Category: Journal

Welcome to the Latitude Society

By , October 30, 2015

Some years ago I wrote a blog about the Jejune Institute. I waited quite some time before posting that blog, because Jejune was something best discovered without assistance. I stumbled across strange stickers and unusual signs and gradually pieced together a path that led me to the Institute’s door, and I didn’t want to spoil the opportunity for another to feel that sense of wonder, with some fear mixed in for good measure, as he tried to decide whether or not he’d accidentally joined a cult. Only after the Jejune Institute began publicly advertising its own existence as a sort of “real world game experience” did I feel it was acceptable to share some information about it here.

Now, some years later, I’m here to share details of a related experience, this time as a member of the Latitude Society. Sadly, while my Jejune post came while Jejune was still operating, this post is only possible now that the Latitude has come to a close.

Latitude Invitation Handoff

As the Jejune Institute wound down, I befriended several of its creators, most notably Jeff Hull. While I never quite knew who did what with regards to that project, Jeff was head honcho at Nonchalance, the company that had produced the experience, and someone brimming with ideas concerning the repurposing of public spaces for secret games and clandestine art projects. When Jeff contacted me in June of last year to let me know he had “an object he’d like to pass onto me” I was pretty excited. It was with considerable disappointment that I had to inform him that I was getting married in less than two weeks’ time, and would not return to the Bay Area until mid-August. It’s a testament to my belief in the creations of Nonchalance that, as excited as I was for my pending nuptials and subsequent honeymoon on the continent, I felt no small amount of regret that I could not immediately partake in the new project. Had it been anything other than my wedding, I’d quite possibly have postponed the affair by a week or two for the opportunity to return to the magical land of Elsewhere, to which I was sure Jeff’s “object” would grant me entry.

Eventually I did meet with Jeff, at Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes columbarium, a place of resonance to me as a Jejune member. There, Jeff explained that he was inviting me to join the Latitude Society, an ancient community that has existed in secret for centuries. By accepting his invitation I was bound to a code of absolute discretion, and was not to share any information about my invitation, or the society, with anyone else, ever. Or else. As such, I’m only sharing now because Jeff has closed the society and posted a long blog of his own describing its creation and spilling its secrets.

If you want to know the nuts and bolts of what was involved with joining and participating in the Latitude Society there are now plenty of “walkthrough” web sites and blogs, so I’ll spare you the minutiae. The short story is that the invitation Jeff handed me was a plain white credit card that unlocked a door to a non-descript building in San Francisco. Once inside, the house began to interact with me. Lights flashed, noises sounded, and I soon found myself sliding down a curved slide, in absolute darkness, then crawling through a narrow, carpeted tunnel, also completely dark, before emerging into a library of sorts. An open book read itself to me, complete with moving pictures, as if by magic, after which I made my way to a rathskeller where I poured myself a drink. Nowhere along the line did any other human interact with me; the house itself was alive. There was more, including a sort of scavenger hunt through the Mission District, before I ended up in a secret video game arcade where I played Asteroids using a bronze coin I’d acquired along the way. The game was interrupted by a digitized face on the screen (even the video games come to life when the Latitude is involved) who told me what to do next.

Besides being an amazing afternoon’s experience in its own right, a door had been opened to something that Jejune had only partially offered– a recondite family of likeminded individuals. That was the true magic of the Latitude Society, for once initiated (indoctrinated?) you were welcome to invite others of like heart and mind to join the community. The community was based upon the notion of “experiential tithing,” which is a fancy way of saying we were all encouraged to create and share experiences, talents, and ideas with one another, with the goal being to give more than you get. There are other aspects to the society, including myths, lore, and rituals, that I still won’t share, and I hope others won’t, either.

The Latitude Society introduced me to hundreds of amazing individuals, and I’ve developed friendships with many that will last long after the demise of the organization. It granted me access to the artistic endeavors and creations of so many talented and enthusiastic people, as well as the chance to simply sit and discuss myriad topics of mutual interest with people whose knowledge and opinions I value. Further, it gave me the opportunity to share my own creative visions and passions, and allowed those compeers (for that is what one society member calls another) with whom my notions resonated to partake in that which I was offering. Much of what I shared with compeers were my bartending skills at twice-monthly speakeasies in the rathskeller, though I had a number of other experiences to tithe had the society lived on. Sadly, it has come to an end. Hasn’t it?

