Posts Tagged ‘photos’

The forgotten monument that was once on top of San Francisco’s Mount Olympus

September 4th, 2020
San Francisco's Mount Olympus San Francisco's Mount Olympus San Francisco's Mount Olympus

 

While poking around Atlas Obscura the other day I came across a truly odd monument that I immediately knew I had to check out.

Eccentric businessman and former mayor Adolph Sutro had a statue named “Triumph of Light” built to mark the center of San Francisco. The problem is if you consider the landmass on the peninsula, the true center of San Francisco is a good deal south from this point. Like many of Sutro’s ventures this was likely a gimmick to draw tourists to the area.

Although the statue mysteriously disappeared decades ago and the plaque has faded away, today the statue’s pedestal and what remains of the plaque is still visible in a San Francisco park called Mount Olympus. 

 

San Francisco's Mount Olympus San Francisco's Mount Olympus

 

Never heard of this Mount Olympus? That’s no surprise; it’s a tiny park on a small hilltop peak. Today the area around it is surrounded by housing and you have to walk up some staircases and through a narrow street to find the park itself. Look for either Monument Way Stairs or Mount Olympus Stairs to find your way up the hillside on your way to the park.

Read more at Atlas Obscura. Do beware that the address listed on Atlas Obscura is currently incorrect; look for Mount Olympus on Google Maps to find correct directions.

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 4

August 20th, 2020

It’s been a couple months since my last entry in how this global pandemic has transformed daily life in San Francisco. There’s still no vaccine on the horizon despite Russia’s premature announcement, and likewise the United States has utterly failed to combat the pandemic under Trump’s leadership.

In other words, the important things haven’t changed since last time.

Fortunately there are many far less important things to focus on here in San Francisco: the many ways we continue adapting to the pandemic.

 

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For work I had to take Muni downtown and walk through SOMA to the office a couple times to help wind down the office operations and clear out my stuff. Much of the area around Market Street downtown felt unusually empty — boarded up storefronts, no cable cars, etc.

Today I heard The Gap’s flagship location will be closing for good. For those who remember that was a Woolworth location back in the day, which used to have an entrance directly from the Powell Street subway station.

Oddly the Westfield SF Centre mall across the street was open at the time, but has since closed again. There was a time when I suppose the grocery store in there could have been considered essential (remember Bristol Farms?) but those days are long gone.

 

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Construction on the new Four Seasons tower is much further along than when the pandemic started. The bottom floors will one day house the Mexican Museum, assuming those plans are still on the table.

Across the street the Yerba Buena Gardens had obviously not been cleaned recently, with the pathways absolutely covered in pigeon droppings.

 

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Entering the office was a little surreal — very few others were there, and the elevator had markings indicating it was now only suited for two people at a time. Normally we’d pack it with eight people easily, but not anymore.

 

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Muni is still operating at a very reduced capacity with surface-level buses only and is enforcing a mandatory mask policy. At some stops attendants remind people to wear masks and try to stop buses from getting even slightly crowded.

As seen above signs on the doors indicate that a mask is required. To protect the operators, passengers are only allowed to board through the back doors unless they require special assistance.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

Several streets have been converted to outdoor dining areas, including two blocks of Valencia for four days of the week. The sidewalk, parking, and bike lane areas have been converted to outdoor dining with the middle of the street reserved for walking; technically bikes are supposed to be walked but that isn’t really enforced.

Personally I’d love to see this continue on a regular basis — weather permitting of course — though with hundreds of wildfires burning throughout the state right now and smoke billowing through San Francisco this experiment clearly came at the wrong time.

 

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Street art continues to dominate blank, boarded up walls. In July the theme shifted largely to Pride, since there were obviously no “official” Pride celebrations this year.

That said, there was definitely an LGBTQ+ presence at the Black Lives Matter protests in June, with people holding signs with slogans such as “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 3

June 30th, 2020

Since last month’s entry in this ongoing series, a number of local, national, and world events have occurred. It’s been a strange, though hopeful time for the most part. Here’ some more changes I’ve seen around San Francisco.

