Quin's Progress


8 Comments

It’s A Small World, Bilches, And I’m Off To See It!

In anticipation of my world tour departure, I wanted to get you a little something special to remember me by; something that you could think of once in a while, and maybe laugh a quiet little private laugh to yourself that would be too much trouble to explain to anyone who asked what was so funny.  So, I went to peruse the wide and varied options on Fiverr.

Do you know about Fiverr?  Fiverr is an online marketplace, where folks all over the world offer up all manner of goods or services for the whopping asking price of $5.  Everything on Fiverr is five dollars—no more, no less.  Hence the name.  Most of it is kind of stupid, but some of it is good, and some of it is just plain hilarious.  People offering serious things, like business plans, budgets, ad jingles, logo designs, weight loss menus or training plans, are clearly doing it as a loss leader, hoping that future business worth more than five bucks will follow.  Others are indulging hobbies, such as writing things on a piece of rice, or spelling out messages on a Scrabble board in stop-motion film.  Still others are just wackadoolery.  Those are my favorite.  I had an ad up on Fiverr for a while, offering to go hug the elderly relative of your choice, within 25 miles of San Francisco, for $5.  Nice, right?  Your Aunt Millicent is in a home in Colma, and you can’t get there for her 93rd birthday?  Fiverr to the rescue.  Half a sawbuck through Paypal, and Miz Quin is on her way to deliver the big, warm, squishy hug you can’t.  I even offered a “fragrance free” option, where I would promise not to wear perfume or the fruity, girly lotions I am so fond of, if there were scent-sitivities to be considered.  But, it proved impractical, because even though I was clear about the “elderly” part in the ad, apparently, that’s not as unambiguous as I had thought, and I kept getting requests from young guys trying to send me to hug their “cousins” or “uncles,” and Fernando was categorically unwilling to go along and be my bodyguard on hug patrol, so, yeah….  My Fiverr career died before it ever got off the ground, and everyone’s Bay Area old folks are now going unhugged, all because of some horny teenagers with nothing better to do than cruise Fiverr.  But I digress.  Back to your gift.

So, via Fiverr, I found this lovely gentleman– who calls himself “Crazzy Man”–operating in a small village somewhere in India, who, for the aforementioned five dollars, will put any message you want on a sign, and videotape himself dancing around with it in what looks like a faux grass or banana leaf skirt.  “Ooh, perfect,” I thought.  So, I sent him a request for such a video, and five dollars, and asked that the sign read “Quin says:  Ciao, Bitches!”  Saucy, but fun.  Just what I wanted.  Crazzy Man turned the order around fast; a day later, the following video was in my email inbox:

Seee-yowwww, Beeches!!  Awesome!  He really put his heart into that performance!  But, he left off the “Quin says” part, and I know there are a few of you, who shall remain nameless, who wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t just swiped this off YouTube from someone else and claimed to have commissioned it myself.  And I want the credit, fair and square.  So, I wrote to Crazzy, and said how much I loved the video, and it was so wonderful, and thanks so much, but please, could he do it again, and put “Quin says” on the sign.  Of course, I said I would pay another five dollars, no problem.  I said he could even write it on the other side of the same paper, and just flip it around.  “Okay,” says Crazzy, “no problem.”  Then, the next day, this video comes:

Well…not quite.  I mean, I love that the whole village is getting involved in my project, and the ladies are sure lovely, but now I have one video with the girls and the “Quin Says” sign, and another with Crazzy himself and the “Ciao, Bitches!” sign, and that doesn’t really solve my problem.  So, I wrote him back, thanked him profusely again, extolled the beauty of the women in the new video, praised their dancing and the fantastic sign, and then asked him to, pretty please, do it again—for another five dollars, of course—with BOTH signs.  I figured, since they had both signs made now, the third time would be the charm.  I can just picture them all sitting there in their village, saying “What does she want now, and why does she keep changing it?”  and “who else can we get in on the performance?”  But, to me, he just said okay, sure.  And then this video showed up a short time later:

So close!  Well, not exactly.  But, look how much work they put into this, with their little choreographed dance routine and everything.  How sweet are they?  Still, I actually wanted Mr. Crazzy rockin’ out in his green manskirt, and I don’t know what “Bilches” are, but they sound painful and possibly contagious.  So, once again, I wrote back to Team Crazzy and gushed about how fabulous the video was, and how graceful the dancing was, and thanked them to the heavens for their helpfulness, etc., and then pointed out that “Bitches” was, unfortunately, spelled wrong, and would he please, with sugar on top, do it again, himself this time, and be careful to spell it right—for another $5, it goes without saying.  “Okay,” he said, still ever-helpful, but with somewhat less alacrity than before.  I could tell he was kinda over my shit by now.  Still, five more bucks is five more bucks, and that goes a lot farther in India than it does here, so a couple days later, Crazzy sends me this video:

Oh, sweet JesusMaryAndJoseph!  “Bictches?  Is he messing with me now?!”  No, I don’t think he was, actually.  I think they were probably just so careful to copy the letters just so this time after the preceding error, and they aren’t used to a Romanized alphabet, and to them, it probably looks exactly like what I wrote.  I laughed so hard when I opened this video that I almost fell off the couch, and my houseguest got out of bed and came out to the living room to see what was the matter.  Doesn’t it look like how you would spell that percussion flourish in the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off theme music?  You know, it goes:  “Ohhhhh yeahhhhhh, donk-donk, Bictchaaaahs.”  Okay, maybe not.  Anyway, this is the best I could do.  I just didn’t have the heart to go back and ask Crazzy Man and the Village People to do yet a fifth video dedicated to my attempt at a sassy sendoff message.

