Let us pause to say that if there's one thing more annoying than a book from Chronicle, it's a book from HarperSanFrancisco. At least many Chronicle books have a certain furtive entertainment value, especially those that fall into a category that might best be described as home design pornography. (And just to avoid any future accusations of conflict of interest, Dog Bites will confess here to owning a copy of Diane Dorrans Saeks' Living Rooms [Chronicle Books, 1997]. It was sort of an impulse buy, OK? And, um, the section on ambient vs. task lighting is actually pretty useful.)
But HarperSanFrancisco! The publisher's entire catalog seems to consist of New Age mooniness, multiculti collections of wise thoughts sprinkled one or two to a page through long dreary paperbacks that you could only imagine someone enjoying if he or she had, perhaps, the chance to read aloud a selection from one of them over a communal dinner consisting largely of the brown rice, spinach, and cheddar casserole from Recipes for a Small Planet, after which reading other members of the party might murmur "Right on," or possibly brush away a few tears.
And even then everyone concerned would have to be living somewhere far, far up Lucas Valley Road, in a house featuring an algae-stained fiberglass geodesic dome and a never-quite-functional solar heating system.
A perfect example of the HarperSanFrancisco publishing aesthetic is the company's latest release, Prayers for a Thousand Years: Blessings and Expressions of Hope for the New Millennium. Of course, the book is in the same sanctimoniously eclectic vein as all HarperSanFrancisco's other books, with contributions from all the usual suspects: the Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson (will that woman ever just go away?), Starhawk, and so on. The lucky thing -- from the publisher's perspective, anyway -- is that no matter how many of these volumes HarperSanFrancisco publishes, it will never run out of material to excerpt for them. Because right now, in creative writing workshops all across the land, people are writing poetry just like this:
The Buddha got enlightened
Under a tree
Saw the morning star
And touched the earth
In the next millennium
Which is right now
All of us
Plant more trees
Deep in the earth...
Of course, the poem/prayer goes on from there, but we'll leave it to our readers to seek out the further work of "author and editor" Rick Fields, should they feel compelled to do so.
Here's our pitch: Write a poem hailing the new millennium -- and remember, it should be both stickily heartwarming and include a lot of groveling before our mother the Earth for having defiled her with concrete and so on -- and send it to Dog Bites. We'll publish the, um, best of these submissions in our next column and send the winner a copy of Prayers for a Thousand Years. Steven Appleton is cordially invited to enter, despite his status as Dog Bites' Poet Emeritus.
Babies, Grannies: Fuck 'Em! This Is the New San Francisco
Normally Dog Bites buys trashy fashion magazines as an escape, a passport to a fantasy land in which every deserving girl has cute little Miu Miu mules and a wardrobe of 12 to 15 swimsuits. So we were distressed to open this month's Marie Claire to find -- no, not those pink Genny cargo pants, which, heaven knows, are bad enough -- but a story titled, "I Evict People Who Can't Pay Their Rent," about one Lea Santos, who works as a property manager for Sansome Pacific Properties here in the city.
Santos, who says her employers have fondly nicknamed her the Terminator, brags about her savvy in using the Owner Move-In Eviction Act: "I personally bought a condo for myself. It was being rented at the time, so I had to evict a married couple with an infant before I could move in. They left quietly, but technically, they could have fought me. Most people don't know their rights, but I sure as heck am not going to teach them! They should have done their homework. I did."
What a sweetheart!
A few paragraphs later, she shares another charming anecdote: "There was an elderly woman who slipped and fell at one of my buildings, and the first thing that popped into my head was, 'Damn, I'm going to get sued!' So I took her out to breakfast and I was very sweet. ... In the midst of [the] conversation, I said, 'This is a form my attorneys want you to sign which releases us, because you are feeling better, aren't you?' ... She just signed. It saved me a lawsuit. Did I take advantage of her? Probably. For a brief moment I thought, 'That was kind of mean, wasn't it?' "
Oh, don't be so hard on yourself, Lea! Remember, it's people like you -- and maybe Ken Garcia --- who make this the city we love.
He's a ... Dog?
Dog Bites, never able to sit through an entire episode of Nash Bridges, was stunned -- stunned! -- to learn that so many of our readers held such strong opinions on its star, Don Johnson. In fact, the Don Johnson Reader Poll is easily the most popular thing we've ever done in this space. A startling 73 people responded, with 48 votes for "Who?," six for "He's a god," and 14 for various other responses, including seven votes for "He's a dog."
Occasional Ken Garcia summarist John Would weighed in with "a huge 'Who?' " while Bill Cuevas demonstrated the greatest indifference of any respondent when he assumed the photo of Johnson was of "this Phil Bronstein character dogbites has been fawning over." (Of course, Cuevas also thought Claire Danes was Sharon Stone.)
Clearly, Johnson fan Sabrina Ford was in the minority when she wrote, "He's really great and I watch him every Friday and I watch the reruns of Miami Vice almost every day. He's God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Anyone who watches that shit show should lose their voting rights," snarled e-mail correspondent Rimbaud40, while J. Maulitz wrote, "You need a third category for me and millions of others: 'To the regrettable extent he impinges on my consciousness at all, I think he is a lousy actor and probably an asshole.' "
Well, thanks for the suggestion, J., but the idea of millions of people responding to us is a little, well, overwhelming right now, given time constraints and the occasionally iffy state of our e-mail. However, may we suggest you direct your leftover voting energy to our Best of San Francisco Readers' Poll?
We believe Dog Bites speaks for everyone when we say that we need to know which is San Francisco's best Thai restaurant.
As told to Laurel Wellman
Tip Dog Bites -- especially if you're disgruntled. Phone 536-8139; fax 777-1839; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.