Filed under: Burritos | Tags: ancient visitors from outer space, Burritos
This is the first in a potential series of reviews of San Francisco taquerias, with an obvious bias toward the Mission District where I live.
First, an introduction to those new to the concept of the taqueria. The San Francisco taqueria is like a museum dedicated to the art of the burrito, except it is a museum where you eat the art. The word burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish. The origin of the name is a mystery. Some say it derived from the resemblance of the wrapped tortilla to its namesake animal’s ear.
Most historical records actually credit the invention of the burrito to the Mayans around AD 200. Rather than deriving its name from the animal, the burrito was named after the cylindrical spaceships that transported munificent aliens to Mayan temples. The Mayan “Gods” would exit their powerful ships and bestow upon the terrified and exhilarated Mayan people marvelous technology. Once they had mated with the Mayan women and granted good luck for the new harvest that year, these Gods would board their white cylindrical sky “donkeys” and ascend to the clouds. The “donkeys” were the primary mode of transportation for the aliens and the primitive Mayan mind knew nothing of air planes of NASA, the donkey was the only vehicle they understood. The Mayans would crush neighboring tribes with the tanks and laser guns they acquired from the Gods. They built large monolithic structures in praise of the Visitors.
Eventually it came to pass that these interstellar guests ceased to arrive. Perhaps they all died out in a galactic superwar. Perhaps they contracted some hideous Mayan disease from their many trips to our filthy little planet. We may never know. At any rate, the crops began to fail, the young women went unmarried. In a panic, the Mayan priests began to indulge in human sacrifice, hoping to call the Gods back to Earth. The Mayans would wrap the human flesh in a flour tortilla, filling the package with rice, beans, and sometimes salsa. All in tribute to the “space donkeys” that their Gods rode from the heavens.
Cast aside thoughts of Q’doba, BTB, or even Chipotle. Don’t even think about bringing Taco Bell into this discussion. All are pretenders. They shiver at the might of the true San Francisco Burrito. When you order a San Francisco Burrito you should get a “superburrito.” This includes rice and beans, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, queso, and your choice of meat. A good burrito will be filled with greasy meat, should pack a spicy punch, and should warm your heart with love. It is important that the fillings of the burrito mix together. The San Francisco burrito’s circumference is so large that it is difficult to get the entire palate of flavor in one bite unless the fillings are intermixed perfectly. This is the most difficult part of burrito making to master. A taqueria should not be like Chipotle. There should only be brushed metal on the counter behind the glass where the burrito is prepared, if at all. There should be pictures of Madre de Dios or, equally inspirational, Gavin Newson. There should be candles. It should be psychedelic: a dive indulging in vibrant color and ostentatious earnestness.
Taqueria Cancun – Generally acknowledged by all right-thinking people as the Single Greatest Taqueria That Exists and Has Ever Existed, Taqueria Cancun lies but a two block walk from my front door. This is a curse, really. The burrito is warm and extremely spicy. The el pastor and pollo are the titans here. Cancun does not get top marks for ambiance. It is a little too McDonald’s, but it makes up for it with an amazing latin jukebox. Service with excitement, the dudes behind the counter are apparently all wasted or, alternatively, just very friendly and having a wonderful time.
Overall Taste – 10.
Taqueria el buen sabor – Loosely translated as “The Taqueria of the Vengeful Sword.” A little too much rice, which segregates the rest of the filling like a Republican. Also, don’t put lettuce in a burrito, that’s cheating. As for the service and decor, apparently it is a front for a convent, because only ladies work here. For the entire month of December they wore Santa Hats. All of them.
Overall Taste: 8
Taqueria El Farrolito – Perfectly located near 24th Street Mission BART stop for those who are crapulous. The blend in this burrito was unpardonably separated, but I didn’t really mind in my inebriated state. To go to the bathroom you have to have the dude at the register buzz you in. Yes, the door to the bathroom operates like a security door to an apartment building.
Overall Taste: 6
More to come. A burrito is like a girlfriend/boyfriend. What do you like in a burrito? What is your favorite? What was your most romantic burrito experience? Have you ever made love to a burrito? I mean love, man, not just anonymous sex.
The Dog Walker – The dog walker passed me, herding three dogs of ascending size: a chihuahua, a bulldog, and some kind of large abomination begat from the unholy union of what appears to be a retriever and another energetic monstrosity. The dogs smelled the ground. Of course, the main streets, with their high urine traffic by man and animal, would be better for smelling, but this sunny tree-lined side-street sufficed. The chihuahua eyed me with motherly worry. She could see in my face the ravages of a hangover. Her nose told her that I hadn’t showered. She could hear my whimpering as I wrenched at the rusted bolts holding the defunct Virginia license plate to the car.