 

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In the most literal sense of the title of this post, the city’s Department of Public Health has been busy printing and distributing signs with the ever-changing set of rules we’re all supposed to be following.

Many of these signs are related to the reopening plans. As it turns out our entire economy is built on people eating at restaurants and shopping for clothes. It took a pandemic to make anyone realize this was a horrible idea, but here we are.

 

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The official signs apparently are not enough as some people have been making their own signs. In this case it seems someone was frustrated by people not wearing masks near Valencia and 18th Street.

While it’s true not everyone is wearing masks on the sidewalk, as far as I know nobody around here has thrown a tantrum over mask requirements in stores… yet.

 

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I’m not entirely certain what the intended message is here, but someone’s been placing stickers of infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci around the neighborhood.

 

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Indoor dining is strictly not allowed (you can’t eat and wear a mask, obviously) but some restaurants are opting for the outdoor and sidewalk seating approach.

To position tables less than six feet apart, some restaurants — like the 16th Street outpost of Pakwan pictured above — are placing barriers between tables. Does this actually work? Should we be dining out at all? I’m guessing probably not on both counts.

I’m not sure people are really interested in sitting outside in 60/65 F weather anyway. Maybe that will change when San Francisco’s summer begins in mid to late August.

 

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Although many stores and restaurants have reopened in some limited capacity, many dragged (or are continuing to drag) their feet on removing the boards on their storefronts. And of course many will not reopen, so there’s plenty of space for street art.

 

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At the beginning of the month there was a large Black Lives Matter protest that began at Mission High School at 18th and Dolores. This led to many store owners running essential businesses to board up their windows. Turns out that was an overreaction as there wasn’t really much in the way of property damage anyway.

But it also sparked a change in the art appearing on boarded up storefronts. Rather than being largely decorative a new theme emerged: Black Lives Matter. Many of these took the “Say Their Names” approach, listing names of Black people who were murdered by police.

And on that note…

 

COVID-19 changes

Signs of the COVID-19 times part 2

May 22nd, 2020

Since last month’s entry the pandemic-related changes around the Mission and Castro area have only accelerated. As retail slowly reopens some of these changes may be short lived, so let’s take a look at where things stand now.

 

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The city’s Department of Public Health has plastered almost every block with signs about social distancing, wearing masks, getting tested, etc. Many of the signs are in multiple languages. Anecdotally it seems most are following the spirit of these new guidelines, though the part about wearing masks hasn’t quite gotten to everyone yet.

At the same time, the signs that went up a month or so ago about sheltering in place have disappeared. Presumably this coincides with phase two of the reopening plans.

 

COVID-19 changes

 

The flat grassy section of Dolores Park that’s often used for soccer and volleyball now has circles painted on the grass to encourage staying apart while picnicking.

Other sections of the park with more hilly terrain didn’t get the circle paint treatment. I’d assume this is simply due to it being more challenging to measure or paint.

 

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After numerous storefronts were covered in plywood, they’ve slowly been transformed by street artists. Many of the murals were commissioned by Paint the Void, which is raising money to fund this type of art during the pandemic.

At least for me even with the murals it’s a little more jarring to see fashion retailers boarded up than a neighborhood bar. For example before they were boarded up, Everlane looked like an Apple Store that accidentally started selling clothes.

 

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Not all the plywood-covered storefronts are decorated with murals… some have whimsical wheatpastes instead.

All of these photos of wheatpastes were taken on Market between Church and Castro. That stretch has had a lot of retail vacancies recently so I’m not sure these are all necessarily related to COVID-19 or just the collapse of retail there in general.

 

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Some of the street art is very topical, such as this wheatpaste depicting a coyote walking down a deserted sidewalk.

The graphic is patterned after a real photo which I believe originated in this tweet.

 

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Finally, fnnch’s honey bears now have an N95 mask version. Here we have a honey bear with pizza, a David Bowie honey bear, and a honey bear with an ice cream cone. Of course, eating and singing aren’t really activities that lend themselves to wearing a protective mask.

