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Steaming Aphrodite

I recently bought a trunk at a flea market and was surprised to discover that it had a false bottom. Under the faux cover I discovered a diary written in 1909 by a man named Dr. York Van Landingham. Here is a page:

July 17th 1909

She was from Mother Russia and her name was Svetlana Minsky. She spoke perfect English in an accent that one could not detect as foreign. Svetlana had a penchant for bawdy revelry, and used the kind of language which might make an unassuming male turn burgundy from blushing. I had sought her company while we were aboard a steamboat vessel bound for the shores of North Africa. I was wary of her however, as earlier, I had witnessed her bilk three men of their life savings with a fifth, and yes even a sixth King up her lace sleeve.

In the event that her conniving was discovered, she kept a knife in her garter. Upon discovering the weapon one sultry night in Constantinople I decided to nickname her “Svetlana Switchblade.” As I recall, she only stabbed me with it once, and I remain convinced that it was somewhat accidental, but the piercing occurred after I confessed that I relinquished one of her diamond earrings to get out of a tight spot in Bombay.

The night we met, I caught up with her on the deck as she stared out across the Atlantic Ocean at the purple dusk, her winnings tucked into the folds of her undergarments. She told me she’d first noticed me playing trumpet among the troupe of musicians that kept the passengers and crew entertained. It was someone else that she had seen, but I played along not wishing to disappoint her.

She told me she had been entrusted to discover if there were truths to the legend of the goddess Aphrodite and the potions so named after her. She had journeyed through Greece and was now headed to the barely reachable corners of the darkest continent. Entrusted by whom she never confirmed, but she had alluded to a man named Rasputin.

I knew nothing of Aphrodite and she asked me to join her in her cabin to discuss matters of amour. I hadn’t been invited to a woman’s quarters since my journey began and I lustily agreed. She asked if I had absinthe, and of course I did.

We sipped our pastis and made playful conversation. She pulled a patina box from the drawer and opened it. “This is dust from a rhinoceros’s horn,” she said, offering it to me.

     “And?” I said.

     “You snort it, like so.”

     “Madame, I have ingested many a foreign object in my time but nothing from a beast of such stature.”

“It’s an aphrodisiac.

 “An aphro what?”

“It’s named after the goddess,” she said. “If you take it you will likely want to consume me with desire.”

     “I have never heard of such a thing. Won’t I become ill?”

     “No. Legend says that you will become aroused. Try it.”

      “Hm, do you have any other aphrodisiacs, say something in a chewable form?”

       “Many men have died trying to discover what it is about this and other ingredients that turn us into savages.” She passed a leather-bound book under my nose that she had been writing in. I opened it somewhere near the beginning and read her words. I suddenly felt the urge to regurgitate my lunch.

      “What in the name of Satan’s hot tub?”

       “What did you read? Is it the tiger penis thing?”

        “Yes, of course it’s that!!”

        “That’s usually the reaction.”

         “People actually eat tiger’s penises?” I blurted. She nodded slowly. “I mean I’m adventurous in the kitchen, Svetlana, but there is one ingredient that doesn’t leap to mind when cooking and that is tiger penis. I mean, how does one even discover something like that? Oh, I know, why don’t I try tiger penis in my omelet this morning? But before I can do that it’s off to hunt and castrate a tiger…hope he doesn’t mind having his masculinity severed from him before he’s had his morning cup of tea. Maybe I can find other ways to use tiger penis, since I went to the trouble, maybe as an accompaniment to a cheese plate. Oh what have we got here then? Brie, Camembert, Stilton, Tiger penis…oh, yes, perfect, just fits right in there doesn’t it? Pass the salted crackers; this tiger penis is in need of a bed of crunchiness before I can consume it. Good god!”

        “What is it then that makes man want to consume the horn from a rhinoceros and the genitals of a jungle cat?” she asked with a perfectly straight face.

        “I couldn’t tell you, Svetlana, but if this catches on, these poor things are looking to go the way of the dodo and the unicorn. Oh no, do you think that’s what happened to those doomed creatures? Unicorn testicle flambé ? Dodo Eggs Benedict?”

       She calmed me with her smile and we drank long into the night. At some point she asked if I would be interested in joining her on her mission. I laughed. “As long as you don’t try to get me to snort pelican beak, drink panda bear urine, or inhale a mongoose’s fart. I’ll think upon it.”

