Saturday, June 27, 2009

San Francisco's Ocean Beach, with the Cliff House on the right.

The Woman, the Myth, the Legend

This morning I educated myself on life and times of "San Francisco Carol," a 75-year-old woman that is living Ocean Beach. It's hard to say "next to" or "near" Ocean Beach, as SF Carol is more "of" the beach, and of the elements, than most Bay Area natives could ever dream.

According to the Surfer's Journal article I read this morning, Carol Shuldt has been body surfing naked since the ripe old age of 10, and has since become something of a local legend in her own right. An extreme case of naturalist tendencies has seen Carol, in decades both past and present, sleeping on the beach despite owning a beach house, recycling to the point of composting her own waste, and becoming a staunch anti-drug advocate (she was even said to have battled it out with Timothy Leary in the '60s).

Her OB digs, a peachy A-frame bungalow, comes replete with wild cactus and other greenery obscuring the front windows, and a psychedelic mural on the side featuring Saint Francis of Assisi at it's center. Over the years it has provided shelter for many well-known surfers, as well as drug addicts she has taken under her wing in the hopes of rehabilitation. Oftentimes, according to the article, she has accommodated so many house guests that she sleeps in her kitchen.

The pictures in the feature story are both revelatory and inspiring (unfortunately I do not own a scanner), and there is a portrait of Carol laughing that I would love to describe: her shoulder-length, wavy orange-red hair is pinned into a '50s era bouffant, and her fuchsia pink lipstick provides a perfect frame for the generous rack of fierce, slightly-yellowed pearlies. What appears to be a kitchen hand rag is tied at her neck and draped over her back like a cape, and her pastel-colored, daisy bikini top completes the retro look. But it is her skin that is most striking: it's braved the elements for so long that it appears to have resembled the elements themselves.

Carol recalls the times she spent with her first husband in her twenties and thirties:
"It was like a family...Your generation has such a hard time understanding because you're into technology. But people didn't just drive to the beach, call their friends on their cell phones, surf, and drive away. We lived on the beach and lived with the beach. There was a community around the fire. We needed the fire. We had to live with the elements. We had to feel."

Her skin, now shriveled, coarse; and with deeply marked grooves, is lightly speckled brown to create an overall brownish tone. While I am sure that many a pale San Franciscan has spotted Carol on the beach and shuddered at what may be viewed as unsightly skin damage, her unorthodox flesh could also be seen as an evolution of sorts, for I am sure it has shielded and camouflaged her against the rough sands of many a Northern California beach.

Even her demeanor appears rooted in the elements. Jaimal Yogis, who authored the article (in addition to Saltwater Buddha: A Surfer's Quest to Find Zen on the Sea), and also happens to be Carol's neighbor, writes:
"She speaks in a stream of consciousness that is akin to watching sea foam change into multiple patterns--connecting, separating, reconnecting--in the ebb and flow of the tides."

It just struck me as such a revolutionary concept: become more connected to the elements, and you can not only understand them--you can become them.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

John Wayne

Second installment of fiction, well--this one is semi-fiction. I did in fact once have a collection of John Wayne portraits on my wall as a teenager.

Not many people know this, but I was once enamored with the Duke. John Wayne. That hard-bit all-American hero with the sour look of a cowboy that can smoke a half dozen cigarettes in his mouth at one time; in the blazing desert sun while lassoing a buffalo the size of Oklahoma to the ground at breakneck speeds. I know not of his many films, his real-life amours, nor the temperament and tenacity that, I am sure, made him a force to be reckoned with on the set. I do know one thing however: I did not follow the Duke. The Duke followed me.

In pawnshops, thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets is where he found me. On deep velvet, hazy canvas, in dark oily strokes, and sometimes even gentle breezes of delicate pastel. His eyes looked steely/his eyes looked faded/his eyes looked upon me through artist renderings that could shake a young girl to the core. Why did I find ways to take him home with me every time our eyes locked? How could I not?

How did he know to be here as I casually perused fine vinyl selections, weather-beaten tennis rackets, Chia Pets, and scintillating 1950s Playboys?

I don’t believe in miracles, but I do believe in the Duke. Ours was a connection that no generational gap could tarnish. At one point I dedicated an entire wall of my bedroom to this man of majesty. With intricate, brassy gold frames clustered like patchwork between lesser ones of faded black and imposter wood, Mr. Wayne’s many faces nestled snuggly.

In smoky gatherings of marijuana-infused revelry rested the Duke, persevering and staring blankly onwards. Crowds evaporated, atmospheric college rock died and morphed into Nina Simone soul and Sam Cooke molasses. The air thinning and the moon glow cooing through the blinds, and a boy on my arm that I wish were as great as my one-dimensional cowboy.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Sugar and Spice

And all things's what little girls are made of, right? Wrong. May I present as evidence the following video, brought to you by Sarah Haskins at Current TV, which proves that this classic rhyme could use an update. How about "Deodorant and cream cheese and canned croissants, that's what..." Naw. Sorry. That doesn't rhyme at all! But that's all I got.

