Poop, viruses, etc: stories from the front line of my toilet

If I had to nail down the one key to my heart (gun to the head, you only get to pick one key, go:), it’s poop. Specifically, high-brow conversations about poop (and to be clear, no I absolutely do not mean “poop play”). If we’re friends, you’re probably painfully aware of this–I play-by-play every one of my bowel movements moments after they happen (and they happen quite often). Or I’ll regularly remind coworkers and casual passersby that their pink eye is likely a product of touching feces and then touching their eyes (what? it’s science, and frankly a pretty good reminder from God that you shouldn’t go poking around poop with your finger).

“Well why don’t you write a blog post about it?” Said no one, ever.

“Great idea!”

With more and more stories out about viruses and bacterium (poop’s overachieving cousins, who for reasons unclear to me, are more socially acceptable to talk about) I’d like to do my part to fan the larger feces family’s flames, so to speak, as part of a multi-pronged effort to spread the fascination with poop. And what better way to do that than through a series of vignettes…on viruses, bacteria, and feces:

    • Part 1: Patient Zero. The origins of how AIDS came to the US (spoiler alert: it’s not that flight attendant everyone keeps blaming).
    • Part 2: My Turkish toilet. A story of me learning how to poop again at age 20 while I was studying abroad in Africa, with a Turkish toilet.

Here we go…

PART 1: Patient Zero

When I studied abroad in Africa, one of our field trips was to a witch doctor healing camp™. Now if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: I love when a stereotype goes out of its way not to deviate at all from the mental image you’ve locked away, and the witch doctor healing camp, thankfully, followed through on it’s promises: a tribal dance show, a panel of “healed” patients, thatched huts and a ritualistic offering of a cow.

As a bit of background, Senegal is part of french-speaking Africa, and though I had taken french for nine years at that point, I was barely conversational with my two year old host child (generationally, I refused to call her my host sister, me being 20 at the time). My beautiful, white smile paired together with the other students in my program (who I relied on as translators) got me linguistically through those four months… but as I always say: it takes a village.

So in a nutshell, it’s already hard enough for me to maintain interest in presentations, much less when they’re in French at a crazy ass witch doctor healing camp (I guess it’s worth noting at this point that it’s official name was probably something like a “holistic healing center”). Drifting in and out of consciousness, I suddenly started to hear a few words that caused me to perk up: “SIDA” (which is AIDS in French), “American” and “pharmaceutical companies.” I started paying attention again, and shot my friends a very confused glance:

“Ummm?? Did he just say what I think he said”


“Gurrrrrl!” Incidentally, this conversation happened entirely with our eyes.

The presenter/witch doctor had just said that AIDS was brought over to Africa by American pharmaceutical companies who did testing in villages even though they knew the consequences of the virus. I raised my hand:

“Umm, hi. Yes, Christopher Katsaros representing the fine state of California, thanks,” building the brand wherever I go, “everyone knows that AIDS actually came when an African villager had sex with a monkey, duh.” Of course, in my follow-up, I cited dozens of Southpark episodes and the like as evidence. You’re not getting anything passed this Leslie Stahl, Africa.

So, aside from being a colossal waste of time, all of what you just read is a roundabout way of saying that most us have a vague idea where AIDS originated, but not really. There was this flight attendant who was really gay and that sounds like an interesting and semi-plausible story so let’s just go with that.

That story gained ground after a CDC report in the early 80s looked at AIDS victims and their sexual partners, and all pointed back to Gaetan Dugas–that “devastatingly handsome” flight attendant, who sadly is nowhere near as attractive as stories make him out to be. This is actually the first time that the term “Patient 0” was used. However, scientists have since studied the genetic makeup of the virus which has showed that (a) it was in the United States as early as 1966, when Dugas was a youth and before he entered the United States and that (b) it probably transferred to humans from a small village deep in Congo in the early 1900s.

RadioLab looked into the origins of AIDS and I don’t even want to try and summarize it because it’s far and away the most rewarding way you can spend 26 minutes of your life (listen here). If you’re listening to the podcast, it’s part of Season 10 Episode 4, a three-part episode that looks at Patient Zeros including “Typhoid Mary,” a real person who was a cook on Long Island. Do yourself a favor and just listen to it.

PART 2: Learning to poop again, at age 20

(I wrote this when I was studying in Dakar, Senegal during my junior year of college. If you’re keeping track now, this is the second time in this post that I’ve reminded you that I lived in Africa. Being able to tell stories like these was in fact the primary driver for that decision)

My Turkish toilet ran out of water today, making it officially just a hole in the ground. Yay.


This is a Turkish toilet, more commonly known as a “hole in the ground.”

This seems like as good an opportunity as any to discuss and dissect the Turkish toilet. Anyone who’s been to a no-name gas station in the middle of the Mojave desert is probably familiar with the concept, but for the rest of you, I’ll elaborate.

It’s a glorified hole in the ground (ha! I almost said glory hole. Which, I can assure you, a Turkish toilet is not). The hole is surrounded by a porcelain base, flanked by two inconveniently placed footpads. I say inconvenient because, when your feet are positioned on their posts, your body is completely out of alignment with the hole. Your pee goes just slightly too far (causing you to create a little watering hole on the ground of your bathroom) and your poop lands slightly north of the hole, and rests there until it’s “dealt with.” This is, of course, no good at all.

You see, there’s an art to pooping in a Turkish toilet. You’ve got to have your poop fall just perfectly so that it goes directly down the hole. Otherwise, it’ll land on the porcelain part, which is fine except for the fact that you have to then coax the doobie down the drain. And the last thing anyone wants to do is have a face-to-face conversation with their excrement on why it should move an inch to the South and go down the hole. For any of you that have taken a shower at a friend’s house before–a friend with really long hair–you know how this coaxing goes: you cup some water and splash it at the hair with a trajectory pointed towards the drain (as a “thank you” gift for keeping their shower so clean, I usually pee in the long-haired friend’s shower). Same thing with poop, except rather than a minuscule piece of fiber, you’ve got a somewhat more substantial mass that is perfectly happy to sit and rot on the floor of your bathroom. Nonetheless, the same rules of cupping water apply, but with a little more force on a slightly more angled trajectory.

Where was I? Oh yes, the art of pooping. So you have to align your rectum/bung hole/etc directly over the hole. This is easier said than done. Think about where your butt is. Duh, you know where that is, easy. But now, specifically, think of where your butthole is?

“Well, I thought I knew where that was–it’s somewhere in that crack.” Yeah, but where specifically?

“Oh, I found it!” Great. Now, to make it even more difficult, squat down on your knees and try to line it up over an imaginary hole on the floor behind you. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Especially for you people reading this in a public space; I will absolutely wait for you to do this. Did you find it yet? Still didn’t? Yeah, exactly my point. When crouched in this position, your butthole becomes lost in your blindspot.

It took a little trial and error at first to find exactly where my butthole was in the beginning. And I’m not going to lie, it definitely required squatting down even further and watching the first couple of times to get the trajectory just right. But now I’m at a point where I’m very familiar with my butthole and it’s firing capabilities.

Personally, I don’t mind the Turkish toilet. Would I prefer a regular toilet, with a seat? Of course, I always relish at the opportunity to take a break out of my hectic day and just sit down and relax. In fact, all of the other students have normal toilets at their houses–even the “poor” one. But, I happen to be quite an efficient pooper–it’s what I’m known for (“Hey, there goes Chris. Man he is a quick pooper, that shit just flies out of him.”) And as a result, the squatting toilet doesn’t bother me much.

So here’s another plus to my Turkish toilet: it doubles as a drain for my shower. I know what you’re thinking: how is this a plus? Well, now, when I pee whilst taking a shower, I really don’t have to feel guilty (not that anyone should feel guilty, but there are some in the liberal media that try to demigod this wholly natural act). But, more importantly, it allows me to fulfill one of my life long dreams: pooping in the shower. Ever since the first day that I accidentally peed in the shower (and discovered it to be a shockingly rewarding experience) have I dreamed about the next genesis of this act: pooping in the shower. Now, I finally get to make that dream a reality. And without feeling guilty or disgusting. And let me tell you: truly magical. Everyone should do it once in their life. In fact, I really think you’re onto something here, Senegal…

It takes a village: Soulcycle review

One of the things I’ve learned in my twenties is that, when it comes to personal upkeep, it takes a village…medical professionals, trainers, gyms, personal care services, the list goes on (cautionary note: don’t ask me about any of them, unless you want to kiss 25 minutes of your life goodbye…too late!). Come to think about it, this might explain why, for every raise I’ve ever gotten, I’ve never actually felt an increase in my take-home pay, but I certainly have seen an uptick in the quantity of professionals I employ to help me get through my oh-so-difficult days. So naturally, when Soulcycle came to town–with its $30, 45-minute spinning classes, I jumped.

