Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A campaign for business hours to finally mean business! #comeonin2014


I got some fun hate mail in response to my latest column, in which I beg small business owners to honor their regular hours (and customers) with consistent food and service. 


Even this messaging isn't as idiotic as an open sign that means "sort of." (image: Flickering Myth)

An open sign that doesn't mean what it says is a two-sided mess though, and that's why I'm asking individuals not to feel bad about patronizing businesses right up until closing time. 

I pretty much always have the sensitivity of Gordon Ramsay when this issue arises; in fact, I routinely ask myself "WWGRS" (what would Gordon Ramsay say) to help make sense of the restaurant industry's maddening quirks. On that note, allow me to issue a statement from both of us regarding this matter: 



It's bloody unacceptable to give shit service during business hours, you fucks! -Amy T. Granite and Gordon Ramsay (image: BuddyTV)

Oh yes, we live in a troublesome culture of closing early when someone writes to me and asks: "Why would you expect fresh food at 15 minutes before closing?" 

My stance is firm: If restaurants stop serving their usual quality of food at a certain hour, then it's immoral to make eaters pay in full. 

(note: G-Ram and I also agree with a mutual Facebook friend's more reasonable suggestion: maybe restaurants should offer a limited menu of closing-time lameness proof food items during their last hour of business.)  

Perhaps the joint's owners should do their patrons AND employees the favor of closing at a time that makes sense according to their labor needs/budget/bursting grease traps/clogged toilets or whatever the hell is causing innocent dinners to suck. Please, if any of these are regularly the case for you, a) rot in Yelp hell and b) close earlier with dignity for fuck's sake! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

come see "why the long face"


Over the past couple months, I've watched eric produce 35 new paintings for two solo shows: "abstracted emotions" (now over), which happened at Ray Street Custom Framing (May-July), and "why the long face," opening tomorrow from 7 to 10 p.m. at Visual in North Park. (3376 30th Street). After a successful couple of months at the frame shop (client installation photo further down), eric is keeping the momentum going with this next show, so stop by and see what he's been working on.

(above: "with a smile" from "why the long face")


 above: "feeling complimentary" in-progress. 


above: "getting silly" (2' circle, paper mounted to wood. Acrylic & spray paint)


Come get one of 25 available custom hats by eric wixon and Blowfish Designs! $30/ea





Above: From Ray Street Custom Framing/"abstracted emotions." Installation shot below. 


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Live from the embarcadero

 Listen to the Podcast of this story, here.


Embarcadero, I'd repeat to myself after hearing Loren Nancarrow sign off from a live weather report at San Diego's Bay. It was one of those words that stuck in my 10-year-old brain, popping up at random times here and there. Embarcadero: Strange and fun to say, it was an exotic word ascribed to a place I'd see on television that, even though I'd been, seemed like it was a million miles away from my home in Oceanside.

I stood at the door of his office some 16-years later, looking in at the back of his ball-capped head as he studied the computer monitor. I remember lurking for some time, watching him, thinking, what should I say, when do I say it? I was brand new to the Channel 10 team and following orders to deliver some paperwork to the weatherman my family and I had been watching for over a decade-and-a-half.

"Excuse me, Loren? I'm supposed to bring this to you," I finally said. 

Oh no. 

He didn't move. Silence. Surely he heard me, I'm no soft spoken gal. Is this guy going to be a dick or what? I wondered in what was probably a three second delay. Still with his back to me, he said in a deep, serious tone, "Who does that great voice belong to?" 

Uh, what? How'd he know I'm a sucker for dramatics?

His office, the weather center, was three times as big as everyone else's. It was away from the others, too-- a segregated den right off the break room. I immediately liked it there. It became a shelter from the storm of the newsroom where I had assumed, with zero experience, the very important position of someone who'd gone on maternity leave. My first job in TV, at the quirky, independently owned KUSI News, seemed like child's play in hindsight. That was a place where you could learn and mess up without fearing for your life; this was the ABC affiliate. KUSI had been an incubator for an inexperienced chick like me, and then there I was at Channel 10-- TV land reality-- vulnerable and shaky, sinking like a turd every shift, so it felt. I hated it there. Undoubtedly the best (and most comforting) times were fleeting hang outs with the coolest cat in the house: Loren Nancarrow. 

The first words he spoke to me couldn't have been topped; he became my friend within an instant. My whole life I'd been teased for having a deep voice. To this day people mistake me for a "sir" on the phone. Maybe it's because I was star struck, but I recall those words Loren spoke to me with clairvoyance as the first compliment I'd ever received for my unladylike voice.

