[ 'Best of' Index ]
The Bohemian's Best of the North Bay 2005
Photograph by Jason Baldwin
Best Span as Expression of Youthful Angst
At the corner of Platform Bridge Road and the Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Road, the platform bridge for which the overcrossing is named has been painted a shade of purple so luscious, loud and out of place that the artist recently renamed Prince would surely drool and go all gooey inside, were he ever to happen upon it. Local authorities remain unclear on exactly why the bridge is purple, but perhaps it has to do with . . . um . . . actually, nothing comes to mind. It's purple, and purple is a fun, frisky, decidedly artistic color. Isn't that reason enough? Adding to the frivolity and artfulness of it, the bridge has become an ever evolving canvas for nonviolent graffiti artists. Scrawled upon the purple concrete in a variety of mediums is a whole slew of comments and peculiar symbols, from the perplexing "XLPickleX" in bright yellow to the succinct and hard-to-argue-with "Shalom" in blue. Best of all is the lengthy proclamation, "Spray paint is better than pepper spray!" Shalom to that.--D.T.
Best Artist to Sketch Hideous Caricatures of You for Only $2
Gone are the goofy, cartoonish, bobble-headed caricatures you remember from street artists--Fulton resident Trevor Alixopulos is an artist for a brave new world, drawing what he himself gladly calls "hideous caricatures" of people, darkly compelling works of original art done for less than the price of most coffee drinks at Starbucks. His method is to capture a person's likeness, but add fangs, excess hair, sweat and a general creepiness that, oddly enough, conveys many folks' dark, primal core. My mother-in-law was so disturbed by hers that she promptly threw it away. Trevor also self-publishes sharp-eyed and imaginatively funny adult comics, and pours a mean pint of porter on Tuesdays at North Light Books & Cafe in Cotati. Seek him out and get a caricature done--if you dare: he might see right into your very soul. Trevor Alixopulos, www.alixopulos.com. Catch him whipping up cappuccinos and whatnot from time to time at North Light Books & Cafe, 550 E. Cotati Ave., Cotati. 707.792.4300.--M.P.
Photograph by Michael Amsler
Best Way to Harmoniously Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil
The idea was so simple that it seems impossible that no one ever thought of it before: A choir of female volunteers would gather at the bedside of those in the final stages of illness to sing beautiful music and favorite songs, helping to become the soundtrack for that ultimate transition that we must all someday make from life to . . . whatever happens after that. The first such ensembles, one based in the East Bay and the other serving Marin, were formed in 2000 by Inverness resident Kate Munger. The group was appropriately dubbed the Threshold Choir, and in a very short time, additional choirs sprung up around the Bay Area, with one in Sonoma County and another in San Francisco. Currently, there are Threshold choirs in dozens of cities and counties across the state, including Santa Cruz, the Peninsula, Sacramento, Chico, Nevada City, Placerville, Monterey, Milwaukee and Ashland, Ore. While some of us might prefer to die alone, the majority of us don't, and the Threshold Choir makes it possible both to die in the presence of sensitive and sympathetic humans, and to melt away while a chorus of voices beckons us to move on easily and beautifully to the other side. Who knows? Maybe there will be another choir singing for us when we get there. For more information, go to www.thresholdchoir.org.--D.T.
Photograph by Michael Amsler
Best Master of the Obscure
"When I was a teenager, living in New York," says Richard Peterson, "discovering Buster Keaton was like finding religion for me. His movies are so beautiful." Peterson, director of programming for the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, is known to have an excellent eye for quality filmic entertainment, as well as being a first-class conversationalist with a remarkable command of genre-crossing cinematic fact and detail. While agreeing that he'd be handy to have on your team if engaged in a film-trivia competition, Peterson suggests that it is more accurate to describe him as a film historian than as a mere film-trivia expert. "I wouldn't be the best person to go to if you need to know what went on in Star Trek films or the various Star Wars movies," he allows with a laugh. "But I am pretty good with the more obscure aspects of film history." In other words, Peterson is a hell of a lot of fun to talk to. In addition to silent movies and classic American comedy, his areas of expertise include classic horror movies, John Ford Westerns and cinematic comic theory. And he can always tell you about how he got to see some of his classic screen heroes in person--sort of. "I had a back-row seat at Lincoln Center when Charlie Chaplin was there, right before he received his Oscar in 1972," Peterson recalls. "So I did get to see Chaplin live--you know, barely. And I also got to see Groucho when he performed at Carnegie Hall. That was also in the early '70s. He was another god to me--Groucho Marx. Those movies, the Marx Brothers movies, were the ones where I'd actually memorize the dialogue and the songs and everything." What can we say to that but, "Hooray for Captain Spaulding!" Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. 415.454.1222.--D.T.
