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Top 5 Crimes Against Pedestrians in Car Crazy California

“In order to get across the street (in LA) you have to have been born there.”
     –Martin Amis in Money


It’s been over a decade since I chucked my car and began getting around, most of the time, by putting one foot in front of the other. By now I should be used to the low priority, invisibility and outright abuse of pedestrians in the Golden State, but if anything, I’m becoming more outraged the more time passes. In ascending order of importance, then, here are the worst offenses committed by car owners.

  1. Drivers waving me on

This is a petty complaint, I know, but I can’t stand it when a driver stops at a corner, with or without a stop sign, as I’m about to cross, and magnanimously waves me on–as if my crossing the street is entirely up to him or her, and aren’t I the lucky benefactor of such kindness? In fact, according to CA law, if a pedestrian steps off the curb, traffic must cease until they’re safely across. It’s a right, not a privilege.

  1. UnknownCracked and broken sidewalks

Sidewalk maintenance gets little attention in many cities, especially in the poorer neighborhoods. Even potholes, notoriously left unrepaired, are taken care of before sidewalks, since after all we don’t want our cars getting ruined on the road–and what kind of nutcase walks anyway? My first car-less year I tripped and fell four times; needless to say, I’ve become hyper-alert. Still, last winter’s rains took a heavy toll; one street I walk down regularly is so badly caved and crumbled that I have to step into the roadway, raising a hue and cry of honking. I’ve been told it’s the landowners who are responsible for their own sidewalks, not the city; I’ve been meaning to look into this.

  1. Dog shitUnknown-1

Why is it that the owners of the biggest baddest dogs are the ones who have yet to join civilization and clean up after their pets? Two lazy louts in my ‘hood are guilty of this, but I’ve never actually caught them in the act. When I come upon their infernal messes I hold my nose and circle past the sometimes steaming piles of poop. I’m closing in on one of these guys, though: I think I know where he and his dog-horse live. As soon as I’m certain I plan to file a report.

  1. Cars parked on sidewalks.Unknown-5

You have a ten-room house and a two-car garage, but you need even more, you greedy bastard! You park your car so it takes up all available sidewalk space. I cannot overstate my angry resentment of such people: all I want is a sliver of sidewalk! But no, here too I have to step out into traffic. Lately one of my neighbors has been making this a daily habit.  I’m planning to write them a note–I will attempt to be polite. (Or not.)

  1. Running red lights

Now this is more than a mere annoyance. The Bay Area and SF have the highest percentage of red-light-runners in the country. Frequent headlines tell of children or adults murdered by impatient assholes who speed up instead of slowing down at the amber light. My son was hit by one of these heinous criminals many years ago, and he’s suffered TBI (traumatic brain injury) ever since. If CA is supposed to be so mellow, why are these drivers in such a rush?

Ah, here’s the truth: Californians, driving or not, aren’t, despite the stereotype, mellow;. Having lived here for almost 30 years I concluded some time ago that they live in a permanent state of denial. Which is a whole other topic.






Maybe it was naive of me, but I was looking forward to this day, to watching the rituals of inaugurating our new president, this new president. Now that it’s here, the over-the-top media hoopla is annoying the hell outta me. With all their “How does it feeeeel?” and “What are your thoughts?” and “Did you ever think you’d see this day?” over and over and over, any genuine emotion is being diluted, if not completely drained. Or at least mine is: I can’t figure out how I feel underneath all the noise and stupidity.

Yes, stupidity. One CNN reporter was apparently befuddled: “WHY is this particular inauguration attracting so much attention?” he asked. “Is it just because of the black thing?” Just?! Besides, moron, in case you hadn’t noticed, we’re finally getting a decent president, one who’s smart, compassionate, and well-intentioned. A Democrat. Possibly a progressive. Not to mention, this comes after eight years of a brutal, corrupt, incompetent and brainless administration: The Nitwit and His Merry Gangsters.

I guess I could turn it all off–but then what will I say when someone asks me where I was? At least I don’t have to answer to the grandkids–they have their own where-were-you story and don’t need mine: their school is showing the inauguration at a special assembly. I just hope they, at their tender age of innocence, don’t become jaded by the media’s hyper hoopla. I hope they can see through to the real beauty of this day.

