Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bars and Books - My Favorite Combination

Molly Sanchez from the Bold Italic recently wrote an article called "The Best Bar & Book Pairings for SF Bookworms and Barflies", two of my favorite pastimes concisely packed in to one amazing listing. I decided to prey on this idea and present to you my version of books and pairings, San Jose, CA edition.

The majority of you that follow my blog are able to comfortable say "yeah, she always has a book in her purse." It's true, my over size bag that routinely bashes itself in to my surroundings ,without impunity, carries the contents of would be writer: a writing notebook (random flashes of creativity scribbled under one cover), a wedding notebook (currently planning a wedding to the best guy ever), a work notebook (I carry work with me, a is a bad habit but great work ethic), at least one book for leisure (sometimes two depending on how much I want to carry), and an assortment of pens. I do this because on the off chance that I have a moment to myself (free of emails and phone calls), I like to partake in what I consider the best hobby ever, reading and writing. Sometimes, I get to do this with alcohol (cue the brass band and fireworks). Here are my recommendations for the best bar and book pairings in my hometown.

Bar: Wine Affairs
Book: The Man in the High Castle or anything by Phillip K. Dick

This picturesque bar on  a lovely avenue known as The Alameda, is settled among the beautiful outskirts the rose garden neighborhood of San Jose. It shares a block with the historic Bank of Italy now inhabited by the hair salon as 5 Color Cowboy (they have a tattooist onsite now as well), resting amid the  rows of streets beautifully lined with tudor style homes, original wood crafted moldings, wrap around porches, and front yards rivaled only by Don and Betty Draper's house in Ossenig. A new Whole Foods sprinkles the perfection in to the neighborhood. It's the perfect setting for the perfect bar. The patrons of this establishment range from young to old, all of them eager to try the vast wines and craft beers served on their rotating taps. The bartenders remember your face and greet you with sincerity. It's perfect. Which is why a dystopian novel is the perfect genre for this type of place. Wine affairs is my favorite bar to read, but sometimes the idyllic surroundings force me to forget a life that is scary, dirty, and sometimes menacing. Mixing it with any of PKD's novels is the perfect combination of living. Wine in one hand, destruction of society in another.

Bar: Blank Club
Book: Breathers: A Zombies Lament by S.G. Browne

Ideally, you would be reading this novel at 9 pm on a Thursday, right before the full "Atomic" crew arrived. Arriving that early would secure your place at a table, hopefully by the stage, lulled by the sounds of  "cities in dust" or "love will tear us apart". In hand would be a cocktail, perhaps a tequila gimlet (fresh lime juice), considering the beer selection is sub par and there is no wine. But the atmosphere is perfect for a person who never really knows where and how they fit in this life, always wondering if this moment is the moment they are truly living. Sadly, the Blank Club closed it doors this past February. The owners have moved on to another location now called The Ritz...but the book is still around.

Bar: Cinebar
Book: Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov

Look, it's not the prettiest place. It's beers are meh, and sometimes the people can be a little much. But where the hell else can you read a book about about a 13 year old and her vindictive hold on Humbert Humbert and not be thought of as a pervert? The Cinebar is one of those places whose patrons are the most well read, well thought and open minded. Nabakov was a genius, leaving the reader to express empathy for an adult man who quite literally preyed on a young girl. But how many people can you openly discuss this book without fear of judgment? Not many. Cinebar embodied this type of literary freedom, a place I could read anything I wanted, discuss any thing I wanted without the societal judgments. It was great! I'll admit, Cinebar is also the place I am most likely to black out. Those whiskey and cokes are mean.

Bar: Teske's Germania
Book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Besides the fact that Teske's is amazing in their food, amazing in their beer, and amazing in their service, the place is GERMAN BAR IN SAN JOSE! San Jose can often be snubbed, considered culturally devoid. But it is small treasures such as Teske's that redeem my home town. Since I cannot visit the best country ever (Germany) at any time I would like, I take solace in Teske's, granting my instatiable German fix with rich beers and schnitzel. Being there instantly takes me to Germany, and being in Germany reminds me of reading Milan Kundera for the first time. It kind of goes hand in hand...right?

