Note: if you ain’t seen a film by the name of Fast Cheap and Out of Control you ain’t likely to ‘preciate this much. Or that story by Mr. Mark Twain (Shania’s grand-grand-pappy?) about that old ram…
A dog named Oso blocked half the sidewalk and pre-empted my first notion of a post about the historic Varsity Theatre, 50 feet further up Uni and confronting your demons, or Ballrogs. In the end, slightly further down the stream of my consciousness, a dog named Nabby, for the goalie a shark and not the author a predator, and his companion set me to thinking about mortality. The journey of here to there, to connect those dots, ay there’s the rub. I am not sure if I can keep to this strategy of being seated to Palo Alto City Council, with 10,000 or so votes from my fellow Residentialists meanwhile not campaigning at all. That I chatted up the nice Canadian couple, companions to Oso and Scout, is not that atypical for me. My earliest memory, I often tell, is walking up and down the cabin, from section to section, on a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, in 1968 — I was four years old — and greeting every person on the aisle and thinking it the greatest thing in the world: the people, not the flight per se, California or the orange juice and danish awaiting us in Los Gatos the next morning. I really do want to know something about each and every person I pass, or who passes me; what do you know and what I’ve seen so far. Part Will Rogers and part Stephen L. Carter saying that “hello” is the basic currency of a Democracy.
I told the Canadian couple that Montreal means: a Jazz festival with multiple stages and a large free element, Pedro Martinez slowly creeping into my consciousness with eight, nine, ten K’s — after a while, you start to notice these things; Schwartz smoked meat. The man looked pretty fit but denied modestly being any type of hockey player whose name preceded him, like a Cromartie or Le Gran Orange.
Ms. Chestnutt is probably not related to my Gunn classmate and Oracle colleague the PhD Beatrice Chestnut, nor the sport-eating king from San Jo. She said that despite the variant spelling for the recently deceased indie folk singer her heritage does include Macon, Georgia before being here for 100 years or so, so maybe she will look into “Coward” by Victor Chesnutt (no middle “t”) — I tried to boot up the video of his work but it would not comply to play. I suggested she look into the plans to tear down the Chicago Title building on her block or nearby and speak her piece (“peace”?); at least two other residents have, at the meeting I attended. The real estate people there, on Lytton, plan to tear down a fully-leased building and build a bigger one, just to make jake. (Same thing as 385 Sherman I wrote about below).
She did sign my petition, although, really, I am not campaigning. I am not a politician. I am just a guy who lives here and likes to speak my mind.
The Times obit, five years old now, of Victor Chesnutt, 45 (born same as me in 1964) says that after breaking his neck (drunk driving, he admitted later) he lay in bed for about a year before deciding he had something to say, and later recorded 13 albums worth. I have a couple of those cds, I enjoy enough. Never saw him live. Although it is completely true that I lent or gave one to Suzanne Warren when she booked, as City staff, the Twilight Series. We were fixing to have Victor Chesnutt and Kristen Hersh, as a co-bill to play Johnson Park, two blocks from here — I’m at Peet’s; I’m not sure where exactly it broke down. I have Kristen’s memoir “Rat Girl” in my little Chevy; I am fixing to give it my neighbor, the famous rock bassist: No but I have a “Rat Girl” for u. For your pipe.
I was gonna write about running into Chop Keenan and chatting him up for a full 30 minutes, around the corner from his office, up from Whole Foods. He says that letting a large software company have a commissary there, in the Varsity, at 456 University, will rock. He said that even I, Mark Weiss of Earthwise Productions will want to produce cultural events there, in this place named for a new platform. HANAhous. He said he was oh-for-five in terms of prospective tenants and that he coulda gotten a higher paying tenant but this was a better fit. He is not Alibi Ike, he is staking his rep on this. I told him that he could tell me if I have him wrong, and I can amend– the nature of a blog and all that.