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Meet the New Car, (Almost) Same as the Old Car

By , December 9, 2011

In a post from many years ago I introduced you to my then-automobile Tiffany. She served me well, Tiffany did. The massive back seat and trunk held my entire DJ rig, so getting to gigs was a cinch. Together we drove all over America, hitting 46 of the 48 continental states (sorry Florida and South Carolina, I’ll get to you eventually), and D.C. She was even my home for about two years. Unfortunately, in April of this year I had to sell her, in part because her transmission needed rebuilding (to the tune of three grand), but mostly because I was considering a move to New York where I knew I wouldn’t need a car. It made sense to sell her, then buy another car later when I returned to California.

Well, I’ve returned to California, so on Monday I bought… a car. I don’t really have a name for this one. Yet.

Tiffany was a Meadow Green 1957 Chrysler Windsor sedan. The new car is a Hunter Green 1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon. Isn’t that weird? I totally did not set out to find the same car. I was actually thinking of getting a ’60s Chevrolet, or even a ’70s Cadillac or Buick, but when I saw the wagon I instantly realized it was the car for me. Do you know how much stuff I can fit into the back of that thing? Gigs will be soooo easy now!

This car seems to have at least as much pep as Tiffany. Although the engine is a bit smaller (331 cubic inch v. 354), the four-barrel carburetor (Tiffany had but one barrel) seems to compensate, as does the dual exhaust system. As one can see from the prominently displayed “250” on the rear hatch, this car can produce 250 horsepower. Of the 2700 Windsor wagons built in ’56, only the few that had that carb/ exhaust combo were designated 250s. There are probably very few such cars left, and I’m happy to own one of them.

Besides the features under the hood, the car sports lots of intricate details that modern carmakers eschew in favor of uniformity. The rear window rolls down, there is some plaid paneling inside, and the air vent is super neat, just to name a few. None of those things show up in the pictures below, but if you ever take a ride with me I’ll be sure to show them all to you.

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

1956 Chrysler Windsor wagon

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Arcade Fire + Calexico at the Greek Theater

By , October 3, 2010

For awhile, I went to concerts all the time– at least weekly I saw some band somewhere. I don’t go nearly that often anymore, but I promised myself I’d see the Arcade Fire when they next came to town. Too often in the past a band I adored would come through town and I’d not bother to see them, telling myself, “I’ll see them next time they tour.” Unfortunately, too many of my favorite bands have either disbanded or stopped touring, and I now regret missing the chance to see them perform.

The Arcade Fire are pretty much my favorite active band, so yesterday I showed up at Berkeley’s Greek Theater without a ticket and planted myself on queue. Many times in the past I’ve had spare tickets to a show, and turned down large amounts of cash from scalpers to instead sell them at face value to regular folks. I once sold two tickets to see Hot Chip for $35 each, right in front of a scalper offering me $80 per ticket. It seemed the right thing to do, and yesterday that good will came back my way, for I had not been in line but ten minutes when a girl lined up a few spots behind me and indicated that she had a ticket to sell. She sold it to me for the face value of $46. Had I bought one online when they went on sale I’d have paid $60 due to the additional service fees, so I really made out well.

While waiting the 90 minutes for the gates to open, I befriended a few people in line near me. We played hearts to pass the time. Meanwhile, I tried to get in touch with my friend Mike, whom I knew was going to be at the show, but he was incommunicado; I think he was drunk in San Francisco at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, and barely made it out to Berkeley in time for the show; but I had made new friends, so I watched with them.

I found a great spot, dead center, about 10 people back from the stage. Calexico came on and were great– I like them enough that I’d have paid to see them by themselves, so it was an unexpected bonus to find that they were the support act. It was like the time I showed up to see Belle & Sebastian and unbeknownst to me New Pornographers were the support act. Two great bands for the price of one!

Somethin’ filled up
My heart with nothin’,
Someone told me not to cry.

Arcade Fire put on an outstanding show. They enjoyed what they were doing and it showed. By this point into their career they have four albums to draw from for material, and they pulled the greatest bits from each of them. They pieced together a set that built to a crescendo, and at times I felt as if I were at an opera rather than a rock concert. When they played “Ocean of Noise” I could feel something welling up inside me, which only built when the Calexico trumpeters joined them on stage for the songs finale. When they followed it up with “Tunnels,” my personal favorite song of theirs, I will not lie– a tear or two rolled down my cheek. Something about hearing that song brought me back to 2005, and losing Mom, and losing Sue, and what pretty much amounted to the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it then.

