Shannon’s Super Sexy Blog. Music. Travel. Randomness. And a Lot of Wine.

Archive for October, 2004

Fear of Halloween

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

Halloween. What is it about this holiday that makes me feel like I want to pound some valium? Do I have any valium? Hmmm….

I don’t remember trick-or-treating too often. I grew up in a rural coastal hamlet, but there were a couple of housing tracts down the highway, and that is where all the kids went to trick-or-treat. There was no point wasting time on our own street, where the take would most likely be carob kisses, fig bars, and “earth muffins.” Clipper’s Ridge and Frenchman’s Creek, with their streets and cul-de-sacs full of identical houses and lit porch-lights, were the places to be. Odd that I can?t remember the actual act of trick-or-treating, but that I remember where I wanted to do it. I do remember the different ways my brothers and I sorted and stored our candy. Candy was pretty much verboten in our house, and we didn’t take the hoard lightly. I always ate the good stuff, the miniature Butterfingers and tiny packets of M &M’s, too quickly, because my self-control in those days was even worse than it is now. That would leave me with a selection of the 2nd rate stuff like those mints they give you in a restaurant for free. Then it would be all about my brother Jay, who carefully sorted and stored his hoard and had it for weeks after I had already consumed all of my candy. Jay was also a kid who ordered bubble gum ice cream at Swensen’s and kept all the gumballs stuffed in his cheeks, like a chipmunk, as he ate. I would have chewed all the gumballs at once and spit them out as soon as the flavor was gone.

I do remember costumes. I know as a very young girl I had a princess costume, and later this princess dress ended up on a giant stuffed animal that doubled for me a couple of times when I snuck out in the middle of the night. Later, I ended up as a sort of mini-Stevie Nicks, always a gypsy, wearing assorted scarves and peasant dresses and jangly bracelets. I still haven’t gotten over the “I am a Princess” thing (because I AM, just not living in in the country where I, uh, am a Princess) and I really am a nomadic, gyspy kind of person. So do the costumes you wear as a kid create what you think of yourself as an adult? Or are your costumes already pre-ordained and your parents are just carrying out the wishes of the cosmos? Hmmm…

When I was thirteen, me and two friends dressed up in identical baby-doll nighties, all different colors. We were probably too old to be trick-or-treating, and definitely too young to be wearing those nighties. I was no Lolita, and only felt revulsion for the way I looked and how people were looking at me. That was one costume that was absolutely not me. Well, not until I was in my thirties anyway. Then I liked to get dressed up like a twisted Daisy Duke, but even then, never, ever on Halloween.

For much of my adult-life-so-far I lived in San Francisco, and out of fifteen years there I spent nine living in the Castro district. The Castro being, like, Halloween central. It sounds pretty cool and fun and urban, this party where 300,000 people descend on your neighborhood, but it is anything but. These people, coming out of the bridges and tunnels and holes in the earth, come to gawk, litter, and vent their anger and frustration on a night when they can get away with it. The energy in the Castro is really ugly. The night BEFORE Halloween, when everyone from the neighborhood goes out to show off their costumes and practice their strut, is always a lot of fun. Halloween though? yuck. In the early days, I actually had a Halloween party, and I opened my door for someone and something like fifteen people followed her in. They made themselves at home and I worked myself into a frenzy trying to figure out how to get them out. After they drank all the sangria, they asked me to make more, and I was like, are you fucking high? Get out of my house! After that I never had a Halloween party again.

A couple of years later, one Halloween night I heard that River Phoenix had died, and morphing into a Castro drama queen right up there with the best of them, I looked glum and cried and wailed at the bar of a Mexican restaurant while a sympathetic bartender made me a series of really strong margaritas. The combo of death and tequila did not help me navigate the throng outside when I finally left the bar. I got stuck on a streetcar platform with no way to escape. All the way down Market Street there was a sea of heads, the sound of breaking bottles, and a feeling that someone was going to get their head smashed in. I swore at that moment, never again will I go out on Halloween. Instead, I bought provisions and locked myself inside. From my bedroom window, I could view the destruction from a safe distance. I much prefer my own kind of destruction, like the Folsom Street Fair. Screw Halloween.

