Category Archives: Q’s Musings

Yo Jay, Check This Out

Originally posted January 31, 2013

Hip Hop was the first music that was truly mine…

Christmas, 1980. I was 11 years old, roller skating in a park in Miami, and I happened upon a kid about the same age as as me captivating two of his friends. He was regaling them with a tale of prowess, bad dinners, and stealing SuperMan’s girlfriend, and he was doing so with a lyrical style I’d never heard before. I, too was captivated, and tried as hard as I could to listen in without looking like I cared.

Jam Master Jay was the one in charge…

Eventually I had to move on (one can only skate back and forth along the same 15 feet of sidewalk before you start to become obvious, after all) but the singing I’d just heard was imbedded well within my brain. That night, as we were decorating our Christmas tree, the song that kid in the park had been singing came on the radio. My dad went to change the station, and I pleaded for him to leave it on. It was the full-length version of the Rapper’s Delight, all 15 minutes of it.

My dad only lasted 7.

I had for the very first time discovered a music that the adults around me didn’t like. I had something that was mine. However, It wasn’t the taboo that was attractive; I was absolutely taken with the music, the lyrical style, the stories these guys told. I also lived in a small town in Northern California, and when I returned home from visiting my dad for Christmas, it would be a long time before I heard any of that music again.

I had almost forgotten about it by 1983, but when Run DMC released their first album, Run DMC I was immediately drawn back in. Rap, as I would learn it was called, changed my world. Rap resonated deeply within my soul, and made me want to dance. Rap brought with it an energy that didn’t exist for me anywhere else, and Run DMC spoke a language I understood. The stories they told applauded chivalry, underscored the importance of education, and gave hope to powerlessness.

I learned every lyric, and knew each and every part by heart. Some songs I’d do just Run. others DMC. Sometimes I’d bounce back and forth, playing both parts and running out of breath faster than a smoker in a marathon. More than anything, I loved the creativity of the man behind the turntables. I knew every scratch on that record by heart. The moves I made to imitate the scratching may have been wrong, but the timing and intent were always right on.

To this day, Jam Master Jay is my favorite track on that album. I was blown away by Jay’s creativity, his musical sense of humor, and his incredible skills. I was a trainspotter long before I knew what it was called. I would constantly be amused and enthralled by Jay’s use of self-referentiation on subsequent Run DMC albums. Jay always made it fresh for newcomers, but rewarded the faithful with samples off of past Run DMC records. His sense of humor and skills set him as one of the all-time greatest Dj’s to ever put the needle on the record.

Jay pioneered Dj’ing into the mainstream, taking the art-form to places no-one else had ever been able to before. He merged rock and rap for all the world to see, sending Run DMC to new heights and reviving Aerosmith’s career at the same drop of a needle. He set the standard for Dj involvement, respectability, and commitment. He gave back to his community, and fought hard for the right to do so.

More than anything, he made me want to be a Dj.

Peace, Jay. The lives you changed continue to change more lives, and the wheel keeps coming ’round.

Me and Coolio up in the Nosebleeds

I got the call at 12:40pm on Sunday. It was my cousin Tessa, who I hadn’t seen in years. She was looking for her brother Justin, who had spent the night at my house.

“Is Justin there?”

“No, Tessa, he left about 10 minutes ago to head down to meet you, with parking and everything, he should be at your hotel in about 15 minutes.”

“Damn. I’ve been trying to reach him since yesterday, and I just checked my messages and got his message that he was staying with you. Do you like basketball?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I like basketball!” I was trying not to sound too enthusiastic. Tessa was staying in the St. Francis Westin Hotel as a guest of the NBA, Justin was on his way to meet her to sit courtside at the NBA All Star game. I’d been preparing to test my new disc golf rain gear out against one of the nastiest storms to hit the Bay Area in years when the phone rang. Now I was holding my breath.

“Well, it turns out I have an extra ticket for the game. You want to come?”

And like that, I was on my way to the All Star Game.

As I walked into the lobby of the St. Francis I could tell that I was quite suddenly immersed in an “event.” Security guards hustled to and fro. There were checkpoints waiting around every corner. There was nothing but beautiful people, every direction I looked in. As I rounded the corner towards the elevators I spotted a group of young boys with pens and basketballs, waiting for their opportunity to capture a small piece of their heroes. The atmosphere was loud, busy, and hurried. Everyone was on their way to the game. So was I. For once in my life, I was in.

