American guy with a friendly smile left a good impression in the hearts of the people and visitors here.

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Translation is a fascinating mystery.

My American friend Andrew went to Vietnam and started cleaning up trash and became a celebrity there. As I read the translated stories about him, I discovered some very enjoyable side effects of translation.

Artifacts from a Google translated article about a good guy who went to Vietnam from America.

  • Foreign boy scavenging around bushes, grass miles every afternoon.
  • Andrew J Smith is the same American.
  • The first impression of this young American was the skin and the friendly smile on the lips.
  • The beautiful act of the guy made many people appreciate and support.
  • Rubbish houses
  • Clean toilet hand to handle
  • Sharing his “jail and junk” action

Smiling Andrew, well dressed with pink plastic gloves, green trash can in background.

Pot Roast Katsu at Ramblin’ Jacks

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There are infinite ways to combine flavors, textures, essences of foods, but it is really hard to produce a combination that is both new and good.

So, how about some slow cooked pot roast? Call it what you want, it’s pot roast – fully infused with what tastes like a tomato paste, worchstershire tang. Bread it in panko and fry it up. Provide a wasabi aioli.

These crusty savory chunks should not be called “Beef nuggets,” even though they are about the size of fast food nuggets, because the panko is thick, is crunchy, and adheres perfectly to the meat inside.

The meat inside is, like I say, pot roast, but this pot roast is of such perfect consistency, the beef seems to believe it is firm, even tough. It embraces its own lie with fervor. Remains on your fork without crumbling by will alone. Will and panko.

As soon as it reaches your mouth, all is revealed.

The savory inside is as tender as the breading is crisp. The roast unravels, finer, finer, punctuated by less and less frequent crunches dissolving into a poignant memory. You already miss this nugget, whatever it is called.

Your world is emptier, but your experience is richer.

And all that is left is a pile of bamboo shoots and snow pea slivers. WTF! Bamboo shoots, leave. Snow peas, you ok.

Coqueta, The View at Marriott, Farallon, & State Bird Provisions

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After sipping incredible gin (gincredible?) cocktails at Coqueta, and sipping in the sight of San Francisco from the top of the Marriott, we embody our dream of food.

We arrive at State Bird Provisions and tell the hostess Lindsey is in the restaurant business. Hostess says, “so you like insanity”. The wait is two hours. So we walk down the street. No satisfactory for cocktails and apps without a wait, so we take a Lyft (instead of an Uber) to Farallon. A sumptuous booth by the door. A charm of French ladies at the bar. Farallon is curved like the blown glass man-of-war chandeliers, like a cavern in a dream, an imagined future, a stately pleasure dome.

Foie gras. Ceviche. Oysters. Littleneck clams that take me back to Greenport in the Hamilton’s back yard. Deep red, nearly plum colored cocktail sauce. We don’t order the caviar.

A taxi (instead of a Lyft) back to State Bird Provisions. A wait in a tiny area where we are served from a bottle of Chenin Blanc. Lindsey’s chef radar goes off and she gives him a bubbly nod and hello as he passes by.

And then we get our table. Our wry and quick-witted server asks about food allergies, returns with a menu showing which foods have corn, marks it on our funky version of a dim sum card. In the end, our card showed evidence of the following dishes:

1. Squash mochi wearing some goddam brussell sprout capes, in a goddam grated black truffle, and maitake mushroom. The golden path of chewiness resists your teeth until you gently cleave off a bite.

2. Oyster with kohlrabi kraut and sesame – the kraut won.

3. Guinea hen, dumplings with some goddam broth. This dish alone is a restaurant for a thousand years – the broth alone is a restaurant.

4. Roasted baby beats and tonnato sauce. This sauce tastes like a super savory sour cream. Turns out, it is usually made with not only tuna and the water from the can, but anchovies, mayo, and capers. Hello umami.

