Category Archives: Cultures

Parties, restaurants, bars, nightlife, arts & letters, critical theory, and how we feel and act about the whole damn thing.

International Taco Fortnight 2020–First Day

International Taco Fortnight 2020

Feeding the Spirit(s): Cuisines of Play, Ritual, and the Sacred

Hello, eveyone, sorry that the written welcome didn’t get printed in time for Sunday’s opening of the conference! I hope you all enjoyed the day, and for those of you who arrived late or are coming later in the conference, yesterday’s conference opening forwent any kind of keynote-style talk, and instead we had a day in the outdoor area of the Palomar Conference Center and its surroundings. People could move from place to place (transportation and physical/psychical accommodation provided) and participate in the various “tour stops” set up for the day.

We began the day with a Uypi Amah Mustun ritual burning of herbs. As stated by the tribal members: “Our ancestors believed that the Creator always watches over us. When we pray, we burn sage, root, bay leaves, and other herbs depending on the season or particular ceremony – so the smoke carries our prayers closer to the Creator. Smoke also appeases the Creator as these plants are sweet smelling to multiple spirits or intercessors as our prayers are carried onward. Using plants in prayer represents an element of truth – of balance.”

Visitors and residents from settler colonial groups were allowed to watch the ritual, and we are really grateful to the Uypi Amah for the opportunity. We (I use we because I come from a settler colonial lineage) hope to be able to, as always, use these kinds of opportunities to better remember the daily work of decolonization.

Throughout the day our presentations/participatory events included:

*Breakfast served by the chefs of Pressed, a Quiroste-Basque Cafe

*Acorn Harvest at Deer Back Ridge (formerly Delaveaga Park, which we renamed finally this year)

*“Ritual Herbs of Wicca and Other European Pagan Traditions,” led by Witch One, at their herb garden on The Bluff, and including an herb harvest

*“Frankincense and Torchwood: Olefaction in Judeo/Christian/Islamic Rituals,” led by the Liberation Theological Union of Grey Whale Bay at the purple Nature Church on the Bluff

*Storytelling at the bandshell, with the audience encouraged to tell stories of comfort food traditions of their personal families of origin and families of choice

*Related to the storytelling, a group decision-making process that will help shape some of the meals in the second week of our conference, where we hope to use locally-sourced ingredients to recreate some of the storytellers’ comfort foods, and then feed everyone with them!

*A Coastal Prairie tour with Alder and Anja, looking at plant communities and our restoration process, with an emphasis on edible plants of the coastal prairie, at the West Cliff Coastal Prairie Restoration De-Center

*Lunch at the communal kitchen, catered by the Asociación Comunal de Taqueres Festives

*“What Is This? Smelling Things that Smell Pretty Good, Really,” with Alm and Ceanothus, our local Describers of Stuff and Things. I don’t know where all they went. I think they just wandered around and picked plant leaves and held things out to people and said, “Smell this! Isn’t it great?”

*Naptime! A couple of hours of rest and relaxation in the grassy area around the conference center bandshell transformed into, like, a giant bed with tons of comfy blankets and pillows. Thanks to the newly-formed Taco Fortnight Taco Fort Night Taco Fort Building and Furnishing Collective for the cozy afternoon, and we look forward to Taco Fort Night next weekend!

*Our evening presentation, on soul food’s origins in slavery and its subsequent place in liberation and land return, was led by Botany Bae (aka Justin Robinson), founding member of the Earthseed Land Collective and author of “The Country Gentleperson’s Guide to Plants of the Southeast.” He was joined by Sunn m’Cheaux, Professor of Gullah/Geechee Language and Culture in the Department of Languages of the Parent (formerly Afrika) at the University Formerly Known as Harvard.

*Our dinner menu was created by chef Alisa Reynolds, founder of Tacos Negros. Reynolds has used her family history and her extensive travel experience to create what she describes as a soulfood taco fusion. As she has said, “I want to expand on this whole diaspora of Latinx and Black people in America getting together and eating tacos because I could eat a hundred thousand of them, I love them. My dad was obsessed with tacos.”

Below: a cornmeal catfish taco from Tacos Negros

Thieves Guild

Ceanothus and Alm were meeting with the new director of the Aulinta Regional Airship Aerodrome and Transport Hub. Cândido Rondon Oziel had, on a dare from his new co-workers and the probably-sarcastic advice of his pal Professor Rye Must, decided to invoke Cean and Alm’s dubious aid as Official Describers of Stuff and Things to answer some questions about his new home.

The three had arranged to meet up at happy hour at No More the Drudge & Idler, the new craft beer place in the relocated Red Church, now sited across from the Logos Bookstore & Book Arts Institute on the former corner of Mission and Chestnut Streets.

“The whole repurposed-church thing seems to be working out for these folks,” Alm remarked.

“And the craft beer thing, too,” Cândido said, hefting his pint of But We Fight for Roses Too Dubble Brown Ale. “Do they have actual monks making it?”

“No,” Cean replied, “but they got some monks to come on the train from St. Joseph’s in Massachusetts. Once the monks heard that the place was going to be a non-profit and whatnot, they decided the venture was Trappistlike enough that they were willing to do a consultation.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty, uh, Trappist-y,” Alm added. “The monks helped them with growing the yeast on the beams above the fermenters so that it’ll just naturally drop into the wort. It’s super Olde Fashioned.” Alm pronounced it “old-y.” Cean, who was friends with one of the brewers, added, “The whole idea of inviting the monks was because the brewers were sick of other people’s craft beers relying on hops and hops and more hops and they wanted other methods. I mean, they use hops obviously. They grow them in the garden across the way and on the terraces up to Highland and the grain comes from Salinas Valley, but they wanted to see if they could get even more hyperlocal and use the wild yeasts from, like, the very room they ferment in.”