Long-haired Male Model Guy – Long-haired Male Model guy actually passed me several times. I sat on the ground, prostrate before the car. The collection of tools scattered around me increased exponentially each time he passed. I am sure he noticed. One time, he passed as I was banging on the rusted bolts that had stuck firm to the license plate with a hammer. Sweat dripping from my brow, I swung high with a manic smile. He looked at me with pity when I fell to the ground again in defeat.
The Old Men Who Work At the Hardware Store at 24th and Mission – It was decided, by my Senior Mechanical Advisor, that I should acquire a vise grip. No tools of mine could marshal the unimaginable power necessary to wrest the rusted bolts on the front of the plate loose. I walked to the closest reputable hardware store. A musty smell of oil and sawdust filled my nose when I entered through the heavy door. It was as if I had descended into my grandfather’s basement in Brookfield, Wisconsin circa 1989. The room was filled with brown, from the wood to the dirty boxes that held a million nails. The clutter was magnificent. The old man with a limp hustled softly over to me. There was no browsing in this store. I explained my dilemma. I met confusion.
“uh…a license plate?”
“uh…wow, that sucker must really be on there!”
He fished through a bucket in the corner for a suitable weapon. He was disappointed he did not have a quality used vice grip to sell me, but I was excited at the prospect of a shiny new tool. The other old gentleman sang along to the classical music emitting from the radio as he ran my credit card.
The Homeless Dude – The homeless dude stopped for a chat while I affixed the back license plate. The screws that held the old Virginia plates on the bumper were so badly eroded that they fell apart when I tried to screw them off. A piece of the screw stayed in the hole, unreachable by any tool, and it took much negotiating to free the holes for the new license plate.* As I clumsily tried to reach my sausage fingers behind a small opening in the bumper to fix a nut to the brand new bolt I had purchased from the hardware store, I heard a voice.
“New License Plates, eh?”
“Yes.” I was not in the mood for idle chat. Jesus, man, can’t you see I am doing AUTO WORK!?
“What’s wrong with the old ones.”
“They are from a different state.”
“Did they cost much?”
“I don’t know, man, I just do the installation.” This was a bad joke, but apparently he didn’t care.
The Hipster Girl – The hipster girl emerged from her apartment right next to my park car just as I tore the Virginia license plate off of the car with my bare hands. The rusted bolt certainly budged when I used the vice grips, but then it just spun in its socket, never unscrewing. So I tore the fucker off. And then I tore the fucking bolt out. I sat there, laughing to myself. I raised the Virginia license to the sky, the sun shining through the gaping gash in the upper left corner where the bolt had been. And then the hipster girl opened the door, stood outside, looked up at the happy sun, looked down at me as I held the license plate aloft in defiance and she saw the carnage, mayhem, and madness, and then she smiled and chirped, “hey! what’s up!” Then she walked away.
*I would describe this in more detail, but it is incredibly dull and unnecessarily complicated. Let’s make it swift by saying that the original Virginia plates were so old that they were impossible to get off without great feats of engineering skill, which, luckily, I possess.
The fact of my continued unemployment is certainly perplexing. We could point to a number of reasonable causes for how, in spite of a sparkling resume and billion dollar education, I remain bereft of a job for over a year: the economy is terrible; the unfairness of the in-state bar monopoly; directionless job searching on my part, etc. I would prefer to ignore these reasonable explanations and point to what I feel is the real cause of my distress: The Secret International Anti-Erik Conspiracy.
No doubt you are unaware of The Secret International Anti-Erik Conspiracy. That is because it is secret. It slithers beneath the deepest catacombs of Power. It sulks darkly in the shadowy alleyways of human resources offices. “They” sabotage me at every turn. The scope of this conspiracy is massive, representing an alliance of unprecedented proportions (even for Dan Brown) between all of the most important Conspiratorial Organizations. Enemies turn to friends in the the terrible plot to stage my undoing. Across the globe they whisper and intrigue. Let us describe the players and motives behind this evil conspiracy.
Trilateral Commission – A secret organization of aliens with trapezoidal-shaped heads. They meet in a secure bunker under Area 51 bi-weekly to plot my demise. As a commission, they follow Roberts Rules of Order. This causes their meetings to last several hours, with the result that very little in the way of Anti-Erik strategizing gets accomplished. In spite of their unusual appearance, their opinions, when they get around to having them, are not taken seriously by the other members of The Secret International Anti-Erik Conspiracy.