      Hours later I awoke under my own bed with a headache the size of the earthquake that shook San Francisco. In my view was a half-eaten plate of oysters and my ears filled with sounds of an accordion melody skipping on the phonograph caught in a three second loop. Oh, Svetlana, I thought, I really must stop drinking that absinthe.

I crawled out from beneath the bed and sought the comfort of some woolen trousers so that I might get some fresh sea air and locate my mysterious Russian adventurer. Tomorrow night we are due to dock in Casablanca. I hope that there are no tigers in Morocco, the temptation might be too great an urge to resist.

I Love The French

I love the French. I suppose that’s not a particularly popular thing to say, especially if you’re either English or American…but there it is. A friend just returned from a trip to Paris; she fell in love with it. It happens to the best of us.

Photo by Sheila Star 2011

When the French opposed George W’s 2003 invasion of Iraq they were targeted by a considerable portion of the American public. I wonder what the French word for sheep is? Never mind. At the time, I was working in a bar in San Francisco, and a customer asked me which was the best vodka we had? I was of the opinion that Grey Goose was the smoothest vodka available at that time. So I reached for the bottle.

“Whoa, whoa!!! Hold it right there, buddy!” the man chirped.“ Is that a French flag on that bottle?”

“Yes. Why?”

“I don’t want that shit.”

“Why not? I just told you it’s the best one.”

“It’s French.”

“You don’t want it because it’s French?” I asked disbelievingly.

“That’s right. Fucking French.”

“So I suppose you’re one of these guys that calls ‘French fries’ ‘freedom fries’ then?”

“I am.”  He pointed to a vodka bottle in the well (the contents of which tasted like lighter fluid) and I made him his “French-free” vodka drink.

“You know in France they’re called ‘pommes frites’ and in England they’re called ‘chips.’ Americans are the only people that call them ‘French fries’ anyhow,” I said.

He took a sip of his cheap American vodka and shuddered. He stared at me quizzically and said, “Saaay, where are you from anyway?”

“I’m from England. It’s near France.”

“Well, I suppose you’re okay then.”

“Gee thanks.”

“So you’re English and you’re not mad at the French?”

“No. I love the French, and when this idiotic war is all said and done, the French will likely turn out to be the smart ones. I love French Toast, and I love French kisses. My favorite Gene Hackman film is “Young Franc-en-stein,” closely followed by “The French Connection.” My favorite celebratory beverage is Champagne…a region in France. I like songs about the Champs Elysées. I make my coffee in a French press. My favorite comedy is Napoleon Dynamite, and I don’t say ‘fil-lit’ of fish I say ‘fhil-llaay.’ That will be sixteen dollars, s’il vous plait.”

“Sixteen dollars for cheap vodka?”

“Taxes. Your president’s got to pay for those bombs somehow. What, you think he’s going to use his own money? Now pay up and leave, and don’t let the door hit your derriere on the way out.”

The English notoriously have a love/hate relationship with the French, as demonstrated in this tongue-in-cheek satirical music video below.

Me? I love the French.

C’est la vie!!!!!

The Gospel According To BART

For those not familiar with BART, it is the train system that links San Francisco to Oakland and to other more forgettable places in the Bay Area. This is what it’s like:

Whatever you do with your graffiti, don’t smoke, drink, or eat it while on BART

Also known as Commandment #6 as told in “The Gospel According To BART.”

However, federal law does NOT require that the seats actually be clean enough to sit on.

“Hey, hippy, why does no one want to sit anywhere near you? Are you the reason that the seats on BART are dirty?”

Sometimes while I’m on BART I play, “Hey, Pal, Are You Dead Or Just Sleeping?”

BART isn’t just for homeless people trying to stay out of the rain. Celebrity impersonator sightings are frequent. Depending on which side of the train this John Goodman wannabe sits, there’s a good chance that the train will be leaning to that side.

Clearly this couple thought that they were on The Orient Express. I love this guy’s cane.