“In Brazil,” Cândido said, “we have this drink called cauim, which I think you could translate as manioc beer. It is an indigenous thing, and has been made since pre-Columbian times. First the root is sliced and boiled, then the paste is chewed and fermented. The enzymes in human salvia are part of the process, so it is the epitome of hyperlocal. You are drinking alcohol that you made with your own body. It used to be only women who made it, but that’s slowly changing in some places, ever since the Brazilian Intertribal Urban and Territorial Rights Movement started talking about how the two-gender system was a colonialist imposition….” Cândido trailed off. “Well, I’m not sure how it’s done among the uncontacted peoples, since we try to…not contact them, but nowadays in my mother’s tribe the cauim is chewed by adolescents of whatever gender.”

“What’s it like?” Cean asked.

“I like it,” Cândido replied. “There are these enormous parties with hundreds of people that last for days…it’s difficult to not like it when you grow up with that. White people always tell me that it tastes like sour milk. Do you people go around drinking sour milk all the time? Because I hear the taste comparison to sour milk for a lot of different things, but I’ve never drank sour milk so….”

“Huh,” Alm replied. “I never thought about that. You can only compare things to sour milk if you, like, know what sour milk tastes like. Or maybe imagine what sour milk tastes like? Or just want to express disgust with a comparison to a beverage that more than half the world can’t drink because they’re lactose intolerant. Either way it seems like it’s probably racist. Now I want to know the history of that phrase so bad.” Alm wrote it down in his notebook.

Cândido looked at him strangely. “It was just a casual remark,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as a casual remark for Alm,” Cean said, gesturing to Alm’s notebook, which was bulging with newspaper clippings and extra pages and covered with taped-on pieces of paper with scrawled notes. “He’ll be able to give some kind of answer to your question in no more than a month. And then he’ll find you wherever you are and tell you about it even though you will have forgotten about this whole interchange. It’s, mmmm, handy I guess? I mean, more knowledge and whatever. But it can be quite startling when you’re there, washing your hair in the sink or something, and Alm walks in and pronounces the answer to a question you can’t remember having asked on a topic you could swear your were never interested in.”

“Hey, it’s a service!” Alm objected.

“Yes. It’s a good service,” Cean reassured him. “I just sometimes think you could wait for better moments or, I don’t know, remind people of the topic before just blurting out the name of every Micronesian island where sweet potatoes are cultivated or whatever. You know, context.”

“I’m working on it,” Alm said, slumping down a bit. “I know other people are real now, don’t I?”

“Yes, you clearly know that other people are real these days. I’m going to touch you now, ok?” Cean patted Alm’s shoulder and he brightened up.

“Yeah, so, anyway….” Alm said.

“Yeah, so, anyway….” Cean echoed. “What was the Stuff or Thing you wanted Officially Described? Rye said you had a particular question.”

Cândido was busy chewing one of the homemade locally-sourced potato chips and accidentally swallowed wrong. The ensuing cough soothed by a fresh pint of We Bring the Greater Day Pale Ale, he said, “I’m really interested in what I’ve heard about Aulinta’s approach to petty crime, or from what I understand the almost completely absence of petty crime. I know that the Society of Friends are running as actual reformatories the carceral systems in most of the U.S., but you seem to have….”

“Headed some things off at the pass?” Cean asked.

“That’s kind of a sheriff’s posse-inspired metaphor,” Alm observed.

“Oh, wow. You’re right,” Cean replied after a moment’s thought. “Ok, so, we seem to have nipped some things in the bud? No, that seems anti-ecological. We seem to have channeled some things differently? That’ll work. So we have directed some of the, well, what used to be called criminal impulses into different channels, both by not thinking of them as necessarily criminal per se and also by making structures for their outlet.”

“Channeling seems like a great metaphor,” Alm interjected. “Think of all the possibilities: flood control, spillways, reservoirs, dams, levees, rapids, waterfalls, rewilding….Ok, not all of those are going to be useful, but you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, definitely better than the ambush thing I started with,” Cean acknowledged. She turned to Cândido and asked, “What do you think makes someone want to steal. I mean, once you’re in a post-scarcity economy and you don’t have to steal out of need or want, really?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?” Cândido asked.

“No, I’m actually interested in your thoughts.”

“All right. Hmm. I guess that outside of needing to steal things, people might steal things from a sense of, what would you say, adventure? Risk-taking? Thrill?”

“Yes! That’s exactly the idea we started with, and it seems to have been largely right,” Cean replied.

“Thence the Thieves Guild,” Alm blurted, rocking in his chair in excitement. “I love watching people learn about this!”

“It is pretty good,” Cean acknowledged. “Ok, let’s take it as a given that there are some people who like to steal for the thrill of it and even in the absence of need or want or addiction or other adverse pressures will still want to steal stuff, right?”

Cândido nodded.

“And you know about the Stuff Libraries?” Alm asked.

“I have been told, but I’m not really one hundred percent secure in my understanding,” Cândido said. “Let me see if I have it right, yes? All the land here is held in trust by descendants of the indigenous people, and we are here via negotiated treaty rights. We cannot own our houses or living spaces, but just….”

Alm jumped in to help out. “I use ‘occupation’ or even ‘squatting.’”

“Squatting? Oh! Like building squats. I’ve never used it in a verb form. But you also don’t own things so much? That’s the part I’m still unclear on. There was already furniture in my house when I got there, and I did bring some things from Brazil, but if I need more things I don’t have to buy them?” Cândido looked back and forth between Alm and Cean.

