Monday, March 03, 2008

Concord, CA, There I Was

I visited my parents for four days this week and if you know me, live in the Bay Area, and I didn't call you, it's because I was getting over a lingering three-week bronchitis-like cold and was feeling guilt for moving away from my parents in the first place. That didn't stop me from experiencing the splendor of the East Bay in February--a time when it starts getting weirdly hot before March blows in and reminds us that it's not quite spring yet people, even in California.

Train Ride at Pixieland - Concord, CAWhat did I accomplish on this truncated visit? So very much, thank you for asking!

Firstly, on Friday, Sue Iconolodge fed me some delicious Trader Joe's hummus. I'm not about product placement, but I had been seriously craving hummus all week and this TJ hummus is not fooling around: you need it in your life. It's got some kind of oily pine nut crust on top--look for that. I visited with Sue's house-guest who's involved in some kind of polyamorous sect based in Marin County, or possibly San Francisco. I couldn't keep track of the people involved or the terminology. As we left for the night, I wished him well in his polymorphous pursuits, which sounded right at the time, though he called me on it immediately and I tried to cover my tracks by describing it as meaning sex with a tentacled person. I don't think he bought that

We headed off into the night, driving alongside the Bay during a polymorphously orange sunset. The water was all choppy and shiny and though the traffic was like driving through a bog, our spirits were high. Because we were heading towards a party at Takara Sake in Berkeley where free sushi and sake would be served from 6-8 p.m. Takara Sake is a big warehouse full of sake, a sake tasting room, and a sake museum featuring all kinds of fabulous 19th-century Japanese sake-making tools. Sue looked at the sake-making pictograms and noted, "They didn't tell us that FEET were involved."

We tasted sake that was flavored with apples, lychee nuts and good old unfiltered rice (milky and cold), plus the usual dry, heated variety, and none tasted of feet. Meanwhile, our friends in The Uptones mingled and were very low-key about the fact that the gathering was a party celebrating the release of their new CD, Skankin' Fools Unite! There was no live music and no visible CDs and they wouldn't play the actual CD. Therefore it was a great marketing coup for sake. Tiny plastic cups in hand, we stalked former Beserkeley Records CEO, Matthew Kaufman (now head of Fun Fun Fun Recordings) and asked if we could see and touch an actual CD. Whereupon he disappeared into a closet and retrieved a couple for us. Thank you Matthew.

You might remember The Uptones from 1981 when they first formed in high school in Berkeley. They were teen-age ska prodigies who grew up, created some new bands then re-formed again as The Uptones. With the three core originators in place plus five more (including a three-piece horn section), The Uptones are an awesome live experience. And the CD is really good with a mix of new and classic Uptones songs; the production is crisply excellent. All the early 80s ska touchstones are in place: rebellious attitude in a porkpie hat: check; celebration of the outlaw: check (Bonnie and Clyde); Jamaican/British 2-Tone influences intact: check (The Specials, The Selector, English Beat, etc.). I especially love "Not From Here"--its theme of alienation couched within an epic chord progression. It will make you do the twist and feel years younger.

Even my mom was really impressed. She loves the horns (note: my mom has good taste in music--especially dance music). So if you're looking for that blend of 50s Jamaican influence in an American punk-rock dance band--here you go.

Paul and Eric of the Uptones have a musical secret: they can play really bitchin' Rolling Stones-like riffs from the Exile on Main St. era. If they ever want to get that stuff recorded, I'm all for that.

Mt. Diablo from the airOn Saturday I talked my parents into driving us up to the top of Mt. Diablo. 3,840 feet of plate-tectonic-produced land mass, rising up behind their house. February/March is the perfect time to go because all the foothills are green. I mean GREEN--Ireland green. And the scrubby old Oaks don't have leaves and look all twisty and artistic. We could see quite a lot from the top , though there was a slight haze. On days after a wind storm, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond. We then headed to Rock City to climb on the very amazing sandstone wind caves. If you are ever in a state park and you pass a sign that says "Rock City," you should turn off and go there. It will most likely be a good experience.
Wind Caves - Mt. Diablo State ParkWind caves are polymorphous indentations in sandstone, formed by wind. They're like if wind had a sculptural face, except they're covered with graffiti. You can scratch your name on sandstone with almost anything, including a finger, so people do. But still, they rock. Jackson loved finding left-over sand in the path as we mountain-goated through the rock formations. He kept bending down to rub his hands in it--little sand puddles.

After that I wasn't good for much other than art-supply shopping and the airport. I watched Bill Maher with my mom one late night. She and my dad are rooting heavily for Obama--I hope the democrats don't disappoint them. They're pretty depressed about politics and need a win. Maher's show "Real Time" was for the most part entertaining and thoughtful throughout. I like Dan Savage on the Obama campaign trail, asking college boys if they were a little gay for Obama. "We are, a little," they admitted. He also pointed out that security in Dallas was really lax. Federal agents took down all the metal detectors halfway through frisking the huge crowd. Savage asked why and they told him it seemed like a safe friendly crowd. Fuck you Dallas. Swear words I heard while watching HBO: fucking, fucked, and cock. That's the freedom of pay TV.

I put on the Uptones CD while unpacking today and could not help dancing around the bedroom. That is a good situation to come home to. Although it's raining here again, the sun keeps bursting through the clouds as if to say, "Hey there stranger! Remember me?" Yes--welcome back.

photo sources:
Pixieland Amusement Park, Concord, CA
Mt. Diablo Photos
Guide to the Geology of Mt. Diablo

No comments: