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Scrambled Eggers 

Even at a benefit for kids, the spotlight still shines on the world-famous author

Wednesday, Aug 14 2002
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Death. Taxes. Dave Eggers. He's unavoidable: His fiction's in this week's New Yorker, he has a new novel coming out next month, and last Wednesday he hosted a benefit bash for his latest literary pet project (note gushing profile in the Chron), 826 Valencia, a mentoring studio for kids, and for Youth Speaks. Unlike his usual offbeat antics at readings (his own and others') around the city, the benefit -- held at the swanky Gallery Lux, a design-firm-cum-art-space across from the jail -- consisted of beautiful people in unusual and expensive shoes, with unusual and expensive haircuts, eating unusual (but free) food. Well, sort of free: The tickets cost $30 apiece.

Eggers himself laid fairly low, speaking briefly about 826 and introducing the musical draw, Mark Eitzel, but his influence was everywhere. The night felt like a variation on his overlong New Yorker story: Rich white assholes go to Africa to try to give away money, but fail. All the 826 people were rich and white; most of the kids looked neither. To their credit, the performers (ages 11 to 18) were impressive, delivering sharp, funny stories and poems with a minimum of shoe-gazing and a maximum of imagination. We'd have left the party a bona fide believer if only it weren't all about Dave Eggers. The crowd seemed there to see him, and many people left when Mark Eitzel started playing -- on a stage so small that he knocked his own mike off during one song. Eitzel, a thoughtful crooner of raw power and immense creativity, seemed diminished in this space. Aside from the cramped stage at the end of a long, narrow room, he had to play his six songs over the burbling schmooze of hangers-on. No wonder he cut one tune short and launched hastily into the last song, the irresistible "Proclaim Your Joy."

At one point, a woman in her early 50s, wearing a bright yellow tunic and a fanciful silver brooch, leaned over to us and asked, "Who are these people?" The parent of a teen she desperately wanted to get into the 826 program, she'd bought "every one" of Eggers' books and journals (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, McSweeney's 1-8). She couldn't have cared less about Mark Eitzel -- and neither could the kids, of course. None of them stayed around to hear him, and why would they? He's just some boring old man who gets played on KFOG, for God's sake. Oh, but he's Dave Eggers' buddy. We'd nearly forgotten whom this show was truly benefiting. --Karen Zuercher

Southern Hospitality

After hearing horror stories about the expensive, swaggy pot of the '60s and the rat-poisoned, overpriced Ecstasy of the '90s, we're thankful that there are so many different kinds of high-quality, affordable drugs available nowadays. We don't know whether we should be sending our thank-you notes to the drug lords of Colombia or Ronald Reagan, but we are grateful -- especially for Supervisor Mark Leno and his plan to start providing us with Grade A stuff, grown by the city of San Francisco itself.

We have to say, though, that our favorite drug is alcohol. Unlike pot (paranoia), acid (dementia), Ecstasy (depression), and heroin (lame autobiographies), alcohol has few negative side effects. Liver transplants are more common than ever nowadays, and, besides, alcohol can be consumed in front of your girlfriend's relatives. Sometimes they will even pay for it.

Which is exactly what happened this week when our girlfriend's uncle and aunt were in town from Richmond, Va. They took us to drinks at the Clift Hotel in Union Square, a venerable location recently redesigned by Ian Schrager, the creator of Studio 54 in New York. Nowadays, the Clift has these giant, Alice in Wonderland chairs in the front lobby, the elevators have velvet floors and sexy red lighting, and everything in the rooms is for sale, from the hair dryer ($50) to the clock radio ($500) to the commemorative Clift Hotel baseball cap (a steal at $28).

We had drinks in the fabled Redwood Room, which has high ceilings, dim lighting, and, now, these crazy paintings on the walls. At first glance they look like portraits, but if you stare at them long enough you can tell that they are actually video screens. Eventually the portraits wink at you. It's kind of creepy.

Even creepier is the waitstaff. The tables are only a foot off the ground, so when the waitresses take your orders they have to kneel, and they wear these slutty, low-cut, black cocktail dresses. We ordered a Mambo King (vodka and champagne with sparkling red ice around the rim of the glass). The whole thing reminded us of Eyes Wide Shut, where Tom Cruise's wealthy and influential cohorts get the chance to have digitally edited orgies with masked call girls. Not that anything of that sort would be going on tonight. Not in front of our girlfriend's Southern relatives, anyway.

But don't you love people from the South? Anyway, we bet you would have loved our girlfriend's uncle. He had a massive class ring, a thick accent, and the ability to quote the Bible off the top of his head, and, as only a true Southern gentleman would have, he uncomplainingly paid for the $14 drinks his niece's pleated-pants-wearing, unemployed boyfriend was consuming. "Just put it on our room tab," said Uncle Dick, and when he did, everything seemed to be just precisely all right.

It's hard to say exactly why we felt so chipper, aside from the chemistry experiment going on inside our head. On the one hand, we felt like we were getting away with something; we are, after all, the type who fills up water cups with soda at fast-food restaurants.

But it wasn't just not having to pay; it was also the company. The jolly, well-rounded, Southern hospitality we were being shown, right there in our own city, beneath video portraits watching our every move and surrounded by nearly naked cocktail waitresses.

Ian Schrager wouldn't have had it any other way. --Ben Westoff

About The Author

Karen Zuercher

About The Author

Ben Westhoff

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Slideshows

  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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