This is Woobie Frog

This is Woobie Frog

So, yeah, ciao, bilches bictches gentle friends!  As I write this, I am in seat 8B of United Airlines flight 893, one-way from San Francisco to Seoul, with my Woobie Frog tucked ever so supportively behind my neck.  I can hardly believe it.  bagsNot only has Day 1 of my grand adventure arrived, at last, but all my worldly belongings now fit into these three bags.  What have I done?  There are only four pairs of shoes in there, and only one of those pairs has high heels, and they aren’t even really all that high.  Breathe…breathe…okay, it’s fine.  Something had to go to make room for a year’s supply of contact lenses and thyroid pills.  I thought I was pretty Spartan in my packing, but one thing I’ve learned, is that all those cute miniature, travel sized gadgets and bottles of goop, when thrown together in one bag, are really frickin’ heavy.

I call this bag The Samurai

I call this bag The Samurai

I’m going to have to weed out some of the stuff I’ve packed here, or I’m going to fracture my Groove Thang schlepping all this crap around.  Also, it just dawned on me that I’m probably not going anywhere that doesn’t have shampoo and toothpaste already, and if I do, we’ll all have greasy hair and halitosis together, so….I don’t know what I was thinking.  I’m sure many adjustments will be made along the way as I figure things out.  Cross your fingers for me.

Those are my toes

Those are my toes

Speaking of sendoff messages, yesterday, I was walking down the street, preoccupied, running some last minute errands, trying to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything important, and I literally ran across this bit of street art on the sidewalk.  So apropos, it’s hard not to believe it was put there just for me, personally.  Let’s just say that it was.  Adios to you too, San Francisco.  I am taking my heart with me, but I’ll leave my pancreas or my spleen with you, just for safekeeping. That doesn’t make for nearly as romantic a song, though.  Perhaps an interpretive dance would be more fitting.  Maybe we can get Crazzy Man and his village to work on it for us.  For another five bucks, of course.


Leave a comment

Cocktail Kitsch

I have been back home in San Francisco for a week, getting ready to go to Korea tomorrow, and have been trying to cram into one week all the things I’ve been meaning to go do and see in San Francisco for the last 20 years.  I’m not sure I made it, but I had some fun trying.  A lot of it was cocktail related.

The Lagoon at the Tonga Room.  It actually rains!

The Lagoon at the Tonga Room. It actually rains!

My third Mai Tai

My third Mai Tai

I finally made it to the Tonga Room, at the Fairmont.  It’s a tiki wonderland!  You don’t go for the food, trust me.  You go for the faux rainstorms and lightening over the lagoon in the middle of the dining room, the swashbuckling decor, and the southern fried Don Ho house band that cranks out 80s tunes on a moving barge in the pool festooned with tiki  thatch.  The house cocktail is a Mai Tai, served in a coconut with an umbrella, so I had to have…three. It’s a bit of San Franciscana that has to be experienced at least once, kind of like Beach Blanket Babylon.

IMG_3874

Tilt-a-Whirl table!

Tilt-a-Whirl table!

But, I think, the award this week has to go to Straw, on Octavia.  Carnival themed fare!  Not Carnivale, like in Rio, but carnival, as in carnies and side shows.  There’s even a Tilt-a-Whirl car made into a table in the corner, for lovebirds who don’t mind canoodling while consuming their corndogs.

IMG_3882IMG_3884Oh yes, there are corndogs.  Mini corndogs, in fact, served on a Wooly Willy plate, with a trio of dipping sauces.  Nothing poncey, mind you, it’s liquid nacho cheese, ranch, or mayo and sriracha (which I think is the most genius dipping sauce since Ranch dressing made its debut).

Yes, I ordered it.  Don't judge.

Yes, I ordered it. Don’t judge.

They also serve their burger, The Ringmaster, on a house-made donut bun, which is just…cheeky.

IMG_3889Their cocktails were carnival themed, as well, which was all kinds of fun.  Fernando had a Coney Island lager, that had a scary clown face on the label, but my drink took the funnel cake.  It was a cotton candy cocktail — check it out!

How much fun is that?  It’s made with sparkling something and house made cotton candy, so the flavor and color is different depending on the day.  The day I was there, the finished product looked like carbonated Windex, but it was pretty tasty, and went straight to my head, like a good cocktail should.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

My contribution.  That's me in an airplane.  You can tell by the boobs.

My contribution. That’s me in an airplane. You can tell by the boobs.

I really loved their dessert menus.  Not for what the offerings were, oddly enough, although they were fine, and included funnel cakes, of course.  But because they were little slam journals, served with crayons, that guests are encouraged to doodle in.

Out of all of the technicolor unicorns, and crayon sketches of various girlfriend’s faces, for some reason, this entry cracked us up.  IMG_3902Poor boring John.  But, you know me, a challenge is a challenge…. Did I call poor boring John?  After that cotton candy cocktail hit my bloodstream, you bet I did.

Oh yes, I did.

Oh yes, I did.

And it was boring, because he never even answered the phone.  But, you have the number now, you could try….


