It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I count mushroom hunting with the Mycological Society of San Francisco among my most treasured experiences -- scrambling through dripping trees, slithering through mud, hot on the trail of a succulent chanterelle, while a gnomelike mushroom expert with chuckling eyes explains the origin of life on Earth via fungi. Until last year's San Francisco Mushroom Fair, I had nothing but garden-variety interest in mushrooms; now I own books, and secretly hope for rainy days when I might search out secret enclaves in Golden Gate Park.
I'm not the only one obsessed with mushrooms. People credit the fungi for angel myths, spiritual enlightenment, perfect health, instant death, and flawless salads. There are mushrooms that look like golf balls, alien spacecraft, jellyfish, and blue china, and mushrooms that smell like cinnamon, bleach, flowers, and old cigarette butts. And if the mushrooms themselves aren't fascinating enough, I can guarantee that mushroom fair attendees offer one of the most bizarre cross-sections of humanity I have ever encountered -- everyone from practicing witches and CIA toxicologists to shamans and hard-core survivalists. This year's exhibition includes cooking demonstrations by Sunita Dutt and Patrick Hamilton, lectures by Fungi Perfecti founder Paul Stamets, and a must-see slide show by photographer Taylor Lockwood as well as a sprawling ecological display of local species and a wide array of weird mushroom paraphernalia for purchase. The San Francisco Mushroom Fair will be held at the County Fair Building and Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, Dec. 9, at 10 a.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10, at 11 a.m. Tickets are $3-6; call 759-0495.
For one-of-kind, slightly wayward gifts, there is no better place to shop than Naughty Santa's Black Market -- although that's not really why people go. Aside from all the unconventional crafts on display, the fifth annual yuletide fete promises to make up for all the conventional, hidebound parties you may be forced to attend this season. Here, jolly old St. Nick explores the dirty old man side of his nature, naughty dance troupes the Devil-Ettes and the Cantankerous Lollies strut their stuff, and hurtful machines from People Hater remind us what the holidays are really all about. As usual, there will be porno soundtracks, a fashion show for the style-impaired, and 100 drunken Santas making their rounds. Naughty Santa's Black Market will be held on Saturday, Dec. 9, at SomArts Gallery from 3 p.m. to midnight. Tickets are $5 before 5 p.m. and $10 after (sadly, this is a clothing optional event, but fully attired Santas get in free); call 863-1414.
There is only one man fearless and/or disgusting enough to have attempted fronting the Murder Junkies after G.G. Allin's much-anticipated demise. That man was ANTiSEEN frontman Mad Dog Jeff Clayton, who, along with guitar player Mighty Joe Young, backed the shit-spewing Allin on his 1994 release, Murder Junkies. It's been almost a decade since ANTiSEEN has played in the Bay Area, but I am assured time has not lessened Clayton's gruesome growl and relentless bloodletting tendencies. Celebrating the rerelease and remix of Southern Hostility and Eat More Possum on Man's Ruin, ANTiSEEN is sure to perform all those lovely old standards about hate, whores, and fighting, nicely accented by dangerous explosions of fire and barbed wire. Take caution and leather. ANTiSEEN plays on Sunday, Dec. 10, at the CW Saloon with Hammerlock (with special guest Whiskey Rebel) and Impulse Items opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10; call 974-1585.
A vanguard of the "French Touch," Parisian house DJ Ludovic Navarre was among the first to slow his beats to a simmer and soften them with insinuations of jazz, blues, ambient, and dub. With 1995's cool and eloquent Boulevard album, St. Germain -- a moniker taken from an 18th-century royal court character who claimed to be several centuries old -- set the stage for fellow French groups Dimitri From Paris, Air, and Daft Punk. Since then, Navarre's outfit has enhanced his machine-driven ruminations with full-time trumpet, saxophone, flute, keyboard, and percussion players. Tourist, St. Germain's first album in five years, occasionally tiptoes along the same path as Moby's Play, with Navarre positioning the virile coo of Marlena Shaw and the Mississippi grumble of Johnny Lee Hooker alongside hypnotic dance tempos. However, while Play was highly emotive, rousing, and often sorrowful, Tourist is incontestably mellow and jazzy. More like sipping a perfect Tom Collins in a dimly lit cyberlounge than sweating at a techno roadhouse, Tourist is as suave and impeccable as the words "French Touch" suggest. St. Germain performs on Monday, Dec. 11, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20-22; call 474-0365.