“That’s right. You can own things but you don’t need to own things. Most things you can get from the Stuff Libraries,” Alm clarified. “Furniture, household appliances, dishes, even some clothes if that’s your thing. You can buy those things and then they’re your things, or you can go down to the relevant Stuff Library and check out, like, a coffee table or a blender or suchlike.”

“And then, when you’re done with the thing,” Cean continued, “you can return it. Like if you only needed the blender for a couple of months because it was strawberry season and you were on a smoothie kick. And this is where the Stuff Libraries interact with people who might like to steal for the thrill. You can return your blender to the Small Appliance Stuff Library nearest you, or you can give it to the person who comes around with the donkey cart Stuff-mobile and that person will return it for you, or you can just give your name to the Stuff Library or the Stuff-mobile driver and then your name and your item go on the list.”

Alm picked up the story, “And then they give the list to the Thieves Guild. And then the guild members have to get into your house and get the blender and return it to the Stuff Library. And they have to do this in a way so that no one sees them.”

“They have to do all the thief-y stuff that would make thieving thrilling: case the joint, sneak, use social engineering,” Cean concluded.

“But if there’s no punishment, if this is in fact a job, then why do they have to sneak and not be seen?” Cândido asked.

“There’s two reasons: first, most of them don’t want to be seen because they only thieve part time and want their thief persona distinct from their non-thief persona,” Alm replied. “Then the other part is that the Thieves Guild treats thieving as an art form. Not being seen is the highest expression of their art, the thing that gains the most admiration from the other thieves.”

“Their meetings are secret, and we only hear rumors about their lair,” Cean continued. “We know it’s in a cave. We know that one of the Master Thieves is named Lucien Praxis. But we do not know who Lucien Praxis is outside of the Thieves Guild. I mean, we could be friends with them, and not know it.”*

“So this really takes care of thievery? People truly do not steal things outside of the guild structure?” Cândido asked.

“It really does seem to work,” Cean replied. “Part of it is the education system, of course. And then if you have a kid who starts, like, stealing from the food co-op for who knows what reason, well, if the kid is 16 or older then the parents or guardians can give permission for the Thieves Guild members to come and wake up the kid in the middle of the night and take them to their lair and train them.”

“But even that is tied into the educational system in a way,” Alm clarified. “The master thieves are all very good at reading people and learning about human motivation. They try to figure out why the kid is stealing things. Are they having some kind of trouble? Do they need to go out with Penske and do the slightly risky things that Penske facillitates, like climb the tall trees or swim in the ocean, or do they need to go with Colleen on a backpacking trip and have the adversity that attaches to long backpacking trips?”

“Or do they need to start at the trade school to train and become sky tram mechanics? Do they truly have that psychological set point that makes them need the adrenaline rush of doing a job that includes some danger?” Cean elaborated. “Should they become one of the people who dive down and work on the pilings of the wharf? Or, in the end, do they actually need to be thieves? In which case the Guild will train them and help develop their…I don’t know….”

“Their sense of artistry,” Alm concluded.

“You really don’t know where their cave is?” Cândido asked.

“We really don’t,” Alm answered. “We’re pretty sure it’s somewhere near the amusement park, because reports from The Blackpools seem to indicate that some of the entities of The Blackpools are Thieves Guild members.”

“The Blackpools?” Cândido wondered.

“We can go there later if you like. You’ll see. The thieves would fit right in I think,” Cean replied.

*They do not know it, but Ceanothus and Alm are indeed friends with Lucien Praxis, who in non-thief land is Celeste, a math teacher at the Radix Center.

Practicing Sincerity


Our beloved local band PRACTICING SINCERITY with their first show of the new year!

Sempervirens is an all-ages venue.

Excellent food and a variety of beverages both alcoholic and not are available. All the normal mediums of exchange accepted. Work-trade encouraged.

my friend died
three years ago today
I woke up and went to work
and then came home and I did nothing
fourth of July
managed to drink enough to speak
I tried to impress somebody
but I don’t think it is working
no I don’t think this is working

spilling my guts
on my therapist’s couch
for fifty bucks an hour
I can leave here feeling empowered
sip down a milkshake on the walk home
lie down let me get my phone out
three notifications
I’m feeling impatient

I am waiting for someone to call me
I am waiting for a message that says
please come over
I’ll meet you at the bar I’ll meet you at the show
just don’t leave me here alone

all my friends have
the most beautiful intentions
Amber’s telling me to listen to
Elliott Smith pre-Figure 8
and I think I almost get it
yeah it’s pretty fucking great

but no one wants to feel lonely
on a Tuesday
it’s your day off and the
grey finally cleared away
you can see across the whole bay
and you’re sitting on the cliff
because it has the clearest view
and the notion falls upon you like a flash flood
you’re here because this is what you wanted

© all rights reserved to Practicing Sincerity


Our friend Struggles lives in Red Wood (formerly known as the Forest Formerly Known As Nisene Marks), in a tree house halfway up a big redwood, powered by a variety of solar collectors. His ski-lift-style zipline allows him to zip down into town, then hitch a ride back up on the circular line.

Struggles takes people with struggles of whatever kind (developmental, mental, social, physical) on woodland adventures.

Here is a picture he drew of his house and surrounding area. The lower self portrait expresses his feelings about himself nowadays.Click on the image to see it bigger for more details.


“So…weather report says our first atmospheric river of the season is arriving this evening.”

“Yeah? What’s the rainfall prediction?”

“Like, six centimeters over twenty-four hours. Do you think that Michael is going to do the thing where he goes into the field behind the Radix Center and does the storm scene from King Lear?”

“Oh, I hope so. Last year I got to be the Fool.”

“Aren’t you always the Fool?”

“Well, yes. But this time my lines are written by Shakespeare.”