I smiled and got on an elevator going up. I didn’t bother to check the directions in my pocket, and headed straight to room 708. No answer on the door. The woman cleaning 709 informed me that she’d just finished up with 708, and they were long gone. For just a moment I panicked, the sensation of inclusion rapidly fading. I gathered my wits about me, and in a flash of brilliance decided to consult the directions. Aha! Room 703, I’d closed the loops on the 3 in my memory. A single knock on the door, and suddenly I was in again.

The last time I saw Tessa she was 9 years old. Now she was 16, with all of the hip and swagger of a teenager who is confident and comfortable with life; and a backstage pass to the NBA All Star weekend to boot. Tessa and her friend Nadia co-founded ClubActive –a service club at their high school-and applied to NBA TeamUp for a grant to help fund their efforts. They wound up getting more than just a $2,000 grant: they wound up getting back-stage passes, ring-side seats, and first-class treatment for the entire NBA All Star Weekend.

As Tessa donned her NBA All Star 2000 sweatshirt and slung her NBA All Star bag over her shoulder she started telling me about all of the things and people she’d seen over the weekend. She sat next to Vince Carter’s parents during the Slam Dunk competition. She met Magic at a party on Friday night. She laughed, and said that her 15 minutes were rapidly expiring, but that she was having the time of her life.

In the lobby I smiled as Rebecca Lobos walked by. She was taller in person than I ever imagined, but not as beautiful as she looks on T.V.

In the van on the way over the Bay Bridge, Tessa and Michal told us all about the weekend they were having. Michal complained of how corporate the whole All Star weekend had been so far. How the NBA was driving regular fans out with the high price of tickets and the vast numbers of tickets reserved for suits. “When Vince Carter slammed that first dunk home yesterday, hardly anyone stood up and cheered,” she said. In my head I admired the work that NBC had done with the microphones to beef up the sound of the crowd.

Tessa told me that the ticket she had for me was a last-minute addition, and that I was sitting by myself, “way up top.” As our van driver wound his way through the crowd of people trying to make their way through the rain to the coliseum I noted that even the shitty seats for the NBA All Star game cost $150.00. As I jumped one puddle and jogged three paces to the awning of the VIP entrance to the Oakland Coliseum I jibed myself for wearing my rain gear. There are no turnstiles at the VIP entrance, just nice carpets to wipe your feet off on. As we made our way to the elevators I couldn’t help but notice Magic Johnson talking to some VIP staff behind a satin rope. I wanted to shake his hand and tell him I infinitely respected all of the work he’s done to educate the athletic world to the realities of AIDS. Short, white, and wearing corderoy pants, I suddenly felt very much the outsider again.

Tessa, Justin and I split up, and I headed for my seat: Section 217 Row 6 Seat 1. Upper deck. I wasn’t going to complain. After all, if it wasn’t for Tessa, at that very moment I would have been out in the rain with Tolstoy, playing disc golf. I headed for the bathroom, then bought a Sprite and a hot dog. As I was heading through the tunnel back to my seat I spotted Coolio heading through the tunnel ahead of me. I acted calm, and gave him the most subtle eyebrow raise and head-nod in my repertoire. It seemed to do the trick, as he subtly flexed his left eyebrow and headed up the stairs. Not only was I in, I thought to myself, but I was in with Coolio!

As Coolio walked up the stairs to his seat, a youth on the aisle held out his hand for a shake. Coolio smoothly gave him five and headed down my row of seats. The kid grinned ear to ear and made sure his friend had a)Just seen what happened, and b)Completely recognized who that was. His witness firmly in his back pocket, the kid went back to grinning like a madman.

We spending all our lives, watching from the cheap seats with bad eyes

I gave Coolio and his two-man posse the casual once-over as one of his homies jumped on his cell and began harranging who I assumed must be Coolio’s assistant or agent or somethan’. “Look up towards the motherfucking roof,” he said. “OK, now look towards the…where you sittin’? Oh, fuck. OK, I’m standing up now(he was). Yeah. Right. 217. Fucking nosebleed. Well git your ass up here and help us out then.” He hung up and sat down. Throughout it, Coolio looked too cool to be bothered. He unzipped his leather All-Star jacket and propped his brand-new contruction boots up on the seat in front of him.

