Wednesday, October 24, 2007

BART Free for All (Part III)

The first order of business was to get something to eat. We were eager to sample the exotic cuisine that we might find. Perhaps we would find some local specialty we’d never heard of. The Pittsburg station sits atop the freeway, emptying out into a large parking lot that seemed to sweat tar in the heat. On foot, we quickly came to the conclusion that we faced limited food options. There was little by way of amenities to be seen. Grey streets flowed effortlessly to brown hills and distant dark water. It all melted together in the rippling waves of heat.

We walked out of the desolate lot, unsure of our direction, wondering what we were even doing in this hazy land. In the relatively cool shade of an overpass, cars raced by us on their blind approach to the freeway. We strode past food wrappers so old they’d become crunchy, traffic signs so used to being far from sight they seemed larger than life. The scorched earth sent burning tendrils through our shoes and to the bottoms of our feet. When we finally looked up from our contemplative stroll, we found respite. Golden arches glistened in the bright sun.

Bellies full of ground beef and processed cheese food, we gained a certain clarity on our position: we were in a strip mall like any other we’d already seen before. We could tell by the Chuck E. Cheese on the corner. There wasn’t much else to do but walk back to BART and try to rekindle the sense of adventure we’d started with. The simple feeling of movement will usually help to do that, but by the time we got back to the station, it was clear that the current stage of the journey was over. My friends would leave me at MacArthur to return to normal life.

I had no urge or need to do the same as them, so I continued on. I rode to Fremont, found myself another strip mall and a nice patch of grass on the median to lie down on, and smoked a cigarette. I couldn’t understand how I even knew this place was different from Pittsburg. More trees? Greener grass? Smaller parking lot? It didn’t matter; I was gone before I could think about it any more. I was exhausted. Sometimes the simple act of moving from one place to another, no matter how comfortable, can wear a person out. Perhaps it’s a holdover from when we had to get everywhere on foot.

I fell asleep on the train heading north. I woke up at Embarcadero, the first stop in San Francisco. I hadn’t planned on this, but I also hadn’t planned against it. Nothing had changed; I still had nothing better to do. Plus, the nap had refreshed me. There were new and strange people around. An old woman was yelling at a young couple insisting that they should be ashamed of themselves. I wished I had been awake to see why. I wanted the journey to continue and I knew how to make that happen: I’d go to the airport and find my way on to a plane. I was going to keep going.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

BART Free for All (Part II)

BART always had a magical quality for me. Maybe it's because the BART designers' vision of the future was very similar to that of a five-year-old kid. The stations are generally covered in tile, in various shapes, forms, and colors that reflect the different eras during which they were built. It's a quaint try at a beautiful public space in a country that's generally known for shunning such things. Lots of straight lines and symmetrically bumpy surfaces make for an aesthetically pleasing experience, wherever you may end up in the system.

My earliest memory of riding the system is from a field trip I took to San Francisco. There was a surge of energy among my classmates as we saw the train approaching, pushing an exhilarating block of air in front of it. I "got" to ride standing up, watching foreign places and people pass by. It felt like an adventure in my back yard. To this day, I still get some of this feeling when I ride.

The first order of business was to call up some friends. Only the closest of acquaintances could be trusted with such a mission.

"It's a Spare the Air day. Let's go somewhere on BART," I said into the phone.

My friend Sasha indicated that he also had nothing better to do, and agreed to come along. He did want to know, however, what the plan was.

"Let's go to Pittsburg. I've never been there before," I replied.

It was 95° in Berkeley. Having spent a lot of time in the Far East Bay already, I knew it would be at least 105° on the other side of the hills. I steeled myself and boarded the first BART train heading east.

At MacArthur I met up with Sasha and our other friend Mike. They were exactly the kind of guys you'd want to have along for a trip to a place as domestically exotic as Pittsburg. Ruddy-faced and Irish in every sense of the word, Mike has traveled much of the world with little more than a book bag and an outstretched thumb. Emotionally intense, Sasha is a loose cannon with a decidedly Russian flair for the dramatic.

We avoided the suffocating heat in our BART train's cool, A/C-blasted interior. Looking out at the parched grassy hills that mark the region, I put my hand to the window and felt an odd mixture of icy air combined with an almost animate warmth emanating from outside.

Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, and Concord whizzed by. Then, we passed the limits of the area that was familiar to me and entered the unknown. The heat was still rising, and I almost dreaded leaving the luxurious car. Soon the Delta appeared to our left, and we saw the Orwellian landscape that marks that area. Gigantic refineries and inexplicably complex industrial machinery dotted the landscape; everything outside looked faded and brown, and spaced impossibly far apart. We had arrived in Pittsburg.

To be continued...