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation, CC-0 (public domain)

Dystopian Fiction

Like on most Tuesday afternoons, Cean and Alm were hanging out on the patio of Il Nuovo Caffè Pergolesi. It was a misleading name since the cafe had actually been in the same spot for eighteen years, ever since the business had relocated out of downtown into the Pink House in the slow evacuation of the clearly unstable flood plain after the ’89 Earthquake. The two were on the north deck between the Pink House and Villa Perla, sitting at a table between the buckbrush, ceanothus, and manzanitas that were all part of the Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Native Ones) and Other Things Too Coastal Prairie & Maritime Chaparral Reestablishment Project.

“You know, I’m really glad they decided not to go with the flannelbush around the decks,” Alm said.

“I think they had one, until they realized that kids playing near it were getting skin rashes. They moved it to the east side of Villa Perla,” Cean half-rose from her chair and pointed. “Look! It’s just starting to bloom. I love them in bloom.”

Alm—who was working on a self-improvement kick he over-elaborately called “Childlike Wonder: Why I Lost It and How To Get It Back. A Self-Improvement Project of Observation/Personal Praxis”—stood up fully and looked at the bush for a solid thirty seconds. “Ok. Yeah. I see that. Let’s try it: I love them too!”

“That was unconvincing,” Cean said after a few moments considering the effect. “You did better when I got all excited the other day at twilight because Venus is the evening star again. I felt like you might have actually felt childlike wonder when I started going ‘Look! Look, look look look!'”

“Maybe it depends on the number of times you say ‘look.’ I’m still trying to home in on the mechanism. It’s all part of the observation component of kawilitgibasipop.”

“Of the what now?”

“Kawilitgibasipop. I’m trying to make the acronym into a word and that’s how I decided one should pronounce C.W.W.I.L.I.A.H.T.G.I.B.A.S.I.P.O.O.P.P.”

Cean wrote it down on a piece of paper and looked at it for awhile. “Shouldn’t it be ‘gibasipoopap’ then?”

“No, because then it has both ‘poop’ and ‘pap’ in the same word, and since being a poop and thinking everything is mindless pap is what I’m trying to get away from….”

Cean interrupted, “Yeah, well, I told you before: I think the name of the project is a bit much. You could just call it ‘Trying to Be Less of a Giant Party Pooper.’ That acknowledges the poop, but immediately posits its negation.” Cean started singing, “Every party needs a pooper that’s why we invited you! Party pooper! Party pooper!”

Alm waited patiently for the song to end, knowing that protest would only prolong the singing and raise the volume. “I wanted to call it ‘Dry Blanket’ but figured that sounded too much like disaster relief or, I don’t know, a criticism of bad veggie burgers. Also, since only people our age or older use ‘wet blanket’ I thought the kids these days wouldn’t get it.” Alm made the florid hand gesture they used to indicate the ironic use of “kids these days.”

“I think the kids these days,” Cean replied as she too employed the gesture, “are too busy actually being kids to get your project in any case. I mean, they still mostly have their childlike wonder intact and so the losing and reacquiring of it is just going to look like Grownup Stuff for Squares or whatever it is they think of the things adults do. These days.”

“Yeah, it’s all a veiled mystery. You know how I was trying to interview kids about what they think about adults? I couldn’t get any kind of straight answer out of them. They just rolled their eyes and snorted and squirmed about until they ran into each other and fell in heaps and then tussled around on the ground until they were good and finished.” While he was talking Alm started drawing in his notebook. Cean looked over and saw he was sketching a couple of babies with apparent drinking problems and poker fixations. “There’s no way I can use those interviews as actual data.”

“Did you really think that interviewing kids about grownups was going to get you anything?” Cean seemed genuinely interested.

“Nah,” Alm replied. “But interviewing them seemed like it would at least qualify as performance art. And complaining about it seems like some Grownup Stuff for Squares, so there is that.”

“There is that,” Cean agreed. “Speaking of kids these days….” This time they made the gesture together. “I’m writing a y.a. dystopian novel.”

“Yeah, I know. You’ve told me. Many times.”

“But have I ever actually told you what the plot was, or how I’m handling the setting?”

“No, but I bet you’re going to,” Alm said.

“Yes! I am! And you should feel enthusiasm and childlike wonder!” Cean enjoined.

Alm thought about it. “I’ll try. Let me just go get us some refills. Back in a sec.”

Cean looked around the patio. The regular Tuesday afternoon crowd was supplemented this week by the current Book Arts Exchange group from Tajikistan and their local hosts. The Tajiks were using the Kurganteppe Sibling City Tapchan and having produced their own teapots, dried fruit, soup, and flatbread were introducing their hosts to the rich tradition of Tajik-style outdoor tea drinking. Cean really hoped they were going to recite poetry as well.


Alm returned with their drinks and settled in.

“So, anyway,” Cean began, flipping open her notebook, “the book takes place in a parallel present where after the energy crisis of the 1970s, instead of going for solar and wind and geothermal power and greywater and composting toilets and biomass converters and everything, all the nations decided to double down on their commitment to fossil fuels and their utter conviction that strip-mining the planet for resources was the best plan. Oh, and the population has cranked up to over 7 billion.”

“Why would that even happen? I mean, everything would be terrible. Why would people have a bunch of kids in those circumstances?”

“Well, at the same time, the US government gets hijacked by fundamentalist Christians who believe that fetuses are people and pregnant women aren’t, so abortion and—because it’s seen as moralistically related—birth control and effective family planning are increasingly difficult to find. And the education system is being shot to shit by a government that doesn’t believe in evolution and by association comes to disbelieve in other science. That’s just in the United States. This part is hard to describe but since the global renewable energy revolution didn’t happen, the continued reliance on petrochemicals keeps Western paternalistic colonialism in full swing, and in that, uh, mileu we also refuse to fund either abortion services or effective family planning and birth control in our aid to what were then the developing nations.”

