Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pitching to Curve

In addition to pestering the Chronicle, I also pitched an article on Alice Springs, Australia, to Curve magazine. Curve is a lesbian publication, and Alice Springs is, for some reason, a lesbian magnet, so I think it’s a good fit. We’ll see. I haven’t heard back yet, but that might be good news. The last time I pitched to Curve, I got a rejection back within the hour, so I’m going to hope they take their time on this one.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Keeping up the Barrage

Undaunted, I’m sending more stuff the Chronicle’s way. You know how they say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take? Well, then I’m just going to keep booting articles at the Chronicle. Eventually, one will get by.

I just sent a long article on Australia, specifically on the Indian Pacific Train. Let’s hope my timing’s better on this one.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Shanghai Surprise

I got an email from the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle rejecting an article I’d submitted about Shanghai. Two things lessened the sting, though. The first was that it was a very nice note. I’m used to not hearing anything from editors at all, so to get a note that is not just polite, but in fact mildly encouraging, seemed remarkable.

The other thing that made it easier to take is that I knew it was coming. Just a few days after I sent the article to the Chronicle, the paper ran another piece about Shanghai. When I saw that, I knew they wouldn’t feature the city again any time soon. So the printed article was effectively a rejection notice, even though it was of course intended in no such way—I doubt the editor had even seen my article yet.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I wish I could say I thought of the word “volcation,” meaning, “A trip extended by Eyjafjallajokull.” But I didn’t; I read it somewhere.

I am reminded of the word because Pipi and I actually met someone over the weekend who was on a volcation. At the Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley, we met a man who’d been killing time in the Bay Area for almost a week because he had been completely unable to get a flight home to Sweden. He didn’t seem to be too upset about the delay, but he told us he was hopeful that he would be able to catch a flight Sunday. I don’t know if he did or not, but it looks like as long as his flight didn’t stop in Iceland, he’s probably home by now.

I hope our Swedish friend made it, and that there aren’t too many other stranded travelers still flipping through guidebooks, trying to find more things to do in northern California.

If you are still stuck here, though, I recommend skipping the Pyramid tour. Pyramid makes good beer, but the tour consists of peering into a series of empty stainless steel tanks while struggling to hear the waifish tour guide over the roar of several hundred bottles a minute rattling off the assembly line. If you really want to learn about American beer, your volcation time would be better spent at a barstool on a self-directed course of education.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It’s Not Just You

Nobody knows how to pronounce the name of that volcano in Iceland.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Need to Panic

Cost Plus sells a cookie called Arnott’s year-round. These cookies are, to my Yankee tongue, indistinguishable from Tim Tams, and because Arnott’s is the name of the Australian company that makes Tim Tams, I think they are the same, just branded differently for some reason.

So if your local grocery store is sold out of Tim Tams for the year, and you live near a Cost Plus, you’re going to be okay. If you don’t, though, you’ll need to stock up now. Tim Tams freeze well.

Or so I hear.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Big T—Time is Running Out

No, not taxes. Tim Tams.

Every year, between November and March, Pepperidge Farms imports Tim Tam chocolate cookies from Australia and sells them in grocery stores all over the United States. Yesterday, I saw a stack of them at my local Lucky being sold at clearance rates, reminding me that the Tim Tam window has closed for this year. Get yours quickly! (And cheaply—yesterday’s were going for just $2.99. Allegedly.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Cal Neva Closes

Here’s a news item that made me a little wistful: The Cal Neva Casino, in Stateline, NV has closed.

All the articles I’ve read about it say the closure was inevitable because the place was so run-down and its time had so clearly passed. That may be so, but to me, the place had its charms and I’m a little sad to see it go.

The Cal Neva was once owned by Frank Sinatra, and served as a hangout for the Rat Pack and associates (including, allegedly, J.F.K and Marilyn Monroe). The place coasted on that reputation for a long while, but all that was a bit before my time, so I can’t say it was any lingering ring-a-ding-dinging that attracted me to the place. Nor was I pulled off the highway by the architecture, a mix of ski-chalet A-frame and faux Native American kitsch that passed from “retro” into the territory of “somewhat embarrassing” decades ago.

No, the Cal Neva’s charms were, for me, subtle and twofold. The first thing I loved was that the building lay right on the state line separating California from Nevada. Just outside the gaming area was a large room with a fireplace and a silver-and-gold stripe running along the floor and up the wall, straight through the fireplace. This line represented the border between the two states, and just about everyone who visited got a photo of themselves straddling it. (I was traveling alone the last time I went, so my picture just shows my two sneakers on either side of the line—but I know it’s me.)

Geographical quirks aside, I also loved the fact that the casino had real old-fashioned slot machines, the kind where you pump in real coins and pull the handle to set the reels spinning. Every other slot machine I’ve seen recently (which is admittedly not many) has been credit, not cash based, and most seem to be activated by tapping a button, not pulling a lever. I guess I’m old-fashioned about such things because I love the tactile sensation of jingling a tumbler full of coins in one mitt and shaking the bandit’s hand with the other.

After my first such session, during which I managed to make several handfuls of nickels last all evening, I looked at my grimy hands and realized for the first time how literal the phrase “filthy lucre” can be. So I fully understand, and on some level approve of the trend towards electronic funds. But I still love pawing through buckets of coins. Once I did find a real treasure—a minor one, but a treasure to me nonetheless. Looking through the rolls of nickels I’d purchased (no, I’m not exactly a high roller), I found a buffalo nickel. It was so worn I can’t be sure of the date, but I know it can’t have been minted any later than 1938, because that’s the last year they made that kind of nickel. I had a few in my collection already, coins I’d either purchased or been given, but this was the first and so far the only time I’d ever found one in change.

So there you have it—two highly personal and idiosyncratic reasons that I will miss the Cal Neva casino. Will I get over this loss? Yes, pretty quickly, I’m sure. I’m not even up at Lake Tahoe very often. But the next time I am there, the experience will be a little bit tidier—and a little bit less colorful.