This from the BART website: We are asking you to help keep BART safe for everyone by reporting unattended packages or suspicious behavior. What do we mean by suspicious behavior? Here are some examples: 1) Acting nervous, sweating inappropriately. 2) Taking pictures or videotaping in areas of no interest to the general public. 3) Attempting to get into an area that is off limits. 4) Leaving a package, backpack or briefcase and hurrying away from the area………………..The Bay Area Brit: guilty as charged…………Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to eat and drink and maybe smoke some graffiti.

The Bay Area Brit Is One-Year Old…

…which would likely explain the maturity level of some of the jokes and cartoons.

Valentine’s Day is the The Bay Area Brit’s one-year anniversary. And what better way to celebrate by giving fake awards to Brits who have popped up on the American radar in the last year.

Award For The Funniest And Meanest Way To Get Back At Your Celebrity Wife 

"I'd like to thank my iPhone and Twitter for this award."

Russell Brand exposed his wife, Katy Perry to the TwitWorld sans makeup. Normally this would be a “so-what” situation: a woman without makeup–big deal. I like to see it as the first layer of exposure. Next comes Brand’s homemade audio files of her singing off key in the shower and then of course the inevitable porno tape. Who knows what started it? Perhaps a fight over whose maid should do the dishes, or maybe there was a verbal joust regarding whose 15 minutes would be up first. Either way, we here at the Bay Area Brit commend Mr. Brand’s efforts to prevent boys aged 13-77 from lusting after his wife.

Monty Python: Funny. Jeremy Clarkson: Unfunny.

Award For Putting Your Foot In Your Mouth And Then Not Only Failing To Remove It, But Trying To Cram The Other Foot In There As Well.

Jeremy Clarkson is the host of a popular British TV show called “Top Gear.” On a recent episode, he referred to Mexicans as “lazy, feckless, flatulent oafs” and Mexican food as “refried vomit.” Understandably, Mexicans are angry at the comments, and Clarkson has failed to apologize; in fact he continued to make even more racist comments that he believes is “humour.” To make matters worse, he claims that, “the Mexicans have no sense of humour.” Which is kind of like me taking a crap on his floor and telling him that, “he’s only mad at me because he hates cleaning his carpet.”

We here at The Bay Area Brit think that Jeremy Clarkson’s the one lacking a sense of humor.

Award For Pissing Off Hollywood Celebrities By Making Fun Of Them 

No need to apologize for being funny, Ricky.

Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes for the second year in a row. It’s refreshing to see an awards show host who is secure and comfortable enough to fearlessly make fun of the irritating pomposity that these affairs usually bring. I mean he’s drinking a beer at the podium for God’s sake. He skewered some easy targets but even went after the guy that signed his paycheck that night: the President of the Hollywood Foreign Press. One of his best lines made fun of the Cosmo-swilling cougars from Sex In The City.

“I was sure the Golden Globe for special effects would go to the team that airbrushed that “Sex In The City” poster. Girls, we know how old you are. I saw one of you in an episode of Bonanza.”

The distinction between Gervais and Clarkson is that Gervais targets himself as much as others. Plus, Gervais went for the jugulars of the wealthy and famous, Clarkson cruelly generalized and negatively stereotyped an entire nation.

Celebrities seen here demonstrating outside Ricky Gervais's hotel

Award For Most British, British Movie Star : Colin Firth

Colin Firth: Seen here not dressed as a King

Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George VI sealed this year’s award of being the “Most British, British Movie Star.” Cheerio, pip, pip and all that rot, Colin. Good luck winning a real award at the Oscars for “The King’s Speech.” We are all counting on you.

Award For Best Attempt At Killing Your Career Just As You Were Making Money And Achieving “C”…Maybe “D-List” Status In America

British soccer analyst Andy Gray covered the 2010 World Cup in the United States and received positive acclaim and attention with his excitable, yet no-nonsense approach and analysis. He was recently fired by Sky Sports for making sexist comments regarding a soccer official during the broadcast of an English Premier League game. “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” 

Well done, Andy; women don’t know how to drive a car, change a flat tire, fly a plane, be an astronaut, or lead a country, and they certainly couldn’t possibly understand the complicated offside rule. Idiot!

Happy Birthday, Bay Area Brit, here’s to another year. Oh, and in case you missed it–here you go.

"I'm sorry I called you a stupid, British monkey...Please don't Tweet that pic."

