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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Take a Bay Area "Gross" Tour

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

He's got friends... - STEWART BLACK
  • Stewart Black
  • He's got friends...

San Francisco sometimes feels like Charm City, but underneath those painted ladies and precious parks, there's a lot of dirt, creeps, and gore to be unearthed. Maybe not quite underneath San Francisco itself, but our region of California boasts its share of grossness in Richard Faulk's forthcoming book Gross America: Your Coast-To-Coast Guide to All Things Gross. The tour book of sorts takes us across the country to historically gross spots and specimens, which includes things like "worm gruntin,'" flowers that thrive on rotting flesh, and the last remaining vomit factory (which is, unfortunately for us, in Chicago).

In the Bay Area, we've done a pretty good job of keeping our more disturbing specimens underground. Faulk unearths how Colma basically became San Francisco's necropolis when we ran out of room for the dead in the 19th century. Plan your visit to one of Colma's 17 cemeteries and pay respects to Wyatt Earp, Joe DiMaggio, and Levi Strauss, among others.

Also mentioned are the innumerable tarantulas living inside Mt. Diablo, which come out during our Indian summer, much like the rest of us, to get laid. This begs the alarming question: What would be worse, raising the dead from underneath the city with the sinister motto "Its good to be alive in Colma," or walking among a sea of horny tarantulas that have come to the surface to savagely mate before their own looming deaths?

Here's some footage that shows us the consequences of both to help us weigh our options ...

Of course, if either of those nightmares arise (which, I guess, the tarantulas do every October, so don't do any of your fall meteor shower gazing at Mt. Diablo), we might just collectively decide cannibalism is the best option against being eaten by the rotting undead or the largest spiders in the region, which we've done before. Faulk's third grossness listing for Northern California? The infamous 19th century Donner Party cannibalism incident

Also in the creepy travel guide is redwood country, which starts about two hours south of S.F. in Monterey Bay and goes all the way up to Oregon. Bigfoot has his (her? Its?) origins here (Take that Loch Ness losers!), but Faulk focuses instead on the "vampire trees" of the region. Albino redwoods, as they are known by biologists, (and people who don't feel the need to sensationalize plants), parasitically feed off older trees and have a white, waxy hide. The precise location of these vampire trees is somewhat secretive because biologists and rangers want to keep away meddlesome tourists. And while the science behind them is pretty fascinating -- They can reproduce asexually, for instance, sending out shoots from roots, stumps, or even fallen branches -- we wouldn't exactly call them "gross," especially since many many people are drawn to things that are wan, pale, and sullen.

EVA RINALDI/FLICKR

Nonetheless, if you're tired of boring beaches and redundant road trips, Gross America provides a glimpse into the quirky, underground oddities that make America disgusting beautiful.

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Neha Talreja

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