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By Will ("The Thrill") Viharo
By Will "the Thrill" Viharo
ALOHA ALAMEDA!; EIGHT YEARS OF THRILLS!
MOVIN' ON UP!
This particular column will not be quite as long as usual because, for one thing, I'm sick of writing about politics, a topic which has consumed way too much of this space (and my energy) over the past two or three years. I am not a wild-eyed lefty conspiracy theorist. The other side won, plain and simple. Those of us who feel the Bush presidency is a historical tragedy with epic ramifications poisoning our collective community and future need to deal with it, accept it, and move on with our personal lives as best we can in an increasingly hostile environment. Conservatives thrive in an atmosphere of Fear and Ignorance, and the majority of (voting) Americans don't seem to care no WMDs were found in Iraq, and scores of brave soldiers and innocent civilians continue to die for a lie. W's ambitious plan to hand our Social Security system over to the fat drooling cats on Wall Street doesn't seem to be causing the proper alarm, either. Bush is a devout born again Christian and that's all that matters to his fans, no matter what he does or how many lives he ruins, because he's God's bitch. Just like Bin Laden is a fundamentalist Muslim and that's all that matters to his followers, no matter what he does or how many lives he ruins, because he's Allah's bitch. They can both fuck off as far as I'm concerned. I'm so, so sick of these myopic moronic megalomaniacs calling the shots for everybody else while they work out their own fucked up issues on our dime. But let them turn the planet into a religious, ideological battleground as tsunamis ravage Third World countries and rudely interrupt W's valued vacation time. The radical right wingers are in control - but not over me. Whatever direction the Republicans want to take this country, I'm headed in the opposite direction. Specifically, to ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA!
Last month I prematurely reported that our long-running legal conflicts with our schizo landlord in Oakland had finally been resolved in our favor. That was because both of our attorneys had finalized a settlement, which Monica Tiki Goddess and I had already signed off on at that point. All the agreement needed to be legalized was our loony landlord's signature. Instead, at the very last minute, after months of tiresome negotiating, he suddenly fired his attorney and we had to start all over again. I couldn't stand the idea of living someplace where a nutcase had the keys to my pad. It's bad enough that insane idiots like W. and Arnie have a certain amount of power over me, which I did not grant them personally. I also had to endure a crazy mother, a crazy stepmother, and a crazy ex-wife, so I really have no more patience on my plate for a crazy landlord. I'm hanging up a sign: NO TIME FOR PSYCHOS. Take your medication, see a shrink, get religion, join a support group, suck on the business end of a Saturday Night Special, whatever - just do it far the fuck away from me. But Monica, tough gal that she is, wanted to fight it out and stay. She is a diehard Oaklander, unlike me. I mean, I like a lot about Oakland, but there's also a lot about it I can gladly live without. So we mutually decided to proceed to round two and pursue litigation. But then something even better turned up.
Our good pals Otto and Baby Doe Von Stroheim - of Tiki News and Devil-ettes fame, respectively - were forced out of their Oakland duplex last year, and moved to Alameda, the most retro community in the Bay Area, maybe in the state and maybe on the planet. It's perpetually frozen in this 50s suburban (yet multi-cultural) atmosphere, rife with mom and pop shops and wonderful old homes and cool diners. It totally reminds of growing up in New Jersey, sans the goombahs (well, except for me now). I've always wanted to live there, but my lovely wife is very attached to Oakland. I'm not sure why. She is a big A's fan, but Alameda is only a few exits down 880 from the Coliseum, and right through the Webster Tube is Downtown Oaktown, so it's not like we'll be moving to Omaha. So anyway, the bottom part of the duplex was empty when Otto, Doe and their son Vander Vegas moved in. Enticed by the prospect of breaking free from our current situation, and living in a house with trusted pallies, we went and took a look at it, and found it's comparable to what we have now, only cheaper. Because of our longtime friendship with the Von Stroheims, we were practically offered the place on the spot. Two days later we signed the contract, and I handed in my 30 day notice to the worst landlord I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.