Signs of the COVID-19 times

April 24th, 2020

With the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading so quickly, everyone’s had to adapt at a rapid pace. Some of the changes are clearly sad and less than ideal, yet safety has to be prioritized or more people will wind up dead. It’s worrisome that some don’t seem to mind the latter part of that equation.

Like most of us I’ve been doing my part to shelter in place as much as possible, though sometimes one does need to get out whether it’s buying groceries or just stretching one’s legs a little.

On the occasions I’ve ventured around the neighborhood, here’s some of the changes I’ve noticed.

 

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The notoriously cramped Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street rapidly rolled out changes including limiting the number of shoppers inside the store. To that end they painted icons on the sidewalk outside showing people where to stand six feet apart. It would help more if the sidewalk weren’t so narrow but it’s a start.

The “stand here” icon seems to be somewhat universal as it’s quite similar to the one used in those TSA scanners at the airport. At least you don’t have to take your shoes off in this case.

 

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The Valencia corridor is eerily quiet, with many retail and restaurant businesses closed — and many boarded up. Ostensibly this is to prevent vandals from breaking the windows and/or looting the place.

It’s especially jarring to see upscale retail stores boarded up, though with the way the retail economy has been going these past few years I suspect boarded up storefronts are here to stay for some time.

 

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Elixir bills itself as the second oldest bar in San Francisco, dating back to at least 1858. (The oldest bar is the Old Ship Saloon, which once operated out of — you probably guessed this — an old ship.)

Like many bars and restaurants Elixir is focusing on delivery and has also put up a GoFundMe to help support their staff. This is all advertised in spray paint on the side of the building.

 

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Signs all over Dolores Park tell people to stay six feet apart, and in four languages no less. Park goers largely seem to be following the rules at least in spirit. The park isn’t really designed for social distancing with benches right next to narrow sidewalks.

While there I noticed a couple unexpected things. One is the tennis courts were locked. Of all sports tennis seems like one that’s almost ideal for social distancing. The other is that even though Muni Metro is not operating they were performing some kind of testing on a new train on the tracks in the park.

 

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Unsurprisingly tattoo and piercing shops are not an essential business. But I was surprised Body Manipulations on 16th Street felt it necessary to tell people in a “driver does not carry cash” fashion that they have no toilet paper on the premises.

Are they serious about this? They’re one of the most respected places in the Bay Area to get unusual piercings (think nipple rings, etc.) so who knows! All I can say for certain is it’s definitely a sign of the times.

Tim and Eric’s Mandatory Attendance World Tour show notes

March 8th, 2020
Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour Tim & Eric Mandatory Attendance Tour

 

I went to the San Francisco stop on Tim and Eric‘s Mandatory Attendance World Tour on March 4th at The Warfield. Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim have been staples of late night cable TV fringe comedy for almost two decades at this point. Although they’re best known for Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Check it Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, they’ve also produced other shows including Nathan For You and the bizarre talk show The Eric Andre Show.

Although I’d never been to a live Tim and Eric show before, I’ve attended two On Cinema live shows in the past year (also produced by and co-staring Tim Heidecker) so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect — a lively show geared toward an audience of fans who are all totally into it.

I waited until today to post show notes as not to spoil the show for the remaining tour dates. Now that it’s over, here’s everything that happened.

Before the show

After passing through security and the ticket check, I was handed a small playbill (see above) about the size of a business card. I had a balcony ticket so I headed upstairs and bought the world’s most expensive whiskey and Coke at the bar.

Before the show began a video played on an almost comically tiny screen in which a man performed songs from Awesome Show on a guitar while wearing various costumes. This includes memorable songs from Casey and his Brother, the Beaver Boys theme, etc.

Speaking of costumes, many members of the audience were wearing outfits to match their favorite Tim and Eric characters. Two guys seated near me were dressed up as the Beaver Boys, and I saw a couple people wearing On Cinema t-shirts.

As stagehands wheeled the tiny screen away, the lights went down and the show opened. A video played on the big screen explaining how Tim has a large vacation home where he hangs out with his old pals, mostly to get away from his family — but also to avoid Eric. When Eric showed up and suggested they do a live show together we learn that Tim slammed the door in his face, only to later conceive of doing a family friendly tour that everyone can smile at (but not actually laugh) in order to attract corporate sponsors.

The audience was instructed to clap with their wrists instead of their hands, and to moan while doing so.

It’s mandatory

Tim and Eric arrived on stage dressed in flamboyant cowboy outfits performing a song about how attendance is mandatory, and also claiming they enjoy various drugs. At some point it was mentioned that anyone who did not attend would be fined $750.

Interrupting a pointless sketch about a cowboy who tickles people, Eric decided this isn’t right, they should abandon the family friendly concept and do their usual comedy — even if it’s not for everyone. Tim reluctantly agreed to change the format. They also agreed to waive the “exit fee.”

As they left the stage, a new video played of the duo eating and “vomiting” various foods. This was genuinely disgusting and a number of people near me covered their eyes.

Pitzman’s Mustard

Tim and Eric return to the stage wearing dressed in normal clothing for a reprise of the YouTube series Tim’s Kitchen Tips. A table was placed on stage with a large bowl and a small camera mounted on a tripod. Eric moved the camera around throughout the sketch so the audience could see close ups.

Tim used an audience participation bit to explain how he intends to make yummy, wet, and spicy lasagna — using a recipe from the Lasagna region of Italy, naturally.

Tim started with a frozen lasagna he purchased from his favorite store, a nearby Safeway. He opened the package and squeezed the existing wet juice out of it with his hand, sending the sauces down his elbow and all over the table.

As it turned out, Eric is also familiar with Safeway, though a different location. After a messy divorce Eric moved to a new home in Vallejo, a city he admittedly does not like. This minor localization gag got bigger laughs than I expected (perhaps there were people from Vallejo in the audience?)

To add wetness to the lasagna, Tim poured a giant can of tomato sauce into his bowl, most of which spilled on the table and floor.

For spices they recruited ten “Spice Cadets” from the audience to the stage. Each of them was assigned a spice to wear on their helmets as well as an apron featuring the name of the spice. During this process Tim angrily confiscated the phone of an audience member who was taking a video, tossing the “phone” into the tomato sauce.

The first spice, cinnamon, had a lengthy song and dance routine. Then Tim told the woman who represented cinnamon to “get the fuck out of here” as cinnamon clearly does not belong in lasagna. Tim then pared down the nine other Spice Cadets to a final five. Those who remained dumped their spices into the bowl by bowing their heads into it, pouring out the spices. One of them had a helmet malfunction that caused their entire helmet to fall into the bowl.

When Tim realized a key ingredient was missing, Mr. Peter Pitzman appeared wearing a yellow mask that clearly disturbed Tim. Mr. Pitzman proceeded to “pee” mustard all over the five remaining Spice Cadets as well as into the sauce.

Subscription services for dogs

Next up Tim and Eric came out wearing colorful lounge-y outfits, explaining they were a morning zoo show on 105.3 here in San Francisco before being fired when Tim’s character made an insensitive comment in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Fortunately they’ve been brought back by a tech billionaire named Werm to promote a streaming music service for dogs, which costs $99 per month. Tim picked up a guitar and Eric strapped on a child sized wearable drum set. They played a singalong song about different types of dogs and how they behave.

Eric’s character wanted to demonstrate Werm’s son’s software that just shows photos of dogs. Unfortunately he didn’t have the password for the software, and entering the wrong one caused the Windows XP desktop they had on stage to blue screen.

After several tries they guessed the password. The software turned out to be a slideshow with several photos of dogs, followed by a lot of photos of Moby. Tim and Eric fled the stage when smoke started coming out of the old desktop computer.

A Medical Play

In the final main act, they had a medical play allegedly sponsored by Aetna, a health insurance company. Tim said he was inspired by America where everyone has the right to buy private health insurance through a corporation.

The play involved Eric as a doctor similar to his Dr. Wareheim series on YouTube. Eric asked Tim a series of questions about his recent bowel movements such as their shape, thickness, tips, and tails. Neither of them could get through this portion with a straight face.