I sipped my Sprite and tried to focus on the game down on the floor. A few minutes later an incredibly beautiful young black woman, dressed very well and smelling wonderfully, squeezed her way past me apologetically. “Here are your tickets to the after party,” she said to Coolio and the boyz as she handed over a plastic baggie. “I’ll see you guys there.”

As she turned to make her way out Coolio spoke up, “How about some better seats?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she cooed as she ducked around the corner and down the tunnel.

Ha! It suddenly dawned on me: Coolio was fucked, just like me. He knew He had friends down at floor level, and yet he was stuck in the rafters with me. I repressed a giggle, and made sure not to look his way as I began making up my own versions of rap songs:

“1, 2, 3, 4, Coolio’s stuck up far from the floor
Can’t even really see the damn referee…”

“Come along and sit up by the Rafters
High, high, up in the sky, if you hop the rail you fall and die…”

The game was wonderful to watch, the ideal NBA game to see in person. With nothing riding on the line, and no real game-plan in place, the “best athletes in the world” were free to showboat with everything they had. The game was like an endless highlight reel –even the misses were amazing. Stuart Scott and Kenny Maine spent the afternoon in the back of my head, calling plays in real-time. When Shaq grabbed a rebound and raced the length of the floor to finish with a slam, I found myself chanting, “He! Could! Go! All! The! Way!”

At half time we were treated to the vocal stylings of 90 Degrees, Mary J. Blige, some woman who’s name I forget, and L.L. Cool J. I have to give props to David Stern and the NBA: they have created an entertainment extravaganza. As the huge satin curtains fell to the floor to reveal 90 Degrees I was struck by the beauty and execution of the opening to the show. By the time the curtains hit the ground, however, I was wishing that each one of the singers would somehow achieve 1,000 degrees in a pyrotechnic fireworks of spontaneous combustion.

No such luck. But they did only sing one song, which I remain eternally thankful for. In the realm of halftime shows, there is never room for more than one quick number.

Mary J. Blige was amazing. That’s all I’m gonna say. Oh, that, and I almost cried.

The next woman was, frankly, non descript. I couldn’t tell you how she Was dressed (but Mary J. had on this incredibly colorful pant/jacket/hat combination that enabled me to spot her for the rest of the game), what type of music she sang (I remember thinking “country western? really? no!) or what kind of hairstyle she had. But I do remember that she ended her number standing triumphantly, surrounded by all of the NBA All Star Dancers in various poses bending over, on their knees, or lying on the floor, and I thought to myself, “God, I’d fuck each and every one of them. Even the men!”

She exited the stage, and me and the rest of the crowd got pumped up for L.L. As he hit the floor and encouraged everyone to get up on their feet, I casually declined. I didn’t want Coolio thinking I was frontin’ on him, after all. As L.L. barked into his microphone, ranting about peace and fly honies on his jock, I marvelled at how big L.L. has gotten since he first came on the scene. I remember when L.L. was a 130-pound stick, ranting about how loud he liked his radio. Now he looks to be all of 230 pounds, the vast majority of it muscle. Over 16 years, L.L.’s been on the scene. What staying power.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Coolio thought of L.L. and the spectacle; if he felt any jealousy, trapped on the upper deck with a career in limbo while L.L. flirted with all of the dancers on the floor. As the fireworks exploded, showering the floor with sparks and the confetti rained down from the ceiling I stole a glance at Coolio, to see how he was reacting. Feet keeping time up on the chair in front of him, shoulders firmly pressed back in his chair, Coolio was taking in the spectacle like the rest of us: eyes wide open, and mouth partially agape.

Wanting to blend, I took his lead and directed my attention to the floor.

Touching The Void

Originally posted on January 30th, 2013

There’s nothing like a death in the family to put things into perspective for you. My grandmother was a Cuban farm girl. She swore someday she would rise above her upbringing, and become part of the class that made things happen on the island. I was never able to get the full story of how she met my grandfather, but I know that early on they were very much in love.

My brother has pictures of the two of them tearing around Havana on a Harley Davidson in 1937, and they look like they are having so much fun together. They built a wonderful life together, successful at business and at home. When Castro took over, my family was forced to flee the island, leaving behind all but what they could carry. They rebuilt, but Abuela never forgave the world for what it took from her with that revolution.

Somewhere along the lines, she picked up cigarettes, and she never gave them up. In the final week of her life, she made a choice between facing a potentially debilitating stroke down the road and the risks of open heart surgery. She was doing fine after the quintuple bypass, telling nurses what to do, ordering people around. Just like old times. Then five days into recovery, a slight tear in her aorta revealed itself, and she died.