Photograph by Jason Baldwin
Best Unsettling Public Art
His nickname is "the Player" and he stands in the outside courtyard of the Marin Theatre Company in Mill Valley, a bronze statue in the form of an Elizabethan actor, eternally frozen in the grip of an everlasting, curtain call. Bending at the waist, one hand down, the other raised behind him in the air, clutching his faux feathered hat, the widely grinning Player takes a big, buoyant bow from which he will, alas, never rise. As such, he is both beautiful and terrifying. Not only does he conjure images of people who've been turned to statues in such fairy tales as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, the Player also resembles a semifrightening young Stephen King, frozen in bronze. He's almost as unsettling as that other statue known as the Grapecrusher (shown above). Designed by Gino Miles and erected in 1987, the bronze Grapecrusher is a terrifying titan of a man, clad in loose metallic rags, forever pressing grapes at the top of a hill along Highway 29 as you enter Napa County from the south.--D.T.
Best Thrift-Store Score for Those Behind the Times
Those who have resisted technological advances and still have cassette players are now rewarded for their stubbornness as hundreds and hundreds of great cassette tapes are being donated to thrift stores daily. These are the glory years, where you can easily find gems from the Cure, Charlie Parker, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, Billie Holiday, Beastie Boys and the Clash for 50 cents. If you're lucky, home-recorded tapes can be so bad they're good. Hand-decorated "Miami Booty" mix tapes from 1991? Complete radio programs of KMEL's Lovelines with Atlantic Starr and the Jets? The magic is within your reach with donated cassettes. You take your chances, though--I found a copy of Fugazi's "Margin Walker" and someone had used side one as their answering-machine message cassette. But you know, for 50 cents, I still felt like I got my money's worth.--G.M.
Best Low-Cost Theatrical Innovation
As this paper's theater critic and one who also dabbles in cinematic exegesis of various kinds, I am approached on a regular basis and demanded to pronounce which I like better, theater or film. I like them both, of course, just as I appreciate both of my children and have come to enjoy both my mother and my father--all for different reasons. Such conversations invariably lead to the issue of cost, with it being pointed out that theater is so much more expensive than movies, to which I often reply that a handmade pot crafted by a Pueblo Indian who learned how to do it from her grandmother who has a way of making pots that is unique to her tribe and her corner of the world is more expensive than the pot you might pick up at Target. Unlike movies, which are mass-produced and mass-marketed, a live theatrical experience is a boutique product. It costs more than a movie because it is more rare than a movie. Theater costs more because it is, poetically speaking, handmade. That said, the average night at the theater could and probably will run you some serious bucks, unless, of course, you know how to play the system. One way to play is to avail yourself of the half-price ticket booth at the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau. Like it sounds, the booth will sell you some same-day tickets for nearly any show performing that night in the North Bay, subject to availability and dependent on whether the show has sold out or not. That's a good deal, and a great idea. The other new low-cost theatrical innovation is the recently established Theater Express Card from North Bay Theater Group, allowing you one free ticket with the purchase of another at all 29 affiliated North Bay Theater Group companies, all for $29. Designed to encourage folks to explore the North Bay's numerous theatrical venues and companies, the card will get you two for the price of one at a show of your choice presented by Actors Theatre, Santa Rosa Players, Sonoma County Repertory Theatre, Cinnabar Theater, the Pacific Alliance Stage Company, Novato Theater Company, the Ross Valley Players and two-dozen others. It's a great way to graze the theatrical landscape of the North Bay and save some money at the same time. Half-price ticket booth at the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 9 Fourth St., Santa Rosa. 707.577.8674. North Bay Theater Group, 707.548.4148. www.nbtg.org.--D.T.
Best Graffiti Artist Who Has Since Moved to S.F.
"You can just use my real name," the voice on the phone assures me, "I never wanted to have a quirky alias like everyone else." I'm talking to graffiti artist Craig McPhee, who for the past couple of years has staked out a notable claim on Santa Rosa's walls, signs and poles. Instead of painting murals or ugly tags, he specializes in black-and-white spray-paint stencils of famous jazz musicians. Their street presence is a breath of fresh air, and the portraits are immediately striking, with a crisp, clean minimalism accenting important features. Duke Ellington's sad, knowing eyes? McPhee hits the nail on the head. Others immortalized include Billie Holiday, Sun Ra and Benny Goodman, though McPhee has been putting them up in his new home, San Francisco. "I'd like to get back up to Santa Rosa," he says, "and maybe do another wave." Seen locally in his wake: copycat stencils of Charlie Chaplin.--G.M.