02_2012_soulcycle_32For those of you that don’t know, Soulcycle is a “high-energy cycling experience”–started in New York, and currently invading LA and San Francisco (or as I prefer to call that collection of cities: the only part of America that actually matters). If you’re a female, you’re probably thinking “of course I’ve heard of Soulcycle, I love spinning!” Wow, congratulations–you’re so on point with your trendy fitness classes, it’s not like *every* gay male was doing that oh I don’t know, four years ago? That was in our rotation right after stand-up paddle boarding and before crossfit; need I remind you that genetically, we’ve evolved to have a predisposition to every trendy workout routine–it’s a regular agenda item in our weekly meetings, and one of the ways that we all have exceedingly nice bodies and what can sometimes seem like a limitless supply of endorphins. I digress. Anyway, I finally went to my first class last week, and before this turns into an over-hyped experience (too late), here’s my completely unhelpful review, which actually talks very little about the class and focuses mostly on (my favorite topic,) me.

Cycling by candle light
Now if we’ve ever hooked up before (and if we have, my apologies again for that mediocre-at-best experience), you’ll know that one of my (many) quirks is that I go to great lengths to set the proper ambiance in my room. Obviously a soundtrack is a key component to that, but IMO, the most important part is lighting. I will pause a hookup (multiple times) until everything is just right: it’s got to be dark enough where we don’t really see each other but still bright enough to catch the orange shimmer of my spray-tanned body and the light ripples in my abs (ha! jk. except no).

Soulcycle, fortunately, shares my lighting neurosis. The instructor was adjusting the lights throughout, based on the tempo of the song–moving from dim to dark, the exact range I would choose to live my life, if the sun had a dimmer. Not only that, but for most of it, we were cycling by candle light–the sexiest lighting of all. As you may already know, I’ve developed an obsession with expensive, masculine candles (“mandles,” we’ll call them), in part because it’s the closest I’ve come to actually being allowed to light money on fire (a personal hobby of mine). So candle-lit spinning class? Yes please.

Over-branded, in a good way.
If there’s one thing I love, it’s good branding. In fact, you’ll be excited to learn that I’m in the process of commissioning a crest for myself–need I remind you that I’m the IV? Soulcycle similarly cares about a highly branded experience. “You already have a workout tank almost identical to that one.” / “Yeah, but it doesn’t have the skull and bike wheel on it, so ultimately I think I’m going to feel empty without this.” In most places, we’d call this “SWAG” but at Soulcycle, it’s called $52.

IMG_20140116_100027Message apparel used to feel very Abercrombie & Fitch, circa 2005 (to be clear though: I was very much Abercrombie and Fitch in 2005): it’s just trying too hard (though to be clear again: I’m still trying too hard, I’ve just moved on from that specific genre). But, all of a sudden, its coming back again — in fact, I recently purchased a pair of black velvet message slippers, with a screw on one shoe and a “U” on the other (you might think this is because I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell the entire world how I feel about them, but you’d only be half right; really, I got them in an effort to be even more like my idol, Scott Disick). Anywho, when I saw this shirt at Soulcycle, with “ATHLETE” tattooed across the chest, I had to have it. I enjoyed the subtle message it implied: sporty, but understated…athletic, but I don’t need to tell you that. Anyway, sure Soulcycle, put it on the card, and thanks for showing you care.

I guess in an effort to make this review somewhat useful, I should list the things that bothered me. As always, there were many:

  • Good God please figure out a better way to manage that cattle call during the class switches. I’m not sure how you could have so obviously overlooked the fact that if you have back-to-back classes of 50 people each, simple math will cause you to realize that 100 people will be fighting against each other in opposite directions; a teeny tiny hallway is by no means an effective mode of ingress or egress
  • I may have listed the lighting in the class as a plus, but it strikes me as odd that the blindingly bright, sterile lights that hit you the moment you walk out of the studio and into the foyer could have been so egregiously over-looked. What about a transition lighting experience? I’m happy to help you engineer that (see above for my experience)
  • While I appreciate the bios of the instructors on your site, do us all of a favor and include direct links to their Facebook pages, where I expect them to have at least a dozen shirtless photos within the first hundred they’re tagged in (though really the proper ratio of shirtless to clothed pics is more like 4:1, and unless it’s not completely obvious, please do ensure that they’ve got very relaxed privacy settings) — it would really save all of us a step or two

ok that’s all.

In Review: San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker”

Not yet feeling in the holiday mood, I gave myself a jolt of Christmas by going to the Nutcracker last night (and of course, I went by myself because (a) I *strongly* dislike people, (b) I wanted to be flying solo in the event that one of the male ballerinas responded positively to the intense sexual eye contact I’d be making at them throughout the performance–don’t think that isn’t the primary reason I bought a front row seat, and (c) because I wanted to be alone, so get off my nuts about it).