And since there’s no one else around,
We let our hair grow long
And forget all we used to know.
Then our skin gets thicker
From living out in the snow.

Later, as the band blended seamlessly from “Power’s Out” into “Rebellion (Lies),” I think I was the first person in the pit to recognize what song was coming on. Leave it to a DJ to identify what song is showing up next in a mix. Soon enough everyone else caught on and the entire crowd lost it.

I left the Greek in a state of hyper-aware elation, feeling spiritually moved in a way I’d expected and hoped church experiences would affect me in my younger, god-fearing, days, though they invariably failed to do so. There’s a deep sense of the real in the message of the Arcade Fire’s lyrics, and coupled with their epic and catchy music, I don’t think anyone walked out of last night’s show unmoved.

To sum it all up in layman’s terms, I had about as much fun at a concert as I have had in recent memory; I almost want to go see their encore performance tonight at the Greek.

Lastly, for are curious, here to the best of my memory is the setlist for the show:

Ready to Start
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
Laika
No Cars Go
Haiti
Sprawl II
Modern Man
Rococo
The Suburbs
Ocean of Noise
Tunnels
We Used to Wait
Powers Out
Rebellion (Lies)
-encore-
Intervention
Wake Up

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Let’s Get Mo’Tarded in Here

By , June 2, 2010

Look what I bought! If you click the picture, it will get bigger. If you still cannot tell exactly what that is, well, it is a moped. That is sort of like a scooter, but not quite. Imagine a motorcycle and a bicycle mating, and the resulting offspring would be a moped. I can zoom around on it as I would a scooter, but if I am out of gas, or in stealth mode, I can pedal it like a bike. Unlike a motorcycle or scooter, I can park it on a sidewalk with a U-lock, just as I would a bicycle; and I don’t need a special driver’s license to operate it.

Why did I buy it? Well, I have talked for years of buying a scooter, but never got around to it, but recently my friend Candice bought a moped and that reignited my desire to own such a contraption. She explained the neat benefits of a moped over a scooter, as well as the intriguing culture that exists around the things, and I was sold. Now we both have mopeds! Even better, we have started a moped gang, the Mo’Tards. Candice is the president, and I am Vice President. We’re doing our best to recruit members. Our friend Holly said she might buy one, so maybe she’ll be in the gang, too.

I had an interesting time of things the night I bought the moped. First, while sitting next to my new bike on the sidewalk in front of a mini-mart, I had a funny exchange with an old man:

Salty Old Man: Nice old moped, kid.
Me: Thanks!
Man: How long ya’ had it?
Me: Oh, about four hours.

Later, I had my first adventure!

I bought the moped in San Jose from two really cool guys who rebuild them. They were helpful and generous, and gave me some free tools and parts. Coincidentally, one of them had JUST sold a 1957 Chrysler Windsor, a super-rare car that happens to be what I drive, and he gave me some spare body parts he had for the car. Anyway, kind and helpful though they were, they underestimated something important– I asked how far I could expect to get on a tank of gas, and was told I could go 60-70 miles. As Oakland is only 47 miles from San Jose, I was confident I could make it home on the then-full tank.

I did zoom about San Jose a tiny bit– I met my friend Jessica for food and drinks, then later rode her home on the back of it– but I definitely did not go more than 5 or 6 miles before embarking for home. As mopeds are not freeway-legal, I was zooming along the backroads to get home. Just as I hit E. 14th St., still more than 10 miles from home, I ran out of gas! At midnight, at the far end of the most crime-ridden and dangerous part of Oakland!

While they run on regular gasoline, one cannot add just gas to a moped’s tank. One must add two-stroke racing oil in proportion to the gas– mine needs 3.2 ounces of oil per gallon of gas. No gas station sells that oil, so I was forced to shift to pedal mode and bike the last stretch. Mind you, a moped has only one gear, so it was arduous pedaling, and the thing weighs, ummm, I don’t know how much it weighs, but it is very heavy.

