More Than Just a Mouse
You're a lowly mouse, a simple rodent of no consequence. Your brief time on Earth is dictated from birth: You will be bred in captivity, raised in a cage of a reptile store in the East Bay, and eventually wind up a pile of mush inside the belly of a boa constrictor. Your life is pretty boring, but there are other options upon your death. You could end up stuffed with cotton balls, dressed up as a teeny vampire, and sold, along with your very own miniature coffin, as the perfect holiday gift.
By day, Jeanie M. works in the local multimedia biz, but after hours she quietly labors as the nation's only mouse taxidermist (which is probably why she doesn't want me to use her real name). For the past four or five years, she has collected mice from snake dealers and given them extended life in a variety of forms, from doctors, nuns, lawyers, and punks to a Santa with mice reindeer. The most popular requests, she says, are religious icons.
"Virgins of Guadalupe, lots of popes, lots of nuns. Catholics are fucked up."
Occasionally a client will request a little surgical mask or some other prop that covers the mouse's nose. But Jeanie M. admits, "Most people want to see their faces."
Her interest in mouse reincarnation grew out of her annual Roadkill Calendars, a self-explanatory project that she terminated because it became too time-intensive. A subsequent zine about roadkill didn't last long. But when her father, an avid bird-watcher, steered her toward the exciting field of taxidermy, she found destiny. After some taxidermy lessons, she now exports her stuffed mice to five outlets across the United States.
"My biggest shops are in Anchorage and Baltimore," she says. "There's a lot of freaks in Baltimore." Locally, her work is sold by the Paxton Gate store, located at 1204 Stevenson St., which specializes in "treasures and oddities inspired by the garden and the natural sciences" (i.e., dried insects and gardening supplies).
Much like house cats (as previously reported in these pages), mice and other small animals are traditionally preserved by freeze-drying, an expensive process for preserving body shape that is used by the Smithsonian and other museums. Frankly, for the average mouse fan freeze-drying is a bit pricey. Jeanie M. keeps her costs down by stuffing the critters with cotton, using wire and string to form the frame that supports the body. A stuffed mouse vampire is a mere $38 ($50 with coffin).
Jeanie M. estimates she has done 1,000 or so mice, and receives orders for 10 to 50 at a time. She will also do squirrels and other animals that can legally be stuffed, but draws the line at rats. "They're too intelligent. I'd rather have them as pets."
The next time you walk into a nightclub and see a young woman sitting in the corner making mouse armatures from cotton, wire, and string, walk up and say hello. But if you start making Christmas-themed requests, keep this in mind: She's already taken over 100 orders, and it's barely October.
Leave It to Beaver and the Isle of Lesbos
Included in the 400-plus pages of the new book How to Talk American: A Guide to Our Native Tongues, compiled by Jim Crotty, former S.F. resident and co-publisher of Monk magazine, is an entire chapter devoted to San Francisco slang. Amongst common local phraseology (Castro Clones, Hippie Hill, the Stick, SOMA), Crotty lists many less ubiquitous local contributions to the English language.
"Buds? Doses?" of course, means, "Would you care to buy some pot?" It's usually whispered along Haight Street. "The Swish Alps" refers to the gay neighborhood in the hills above the Castro. "St. Maytag" would be the distinctive washing-machine-resembling St. Mary's Church, located at Geary and Gough (aka "Our Lady of the Spin Cycle"). "L.U.G." is East Bay lingo for "Lesbian Until Graduation." Manny the Hippie rates a mention for his "diggity-dank" phrase, first popularized on the Letterman show. The "Glamour Slammer" would be the fancy new jail at 850 Bryant, and "Nowhere Valley" indicates the Noe Valley neighborhood, which Crotty describes as "Leave It to Beaver meets the Isle of Lesbos." (Even this column is credited for coining a term: "Goatee Gulch," i.e., the South Park population of peach-fuzz computer nerds.) Other chapters are devoted to drugs, rap, Deadheads, Wall Street, Hollywood, and eco-babble, but the slang tome is suspiciously free of sexual verbiage. How come?
"I had to have something my mom could read," admits Crotty. Well, he is originally from Nebraska.
Flood Stage of Tributaries
One of the most peculiar music subgenres of the past few years has been the tribute album. Musicians young and old circle round the oldies campfire, stare into the burning flames, and concentrate on conjuring up the spirits of a legendary predecessor. Entire sections in music stores are now devoted to these heartfelt re-creations. In fact, you don't even have to be rotting in the grave to warrant your own tribute album.
Turning no heads is the latest addition to the resale pile, We Will Fall, a tribute to Iggy Pop released this month on Royalty Records. If Iggy can be called the "Godfather of Punk," and Neil Young is referred to as the Godfather of Grunge, rest assured we will soon witness the Godfathers of Techno, Trance-Goth, and Buttcore, complete with their very own tribute CDs. Tribute albums are 95 percent crap by nature, but there're always one or two passable new interpretations of old favorites, and the Iggy tribute has a few, from the Bush Tetras' "Sister Midnight" to Pansy Division's "Loose" and an acoustic version of "Sell Your Love," whipped up by the Los Angeles group Extra Fancy.