Fun fact: the San Francisco Ballet was the first company to perform the Nutcracker in the US, which makes a little bit more sense, given that every child in this town (including me) was dragged to it each year as a child. But good god there’s a lot going on there; what follows is my review of the plot and the performers (I’ll be using their full names in the event that they have Google Alerts setup for themselves; in which case find me here and here).

Herr Drosselmeyer
I have a very deep collection of Nutcrackers (and I don’t have to tell you, but I will: obviously they’re the handmade ones straight

Collecting prospects for his basement family.

Collecting prospects for his basement family.

from Germany, not the ones in the checkout stand at Marshall’s), and my favorite among them is Herr Drosselmeyer, the tallest and most expensive-looking one (coincidentally, the exact same characteristics I look for in a mate as well). But after last night’s closer inspection of Drosselmeyer’s behavior, I will certainly be reevaluating the prime placement that I’ve been giving him all these years.

Herr Drosselmeyer–played by Damian Smith (who good god is a lot sexier on Google than he was on stage, with the gray wig and makeup), bounds into what looks to be a respectable Christmas Eve party and, without a heartbeat, hones in on Clara, a child 50 years his junior (don’t act so innocent, Clara–you’ll have your day in court later, you little slut). He “forgot” to bring his wife to the party, but of course remembered his purple cape, making it obvious that Mr. Drosselmeyer clearly got the address confused for his Friends of Dorothy party down the road.

Like any rude houseguest, Herr (we’re calling him that now, even though it only means Mister; I scoured the internet and can’t find his first name, no doubt he’s deep in some witness relocation program by now) hijacks the party with a never-ending lineup of jugglers and other deviant service-industry shenanigans. Let it be known: you show up to one of my parties and pull a rabbit out of your hat, and I will shank you (and I do mean the technical definition of shank: cutting your Achilles tendon with a shard of glass).

The plot centers around a Nutcracker that Herr gives Clara, laced with what I can only imagine to be LSD, given that she spends Act II dreaming about battling mice with Class 2 weaponry and morbidly obese women who have dresses full of tiny Asian children and juggling bears. Throughout the whole thing, Herr follows Clara around, waiting for the drugs to fully kick in so he can drag her away and add her to his basement family collection (though to Herr’s credit, basement families only recently became en vogue, so he does get points for being about a century ahead of the trend on that one). I’ve since learned that Herr is also a local councilman, which puts the whole thing in startlingly-clear perspective, proof positive that politics will be politics, whether you’re in 19th century St. Petersburg or at a Ted Cruz meet-and-greet in Pensacola, Florida.

Like I said, Clara–played by “Catherine” (no last name given; either a shrewd move by her parents or an ambitious attempt at celebrity for a thirteen year old) clearly has her eyes set on a one way ticket to a shiny pole and cigarette burns on her yet-appearing breasts. In a room full of what look to be perfectly charming Oligarchs-in-waiting, she becomes obsessed with a Nutcracker–which I’d argue is *not* a gender neutral toy (hashtag daddy issues). To her excitement, that Nutcracker grows into a full-grown man, played by the dashing (if ambiguously-raced) Davit Karapetyan, and the two dance off through a series of landscapes only Bob Marley could imagine.

Which brings me to the central question I couldn’t tear myself away from: are we all just supposed to sit here and politely

Oh you know, just storing some children under this ball gown.

Oh you know, just storing some children under this ball gown.

golf clap as a tween gets statutorily raped on stage? It’s a glaring hole in the plot, but if you’re OK turning a blind eye to the law (and I usually am, except when it comes to heterosexual dalliances like this, when I turn into Judge Judy), the dancing will take your breath away. I just couldn’t understand why no one was as outraged as me.

But the real outrage is when Clara steps into a changing room and out comes a fully dressed, more mature version of Clara…except…suddenly…she’s Asian. Yes, choreographer Helgi Tomasson decided to cast the female half of the Grand Pas de Deux with Yuan Yuan Tan (and not that you had any trouble guessing, but Yuan Yuan is Chinese). She does a phenomenal job, and I’m all for letting your imagination run wild in a ballet, yet if I had a difficult time making the jump through this transformation, you can only imagine the struggle that the children in the audience–who this ballet is ultimately designed for–must have been going through. Think about the children, is what I’m trying to say here…think about the children.