Motivation of the Trilateral Commission – The Trilateral Commission’s antipathy for me derives from my childhood love of the Spielberg classic E.T. E.T. and his race are the ancient nemesis of the trapezoidal-headed aliens. They view my early advocacy on E.T.’s behalf as a formal alliance against them. It is not personal, rather it is the result of a byzantine series of alliances. Like World War I.
Illuminati – The Illuminati are an organization of men and women who wear elbow patches on their tweed sport jackets. This ancient evil has survived over centuries, ever since the first elbow patch was sewed to a tweed jacket by Adam Weishaupt, an immortal shape-shifting demon who you might know under the names Winston Churchill and Ashton Kutcher. Whenever you see someone with elbow patches and a tweedy jacket, rest assured you are in the presence of an Illuminatus. Modern examples include Oxford dons, your grandfather, and various hipsters in the Mission District.
Motivation of the Illuminati – As a world-renowned canon lawyer (a lawyer well-versed in religious law), I was a member of the Illuminati for many years, earning my first pair of elbow patches sometime in 1998. I had a falling out with the organization over the membership application of Lady Gaga, who I felt had insufficient credentials on the transubstantiation question.
The Freemasons – Ever since George Washington sacrificed his first virgin to the goat-headed god Bathomet on that chilly night next to the Potomac, the Freemasons have led all others in the realm of esoteric villainy. Entombed in their granite monuments, built in every city in the most fashionable facist style, the Masons conduct dark rituals of eldritch sorcery in order to resurrect the Elder Gods: Yog-Sothoth, the Beyond One; Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos; the Blind Idiot God Azathoth; and Lord Cthulhu who waits, dreaming. Legends say that paramount among these foul deities is Washington himself, who sits atop a throne of beaver pelts, trapped in the Netherzone, chewing on the eternally damned souls of British people.
Motivation of the Freemasons – As many of you know, I am a great supporter of the cause of the beaver and have worked assiduously for their conservation and protection. In the course of this work, I have come into conflict many times with the Freemasons. Beaver pelts are essential to their blasphemous rites in worship of General Washington, and they have driven the poor beasts to near extinction. My organizational skills have caused them quite a number of defeats in legislation at the state and federal level. Thanks to me, the beaver is safe. But, as a result, the Freemasons have turned their witchery toward me in vengeance.
Skull and Bones – From the hallowed halls of Yale, Skull and Bones members work to complete the plan their forefathers laid out almost a century ago: the complete brain-washing and mind control of the entire United States. Their goal is no less than the absolute bro-ification of the populace. They will spread their bro-tastic message from sea to shining sea. No campus will be free of the frat. No keg without a bro rocking a keg stand. No beer will go un-shotgunned. They have already completed the transformation of our elite. No doubt you have seen the results on a leisurely stroll of Washington, D.C. White hats abound. Bros in pink polo shirts. See how their collars are flipped up? These all bear the mark of the Skull and Bones. Chemtrails from jets flying overhead dust our cities and towns with special mind control powder. Flouridation of our water creates the unnaturally white teeth necessary for true bro-ness. Alternative energy development is suppressed to keep us suckling upon the teet of the Hummer.
Motivation of Skull and Bones – Like all frat boys and bros, the members of Skull and Bones hate a poindexter. If you’ve read this far, you can tell that I am just the type of nerdy four-eyed freak that the dudes just love to pound.
International Socialism, a.k.a. The New York Times – Using their bully pulpit in the press, the socialists want to take away all of the productive and good things that really really rich people have given to us. All of us who work for a living, which unfortunately does not include me, will suffer under the weight of their statist tyranny. But did you know they are actually Lizard People in human disguise? Along with their friends, the bros in Skull and Bones, the Lizard People have pushed for international socialism for decades from the highest levels of power. They once had an entire country called Russia under their power. Now they own France. Our own government is in peril! Only a Lizard Person could think of such things as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, NPR, PBS, the Peace Corps, Americorps, Food Stamps, and Health Care reform.
Motivation of the Lizard People/International Socialists/The New York Times – I learned about the tyranny of the Lizard People while working for the Obama campaign. One day, our office was visited by Forest Whitaker, star of such films as Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Crying Game, The Last King of Scotland, and Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000. That day he was a star of a local campaign event. As I shook his hand, gazing into his beautiful smile, I detected a certain scaliness to him. I cast doubt aside, and continued to work. Later, after his event was over, I stumbled upon Mr. Whitaker feasting on a horde of vermin in the back storage room next to the yard signs. Mr. Whitaker hissed and tossed a half-eaten vole at my feet. I vowed there and then to expose the Lizard People who threaten our Freedom.
Catholic Church, alternatively The Jews – Actually, the Catholic Church has nothing against me, since I grew up Catholic. The Jews do not have a grudge either, since they let me date their ladies. Neither of these groups are truly aligned against me. I just added them here because no true list of conspiratorial organizations would be complete without them.