As Leonard Cohen put it, “Democracy is coming to the USA.”


I wrote “Chumbug” several years ago, for “Xmas Sucks,” a performance event dreamed up by Thomas Roche, writer of noir, erotica and humor. “Xmas Sucks” ran annually in San Francisco for a few years, then fizzled out–but good news: it’s making a comeback this year, tomorrow night in fact (See below). I might make it there, but then again I might not, so I thought I’d resurrect “Chumbug,” first published on my blog in 2006. It tends to work best on stage, enhanced by ethnic gestures and my grandfather’s Yiddish accent — so use your imagination.

tulip menorahModern Day Tulip Menorah

So, nu? It’s not enough that I’ve been hocked to death by Xmas for six decades, now it’s Chanukah too!

Have you noticed the way they try to pacify Jews with equal time for Chanukah? Televised menorah lightings side by side with The Tree towering over it. Dreidl dolls with curlable hair. Latke dinners at 25 bucks a pop. I guess it serves us right for draying that we don’t get equal time in December.

HELLO? I don’t want Chanukah any more than I want Xmas. Not only is it a minor holiday, it isn’t even politically correct: it commemorates some sort of Jewish war victory. No one even paid attention to it until Xmas gradually grew, like a virus, into what a friend of mine calls our National Disease.

I mean, Xmas isn’t just one day–it’s an event that lasts from October through January. That’s three months, or one-quarter of the year, or 25% of all the time we spend on this planet. I’ve done the math: If I live to be 75 I will have spent roughly 18 years coping with the anger, resentment and depression induced by the so- called Holidays.

The real tsuris is that I’d finally gotten a handle on it, when suddenly, after so many years of making me feel I should deny my ethnicity, Christians began pressuring me to become a Real Jew. Carolers arrived at my doorstep singing “O Chanukah” and “Dreidl, dreidl” in four-part harmony, demanding latkes. I got an ecumenical card that read “As we celebrate Xmas and Chanukah.” Children’s books on Chanukah spill from the shelves—I saw one in which Chanukah was interwoven with the birth of Jesus.When I objected to a wreath being hung in my office, the poor little girl hanging it let loose with an incoherent, maudlin story about the beauty of menorahs. Huh?

Fellow Jews, we must act, and fast, before a dreidl decorates every streetlight, before Day-Glo stars of David are used to invoke guilt and capture gelt. We must organize so that come next October, when electronic menorahs play “Little Star of Bethlehem,” we can rise up in unison and shout


potato pancakes 2

*Xmas Sucks!

Holiday blues got you down? Sick of news stories about how starving bankers have to give their kids dirty socks for Christmas or risk having the Bentley reposessed? Or do the Hannukah hornies have you planning a misanthropic holiday retreat with a bottle of lube and the The Book of Judith? At Christmas Sucks, five top-notch writers share their nasty holiday horror stories with you, trading holiday glurge and Christmas schmaltz for hardcore raunch and bitter winter depression, raising seasonal affective disorder to a sleazy and viciously satiric art. Sherilyn Connelly, Charles Gatewood, Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard join host Thomas Roche for a nasty reading of holiday discontent sure to leave you feeling warmer and sloppier than a dozen of Aunt Petunia’s moonshine-laced egnogs. Hosted by Thomas “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” Roche.

Friday, December 19
The Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission Street @ 11th Street, San Francisco
Doors 7:30, show 8-10pm

No door charge, but a small donation requested to benefit the Center for Sex & Culture

Email for more information.

Mickey Mouse Menorah

Mickey Mouse Menorah


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I don’t rant nearly enough on this blog. I do it plenty to the radio and television when they’re spewing out the miserable news of the day, but I don’t think they hear me. Herewith, a compendium, in no particular order, of stuff that’s bugging me today.

Air Quality: Never very wonderful, the quality of the air we breathe is at a low point due to the hundreds of fires burning all over the state. Ashes float upwards, the breeze blows them hither and yon, and they float back down to muck up the air with something called particles. That grey sky isn’t fog this time, it’s gunk.