The other elephant in the room.
As mentioned earlier, one of the strong drivers for my attendance were the male ballerinas, and in that regard, this show didn’t disappoint: I spent the lion’s share of Act II with my eyes either staring up Karapetyan’s crack or–if he was facing us–glued to his overflowing package of goods in front. Even as he was standing just off stage, my eyes were fixated–hook line and sinker. It was distracting to an alarming degree, but of course in a good way; and I know I wasn’t the only one, either–they were selling “ballet binoculars” in the lobby, for God’s sake. Turns out they’re wearing what’s called a “male dance belt,” which I plan on wearing *exclusively* next Halloween.



After the ballet, I did what anyone would do: went home and furiously researched him, focusing on sex tapes and the like. Turns out he’s married to Vanessa Zahorian, the other prima ballerina in San Francisco’s ballet, which kind of makes you vomit in your mouth a little, but in a cute way I guess (so here’s the question: what was their first dance like at the wedding? I feel like you either go balls-to-the-wall there or just sit it out). Also, I said ambiguously-raced earlier, though closer research reveals he’s Armenian, which in the context of this Eastern European play is probably more accurate than if he were white (just like how Jesus also was not white).

Foiled again by a marriage, I took to OkCupid, narrowing my boolean search terms to profiles with “dancer” “ballet” or “ballerina.” So far, no promising leads, but I spent all afternoon today at the gym focusing on my legs, and with a little bit more obsession, I’d like to hope that I am *very close* to a body where I can dawn white tights and captivate a room full of 300 close friends. No doubt you’re already aware of this if we’re friends; I routinely force people to feel my ass, though with good reason–it’s quite firm.

So to recap, if you’ve got $150 to shell out, a pension for soft-core porn and an obsession with massive quads, the San Francisco Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker is the holiday ticket for you!

You don’t make the decision [about what type of person you become]. Your character determines what’s going to happen to you. -Doris Lessing

A journey through music video memory lane…

My roommate and I were having a high-brow conversation about Britney Spear’s latest music video the other night. She looks great, but we couldn’t figure out what it was–body is super fit, dance moves seemed remarkably on point, but no no, that wasn’t exactly it. Finally, Daniel hit it on the head:

“Well you know what, she just looks really awake.”

Dear God, please don’t ever let me get to a point where the crowning compliment someone pays me is that I look “remarkably awake” (though to be clear, I’d like to get close to that point). But you know what, he’s absolutely right. She seems to be hot blooded and ready to go.

More importantly, though, Spears’ video reeks of everything we loved about haute-couture 90s music videos. Desert dance scene? Yep. Inappropriately parked sports cars? Duh.
Solo in front of a dressing mirror?
Come on, what do you think this is–amateur hour??–got it. She even has her signature black bell bottom dance pants (which, as a historical note, were not in style at any point).
Screenshot 2013-10-11 at 5.43.42 AM

It’s a relief that, with YouTube, we’re now in a music video renaissance. So of course, Daniel and I took this as an opportunity to indulge in some of cinema’s greatest, in an effort to prepare ourselves for a future that now looks visually promising yet again.


You know what I miss? Completely literal representations of a song. I’m tired of fighting through all of the allegorical themes in a Lady Gaga video, thank god Britney never made us work (comma bitch) that hard for a meaning. I mean she named the main character in that video Lucky, goddamnit.

It’s also worth taking a moment of silence for “Making the Video”–we all vividly remember each of those episodes, and how Britney would never miss an opportunity to help us navigate through some of her trickier plot lines, just in case it wasn’t clear that Lucky was a movie star who looked to have everything, but deep down she was actually very sad and unhappy. Ohhh okay, got it now–thanks Brit!

Come on Over (or ven conmigo, as I like to say)

So, here’s what I’m thinking: let’s get a bunch of future-race people together, put them in gym clothes and sparkly tube tops and have them dance in front of a gigantic, shimmering piece of chiffon fabric. Metallic balls! Make *sure* they’re holding metallic silver bouncey balls. Kthanksbye.

I like to think of Christina as the original Hombre, putting that hairstyle on the map a good decade ago. In fact, I gently encouraged (at gunpoint) all of my girl friends that red lowlights would be a “smart decision,” and I’d just like to say thank you and you’re welcome. I also remember being very bullish on body crystals at the time, which I argued were always appropriate and made a great day-to-night transition accessory. I’m still waiting for that trend to come to fruition.


This is arguably the easiest dance in the world, and my only recommendation in terms of an efficient way to learn the moves would be to take a Xanax beforehand, as I think it really helps capture Mariah’s tempo and energy.

Observation: good God, why do Mariah’s boobs always look like they’re separated by Lake Superior. And they’re always *just-barely* contained in her top (top being a very loose descriptor for several pieces of fabric, fastened together by dental floss who have been waving their white flags for sometime now). Given the geography of her chest, I always feel the need to salute that top, for all of the hard work it’s put in.