8 Comments

Apparently, I’ve Been Dead For About A Week Now

Last Tuesday, I had an appointment downtown, and as usual, I was running a bit late.  As I inwardly berated myself for, yet again, not allowing for the typical traffic congestion and search for parking in my calculation of how long I needed to get somewhere, I spied a car leaving a plum parking spot right in front of the door of the building I was going to.  Score!  Saved from tardiness!  I snagged the spot, and didn’t think much of it beyond that.

Then, it happened again the next day when I went to the dentist.  Parking right in front of the front door.  Hmm.  “My parking karma is pretty good at the moment, I guess,” is all I thought.  But, when it happened several more times after that, I got suspicious.  This just does not happen in San Francisco.  Anywhere in the Bay Area, really, but especially not San Francisco.  And we’re not talking out in the outer Avenues by the beach.  No, this was in SoMa, the Castro, the Mission, Valencia Corridor….and three times in a row in North Beach.  Places where there’s never any parking.  San Francisco locals, back me up here.  This was unprecedented and peculiar.

I got to thinking…did I die, and heaven is just San Francisco with easy parking?  Am I dead, and no one told me?  I threw this question out to my Facebook friends, and my friend Juan offered the most practical solution to the puzzle:  “go see if the line outside Tacolicious still goes around the block, and then go see if it takes 20 minutes or more to get a coffee at Ritual.  If you can say yes to either of these things, you’re still among us.”  Anyone who lives in SF can testify, the purgatory of waiting at those places is just an accepted part of our earthly reality.  So, I conducted Juan’s experiment, and here’s what happened:

Tacolicious

Tacolicious

Tacolicious:  No line at all.  Walked right in, no waiting.  AND, I got a parking spot right out front.  Another one.

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual Coffee Roasters

Ritual:  Another parking spot right in front, no line, and got my latte and a pastry in four minutes flat.

To top it off, last night, at just before 8 p.m. on a Friday night, walked in and immediately got a table at Mandalay–another spot where a wriggling throng of people waiting to get in is ever-present, especially on a Friday night.  Oh, and although the parking spot wasn’t right in front of the door that time, it was less than half a block away.  That’s still pretty heavenly by SF standards.

So, yeah.  I’m clearly deceased.  And so far, I have to say, I’m rather enjoying death.

Anyway, this all got me to thinking about a conversation Fernando and I had while we were in Hawai’i last October.  We were drinking Mai Tais on the terrace of this place across from the garden in front of the zoo at the ass end of Waikiki Beach.  Across the street in the park, some laborers were throwing big, dead palm tree branches into a chipper, which was forcefully blasting the ground palm branch pulp into the back of a garbage truck for disposal.

Fernando fantasizing about putting my corpse into a chipper

Fernando fantasizing about putting my corpse into a chipper

Fernando watched them quietly, sipped his drink, and then said quite matter of factly: “When you die, I’m going to put your body into one of those things.”  The elderly couple sitting close enough to us to hear this pronouncement gasped in horror, but I laughed.  By now, I’m used to Fernando’s humor, as well as the fact that he starts fantasizing about my demise after we’ve been together for more than 24 uninterrupted hours.  I just told him to make sure and point the chipper spout out to sea, and blast me into the ocean, instead of into a garbage truck, and that would be fine with me.  (This conversation, aided by the additional ensuing Mai Tais, also lead to me ask him how he would kill me if he was ever going to, to which he replied without hesitation, in that picante Peruvian accent of his:  “Don’t be ridiculous, I would never kill you….I would hire someone.”  I still can’t decide if that’s kind of sweet or unforgivably impersonal.)  But, now that it seems I might actually be potentially dead, I realize I don’t really want to be put through a chipper.

Survivor Season 24 stole my coconut slingshot idea

Survivor Season 24 stole my coconut slingshot idea

Several years ago, some friends took me out to celebrate my birthday, and for some reason, we all ended up planning our fantasy funerals over dinner.  It wasn’t as sad and bleak as it sounds, there were margaritas and tequila shots involved.  So, my fantasy funeral involves having my cremated ashes placed into hollowed out coconuts, and then all my friends and family will gather on the Golden Gate Bridge, launch the ash-filled coconuts into the air over the water with big sling shots, and then skeet shoot them, so that the coconuts explode and my ashes sprinkle over the San Francisco Bay.  Come on, you’d go to that funeral, right?  I thought so.  So, that’s my fantasy; my Plan A, if you will.  But, this being San Francisco, I can imagine the permits necessary for that kind of send off might be prohibitive, so I figured I’d better come up with a more realistic Plan B.  I did some research, and there are some super interesting options, at least, for those of us who wish to be cremated:

  • The Neptune Society is building a huge, beautiful eco-reef off the coast of Florida, into which you can have your “cremains” placed, with a marker, and let your family scuba down to visit you.  I like this idea.  I love to dive, plus I think Dale would be right at home there.  A company called Eternal Reefs has also established several ocean reefs, where you can be part of the circle of marine life, but they aren’t as pretty and cinematic as the Neptune Society’s:
  • h001You can have yourself turned into an hourglass:  http://www.inthelighturns.com/hourglass-urns.html.  This seems appropriate for board game enthusiasts, or Days of Our Lives fans.  I would worry that one of my knuckle bones wouldn’t get fully ashified, though, and would get stuck in the neck of the hourglass.  So, not for me.
  • You can be shot out into space and placed in orbit on a satellite:  http://www.memorialspaceflights.com/.  Surprisingly cost effective, actually.  If they throw in a looped soundtrack to Major Tom, I’d seriously consider it.
  • You can have your ashes compressed until they form diamonds, and make jewelry out of them:  http://www.lifegem.com/.  Well…not actual diamonds, but “memorial gems.”  It’s a nice idea, but if you think about it, is it really a good idea to have a necklace that is that important?  What if you lost it?  Plus, I don’t want to end up at the bottom of someone’s jewelry box, or bedazzling someone’s nose ring.  And knowing my friends, someone would turn me into a special occasion cock ring.  Actually, that would be funny.
  • You can have your ashes made into a personalized frisbee:  http://www.discgolf.com/disc-golf-discs/steady-ed-memorial-discs/.  I totally don’t get this one.  It seems to me, if you’re going to have Grandpa made into a frisbee, they could make some nicer ones.  These look like the kind they give away for free at conventions.
  • 01You can be blown into a piece of “art glass”:  http://www.memoryglass.com/.  Yeah.  You know how every group of friends has that one person who takes up “jewelry design” with glass beads as part of their midlife crisis?  I have a feeling that’s how this got started.  Please, Fernando, don’t have me made into a paperweight.  No one would dust me.
  • You can have your ashes painted into a painting:  http://www.memorials.com/art-in-ashes.php.  I love this idea.  Especially, if they could do me as one of those portraits whose eyes follow you when you walk across the room.  That would be awesome!
  • You can be stuffed into a teddy bear:  http://www.huggableurns.com/gallery.htm.  For those who want to haunt their kids or grandkids, and watch them freak the fuck out when the dog rips the teddy apart and spreads the insides all over the house.
  • This was my first record, ever.  I still know the words to every song on there.

    This was my first record, ever. I still know the words to every song on there.

    For those of us who remember vinyl LPs, you can have your ashes pressed into a vinyl record, with a recording of your last message, a song, or just the sound of your ashes crackling and popping:  http://www.andvinyly.com/.  They press enough discs to give out to your funeral guests as gifts to remember you by.  If I did this, I would want the recording to be of K-Tel’s Music Express, which was my very first, and very favorite record of all time.  I even made up a special dance routine for the song “Get Dancin'” by Disco Tex and the Sex-o-Lettes, that I still secretly do sometimes.  People could do the dance at my funeral.

  • You can ascend to the heavens in a helium balloon:  http://www.eternalascent.com/photogallery/miscellaneous.html.  This is kind of nice.  They put a cupful of your ashes into a big balloon (you can choose red, yellow, blue or green), fill it with helium, and then….let it go.  The balloon is sturdy enough, and has enough helium in it, to float up about five miles, where it freezes and shatters, and scatters you into the atmosphere.  You could make some beautiful sunsets.sg_firework
  • You can have your ashes put into fireworks, and shoot them off into the night sky!  http://www.heavensabovefireworks.com/.  Talk about going out with a bang!  You can have a big professional fireworks display like the kind you see at the holidays or after ballgames, or you can do smaller rockets for funeral guests to fire off themselves from a beach or something, for a more intimate send off.  I think this one might be my favorite.  For one thing, I’d get to have my funeral at night, and you all know I’m a night owl.  Also, it would create the proper atmosphere for serving corndogs, which is a must.  And it’s really not that far off of my Plan A with the coconuts; same kind of explosive idea, just less interactive.

There are so many choices, I can’t decide which one should be my Plan B!  Tell me what you think.  You can vote for up to three options, or tell me a new idea in the comments!

Shout out to Confessions of a Funeral Director for doing the leg work on the research!


2 Comments

Quinderella, You Shall Go To The Balls!

I was walking home from BART one day last week, and I saw this hilarious announcement in the window of Mr. Pollo on Mission Street:Mr Pollo

Of course, because I am irretrievably juvenile, I immediately thought of this:

But, after that, I remembered the sage words of Carrie Bradshaw in that episode of Sex and the City, where Carrie is trying to convince Samantha to go to Connecticut to crazy Laney Berlin’s baby shower:  “If  you’re driving down the road, and you see a sign that says ‘Two-Headed Snake,’ you pull over!”  I figure, a four course testicle tasting menu pretty much qualifies as the culinary equivalent of a two-headed snake, so I got my phone out right then and made a reservation.  (This mindset is also how I ended up taking fire-eating/breathing lessons, but that’s a story for another post.)

Chef Jonny Becklund and his fabulous gay cowboy apron. I couldn't get the sassy fringe on the bottom hem in the shot, but trust me, it really made the ensemble.

Chef Jonny Becklund and his fabulous cowboy apron.
I couldn’t get the sassy fringe on the bottom hem in the shot, but trust me, it really made the ensemble.

Best seat in the house

Best seat in the house

So, on the day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA and Prop 8, when Mr. Pollo’s rock star chef, Jonny Becklund, busted out his teste-centric celebratory menu, I had a VIP seat, front and center.  I can’t say I’d ever eaten Rocky Mountain oysters, Prairie Oysters, Bull Berries, or whatever you want to call them, before.  I’ve eaten grasshoppers, ant larvae, all manner of organ meats, and something unidentifiable that was dug out of a hole in the ground with a stick in India, but never testicles.  It wasn’t really on my bucket list, either, I must say.  But, I went with an open mind, and Becklund’s sense of humor, as much as his cooking, really won me over.  Gentle friends, I can honestly report, Becklund’s balls were delicious!