Loren was just fun to be around. I found myself sneaking off to his lair when I had little or no business to conduct. He became my go to for feel-goodness. Sometimes he'd have to shoo me off so he could work. I couldn't help but want to be around him, he was somewhat of an anomaly, the most down-to-earth talent I'd ever met. Loren was loved by viewers, a fixture and friendly face associated with America's Finest City, yet, his ego, or lack thereof, remained unscathed by popularity. At the root of Loren's legacy is his kind, caring heart.  

I've met some pompous dirtbags working at three different news stations in San Diego, self- important types who talk at you instead of with you. Loren was not that, never ever. We'd talk about his passions, gardening and the environment; I remember picking his brain about why mites attacked basil plant after failed basil plant. I wanted to know how to grow tomatoes in the inner city, too. We talked about the books he wrote, the writing I aspired to do someday, and our families. He spoke about his wife and three kids with a twinkle in his eye, even when he groaned to me once about catching his son sneaking back into the house after a night out. His home sounded like Shangri-La to me: With a modest cadence he'd describe their horses, birds, dogs, gardens and sprawling Rancho Sante Fe property. He was quick to say I could come ride the horses if I wanted to. For some reason, I was shy about ever asking. That, I regret.   

Less than a year ago, when Loren announced that he'd been diagnosed with brain cancer, I had a similar reaction as others whose lives he touched. This isn't fair. Why him? 

Over the course of 2013, Loren exhibited the kind of courage that few in his position could, or would ever be willing to. He kept a live journal of the last chapter in his life-- not to talk at people from the standpoint of a local star above this sad affliction, but as a fellow common man, offering strength and solace to those also struggling with illness. He bared his soul by sharing the inner workings of this difficult journey and in doing rose to hero status. He put all of it out there: positivity, skepticism, acceptance and reluctance. His candid musings brimmed with both humility and humor. Just read the hundreds of comments on each of his blog posts from nearly 17 thousand subscribers. You'll begin to understand how wide his reach and the positive impact he had on all those he touched. 

I'd be lying if I said that I knew Loren well. But it feels like I do. Even though I only worked at Channel 10 for a few months, Loren and I still kept in touch from time to time on Facebook, which meant a lot to me. He knew, without conceit, that he was a big deal to many people; what sets him apart from the rest is that he used that force to make people, like me, feel good about themselves. 

After learning of Loren's death last night, I went back and read some of our old conversations. One of the best was a funny message he sent saying how he wished he could come hang out with me and my friends-- that it looked like we were always having so much fun-- but that if he did, I'd probably catch shit for inviting my "grandpa" along. In another note, he complimented my new hair color (which I was totally unsure of) in the style that a reassuring family member would. In 2009, I wrote to congratulate him on becoming an anchorman at Fox 5, also lamenting that I missed the business, my repossessed car, and inability to find work. He thanked me and corrected my pessimism: "Hang in there and keep your hopes high," he wrote. "Shitty days aren't allowed, girl."

To say that Loren's life was cut short by a devastating disease is certainly true. But the bravery he projected through chronicling his terminal illness gave the impression that he would break free from it; such an embodiment of hope filled the depths of despair in others, and that's a bigger offering than anyone could have asked for or expected. Through challenging a cruel adversity, Loren drew San Diegans in for a hug. They squeezed him, and one another, back. In my opinion, that's a cancer success story. 

It would have been understandable if Loren chose to withdraw from the public to carry out the last of his life in private, but he and his family forged a selfless route instead. For Christmas, Loren's three kids and wife shared their story on a video for Scripps Hospital, where their father and husband underwent treatment.

In it, they ask the community to donate funds for the building of a Healing Garden, so that future cancer patients and their families would have somewhere to enjoy each other's company-- not in the parking lot like they did-- surrounded by plants and animals, something that brought peace to Loren in health and in sickness.  

The Nancarrows are a blessing to San Diego, and I hope with all my heart that they find comfort in knowing how many lives Loren touched while he was alive, and that the impact of his words will live on to inspire anyone who reads them. 

Rest in Power, Loren Nancarrow, San Diego's best friend. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Baja 2 Day



eric and Matty were itching to surf in desolate waters and paint some weird shit, so a quick end-of-summer camping trip to Mexico came together and us ladies tagged along for the adventure.  




