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Artists for Earthquakes; South of 280; Halloween Muni bus
As told to Laurel Wellman

Published: Wednesday, November 8, 2000

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Week of Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rocking and Rolling

Another weekend, another protest march. On Sunday morning, Dog Bites wasn't necessarily feeling too enthusiastic about being vertical, let alone walking more than a few blocks. Still, we'd heard Artists for Earthquakes was going to be making a showing at the Million Band March, and that was enough to make us reach for our contact lenses.

Artists for Earthquakes, a newly formed organization, is -- well, here's what the group's Web site ( has to say: "Artists For Earthquakes is an activist group concerned with issues of sustaining livability and arts culture in Vapid City. We seek a solution to this city's housing and arts crises by promoting a "quake-positive' agenda including social activism and seismic instigation."

Seismic instigation? We figured the Artists for Earthquakes members would be easy to find at the demonstration, since they'd been trying to organize a contingent of marchers with low-frequency-generating equipment, but we figured wrong. Instead, we kept running into this one guy wearing a papier-mâché pumpkin head, who was carrying a sign that read, "Willie is a Gourd -- Squash Prop. K."

At Civic Center Plaza, the concert got off to a great start with a performance by Felonious, but dragged for a while after that with an especially earnest folkie. We were waiting in line for a slice of pizza when Tim, a drummer, struck up a conversation. He said he'd had a practice space at Downtown Rehearsal, and that he was worried the city was becoming even "sleepier" than it used to be. "I don't want to see Vapid City turned into some kind of bedroom community, like Wingnut Creek," he said.

Dog Bites circled the plaza again, but still couldn't find the Artists for Earthquakes. A woman was hawking T-shirts reading, "Missing: Vapid City musicians and artists." We asked her how they were selling. "They're going," she answered.

"You've only sold one," said a sunglassed guy, whose own T-shirt bore the logo "Ian Brennan Cheapskate."

The crowd continued to swell; we chatted with a woman named Karen, who said, "It reminds me of the old Vapid City, the Vapid City I miss."

Still no earthquake-promoting artists, though; we found a seat as Zen Guerrilla took the stage -- and we mean took the stage. After the group's first song, the middle-aged guy we were sitting beside turned to us. "Yeah," he said, which summed it up.

Finally we spotted the Artists for Earthquakes -- Mike Kirby and his contingent of three supporters, carrying signs that read, "Shake That Booty: The Big One Is Coming," "Shake Down High Rents! Lower Rent Through Seismic Instigation," backed with, "Willie Brown Won't Listen to Us, Maybe He'll Listen to the Hayward Fault," "Let's Go 10.0," and "Let's Get Ready to Rumble."

When we expressed disappointment that the creatively bearded Kirby hadn't been able to round up any low-pitched musical instruments, he said he wasn't worried, and that his group was planning further tremor-friendly actions in the near future. "We're going to be distributing earthquake instigation kits," he told us.

Which would consist of ...? "Oh, small mallets, tap shoes," he answered. "And we're asking people to play dominoes and throw dice -- every little bit helps."

South of 280

We did say we thought South of 280 was going to be the next hip neighborhood, didn't we? So we guess we shouldn't have been surprised when self-described "rich landlord" Shaun Supanich called to offer us a unit in a building he's just bought near Geneva on Mission. First, the particulars: The one-bedroom apartment is about 750 square feet -- bigger than Dog Bites' place! -- with oak floors Supanich said he'll be refinishing this week. It has a good-sized gray and pink 1950s-style tile bathroom with a new toilet and sink, and a large kitchen with lots of cabinets, a new stove, and a new refrigerator. The unit, which features views of the Bay Bridge, Upper Market, and downtown, has a private garage and -- get this -- is only $1250 a month.

"I really think you're right. I really think this is the up-and-coming neighborhood out here," said Supanich, who described the area as relatively quiet, racially mixed, and well-served by mass transit. "I bought the building so my girlfriend can have a dog," he added. "I'm building a dog run out [in the back yard]."

Dog Bites, observing that Supanich must be a nice boyfriend, then erred by asking if they'd been dating long. "Off and on for three years," he said. "We've broken up a dozen times, but we keep getting back together, so go figure." Then why do they break up? "I'm commitment-phobic," he answered. "You can't find a good guy over 24 who's not."

Or a good woman, either, we considered retorting, but asked instead about the building's general dog policy. "Actually, my girlfriend doesn't have a dog right now. It died," Supanich told us. "She left her dog with me for a week, and it got into some rat poison and died three days after she picked it up. Now she wants the dog stuffed, and that's costing me over three grand. It's not cheap to get a dog stuffed."

