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A portrait of Al, a cobbler…and a dude who slings old sewing machines.

A Portrait of Al from Al's Attire San FranciscoI’ve got an obsession with Everything Old. And All Things Made By Hand. And an appreciation for others who have my weird hang-up. Whether it’s amateur snap shots, or obsolete machinery, or a cobbler’s tiny workspace, I’m all about it.

So I was wandering around San Francisco on a recent venture and stumbled into Al’s Attire. It’s kitty-corner from Cafe Trieste, one of my SF go-to’s. Which is right down the street from City Lights and The Condor (which is where Carol Doda worked), and a biker bar (its name I can never remember).

(If you’ve got a minute, follow the Carol Doda link and check out every single one of the 51-pic set the SF Gate published for her obit.)

Al’s is amazing. Al is amazing! I try to carry my camera around all the time, and Al was nice enough to let me make a picture or two. His shoemaker (another name I can’t remember grrr.) let me make one, too. Pick some cloth off the sample, get measured, and let Al go to work. Same with the shoes; pick soles, material, style, and don’t forget the custom “Al’s Attire Custom” label with your name.

I need a wardrobe re-do.

The Alameda flea market is another go-to. It’s one of the greats. It’s a first-Sunday flea, and I’ve never been disappointed. I made a portrait of Dave there. He cleans up old sewing machines, gets them working again, then sets up shop at Alameda. His booth was right next to a Snap Shot Guy who had a picture of a woman reading Tarot in a field in 1917. Under the picture someone wrote “Gypsy telling the future” with impeccable penmanship, beautiful cursive.





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Jack Michelin at The Curtis Hotel.

Welcome sign at the Curtis HotelThe last time I walked into the Curtis Hotel, it was for an appointment with Jack Micheline. I wanted to buy some paintings.

It was 1996, and I had just landed in SF for grad school. One of my first days there was spent exploring the city I’d spend the next three years calling home. So I jumped the BART and headed to 16th Street.

The Mission. It was kinda gritty and kinda grimy. My kinda place. And I had heard about The Abandoned Planet Bookstore, which was my final destination that day. What a great place. One of my all-time favorite bookstores, ever.

Along the top perimeter of the store, completely out of reach and above the top row of books were maybe a dozen or so paintings. Totally Outsider work. I don’t know why I ID’d the artist so quickly; it’s not like I had seen any of Jack’s works before. But one — a portrait of Jack Kerouac as a football player at Columbia, caught my eye. I asked the clerk, “hey, did Jack Micheline paint that?” The bookseller confirmed, then without quoting me a price, got on the phone.

“Hey, there’s someone here who wants to buy a painting.”

And within 3 minutes — literally — Jack lumbered into the store and walked right up to me. “Which one you want?!”

I pointed to the Kerouac. Jack offered it up at a bargain. I ended up commissioning another author’s portrait — one of Henry Miller — and I bought three other small paintings. Jack invited me over to his room at The Curtis to pick them up. Then I had a new friend.

Jack and I worked on a chapbook together, and once, walking through the Missions, Jack told me, “you need to meet Johnny Brewton. You need to see his work!” Jack and I ate at Kenny’s from time to time; once, he asked me to be a thug and sent me over to this dude’s house who owed him money  (I had a hard time not laughing as I asked the dude for Jack’s dough, tough guy that I am); and Jack even made a cover for a book catalogue for me (when I used to send those out).

But my best memory with Jack was when he walked me over to his painted room over at Scott Harrison’s bookstore and taught me the “proper way” to read poetry to a crowd.

They’ve cleaned The Curtis up since 1996…at least the outside of the place. The whole Mission is gentrified. The Abandoned Planet went the same way most of the other brick-and-mortar bookstores. And Jack died in 1998 on a BART train bound for Orinda.

The Curtis Hotel in San Francisco's Mission District

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Sofia Heftersmith at These Days.

I swung by These Days to check out Always Everything, new work by Sofia Heftersmith.

Sofia’s based in SoCal, and (I think) this is her second solo show. Here’s Sophia’s Insta;  her first show was Proof of Life on Earth over at Shit Art Club; here’s an interview with Sofia Heftersmith at Uproxx; here’s another one at Powerzine; and finally, she was interviewed for the podcast What’s My Thesis.

I love Sofia’s work. It’s easy to pigeonhole her as a “young artist”. I’d say she’s wise beyond her years.

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Wendy Blades, Sword Swallower

Wendy Blades is, among other things, a sword swallower / human sword basket, an emcee, and a chairstacker; she can escape from straight jackets and eat fire; and, finally, she’s a human cutting board.

I don’t go anywhere near Pier 39 or Fisherman’s Wharf while I’m in the Bay Area. But I was with family and while we were “doing touristy things”, I was lucky enough to catch her between sets. So I made this portrait of Wendy and her doggo.

Wendy’s on Insta, has a YouTube channel, and a Facebook.

This is a picture of Wendy Blades, sword swallower, holding her dog.
Wendy Blades | October 2022 | Pier 39 | San Fransciso.
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Marianna the Nomad — Prague 08.25.2022

Nomad Marianna in Prague

I was walking back from the coffee house when I met Marianna, her dog Duna, and Amber The Pink Puppy.

Marianna wears friendship socks and makes paintings of her her Changa Trips. Changa — a mixture of DMT and edible flowers and plants. She smoked a changa  joint and began to see colors and shapes and when she squeezed her eyes shut and moved her hands in front of her eyes, well…Marianna painted what she saw.

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Yea, I made a music video.

A man encounters a Glory Hole and falls deeply in love. But what happens when the one you love isn’t faithful? The band is Digital Leather. The song is “Hurts So Bad” from the record Warm Brother on Fat Possum Records.

When Shawn from Digital Leather asked me about making a video of “Hurts So Bad” I was hesitant. I was hesitant for two reasons: what if I didn’t like the song? Can I actually make a music video? I agreed…but hesitantly. When I heard the song, I decided almost at once I loved it, which wiped away the first fear.

And even now, almost 10 years later,  I’ll stand by my music-video-makin’ skills.

Pitchfork liked Warm Brother, too. But not as much as I did.


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Managing the e-commerce bookstore.

Tom of Finland in Physique Pictorial Volume 16, Number 3Over the past few days, I’ve been duplicating all the book listings I have over at the synaesthesia press eBay store to my new, fancy-schmancy online presence here. Have you had a chance to note the price difference between my eBay store and here?

I don’t have a lot of books online, but hey — it’s an adventure that’s sure to expand. From the rate it’s taking me to post — coupled with how many books I’ve managed to accumulate since I dunno when — I’ll probably be doing this until sometime in 2065. That’ll make me 102-ish, depending what month I wrap it all up.

After I wrap, I’m gonna celebrate by getting my ass tattooed. As a hunky sailor or three watch.