One last thing: thanks Mariah for putting ripped jeans on the map. It’s too bad that you inaccurately anticipated the correct side of the jeans to rip, but we appreciate the effort nonetheless–you helped tens of teenagers across the country ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans by encouraging them to destroy what is quite possibly the most important part of the pant.

Because of you

Oh haaaey, San Francisco! Wow, it’s very easy to understand why the rest of the country thinks we’re so gay, with videos like that. But oh em gee, they were really on top of the Golden Gate Bridge a long time. And I don’t even see harnii, so that’s quite the feat!!

Buttttt….Jeff Timmons. Man, what a treat, right? Though, he used to be huge, from a muscle point of view; looking at this video, I now categorize him as “just alright” in the body department, which goes to show you the intense pressure kids are under these days and how our body image has changed. Speaking of kids, he had one at the time. I remember that didn’t bother me then (it was almost charming), though with all that’s emerged in the news about children and the problems they lead to, you can better believe that’s a deal breaker at present. Today, Jeff is now a dancer at Chippendale’s in Vegas, so his life is clearly on the up-and-up; also, he’s a father of four (which sounds awful–and of course, I mean the kids, not the dancer part; most of you know that it’s a long term goal of mine to be objectified because of my body).

It’s gonna be me

And then there was the great debate of 2000 (which nearly brought down the entire economy and probably foreshadowed the terrorist attack the following year): Justin or JC. It seems so obvious now (Justin, duh!!), but I remember at the time screaming at the television when music video director Wayne Isham didn’t give what I thought to be adequate screen time to JC. Turns out, Wayne, you really were the visionary they all said you were, and I’d like to offer you my sincerest apologies, even if it’s about 13 years too late. (As I’m sure you know, JC would go on to let his hair grow out and get blonde highlights just a few months later, to tragic consequences; meanwhile, Justin went on to put out “SexyBack”–’nuff said)

In college, my freshman dorm would become the “Video Room” on Friday and Saturday nights (which looking back, sounds borderline psycho-sexual, and it probably was a little bit)–I had a playlist of classic music videos to set the mood as we pregamed before going out. So let me just say how excited I am to reopen that video room again with a new generation of music videos (and this time, let there be no doubt in its psycho-sexual intentions).

Taxis, in a post-Uber world

When I was interviewing for my job, one question I got was how many cabs there were in San Francisco (I conveniently interviewed just before they stopped asking those sorts of brainteasers).

My charming reply: “not enough.” (If you’re wondering, the way I went about answering this was estimating the population of the city–including tourists and workers, on top of residents, and then figuring out how often each of those groups would require a taxi. But again, all of this hinges on the assumption that the taxi board rationally distributes medallions based on demand, which they do not.)

OK, so I would take a ride in a Range Rover on Lyft.

OK, so I would take a ride in a Range Rover on Lyft.

So a couple of years ago, when an app called Uber launched in San Francisco, allowing you to commission limo drivers in their downtime, obviously I jumped on board (this will come as little surprise to most, but save for rail, I’m allergic to public transportation).

But since then, in my opinion, things have spiraled (dramatically) out of control: new startups, like Lyft and Sidecar, have given people like you and me the opportunity to turn our cars into cabs (joy), and everyone thinks they can now muse on the wonders of free market capitalism, transforming a stagnant industry. Gurrrrl, slow your roll!!–that’s my job; get your own douchebag blog.

Now, I’ve gone on the record that on a macro level, taxi drivers are among the worst people. In every country you go to. They’re rude, they smell, they’re awkward…I haven’t yet tasted (or touched) one yet, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that they would likely offend those senses as well. And yet, call me old fashioned, but I still prefer a traditional ‘ol taxi, when I’m crossing town for a Grindr romp. Here’s why:

Umm, I’ll sit in the back. Thanks.
So here’s a gentle fyi–I’m looking for a ride, not a common law marriage. Lyft drivers welcome you with a fist bump, and Sidecar says they’re building a “social transportation network.” Fine, I guess I can tolerate your terrorist fist jab. But as for a conversation? Absolutely not. I only mildly tolerate talking with people I’m “friends” with, so absolute strangers are completely out of the question, even if you only want to talk about me. Feature request: a button for a virtual privacy window, to act as an indicator to the driver that even though I don’t have enough money to actually hire a limo, my bloated sense of self still precludes me from wanting to chat with others.