Now, here in Ocean Beach, San Diego, there are no trick-or-treaters. They are probably up on the hill in Point Loma or other, greener pastures. This is my third Halloween here, and I have never had – oh, what’s that? A knock on the door! Hey, I had some trick-or-treaters, for the first time in my life! Good thing I had some little hard candies from Spain in the house. They’ll go into the secondary pile for sure, but at least I had something. A little devil and a mini-SWAT guy. How totally cute. Maybe Halloween isn’t so bad, after all.

a distorted reality is now a necessity to be free

Thursday, October 28th, 2004

While I totally believe in the title of this entry, those are not my words. They are Elliott Smith’s words, they are the title of the last song on his last record, the record he didn’t live to see released.

I really, really love “from a basement on the hill.” But before I get into that let me just puke, or, er, cough all over the record industry for a minute.

Elliott Smith was an indie guy – not some megastar. He was a brilliant musician, but not pretty. He played clubs, not arenas. I used to call him sensitive beanie guy, because that was what he seemed like to me – a guy with a knit beanie who never got the girl but always deserved her. I didn’t know he was so sensitive that he would drive a knife through his own heart. But he clearly did not seem to be having a good time in his life. And he was totally anti of what the music business is these days.

So “from a basement on the hill” is released, one year after his death, to “commemorate” him… whatever. He was already commemorated to me and to countless other people who loved his music. We’d buy the new record no matter when it came out. Why not release it earlier? Later? Maybe this was a loving gesture by friends and family. Maybe I am just really cynical.

And then Rolling Stone gives it the big review, the first review, the review reserved for bigger. I guess this is what it takes for the indie guy – dying. It sort of makes me sick. Hopefully it is making Elliott Smith happy, wherever he is now.

All this doesn’t really matter in the end. What does matter, is that Elliott Smith’s spirit is alive and well all through the new record. When I first listened to it, I was like, WOW, this is fantastic, and it’s finished! It sounded the way it would if Elliott Smith were alive to complete it himself. But now I have listened to it a dozen more times and I know, it is absolutely not finished. Which gives it a sort of live effect, as if Elliott were rehearsing right in front of you. It adds something very special, and is way, way better than a perfected studio record.

I know two things for sure: one is, I believe that when you die you go to the next life and the other, I really suck when it comes to writing about music. I also know that “from a basement on the hill” has touched me, and it has nothing to do with life, death, stab wounds or beanies. It has only to do with one tortured soul with a gift. The rest doesn’t matter.

And the Dining Room Set goes to…

Wednesday, October 27th, 2004

Almost 10,000 people have visited my blog since May 9, 2004…

Maybe YOU are the 10,000 visitor.

All night it rained hard, and I had crazy dreams about sex and drugs.

Sleeping Alone

Monday, October 25th, 2004

Somehow, life for me has taken a rather abrupt turn. It wasn’t like I didn’t want it, or didn’t expect it to eventually happen. It’s just that it happened sooner, and quicker, than I thought it would. From one way of life back to another, in a heartbeat. It’s a good thing I am adaptable. I’m not sure I can handle life not changing constantly. It’s been my only constant, change. I foresee Paris soon, perhaps at Thanksgiving. Just because I can, and because I cannot sit still, especially when I am alone.

I think it might surprise people that some days I go without speaking to a single person. I hate chatter. I think this may be a fatal flaw. At least where relationships are concerned. Why is talking so important, anyway? I have always been fascinated with deaf people. Once I fell in love with a deaf guy in a bar who had cat’s eyes. He looked at me all slanty eyed and he could not speak and I will never, ever forget the way he looked at me. Once, one of my ex-boyfriends was writing a book about a guy who started a cult, and I wanted him to make the guy deaf. I thought that would be so cool, a deaf cult leader.

