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Posts Tagged ‘san francisco’

i want to be an emperor

I started reading You Suck, A Love Story on the way to California and just got around to finishing it yesterday. It was a good book and I probably would have read it quicker if I had the time. But it wasn’t a great book, so I didn’t make the time to get through it right away. Know what I mean?

The first Moore book I read was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. I thought it was one of the funniest, most original books I ever read and couldn’t wait to sink into the rest of Moore’s catalog. I picked up The Stupidest Angel and got miffed about 1/4 through that it was nowhere as well written or funny as Lamb. So I gave up on him.

I saw this book in Target right before the trip, remembered that a friend who has similar reading taste as mine recommended and decided to give Moore another whirl. Had I known then what I know now, I would have picked up Bloodsucking Fiends first, but oh well. Not the first time I’ve done things backwards.

When I bought the book, I had no idea that it took place in San Francisco, so it was nice that after we went to SF, I was able to visualize a lot of places in the story, and also recognize.

Anyhow, my quick (because I want to move on to something else) review goes like this: It’s an engaging story with engaging characters who, at times, become annoying and/or predictable. The plot is good, the development is good, the chapters written by psuedo-goth Abby make me want to stab my brain with a shard from a broken Bauhaus record, the writing is nowhere as good as it was in Lamb, the story was meandering at times but hey, I enjoyed the hell out of it and I’ll now read Bloodsucking Fiends and Dirty Job because not everything you read should have to be profound or meaningful. Although these books really could be meaningful in a “I know, let’s make a jacket out of UV light rays!” kind of way, should vampires (sorry, vampyres) ever try to take over your town.

Now, let’s talk about my favorite character in the book, the emperor. Being from the opposite coast, I had no idea that the emperor was based on a real person. I had never before heard of Joshua A. Norton, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico. According to wiki, Though he was considered insane or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco celebrated his regal presence and his proclamations….

After being schooled by Todd on the legend of Emperor Norton, I did some research and discovered that not only was Norton (and the two dogs the character had had in You Suck) real, but he’s been regaled by people like Mark Twain and Neil Gaiman, who both included characters based on Norton in stories. Long story short, Norton was a crazy bastard with some crazy ideas who managed, in the days long before public access tv and You Tube, to get those ideas not only heard, but celebrated. He became a much loved figure in the city and was given food and clothing befitting of a regal celebrity, and his proclamations were taken seriously by the citizens of San Francisco.

Now, I’ve known some crazy people in my life. People who roamed the streets calling themselves Jesus or lived in houses filled with magazine clippings and soda cans and claimed that they spent their evenings watching themselves on Phil Donahue, on a tv that hadn’t worked since 1972. I always figured I’d end up one of these people. I’d probably end up wearing fuzzy bunny slippers and a housecoat, running up and down the streets of my hometown talking about how everyone’s out to get me and often forgetting to feed my 78 stray cats that all live in my bathroom. Trust me, I was headed there for a while. I might still end up in the bunny slippers, but there’s no way I’m ending up a cat lady.

Anyhow, of all the crazy people I’ve come across they all had one thing in common: nobody took them seriously. Certainly they were never given uniforms by the US Army or had money made in their name that they could spend around town. But Emperor Norton had that. What made his brand of crazy so much better than anyone else’s? Whatever his secret was, I want to know.

Because I want to be an Emperor. Or Empress. I really don’t care which one you called me, as long as you took my proclamations seriously. Semi seriously, even. I think it would be pretty call to walk around town like you own it, to have people bow to you (well, figuratively), to have stories and operas written about you, even though you haven’t been sane since the turn of the century. It’s like being in a position of power, without all the responsibility. No one expects anything to come of your demands. No one expects you to pay for dinner or shower regularly or become a productive member of society. Yet, they still love you and pay homage to you. It’s a lazy megalomaniac’s dream job!

I’m not a megalomaniac by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying it would be nice to know that in my later years, when I’m running down that street in my housecoat ranting about the Great Cereal Conspiracy, no one will dare to make fun of my fuzzy bunny slippers. Because I am the Emperor of…something. Haven’t figured that out yet.

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i want to be emperor of something

i want to be an emperor

I started reading You Suck, A Love Story on the way to California and just got around to finishing it yesterday. It was a good book and I probably would have read it quicker if I had the time. But it wasn’t a great book, so I didn’t make the time to get through it right away. Know what I mean?

The first Moore book I read was Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. I thought it was one of the funniest, most original books I ever read and couldn’t wait to sink into the rest of Moore’s catalog. I picked up The Stupidest Angel and got miffed about 1/4 through that it was nowhere as well written or funny as Lamb. So I gave up on him.

I saw this book in Target right before the trip, remembered that a friend who has similar reading taste as mine recommended and decided to give Moore another whirl. Had I known then what I know now, I would have picked up Bloodsucking Fiends first, but oh well. Not the first time I’ve done things backwards.

When I bought the book, I had no idea that it took place in San Francisco, so it was nice that after we went to SF, I was able to visualize a lot of places in the story, and also recognize.