And while we’re at it, no I do not want to sit in the front seat. I’m driven, thanks. So don’t offer it to me, because my response will be awkward for the both of us.


Route maps, or a giant cocktease?
What’s worse than sitting in the car while your driver takes what is very obviously a wrong turn? Standing on a street corner, waiting for your car to come and watching this all take place on your phone, with no opportunity to right the ship.

UberAt first I enjoyed being able to see your driver make his way to pick you up. But then I found myself barking at the phone when–just blocks away–he decided to take  a turn that *at best* could be described as circuitous. Or, seeing the car sitting at what looks to be an eternal red light, screaming at the people in front of him to “move it or lose it” (and just seconds later seeing the car teleport 4 blocks closer to you, realizing that it wasn’t in fact the world’s longest red but rather a buffering error in the connection).

I appreciate knowing a driver is on their way–it’s much more reassuring than the trash bin I imagine every single taxi call-in request I’ve ever made, but maybe such granular insight isn’t necessary, lest we all turn into sociopaths micromanaging every single turn.


Since when did you become Ayn Rand?
What really grinds my gears are all of these users suddenly espousing the value of a free market, “really showing an industry how to innovate.” News flash: downloading an app that maximizes your ability to squeeze one more shot out of your pre-game before heading out doesn’t suddenly qualify you as a guest commentator for Hardball.

Sure, I have noticed a change in SF taxis: they no longer scoff when I pay by credit card (or pretend their system suddenly stopped working), and they’re a bit easier to find–they’re even building their own app! But to be clear, most of your angst should be directed at the regulator who controls them, and I highly doubt taxi drivers were begging for these boards to be put in place in the first place. They only want the same playing field that these startups have. Which oh by the way, is one of the tenets of that free market you suddenly love.

So there. Disclosure: I do use Uber, alongside taxis. Not because I’m trying to make any sort of statement or I think it’s revolutionary; I just find the tinted windows help protect me against the paparazzi a little bit better.

The America’s Cup, for dummies

The America’s Cup: like most San Franciscans, obviously I have been excited about it. Though, also like most San Franciscans: “umm, wait what? Did it happen or like what’s going on?”

You can imagine my titilation when it was announced that the premier sailing event of the…world(?) would take place in the San Francisco Bay. As a connoisseur of elitist sports (or more accurately, a connoisseur of the *gear for* elitist sports), setting this race in our backyard on a beautiful race course stretching from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge and passing by Alcatraz just made a lot of sense.

AC72 Sail 4 / Foiling / ORACLE TEAM USA / San Francisco (USA) / 01-10-12

But…what. a. cocktease. They’ve been actively racing since last summer, and we still don’t have a winner (though they were “practicing” last summer). And what’s worse: there are only three challengers (more on that below). As someone who competitively races against people on the sidewalk daily, let me tell you this: you’re not doing it correctly if it takes you over a year (and as many as 40+ races) to find a winner.

Still, I’m determined to be interested in this sport, lest I be cast aside by other sailing aficionados, relegated to the masses and their love for more pedestrian sports like Nascar and cock fighting.

So, after some thorough research (and this particularly fascinating channel on YouTube), I’ve put together some items that finally have piqued my interest for the sport:

#1 — They’re flying: While sailboats, of course, have always pitched out of the water (and quite dramatically in races), this year’s boats–the AC72–include foils that can actually bring both sides of the catamaran out of the water, so they’re almost flying. The foils help propel them to speeds that are actually faster than the wind itself (1.6 times faster). It’s crazy to see a boat over 7 tons going 40 knots on an incredibly small surface…see:

#2 — They’re huge: I didn’t fully appreciate this until I was sitting at the office watching one go under the Bay Bridge when its mast nearly touched the deck of the bridge. In fact, at 185’ high, the boats in the last America’s Cup actually couldn’t fit under the Golden Gate (though this year’s masts are a more modest 135’–see photo at top of post)

#3 — There are only three challengers: So here’s where it get’s tricky. The champion of the previous America’s Cup (in this case, the Golden Gate Yacht Club with Oracle Team USA at the helm) defends their title against a challenger, determined by the Louis Vuitton Cup (which took place in July and August). While 12 clubs applied, 9 failed to meet the requirements, making it a three horse race to challenge the defender.

#4 — The BRANDS!! I threw my pinky in the air the moment I set foot inside the Moet & Chandon “Champagne Garden” on Marina Green. It’s a pussy fantasia of “puh-you-re lux-uh-ree” (as Jill Zarin would say): the Lexus charging station, a 100’ sail with only “PRADA” splashed across it, the Louis Vuitton cup, and of course, there’s the trophy itself, the oldest active trophy in international sport (and by far, the douchiest). Really, what more could a girl ask for. SWAG? Yes please.