If able, check all of these places out (except for the Blank Club because its closed), and while you are out it, read the books. It's time well spent. If you are interested in the book and bar pairings for SF, Molly Sanchez's article on the Bold Italic can be found here. Now lets drink!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Travel Tuesday - Margarita in Rome

So let me tell you about this one time when I went to Italy...

Prior to the first trip to Italy, my international travel was comprised of accompanying my parents to family visits in Mexico. My mother's prim and proper upbringing meant that I was attached to her hip while the quebradita (Mexican for dirty dancing) was practiced by the adolecents in the plaza. In high school, over priced schools overseas schools would send their recruits for us traveling dreamers who  wished to spend their summers away from their parents. I thought then that some semblance of freedom, to travel without the leash of propriety (my mother) was attainable. For a moment I thought I had heard the whisperings of my mothers acquiesce to a semester in Egypt. As I geared myself to make the final pleadings for an allowance to leave, some assholes decided to put two fucking planes in the Twin Towers. It was the beginning of my senior year. It took less than a moment for my mother to say  "ni creas que to voy a dejar en un avion" (Translation: Don't even think you are getting on a plane anytime soon.). My appeals in the form of arguments resembling phrases like "the best time to travel is right after something like this, everything is on lock down and super safer" fell on deaf ears.

It was three years later when an opportunity to vacation to Italy was presented to me. Settling on Rome and the neighboring area, my father and passed me a credit card. I was elated. Rome would be the destination for a nerdy history freak whose study of the bloody battles in the Coliseum were easy Saturday reading, and to top it off with Spaghetti? It all was too fucking fantastic

So there I went to Rome. I am in the mind set that travelers should acclamate the local culture and fully immerse oneself, not standing out like a "stupid American". I studied Italian language and Italian fashion, filling my bright yellow suitcase, with wheels and a handle, with nothing but pastels and mesh over shirts. Have I mentioned that I am a plushy girl? Pastels make me look like a fucking easter egg. So I am in the airport, and because I want to be one of "them", I think, hey, I can do this, I am going to take the trolley, to which I have no map, all the way in to town, get off with my big ass yellow suitcase, and find my fucking hard can this be?

The trolley dead ends in the middle of town...and there is no hotel in sight. I am close to some ruins, but if you have ever visited  to Rome you will quickly realize that almost everything is a ruin with a modern building on the inside. The trip was in August, a sweltering month for almost every part of the world, Wearing two sizes too small jeans (because tighter is better in Italy) and a knitted pastel blue short sleeve sweater...its fucking 90 degrees at 11 in the morning. I walk along cobble stone streets, all the while wheeling a  big ass bag that screams "Tourist". But no, I am convinced I fit right the fuck in. I take a right turn, I take a left. I can't fucking find the Trilussa Hotel. Someone is king enought to point me to the street Trilussa, but he knows nothing about the Trilussa hotel. I hobble down some more, all the while fully conscious of the fact that I am sweating, my crotch is rubbing against the fucking jeans, I am tired, I am hungry, and on the verge of a melt down.

I decide that before the tears commence that I take a seat at this cute little cafe. I waddle in, trying to ensure that I get some breeze towards my crotch. A few weeks prior I turned the ripe age of 21, making me eager to get started on what is to turn in to a long history of drinking. I take the seat at the table closest to the street, and I order the only alcoholic drink I can name, a margarita. I order in spanish because  because italian and spanish are the same...right? The waiter smiles, responding in English "sure, I'll bring it right out, and what would you like to drink". I take a breath...I am thirsty and I want my motherfucking alcohol, clearly he had not understood, so I repeat "a margarita". The waiter continues to smile..."I'll bring some water, no gas". I wonder if the no gas comment by the waiter meant he was planning to fart in my water cup.

I took the next few quiet moment to enjoy my surroundings. I had never crossed an ocean by myself, never been so far and removed from my "Pacific Standard Time". Rome is fucking amazing. Despite modernity  its history is captured in every stone, every building, and despite the crotch sweat and inability to find the hotel, I was enjoying this non parental adventure. Twenty minutes passed when the waiter came out to my table, with a pizza. I look at the waiter, and back down to my pizza. He is still fucking smiling. I look at the pizza again and before I can look up, the waiter has skipped his happy ass back to his counter. I politely flag him down..."sir, I still haven't received my margarita..."
"Miss this is your margarita, margarita pizza..."