During an anal exam seemingly modeled after the Blue Man Group’s throat camera routine, we learn Tim has the highly contagious “Pork’s Disease,” and the entire audience is at risk. The CDC arrived via helicopter with a suitcase full of pills to cure the disease. The cure is HOGalaxin from Cinco Pharmaceuticals, which were available in suspicious baggies at the merch table.

Unfortunately the supply of pills was one short. Tim offhandedly mentioned that the CDC had other priorities. Their consultant at AEG “randomly” selected a member of the audience, a man who brought his wife on stage as well. He agreed to skip the medication and die for not only his wife but the greater good.

Tim and Eric performed their final song wearing lighted wings with a video tribute to the poor man. A flower-lined casket was wheeled out onto the stage behind him. As the song ended, stagehands escorted the man into the casket, closed it, and wheeled him backstage.

Beef House preview

Ostensibly this was the end of the show, but Tim and Eric introduced the first episode of their new show Beef House, a lowbrow parody of Full House or any one of countless forgettable 90’s family sitcoms.

The first episode involves Tim going on a date with a neighbor despite suffering from extreme constipation. This collides with a subplot about Eric’s girlfriend (played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler, aka Meadow from The Sopranos) demanding he clean up the place. The conclusion is hilariously disgusting, if somewhat predictable.

At the very end Tim and Eric came back out on stage to thank everyone for coming and to give a shout out to everyone else who worked on the show.

Conclusion

This was pretty much everything I would have expected from a live Tim and Eric show. Somehow I missed their last tour a couple years ago and I feel like I can stop kicking myself for that now.

From what I’ve read online a few stops on the tour had special guests. None of them were at the San Francisco show, but I would have loved to see John C. Reilly as Dr. Steve Brule. Someone please tell Reilly to come to San Francisco next time. I’ll even pay extra. For your health!

Former Macy’s Men’s Store slims down for a new look

March 1st, 2020
Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square Former Macy's Men's Store, Union Square

 

The former Union Square Macy’s Men’s Store at 120 Stockton Street is sporting a new look at the moment. The down-to-the-bones renovation is transforming the almost windowless stone box into one with floor to ceiling windows. SocketSite has a before photo with a rendering of what’s to come.

Although I shopped there when it was still open I can’t say I really miss it. It always felt like a jail that happened to sell clothes.

The revamped building is intended to mix retail, offices, and a rooftop patio restaurant. Time will tell if this combination works out — though I can’t imagine downtown office space so close to a BART station remaining vacant for long.

Two other department stores in the area are exploring similar transformations, with part of the Macy’s across the street (the former I. Magnin building) potentially converting to offices and condos, and the nearby Nordstrom in the Westfield SF Centre mall switching its top two floors into offices as well.

Rest in pieces at Buena Vista Park

February 24th, 2020
Buena Vista Park Buena Vista Park Buena Vista Park

 

Buena Vista Park on Haight Street is one of San Francisco’s oldest public parks. Built on the side of a hill, on a clear day one can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and downtown between the trees at the top of the park.

Today you’ll find everyone from wanna-be hippie kids to dog walkers to young couples having picnics in the park.

But if you look closely you’ll also find something else: pieces of old headstones.

When San Francisco started evicting graveyards in the early 20th century to make more room for the living, many headstones were scrapped for material — recycled rock, basically.

In the 1930’s a WPA project was tasked with updating Buena Vist Park’s pathways and addressing flooding issues. Many of these new pathways were lined with gutters paved from rocks; including old headstones.

For the most part the headstones aren’t noticeable, aside from the unusual decision to pave gutters with white stone. However in a dozen or so places around the park, parts of the original engravings are easily to spot. Three of these are in the photos above.

More information can be found on Wikipedia and on Atlas Obscura.

How to cross the street

February 22nd, 2020
How to cross the street

 

Spotted outside the Victoria Theater at 16th and Capp, this guerilla installation alters the pedestrian signal instructions to promote friendly behavior.