I guess I will probably go deaf eventually, because I am truly reckless when it comes to Giant Speakers. Or maybe I was deaf in a past life, hence my fascination with and my proclivity for deafness. Whatever, in the end it was just a guy with cat’s eyes that did it.

One of the best things about ending one thing is thinking about something that could possibly begin and just thinking about things beginning leads one to think about things that might have begun, but didn’t, like Cat Eyes (and that was fifteen fucking years ago.) At least it is for me.

A Date with Myself

Saturday, October 23rd, 2004

I guess me and Mark, my boyfriend, are sort of growing apart. He just moved in to a little house over in University Heights, and he is hardly ever here anymore. We still talk on the phone, but things are just, different.

So it came to no surprise to me that last night, instead of seeing a show with Mark, I saw a show by myself, because Mark was at a different show. We just have totally different taste. Though we both love Wilco and the Dandy Warhols and The Who, I’m a little bit Britpop and he’s a little bit Alt-Country. Last night Mark went to see Bob Dylan, and I went to Hollywood to see Clinic. Clinic are from Liverpool, and they are really, really weird. They have a totally unique sound and a sort of crazy energy with blasting piano and what I like to call Chris Isaak guitar. I had to go see them – it was mandatory.

Made sales calls all day, and then went and checked in to one of my favorite Hollywood places, the Best Western Hollywood Hills. I poured a glass of wine and turned on the five o’clock news because the L.A. news shows are so tabloidy it cracks me up. (Once I watched a segment where, during the holiday season, an escalator in a mall sucked up some people’s limbs, and there was mass destruction. I am serious.) There was a little bit on the escalating price of gas, and everyone interviewed had an SUV. One woman said, “well, my husband and I both drive all day for work, so there is nothing we can do about this…” Yes, there is, you silly cow. BUY A SMALLER CAR.

Anyway, after the news I went downstairs to my favorite place in Hollywood, the 101 Coffee Shop and ate a BLT and corn on the cob. I don’t know how they make that corn so good. They put this lime chili stuff on it, and it is seriously the best corn in Southern California, if not the world.

This left me at about 7:30 with some time to kill, so I went out into the night. I stopped by the Frolic Bar to have a cheap drink before getting raped by the cost of drinks at the theater. I ordered up an Absolut Mandarin and soda, and it tasted vile, like stale limes. There was a lime in my drink, and I fished it out. I have this little problem with my face, or making faces. Sometimes I make faces even when I am not aware of it – like a nervous tick. So the bartender comes over and asks why I am making a face. “Too limey!” I say. (The point being, if you are ordering Mandarin vodka, you want it to taste like orange, NOT lime.) “More soda?” he asks. DUDE. “No…” I say. “More vodka?” he says. Now that’s more like it!

I am such a picky, pain in the ass date.

The Frolic Room was sort of boring, so I left and headed to the Henry Fonda Theater, figuring I might as well check out the opening act. In line at Will Call, there was a couple behind me who did not look like the types who would like a band like Clinic. They reminded me, looks-wise, of Larry and Cheryl David from Curb your Enthusiasm. The guy even tried to be funny. As I pushed my confirmation from Ticketweb towards the box office person, he said “Ticketweb? Do you ALWAYS get your tickets from Ticketweb?” Huh? What kind of inane question is that? “Uh,” I said to Mr. Funny, “only when that is where the tickets are sold.” “Are they the same price?” He says. Ummm… what are these people doing at a Clinic show?

Thankfully, the bar was not far away. The bartender made me a rockin’ Mandarin and soda (Grey Goose this time) but for NINE dollars! Add a two dollar tip to that one, and it is shaping up to be an expensive evening. Damn, I had sort of forgotten what an expensive date I am.