Most of the furniture we own has lived in my parent’s basement for the past year. Emily apparently lived on disposable bean bag chairs or mooched off of her roommates for the past 29 years, so she has no furniture of her own. Apart from our legendary Jeans Couch* (see below), we do not have much for guests to sit on. We resolved to find some comfortable chairs for our living room.
The problem is that SF furniture dealers are all on serious drugs. Yes, even for San Francisco. The prices for furniture are incredible. For example: we went to a second hand furniture store, well regarded in the neighborhood. I saw a chair in the corner. I recognized it. When I was twelve, I sat in it while I waited in the office of my evangelical Christian Indian orthodontist, Dr. Daniels. The price: $300. I assure you, Dr. Daniels did not seat us in Laz-E-Boys, Aeron Chairs, or something designed by Saarinen. No, we sat in this:
I am clearly missing something. Something big. I wish I was an investigative journalist so I could uncover the true nature of this high price market for shitty furniture. If I were Malcolm Gladwell, I could quickly come up with a facile and glib explanation. The best I can do is: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978. Plot: remake of the original in which San Francisco is invaded by body snatchers. What does this have to do with cheap furniture sold at high prices? I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you but I will.
SAN FRANCISCANS ARE ACTUALLY ALIENS AND MUST FEED ON CHEAP FURNITURE TO SURVIVE!
*Emily wants to get a different slip cover for the Jeans Couch. Unfortunately for her, the Jeans Couch is to my girlfriends what Afghanistan is to Global Empires. Many have tried to conquer it. To shape it into something civilized. To tame its wild nature. All have failed.
Filed under: SF, Uncategorized | Tags: catholic guilt, depressing sunshine, midwest guilt
The monotony is disgusting. I wake up and check the weather. I learned long ago, in Michigan, that a sensible person checks the weather before he dresses himself. It has reached the level of reflex. Other than a few spaced out incomprehensible grunts, the first sounds I make every morning are, “What is the weather like?” But here it is useless. A waste of precious energy. I know that every day will be like the last. A mind-numbing series of sameness. Day after day, and nothing has changed. It is 60 degrees and sunny. Tomorrow will be 60 degrees and sunny. The day after that? 60 degrees and fucking sun. Every fucking day.
Some explanation: San Francisco is constantly assaulted by something called the California Current. Deeper cold water moves up to displace warm surface water at the coast. This makes the famous fog and a mild climate. Combine this with a hilly peninsula and you have microclimates. In theory, one neighborhood can have completely different temperature from another. This is bullshit though, because every neighborhood is 60 degrees and sunny, as far as I can tell.
The winter should be the rainy season. San Francisco gets practically no rainfall between March and October, then gets dumped on for months. I don’t believe that though. It is 60 degrees and sunny. It has been since October. It rained maybe once. I completely missed it and regretted it all day.
I always resisted the notion that Michiganders are obsessed with the weather. But it is true. The weather controls our lives. How we dress and get to school or work, how we grow our crops or hunt for deer. In Michigan, we treasure every nice day because they are so few. The sun will emerge from the overcast sky and warm the earth. A Michigander seizes that time and feels guilty if he or she lets it slip away. The sun hides again, possibly forever. Imagine a place where every day is a nice day. How do you decide when to go outside? How can you feel guilty about staying inside when tomorrow will be just as nice? WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU CAN’T FEEL GUILTY ANYMORE?!
Filed under: Editorial
This blog has survived two reboots. It began as a High Concept Project Blog (Russian Film experienced by an unemployed dork). Then it transitioned to a Road Trip Blog (Driving across the US from DC to SF). Now I am rebooting it a third time. It will be much the same as before only with better actors and more elaborate special effects.
This third avatar* will describe my experiences adapting to life in San Francisco. I moved to the Mission District approximately 3 weeks ago. Much has transpired since my last blog entry celebrating my entry into the city, but any entertaining vignettes will have to wait to come up in the course of updating. It would be too much work to recap. My initial thought is to organize each entry around a certain aspect of the city. My life is pretty mundane, so I can’t use the same format as the Road Trip blog. You, the readership, apparently do not find Russian film as fascinating as I do, so I am abandoning High Concepts.
Thanks for reading!
*While writing this blog entry** I learned that Henry Ford believed in reincarnation. Can we all agree that Henry Ford was certifiably insane?
**The blog entries† are time intensive because I indulge in meticulous background research over trivial issues. Most of the work never reaches the site. This is my excuse for the occasional lapse in timely updating.
† Also, this entry is descending into some turgid David Foster Wallace territory with all these footnoted footnotes.