The Fine Art of Diplomacy

When I was a kid, my friend Edgar and I were at his house in South London watching a film about American frontiersmen. The adventurous family was heading west in search of a new start. All of their possessions were packed tightly onto a raft made of tree logs and some extra-strength tree vine. Their vessel was slowly drifting down the river and the film’s soundtrack indicated all was well with “cruising down the river at a nice leisurely pace” music.

But then the music changed, it became a little quicker and louder.

The family’s raft seemed to be picking up speed, the water moving more unpredictably. The music had alerted us that danger was coming.  It was all very exciting and Edgar and I were sucked into the moment. One of the kids looked ahead down the river and yelled back to his parents with panic:

“LOOK OUT! RABBITS!….RABBITS AHEAD!”

Edgar and I looked at each other in astonishment. “Rabbits? In the river? Can rabbits swim? Even if they could, should they really be feared as if they were a school of long-eared piranha fish?”

After about a minute of eagerly awaiting these flesh-eating, cotton-tailed bunnies, Edgar and I figured it out. “Oh, rapids—they’re worried about rapids. Well that makes much more sense.” We hadn’t understood the American child’s accent.

In this instance no harm done. Kids watching TV. What if the context were different and the stakes much higher? What if the President of the United States was given information in a foreign language that was incorrect because the person conveying it misheard or misunderstood what was intended.

Enter The International Translator.

The international translator has the most important job in the world. Failing to decipher the real meaning of a sentence filled with ambiguity could be the difference between war and peace.

Example: “Let me give you some fruit punch.” Translate this from English into a foreign language and then back into English. You can bet that any rearrangement of words in that sentence could lead to trouble and perhaps even a scuffle.

In the game Chinese Whispers, one person whispers an original sentence into another’s ear, and then that person to the next person and so on. The last set of ears might receive some words totally different from the first. Depending on the room this can be dangerous. For example at a mafia meeting, “Can you pass down the coffee?” Could quite easily become “I think we should whack Don Corleone.”

The responsibility of the international translator’s job is beyond compare. Yet, who are these people? They stand off camera, lurking on the edge of the shadows with headphones on, a whisper away from the President’s ear. Do these people have relationships with their international counterparts? After the summit do they joke about how good it is to finally have a President that can properly pronounce the word “nuclear?”

Surely these multi-linguists must have relationships with each other, after all, they are the kings and queens of diplomacy and communication. If an argument arose they could settle their differences with a well-chosen turn of phrase, with a multitude of languages to pick from to get the nuance just right.

After a hard day’s work, does the international translator lie awake at night wondering whether he conveyed to the President that the Russian Premier might have been being sarcastic when he offered to reduce the amount of nuclear weapons stationed in Cuba?

Words in a sentence or inflections in a word, perhaps a raised eyebrow here, a cough, a pause. All of these things change the meaning of what has been said.

So, kids, when you’re in school and told that the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the reason that the world was catapulted into war in 1914—don’t be so sure. Someone may have ordered the assassination, but they might also have simply been asking for someone to pass down the coffee.

2011 New Year’s Resolutions: How I’m Doing So Far

This is the 50th Bay Area Brit blog, and the first one of the year. I have catalogued my Ten New Year’s Resolutions and will reveal how I’m doing.

1. To Be A Better Person.

Well that’s working out pretty well, because the better person I wanted to be was Mother Teresa. As it turns out Mother Teresa is dead, and therefore by just existing I am a better “person” than she is. However, regarding otherworldly incarnations she’s got me in a heavenly headlock.

2. To Help Others.

So I take the train a lot, and every single night at the BART station I see this guy pretending to be flustered because he just lost his wallet, and he only needs another $2.80 to get back to the City. Again and again he pitches me the same story, like he doesn’t remember me. I’m going to help him by not giving him an angry glare when I see him shuffling towards me, and I’m not going to say: “Every time I see you, you’ve lost your wallet.” Instead, I’m going to tell him that  they now have these little chains that you can attach to your wallet and loop onto your pants.

3. To Be More Tolerant.

Who am I the Pope? No, wait, I am more tolerant than the Pope.

4. To Drink Less.

Every summer they tell me there’s a drought on — an actual water shortage, people. And so I am fighting the fight and being responsible by drinking more beer and less water, hardly any water in fact. SAVE OUR PLANET!