5. Sourdough, pecorino, ricotta pancake.

6. Potato croquettes with fondue, and goddam smoked ham. The ham potent, the potatoes simple and texturally perfect, the fondue distributed conservatively, because if it wasn’t our souls would leave our bodies immediately or we would tear apart the chefs like deranged cheese zombies, thinking that they contained more of that goddam cheese ichor.

7. Hamachi crudo with carrot ponzu radish and shisho. Pure.

8. Beef meatball with tomato sauce. I wanted to cry and still want to cry about this dish, but there is no reason to cry, having eaten one of these meatballs and transforming the memory of past meatballs, the memory of all meatballs into the ideal form of the meatball. The meatball with tomato sauce.

Pavement – Westing (By Musket and Sextant)

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Music Makes It All Right
Album cover. A sloppy collage.

“Every time I sit around I find I’m shot” – Stephen Malkmus, “Summer Babe”

Listening to Westing (By Musket and Sextant) is not recommended for fans over 40. You have responsibilities now, and the nostalgic teenage disease woven in the saw-sharp fuzz of Pavement’s early songs will infect you for sure, with groin aching memories of the brilliant young ladies who shared your infatuation with the cryptic riddles and visceral static manipulations of your favorite band.

The next symptom will be a longing for the days when you sliced through the existential angst of high school monotony with the scalpel of alternative rock. Your spine will tingle at the grot and spizzle, the intentional and overwhelming high-pitch static that drives these early songs. Your heart may swell unhealthily at certain poetic turns of phrase, that may not have meant a particular thing to Stephen Malkmus when he wrote them, but have a rich and specific significance in your secret emotional landscape.

Strange transcendent feelings may confuse you.

By the time you get to “Summer Babe” you may suddenly feel that you have always been this old,
that you have just woken up with a vague memory of being awake before,
that you are awake and weary
and the lost memories of the times between hearing these songs and earlier times you have heard these songs are as beautiful as this moment,
but distant and blurred,
both sad and joyful,
mostly lost,
and you may remember that this is the way things have always been, and you felt old and weary when you heard this song at seventeen, and you also remember how you were a giant, containing multitudes, and music was your secret power.

You may even feel that you are filled with this power again, that life’s awful beauty has revealed itself to you, and you have survived, that you can let it fill you anytime. You may feel the future is vast and filled with art, love and strangers who love Pavement like you do.

But you are older now, and a body can only take so much. Take the album off repeat. Drink lots of water. Symptoms should fade after a day or two. The only treatment is time.


Review: Consequence of Sound


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I am a music lover. I love it so much that I don’t understand people who don’t love it. I love it so much that I am afraid.

I am afraid that it will stop making me feel like I might get lucky, like I am a teenager, like I am about to die, like I am a million miles away, like I am nestled in the heart of everyone I love whom I’ve never met, like they are up at night with me, alone. Beauty is the feeling, I guess. This nostalgic, hopeful, transcendent feeling. Even angry music becomes sublime, if it is music I love.

So, mainly, the thing about music is the feeling of listening to music.

There are other things about music that either grow from that crazy feeling or contribute to it.

That music is made by our minds, bodies, and machines – human minds and bodies and machines – makes me think that humans are good. Not much else makes me think this. Human life seems mostly a desperate struggle to justify its violence, until the song starts to play.

Music can almost be explained. Or more accurately, it can be explained forever, but never explained away. We can analyze it’s math, explore our personal associations with it, describe its cultural influences, make up metaphors about it, but it still holds it core of mystery.

Music teaches us about time. Although time is a mystery in itself, our understanding of it is based on movement, the beat. The tick of a clock seems to suggest that time proceeds relentlessly, reliably forward, but our experience suggests something different. Now, the part of time we all live in, stretches and shrinks. And with music, we can play with now, play with this moment’s relationship to the next. We can hear time in a song – and be okay with it slipping away.

Music was what made me call my friends friends – it defined my identity and still does. The pain and awe and love and sadness that we all feel alone is shared in music.

Music makes it all worthwhile – listen to some music and know that it is not going to be alright but that’s all right, because these sounds were here and you heard them and they were beautiful.