For the next two hours, between midnight and 2:00 am, I slowly pedaled my way home from E. 14th St. & 159th Ave. I was cat-called by at least half a dozen “Ladies of the Night,” and explained what a moped is to someone at nearly every red light. Boy howdy, by the time I made it back to the Port of Oakland I was plumb tuckered out. The end.

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Dead By Dawn

By , November 2, 2009

Me trying to explain my party to an out-of-state friend, via a series of text messages:

the party is getting out of control, but in a good way

so many people came that by 11:00 PM they wouldn’t all fit in my place and so the party has spilled out into the hallways of all 4 floors of the building and into the street

guests are launching flaming pumpkins off the roof

someone tagged graffiti on my bathroom wall

a completely naked girl is hanging out the window peeing…

an entire bar full of people migrated to my party at 2 am when the bar closed.

around 3am bar staff from various bars started showing up. at 5 am the staff of Blakes showed up.

the guests didn’t all leave until 4:30 am Monday (today) over 30 hours after the party started

all day yesterday there were still people here, which was good in a way because they helped clean up on Sunday night

we demolished my place and basically the entire building and really an entire city block…

they made us clean up Adeline Street on Sunday.

my neighbors all hate me, the rest of west oakland loves me

the landlord posted letters all over the building basically yelling at me in bold faced all caps, threatening to evict me if i ever have such a party again

it was my best party ever.

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The Little Moments That Count

By , October 29, 2009

Sometimes I wish I could freeze a certain moment and save it to relive it again in the future. I do my best to relish the good stuff while it’s happening, but you can only savor something so much, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. In an attempt to preserve such a moment for future savoring, I will now relate a tale from my life.

On Tuesday night I went out with four friends, Chris, Teddie, Barrett. We were in Berkeley, moving from bar to bar, drinking, talking, dancing, and generally making merry. We eventually made our way to Manny’s Tap Room in Berkeley, which is an unusual destination for us, but we were on a shuffleboard kick and they have a table. While playing, we heard the bartender ring a bell, and turned to see a guy standing on the bar chugging a glass of beer. Except he couldn’t do it. He stopped a few times, before finally finishing. Twice more, the bell went off, and other guys tried, and failed, to pound a pint.

Later, while out front, we were laughing at the fact that the guys couldn’t even chug one glass of beer, and I said something to the effect of, “I ought to get up on the bar and show them how to do it.” Teddie scoffed, insinuating that I couldn’t do it, so I told him I could drink a glass of beer faster than him. He hesitated for a moment, then backed down from my challenge, and instead said “I know you can’t drink faster than Chris.”

Now, Chris drinks a lot. I mean, a LOT. And he’s from Michigan, so… I wasn’t sure if I could drink faster than him, but I said I thought that I probably could. Now that it wasn’t me vs. Teddie, Teddie was of course all about getting us up there, so we approached the bartender. He informed us that if it is someone’s birthday they have to stand on the bar and chug, but when we explained there had been a challenge, he agreed to let us try. Up onto the bar we went.

Everyone stared as the two of us climbed onto the bar and picked up our pints of Guinness. The bell rang, we chugged. I finished, turned to see Chris still getting the last sip down, and raised my glass into the air in victory. The entire bar was cheering, and I leapt down from the bar, landing directly in front of this Miss Unnamed, whom I did not even know was at the bar, and on whom I currently have a big crush. She was smiling at having seen my glorious victory, and silly though it sounds, for that moment I have to say I felt pretty damn awesome. Sure, I was chugging a beer on a bar, not saving the whales or curing cancer, but whatever. Ferris Bueller’s got nothing on me.

I’m telling you, it’s those little moments in life that mean so much.

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Tweetin’

By , October 7, 2009

So I have a Twitter. I update it rarely, but there it is. The point of this blog, however, is not to advertise my Twitter. Instead it is to express wonder at someone else’s Twitter. Looks kinda’ familiar, doesn’t it?

What the hell?

That’s my name, photograph, and city. But it isn’t me! Worse, that person is far better at updating, or “tweeting,” than I am. Look at all the interesting things he (she?) has to share! Note also that this peasprout has way more followers than me.

It is with some chagrin that I must admit– my impostor is doing a better job of being me than I am.

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Goodbye John

By , August 12, 2009

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

I don’t know if I have ever blogged merely to link to another blog, but that’s sort of where today’s post is going. I’ve been trying for six days now to think of what to write about John Hughes’ death, but haven’t been able to craft anything worth sharing. Then today I read this blog and I realized why John Hughes mattered to me. It wasn’t merely that he created so many great films; he was a genuinely great guy.