The opening act, Sons and Daughters came on, and they were really good. They were sort of twangy and after awhile I realized, they were totally into Johnny Cash. The guitarist was SO into what he was doing – he kept staring violently into the audience during his solos. It was pretty damned hot, let me tell you.

After they were done I made my way to the rail because I hate having to look at the back of people’s heads during a show. There was a guy there, arms stretched out, saving a big space for someone. “Can I squish in?” I asked him. “I won’t take up too much room.” He had promised his friend not to let go of this space, and I totally understand because I always make people guard rail space when I am at a show. He let me in, though, so I offered to buy him a drink. Please, please don’t order a call drink, I thought, and was pleasantly surprised when he only wanted a Coors Light. That, and another drink for me, was only $13.

Eventually the friend of the rail space saver came back. She was a young hot thing who met the bass player from Clinic after the last show and got to go backstage. She told me the show would be weird, but like me, had some trouble describing Clinic. “They are really… antiseptic, on stage,” she said. Hmmm. Well, I understand how it is hard to find the right words.

Finally Clinic came on and something like forty minutes later they were gone. Just like their records, frenetic and bizarre. But I think I psyched myself up too much, because in the end it was disappointing. Even with their surgical masks and brown scrubs, Clinic were just Not Weird Enough. A great band, definitely in the studio, and I am sure they have put on some really amazing shows. But I longed for the intensity the guitarist for the Sons and Daughters had.

I could have hung out with Girly Girl and her friend, but instead I split – I am always nervous about possibly meeting the band, because I sound like such an idiot when I talk to musicians. I went back to the Frolic Bar, for no better reason than it was just too early to end my date. After a couple sips of another really nasty drink, I was like what the hell am I doing here? This drink SUCKS. Luckily I had some Doug Margerum Rhone Blend, half a corn on the cob, and some cold sweet potato fries back in the room.

Let’s just say, today I am sort of recovering. One last note, one more HUH? When I checked out, my hotel bill was $87, and I handed the hotel guy a $100 bill. He asked, “don’t you have anything smaller?”


Karma Police

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

I got an email from Bill Clinton today! Bill Clinton! It was pretty cool to come home from a long day driving around Southern California in a hellish storm and see that, let me tell you.

Bill, I already sent in my ballot. Oh… you already know who I voted for? Oh, you just want me to send some money? Is that all I mean to you? Damn.

Tonight I feel pretty good about the future of the world. I think it all comes down to karma. And today, the good karma people won. Take, for instance, the Red Sox. A few days ago the evil empire (Yankees) had won three games in the series and no one in the universe thought the Red Sox had a chance in hell. But they won the next four games! Totally unbelievable. The good karma people (Sox) beat the bad karma people (Yanks.)

Yo Yankee fans, before you flip out on me, please know I really don’t care about baseball too much, but you’ve got to know the Yankees are almost universally disliked. The only people who like the Yankees are, well, people like you. It’s all fine and good to have the owner with the most money, but basically it all comes down to karma. And yo’alls bad karma just kicked in.

I had a little karma treat myself this week. I had two extra tickets to the Wilco show in L.A. next month, because when they went on sale I was so scared it would sell out immediately I called my friend Colleen from a parking lot in Atlanta and made her buy me tickets when they went on sale. But at the same time my boyfriend bought tickets, so we were covered.

I could have sold the extra tickets on ebay and made a profit with which to buy some cocktails at the show. But I know that out there, there are many people like me, people who love Wilco but maybe had class that day tickets went on sale, or didn’t think it would sell out. I sold my tickets to an uber-grateful Wilco fan in Pasadena. When he sent me his check, he included a special treat – a bootleg CD of a show on Wilco’s 2002 tour.

I can’t tell you the happiness this brought me. For one thing, this CD will bring me pleasure for years to come, while a few cocktails at a club, while pleasurable, would soon be over, with no record. I will remember the show, but not the cocktails.