Cuban Catholics do funerals in a big way, and Abuela would have hers no other way. Open casket viewing from 2pm – 11pm on Sunday, Funeral on Monday, all of it was a bit overwhelming after a redeye that left San Francisco at midnight on Valentine’s Day. During the viewing, I was amazed at how still she kept, throughout everything. I kept walking into the room, and finding myself surprised that she hadn’t budged. People move, after all. When I finally worked up the courage to touch my grandmother one last time, I understood. It sunk in.

You can temporalize death all you want, but touching it, when it’s had its hair dyed, make-up done, and has been sitting under an airconditioning vent for 24 hours: that will straighten things up for you.

Preparing for Star Wars Day at AT&T Park

Originally published September 13, 2012

When we attended the debut of Star Wars Day at AT&T Park in 2011 we thought we were being so clever by wearing hard-to-find Star Wars T-shirts with our Giants gear. We hadn’t thought through just how far one could run with the whole Giants/Star Wars theme, and were blown away by the people who converted full-blown Star Wars costumes into Giants gear.

Especially this guy. Oh, and this couple who did the whole AT-AT Walker thing together. We swore that in 2012 we would have our revenge. Or at least try a little harder to creatively honor the theme.

I knew from the onset that I wanted to be a Giants Boba Fett. So I found this Jango Fett helmet on Amazon for $26. My 7-year old son wanted to be Darth SFader, so I got him one of these Darth Vader voice changer helmets on eBay. Finally, my wife decided that since he and I were going to a) be in lots of pictures, and b) have our faces covered she better abandon her PrincesSF Leia idea and get with the masked side. A quick trip to Target did the trick.

Preparation for spray paint essentially required loads of painter’s tape, news paper, and patience.

I find your lack of paint… disturbing

My son insisted that he wanted his helmet to be orange with a black stripe down the middle, which seemed easy enough to mask off.

Glossy black spray paint was easy to find. But a glossy orange that would bond well with plastic was more challenging. Eventually I found the perfect orange at Franciscan Hobbies on Ocean Ave.

It came in tiny little cans, and after the first can of paint ran out I was freaked that it simply might not work. As you can see from the below photo, the orange looks like crap after just one or two coats.

After just one pass, the orange looked horrible.

On the next trip to Franciscan Hobbies I picked up a couple of spare cans of paint, and resumed spraying and huffing with vigor. It wound up taking 3 cans of paint (and who knows how many brain cells) to get our helmets all well-coated.

If I had more time for the project, I would have experimented with a lacquer or sealant to protect the orange. As it was, my son’s SFader helmet chipped in a couple of places in just one day of wearing it.

As it was, I put the final layer of orange on the night before the game. And that night, while the helmets dried atop the sports page, I knew we were in business.

A few coats of orange later and the Darth SFader helmet is popping. The clone trooper mask only took a couple of coats, since it was white.

My son needed a cape, so we went to Beverly’s and scored some awesome SF Giants micro-fleece that my wife quickly converted into a cape.

And with that, we knew we were ready to storm Jabba’s stronghold…follow to my next post for photos of us out and about on our way to Star Wars Day!

The Business of Breaking Hearts

Originally posted July 31st, 2012

Word just came out that the San Francisco Giants traded outfielder Nate Schierholtz to the Philadelphia Phillies. That statement means nothing to you if you do not follow baseball, a little more if you do. The vast majority of Giants fans will simply see the potential for upside in the addition of Hunter Pence to the lineup.

My son, however, is going to cry. Just the thought of breaking the news to him is making me sadder than I already am. We love Nate Schierholtz in our household, and as badly as we want the Giants to succeed, seeing him go hurts in a way that surprises me.

Sports in America have become such a mega-business that it is easy to forget why they are able to exist. As a collective whole, we fans will sporting teams to exist. It is our passion for the game, our love of our teams and our willingness to pay top dollar to support them that enables the most talented athletes to become rich and the already-rich owners to reap even more profits.

Most professional ball players will give lip service to “not forgetting their roots” and “giving back to the fans”. But as their careers skyrocket and seasons progress it becomes easier and easier for them to insulate themselves from the yearning masses who enable their lifestyle.