Yes, that's a tea bag in the soup.   Not just for comic effect, either; it really gave the broth a lovely, lemony touch

Yes, that’s a tea bag in the soup.
Not just for comic effect, either; it really gave the broth a lovely, lemony touch

The first course–and my introduction to testicle cuisine–was what Becklund called a “Ball Matzo Ball Soup,” with ground bull teste meat in the matzo ball and a lemon tea bag steeping in the broth.  That’s right.  Tea baggin‘ broth with testicle meat balls.  I could tell this was going to be a humor-filled menu.  I had a seat at the counter, and got to chat with the chef as he prepared each course.  When I laughed at the tea bag flourish, he explained, with an impish smile, that it wasn’t just for comic effect; the lemony tea bag also gave the perfectly seasoned, light broth a sort of pho-like quality that was really surprising.

The ever-so-helpful server, Will, giving advice on what wines go best with balls.  Turns out, it's dry white wine. Now you know.

The ever-so-helpful server, Will, giving advice on what wines go best with balls.  Turns out, it’s dry white wine.
Now you know.

As for the Ball-Ball, well…it wasn’t bad.  I was worried about what the texture of testes might be like (I’m big on textures), but the meat was ground up in the matzo mix, so I couldn’t really tell.  The ball was dense, like you would expect from a matzo ball, and had a vague sort of organ meaty note that might have bothered me if I didn’t know what it was.  But, since I did, I was able to process it just fine.  You know what I mean?  Like, if you think you’re about to drink milk, but you actually take a swig of Diet Coke, it tastes ghastly, but if you know it’s Diet Coke before it goes in, it’s fine.  Kind of like that.  But really, the broth was what made the dish.  Very nice.

This, gentle friends, is a testicle pizza

This, gentle friends, is a testicle pizza

To follow the soup, Becklund made a love child between an arepa (which Mr. Pollo is known for) and a pizzetta–a pizzepa?  I dunno.  But it was good.  I watched him hand press out the little arepa crusts and cook them on the griddle; he’s an arepa makin’ machine.  Then he topped them with sautéed chopped testicle meat, mushrooms, some cheese, threw them under the broiler, and then served them garnished with sam-ball (har har, get it?) oelek chili aioli and arugula (an inside joke, Becklund said, between him and Will, the server, because suddenly, in SF, every chef in town is topping pizza with arugula).  So, this super-fragrant dish had the testicle meat in pretty much it original state, but for the chopping.  I didn’t hate it.  Kinda reminded me of Vienna Sausages.  The combination of flavors and the spices on this one made it my favorite of the four courses.

I could hardly stop laughing long enough to eat it!

I could hardly stop laughing long enough to eat it!

The humor of the main course was less subtle than that of the soup.  Foreplay was over by that point, and Becklund was gettin’ down!  Crispy fried balls, unapologetically perched atop grilled zucchini, resting on a bed of arguably the most perfectly executed grits west of N’awlins, and garnished with alfalfa sprout pubes.  I know…gross, but funny!

Oh, that Chef Jonny is cheeky monkey

Oh, that Chef Jonny is cheeky monkey!

I was a little disturbed by the angry red sauce drizzle.  Not sure what kind of nightmare inspired that.  I would have gone with a buttermilk sauce, I think.  When asked, Becklund told me he was trying to put a Buffalo hot sauce flavor in there, so it wasn’t an aesthetically chosen ingredient.  And the flavor was a nice addition.

The Happy Ending

The Happy Ending

What would a family jewel themed menu be without a phallic happy ending?  Well, fortunately, I’ll never know, because dessert came in the form of a semi-frozen chocolate banana.  Why only semi-frozen?  Because Chef Becklund likes them that way.  The fully frozen ones hurt his teeth, he said.  I have to agree, I have to gum the frozen solid ones to a pulp before I can bite through them, so I was pleased these were still sort of soft.  The chocolate mantle was lovely and dark and bittersweet, with a delicate whisper of an orange blossom infusion that lightly hit you right in the back of the throat, just like a surprise of that kind should.  (Dad, if you’re reading this, please don’t infer too much from that last statement.)  The whole kaboodle was then rolled in cracked malt balls (“because, ya gotta get balls in there somewhere,” Chef Becklund said), and treated to a drizzle of a perfect caramel sauce and a pixie dust sprinkling of espresso salt.  (He let me smell the jar of espresso salt, and it was really deliciously smoky and…um…espresso-y.)  All in all, the perfect way to finish off this truly memorable fertility rite of a meal.

Blink, and you might miss it

Blink, and you might miss it.  It’s right across from 24th Street & Mission BART Station.

I asked Chef Becklund how many balls he had to buy to make this special, two-seating, event.  Seventeen pounds worth, was the answer.  All beef, because he had a hard time locating any other kind from local purveyors.  If you want testicles from other species, you have to have them shipped up from L.A., apparently.  So, given Mr. Pollo’s diminutive size–three seats at the counter, and four dinky tables–and only two sold out seatings, that calculates to a half pound of testes per person, or, about one full-sized bull ball each.  I think that’s enough, don’t you?  I just hope it doesn’t cause me to grow chest hair or give me road rage or something.  I’ll keep you posted.