He said he had never seen my blog but knew who I was based on my postings on the Weekly site. So, despite having posted that the current plan is a crock, and that people should pack the aug. 20 ARB or HRB meeting, I am now saying I am calling off the dogs (the Oso’s, the Scout’s, the Nabby’s — I was trying to see in their behavior something universal, that works for four-legged as well as for “linguistically conscious apes” — that’s a weak Cornell West reference — I am trying to find a type of politicking as natural as a dog either barking, or bending, case by case but with a pattern, a reason, a charm, and sometimes if really necessary, a bite. After so many posts and rants against what is happening at 456 and the man behind the plan there, could I really say “30 minutes of constructive engagement and he has won me over”. Does that make me a sellout? does that make me, despite saying I am not, a politician. I am certainly not taking a finder’s fee from the guy, or a donation. Maybe he is just fucking with me – -yes I am saying the f-word, 1,000 words into this shaggy bitch. Ok, I am going to check in with him on Aug. 31, 2014 and see where we stand, and yeah, if six months after opening HANAhous does not actually rock, he will hear about it.
Chop Keenan told me he has a son about my age. He said that unlike the other most famous downtown guy, he never uses the PC. He said his son is called “Jamie” and lives in SF and does investments. Both he and two of his kids were water polo stars. Chop is Paly 1962. Jamie liked Dartmouth; Chop has enjoyed his visits to Hanover, NH, although when 4 and 5 went on a college tour the weather was nicer in Durham and the young ladies there wore less clothes so dad’s advice was the tobacco dynasty not the secret under-pinning of the revolution, but he was probably in the wrong there, as it turns out.
Chop is turning 70 this year, but he would not say exactly when; I guessed he was a Taurus and he plausibly denied it. I am saying Scorpio, which means November. I am Aquarius which maybe explains why I am curious about every single person I meet, plus my moon in Cancer which is my sweetness but yeah I am Scorpio rising so if you cross me up, better watch it! I told Chop that I would work on getting Roy Orbison for his birthday. That would take some doing, Roy having passed in 1988, at 52 (to Vic Chesnutt’s 2009, at 45) but it is also true that Hershel Yatovitz, Paly 1982, has been Chris Isaak’s guitarist for about 20 years, and Chris covers or admires or channels Roy, and maybe met him – – I asked Kenny Dale Johnson about this once, I used to see him at Pat O’Sheas and Gordo’s both in the Richmond; incidentally as is Balboa Theatre re-founded by Gary Meyer who was Chop’s tenant at 456, Gary the co-founder — with a name that came to Chop more easily but has slipped past me, no Nabakov on this one — of Landmark films. I am pretty sure that Chris Isaak and therefore Hershel Yatovitz are coming around this fall, so if Chop will open the gates to the courtyard we can plausibly at least get H-man to busk there, probably not Chris; I can get an ask price on Chris, as a private function or some sort of private function with a public element, and then run it by Chop. Chop said that he let Gabe Harris play in the courtyard because he is good friends with Joan. So there is precedent and only so many fingers for so many dykes. O Brother. O death. Hot dog.
Chop Keenan and his sunglasses is I guess explained by his Roy Orbison thing.
Nabby is a hunting type dog and kept his eye on Laurie as we chatted. He is named for the Russian hockey goalie for the Sharks. She did not remember Larionov (which is how I remembered it, a skater for the Sharks and former USSR Olympian).
Anyhow that is how I spend my Saturday morning. Thinking that I, too, like Victor, have something to say. I got one signature for my petition, my writ — I have about 55 total; you need 25 to qualify, but if you get 100 you get your $25 bucks back. I also did talk to, or by email that is, Kristen Hersh’s husband and manager Billy O’Connell about, in the wake of the suicide cluster, and in honor of her friend Chesnutt, would Kristen come back to Palo Alto to do some kind of benefit event or to make that statement. Maybe. Maybe in the courtyard of the historic and beloved Varsity, now that there is a dialogue and line of communication. a Hailing. Kenneith, what is the frequency? I wil be at the farmers market collecting a couple more signatures and peeing on or near where the other candidates might be tabling.