Six years ago I was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructionery Pulmonary Disease), yet I’ve had not one problem—despite, as my doctor says, my “best efforts” to kill myself with cigarettes—until last week. I started wheezing, and recognized the signs of airway obstruction. Doc told me to stay indoors while the fires are going, but it’s hard to avoid breathing altogether. I’ve been researching daily air quality reports, and while the information’s available, it takes some effort to find. What’s up with that? Anyhow, since I’m only just beginning to learn about particles and ozone, I won’t attempt to explain any of it. I’d rather just revive a line from Lily Tomlin’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, screeched out by the character of Agnus Angst, a teenager who wears so much metal the garage door goes up when she’s anywhere near it:


Remote Control Killing: The news anchor on CNN’s Morning Show literally drooled in admiration today while military honchos in a Reno Nevada warehouse flipped a switch and annihilated people clear across the globe, in Afghanistan. Apparently they’ve been doing this regularly. Of course, they’re only killing bad guys…you know, those terrorists hiding beneath dark burquas, and men claiming to be kids who are actually murderous villains in disguise. Barf.

The Four Day Work Week: The State of Utah recently came up with a plan to conserve energy and save money by putting government workers on a four-day work week. Lest we jump to the conclusion that they’ve suddenly become enlightened employers, this isn’t exactly a cut in work hours, as each of those four days is ten hours long. I can barely get through five hours in an office, I can’t imagine the brutality of doing ten. The brainwashed workers are thrilled: it hasn’t occurred to any of them to ask why the government can’t eat the extra day since they’re saving so much money. Everyone knows that actual time spent on actual work in an office is only a fraction of each day–but god forbid the workers should get a break.

Obama’s Move to the Center: I’m keeping track of Barack Obama’s race to the bottom on No Comment, but in the case of abortion rights, I can’t seem to maintain mere observational mode. The self-described pro-choice candidate holds the opinion that, while late-term abortion should be legal if the mother’s life is in danger, mental distress doesn’t count as danger. “I think it has to be a serious physical issue,” he says, “that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother…”

So post-partum depression isn’t real? It’s not significant? I’d like to see Senator Obama tell that to Andrea Yates, the severely post-partum mother who drowned her five kids in the bathtub to save them from Satan.  Yates is the most tragic and famous case of a phenomenon that may be barely recognized and undocumented, but that doesn’t make it any less real or signifiant.

Who the fuck is Obama (or any man) to decide what’s real or significant in a woman’s life? Who the fuck is he to declare which women and children get to survive and which don’t? As we used to say back in the day:


Caveat: Every one of the automatically generated “related posts” below is unrelated–almost laughably so.

A Letter To Major League Baseball

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Dear Baseball World:

The recent name change by the Tampa Bay Rays (formerly “Devil Rays”) prompts me to write to you regarding the controversial name of another team, the Cleveland Indians.

I don’t know the full reasons for Tampa Bay’s change, but I suspect they came to consider the Devil a potentially negative force and image. They may even have been pressured by religious groups. Whatever the reason, they’ve demonstrated the ease with which a baseball team can make a name change; in fact, they’re treating it as part of a fresh new start.

I am not alone in my dislike of the Cleveland team’s name. I don’t think I need to present a history lesson here: I’m sure everyone is aware of the reasons for my position. The title Indian by itself might not be so offensive were it not for the team’s horrendous logo. That cartoonish drawing of a grinning red-faced

creature insults an entire group of human beings. Every time I see it, I literally cringe.

I am not demanding “political correctness” and suggesting that Cleveland re-name the team “Native Americans”—that would just be a mockery. I’m saying—no, I am begging—that someone in the world of major league baseball take this matter seriously, open up a dialogue with Cleveland, and get them to switch to any name at all, as long as it’s not denigrating to any ethnic group. It would even be acceptable to me, though perhaps not to everyone who finds the name objectionable, if the team kept the name but replaced the logo with something more respectful, perhaps a portrait of a famous Native American leader.

While MLB is at it, maybe they could also persuade the Atlanta Braves to cease and desist with their idiotic, annoying and, again, insulting “tomahawk call.”

With great love and respect for baseball,

Marcy Sheiner