Monday, October 15, 2007

BART Free for All (Part I)

It was a summer day, one of the very hottest of the year. I think it was mid-July, during a heat wave that people still recount. I had very little to do. I was living in a student coop north of the UC Berkeley campus. It was hot and stuffy in my spacious but, shall we say, “alternative” room. The walls were all painted different colors, adorned with the remnants of previous residents’ artistic endeavors. There was an inexplicably placed sink in the corner, by my bed.

I decided to take a walk downtown, as I was prone to do at the time, when I had nothing better to do. When I approached the Downtown Berkeley BART station, which looks like an unfinished circular scaffolding, I immediately realized that this was not going to be an ordinary walk. As was the case the day before, it was a “Spare the Air” day. I could ride BART free of charge.

Now, let me explain something here: for those of you who may not be from the San Francisco Bay Area, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a rail system that runs throughout the Bay Area, linking far-flung communities that would otherwise have very little in common. Destinations as distinct as Fremont and San Francisco are connected by one solid rail line. In the more suburban or rural areas, the rail runs above ground; in other cities, it would probably be called the “El.” In San Francisco, and some of the more urban areas (like downtown Berkeley), BART runs underground, like a subway.

Explanations aside, BART is a very “futuristic” system. I put the word in quotes because it’s a vision of the future that dates back to the late 60s, perhaps the early 70s. The cars exude what must have been a distinctly modern design at the time they were built. Today, however, they give the impression of a run-down experiment, like something the Soviets must have toyed with during their glory days.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I had the system to myself. It was to be my playground for one short day. I knew this was my opportunity to better get to know that slice of the future from the past, and I wasn't going to miss it. The system's intricacies, hidden treasures, and many destinations were mine to find.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey, Check Out This Awesome New Show I Just Discovered Called The O.C.

So there’s this new show, I think it’s on FOX (I don’t really know because I’ve just been watching the DVDs; DVDs are really the only way to go) and it’s called The O.C. You should check it out, I think you’d really like it, because I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be one of those shows that everybody will be talking about. I have a really good feeling about this one.

OK, so how do I even start to describe it to you? Well, I think people are going to say that it’s like Beverly Hills 90210 (which was a show about high school kids that was pretty cool except for the fact that it was sooo 80s and people wore like hot pink and turqoise... gross) but it’s way cooler than that show because it’s set in Orange County (that’s where “O.C.” comes from) and not wherever that other show was supposed to take place.

At first I was skeptical about a show set in Orange County because I’ve been there and in real life it’s not that cool, I mean all that’s there is like Disneyland and the whole area looked pretty run down. But I guess they must be talking about another part of Orange County that’s really nice and filled with white people called Newport. That’s the name of the town everybody lives in.

The show is kinda centered around this one family, I forget their name right now, but there’s a mom and a dad and two sons. But the thing is one of the sons (Ryan) is like adopted because he was a bad kid back home (he’s from Chino). Him and his brother were in to stealing cars and they went to jail but Sandy (the dad) came and saved Ryan and took him in, but not his brother because he was a bad seed or something. I don’t know, I never saw the first episode but that’s what my friend who brought over the DVDs said.

Sandy is Jewish but he’s really cool. He’s got big eyebrows. The mom (I forget her name) isn’t Jewish, but they get along better than you might expect. But Sandy is a lawyer and he’s always fighting with the mom’s dad, Caleb, who’s this really rich and powerful guy. Seth is their real son, and he’s also Jewish and he’s really funny. This one time he had like two different girls after him and he didn’t know what to do and there was like a huge drama that came out of it. But he’s still funny. There’s lots of drama in the O.C.

And there’s this girl named Melissa or Marissa and she’s really hot but she has feelings too. Her mom, Julie Cooper is this huge mega-bitch, but after a while she grows on you. Ryan is always going after Melissa, or she’s going after him and they’re both hot so it works out pretty good, except for this one time when she became an alcoholic and Ryan wasn’t down for that because he came to the O.C. to get away from that sort of thing. He was like raised on the streets.

There was this one really dramatic scene where they get pulled over and she’s trashed and they come really close to getting caught by the police but don’t. Ryan got really pissed off and yelled and then got real quiet and almost whispered like he does sometimes; it was super dramatic.

That’s about it. I heard there’s a second season now, but I haven’t seen it yet. If you ask me, wait until it comes out on DVD. *Wink*

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Space Hoax!

A Scholarly Treatise on the Space Question

In all of Mankind’s storied history, no feat has been more admired, more uniting, or more ‘shit-in-my-mouth-and-call-it-chocolate-ice-cream’ than the so-called exploration of outer space, the ultimate achievement in global conspiracy. Not since McDonalds (a company that has not once, mind you, formed anything close to a hip hop dance crew) claimed to have "served" billions have the American people been so disenfrenchfriesed. That’s right, even the french fries are in on this one.

