Meat Parade Memories

August 4, 2009

“Great idea,” I said to my friend John when he proposed that we enter a meat-themed float in the “How Berkeley Can You be?” parade and cover it with meat-grilling, meat-gnawing, cigarette-smoking freaks dressed in leather and fur, spewing clouds of charcoal smoke, under a banner reading PETA: People Eatin’ Them Animals. “Great idea, except we might get killed. Those peace-loving Berzerkeley moms will rip us to pieces.

“We need our own protest marchers,” I suggested. “We’ll field our own counter-demonstration.” And thus was born the VegetAryan movement, a brave cadre of brown-shirted, jack-Birkenstocked, sign-waving, slogan-chanting thugs, violently opposed to all things carnivorous and willing to disrupt the “meat people” by any means necessary.

Thanks to the efforts of DocumentAryan Puzzling Evidence, we can now enjoy the thrills and (grease) spills of this epic confrontation and its sequel (“Meat People II: Straight to Video”), in which we returned to the streets of Berkeley the following year with more meat, more fur, more cigarettes thrown to children, more pig heads on stakes, more Read the rest of this entry »

Take Me Out to the Bullfights

May 18, 2009

It’s not easy being a bullfight fan in California.  Sure, bloodless corridas are legal, but the Portuguese societies that sponsor them wisely choose to fly under the PETA radar, making them both hard to reach and hard to hear about unless you’re part of the community. Most of the venues are out in the dustiest corners of the Valley, in little farming towns that are hours from the cities. Most of the fights are on weeknights, conducted in Portuguese, and only written up in Portuguese newspapers. There’s a fan website in English, but it’s no longer being maintained, and the URL is up for sale. In other words, you’ve really got to love this sport if you want to see it.

And make no mistake, this is definitely sport. When a team of forcados leaps into the ring, eight brave men versus one angry bull, it’s like being catapulted back into the Stone Age, when bull-jumping and bull-baiting were some of the world’s earliest athletic spectacles.

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COVERT Number 1

May 9, 2009
artists rendering

Not an Actual Photograph

Like most of John Law’s events, it began with cryptic instructions: “We will be leaving from the Vaillancourt Fountain in Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco at 7:01 pm sharp. Look for the man in the Top Hat. Bring legal ID, $2.75 in quarters, and a flashlight.”  There was no indication of what we would be doing, other than the event name, ‘COVERT,” and John’s rich history of hosting off-the-grid excursions.

A veteran of the Cacophony Society and its predecessor, the Suicide Club, Law has organized everything from illicit bridge climbs to tours of undergound military facilities to elaborate street games. COVERT seemed to be in the tradition of the Suicide Club’s notorious “Into the Unknown” events, where the participants had no clue where they were going until they arrived.

Mrs. M and I arrived at the fountain at the appointed hour, and along with 48 other adventurers we were relieved of our cell phones, digital cameras, and all other electronic gear for the duration. No photos, no Tweets, no permanent record of the event was to be allowed, other than what we carried out in the folds of our puzzled little brains.

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Return of the Giant Beers

January 31, 2009

we-want-beerA friend texted me this morning: “All of us are going to the Bistro for the double IPA fest today.” I got all worked up for about 90 seconds, until I realized he was off by a week, and it’s not until next Saturday. Which is a workday for me. Damn.

If you’re fan of giant beers, the Double IPA Fest is the Super Bowl of tastings. Held at a little beer bar in Hayward, it’s the flagship event in this year’s SF Beerfest. I would so be there if I could. But since I can’t, I’ll have to make do with a few Plinys and maybe a Racer X down at my local pub to wash away the grief.