“My grasp of what they meant by ‘developing nations’ has always been bad,” Alm complained. “It sounds like a 50s euphemism for adolescents getting pubic hair. I mean, what the hell?”

“It meant that those nations were going to ‘develop’ all the planet-destroying infrastructure that made the energy crisis such a pain in this country. You know, like cars and lots of pavement and bigger and bigger houses built out of more and more plastics. Basically the idea was that an increasing reliance on petrochemicals and a disdain for the environment was good and a sign of progress while keeping up traditional or low-impact life courses was a sign that you were backwards and primitive.”



“Yeah, I know. It’s really weird. Anyway, the book’s point of view is basically US-based, so the government talks about ‘developing nations.’ Oh! Another reason people have lots of kids is that since the ‘developing nations’ are being strip mined for resources, and the effects of colonialism are still really evident, a combination of high childhood mortality and the idea that you need to have a bunch of kids to, you know, work the land or become diamond miners you can rent out to global conglomerates or whatever to support you in your old age is still really operative. People live in fear of dying in poverty because they are dying in poverty and so they have kids. I haven’t totally worked out the psychology of that, so I’ll have to go and read some pioneer journals from the Oregon Trail or something to figure out what the hell people are thinking when they have six kids in situations where they don’t actually have enough food to feed them. It’s not my area of expertise.” [Editor’s note: Ceanothus and Alm are being very naive and uninformed and just plain wrong here about several things. We hope their future education in these matters helps them make fewer such errors of analysis in the future.]

“I would talk to Anthony,” Alm suggested. “They have a lot to say about colonial and anti-colonial and post-colonial psychology.”

“Yeah, that’s a great idea.” Cean wrote it down in her notebook. “So, anyway, the continued reliance on fossil fuels coupled with the increase in people who are using said fuels has led to the beginnings of massive global warming. The Arctic is losing its sea ice. Glaciers are melting. Sea levels are rising. Catastrophic weather events are becoming more common and effecting more people because there are more people to be effected. Meanwhile, habitat shrinkage and all the other pressures are causing the Sixth Great Extinction, and there are fewer than half the number of wild animals in this world as there were in the early 70s.”

By this time Alm had his face in his hands. “Why? Why are you writing this? What young adult is going to want to read something this depressing?”

“I’m not done,” Cean said. “So, in this situation, the United States has elected for president a bizarre demagogue nationalist with populist pretensions who gets voted in by playing on the fears of a voting base motivated by both covert and overt white supremacist ideology and action. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are on the rise. People who protest them are being arrested and excessively charged with felonies.”


Alm had his forehead on the table and was making low groaning sounds.

“Don’t despair entirely! What I’ve just told you is background that’s revealed mostly by people alluding to it in conversation. The important thing,” Cean tapped the table and Alm stopped groaning, “is that in this world there are still people who are doing good. The narrative’s real focus is on a parallel present Aulinta. It’s still called Santa Cruz, and my characters who live there are a stalwart band of committed leftists who are just going out and building the system they want, one collective organization at a time. They are still engaged nationally and globally, hoping to slow down the train crash, but their daily focus is around projecting a world in their own town. There’ll be, like, bike repair co-ops and anarchist infoshops holding all-ages punk shows, and anti-capitalist sewing repair skill shares and people running for city council and stuff.”

Alm had his cheek on the table still but was at least now looking at Cean with one eye. “Ok. That seems more young-adult lit. appropriate.”

“Yeah, that’s the point. Oh! One thing that has happened is that the internet has really taken off and individual home computers are nearly ubiquitous and the technology has become such that there are even portable devices with the power to connect to the internet. The platforms for photos and sound recordings and everything are used by every organization and it’s a primary way for people to communicate and interact.”

“Is that a thing that could, like, happen? I mean the miniaturization thing?” Alm asked. “I have a hard time imagining why people would want that even. I only use the internet once a week or so for IRC and looking for travel grants.”

“I talked to the person who does classes on ‘Computers in the Social Context’ up at the university and they said that certain theorists in the 80s were predicting an explosion of computer technology, until we got our shit together and realized that mining everything everywhere all the time was a bad way to live and so we slowed down and have things, you know, the way they are now. But the things I just told you were considered definitely plausible. As long as you’re willing to tank the planet to get them.”

“I just…I can’t….” Alm couldn’t form a complete thought.

“I know,” Cean said gently, “I’m writing this so that kids can see some of the bullets we dodged.”

“Yeah, ok.”

“The reason I bring up the internet thing is that I’ve made a character named Blaize….”

“Hey! That’s an Aulintan name!” Alm interrupted.

“Yes. You’ll see why in a second. Anyway, Blaize has this, like, collective conceptual art project where she has invented an Imaginary Santa Cruz that exists in a parallel present and that takes the other path of the timeline split, the one that leads to our world. She has an internet space where she writes about this imaginary town and puts up photos and makes up characters and all that, and she also goes around Real Santa Cruz and talks to all the punks and anarchists and the well-intentioned and the people who want things to be different and she tells them the, uh, givens of Imaginary Santa Cruz.”

“All the things we have now, you mean?” Alm asked.

“Yeah. And then she asks the people who they would be in that imaginary world, and then people talk about it and then there’s a bunch of people talking about it and then it becomes, I don’t know, a prefiguration machine? Or like when kids are all playing the same game that they’ve just made up, and the rules change all the time but because they are all working on inventing the game together they all know the rules even as they change? And people find this imaginary place helpful, like a form of mental relief, because they know for sure then that they are not alone in wanting things to be radically different. That even though all they can do in their real lives is try and change things bit-by-bit, there’s a place where they can see what the end point could look like, or what the real goals can be.”