The dudes had a spot in mind that they had been to before in San Miguel, Baja- somewhere between Rosarito and Ensenada.  


As they hoped, the beach was empty.


But the waves were tiny. Still, Natalie and I sat and nervously watched as the guys dodged rocks on their longboards.



We took some time to collect beach treasures and Natalie made out. One of my treasures was still alive and tickled my hand into a spastic fling, casting the whole lot back out to sea. 



The beach was full of little crabs and their skeletons. Judging by this (still living) guy's cobwebs, he hadn't seen water in a hot minute.   

Our campsite bordered an ex-patriot community where people let their dogs roam free. I can honestly say that I've never met so many sweet and happy unattended pups in one place. All of 'em just wanted to play and eat snacks. That's what I'm talking about. 




Natalie ruled so hard the entire trip that it was impossible not to bestow upon her the title/honor of Most Valuable Camper (MVC). Fluent Spanish, cooking skills and not being one of those fussy chicks who cringes at the uncertainty of a good 'ole adventure made her a real treat to camp with. 
   
Like, who goes camping with a purse full of zucchini?  


Natalie does! 


 
After fueling up, the guys set out to do a little painting.  








Next up, Natalie knew of a fishing village(what else?)where we could score some freshies for campfire dinner, so off we went. 








Two big corvina, cleaned and filleted for $8 (with tip). Deal!



We were jonesing for some margaritas and wound up at a nearby restaurant overlooking the ocean. 


We placed our order for some tacos and margs, not rocks. So when a plate of them arrived, we were a bit perplexed.  



Then the complimentary crab arrived and things made a little more sense. Crab is one of three things I'm allergic to, so I took the group's word for it- it was just ok and a lot of work at that. The margaritas came blended, el bummer. 



In the late afternoon, we headed to the next surf and paint spot on the itinerary, a place called El Socorro, about 4 hours south of Ensenada. 


Since the guys had been here before, us ladies weren't too concerned about the lack of actual directions they had... until we drove around on dirt roads for an hour, spotting this guy along the way. 


Thanks to translator Natalie and the trusty Audi-mobile, we finally found the campsite. Natalie did most of the cooking while the guys pitched tents, preparing the corvina simply with salt and lime in the man-pan. 


 The next morning, eric and Matty were stoked to find better conditions. The waves were still small, but they got plenty of goofballing in.







I took these photos from the top of some big sand dunes. The beach and weather were beautiful. Here was the foot of our campsite:




After surfing, the guys were ready to paint again. eric led the way.


On our walk there, we spotted snake holes all over the place. Natalie freaked out and in turn made me paranoid, so we hopscotched our way in the boys paths, who seemed to walk through the field of lurking snakes with no hesitation whatsoever.

We knew we were close when we saw the last face eric painted. Here's a close-up he took after finishing it a few months back: 


My turn to goofball.




(I think he liked it) 


After finding the new wall, eric and Matty got started on a mural that took some unexpected turns. 







Matty decided he wasn't feeling it (an excuse to tan with us ladies, naturally), so eric took over and veered from painting faces to these long-beaked and legged birds instead.



One face stayed mostly intact, peeking its way through the bird's body.




It was getting late in the day and we were starving, so we took a recommendation from an Italian ex-pat who chatted us up back at the campsite. When presented with our 2 criteria (good food, excellent margaritas), he told us to eat at a place called the Old Mill. We needed to exercise our margarita demons and were perfectly parched after a day of romping around the desert beach; what we got was the exact opposite of the lime slushy from the day before- with house made tequila to boot. Woo! 


The place wound up being a steakhouse saloon, where you could cut into your bloody steak, drink small batch tequila and smoke- some even do it simultaneously. 




One of my (best) habits is to order something extremely basic, like a cheese enchilada. It panned out to be one of the best I've ever eaten. The chile relleno was a-OK.

Flashback: when we were headed to campsite #1, we stopped at a taco stand where I ordered, among other things, a cheese quesedilla. It was bomb.



mmm, al pastor. 


Ok, back to the Old Mill. I don't typically like flan, but had a feeling this was going to be good, especially with the house anejo tequila. Yes, it complemented the caramelly notes of the dessert perfectly. 



Adding to the charm of the harbor-side tavern, an upside down boat hangs over the bar.


Outside on the water, it was so clear and lovely as the sun started to sink... it was kinda sad having to head back to San Diego, high on tequila, good eats and the surrounding beauty. I kind of felt like I could just keep camping with these three. Maybe we'll grow up to be gypsies.           




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