My son, Ryder, just turned 7. We started taking him to games 4 years ago, and it was 2 years ago that he started to become interested in the actual game and the individual men who play it. His rising interest coincided with the Giants’ “August of destiny” that saw them erase a 10 game deficit in the NL West and go on to win the World Series, turning him into a die-hard fan. He can recall with amazing accuracy plays, statistics and moments from games he heard on the radio.

You think you know Giants baseball? I dare you to put your knowledge of the game up against Ryder’s knowledge in his lifetime. How many men were on base when Renteria hit the home run to give the Giants the lead in game 5 of the world series? Who were they? What bases were they on? How many Giants pitchers have hit home runs in past 2 seasons? What was the count when Cain hit his last home run? How many men were on base? These are just a few of the random stats he has recalled on his own recently.

Ryder loves baseball and the players he follows on a regular basis. L-O-V-E-S. He can’t separate his passion from “the business of sports”, can’t temper his love for his favorite players with the ever-lurking threat of a trade.  In August of 2010, Ryder announced that he wanted “to meet Buster, or Timmy, or Panda.” So in 2011 we started trying to give him the chance to get autographs.

We managed to meet a few of the Giants, even one of his faves (Romo!) but it was the day that he met Nate Schierholtz that changed his life. Mr. Schierholtz was kind enough to come over to the fence that separates the players’ parking lot from the public after the last game of 2011 and sign autographs for the few kids who were hanging around out there. Not Timmy. Not Wilson. Not Buster. Not Cain. Not even the rookies, Belt or Crawford. We watched them all get in their cars and drive off.

Nate Schierholtz heard the plaintive cries of a young fan who wanted nothing more than a few seconds of his time, and responded by showing a generosity that illustrated his humanity and his connection to his own baseball roots. The business of baseball has treated Nate pretty well, even if he has to uproot and move to Philadelphia. Try explaining that to a 7-year old who is going to be heartbroken when he learns that one of his favorite players left town on 24-hours notice.

No, seriously: you tell my son that Nate Schierholtz just got sent packing. Because I don’t know if I can tell him why the business of baseball just broke his heart.

MCA Was With It, and He’s My Ace

Originally posted May 5th, 2012

The 1985 film “Krush Groove” features a 30-second clip of a bunch of skinny white boys belting out a rap song that could possibly feature the chorus, “She’s on it!” It was my first glimpse of the Beastie Boys, and I was captivated. I wanted to see more.

Later that year, Thrasher Magazine ran a short article about the Beastie Boys, a hardcore group out of New York that had switched to pure hip-hop and would be releasing their first album soon. I was thrilled. When I ran down to Tower Records (remember them?) to pick up my copy of “Licensed to Ill” I told the the clerk that I’d been waiting for this album. I had no idea how right I was.

My first introduction to hip-hop was hearing “The Rapper’s Delight” on Y-100 in Miami when it first aired. I loved hip-hop, but at the same time felt distanced from it. Growing up a white boy in a small town in Northern California, I had little in common with the stories being told by the likes of Kool Mo Dee, Grand Master Flash, or the Sugar Hill Gang. But I still loved ’em.

The Beastie Boys, however, bridged that gap. They were white! And if they could make rap music this damn good, then I could like *all* rap music and not feel like I was an outsider stealing my way into the show. And their shit was good. Dope, as we would learn to say.

I’m not talking “Fight For Your Right to Party” dope. I’m talking “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” dope. “She’s Crafty” dope. Sampling Led Zepplin, laying down their own electric guitar samples, witty, and totally fresh. The three Beasties managed to play off of each other as well as Run-DMC but with stories that were relevant to me.

Of the three, MCA was my clear-cut favorite. His voice was the throaty balance to Ad-Rock’s nasal whine and Mike D’s everyman tone. He got the lines I loved most, had the best voice of the crew, and looked like he was having the most fun without being a total MTV Spring Break douche (sorry, Ad-Rock). I instinctively sang his lines whenever I sang along with their albums – which was every time.

“Paul’s Boutique” came out when I was in college, and like any sequel I was simply hoping it wouldn’t suck. I was shocked when it sounded completely different from their first album, but fell in love instantly. If hip-hop is about sampling, “Paul’s Boutique” is the Bible, Koran and Torah of that technique all rolled into one album.

“Paul’s Boutique” contains upward of 300 samples, all of them immediately accessible and relevant to the music I grew up with. Go back and listen to “High Plains Drifter” right now. Everything from Hendrix to “Mr Big Stuff” to “Out of the car longhair!” It’s fucking brilliant.

