Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to fix the economy: Pizza

Last night, I accepted an invitation from Evan Goldin to meet him at Goat Hill Pizza in SF's Potrero Hill. Admittedly, I wasn't in the mood for pizza, especially not all-you-can-eat pizza ($10.95, only on Monday), but I said that if Goat Hill Pizza received a four-star average rating on Yelp, then I would attend. And sure enough, it did.

I am not a snob, but I always tell people that outside of the New York Metropolitan Area, Italy, and other locales along the Mediterranean, there is rarely top quality pizza in this world. I have never had a slice in California that rivals any pizza in New York. If Goat Hill Pizza was in Oceanside, New York (my home town, and home to at least a dozen amazing pizzerias), it would be out of business in a heartbeat, and ostensibly receive a one-star rating on Yelp. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty good pizza by California standards, but come on, what century are we living in?

This realization makes me recall a time in 2007 when I drove from Virginia to Washington with Jared Flatow. On the ride, we listened to economist/columnist Paul Krugman (of Nobel Prize and New York Times fame) discuss British food before the 1990s. It was quite simple: The British were well known for having food that tasted horrible, wasn't fresh, and lacked variety. Krugman attributed this to the fact that not enough British people traveled abroad and tried other more delectable cuisines. Thus, there was no demand, or should I say no outcry, back in the British Isles for better food. Once the Brits started traveling abroad more frequently (and ravaged other nations with their boisterous stag parties in the process...) they immediately knew that their own cuisine was terrible. They demanded more than canned peas for dinner, and they were willing to pay for this. Soon, the competition got more tough, and today, Britain (at least in London) has many excellent cuisines. Don't get me wrong, British cuisine on the whole is still sub-par compared to the rest of the world, but if you've got the dough, you can get the best food in the world in London, and for everyone else, average meal is far better than it was 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

Such a change needs to happen with pizza in America. There's no reason why Oceanside, New York should have ten times better pizza than a metropolis like San Francisco. Will it take someone flying out pizza from Brooklyn every day to make West Coast pizza worthy? Perhaps, but this is the time for a Pizzapreneur to do just that.

Memory at the movies...

Within a 24 span I viewed Oscar nominees The Reader and Waltz With Bashir. Both films featured the concept of memory as a central theme. However, I came out of The Reader thinking that it was a terrible film, whereas I loved Waltz with Bashir. The Reader failed to create a single protagonist, and it lacked coherence as it told its story of love, tragedy, justice, and war. Waltz with Bashir succeeded in nearly every area that disappointed me in The Reader. Besides presenting a documentary in the most innovative fashion that I've seen in years, Waltz with Bashir analyzed the potential inaccuracies of memory in a most vivid and unique way. I am still shocked that The Reader was nominated for Best Picture while The Wrestler was snubbed, but that's another story for another day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One Trick Pony

It took me a while to get around to seeing The Wrestler, despite ridiculously positive reviews from Mr. Fiebach and Mr. Schaffer, but two days ago I succumbed. I went in with high expectations, but I loved it. It was long, everlasting love.

My reason for not viewing holding out to see this film was simple: I hate wrestling. During the course of my lifetime, I've watched perhaps four minutes of the WWF on television. I still think about all the idiots at Oceanside Middle School who waltzed around with "Stone Cold Steve Austin - 316" t-shirts. Call me an elitist, but even then, I thought those kids were all losers. The closest I've ever come to professional wrestling was asking my mother to buy me a Ric Flair Wrestling Buddy doll, when, as a five-year-old, I sought to release my anger on something other than my baby sister.

*Upon reading Flair's Wikipedia page, I am saddened to learn that he still wrestles at age 60...sounds like The Wrestler wasn't all fiction.

Maybe I'm giving The Wrestler too much credit, but I saw many parallels between this film and Sunset Boulevard. I can picture Mickey Rourke saying, "I am big. It's the WWF that got small!"

