The Blog

Things I miss about Florida #2: Beaches where you can swim

I’ve never really been a beach person. I don’t much care for sand, for one thing, and my Scotch-Polish heritage means I’m not big on sunbathing either, for obvious reasons. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two valid reasons to go to the beach at all: to play volleyball, or to swim. (Unless you have kids, in which case “letting the little buggers run wild outdoors for a couple of hours while you sit under an umbrella and try desperately to claw back some quiet time for yourself” also counts.)  But sometimes, when the weather was good and my mood was just so and I had a day off that most other people didn’t have, I would sometimes take advantage of my proximity to the coastline and actually visit, say, Fort DeSoto or St. Pete Beach or even all the way down to Siesta Key for an afternoon of flopping about in warm salt water until my eyes burned.

But as the great American poet Tom Kiefer so prophetically observed, you often don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. Beach swimming is all but impossible in California, which you’d never know based on the fact that the Beach Boys never mentioned having to put on rubber wetsuits before hopping on a surfboard, but nevertheless, it is so. (On a somewhat-recent trip to San Diego, all the surfers at Ocean Beach were wearing wetsuits, suggesting that swimming would have definitely been a no-go. Of course, it was March, so that could also have something to do with it.) I cannot go swimming at the beach here, and as a result, swimming at the beach sounds like the most enticing thing ever.

Of course, I visited a lovely beach in Italy last year and went for a short swim. It was … fine. And I know perfectly well that if I were to move back to St. Petersburg tomorrow, I’d probably stop caring about the damn beach before I even got clear of baggage claim. It’s just how I am. Still, I miss it now, and that’s the point.

These are my “records:” Juliana Hatfield, Sleater-Kinney and the End of History

Juliana Hatfield: Only Everything (1995)
Sleater-Kinney: All Hands On the Bad One (2000)

It’s easy to forget now, but the 1990s were supposed to be the End of History. The threat of sudden nuclear obliteration arriving and raining down on us faster than Domino’s could bring us a pizza—one that we Generation Xers had lived with our entire lives—was suddenly just gone, and in the ten-year interregnum between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Twin Towers, we never quite managed to figure out what we were supposed to do with ourselves now.

Juliana Hatfield wasn’t singing about the end of history on her 1995 album Only Everything, but I’ve always thought it neatly captures the overall feel of the moment: Mostly confident but still tentative in places, looking inward instead of out at the broader world, trying to shed the cynicism that by then had come to define her (and my) generation. Her Continue reading “These are my “records:” Juliana Hatfield, Sleater-Kinney and the End of History”

Things I miss about Florida, part 1: Cuban sandwiches

Florida takes a hell of a lot of abuse these days. I lived there for 26 years, and I will readily concede that most of that abuse is well-deserved. When I packed up and lit out for the west coast four years ago, I thought I’d never miss anything about the Sunshine State once I got here.

Well, I was wrong about that. Turns out, Florida does have a few things that I can’t find or replicate easily (or at all) here in San Francisco. Like, for example, the Cuban sandwich.

It took me a while to warm up to the idea of the Cuban sandwich, mostly because Continue reading “Things I miss about Florida, part 1: Cuban sandwiches”

The 3 bus lines that define San Francisco

I moved to San Francisco about three and a half years ago, from the almost completely car-dependent state of Florida. In that time, I have not owned a car and have driven sparingly, basically only when I leave town to go on vacation. We have a transit system here which is … okay, all things considered. Yes, I know it’s far superior to anything any city Florida could ever put together, but on the other hand, a city like San Francisco needs more than that, and more than this; and yes, I am well aware I’m spoiled now.

In any case, it works well enough to get me from point A to point B most of the time. We do have intracity rail here—two different systems run by two different agencies requiring two separate fare payments, because of course it’s like that—but there are vast sections of the city not served by either. So we ride buses. We ride buses a lot.

You can see a lot of San Francisco from a Muni bus. In fact, if you choose your routes wisely and are paying attention, you can Continue reading “The 3 bus lines that define San Francisco”

These Are My Records: True Stories

Talking Heads: True Stories

Imagine if, in 1985 or so, all four members of the Talking Heads were abducted by aliens who accidentally erased their memories, and then their A&R guy at EMI Records found them wandering in a pasture somewhere, so he loaded them into his Beemer and played the entire Talking Heads back catalog for them and said, “now go back in the studio and make the record that that band would make.” True Stories would be that record: an album made to be a TH album by people who know what it should sound like, but nonetheless misses the mark. The single from this one, “Wild Wild Life,” was all over the radio station I listened to growing up, which may explain why I was so late in developing an appreciation of the general greatness of the Talking Heads.