Archive for the 'Editor’s Letter' Category

Editor’s Letter – December 2011

I’ve been putting off writing this note for a week now.  It’s not that I don’t like holidays – I love the holiday season – but frankly, I’m burnt.

Black Friday. Online Monday. Who-Gives-a-Shit Thursday.  Pepper spraying at a Walmart sale?  Really? Where does it all end?  What does all this shopping have to do with the spirit of the season?

I know.  I know that we need this – as a country we need this, and as a community we need this. People going out and spending money is a good thing, especially right now as the economy continues to struggle. A trip through Midtown reveals plenty of empty spaces where little businesses used to be (RIP Newsbeat!), and a little consumer frenzying is great news for the shops and restaurants we all want to see survive – and thrive.

But still, there’s something insidious about the whole thing.  Remember Buy Nothing Day? It wasn’t that long ago that fighting the gross commercialization of the holidays was considered a good thing.  Now it seems almost un-American.

I guess the key is being a ‘thoughtful’ consumer, and in that spirit we offer up our annual MidMo Holiday Gift Guide. 

Each year for the past five years we’ve been picking the brains of our contributors, asking them to share their favorite places to shop for the holidays.  This time out we got some great tips from Becky Grunewald (who also writes about some of her favorite ethnic markets on page 16), Bill Burg, Liv Moe, Sarah Singleton, Matt K Shrugg and Dennis Yudt.  If you are looking for that special gift, or need something for that hard-to-shop-for person, I think you’ll find some great ideas starting on page 24.

And, speaking of unique gift-shopping spots, Michele Hébert brings us her regular Wine Picks column this month, and also profiles Scout Living, the Midtown antique store that specializes in Mid-Century Modern and other high-style home furnishings.  If you haven’t had a chance to stop by, you should – they’ve got lots of eyecandy.

Many of us will be picking up visiting friends and family, or taking a trip ourselves for the holidays. Usually a trip to the airport is no fun, but there’s good news this year: the new terminal is open, the art is installed, and it is spectacular. There’s been plenty of press about artist Lawrence Argent’s big red bunny (which is a nice, fun piece, btw) but there is so much more to see.  Between local favorites like Suzanne Adan and internationally-known artists like the Living Lenses team, you’ll need to be careful that you don’t miss your flight just looking at all the art! Check out Jim Cameron’s rundown of art and artists on page 40.

There’s plenty more to read (like our semi-annual Peaches and Herb CD review section) but I’ll stop here and let you get to the rest of the book.  From everyone here at Midtown Monthly, have a happy holiday season and as always, thanks for picking us up.


Editor’s Letter- November 2011

Those of you who start at the back of the book and work your way forward (they’re out there, believe me) have already seen that Brattleboro Vermont’s favorite son, King Tuff, has rescheduled his aborted August appearance at Davis’ Bike Collective for November 4.  We listed the earlier Bike Collective performance as a ‘must see,’ only to have him bail out on the show at the very last minute.  I’ve never seen KT as a live act, but the record rules – in some alternate reality, Tuff’s “Connection” was a top 10 hit.

Tuff’s 2008 Was Dead album has been on constant rotation around the house (and in the car) since Liv picked it up on cassette a couple of years ago.  Though King Tuff tours with a full band, Was Dead was recorded as a solo project by Tuff leader Kyle Thomas.  The album sounds like an cross between ’70s glam and ’60s garage, with a little bit of The Strokes sprinkled on top. It took a few listens for me to grok the genius therein, but these days I find one (or more) of his songs stuck in my head at any given time.  I’ll be heading to Davis on the 4th to see how KT holds up as a live act.

Moving a bit closer to the front you’ll see Ed Hunter’s interview with Don Marquez, AKA Donnie Jupiter.  Reading through the interview brought back a lot of memories; I first met Donnie Jupiter back in the 1980s at Markee Records, the tiny record shop he ran out of the back of Dave Downey’s World’s Best Comics when it was located at 14th and J.

In those days I was a much bigger comic nerd than record nut, so I probably went to the shop looking for 1950s EC comics or early issues of Jack Kirby’s Kamandi.  While browsing the comics I spotted two issues of Cartune Land, a black and white sci-fi/fantasy comic book that Marquez had self-published.  Drawn in a style that knowingly mimicked fantasy art star Frank Frazetta, Cartune Land was a nerdy teenage boy’s dream come true: ray guns, rocket ships, dinosaurs and nubile, scantily clad ladies in distress.  I bought both issues that day.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I made the connection that Marquez was the same Donnie that was then playing bass in Downey’s punk rock band, the Lizards, and it wasn’t until the late nineties that I made the Twinkeyz connection.

It’s no surprise that it might take so long to connect the dots.  Unlike many folks involved in creative endeavors – and surprising for a guy who took the name Donnie Jupiter – Marquez is waaay low key; he just doesn’t have the self-promoter gene.  Reading Ed Hunter’s interview is a fun window into Marquez’ punk rock past and serves as a sort of capper to last month’s epic ‘Sacramento Underground Music’ article.  Be sure to check the Letters page for our goof ups in that article.

So, you may have noticed that we’re almost to the end of the Editor’s Letter and I still haven’t mentioned wine.  True.

I have to confess a deep and profound ignorance of the subject.  That said, I feel comfortable leaving you in the care of Michele Hebert, Becky Grunewald, Bill Burg, Liv Moe, Kara Sheffield, and Niki Kangas, all of whom have turned in wonderful bits on the subject.

Bottoms up and carry on!

Editor’s Letter

I’m guest-editing this, MidMo’s “Rock-tober” issue, Read more »

The Fashion Issue

I loved the idea of going with a Fashion theme for this issue.

The Sactorialist and Small Medium Large are two of our most popular regular features, and we usually get plenty of feedback on articles about style and designers.  My own fashion sense is about an inch think, so I was happy to turn over the direction for the issue to our contributors. Read more »

Editor’s Letter: Reader’s Choice Issue

The surveys are in, the answers are tallied and the Winners are listed – Midtown Monthly’s first-ever Reader’s Choice Issue is here!

I’ve mentioned before that I was initially skeptical about this idea.  There are so many ‘Best ofs’ being done these days that I wasn’t sure that we could really add anything new to the concept.  Then, I stewed on it for a bit and rethought it as a real look at Midtown itself – Midtown only.  We talked about that concept, and as far as we could remember, no one had ever done anything like our survey just in Midtown proper.  That’s when I started to get excited.

I got even more excited when the entries started to come in.  At first I was a little worried that something really dumb might happen (I well remember the Taco Bell ‘Best Taco’ debacle in an early SNR ‘Best of’), but from the start, the survey responses were thoughtful, informed and, well, Midtownish.  I hope I’m not breaking any confidences here by saying that Taco Bell got exactly zero votes in our survey.  Neither did McDonalds or Burger King.

“But wait,” you say.  “The survey was only supposed to include Midtown… 15th Street to Alhambra, B Street to X.  There’s no Taco Bell in that area.”

Well, yes.  But that didn’t stop some folks from either ignoring, forgetting or misunderstanding the concept of ‘Midtown-only.’ Pangaea Café (corner of 3rd Ave and Franklin Blvd) got some votes.  So did the Crest (10th and K).  So did Lalo’s in Hollywood Park.  All in all, about 20% of surveys included at least one thing outside Midtown in their answers. Nothing outside our geographic boundaries came close to winning a category, but some, like Pangaea, did rack up a considerable amount of votes.

Another concern I had was gaming the system.  There definitely seem to have been a couple of attempts to stuff the box, but they just didn’t include enough entries to make that much of a difference. We’ll never know if it happened or not, but in reviewing the entries – and eventual winners – I can say that everything makes sense in context.

The hardest categories to tally were the completely open-ended ones like Best Place to People Watch and Best Place For a First Date. These types of categories invite all sorts of answers, and it was really interesting to see what people were thinking. The eventual People Watch winner was pretty obvious; the First Date winner wasn’t obvious at all. That’s what impressed me so much about our reader’s responses; both answers were perfect.

The single biggest surprise in the survey was the overwhelming response by Bows and Arrows fans.  I knew they’d do well, I just didn’t know how well they would do!  Part of it was probably lucky timing on their part –  our survey hit the street just before the opening of the new Bows, with all of the attendant publicity and excitement that generated.  They were already getting significant love from voters in the Best Boutique category before the reopening.  Once the new space opened, Ka-Boom.  They simply annihilated the competition.

