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Quite the World, Isn't It?

On Peter Case, Jon Clinch, and garlic

This is kind of a journalistic trifecta. In the past couple of weeks I've had a few freelance articles pop up, one on singer/songwriter Peter Case, another on author Jon Clnch and the third on the city of Gilroy, California, the self-anointed Garlic Capital of the World.

The Case profile was a lot of fun. I took along my son Michael, a guitar player, in part to hear what Case had to say about his music, and in part to use the car-pool lane for the long drive from Irvine to Santa Monica. It's all about the traffic out here. And the occasion for the Case profile was the release of his new album, "Wig!" Some of his strongest work in years. There's a video embedded below from his show at McCabe's Guitar Shop the other day in Santa Monica -- same place where I interviewed him.

I also loved Clinch's new novel, his second. Kings of the Earth: A Novel is a fictionalized look at a bizarre death and murder case in Central New York. He nails the terrain, and it serves as a great follow up to his debut, Finn, picking up the story of Huck Finn's father where Mark Twain left off.

As for the Gilroy travel piece, well, how can you not like a place that smells like an Italisn restaurant?

"Somebody Told the Truth" (Live) by Peter Case from Tom Weber on Vimeo.

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Ancient times on the Channel Islands

I spent a day back in December out on Santa Cruz Island with Jennifer Perry, an anthropology professor at Pomona College, for a profile piece for Pomona Magazine. It was a lot of fun -- she's very bright, and very engaged with the history of the Chumash tribe, whom her research (and that of others) suggests served a role as something of a banker for pre-Columbian trade along the Central California coast.

Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands at 98 square miles, and has been a lot of things over the years, including a ranch. Now owned by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy, a visit here is a wonderful experience in roughing it. Camping is limited and rudimentary, there are no services, and if you miss the ferry you're stuck until the next day.

What I enjoyed most, though, was listening to Perry talk about the clues in the landscape as she walked along the blufftop, and then inland a bit. What was a pile of loose rock to my eye were, to Perry, the leftovers from of ancient mining, and she poked into the rock piles to pull out the evidence -- chipped stones and discarded tools for splintering the old chert, a kind of flint, into usable sharp edges.

Give the piece a read, and let me know what you think...

Photo of Jennifer Perry by Steve Osman/Pro Photography Network. Read More 
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Summertime, baseball and ... Fresno

Back in July Margaret and I headed north to San Francisco for a few days primarily so I could give a talk at Modern Times Bookstore about Blood Passion, tied in with the annual Laborfest in the Bay Area.

We also took in some baseball, our first visit to SBC Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. It lived up to the advanced billing -- great ballpark, with a wonderful throwback design. Not a bad seat in the house, and if you are stuck way up in the cheap seats you're rewarded with a gorgeous view of San Francisco Bay. And it's easily accessible via mass transit. Now that's how you build a ballpark.

Then we headed to Fresno for comparison with another great little ballpark, home of the Giants' AAA affiliate the Fresno Grizzlies, and wrote about the experience in a Travel piece for the LA Times, which ran this morning.

It was a lot of fun. I'm trying to come with another little road trip that would make good fodder for another travel piece, a slice of journalism I'm coming to enjoy more and more with each outing. Among my favorites is one of the first travel pieces I did for the Times, visiting the desolate, and usually closed-to-the-public, Trinity Site - the spot where the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico.

Often, a travel piece is about a lot more than a journey, a destination and a hotel. Read More 
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On bacon and beer -- no, really

One of my must-stops in San Francisco is the San Francisco Brewing Co., which I first visited back in the late 1980s while in the city doing some advance stories for Pope John Paul II's United States tour. Margaret was able to join me for that trip -- pre-kids -- and it was our introduction to a city that has become one of our favorites.
So last week, after hitting the San Francisco Zoo, we stopped in North Beach for a late lunch at the SF Brewing Co. (which was included in my recent travel piece on the brew coast). Like most brewpubs, the place has an erasable board where it tells customers which of its arsenal of brews are available on any given day.

The new beer for last week: Bacon Beer.

I figured, what the hell and ordered a pint. It wasn't bad. Brewmaster Brandon Crain stopped by our table and we chatted about the beer for a bit. We agreed it was fun but, as Crain called it, a "one pint beer." He brewed it by using crumbled bacon as the dry hops -- a technique Crain played with after tasting a bacon martini at another San Francisco bar. The martini didn't work -- the flavors would be impossible to mesh, I would think. But it got him thinking.

The best part of the beer was the jokes -- "A pint of pig, please." As we were finishing lunch two regulars came in and ordered a couple of pints -- one of them saying it made him want to order a side of ham and eggs.  Read More 
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There I go getting all multimedia

The travel piece that ran the other day in the Los Angeles Times landed me a fun moment with San Diego radio station KBZT-FM 94.9 this morning, with hosts Hansen and Tommy.

Every Friday morning they do a session with folks from the Stone Brewing Co., which brews some great ales, with smart marketing, i.e., Arrogant Bastard Ale, with the label that warns, "You're not worthy."

After seeing the travel piece the other day, Tommy got in touch and they book me for a short chat about the story. So I got to relive -- briefly -- the road trip I took with Steve Dollar. This is the audio here.

Turns out Hansen and Tommy are doing a July 3 remote broadcast from the Stone brewery, and they suggested I stop down. Though 7 a.m. is a little early for an Arrogant Bastard -- read that any way you want -- I might just show up. Could be fun. Read More 
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Nice links for the brewpub travel piece

Had a couple of nice links to the Los Angeles Times travel piece on brewpubs, one from The New York Times (scroll down to the middle of the NYT item), and the other from a beer historian.  Read More 
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El Camino Real, the beery way

A couple of months ago my friend Steve Dollar emailed from NYC with a proposition. He had a freelance assignment to do a travel piece driving the California coast, following Rte. 1 from around Santa Barbara to where it ends near the redwoods in Humboldt State Park. As an urbanite, he let his driver's license lapse. Steve's at left in the picture here, chatting with my old friend Tony Lioce at Vesuvio bar in San Francisco. Not a brewpub, but a great bar nonetheless.

The began the journey of Driving Mr. Dollar. And here is my travel piece on the trip, which ran in today's Los Angeles Times. It was a fun trip, and I love doing travel writing.

I also used the trip to start experimenting with map mash-ups, this one using Zee Maps, which gives you a sense of the scope of the trip.

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