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Keep your bumper stickers off my lifestyle 

Wednesday, Apr 26 2006
I have some great ideas for bumper stickers. First, there is my George Bush-themed line. Picture if you will the familiar "W" sticker on the backs of Hummers in Marin. Make one just like that, only after the W you have the words "(W)orst President Ever." OK, my second idea is sort of indie rock in that it is subtle and for the aesthete. It simply reads "TUVXYZ." (No "W." Get it?) Third, you don't really see "The Goddess is Alive and Magic is Afoot!" much anymore, but in its heyday I wanted to make a sticker that said, "The Goddess is Dead. Magic, My Foot!"

But the main one that I will make one day, mark my words, is "STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR BUMPER STICKERS" — for those peeps with a million little commands blanketing their '83 Datsuns. This sticker idea has the added bonus of doing exactly what I'm telling everyone else not to, which of course represents the folly of man. Brilliant!

And then there's KPFA stickers, which have minds of their own. They invade the host and replicate. You put one of them on your car, and you are just days away from adding "Love Your Mother" or "Arms Are for Hugging." From there you descend into a haze of yellow-and-black Iraq messaging and stickable quotes from Chief Seattle. Throw in "If You're Not Angry Then You're Not Paying Attention," and you have yourself a vehicular revolution. But what really busts my chaps, whatever that means, are those enlightened people who tell me to stop watching TV. Some even go so far as to tell me to kill my television. It is at those times that I wish I had special powers, so that I could send those people into the Love Boat dimension for eternity, a place where Charo is always your roommate, Vic Tayback is your love interest, and you forever get amoebic dysentery in Puerto Vallarta. Magic would indeed be afoot!

People who put all those stickers on their cars believe that they are asserting their individuality. Apparently you can really only be unique by using a ton of stuff. Witness the teenager's plastered walls or the punk rocker's jacket. Or, go to the Radio Habana Social Club on Valencia.

Radio Habana is the very definition of "hole in the wall," being a tiny space with tiny tables and tiny food. It looks as if a Cuban mouse family has moved in and set up shop. The place definitely asserts its individuality, with every square inch of the walls covered in pictures and other kitsch. There are the occasional Cuban corazón paintings, but mostly it's just a mish-mash of whatever — a still from a Fellini painting, a Charlie McCarthy doll, a picture of Van Gogh.

"It's cool in here," said my companion, Ariel, "but it's not really Cuban." That seems to be the only complaint people have about this place, that it's not very authentic. I don't know if I agree, though. There's always a group of Cuban exiles here, sitting around speaking Spanish and drinking sangria. That's enough for me.

Four of us squeezed around a back table and prepared to order beer and sangria amid the Buena Vista Social Club. I was facing a mirror, which is always disconcerting, but it did allow me to see what was going on behind me — a must for any true, dedicated journalist who writes in-depth "hard news" stories about bars.

Ariel is about to get his master's degree in statistics (yeecchhhh), but he's gonna do something cool with it. He's gonna gamble on sports. He's also not going to lose, because he'll apply what he has learned in school using information about numbers that other gamblers don't have. I can't go into too much detail or he will have me killed, but suffice it to say, I am going to "invest." He was patiently trying to explain it all to me when our waitress came up. She was talking about, er, something ...

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. I said, What are you trying to do to me? Don't you think I know what I'm doing? You see they have these rubber mats here and I wear heels. They have holes in them, the mats. Well it's been years and I haven't fallen yet. Don't you think maybe I know what I am doing?" she rambled to us, recounting an earlier conversation with her boss. "Hahahaaha. Are you gonna eat?"

Our server had the air of someone who was perhaps on barbiturates, but more than likely was simply a few mint sprigs short of a mojito. Her eyes were big and brown, with pupils the size of pencil erasers. Aha, I thought, What can be more ruggedly individual than being mentally ill? And I do mean that in the nicest sense. She was very peculiar, yet likeable, and she's part of the hodgepodge that brings people here.

"My dad told me about when he took acid," said Ariel, who was perhaps reminded of this anecdote by encountering our server. Ariel inherited his love of numbers from his father. "He was tripping over 1's and 2's. Like if you just have a 1, you can't do anything with it. If you divide or multiply or whatever, you are still left with 1. But 2 — now 2 will really get you somewhere."

"Yes, well," I said. "1 is indeed the loneliest number." Just then a woman emerged from the restroom, which we were sitting right next to.

"Jeez, she was in there a while," noted Ariel.

"Must've been number 2," I deadpanned. We all busted up.

The waitress was back and still reliving old convos with other people. "I said to him, 'You find me a man, and I'll call the president,'" she relayed. "He knows what I want. He knows the guy I want. I will call the president and spark a revolution. Are you ready for the bill?"

Yes, thank you.

"He's an alcoholic, a real drinker. Hahahaha ..." she added, walking gingerly in her heels over to the cash register.

Man I dug this place. I even thought of a new bumper sticker. "I Break for Cuban Nutjobs."

About The Author

Katy St. Clair

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