“But the global warming….” Alm interjected.

“The global warming can’t be stopped. The animals can’t be resurrected,” Cean replied. “But the global warming can be slowed and habitats can be restored. You know, like our wetlands now that they’ve cleaned up the heavy metals from the car repair places and everything.”

“I see that. They can do something even if it’s not everything they would like to,” Alm had sat up and now actually relaxed and sat back. “The Imaginary Santa Cruz art project is a dream space, so even if they can’t accomplish everything they would like, there’s at least somewhere they can mentally exist where they have the world they would like with the friends they want around. Right? Did I get it?”

Cean nodded. “I’m making Blaize the character that the readers are supposed to identify with. I figure even though the world we have now is not the world she’s writing in, her art project? That imagined shared space? That is something that kids these days, and don’t make the hand gesture because I’m using the phrase For Real this time, can relate to. They play. They have shared games. I want them to know that even though things are good things can always be better. Not everyone lives in Aulinta and so some of the structures we have here are not that widely shared.”

“Hence the exchange programs,” Alm said.

“Hence the exchange programs,” Cean agreed. She looking meaningfully at the tapchan, where the Tajiks had indeed moved on to poetry and were reciting what she was pretty sure were classics from the Persian Golden Age to their hosts, who (not being Persian-speaking on the whole) looked a bit bewildered but, of course, politely attentive. “The book is like outreach. I describe Aulinta as the Imaginary Santa Cruz of this parallel present of whatever you’d call it, Real Santa Cruz, and I give the young readers a model for thinking big with their friends. If the people in Santa Cruz can do it, if people in the world self-destructing can do it, then so can they. You see?”

“Yeah, I do. You have a title for the book?” Alm asked.

“I thought I’d call it The Worm Ouroburos because of the way it loops back on itself to this present. Also it would make for some pretty metal cover art,” Cean concluded.


Alm was silent for a long time. Finally, he said, “You know, if I lived in that parallel present I would start an art project too, if only for the small joy of getting to make up overly-elaborate names for people and places and organizations.”

“You mean like the Own Voices Nomadic Peoples Collective Research Living Consortium?” Cean asked.

“For example. Or Than Which There Is None More British Tea Room.”

“I’m partial to the Woolarama Convergence Heritage Sheep Breeding Program.”

“Yeah. That’s a good one.”

They both sat for awhile, listening to Stefanie’s Tube o’ Tubas Tuba Trust & Symphonic Society go by on the street. They were still a little rusty, but it sounded like they were playing “Dust in the Wind.”

“This. This right here. This is better,” Alm concluded.

“Yes,” Cean agreed.

They sat on the patio well past dusk that day.


Camellia Tea Rooms are here to serve you with a wide variety of teas and a somewhat less wide variety of ambiances. Our fine quality teas and tisanes are either grown in California or on the ecofarms of our collaborators around the world and we feel confident guaranteeing they are  both slave- and child-labor free.

Unlike the usual tea room, which would have a single cultural emphasis, Camellia gives you the opportunity to Choose Your Own Tea Experience depending on your mood, the company you keep, or what you consider good and just in the world.

茶/Tê/Chá‘s creative director Bak Zhào welcomes you into a tearoom reminiscent of those in Guangdong, including culinary influences of the Hakka and Teochew. Enjoy long afternoons chatting with friends over a rotating menu of small plates and snacks, available with pots of several varieties of both green and black tea. tea-set


Samovar, masterminded by Vasilisa Premudraya, uses the traditional two-step brewing process and concentrates on keemuns and oolongs. Food choices include homemade preserves; baranki/bubliki/sushki; blini with salmon, smetana, and mushroom sauce; and pryaniki for dessert.


Assam brings us a tea culture largely ignored in the US. The Chaiwala Collective strives to introduce the uninitiated to the tea varieties and preparation methods of India, from Assam to Darjeeling, from Gakhir Sah to Masala Chai. They also have an ever-changing menu of regional foods. The schedule for these is posted on the third day of each month on the far side of the old telephone pole across the street because one of the workers is a conceptual artist.

Than Which There Is None More British (Fernsby and Birdwhistle, proprietors),  operates under the assumption that no tea room is complete without the crustless sandwich option. With the motto of “it’s like in those fancy movies you all watch,” Than Which focuses daily on the high tea menu of small sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, teacakes, and shortbreads. For people who have seen different movies, like Life Is Sweet or Withnail and I, ploughman’s lunches are available on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and Sunday goes all out with shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties.

We are open ridiculous hours. Like, really, sometimes there’s people here all night because a few of the workers are intermittent insomniacs. But generally you can come around 10? 11? and sit around all day. We encourage free flow from one room to the other, and have snugs and a small banquet area, for intimate twosomes or larger group get-togethers respectively.

(We accept university flex dollars, TimeLand Time Bank tokens, American currency, Westside Co-op vouchers, and several other mediums of exchange. Just ask at the main desk.)

Extreme Piñatas

“So, did you hear that I am starting a service that offers Lord of the Flies themed parties for children?”

“That…is not a terrible idea. What age of children?”

“Well, according to the book, children as young as six, but no one over, say, thirteen.”

“What is that even going to look like anyway?”

“It all started when I kept going to kid’s parties where they had those piñatas from that one place that makes the great tamales.”


“And they seem to make their piñatas out of, like, box cardboard instead of paper mâché.”

“You mean papier-mâché.”

“No, you mean papier-mâché. I mean paper mâché, because I’m only half a snob.”

“Yeah, yeah. All right.”

“Anyway. You’ve seen this, right? The piñatas?”