When I said earlier that the answers seemed ‘Midtownish,’ this is what I mean:

The closest competition in the whole survey was in the Best Live Music Venue category.  Top vote getter went back and forth between Harlows, an upscale nightclub, and the Hub (RIP), an illegal punk venue that has now been shut down. In the end, Harlows won by A SINGLE VOTE. That right there is Midtown in a nutshell.

Thanks for sending in your surveys and I hope you enjoy the issue.

Editor’s Letter

I got up early on January 3, 2009.  I had some magazine work to do and I rushed off in the morning to meet someone about an article, or take an Out and About photo, or… or something. I don’t actually remember.

What I do remember is that I rushed out of the house, right past a string of slightly deflated helium-filled balloons that had gotten tangled in the jasmine bush in our front yard and which were now bobbing near the sidewalk.  Whatever I was doing that morning was important enough that I ignored the balloons, figuring I’d clean them up when I got back later.  By the time I got back, the balloons were gone.

Lucky for me, Liv had found them.  Lucky, because attached to those balloons was a plastic bag containing a one hundred dollar bill.

Along with the money was a short note:

“I have been very lucky this year, and I am thankful.  I have a healthy family, a job and my needs are covered.  I hope whoever finds this needs it more than I do.  Happy New Year!  Good Luck!”

We did need it.  Running MidMo through the bucking bronco that was 2008 had depleted our checking and savings accounts, and only a judicious balancing of credit card payments kept the wheels spinning that year.  $100 could not have come at a better time.

There was also an email address, and though we initially felt awkward about writing, we did eventually write to thank our benefactor(s?) for their generosity.  We never heard back.  I thought about those balloons a lot over the following year.  What was the person –or family- like who sent them?  Were they still OK?  What if the balloons had landed in a field or a river, and had been lost or destroyed?

What if?

The act was still the same. The balloons reminded me that the act of giving is much more important than what happens afterward. The balloons reminded me to think about others, and to share with others, and most importantly, not to put too much value on what, after all, is only money.

Yes, money is important, but other things, like friends, and family, and living your life, are more important.  Whatever it was that sent me rushing out of the house that morning seemed very important at the time; now I can’t even remember what it was.   There’s a lesson there.

Last year, Liv and I decided to make ‘The Balloons’ an annual New Years Day tradition. At the end of December we picked up a couple of helium-filled balloons at the Safeway on 19th Street and let them sit on the ceiling as 2010 approached.  New Year’s Eve came and went.  On New Year’s night we each wrote a ‘good luck’ note for the finder on a ziplock bag.  We couldn’t afford $100, but we put what we could in our bags, hole-punched the corners and tied each bag to the ribbon attached to a balloon.

They sank to the floor.  We learned a valuable lesson: helium balloons can lose their buoyancy fairly quickly.  They had been much more buoyant when we had bought them.  We tied the two balloons together with just one of the bags; the balloons lazily floated toward the ceiling.

Just before midnight we went out to our back porch for the launch.   We followed the second hand on my watch, and released the ribbon at exactly 12 O’Clock. The balloons climbed slowly into the sky, silently carrying their payload of good fortune.  They drifted west, over our house, over the trees and soon disappeared in the darkness.

We’ll be setting our balloons aloft again this year.  This time we know to buy the balloons the same day so they actually go up instead of down, and finding a bit of cash to go in the bags will be a bit easier than it was last year.  Some of our friends have said that they too are going to add The Balloons to their family’s New Years Day festivities.

I like the idea.  I like that for one day a year we stop worrying about money and think instead of how to send it away to someone we don’t even know.  It’s not like sending help to Haiti, or donating at church or giving to the panhandler on the street.  The Balloons are simply a celebration of the act of giving away.

The Balloons don’t really make any sense.  They don’t really do any good.  But I don’t care.  I like them anyway.


Editor’s Letter

I like letters.

Putting together each issue of Midtown is a little bit like building a bike while riding it at the same time: you just keep moving and figure you’re doing good if the wheels don’t fall off. Read more »

Editor’s Letter

by Tim Foster

I lived in Oak Park for 11 years.

In that time I had two cars hit and run, my windshield broken, a side window smashed, a bike stolen, countless power tools stolen, was attacked and ‘whitey-bashed’ by a drunk teenager, watched as my neighbor across the street got shot at, and finally, had my home robbed for three days straight by a gang of crackheads who plundered everything they could cart off (make that ‘shopping-cart off’) while I was traveling. Read more »