Mr. Pollo's interior is bedecked with the work of local artists, friends of Chef Becklund

Mr. Pollo’s tiny interior is bedecked with the work of local artist friends of Chef Becklund

In the meantime, if you are in the neighborhood, Becklund does a different, non-testicle-based four course menu at Mr. Pollo every day for only $20.  You can’t beat that.  But get there early, or you won’t get in.  I’m telling you, this boy can cook.  I know there has been some dreary Mission District hipster drama about the changing of the guard at Mr. Pollo, when Becklund took the helm at the beginning of this year, but I can’t be bothered with all of that.  All I care about is the food, and Becklund really turns it out.  Plus, he’s a hoot and a half to chat with while he’s working.  He has “foie gras” tattooed across his knuckles (as well as a neck tattoo of someone I think might be Edward R. Murrow), and literally threw a guy out of the restaurant one night for asking him to make him a vegan arepa.  (No disrespect to the vegans out there, but come on, you don’t ask a chef with “foie gras” tattooed on his knuckles to make you a vegan anything.)  He pairs a wicked sense of humor and a white trash sensibility with a truly sophisticated palate and an artist’s creativity, and he really seems to have fun with his work.  It’s a beautiful thing.  I’ll definitely be back.


7 Comments

Korean Soap Operas Will Change Your Life

This is Chilwu

This is Chilwu

I have been addicted to Korean soap operas for years, since long before K-Pop mania started sweeping the world.  Ask anyone.  It all started one day when I was sitting on the floor folding laundry, and my TiVo went to change the channel to record something, but the receiver misread the signal and changed the channel to KBS, the Korean Broadcasting Something-or-other.  There was this weird show on that kind of looked like a Korean version of Xena: Warrior Princess.  I was too lazy to get off the floor to find the remote to change the channel, so I just watched it as I folded the laundry.  It was called “Chilwu the Mighty” or “Strongest Chilwu” depending on who’s translating, and it was…hilarious.  It was set in the 1600s, and Chilwu was this lowly civil servant guy who was a masked mercenary ninja dude by night.

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.05.21 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.05.35 PMIn that episode, three little girls paid him in rice cakes to kill a “monster”–that turned out to be an elephant–who had supposedly killed their father.  None of them, including Chilwu, had ever seen an elephant before, so they didn’t know what it was.  Turns out, some emperor in China had given the noble of this region the elephant as a gift, and because the nobleman didn’t know what to do with it, he gave the elephant a government job as a magistrate in this little town where the little girls were from.  (I know, right!?)Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.06.17 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.04.24 PMThe evil magistrate who got demoted to make room for the elephant was using the elephant to trick the townspeople into paying super high taxes–which they paid in bags of rice–because he said the elephant ate so much rice that everyone had to pay more to support it.  So, the poor townspeople were starving, having to give up all their rice to this elephant.  But, in actuality, the evil magistrate was taking the rice and selling it on at a profit that he pocketed, of course, unbeknownst to the townspeople.Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.07.16 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.07.25 PM

The beleaguered townspeople were, one by one, trying to kill the elephant to ease their tax burden, and allegedly getting killed by the elephant in the process.  Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.09.18 PMBut, it was the evil magistrate’s henchmen who were killing them with a big mallet made to look like an elephant foot, and blaming the poor innocent elephant in order to scare people into compliance.  Right.  So, fast forward to Chilwu’s entrance on the scene, and they discover that the elephant eats grass, not rice, and the scam was revealed.  Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 1.17.01 PMIn the ensuing ninja fight between Chilwu and the evil magistrate’s henchmen, Chilwu vanquished them, and the elephant broke loose and trampled the evil magistrate in a moment of perfect cinematic justice.

The Evil Magistrate, about to get it from the elephant

The Evil Magistrate, about to get it from the elephant

It was cheesy and silly and absolutely awesome.  I had to have more.  But KBS and TiVo had different schedule information, so I ended up having to record three to five hour blocks of KBS in order to capture an episode of Chilwu, and scanning through the recordings to find it.  Of course, this got me hooked on the shows that came on before and after Chilwu….and an addiction was born.

Smoosh!  Die evil magistrate!

Smoosh! Die evil magistrate!

KBS was just a gateway drug to dramafever.com, crunchyroll.com, dramacrazy.net….oh yes, the sources are many.  At any given time, I’m watching between three and five Korean serials.  I usually have at least one modern drama, a romance or romantic comedy, and a historical going, you know, so depending on my mood, there’s always something.  The production values are usually very high, the plot twists oh-so twisted, and the people are very pretty.  Plus, it’s low commitment, as most of them have only 20 or so episodes.  Some have a lot more, but most are around 20 or 30, so it’s not like American soaps, where, once you start watching, you’re on the hook for a lifetime.

One of the most fascinating things to me about watching Korean soaps, especially the ones set in modern times, is the background stuff that is just understood by the Korean audience, but is so odd and new to me.  I am constantly pestering my Korean friends with questions like: “why do Korean women eat rice in ice water for breakfast?” and “what’s with the Princess Leia towel hats Koreans wear at the sauna?”  It’s fascinating.  Some folks have no furniture in their bedrooms, and sleep on the floor; dainty, beautiful women talk unabashedly about how they poop and fart; single straight guys sleep in the same bed together without awkwardness; you always eat seaweed soup on your birthday; there are these red canvas tents on the sidewalk where people go to get drunk on soju; “side dishes” are more important in meals than the entree…oh, and the sauna!  Ahhhh…the sauna.  This is big.