But for me, this fortunate break, out of the freakin' blue, went far beyond just leaving a sour deal in the dust. As I said already, I like Oakland, but I love Alameda. For one thing, it's an ISLAND. I've always wanted to live in Hawaii but this is as close as I can get right now - an isle off Oakland in a duplex below the Tiki God himself, Otto. It's gonna be Graceland West and Hipster Central, baby. Alameda also runs its own utilities - power, garbage and best of all, cable, so I can finally tell Comcast sayonara. And Alameda Cable has GOODLIFE TV - those of you who follow my column know how irate I was when Comcast abruptly yanked this station off their lineup to make room for, I dunno, the Hip-Hop Fake-Boobed Bimbo Video Game Jerkoff Channel, or whatever. Now I can get back my cherished Tuesday night 50s private eye lineup - 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6, and kiss, make that kick Comcast good-bye. It's just so gratifying when you get a chance to tell a greedy conglomerate to shove it up their monopolizing ass.
Alameda is also home to Jim's Coffee Shop and Ole's Waffle Shop - two of the coziest joints in the Bay Area. Plus Park Ave. has great shops like Happy Trails and Tucker's Ice Cream and even a tiki bike shop! Can't remember the name of it but when we buy bikes there for the summer, I'll be giving it a big plug in this space.
In fact, next time I'll give a more detailed journal of all the retro charms and old school wonders of Alameda, once we're completely settled in. Too busy now. Gotta transplant my entire home tiki lounge to another town and then plan for the epic housewarming luau, one of many, I'm sure.
To sum up, I'm tired of dwelling on all the negativity in this world. It's just too much. I figure people visit Thrillville because they want to escape the harsh realities of this 21st Century quagmire, not hear me bitch about it. No one has actually ever said that to me, it's my own intuition and desire to, as Johnny Mercer put it, AC-CENT-U-UATE THE POSITIVE. What else ya gonna do?
BEST MOVIE OF 2004
The Incredibles. It didn't even make my initial Top 10 list (which went up to, I think, 13 or 14 over the last two columns) because I hadn't seen it yet, since I haven't really been sucked into the whole recent animation boom like most people have. Too much crappy modern music in those things. Nothing turns me off faster than some creepy tune by Elton John, Phil Collins, or Celine Delon or whatever her name is. But this pic is different, made in the classic mode, aimed more at adults who grew up with Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The folks at Pixar deserve to win the Oscar, but of course that contest is rigged and pointless anyway. No matter what, it's cool space age style and sophisticated satire launch it to #1 on my list, though, sort of neck and neck with Spider-Man 2. Check it out.
RETURN OF THE '60S TOUGH GUYS
There was a lot more to 1960s pop culture than the British Invasion and hippies. Besides the Rat Pack and Elvis, a number of cinematic anti-heroes graced drive-in screens around the country. These cats were a bit different from the John Waynes and Bogarts of the previous generation. These new guys had some personal flaws, but they (almost) always came out on top. They were in the tradition of rebels like Brando, Dean, Clift and Garfield - vulnerable, but macho. Stylish but not fashion-conscious. Their world and its rules were rapidly changing around them, but they stuck to their own playbook, without compromising their old world integrity, even if preserving it came at the expense of their own survival. Some examples include Paul Newman in The Hustler and Cool Hand Luke, Warren Beatty in Mickey One, Lee Marvin in Point Blank, Michael Caine in Get Carter, Sean Connery as 007, and my next two featured flicks, in March and April at The Parkway Speakeasy Theater.
On March 10, I'm bringing back that classic Bay Area car chase favorite, BULLITT (1967), starring Steve McQueen and a killer score by Lalo Schifrin. This is the forerunner of all those great 70s cop/crime flicks like The French Connection, The Laughing Policeman, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Driver, and Dirty Harry.
Also on the bill is that great new calypso band APOCALYPSO NOW, making this a COPS 'N' CALYPSO SHOW! Why? Because it's never been done before, and in this postmodern world where everything's been done to death, sometimes you just gotta go for it.
Speaking of Dirty Harry, on April 14 I'll be marking 8 years of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1968), Clint Eastwood's final iconic stand as the Man with No Name in Sergio Leone's ultimate spaghetti western trilogy, with one of Ennio Morricones best and most famous scores (though I think my very favorite is Once Upon a Time in the West). I have previously shown the second one, For A Few Dollars More, also with Lee Van Cleef, but haven't gotten around to the first one, A Fistful of Dollars, yet. I want to show this one now because the title sums up my selection of movies over the past eight years, with the accent on the Bad and the Ugly though this is a Good one, and also it's a proven, much requested crowd pleaser, and I want to celebrate my anniversary in safe style. To help liven up the party my pal FRANK NOVIKI of the great exotica band APE will be performing a special set of spaghetti-hula guitar music.
Yes, no matter how dark those clouds are on the horizon, there is plenty to celebrate in 2005. Keep swingin'.
NEXT: BIG BUGS!
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