I tend to ignore celebrity-related news and issues, and certainly don’t blog about them. I can’t bring myself to care. Michael Jackson’s recent death felt like such a non-issue to me, and the resultant hysteria was mystifying and disappointing to me. But last week John Hughes died, and, like I suppose most Americans my age, I took notice. Here’s an artist who actually contributed something lasting to our culture.

There is little I can offer that likely hasn’t been said before. The Breakfast Club certainly presaged the era of reality television, and the first film I’m aware of that dealt with teen issues in such a starkly real way. It is also a rarity in that it cast actual teens as teens. Weird Science is on some level a starkly realistic insight into the psyche of the teen male, as well as a too-real depiction of life for two uncool guys.

Hughes’ true masterpiece, however, as far as I’m concerned, is Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. I’ll spare you a long-winded exposition on why Generation X made the world a better place, despite the efforts of the Baby Boomers that came before them, and the OMG’ers that came after. Instead I’ll offer Ferris as the Gen-X everyman. From his day off you can glean most everything you need to know about the topic. Consider– he spent his day off attending a Cubs game, visiting the Chicago Institute of Art, watching a parade, and eating a nice lunch. Think about that for awhile, then get back to me.

As the trip to the museum is one of my favorite of all moments cinematic, I am including it in today’s post.

Finally, as a teen, and even still as an adult, I wondered– did the popular kids, portrayed in such unflattering light in his films, also like John Hughes? How could they? How dare they? Those movies were made for me… and Alison.

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Not a Narcissist

By , March 29, 2009

I just took Dr. Drew’s Narcissistic Personality Inventory, but only scored an 8. The average person scores 15.3. While on one hand this is something of a silly, throw-away quiz, I must admit that it is fairly indicative of my personality. I do think I lack a certain sort of self-confidence. Which is not to say I hate myself. It’s more that I seldom make a fuss about myself, or stand up for myself. Conversely, I’ve always been very good at standing up for other people, even strangers; just not myself.

I wonder if fixing this is as simple as doing the opposite of what I said I’d do in the quiz?

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In Which I Meet Bob Newhart

By , January 13, 2009

Yesterday I was walking about Westwood in search of a place to sit and read. As I walked past a dry cleaner’s shop, out walked Bob Newhart, clean shirts in hand. I did a double-take, and stared for a moment. He had a “yeah, it’s me,” look on his face.

I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “you’re Bob Newhart.”

“Yes, I am,” was his reply. At which point he offered his hand. And I shook it.

I shook Bob Newhart’s hand!

After that, I wasn’t sure where else things could go, so I quickly informed him that I’ve only recently moved to Los Angeles, and he is the first celebrity I’ve truly met, and walked away. I had a huge smile on my face for at least five minutes.

I didn’t mention my encounter with Tim Roth, during which I pretended to mistake him for a store clerk, or the time I randomly sat next to Alia Shawkat (Maebe Funke on Arrested Development) and Ellen Page (Juno in Juno) (who knew they were friends?) at a midnight showing of Harold and Maude, because I didn’t really meet those folks.

Naturally, I texted all my friends immediately afterwards. The few replies I received were either “who is Bob Newhart?” or “isn’t he dead?” So sad. True, he’s before my time, and I only know him because he was one of my mother’s favorite comedians, but come on. He’s an icon! Recently, he played the daddy Elf in Elf, but in the ’60s he was huge. His album of comedy won the 1961 Grammy for album of the year. That’s some Michael Jackson / U2 type action there.

Which makes me realize– no matter how famous you get, you can eventually be forgotten. I bet if I asked random passerby who Rutherford B. Hayes or Zack Taylor were, many of them wouldn’t even know, and they are former leaders of the free world.

That’s it. I’m starting up the Franklin Pierce Fan Club for reals.

Also, Bob Newhart is magical. I have some sort of infection in my right ear, and for a week now it has been swollen shut, but a moment after shaking Bob’s hand, the ear popped open and stayed open for about an hour. It closed back up, but clearly the handshake did more for me than the drops my doctor gave me. I’m going to have to stake out that dry cleaner and hope Bob’s a messy eater.

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