“Yeah, of course. I go to the same kids’ parties you do.”

“So, with the box cardboard, little kids with their miniature arms and disappointing skills–”


“Yes. Disappointing.”

“They’re children.

“What, that means I have to have low expectations of them? Not hold them up to any standards? They could practice. They have nothing but free time. They know the parties are coming. If they don’t prepare, I get to judge them.”

“But….Never mind.”

“Anyway. They flail their broom handles or baseball bats with their poorly-coordinated and unnecessarily-ill-prepared noodle arms and Nothing Happens. You can’t destroy box cardboard with the power of wishing for the candy your hippie parents deny you every other day of the year. It takes strength and skill.”

“Have you been to one where instead of candy the parents put fruit leather or some shit?”

“Yeah. I’ve seen that. It’s like the perfect recipe for instant Lord of the Flies-style destruction of the social contract. The kids just lose their goddamned minds the moment they see that they are yet again being denied candy and decide to return to a state of nature. You know, inevitably those same parties have, like, some ridiculous non-cake too. Eight-year-olds expecting festiveness instead rioting against all that is unjust in their worlds. It’s grim.”

“And those exact parents, surrounded by a pack of feral children tear-assing around accelerating the rate of entropy and still thinking that sugar is what causes hyperactivity at parties. They give them no sugar, then blame sugar for what they see. Talk about confirmation bias.”

“So you see how Lord of the Flies comes to mind.”

“Oh, yes. I get that.”

“Anyway, one time I was talking to Daniel at his kid’s party and the piñata was, like, Thomas the Tank Engine, and was clearly just made from actual cardboard boxes. Basically un-piñatable.”

“That’s not a word.”

“It is now. And I said to him, ‘It would probably work better if we just dragged it along the ground and let the kids hunt it with sticks. We could have a pig-shaped one, like a reenactment of Lord of the Flies.’ And Daniel being Daniel he thought that sounded like an ok idea.”

“So, did you drag the Thomas the Tank Engine?”

“No. The kids were already super-invested in the useless flailing. Eventually Daniel had to step in and give it a few actually effective whacks. Once the containment core was breached…”

“It’s the Enterprise now?”

“Whatever. Once the warp core was breached, the kids were able to use their weak little jabs to tear the crêpe paper covering and the thing fell apart like a normal piñata. And thence be sugar-feral or whatever you want to call it. Anyway, the idea stuck with me and now that I have some free time…”

“Failing to work on your dissertation doesn’t actually constitute free time.”

“Ok. Um, now that I have decided to write my dissertation on Lord of the Flies…”

“You just decided that just now, didn’t you?”

Anyway. Now that I’ve decided to write my dissertation on Lord of the Flies I want to do some real world observations. But I also, you know, need a job. This does both. It’s perfect!”

“So, the kids obviously have to be old enough that they can be unsupervised, basically, because there can’t be a bunch of adults around, or it won’t be Lord of the Flies.”


“So, who’s going to drag the piñata?”

“I have that all worked out. It’s part of the service: the parents go away out of sight, and then I dress up like the corpse of the parachutist and drag the piñata.”

“The dead parachutist.”


“And you don’t see how that could be a problem?”

“No. Why? These kids are used to scary hyenas, scary kings, scary witches, scary whales, scary masterminds, scary whatever. Even the hippies can’t stop them from seeing Disney movies. Those things are, like, written on the air around us. And the most extreme Disney-avoidant ones are exactly the kind to decide they need to read their kids the original Grimm tales, or Der Struwwelpeter, or E.T.A. Hoffmann. I would think that after Scar the Lion or the Scissorman, the corpse of a parachutist would be no big deal.”

“But it’s meant to be a party, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, ok, fine! I’ll make it festive. A festive version of the corpse of the parachutist.”

“You think that’s a possible thing to do.”

“Yeah. Don’t you?”

“I won’t answer that because I think you might impale me with a spear or roll a giant boulder at me.”

“You think answering my question would force me into a state of nature?”

“I think you’re kind of always in a state of nature, just about to bust out a Lord of the Flies-themed children’s party game at any given moment. So I’ll just say that if anyone can pull of a festive corpse parachutist, it’d have to be you.”

“Want to be the my ship’s officer?”

“Ship’s officer?”

“You know, at the end. Where the warship comes and the officer berates the kids for being warlike and insufficiently British.”

“You want me to come in at the end, after the successful hunting of the pig-shaped ground piñata and the gorging on the candy and whatever and tell the kids they did a bad job and should be ashamed?”


“And you think people will pay you for all of this?”

“Yeah. You would pay me, for example. If you had kids, you would think this was the best possible party your kids could ever have.”

“Yeah….Yeah….You’re probably right. Do you think we have issues?”

“Sucks to your assmar Piggy!”

“I guess that’s my answer, isn’t it?”

Jump Scare

It was Two-for-One All-You-Can-Eat What the Heck Night down at The Persian Melon. Ceanothus and Alm were waiting for their friends to get out of the City Council meeting next door but had already gotten their first plates and were heading to their table when Alm said, “I need to read something to you.”

Ceanothus set her plate on the table, turned to Alm, thought for a second, and said, “No.”

“Ah, c’mon!” Alm whinged, settling into his chair. “You’ll like it.”

Cean had sat down too, and looked at her plate with some skepticism. “I finally really get the name of this night. What the heck is this?” She hefted a small bite onto her fork, gave it an exploratory sniff that seemed to go moderately well, and took a bite. After a few chews she frowned and raised her eyebrows, bobbled her head back and forth a few times, swallowed, and said, “You know, that’s not half bad.”

“Litotes,” Alm interjected.