Now, having seen this movie, I am appalled that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Mickey Rourke better win for Best Actor, otherwise those old farts at The Academy should lace up their boots and fight me in the ring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ambulance Chasers

For the past week, I've been immersed in the book A Civil Action. Some parts of this award-winning work of non-fiction have given me a new degree of respect for lawyers, specifically lawyers who specialize in personal injury. The main reason for this is that personal injury lawyers oftentimes take on cases for zero upfront pay, gambling that a jury will rule in their favor, or more likely, that they will be able to settle with the defendant.

Just when I began to think that personal injury lawyers provided essential services to those in need, I came across a CNN article about a drunk man who lost his leg when a New York City subway ran him over after he fell into the tracks. For this idiot, Dustin Dibble, 25, I have no sympathy, as blood tests confirmed that he consumed more than twice the legal limit of alcohol prior to falling onto the tracks. And now a New York jury has awarded him more than two million dollars.

MTA, you better appeal this one, and you better appeal it good, because I don't know too many New Yorkers who want to see their tax dollars going toward paying yet another criminal who games the system.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

GGP=The best of the best!

I'm a parks guy. I love parks. This obsession started with trips to Oceanside Park (walking paths, marine nature reserve, tennis courts, and hockey rink), Baldwin Park (great slides and sprinkler systems), and Lido Beach Town Park (old school wooden beachfront playground) as a kid. By my teenage years I found myself frolicking in my favorite domestic (Central Park and Fairmount Park) and foreign (Phoenix Park - Dublin) and Park Guell - Barcelona) municipal parks. However, just two days ago, on my first "run" (read: stop-and-go-waddle-jog) around SF, I immediately headed five blocks south from my Inner Richmond enclave to Golden Gate Park. I was quickly blown away with this place. In my opinion, Golden Gate Park has the best landscape architecture and facilities of any park that I've ever visited. Plus, the fairly new frolf course - I only learned of the existence of this phenomenon when I noticed a "Beware of flying discs" sign - is off the hook. I don't use that phrase lightly. It's so off the hook that I noticed a foursome out with their advice-dishing caddie and a pushcart that held multiple Frisbees. Anyone up for 18 holes?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Don't call it Frisco!

I was advised by my dear friend and former colleague Evan Goldin, a life-long Bay Area resident (except for his 4 years at Penn) to never refer to San Francisco as "San Fran" or "Frisco." Only "the city" or "SF" are legitimate abbreviations for this town. This took me by surprise, as Jack Kerouac called it Frisco no less than six dozen times in On The Road, and he seems like he'd be an authority on the art of nomenclature. But since I can't consult with Jack from beyond the grade, I guess I'll have to listen to my former editor instead.

Linguistics aside, I left the City of Angels two days ago, and arrived promptly in SF's Inner Richmond district by 1:30. The trip up the I-5 was smooth and uneventful, save for my early inability to keep the trunk of the RSX closed at the start of my journey and my two near-heart attacks when California Highway Patrolman quickly entered the road from the median immediately after I passed, each time to nab some other hardened speedster, and thankfully not me.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love the Bay Area. It is everything that L.A. is not. Less pollution. Nicer people. Better weather (for my liking). Shorter commutes. Good public transportation. All in all, it's a great quality of life.

I moved into the apartment of my good friend from Birthright, Mike Fiebach. The apartment is great, because it's just 1.5 blocks from Geary, a wide boulevard that runs the length of the city that's filled with my three favorite urban necessities: shops, eateries, and people.

Some of you may know that I recently contemplated teaching English in China. I no longer have this dream, as I now live half a block from Clement Street, which is a pan-Asian enclave in the middle of SF. I can literally walk out my door and find myself with a choice of 500 Asian restaurants, bakeries, markets, and specialty shops. I already went on a dim sum crawl, trying small dishes at a half dozen of the places at my doorstep.

Immediately after my arrival, I did a Masta Cleanse of the room that I'm living in, as it had enough dust to nearly kill me. Other than these particle issues (and the fact that the security conscious dude I'm subletting from keeps a shredder, ax, and massive doorstop in his room for protection), everything was perfect. Soon, this will be home.