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Not Easy Being Green

November 13, 2008


I’m a biodiesel user, so I know a thing or two about kicking the petroleum habit. For starters, you’ve got to find a supplier, and then you’ll probably have to join some kind of user group before they’ll let you fill up. Expect to pay more than you would for regular diesel – as much as $2 a gallon more – even though it costs the manufacturer less to make. Don’t even think about using the diamond lane – or getting a tax credit – since in the eyes of the law you’re still driving a stinky diesel. And if you’re converting a used car to run on biodiesel for the first time, go buy a six-pack of fuel filters and learn how to install one under field conditions, like on the side of the freeway when your ride suddenly stops rolling because all that old dinosaur gack has come loose from the lines. But at the end of the drive it’s more than worth all the trouble because (a) you’re not sending a dime to the Arabs, (b) your carbon footprint is EEE-narrow, and (c) your exhaust smells like Freedom Fries.


Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s only natural to want to take things up a level. Unless you’re smoking from Jim Mason‘s pipe, in which case you’ll want to take it up eleventy levels, and sign up for his “Escape From Berkeley” race, a mad rally to Las Vegas “by any non-petroleum means necessary.” Though I didn’t enter a car this year, I followed the event with great interest, and even played a role in helping to get the winning team across the finish line.

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Tourette’s Without Regrets

June 6, 2008

“You’re gonna see some real hip-hop tonight,” Asher said, “not that MTV bullshit.” A thousand-watt grow-bulb of positive energy, mad schemes, and machine-gun wit, Asher has finally convinced me to come down to Oakland to see the monthly variety show that he and his brother have been producing for the last decade, Tourette’s Without Regrets. We’re in a warehouse on the east side, surrounded by a diversity poster of urban youth in every gender and ethnicity, all of them about half my age. Mrs. M and I arrive late but still get the VIP treatment: guest list, comp drinks, the works. In fact, Asher is treating us so well that I don’t have the heart to tell him that I’m not much of a rap fan, and even less of a slam poetry fan, and will probably wind up slamming my head repeatedly into the wall of the warehouse bathroom before it’s over. But it only takes a few minutes of watching the show to sneak a bent paperclip into my ear-hole and hit the reset button on my old way of thinking.

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Notes from a Footie Match

June 2, 2008

The English are not like you and me. Sure, they speak a form of our language, but the resemblance more or less ends there. I recently received a vivid lesson in this by watching the UEFA soccer finals in a bar full of Brits. Though the game was broadcast from Moscow, on the field it was strictly limey-on-limey violence, with the “Red Army” of Manchester United facing down the blue “Headhunters” of Chelsea. Seven or nine beers later, I knew quite a bit more about our colonial sires, as gleaned from the frequently intelligible comments of a roomful of expats that included my drinking buddy Phil and a number of his colorful “mates.”

Image by Alex Abate


Beer: believe the hype. I can’t remember when I’ve seen so much beer put down in a few hours, and I practically live in a brewpub. No wine, no margaritas, no sex-on-the-beach, just Bass and Newcastle by the gallon. A dishwasher burst into flames trying to keep up with the dirty pint glasses, and the waitresses were zooming around like RAF tankers hauling all those suds. On a related note, soccer matches don’t have commercial breaks like American football, so the line to the loo was unbelievable at halftime. Note to Stadium Pub management: one men’s W.C. is not enough for a chunnelful of beer-piss.


BBC America: Wrong. For starters, Doctor Who is not a real person. And great comedy shows like That Mitchell and Webb Look, The Catherine Tate Show, and The League of Gentlemen are apparently more popular here than they ever were in the UK. So if you want to watch TV like a Brit, tune your telly to the latest episode of MI-5, and complain bitterly about all the sodding commercials.


Ronaldo: Portuguese. Man U’s star player, the mono-named Ronaldo, is affectionately known as “Ron,” except when he screws up a penalty kick, and then he’s called “Wanker.” Don’t even think about calling him Brazilian. You will be firmly corrected that he is Portuguese. Like Port. Which no one drinks at a footie match because they’re pounding down all the beer in Creation.


Things not to mention at a table full of Brits: Bad teeth. Huge scary eyebrows. Didier Drogba “girlie slapping” Nemanja Vidic. The 4-5-1 lineup. Kim Philby. Brazil.


In short, everything I ever thought I knew about Jolly Olde E. was a complete load of rubbish. I was all bollixed up, but I’m better now.