The reason for this, it turns out, is that the dog-stuffing process takes a year. "They've got to tan the skin," he explained. "They have to remove the skin, make a cast of the body, and then make a steel-reinforced mold of the body. You know, when you get a deer stuffed, you shot the deer, you bring it in, you don't know what it looked like. They have a mold of a deer's head they just use. But when it's somebody's pet they've had for 10 years, they know what it looked like. They're going to be picky."

Trying desperately to get the interview back on track, Dog Bites asked how Supanich felt about cats in the apartment. "One cat would be OK," he answered. "Two cats are borderline. Three or four cats, then you're like a crazy lady who talks to her cats."

Actually, you only need two cats for ... uh. Cough. Cough.

Extremely South of 280

OK, so it's "280," not "the 280." How were we supposed to know using an article in front of the freeway's number is, apparently, a mark of the southlands-beast?

"I grew up here in the Bay Area and went to college on the central coast (Cal Poly), where I got my first overwhelming exposure to the folks from So. Cal.," writes Jen Smith. "One of the differences between "us' and "them' was their use of the article "the' in front of freeways, as you did in your last column. Don't know why, but they say the 405 and the 101. We say 280 and 101. Neither, as far as I know, is more correct. It will just ring more true in the ears of locals if you adopt that subtle change."

We received several other e-mails on the same subject. Dog Bites, whose life ambition is to be photographed lying on top of the sign on 280 that announces "The Junipero Serra: World's Most Beautiful Freeway," is much downcast at our linguistic error, because we do desperately want to fit in; however, we wish to clarify something: We are not from Southern California.

So, can anyone tell we're running out of material? God, we're depressed. The Mercury News even beat us on the whole Oppedahl-in-as-Chronicle-publisher story. Beat by Vapid City for Dummies! Quite frankly, we think we may as well just check out now, head down to the home improvement section of the Colma Barnes and Noble, get ourselves good and annoyed by looking at pictures of tacky stenciling projects, then go home and cry bitter tears of rage.

Still, the thing that has us confused about the latest news out of the Chron is this: Didn't Hearst argue that it had to be allowed to dump the afternoon Examiner because, like many afternoon dailies all over the country, it was a failing enterprise? And now the company says it's going to publish an afternoon edition of the Chron. Well, OK.

As Fifth and Mission wasn't providing us with any material, we flailed about for something else. Friday is always a good day to have a look at, the wildly popular cult Web site based around a betting pool on dot-com company layoffs and failures. But Dog Bites was rather shocked to find fuckedcompany -- which is already having a teensy bit of trouble with Fast Company magazine over, um, logo similarities -- featuring this as its top story: "Urban Box Office is out of business. Musta spent too much money [on] ho's and 40's [sic]."

Site creator Phil Kaplan, a budding Weblebrity who at one point briefly put fuckedcompany up for sale on eBay, denied his comment was racist. "What's racist about it?" he asked. "I didn't think it was [racist]. I'm not a racist." Thirty seconds after we got off the phone with him, he called us back. "I don't know if you know this, but I'm black," he said. We said we'd heard otherwise. "Oh, damn, I was just trying to get you to write it," he replied.

Not everyone was quite so amused. "Don't think this little thread won't come to light when you try to get this loser website funded," wrote one poster. "Or when you try to get a real job. Or when the media does another story on you."

Fare Game

You'd think Muni could use all the money it's apparently not collecting in transit impact fees from office conversions to speed up production of its long-awaited bus schedule. Dog Bites, who spent part of Halloween dressed up as a Muni bus -- well, OK, there's a clause that probably calls for some explication. Our Halloween began in the Mission, at a party given by a dear friend, and continued over in the Castro, where we walked with a woman we'd met at the party, crashing other parties on the way. It's weird how homogenous Vapid City really is these days; we'd spot a group of costumed people on a sidewalk, say hi, head inside, make a circuit, maybe dance a little, and then leave, without ever seeing anyone who couldn't have been an extra on an episode of Friends.

In this way, we managed eventually to reach Castro and Market, where the crush of people was so intense we were pleased to be allowed to board a miniature replica Muni bus -- route number 666 Hell and Back, complete with realistic graffiti -- before making our way across the intersection. Chris, the bus' "driver," said his group had spent almost a year planning and building the bus; for a few minutes, Dog Bites wasn't sure it was going to last all the way to the far side of Castro.

"Where's the 5 Fulton? Where's the fucking 5 Fulton?" screamed one drunken man, hurling himself bodily against the side of our cardboard conveyance, which lurched violently, just like the real thing. We were relieved to disembark; as our new friend observed, had the bus actually turned over we would probably have ended up with broken noses.

And that, we're sure, would be even worse than the endless wait for a 4 Sutter.

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