Anyhow, my quick (because I want to move on to something else) review goes like this: It’s an engaging story with engaging characters who, at times, become annoying and/or predictable. The plot is good, the development is good, the chapters written by psuedo-goth Abby make me want to stab my brain with a shard from a broken Bauhaus record, the writing is nowhere as good as it was in Lamb, the story was meandering at times but hey, I enjoyed the hell out of it and I’ll now read Bloodsucking Fiends and Dirty Job because not everything you read should have to be profound or meaningful. Although these books really could be meaningful in a “I know, let’s make a jacket out of UV light rays!” kind of way, should vampires (sorry, vampyres) ever try to take over your town.

Now, let’s talk about my favorite character in the book, the emperor. Being from the opposite coast, I had no idea that the emperor was based on a real person. I had never before heard of Joshua A. Norton, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico. According to wiki, Though he was considered insane or at least highly eccentric, the citizens of San Francisco celebrated his regal presence and his proclamations….

After being schooled by Todd on the legend of Emperor Norton, I did some research and discovered that not only was Norton (and the two dogs the character had had in You Suck) real, but he’s been regaled by people like Mark Twain and Neil Gaiman, who both included characters based on Norton in stories. Long story short, Norton was a crazy bastard with some crazy ideas who managed, in the days long before public access tv and You Tube, to get those ideas not only heard, but celebrated. He became a much loved figure in the city and was given food and clothing befitting of a regal celebrity, and his proclamations were taken seriously by the citizens of San Francisco.

Now, I’ve known some crazy people in my life. People who roamed the streets calling themselves Jesus or lived in houses filled with magazine clippings and soda cans and claimed that they spent their evenings watching themselves on Phil Donahue, on a tv that hadn’t worked since 1972. I always figured I’d end up one of these people. I’d probably end up wearing fuzzy bunny slippers and a housecoat, running up and down the streets of my hometown talking about how everyone’s out to get me and often forgetting to feed my 78 stray cats that all live in my bathroom. Trust me, I was headed there for a while. I might still end up in the bunny slippers, but there’s no way I’m ending up a cat lady.

Anyhow, of all the crazy people I’ve come across they all had one thing in common: nobody took them seriously. Certainly they were never given uniforms by the US Army or had money made in their name that they could spend around town. But Emperor Norton had that. What made his brand of crazy so much better than anyone else’s? Whatever his secret was, I want to know.

Because I want to be an Emperor. Or Empress. I really don’t care which one you called me, as long as you took my proclamations seriously. Semi seriously, even. I think it would be pretty call to walk around town like you own it, to have people bow to you (well, figuratively), to have stories and operas written about you, even though you haven’t been sane since the turn of the century. It’s like being in a position of power, without all the responsibility. No one expects anything to come of your demands. No one expects you to pay for dinner or shower regularly or become a productive member of society. Yet, they still love you and pay homage to you. It’s a lazy megalomaniac’s dream job!

I’m not a megalomaniac by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying it would be nice to know that in my later years, when I’m running down that street in my housecoat ranting about the Great Cereal Conspiracy, no one will dare to make fun of my fuzzy bunny slippers. Because I am the Emperor of…something. Haven’t figured that out yet.

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i will ask the chamber of commerce how to get to haight street

Day 79 of 365: a year in songs and photos

Song: Frank Zappa, Who Needs the Peace Corps?

(I think I got the numbers on these right, if not I’ll figure it out later)

I went through a hippie phase when I was a teenager. I was maybe 13 at the time, heavily influenced by Ken Kesey, the Grateful Dead and a bunch of other people who made getting stoned and complaining about The Man sound like a career choice. I wanted to tie dye all my clothes, put a flower in my hair and move to San Francisco. I’d find some communal living arrangement at Haight Ashbury, get high a lot, live a bohemian lifestyle and spread peace, love and happiness throughout the world. Youth is so cute in its naivety sometimes.

In the intervening years, I put down the bong, went to work for The Man and became a capitalist pig. But I still had this desire to see the promised land of Haight Ashbury for myself, just to set my 13-year old mind at ease and assure myself that I didn’t miss my calling as an aging hippie trying to keep the 60’s alive.

All these years later, I finally got there. And it turned out to be a dirty smudge on what was otherwise a pristine vacation. Sure, the hippie, flower-power, peace and love aura still pervades the area, but it seems like a facade to me. While the storefronts are filled with peace signs and groovy art, the place still smelled, metaphorically, like drug abuse and regret. Teenage panhandlers, 20somethings with a permanent glaze in their eyes, baby boomers still dressed for their Electric Kool Aid Acid Test all co-mingle in a depressing display of empty lives and emptier futures.

I watched an obviously strung out kid who couldn’t have been more than 16 play a trumpet for cash and the 13 year old Haight Ashbury wannabe in me took a last, shallow breath and died.

We walked up Haight to Amoeba Music, bought a great Von Bondies CD which became the soundtrack to the rest of our trip and tried to ignore the panhandlers and vagrants at McDonald’s while we grabbed some coffee for the trip back to Sacramento. Lovely as San Francisco had been, it was time to get out of there.

And I’m kind of glad the last breath of hippie in me disappeared. I don’t even know why I was holding on to it.

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