I stammer, and start to cry...why? Because I am a fucking girl, my pants are stuck in my crotch, it's hot, and all I want is my god damn alcohol...I compose myself, explaining that my flight was so long and that I am very tired. I muster in broken italian/spanish "back home a margarita is a cocktail". My waiter, an angel in disguise I would have to assume, who was kind enough to politely and sweetly deal with  my emotional vagina bullshit, smiles again, and says, "a bella, I get a you a bellini". That fucking saint got me my drink, and a cab to drive me to my hotel...that was only a block away!

So began my lone travels, as a  Stupid (Mexican) American. 

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Monday, March 2, 2015

5 Ways to Survive a Shopping Mall

I hate the mall, and I hate shopping at the mall. I hate crowds, especially over excited tween shopping crowds. And yet, I have no choice sometimes but to partake in the shopping mall excursions. I endured full blown anxiety attacks among the rows of rainbow Mac lipsticks waiting for my mother to purchase a birthday was embarrassing but my point was made and I no longer get invited to accompany.  Problem solved, right? Big nope on that one. Unfortunately, because the big cities have moved away from small neighborhood businesses, to large shopping centers, I have no choice but shop at a mall. In order to survive this ordeal, I have engaged some survival tips:

1. Arrive early. When I say early, I mean "be at that gate before its rolled up so you can herd in before the rest of the animals." This will eliminate/dissipate the pre-established lines at the customer service desk. The ability to peruse a sales rack without the hovering of other bargain shoppers is a an enormous incentive.

2. Have a Plan. I like to be in and out. No bullshit. No day dreaming. No "trying on just to try on." I like to get in there, know the stores and know what I am looking for. This allows me to dissipate the wandering through herds glued to their iPhone screens as they aimlessly parade the common area. I park by the store, I enter the store, I get the fuck out.

3. Go Alone. My fiancee is great about mall shopping. He knows where to park, when to arrive, and always has a plan. My mother not so much. She kind of just meanders through the parking, stops at random displays, thinks of that one store where she needed to buy that one thing that is not so conveniently located at the exact opposite end of the mall. This drives me the brink of a full on meltdown. Circling the mall in the middle of a Saturday while the crowds are fully entrenched in shopping mayhem is NOT what I had in mind for "winding down".

4. Don't Shop When You Absolutely Need. Look, I understand that sometimes this can't be helped. You were invited to that last minute birthday party and now you have no choice but to buy an overpriced gift. Or worse, you can't seem to settle on the perfect overpriced gift. It can't be helped. Which is why I try to shop when I don't need. I realize this is scary on a financial perspective. "why would you buy something you don't need" Answer: Because I will need it eventually. Allow me to explain. The time constraints of needing have led me to make purchases on overly expensive items that I eventually detested and shoved in a closet. Example: A dress for a wedding. There was a time in my life that dresses and I did not speak the same language. It was foreign and uncomfortable. But then came the day that the typical fancy jeans would not fit the bill of the event. I had to purchase something formal and classy (read girly). I trudged every store until I settled on some ruffled piece of shit that fit. And I paid well over $60 which for me, and my love of bargain shopping, is a ridiculous amount of money for something that will so seldom be worn. But I needed the fucking thing. I lost a Saturday of my life and overpaid on an item that I needed, but hated. Don't do it.

5. Don't Shop at a Mall When Starving. It makes you an angry bitch. It makes the line to pay seem like the wait to receive an AIDS test. It makes the crowds feel like an abyss of flesh and sweat. It just sucks. Finding a place to eat sucks, its all chain fatty food that tastes like seasoned cardboard, and you have to share your dining experience with other people. It's like being in sixth grade again, only this time, the bullies are in heels and rather than backpacks, they carry the most current Coach purse. I think that's Coach still relevant? Just be well fed. Have that fuel to get in and get out.

I treat mall shopping like the zombie Apocalypse. Avoid the mass zombies, be well fueled, and if needed, travel solo, quiet and swift. But to be honest, if zombies attacked and I had to choose between the mall or being eaten, grab the tortilla and start feasting.