I was floored then and I’m still in love with it now, 20 years later. It wasn’t the first time the Beastie’s would re-invent themselves between albums. The more musical albums of the 90’s led to my first chances to see them in concert, and remain staples of my rotation.

“Hello Nasty” came out in the middle of a particularly nasty breakup, and the first time I heard “Intergalactic” on Live 105 it practically saved my life…

The Beastie Boys were constantly a defining force in my life. I listened only to the Beastie Boys while warming up for wrestling matches. Every mix I made for spring break included at least 3 Beastie songs.

And through it all, MCA remained my man. Yesterday’s news that Adam Yauch had passed away hit hard. I don’t usually cry at news of strangers dying, but then again, he was hardly a stranger. MCA had held a place in my heart and home for over 27 years, and now I’ll never get a chance to thank him in person for all that he brought to the world.

Good travels, brother. Should you find yourself parched, I know a fly spot where they got the champagne.

An Open Letter to Cirque du Soleil re: TOTEM San Francisco

Dear Cirque du Soleil,

My wife and I have been attending Cirque shows for years – going back to before we met 10 years ago. When our son was 3 we started taking him to shows every year as well. He’s now 6, and our annual trip to Cirque has become the way we kick off the holidays. It has always been filled with wonder and magic, an experience well worth the price of admission. Until TOTEM.

TOTEM marked the first time we felt disappointed in a Cirque show. We attended the matinee SF performance this past Sunday (11/13/11), and once our son had gone to bed we said, for the first time, “Do you want to go back next year?” I’m sure you’re aware that your prices are expensive, and we wanted you to know that the product you’ve put out there this time around has us questioning to come back next time.

Some specifics: TOTEM was extremely focused on the center section of seats. Huge portions of the show played directly to the middle third. We were in section 104, Row B, seats 3 – 5, and we felt like 2nd class citizens through much of the show. The finale of the unicycles & bowls, for example, was completely blocked by the backs of the unicyclists.

The acts felt less engaging this year, as a whole. There were some amazing acts, as always, but there were real “filler” acts too; acts which felt beneath a Cirque du Soleil show, acts which felt like a rip off. Specifically: the Hoops Dancer act was cute once, but too much a 2nd time (and I’ll get into how often they dropped hoops later). The androgynous couple doing strength moves played directly to the center of the house, and never engaged our side of the tent.

There were lots of mistakes. I get it, the performers are human. But there were a *lot* of mistakes for one 2-hour show. The hoops act dropped a lot of hoops; a disheartening number of hoops. Devil Sticks dropped his stick at least once. One of the Russian Bars acrobats fell off of his bar on a landing early in the routine, and from there on out he seemed timid and played it safe.

The “story” of TOTEM was one of the weakest you’ve floated yet. It all seemed designed to set up the “evolution of man” bit – which was funny, but hardly the basis of a show.

For years we have loved your shows and blindly bought tickets knowing that our minds would be blown for the 2+ hours we were under that tent. We’ve never felt like we had a bad seat in the house, until Sunday.

This year we were constantly reminded that we hadn’t bought the best tickets, that we were watching flawed humans perform, and that you’ve been rolling out new shows every year for so long now that it’s taken its toll on your ability to put forth something new, fresh and amazing.

Next year we will read the reviews of your show before it comes to town, and we’ll take any negative reviews more seriously than we would have before we saw TOTEM. We know that your cast and crew work hard, but this seemed like a product beneath what we expect from you.



The One Candy Bar to Rule Them All

Originally posted November 1, 2011

In the 16 years I’ve lived in San Francisco I’ve never been in a “destination neighborhood” for Halloween trick or treating. Until now. Last night we ran out of candy not once, but twice. It was awesome.

Leading up to Halloween,  our neighbors warned us of “tons of kids” and “bags of candy gone in minutes.” We ignored their warnings like a diabetic with a plastic pumpkin full of booty, and settled for just a few pounds of candy.

My son’s Halloween Haul. Note the huge bar; every other kid in town did.

We were overrun. Swamped. Slammed. It was awesome. We ran out of candy in under 30 minutes, got some candy from a generous neighbor who understands actual planning versus the pathetic excuse for planning that passes in our household, and ran out of that. It got so bad at one point that I resorted to holding up a piece of candy for kids to see, shoving it into their bag and shouting “Happy Halloween!” while I palmed the candy back out so I could “give” it to another kid.

Part of me wants to believe that our neighborhood is so popular with trick-or-treaters because there are so many families in the ‘hood. Part of me wants to believe that it is because we are close to a school, and lots of families want to be close to school on such an awesome night of fun.

The rest of me knows that our street is really popular because of Uncle Ceasar, our neighbor who lives at the end of our cul de sac. Ceasar and his partner are great neighbors. They always say hi to the kids, and are always giving all of the kids on our block gifts for the major holidays. Three days after Easter Ceasar tracked down our son to give him the foot-tall chocolate Easter Bunny he’d been holding on to for him.

On Halloween, Ceasar and his partner give out Hershey’s Giant Bar candy bars. Nearly a half-pound of hallelujah! for hungry little ninjas, princesses and pirates. Kids who had been here before would rush through all of the houses on our block, just itching to get down the street to Ceasar’s. Screams of, “He’s back! He’s doing it again! He’s giving out the big bars!” echoed up and down the block until he ran out candy (long after we did, I might add).

Ceasar isn’t just Legendary in San Francisco, he’s become Mythological. Urban Mythological, even. When we tell people where we live, those who know say, “Oh, you live by the guy who gives out the huge candy bars!” and then they launch into some story that has nothing to do with reality, but is extremely entertaining. Some of my favorites:

“I heard he wasn’t going to hand out candy bars this year because he moved.”

“I heard he wasn’t going to hand out candy bars this year because he and his partner broke up.”

“I heard he wasn’t going to hand out candy bars this year because he went bankrupt.”

I plan to collect these in greater detail leading up to next year. Until then, I hail Ceasar for making our little neck of the woods that much more awesome each and every Halloween.

Sutro Tower Pumpkin Stencil for Halloween

Originally posted October 31, 2011

In our house, we loves us the Sutro Tower. So much so that this year my wife decided to create a stencil to use for one of our Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns.

Actually, the conversation went more like this:

Me: I’ll happily carve a Sutro Tower pumpkin for you, just go download a stencil and print it out.

She: Ok, is your computer on?…Jesus Christ, there are NO Sutro Tower stencils out there. C’mon people, you’d think that some Mission Hipster would have spray-painted this image somewhere in the past 20 years.

And so she set out to creating her own stencil, which turned out to be pretty cool, if I do say so myself. All you’ll need to create your own iconic pumpkin is a printer, exacto knife, pen that draws on pumpkins, and a fine-toothed pumpkin carving tool.

Or, in other words, one of those pumpkin carving kits they sell at Walgreen’s for $4.95. 

Once we printed out the stencil we fine-tuned it a little by drawing it bigger on the pumpkin. That should be easy enough for you to figure out and run with. Start by clicking on the image at right, printing, and getting rolling.

And if you do create a Sutro Tower Pumpkin, do me a favor and post a link to it below or email me a photo of it. I’d love to see it.

Dead Space 2 Pumpkin Stencil

Originally posted October 30, 2011

Just five short years ago I used to scoff at people who used stencils and fancy tools to create their Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Then I bought a little kit from Walgreen’s to see what the fuss was about. That same year my friend Arsenio introduced me to Zombie Pumpkin’s vast array of incredible stencils, and I’ve been on a carving bender ever since.

Isaac Clarke, ready to dismember some space zombies

This year I decided to create my own stencil for once. Opting to stay close to what I know and love best, I created a pumpkin stencil of Isaac Clarke’s helmet from the cover of Dead Space 2. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but the stencil I came up with in Photoshop was good enough to want to share. Just click on the image at right, size it to print full-page on an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, and you’re off and carving.

You’ll need a printer, an Exacto knife, some tape, a pumpkin, a pen that will draw on pumpkins but can be erased (like the ones that come in the pumpkin carving kits), a fine-toothed carving knife and a solid hour of time to create this.

Click on the image for the full-size version

Print out the stencil and cut out the black areas with an Exacto knife. You can err on the side of caution by cutting out gaps bigger than the printed images. You should also trim your stencil down so that you can tape it to your pumpkin.

Start carving the pumpkin on the 3 horizontal rows of the face mask. You’ll need to work slowly to make sure you don’t accidentally tear loose the whole face plate. From there, it’s a straight shot to ensuring that no Mesomorph will make it to your front door come Halloween night.

If you do use this stencil and create a pumpkin, hit me with a photo. I’d love to see how you make it better!