The awesome Korean sauna towel hat

The awesome Korean sauna towel hat

Koreans love the “jimjilbang,” a.k.a. the sauna.  In almost every show I watch, if it’s set in modern times, people are always going to the sauna.  They go there to hang out with friends, to nap, to eat, to get massages, to sweat out a cold, to get their dead skin scrubbed off…it’s an integral part of their culture.  There’s even a talk show set in a sauna, and the hosts and all the guests wear “spa clothes,” i.e., shorts and t-shirts provided by the sauna, and the ubiquitous Korean sauna towel hat.  My friend Yvette is from Seoul, and her daughter showed me how to make the sauna hat.  It goes something like this:

Not one to be left out of the fun, I did my research and found a few Korean saunas here in the Bay Area.  Oh yes, we have them!  There’s one in San Francisco, one in San Leandro, and a couple in Santa Clara.  I personally don’t like the one in San Francisco, so I usually go to the one in San Leandro or, if I’m going with Yvette, we go to one in Santa Clara, which is probably the best one up here.  That one has a bunch of special sauna rooms, like a clay room, an ice room, and a salt room, where you dig yourself in to a thick layer of salt on the floor and bake like a salt-baked sea bass until your pores open up and gush sweat like faucets.  Oh, so good!  It’s pretty no-frills, but oooohhh, do you feel good when you leave.  Although, I have to say, after my first time having a traditional Korean sauna scrub treatment, I practically needed crisis counseling.  It’s not for the faint of heart or the modest.  Leave your body issues at home.  Seriously.

The "treatment area" at the Korean sauna

The “treatment area” at the Korean sauna

After I got naked and got all pruney in the various steam rooms and hot and cold pools, a paunchy, middle-aged Korean woman in leopard print bra and panties came and hooked her claw-like fingers around my wrist, and dragged me to the “treatment area,” and threw me on what looked like a morgue table.  She then proceeded to douse me with a bucket of water, and start vigorously scrubbing me all over with a mitten that I swear to Madonna must have been made of sandpaper.  But that wasn’t the traumatic part, that actually felt pretty good.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how they get all up in your business with this scrub.  I’m not kidding, people, they go EVERYWHERE.  That little scrub lady threw my leg over her shoulder and scrubbed my bikini zone, practically sanded my nipples off, and flipped me over and scrubbed my ass (even between the cheeks)!  I was so shocked that I just started laughing, and she threw a towel over my face to quiet me down and kept scrubbing.  She scrubbed my earlobes, the tips of my toes, my armpits…basically, every centimeter of my body.  She then doused me with another bucket of water, and started over with a mitten of a finer gauge sandpaper.

These are the scrubber mitts they use at the sauna

These are the scrubber mitts they use at the sauna

Dead skin was flying off of me like sawdust off of a piece of timber being sent through a band saw.  It was gross and viscerally satisfying all at the same time.  Once she had given me the full Karen Silkwood treatment, she  grated up a cucumber and patted the pulp all over my face, and then yanked my head up to the top edge of the table and washed my hair like she was pounding laundry on a washboard in a creek.  Then she squirted hot soy milk all over me from a condiment bottle, and sent me to the shower to rinse off, before she slathered me with Kirkland brand baby oil, climbed on top of me and gave me a bone crushing massage with her elbows and knees.  When it was over, I was all red like I had a sunburn, a bit shaky from the violation/embarrassment, noodley from the massage/beating, and missing a weird mole that had been growing for a while on my collarbone.  I was also soft as a Swedish baby bunny’s bottom.  All over.  I couldn’t keep my hands off myself!  And the softness lasted for, like, three weeks!  Needless to say, I was hooked, and I’m a regular customer now.  I go every four weeks, without fail, to keep the barnacles away.  Oh, it feels so good!  I don’t even care about the Korean scrub ladies cackling away in Korean over my big ass; I know they’re talking about me, but I figure it’s their right.  If my job was to scrub dead skin off of people’s behinds, I bet I’d want to crack jokes about it, too, just to make it more bearable.