Credit to Sean for the hot vid.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Iranian press totally punked

Big shout-out to one of my favorite local sketch comedy groups, the San Francisco-based Kasper Hauser, who successfully made Iranian headlines today with their spoof book Obama's Blackberry.

This new work of satire makes obviously bogus claims that Kasper Hauser, a group most likely named after the famous 19th century wolf boy, have hacked into the President's personal phone service. And now, the Iranian government-funded "Press TV" has come out with the story as a legitimate news item, referring to the comedy troup as "cyber hackers" and "terrorists." Somebody, anybody, please destroy their uranium enrichment plants--I don't trust rogue states that don't have a sense of humor.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Interview questions?

So I may end up interviewing this fine chap for an arts magazine some time this week. Trying to come up with some good questions. So far all I want to know is where he learned to dance, and what music--other than his own--inspires him to dance.

Archie and Veronica Wed

I don't know what disturbs me more: that Archie chose Veronica over Betty, or that I am actually really mad about a 60-something year old comic book character proposing to his fictitious teenage girlfriend. It is rather depressing though. I mean, this Archie character had to choose between two girls that look exactly alike, only one is blond and the other brunette. Other distinguishing character traits? The blond has a heart of gold and the other one is a total bitch. But then again, the bitch had all the money to inherit, so there you go. If the comics are meant to reflect reality, I guess it isn't entirely unlikely that this would happen--especially during an economic downturn.

It was really interesting to see the kinds of news items that came out of this comic book development. Jezebel, the women's Gawker site that sometimes lamely poses as a feminist response to popular culture (it's no, decided to open up a debate about blonds v brunettes. You go, you pro-woman culture vultures!

" addition to surveys that indicate more billionaires have brown-haired wives, and most men would rather marry a brunette, a look back through the annals of pop culture shows that the sassy, dark-haired girl is more likely to come out on top than the boring, blonde girl-next-door..."

Wow. Why read Cosmo when I've got Jezebel to tell me what men really want.

I got a real kick out of The Atlantic's break down of the major comic book event:

"Veronica is the girl Archie worships, and accepts abuse from, the girl for whom he is only sometimes good enough, polished enough, or rich enough to escort. If Veronica’s fortune ever withers, and when her looks inevitably decline, it isn’t clear what she and Archie will have left. The recession—or any edition of Bravo’s Real Housewives—provides all too many examples of what happens to a marriage when one partner’s financial expectations, whether of opulence or simple security, are disappointed...

If Archie wanted a life partner, a wife who knows how to work on a relationship through decades of disappointment and joy, Betty Cooper would have been an easy choice. She could have helped him figure out what he wants to do with his life, because she has dreams and ambitions of her own: She wants to be a journalist—a potentially quixotic goal as the industry crumbles in 2009, but then, she has plenty of practice chasing lost causes."

Insightful? yes. Great rhetoric wasted on cheeseball 1950s Era comic book characters? Totally.

Oh, and of course The Onion had to do a Man on the Street regarding the Betty v Veronica debate:

Young Man

Noah Magee,
Systems Analyst
"I'd pick Veronica. I’ve picked Veronica every day since puberty, as a matter of fact."

Old Woman

Elaine Tekle,
City Auditor
"If that guy knows the first thing about anything, he'll choose Betty. Or Veronica would be pretty great, too. Actually, he can't really go wrong.”

Old Man

Theo Brotman,
Lehr Operator
“Married? Oh, no! This is totally going to break up The Archies."

But leave it to the NYT to reveal one little tidibit that can shed light on this travesty: Michael E. Uslan wrote this Archie issue, a man credited with writing and producing The Dark Knight.

So if this story gets all dark and bleak and extreme terrorism is involved, you better bet I'm gonna start buying up issues, only this time with a zeal not felt as a preteen bored in the register line at the grocery store.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Were You Aware of It?

"Jack Ruby owned seventeen dachshunds, whom he referred to as 'his children.' In an astonishing coincidence, all of his dogs were named either Lincoln, Kennedy, or Oswald, except one, which was named 'Li'l Grassy Knoll.'

Meanwhile, Jaqueline Kennedy kept seventeen cats. She disliked the animals, but kept a pack of trained felines for the hunting of voles. This was an ancient European pastime akin to fox hunting, but replacing the dogs with cats, the fox with voles and/or shrews (moles and mice are disqualifiers), and the horses with single-speed bicycles. Her passion for the sport, which bordered on addiction, was considered a potential liability by some within the White House, who feared that many in mainstream America, who rarely eat vole, would perceive the sport as an aristocratic European fancy. Still, it was practiced on the sly, and as a result, most of Washington, D.C., is still voleless. "

--John Hodgman, The Areas of My Expertise
Shepherding becomes eclectic

"I know you wanna herd sheep so bad it's like acid your my mouth, Johnny." --Patrick Swayze, Point Break.