Cean smiled. Their running game of intermittently and abruptly identifying figures of speech in the middle of any given conversation was a constant source of schadenfreude amusement at their friends’ mild (but easily increased) irritation. “Wait. What’s that one again?”

“Understated positive statement created by negating an opposite. Not. Half bad.”

“Right, right, right. I remember. Proof that the whole ‘never use a double negative thing’ belongs in the garbage along with the injunction against the split infinitive.” They ate in silence for a minute, each knowing that the other one was rapidly canvassing an intro lecture—or rather one of their standard joint mini-rants—they called “Prescriptive vs. Descriptive Linguistics or How You Don’t Understand What You’re Talking About.”

“Back to the topic,” Cean finally said. “I’ll only maybe like what you read to me if you at least give me the genre of what you’re going to read to me. I’ll only ever really like it if you give me an idea of the topic ahead of time. Or even a brief synopsis.”

“Most people hate spoilers,” Alm noted.

“Most people are ridiculous,” Cean cut back. “I’ve read the scientific research: knowing about what you’re going to see or hear makes people enjoy that narrative more, not less.”

“Really? Then why are people big babies about it out here in the Real World?” Alm made the face they employed when invoking the category of The Real, so Cean would know that he knew that she knew that he knew the he was on a species of thin philosophical ice.

“I have a hypothesis about that.”


Cean settled back in what they called ‘Holding Forth Mode.’ “I think that if you are the kind of person who watches mostly shitty stuff that relies entirely on shocks and twist endings and jump scares and cliffhangers and such as primary narrative functions, you get so used to that you think all cultural production relies on shock and twist endings and that knowing about those things ahead of time just ruins it.”

“So, you’re saying that a person who watches The Walking Dead is going to be unable to watch, I don’t know, Titanic because they know what’ll happen. Or….”

“Doesn’t have to be a zombie show. I guess it doesn’t really even have to be shitty. Think about the number of non-horror movies that rely on twists: The Crying Game. The Sixth Sense. Psycho has both jump scares and a big twist, but I wonder if it relies on them. I mean, do you think a person could know about the shower scene and that Norman Bates is his own mother and still get as much out of the movie as a person who didn’t?”

Alm gave this actual serious thought as they finished their dinners. “I don’t know. Probably? Psycho has lots of tension building and character development that don’t rely on the surprises, so, yeah, I think it’d still be good.”

“Then there’s movies where shock is a major element, but not at all key to the plot. Like Jaws. People get chomped; the shark dies in the end. You could totally know those things and still scream at the chomping scenes and all the stuff on the boat. That movie has so much more than its simple visceral devices.”

“Visceral!” Alm snorted. “You know, because there’s a chum bucket full of fish guts and that’s visc….”

“Yeah, I get it. Har-dee-fucking-har. Anyway…where was I?”

“You were telling me why you won’t let me read you something unless you know the topic or even the basic outline beforehand.”

“Oh, right. In sum: I would argue that if what you want to read me is any good, or if it’s worth anything more than its possible employment of twists, you can tell me what it’s about and I’ll not only still like it, I’ll like it better.”

“All right. Let me get some more…whatever the heck this food is, then I’ll tell you about what I want to read to you and then I’ll read it to you.”

“Rosebud was a sled.”


“Did I ruin Citizen Kane for you? I know you haven’t seen it.”

“Since I haven’t seen it what you’re saying makes no sense to me, but, you know, you haven’t killed it. Not if the research is correct, right?” Alm started to reach over to pick up Cean’s plate.

“Jump scare!” Cean suddenly half-yelled.

Alm recoiled. “Jesus. What…?”

“See? I think not knowing what’ll happen can be so much worse.”

“Yeah, thanks. You want me to get you some more of, of, whatever the heck this is?”

After Alm came back with two more plates and they had eaten most of their second helpings, Alm got his backpack and pulled out the notebook he used to keep track of all the things he thought or said that were funny. At least to him.

“So, since you want a synopsis: I was listening to NPR…”

“That’s your problem right there,” Cean blurted. This was their standard interjection to the phrase “I was listening to NPR.”

“Anyway, you know the bands they have on their Tiny Desk concerts and how some of it’s fine and some of it makes you want to start killing people?” Alm asked.

“Yeah, I know about that,” Cean replied.

“You know how some of them make you feel murdery because their music is terrible, and some of them make you feel murdery because their music is terrible and the description of their concept is offensive to all that is right and just in the world?”

“Oh, yeah, that I totally know about.”

“So, I was listening to NPR…”

Cean mouthed, “That’s your problem right there” but didn’t say it aloud.

“…and I heard the description of a band that henceforth must stand as the Platonic Ideal of the NPR band.”

Cean leaned forward intently. “Ok,” she said, “Convince me.”

Alm cleared his throat and read, “This twin brother and sister Theremin and melodica duo takes their deep inspiration from the folk traditions of their native Lapplander heritage, leavened with the ambient techno sounds of the Diego Ramírez Islands, part of the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego and the home of their adoptive lesbian parents. Mixing a militant feminism reminiscent of Ani DiFranco with surprising spiritual lyrics–sung in a fluid blend of Diné, Kyrgyz, and Norman French–our guests Ludic Pierrot (which means ‘playful clown’) are currently touring Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro in a horsedrawn Romani caravan, playing to standing room only crowds at the orphanages and old people’s homes that are their chosen venue. Their first self-titled album has now been joined by their second album, Magellan, which tracks the explorations and tragic end of a person they call a misunderstood genius.”

By this time, Cean was crying laughing and couldn’t speak for several minutes.

“What do you think?” Alm asked.

“I think that if they ever come to town, we have to go see them because their concerts have got to be hilarious.”

“Yeah, sure. That would be great.”