I didn't take this picture, but you get the idea

I didn’t take this picture, but you get the idea

Ooh, I almost forgot!  Some of the Korean saunas are open 24 hours, and you can even spend the night at those.  I noticed in a few of the Korean soaps I watch that people would sleep at the sauna when they went out of town, instead of getting a hotel.  You put your stuff in a locker, enjoy the sauna, have a meal in the cafe, watch tv in the common area, and then toss a mat on the heated floor in the sleeping area and sack out.  All for the regular price of admission to the sauna, which is nothing compared to even a cheap motel.  I asked Yvette if this really was common in Korea, and she said it is, and that there are a few Korean saunas in Los Angeles’ Koreatown that allow it.  “Shut up!” I said, “we are so going.”  So, last week, Yvette was going to L.A. to pick up her daughter from college anyway, so we drove down together and had ourselves a full blown Korean sauna slumber party.  We spent the first night at the Wi Spa, which is the one everyone knows and writes about–you see it mentioned in the L.A. Times on occasion.  It’s new and fancy and huge.  I didn’t like it.  The hot pools didn’t look that clean, and most of the people there were non-Asian, and didn’t seem to get the whole “peace and quiet and relaxation” concept, and were yapping away and on their cell phones and generally being obnoxious and inconsiderate to everyone around them.  Plus, the heated floor in the sleeping area was so hot that I was sweating buckets, and had to get up and go sleep on the floor in the ladies’ locker room.  It was not restful.  But the next night, we stayed at the smaller, less well known Grand Spa, which I liked a lot.  Super clean, nice facilities, comfy rest area, and they had little separate sleeping rooms that could accommodate only about five sleeping mats at the most, so we commandeered one for ourselves, and had more peace and quiet.  Although, this woman wandered into the room in the middle of the night and dragged off the extra mats in there, and yelled at us for bogarting them.  I guess we deserved that.  They had a little cafe, and a tv room, and I think I was the only non-Asian there, so it was really quiet and orderly.  It was nice.  I had a scrub and a massage, so they waived the entry fee, meaning my overnight stay cost nothing!  But, even if I had paid the entry fee, it would have only been $20 for the night.  You really can’t beat it.  The next morning, I was so excited when I woke up and heard this little old Korean lady talking on her cell phone, and I could understand what she was saying!  I thought “oh, my years of watching Korean soap operas have paid off, the language is finally sinking in!”  But, then I realized, she was speaking Spanish with a very heavy Korean accent.  That’s why I could understand her!  Oh well.

Blow-Your-Mind Dumplings at Myung In in K-Town L.A.

Blow-Your-Mind Dumplings at Myung In in K-Town L.A.

In between sauna sleepovers, we ate and shopped our way through Koreatown.  There are tons of little malls, with all sorts of shops and restaurants.  We had the most badass dumplings I’ve ever put in my mouth at Myung In Man Du, which I knew about from a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show.  The artist David Choe took Bourdain to this “man du” shop for dumplings, and now I know why.  Big and pillowy and fresh and perfectly seasoned, we ate shrimp dumplings and chicken dumplings and pork dumplings and red bean dumplings until we were stuffed like dumplings and about to pop.  (Choe also took Bourdain to Sizzler and made him meatball tacos from the buffet, which I thought was hilarious, but we didn’t do that.)

These should be sold as a set, don't you think?

These should be sold as a set, don’t you think?

IMG_2818

We went to the beauty supply and bought face masks, and the music store for karaoke practice music and K-Pop socks, and had our feet reflexologied, and went to the bakery and had fresh Korean red bean donuts, which are way better than they sound.

Patbingsu

Patbingsu

"Miss Coffee" in K-Town L.A.

“Miss Coffee” in K-Town L.A.

We ended the day at “Miss Coffee,” where we did not have coffee, but “patbingsu,” a Korean shaved ice dessert.  The house classic came with berries, bananas, chocolate sauce and the ever-present red bean paste over green tea flavored shaved ice, all served in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup.   No individual bowls, everyone just dug right in.  I must say, it was delicious!  Lighter than ice cream, but not as crystalline as a sno-cone.  I’m a fan.

I’ve had Korean friends for a long time, but until I expressed interest in their culture, they didn’t think to include me in all of the wacky, wonderful Korean rituals that are part of their daily world.  I never would have known to express any specific curiosity or interest had I not gotten addicted to Korean soap operas, as a result of being too lazy to get off my butt to get the remote that day I was folding laundry on the floor, and Chilwu ninja-chopped his way into my life.  So, thank you, Chilwu.  I am forever changed, and eternally grateful for it!  Kamsahamnida!


5 Comments

Bathtime Drama

I shoulda stayed in bed yesterday

I shoulda stayed in bed yesterday

Yesterday, I had a senior moment and accidentally overflowed my bathtub and flooded the bathroom, and caused a Niagara Falls of delicious lemony bubble bath foam to cascade down into the downstairs neighbor’s unit.  It wasn’t a shining moment.  By the time I got everything cleaned up, and made sure everything was okay downstairs, I seriously needed that bubble bath–for olfactory as well as nerve-related reasons–but alas, I didn’t have a dry towel left in the house.  So, I threw a load of soaked towels in the wash, poured myself a drink, and watched Bridget Jones’ Diary while I waited for the towels to be done.  When I finally was able to get in the tub, I couldn’t bear the sight of any more bubbles, so I opted for this vivid blue-green jasmine scented stuff, and a mystery face mask, both of which I found at the Nijiya Market in Japantown.

From the picture on the package, I figured the item on the left was a face mask, but the one on the right could be a closet dehumidifier, for all I know.

From the picture on the package, I figured the item on the left was a face mask, but the one on the right could be a closet dehumidifier, for all I know.

I love going there and buying something that I have no idea what it is, and bringing it home and figuring it out; is it food or furniture polish?  You never know until you try!  I have had some interesting trials and errors on these expeditions.  But, I figured this one was probably not food, given the color and scent, but you can’t ever be sure in that place, particularly since they tend to stock cleaning products, cat food and marmalade right next to each other on the same shelf.  Anyhoo, I’m pretty confident this one is actually a bath soak, but it could be carpet freshener, I don’t really know for sure.  But doesn’t it make pretty bath water?  So far, it hasn’t given me a rash, so I’m going with bath salt.  We shall see.  Cross your fingers.