Sacramento wrap up and stray observations

February 18th, 2020
Sacramento train station

 

My entire reason for visiting Sacramento was to make up for skipping it on my “Ameritrip” last year in which I traveled by rail from Chicago back home to San Francisco, stopping in a few cities along the way — Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno.

Originally I’d planned to make Sacramento a stop on the trip, but when I started planning it all out there was no way to squeeze another stop into the time I’d allocated.

To get to Sacramento and back I booked tickets on the Capitol Corridor, a train service run by a local joint powers authority, CalTrans, and operated by Amtrak. It’s part of the “Amtrak California” umbrella which also includes the San Joaquin and Pacific Surfliner routes.

 

Amtrak California trip to Sacramento

 

From San Francisco there’s the option of taking an Amtrak bus to Emeryville and boarding the train from there, but I decided to take BART to Lake Merritt and walk a few blocks to Jack London Square instead, repeating this process on the way back. Unfortunately the only true transfer point between Amtrak and BART is at Richmond, which is a very long BART ride away for many of us.

On the return trip the conductor announced Richmond as “your transfer point to BART, Bay Area we wish we were Rapid Transit.” Harsh but true.

 

Sacramento train station

 

The train station in Sacramento is a beautiful building from the 1920’s. It serves Amtrak as well as the local light rail and bus lines. Thankfully the station features modern bathrooms, and there’s a Starbucks next door if you need it.

As usual the boarding procedure varies wildly from one Amtrak station to another. Amtrak service is always polite but confusing, and their trains tend to be comfortable but worn out. I guess that’s just modern day America in a nutshell though.

 

Temple Coffee

 

My very first stop after leaving the train station was Temple Coffee Roasters, a chain local to Sacramento though their beans can be found elsewhere.

The line was almost out the door. It’s not the fastest place, though the employees are very friendly. I had an oat milk cappuccino. On a warmer afternoon I went to a different location for an iced latte. Both were excellent. That said, good coffee is not at all hard to find in Sacramento.

 

DoCo

 

Right in the middle of downtown Sacramento near the capitol building is the brand new Downtown Commons, or “DoCo” complex. This fuses an existing shopping center with the new Sacramento Kings coliseum as well as a fancy hotel.

There’s quite a few places to eat and drink in the DoCo complex, presumably aimed at attendees of the basketball games and concerts held there.

 

Neil Hamburger at the Sacramento Comedy Spot

 

The entire reason I chose this particular weekend to visit Sacramento was to see Neil Hamburger perform again, this time at the Sacramento Comedy Spot. It’s not a big venue but it was packed; I was lucky to get in early enough to grab a seat.

Neil’s opening act was Major Entertainer, a musical comedian who sang songs about his wife’s former best friend as well as a song asking the audience to buy his t-shirts.

Neil Hamburger somehow got all the green dye out of his hair a few days after playing the Joker as his alter ego. He went through about an hour of material focused mostly on Aerosmith and KISS, the latter of which he claims is a band everyone has heard of, yet nobody knows their music (I think he might be on to something there.)

His longest and most rambling joke detailed how he was forced to spend 13 hours in LAX Terminal One when Southwest cancelled flights due to the 737 MAX disaster. He blamed it on the planes relying on defective computers that were returned to Best Buy. But the worst indignity was that he had to eat at the only restaurant open in the airport terminal, Rock & Brews, which is owned by KISS front-man Gene Simmons.

He ended the show singing his original song Little Love Cup.

 

There were a few things I didn’t get to do on this trip. Perhaps next time? In no particular order:

  • Tower Cafe: This oddball cafe is best known for brunch, and I’m told the wait list can get pretty long.
  • California State Railroad Museum: I vaguely remember visiting here as a kid, and would have definitely returned if I’d had the time on this trip.
  • Dive Bar: I’m told this isn’t a great bar, the only reason to go is to see the hourly mermaid performances in the giant fish tank above the bar. Performers dress up as mermaids and swim around with actual fish.
  • Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament: A beautiful old cathedral located across from the capitol building that offers tours, but was somehow never open when I was in the area.
  • The Bank: A modern food hall, but located inside of a classic old bank building.