe a little something to eat.
Over pomegranate chicken and eggs at Aram’s in Petaluma my date says, “You know, I’m not a nonviolent person.”
It takes everything I have, but I manage not to climb across the table and bite her, toppling everything. Deep breaths help, plus I derive farmerly strength from the suspicion that suddenly cullinizing one’s date, no matter how heartfelt or sexy, would be disrespectful to the chicken, which was amazing.
Over spicy Thai cold-medicine soup at that place on Haight, she wonders with the humble self-awareness of a death-bedded grandmother (and a stuffy nose) whether she might not yet know her own heart.
This week she turns 29.
Coffee and French toast at the Squat and Gobble, and I can still be a witch if I want, no matter that I don’t believe in magic or spells or sorcery or goddesses or witchcraft or even eating children — although I’m not entirely a noncannibalistic person, consent withstanding.
If I understand her correctly, even in prepagan times, even before there was the word witch, there were strong, wise, weird women who lived in shacks in the woods with black cats and wrote restaurant reviews for their local weeklies.
In my shack in my woods we are eating her-made beet gnocchi with me-made fresh bread and salad, drinking wine and talking about lasagna, when she sets down her fork and says, “I’m so happy I could cry.” And she does, and I get to hug and hold her and totally empathize because lasagna makes me emotional too.
But it turns out that wasn’t it for her. It was the first few bars of the Paolo Conti album I’d just put on.
Oh oh oh oh oh, there are so many wonderful new favorite restaurants in the Bay Area, many of which I would love to tell you about, but this is for those who have written or asked or simply wondered what ever happened to that Queer Girl Nancy Drew, my Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Inspirer of Piles and Piles of Poetry who Tartined me over a month or so ago.
Well, the reason I haven’t written about her is because I can’t decide what her name is, not because we haven’t been hanging out. We eat a lot and talk a lot and even smooch and snuggle some, but no, no sex. Not that I would tell you if there was. (But you know I would, because I tell you everything, right?)
Anyway, this isn’t like that, as the saying goes. It’s not about sex, and you’re not going to believe this, but it’s not about food either with her. With her, between me and you, all I really want is to get her on the other side of a Ping-Pong table — since another thing I learned when she first opened her heart to me (curry goat, Penny’s, Berkeley) is that her grandfather is Ping-Pong champion of the Baltic states and that she trained as a kid.
She knows how I feel. I know how she feels. We talk about everything in the world but this. Is her reticence regarding playing Ping-Pong with me based on fear of winning or losing or something else?
In bed she says she’s starstruck and falls asleep with a smile on her lips and my hand in her hair. The moon between the redwood branches outside my window is what I’m looking at, until eventually I get out of bed, tiptoe to my file cabinet, and so so so so slowly open the third drawer, the one labeled THE MEANING OF LIFE. I’m starstruck. I take out my two nice Butterfly Ping-Pong paddles, hold one in each hand, and just hold them, so happy I could cry.
Of their own accord (or maybe it’s a trick of the tears), the two paddles almost seem to be fluttering toward each other, their motion barely perceptible. If I stay to see it happen, I might be up all night, and in any case their eventual connection would be at this rate noiseless, not likely to wake anyone or put anyone to sleep.
Lost in thought and moonlight, thinking witchy not-witchy things like waves and particles, I stare between the butterflies at my file cabinet, one in the morning.
PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY, AND ETHICS, says the first drawer. Inside: empty egg cartons.
CEREAL, says the second. Inside: cereal. SFBG