edit to add:
2. La Hacienda Inn, in Los Gatos but on Saratoga and Monte Sereno borders, where I fondly spend my first several days as a Native California (of the kind born in the South Side of Chicago), was formerly Nippon Mura Inn and, coinkydinky or not, is part of a scheme now to be re-incorporated as part of Monte Sereno such that the zoning will change and Dingbat (not Chop Keenan, by the way) can tear it down and build housing. So it’s not just here. I bought a nice OJ from John Adams this a.m. for $2.50 and told him of my candidacy, which kinda reminds me of that first taste of California fresh-squeezed back in 1968. I can still taste it. My folks used to remind us that as we drove around the Bay Area we City Slickers were so not used to the terrain that we would retreat to the hillside of the back seat of our Chevy as we wound the curves of Highway 9 and the like. This was before car seats but after Ralph Nader unsafe at any speed; I guess we had seat belts but didn’t know what they were for. And yeah Moms was the type, even as my mass hit 200 lbs and she could not drive a golf ball as she once did, would put her right arm out to break my fall, at sudden stops, driving. Thanks, Mom.
3. translated from Plastic Alto to SWE:
I’ve changed my stance on this and am going to take Chop Keenan at his word that this hanahous is going to “rock” and that people like me, who has produced more than 200 concerts in Palo Alto, the bulk of which included national and internationally known acts, will be able to go up to the new tenant and work out a deal to bring great music to 456 Uni, the historic and beloved Varsity building, just as if staff and leadership had done as I suggested in 2011 and find a known presenter to take over the site as a music venue.
So it is not necessary, fellow citizens, to pack the ARB and HRB meetings and challenge this.
I also, as a hedge, checked with Brian Judd the historic architectural consultant to verify that yes the theatre engineering is still preserved underneath a false floor such that, if hanahous doesn’t work out and Chop someday sees the light, it can be, as demanded by code, reverted to theatre use.
But for now Chop Keenan is putting his reputation on the line and I am going to give him benefit of the doubt. (post to Weekly, which included a link or ping back to here. They removed the link, prompting a second post 7 minutes later: Fuck you, leave the link; not sure how long that lasted. I should really angle for an editorial meeting with Bill Johnson and Jocelyn Dong — how much do I have to agree to spend before they would cover me straightforward-like. I am the only person who posts by name at PAW and gets deleted).
edit to add: This item, 456 Uni, was agendized for the Historic Resources Board, August 6, 2014 and I am writing you from that event, in real time. There is a 10-page staff report by Steven Turner, Advance Planning Manager, one of his last acts before moving on, after 16 years here, to Redwood. I spoke at the meeting, during orals, about 261 Hamilton; I said “I’ve spoken my piece / peace about 456”. I should probably try to reach the tenant and feel them out and maybe influence how they do the stage part of their project: why 100 cap, I had it as 600 all-in?
edit to add, Aug. 9:
on Weekly, under Elena K:
I wrote probably 50,000 words in twenty or more posts about this, in opposition and spoke at public hearings a half dozen times, 1994 thru 2011 mostly, but have changed my stance because Chop Keenan, the owner, met with me for 30 minutes, on Channing Street, around the corners from his HQ, and gave me his word that this will “rock”.
It’s called “constructive engagement”. No money was exchanged.
I gave my card to Sanjay Shirole, Lead Global Alliances SAP Startup Focus, a Palo Altan who is the German software giant’s point man on this project — the name connotes a proprietary platform the cafe seeks to popularize, an acronym, HANA- and am offering to bring programming to the site via my company Earthwise Productions, which has produced more than 200 concerts, lectures and screenings here since 1994.
They are building a stage inside, and describe a plan to host 100-capacity events at least once a month (compared to the white paper I wrote for the City of Palo Alto wherein nationally-known concert entities might host 600-capacity events). Meanwhile, thanks mostly to Dennis Backlund and the Save The Varsity committee in 1995, the theatre still has the engineering structure to revert back from offices and lunchrooms to a theatre per se.
Welcome, HanaHous. I love Blue Bottle, from visits to SFMOMA.