So there you have it. Is this enough to actually get you through watching a race? No, absolutely not. Nowhere did I mention the rules (they change every year), the science behind tacking (it requires a PhD in physics or meteorology or both) or the fact that–most annoying of all–there isn’t actually one definitive race, but rather an endless parade of practices, qualifiers and sets, to determine the winner. This video does an adequate job explaining it (or rather, is a reminder that often times, 3-minute vignettes are more compelling than being there live):

But, I’ll see you at the Moet & Chandon Champagne Garden this weekend, yeah?

6 Cocktail Tidbits About the Bay Bridge

It’s time to come clean: I’m a bridge porn addict. No, I don’t like watching porn that takes place on bridges, I love the bridges themselves. (though given the latter, the former is definitely interesting)

Everything about them. Pictures of bridges: I’ll take four. Documentaries about bridges: I know what I’m doing tonight. A good run across a bridge: stop it, you’re making me moist. When I’m driving across a bridge, I’ll have to hang up the phone or make everyone in the car stop talking so I can tee up a really good “bridge song” (a song that captures the moment; probably the best bridge song of all time is “Galvanize” by the Chemical Brothers).

Needless to say, the opening of the new Eastern Span of the Bay Bridge next week has me hot blooded and ready to go.
As a bit of background for those of you outside of San Francisco, the Bay Bridge connects San Francisco to Oakland, a 6-mile journey bifurcated into two spans by Yerba Buena Island. It’s dwarfed in notoriety by its sister bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge. But one could make an argument that the Bay Bridge is cooler. Am I going to do that? No sir, not right now; maybe when I’m sitting alone on my couch after drinking half a box of chardonnay. But if I were, here’s why:

  • -it’s older: 6 months older
  • -it’s longer: 6 miles versus just under 2
  • -it’s bigger: 10 lanes (5 going each way) versus 6

You’re right, though: it’s not orange.

The West Span of the Bay Bridge is a Suspension Bridge and resembles the Golden Gate; the East Span is a trussel-style bridge–it’s uglier, and also a lot less safe (part of it actually collapsed in the 1989 earthquake). It’s built on a foundation which engineers have warned will not be able to sustain another major earthquake.


This weekend, they are making the switch from the trussel-style East Span with a brand new Self-Anchored Suspension (SAS) bridge and skyway. When complete, the SAS will be the longest in the world. They’ve been working on the bridge since 2002, and this weekend, while the entire bridge is shut down, they’ll be making the switch.

Here are 6 things you can conversation drop

If you’re out hobnobbing at a cocktail party this weekend, here are some delicious tidbits you can serve up, should the conversation head that direction (or should a pregnant pause give you opportunity to redirect the conversation to this far-more fascinating topic):

  1. We’ve actually known for the last 20 years that the bridge is structurally unsound; we just wanted something pretty. After part of it collapsed in the ‘89 earthquake, research was done showing the foundation was no longer structurally sound. The original plan for the new bridge would have only taken 4 years to build (and cost $1 billion). But it was boh-ring so we scrapped that for something a lot prettier…which ended up taking 13 years to build and cost $6 billion…#worthit. I love living in a city that knows its priorities.
  2. Building a new bridge on top of an existing bridge which carries 280,000 cars a day is a fascinating task. In 2009, the bridge was shut down while construction crews slid in a temporary connector–a massive 300-foot, 3200-ton section–in one weekend. Time-lapse video of that in action? Uh, yes please:
  3. The new bridge was built in China and then delivered to SF in pieces. But it was “assembled in the USA” — umm, duh.
  4. The center tower is holding up the entire suspension portion. In fact, they had to build a temporary bridge to uphold the deck pieces before putting in place the cable that would hold up those pieces from the center tower.
  5. That’s in fact only one cable; not two (or four). It’s one mile long, 137 strands of fiber that are pulled up from the deck up to the tower, back down to the deck again and then under the deck, only to repeat the same path on the other side before connecting to thestarting point (see here, starting at 2:15: http://youtu.be/wJeyD_67YMo?t=2m15s)
  6. The original bridge carried automobiles on the upper deck and trains on the lower deck, which terminated at the old Transbay Terminal, until the train systems were privatized and transformed into bus lines in the middle of the 20th century.

So there you have it, consider yourself properly armed for the inevitable Bay Bridge conversation. I’ll be lining up on Tuesday morning to be one of the first to cross the bridge. And of course, I’ll be playing my bridge song.


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