In the genes


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Hold on a second. Let me call and ask her …
OK, it’s OK to tell you now: Crawdad de la Cooter is pregnant! I had to keep it a secret for a long time because that’s what pregnant people do to you — they tell everyone, and they tell everyone not to tell anyone. So we all go around bursting at the seams and looking at each other, wondering who knows what. But now I can write restaurant reviews and songs about it and everything. Crawdad’s going to be a mama! Her new guy, Crawguy de la Peter, is going to be a daddy! And I get to be the well-paid live-in nanny!
Well, right now they kind of have it in their head to raise their own child, and I can’t say that I blame them exactly, but I’d really rather do it myself. So my strategy is to make all the people around here go very quietly crazy, so that they lose their concentration and mess up their computers, and then they’ll all be calling on Crawguy all the time to fix them and Crawdad to fix their heads, because that’s what he does and she does respectfully. Business will boom, lots of money, no time. Enter the chicken farmer.
It’s a fact that kids love chickens and farmers, and although it’s also a fact that I’m a witch now too (because I say so), and everyone knows that witches eat children, it is not a fact that I do. I have never, for example, eaten a child.
On the other hand, I do remember how to change diapers, because don’t forget that I come from a big family, and I was one of the older ones. Wait — maybe I made this up. Let me call my mom.
Ah, she claims I didn’t change a lot of little siblings’ diapers — just my own, apparently, when I was a baby. Still, I do love poop, as my readers well know. Several of my brothers and sisters are or have been nannies and/or baby-sitters — possibly, in many cases, parents — so you gotta figure it’s in my blood.
Anyway, I thought I would talk this all over with the happy Craw Couple over Vietnamese food, and they wisely invited Ms. Trotwood, their fixer-upper and my new best friend. We talked it all over and decided to get imperial rolls, hot and sour shrimp soup, and some kind of chicken in a coconut curry thingy, except it was all white meat, and then that led to a long, intense philosophical discussion over whether we liked the white meat or the dark meat better.
Me and Trotwood: dark. Crawdad and Crawguy: white. Which made me marvel (unfortunately out loud) at how challenging their life together is going to be, the poor crustaceans, because even if you’re perfectly matched in every other way, as Crawdad and Crawguy are, the foremost factor for determining long-term compatibility, in my book, is one of you’s gotta prefer the dark meat, and the other light. Doesn’t matter which is which, but you have to have that as a foundation.
Unless … hmm, if you both go for the breast, yet you have a kid together, and that kid turns out against all genetic odds to be a leg-and-a-thigh kind of kid, then there may still be hope for your whole chickens and therefore your marriage. Since DNA is going to work against you, however, it will have to be a matter of nurturance.
Enter chicken farmer.
You know me, I would still be going on about my indispensability to their family’s happiness, even after our food came and was excellent, if it weren’t for the Interventional Wisdom and Distractive Powers of dear Ms. Trotwood. Brilliantly, she dug from her purse a little gift card for Victoria’s Secret and gave it to me.
This was the perfect thing. Not only did it distract me from making an even bigger fool of myself, but it happens that I am just about to almost actually need a bra.
I forgot to say two of the things we got: spicy grilled beef salad, which was probably everyone’s favorite dish, cause it had mint and cilantro and jalapeños and “smoke flavored dressing.” The other one, grilled pork over smashed together vermicelli, was probably the least popular, but I liked it.
By the way, have I mentioned the name of my new favorite Vietnamese restaurant? SFBG
PHO 84
Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m.; Sat., noon–9 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.
354 17th St., Oakl.
(510) 832-1338
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
What am I grateful for?
Bacon. Fried chicken. Butter. Barbecued chicken. Butter. Bacon fat. Eggs … None of which you will find by the way at my new favorite restaurant, Café Gratitude. I went to the one in Berkeley with my old blackberry pickin’ pal and new favorite massage therapist NFC, and even though I couldn’t find no chicken-fried steak on the menu, I have to admit to having had one of the Times of my Life.
Has the chicken farmer lost her mind?
No! My old pal NFC has, because I would have taken her to Chez Panisse or even House of Chicken and Waffles … and she picked this.
“No, no, I’m serious, anywhere you want,” I said. “My treat.” I owed her big-time, see, for fixing me up backwise in an emergency the week before. “Chez Panisse,” I said. “Chicken and Waffles.”
“Café Gratitude,” she said again.
So, OK, I didn’t even know what it was, but namewise it seemed appropriate for the occasion. Conceptwise, you know: “live” organic foods, no meat, no pain and suffering, locally farmed, environmentally friendly, vegan, “prepared with love,” and all that hippie dippy dong dong dicky doo I’m so, so into these days, so long as I get to go home afterward and lop the head off of one of my chickens.
I like dead food too.
Everything on the menu is named an affirmative first-person statement, and the idea I think is to make you say it when you order. Like “I am wonderful,” “I am lovely,” “I am dazzling,” “I am magical,” and all kinds of other flat-out lies. Personally, I am honest, so I scoured the menu for something true to say to our waitressperson, such as “I am all of the above and none of the above and clumsy and stupid and pissed off and oh yeah, my feet stink.”
“I am explosive,” NFC said, but that wasn’t on the menu either. Although … never mind. Well, no, never mind.
Well, I think she was maybe making a prediction, based on all the ingredients in all the stuff we were looking at, like grains and greens and nuts and flax chips. Give you an example: the salad called “I am fulfilled” contains mixed greens, carrots, beets, cucumber, tomato, avocado, sprouts, microgreens (whatever that means), Brazil nut parmesan, and flax crackers ($10).
Actually, that sounds delicious, but I settled on being “elated,” which meant I was eating an enchilada with corn, cilantro, and something else inside and a spicy green salsa on top ($10). This came with a side salad and Bhutanese red rice. All good, right on.
NFC decided to be accepting, which meant she was eating red rice too, only all tossed together with raw free-range organic vegetables, pine nuts, some other kinds of nuts, and some shit-talking mushrooms. All good, right on.
To drink: free-range organic wind-dried water (with a wink to Posh Nosh fans — hi, Chrissy), and we also ordered a couple things from the smoothies and nut milks, but I don’t remember what. But it was all good, right on.
You think I’m kidding but I’m not. I love this stuff! Anyway, I could have been eating sand and sea shells, and so long as I get to eat it sitting cross-legged on a couch with my old friend NFC, talking about her girls and my chickens and, you know, life and shit, with our knees sometimes touching … I’m going to be happy.
I was satisfied. Technically, this was breakfast, since we started eating around 10, but I didn’t have any lunch and wasn’t hungry for dinner until later than usual. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t run right home anyway and knock over one of my chickens. It was a beautiful day that day.
It’s a beautiful day today. I am sad and scared and loving life because I can’t stop making poetry out of it. This one I call “Hopeful Chicken Farmer Poem”:
Suddenly bugs make sense to me and lavender smells like lavender — finally! Who knew that a dried-up leaf would sound that way under a feral cat’s paw? So I planted a blueberry bush next to the blackberry bushes. Next year, if the chickens don’t scratch it all out … SFBG
Daily, 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
1730 Shattuck, Berk.
(415) 824-4652
Takeout available
No alcohol
Wheelchair accessible