Best Example of Homophobes' IQ
Flyers found taped to the front doors of Santa Rosa's Roxy Theater one morning read like this, and man are they sic: "Stop gay form films and book, put gay be hind bars for life, save are kids, don't let they gay. Down with gay foraver, stop homesexwellte, put gay behide bars whear they belons, burn the gay books and film, gay sex is a crime. No yoah right if a polehc office thells you you must be gay, get him kick of the force, stop gay polease from beeomeing ritch. Stot gay from working in are state, keep gay away from are kids, no gay teacher."--G.M.
Best Place to Join the Revolution
Although there are no more true food co-ops in Sonoma County, worker-run Santa Rosa Community Market is the next best thing in politically organic grocery stores. The market, governed by a directing board made up of its workers and staffed by a diverse and knowledgeable crew who work there because they want to, refuses to sell meat, alcohol or food with processed sugar. While these ethics might seem to make for boring shopping, the market is far from a dingy, scary, health-food store full of barrels and ancient hippies. It stocks a complete array of delicious vegetarian foods from organic, animal-free, Oreo-type cookies to a deli counter with a variety of ready-made, healthy lunch foods. The market is big into community service, too. It runs several donation programs, works with numerous food banks in Sonoma County and donates product to many a worthy cause. Santa Rosa Community Market, 1899 Mendocino Ave. 707.546.1806. --E.L.
Best One-Night-Only Indie Rock Band
When a band plays a live show, it's standard practice for members to give it their best. In the case of the Wavering Saints, who turned their one and only performance--a January gig at Michelle's--into a gala affair with huge handmade denim flyers and free 12-inch EPs at the door, the band gave it their all. What's more, they outshone more seasoned bands with a well-crafted hybrid of tight pop songs and deadpan noise, replete with flaming guitar solos, a soft, muted trumpet and synthesizer effects. The Wavering Saints have a carefully cultivated mystique that was not lost on the crowd, and for one night only, they let the public in on the joke. Or is it a joke? This much is known: the band's members--hailing from groups as diverse as the Blockheads, the Twerps and Santiago--(1) have scattered all over the country; (2) are extremely career-driven; (3) made an album, for cryin' out loud; and (4) nurture wives who will all be having babies soon. The outlook for another performance by the Wavering Saints is grim.--G.M.
Best Place for an Education in Revolution
If you, like me, are terribly afraid of the changes Terrible Tex may have in store for the nation's education system in the next four years, you might want to rethink where your scholastic bucks and time are going. The New College of California just might be a viable alternative. Its focus is the study of culture, ecology and sustainable community, and the college offers both Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees with emphasis in these philosophies, as well as an MBA degree in environmental entrepreneurship. Too bad my massive educational debt was already accrued at the University of California! New College, 99 Sixth St., Santa Rosa. 707.568.3093. www.newcollege.edu.--E.L.
Best Place to Dance Drunkenly and Still Respect Yourself in the Morning
Out of the ashes where an electrical fire destroyed three buildings on Petaluma's Kentucky Street, an upscale nightclub and bar called Infusions seemed to rise fully formed last summer. Peering between coyly half-open shutters, one will find a mod-looking bar and dance floor complete with avant-garde furniture. Infusions offers a full bar with fancy drinks, some whose names cannot be repeated in the company of children. Unlike its more fetid cousins in town, Infusions caters to the young and the hip, though owners Jan Rosen and Sylvie de Segeur will argue that their twenty-one-something customers are as inclined to bring their parents as their buddies. Infusions has done no advertising, since Petaluma is the kind of town where change doesn't go unnoticed. Infusions, 146 Kentucky St., Petaluma. 707.778.8543.--J.E.R.
Best Place for Feuding Hippies
In Bolinas, the argument du jour is not about drunken derelicts sleeping in cars on the main drag; nor is it about the skyrocketing prices of homes squeezing out families, thus cutting the population of the grammar school in half in recent years. Instead, residents froth over beach camping. The beach is already closed off for camping during the summer months. Residents living near the beach now say that it should be closed all year, citing noisy parties, garbage and people using the sand for a restroom. A longtime resident in her 20s who grew up on Bolinas Beach swears that it's a ploy to dissuade the town's homeless population, and that people should be able to sleep there whenever they like. The camping activist charges that an older woman who had written a bitchy letter in the local "hearsay news" about her stance is just an "aging hippie who used to sun herself naked on the beach" when she was growing up. The town's public utilities district has gotten involved by forming a committee (even though they provide no utilities whatsoever to the beach). Asked to step in to the argument, the county has thus far taken a "wait and see" approach.--A.H.
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From the March 23-29, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.