5. To Eat More Healthily.

Well that’s kind of relative. You see I do eat more healthily than a whopping 34 percent of the country. If you were a baseball player and you hit better than 34 percent, you would be in the Hall of Fame.

6. To Set Realistic Goals.

Writing down and fulfilling any form of New Year’s resolution was an unrealistic goal. FAIL!

7. To Do Something Exciting And Adventurous

To me riding a rollercoaster is terrifying because I imagine the headlines the next day:

FUNLAND ROLLERCOASTER DISASTER: ONE DIES.

So yes, skydiving or bungee jumping is completely out of the question, especially because I would likely post on Facebook that “I’m going to leap out of an airplane from thousands of feet in the air; I hope the chute isn’t made by ACME INC. Har-Har!”

Because if the parachute does actually FAIL, my stupid Facebook post about the ACME INC. parachute will be there forever. The Bay Area Brit’s final status update. At first it would be sad and tragic, and then the more you saw it, the funnier it would seem.

8. To Quit Smoking

Ta-da, easily achievable, since I didn’t ever start smoking. But since I didn’t start by definition I cannot quit. FAIL!

9. To Be Polite And Understanding To People Who Think They Are Funny But Are Actually Boring

This kind of falls into the “be a nicer person” category, but there are people out there that are just (through no fault of their own) dull and uninteresting. I resolved to listen and nod politely, smile, and even laugh when prompted to do so by their own laughter indicating that they’re finished with their tedium.

You may now laugh or nod politely.

And Last But Not Least:

10. To Always Finish What I Sta…

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Copyright 2011        www.TheBayAreaBrit.com

Get Out Your Butterfly Nets

Thanks to the small army of insane men and women roaming the San Francisco Bay Area streets, it is possible to observe a large variety of conversational monologists. While it is not politically correct to refer to the mentally disturbed as “insane,” I feel in my case it is okay, because for all you or I know, I might be “insane.” And if I am “insane,” by the unwritten rules of modern day name-calling I can call “insane” people whatever I want–right?

There are different types of conversational monologists.

The Angry Ranter might threaten violence, as they play out moments in their life, screaming something that they said, or wish they had said. These are the ones you have to watch for, because more often than not, they don’t want anything from you, and therefore have no reason not to shank you with a rusty corkscrew. If confronted by The Angry Ranter, stand your ground and slowly walk backwards while making a bleating sound like a baby goat hungry for its mother’s teat.

Mr. Mumbles sits quietly on the park bench talking to imaginary pigeons who are eating imaginary scraps of food that he dropped from an imaginary sandwich, bought with his imaginary money which he earned from his imaginary job. Mr. Mumbles is safe to sit next to if you’re waiting for a bus, but don’t get started in a conversation about life being like a box of chocolates.

Cellphone Bluetooth Prick is the most obnoxious monologist. If I see someone (dressed in business attire) gesturing and yelling randomly while walking down the street, I am unsettled. I secretly hope that the man has just lost his life savings on a bad stock deal. However, this kind of wishing can lead to dangerous consequences. Cellphone Bluetooth Prick’s life may be spiraling downwards and he might want to take someone down with him. Perhaps he might be on the brink of purchasing a high-powered rifle; minutes away from embarking on a spree, of the non-shopping variety. Fears are assuaged however, when the Cellphone Bluetooth Prick stops every ten seconds to meekly say, “Can you hear me now?”

The Whitney Houston Syndrome Monologists vary in levels of irritation. They were probably once told by someone that they have a nice singing voice, and so they demonstrate their skills (not by applying to be a contestant on American Idol) but by roaming the city streets and public transportation wearing headphones while singing loudly and out of tune, scaring passing children and small dogs. These are the most selfish of monologists because they don’t hear the torture they are serving.

The Delusional Writer Monologist is usually locked away in his studio apartment molding his borderline tasteless, semi-amusing gibberish into something tangible. He’s usually editing his manifesto or working on that hilarious buddy cop screenplay. However, every now and again he will leave the security of his writing environment to sit in a café or a bar with his notepad and pen and chuckle as he reads his musings to himself. Occasionally someone might overhear his mumblings and interrupt to ask, “Are you a writer?”

His answer of course, is “No, I’m just insane.”

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