Quantum breakdown


› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS Christ, I love quantum theory, how something can be something, and at the same time something else, and so on, right?
Nobody rides in my pickup truck with me except Earl Butter, because nobody else can handle the mess. When it got to the point where even he was starting to grumble, I decided to say that I had cleaned my truck, without actually doing a thing, same way he says he has hair on his head so now he does.
I cleaned my truck! It’s spotless! It’s clean! Smells nice too … And not only that, but the engine is running just perfectly!
I write to you from under a tree, at the side of a lonely country road, Pepper Road, just north of Petaluma. Beautiful morning, late morning, getting later. One of my favorite things about driving this 20-year-old Chevy Sprint pickup truck, besides the fact that it gets better gas mileage than most hybrids and all other car cars, is that you never know what’s going to happen next.
Sometimes the horn works, sometimes not. Brights, yes. Low beams, no. It generally gets you where you’re going, just a question of when. And anyway, if you’d come visit me more often, you’d know there’s about a 50-50 chance that if your car breaks down, it will leave you somewhere pretty, like here. Although, I don’t say my truck “breaks down”; I say it “surprises me.”
The cows are not interested. The cars and trucks tackling the Cotati Grade, 101, are just far enough away to sound a little bit like a river. And a big white crane just hopped the fence and is standing, I swear, 15 yards away on the road, looking at me.
“Hey, you know anything about cars?”
It shakes its head.
I have some ideas: wires, rotor, gas cap, other parts I might buy to, um, encourage my motor to operate more predictably. Question is: should I?
Yesterday it left me at Bush and Fillmore. I coasted to a stop, I swear, in a legal parking space behind a car that had just surprised its owner too! She had a cell phone and let me use it and was very kind to me and sweet. In fact, if we didn’t fall in love and live happily ever after, it was only because her tow truck showed up before the thought did.
Me, I can’t afford no tow trucks. I’d called my lawyer, told him I’d be a little late for lunch, then hopped a 22 and headed for the Mission. My lawyer Will, Esquire, works for some food safety group, tackling Monsanto and other evil empires from his office, Mission and 22nd, overlooking the whole city and both bridges.
He eats at Tao Yin, that Chinese and Japanese joint on 20th, my new favorite restaurant. Lunch specials are $4 to $5 with soup and rice, between 11am and 4pm. Fish with black bean sauce, yum, vegetarian delight for him. And because I’m not currently being sued by anyone or under arrest, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like the impending end of the world on account of global warming and whatnot.
By the time I got back to my car, it started! I’d missed my gig, my reason for being in the city in the first place, but I had plenty of time to get over to the East Bay, so long as I was here, and have dinner with Ask Isadora at my new favorite restaurant, Amarin, in Alameda.
Thai food. Chicken curry, eggplant and pumpkin special, pad thai, yum yum yum … and because I have no sex life or relationship issues, we had nothing to talk about but life’s little pleasantries, like zoophilia and, you know, whatnot.
Afterwards: bluegrass jam at McGrath’s! Where (Ask says) two straight guys hit on me but I didn’t see it. So they did, and they didn’t. (Christ, I love quantum theory!)
Tell you what: the food was pretty good both places yesterday but not as good as the sum of the leftovers today, under this tree, all jumbled up and warmed on the engine block wrapped in a ball of old burrito foil found under the seat, because, see, I haven’t really cleaned. SFBG
Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fri.–Sun., 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m.
3515 20th St., SF
(415) 285-3238
Takeout and delivery available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible



› le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com
CHEAP EATS The idea of love at first sight is a ridiculous thing to me. Most people I love long before I ever see them. In fact, if I’m not already in love with you, try taking your knife out of my back and calling an ambulance.
You don’t believe me. I don’t expect you to! I don’t believe me either or you or anything. All I do is see and say. And by see I mean see and feel and hear and taste shit and yeah, by way of a Purpose in Life, try and tell you about it.
For me and Orange Pop #2’s second date we went to my new favorite restaurant, Penny’s Caribbean Café. But I already reviewed it, so here’s a poem:

You can love the world
so so much yet know that
no matter how ultimately it embraces
you, it won’t, can’t return

your box of chocolates

So you hope to find
instead a person
maybe loves the world
as much as you do

or more even, and
you can play together
in a darkened room
while outside, without knocking

the earth sends flowers

That’s my poem. Remember Orange Pop #2? She got some gigs personal chefing around San Rafael and might sometimes need an assistant. So she said she was going to get me a chef’s shirt with Daniella on it.
I pointed out that technically my name is Danielle.
“I like Daniella,” she said.
Me too. She’s the boss. Sometimes, on her days off, we eat at places, talk about food and boys and whether to put the chicken in the soup before or after the water gets hot. And she showed me how to make a tart.
One day Orangey called and asked how I make chicken with rice and tomatoes, because that was what The Man wanted for dinner. I was ashamed to say how simple it was, so I made up some extra steps, like breading and browning the chicken first, and sautéing stuff and reserving this and clarifying that, and the next day she said her client loved it. “Really?” I said. I didn’t tell her (until now I guess) that normally I just throw everything in a pot, put the lid on, and wait for dinner to happen. Out of curiosity, I cooked it up the cockamamie way I’d told her to do, and it came out inedible. But I’m pretty sure that was because the expiration-date chicken I’d bought was bad.
Anyway, this time she had a cute little café in Larkspur to take me to. The Tabla Café, which I loved. Restaurants are just like people to me, except the menu is easier to read. Salads. Soups. Drinks. The Tabla’s specialty is dosas, and they’re great. They’re crepes made from rice flour and dal and wrapped around whatever you want, like scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, chicken, turkey, mushrooms…. I had to have the last one on the list because it was lamb meatballs and I liked the sound of that. It was 10 bucks, but it was big enough to feed two people if you get a salad or something else, which we did — a green one with candied walnuts and vinaigrette ($7.50).
OK, so we split all that and it was delicious. The meatballs were great, punctuated with pickled onions and cabbage and drizzled with tahini. The dosas come with a choice of dip-intos, including avocado orange salsa, apple ginger salsa, raita, and peach chutney. The chutney was good, but the dosa didn’t even need it, really.
Nice place. Like everything else in the North Bay, it’s in a plaza, but — small, bright, airy, arty, and in short, my new favorite restaurant!!!
Are you on to me? With the help of my good friend hyperbole (and maybe a dash of brute force), I mean to completely obliterate any inkling of an idea of a chance in the world for an objective and accurate restaurant review — or love. SFBG
Tues.–Fri., 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.;
Sat., 10:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m.
1167 Magnolia, Larkspur
(415) 461-6787
Takeout available
Beer and wine
Wheelchair accessible