In the entire history of the worldwide space program, about 500 men and women have allegedly traveled beyond the limits of our planet. That’s 500 Tang-chugging, shuttle-shoving, backwards-counting rocket-jockeys telling the other 6 billion people on the planet about what lies beyond the limits of their atmosphere.

Some call it "science" (note that my use of quotes in no way implies that I am actually quoting anyone; they are, however, accompanied by sufficiently sarcastic animated "Air Quotes"). I would have to define it differently, and when I do, I will stress the power of the word by ending both this sentence and this paragraph with the very same afore-mentioned word itself (in bold, no less!): Fakery!

Are we to trust these prancing privileged pansies as they mince about on a blurry black and white TV screen with a starched American flag that’s about as stiff as the drinks they’re making backstage? Who are these people anyway? Have you ever met an astronaut? Didn’t think so.

That’s because they only associate with other astronauts. They go to astronaut restaurants, they only watch astronaut movies, and of course they hold memberships to those oh-so-exclusive astronaut country clubs. “Hey Buzzy, toss me another tall boy!” “Coming right up, Chad!” Ya, there would be some douchebag named Chad, all in his pink polo and yellow shorts, and he would totally call Buzz Aldrin "Buzzy." That’s their style. Pricks.

Perhaps you still aren’t convinced of the thinly-veiled atrocities that have occurred? Let me direct your attention to another tasty tidbit that the "rocket scientists" over at NAmby-pamby SAboteurs would prefer to keep under wraps. The Van Allen Belt is a band of high energy particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field. Radiation from these belts could kill any astronaut passing through. As can be seen in Figure 1, this belt surrounding the Earth would present a fiery, fast-paced, and generally rockin’ riff between Man and the Stars.

Unless the astronauts could somehow ‘Jump’ this ‘Panama’ canal of radiation at ‘The Top of the World [Cassette Single]’, the intense gamma-ray pummeling would have old Buzzy screaming “You Really Got Me!” at the top of his lungs. Nevertheless, the rules of rock guitar and hard rock in general would be forever changed.

So, if you are still going to put your trust in a group of people who get a kick out of shoving their rockets into moons, I only ask one thing of you. Consider this: people used to believe in the Holocaust too. Once people let themselves be stripped of independent thinking and follow the group mentality, it’s Berlin 1939 all over again. And nobody wants another Holocaust that never happened.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ode to Lambert

An Ode to Lambert

Gray and small
And oh so sweet,
Lambert’s presence
Was a furry treat

From her room he fashioned
His proud feline lair
And guests he welcomed
With a dewy stare

He scaled blue jeans
With a toothy smile
And meowed bloody murder
The whole damn while

His voice was raspy,
An endearing bleat
Yet he made no excuses
For this falsetto feat

When he shook his toush
It was too cute for words
As over his box,
He laid cute kitten turds

He wore a cashmere sweater
In a stunning azure
He stayed very warm
Of that, I am sure

Under covers he slept
With one eye open
Peeking out from beneath
His devotion unbroken

He hobbled and tripped
Through his tragically short life
But he never balked
At his bodily strife

We could all learn from Lambert
Some seemingly great lesson
But why not just remember
The cat’s genuine impression?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

BRATZ Ratz

Get ready for a cheesy good time with the all new BRATZ Ratz! They're decked out in the latest Ratz fashions and ready to take on those steamy sewer nights. Candi flaunts her ravishing rodent style with ratty-licious outfits and accessories. You can get Candi ready for the rat rave: pull on the pretty pink halter top and booty shorts. Don't forget the G-string; pull it up as far as you can! Glue on the stripper nails and lay the lipstick on thick… fucking disgusting! Your BRATZ Ratz will really put the "squeak" back in chic!


BRATZ Ratz:
  • Includes Ratz brush and comb set, for real delousing action!
  • Comes with rodent-sized "grill" for front teeth
  • BRATZ Ratz are real, living rats, but you'll make them wish they were dead!
  • Warning: Do not touch BRATZ Ratz… ever
  • Also available:
    • BRATZ Catz
    • BRATZ Dawgz
    • BRATZ Batz
    • BRATZ Roachez
    • All-new BRATZ Turdz (with Real Toilet Flava™)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Welcome

Monte Carlo. Fine espresso. High stakes and low-cut dresses. Fast cars, rare caviars and tucked-away bars.

Classy; sophisticated; iconic, yes. But take a moment to peel back the perfectly sun-bronzed exterior and you'll find an Alex you never expected. Like a frozen stick of butter, Alex is hard, but begs to be softened. He melts in your heart — and stays there.

The cake is free today, so eat it too. The world is your oyster; come get your pearl. Alex: pure inspiration, at the drop of a hat.

Bombast:

–noun
1. speech too pompous for an occasion; pretentious words.