So the karma police are hanging out. Sometimes they take a little break, but I think they are around right now. It’s important to acknowledge them, just as it is important to be a nice person, and to be the best person you can be. Spit lightsparks at assholes, and we can change the world.

Guilt Tip

Saturday, October 16th, 2004

So, after nine nights of working with the public, I think I am ready to take a little break. Nine nights of pouring wine and making cheese plates – whateves, I can handle that. But nine nights of TALKING to people? I can’t deal.

I’ve got one more night and then I am done till the next time the owners of the wine bar, my friends, go on a trip again. So I am done for a year.

Funny how everyone wants to talk to the bartender. Well, at least, the people at the bar do. The people at the tables are in a zone where they get their wine and then leave the bartender alone for a while. But the people sitting at the bar… they are in need of something to do, and often, they are staring, and trying to talk to, the bartender. Which is cool, unless the bartender (let’s just start calling the bartender “me” now) is trying to go to a table to take an order, deliver wine, make a cheese plate, polish glasses, or whatever work function I must perform at the time. I might be listening to you in sort of a freeze frame, so that as soon as you finish your sentence I can run to the next spot I must inhabit.

And the small talk, and the no-talk. The opening of mouths and the issue of meaningless babble. I am no intellectual, but mi dio, sometimes all the babble (also the weirdness in the babbling people, not as hidden as one may think) is extremely boring. Here is an example.

Last night, a very soft spoken military weirdo came in. I know he was in the military, because he told me he worked at Fort something or other near Barstow. He had been swimming, and at first he spoke of how warm the water was, but soon the train of thought turned to sharks. And sharks never left his mind the whole time he was in the bar (two glasses Pinot Noir, one cheese and olive plate.)

“I love being in the water,” he says. “Except I’m scared there might be a shark.”

“Well,” I say, “I suppose they are out there.” Thinking that would be it. Yeah, right.

Little sputterings happen everytime he can get something in between the other orders and the glass polishing. Quietly he babbles… “I always try to stay away from seals, because where there are seals, there could be sharks…. have you been to Sea World? I’d go, but I don’t want to see any sharks… if you are in the water, and see a shark, don’t splash, because the shark might think you are a wounded fish…”

And this went on and on for quite a while. When the guy left I couldn’t help it. I yelled as he was walking out, “watch out for sharks!” He nodded, solemnly.

For the most part, people are pretty cool. My venting now is sort of like the venting you hear at the airport when all the flights are delayed. Like every flight you ever took has been delayed, but of course that is not the case, it just seems like it.

After the shark guy, I was in no mood for another trying customer, but at the end of the night I got a doosie. A blond woman came in 45 minutes before closing, and talked on her cell for 20 minutes, at the bar, only coming up for air long enough to order a Cabernet tasting. When she was done, of course she wanted to talk – to me! Because people that talk at a bar on their cell phone for 20 minutes, HAVE to talk. If they don’t, they will shrivel up and die.

Anyway, Ms. Thing was waiting for a guy, and he was very late. He finally got there 10 minutes before closing, a bit buzzed, apologizing all over the place. I immediately hated him. “Can I have a glass of wine?” “SURE, I say, how about a HALF GLASS of something.” (We serve half glasses, so people can try lots of wines.) “I have been drinking HALF GLASSES all night.” He says. “Can’t I just have a FULL GLASS?” OK, asshole. Prick. Here is your fucking full glass, you fucking fuck.

Anyway, now I am done with everything and ready to go but instead, I have to sit at the end of the bar and listen to this complete nothing talk to his date. Take the shark guy, multiply him by 8000, and you will get what I am talking about. He went on, and on, and on, to his date (who was hanging on his every word, because she was a bimbo and also, desperate) about his sisters, how he got held up with one of them and that was why he was late. He talked about his business and himself and then his sisters again. He went on and on, slurring a little more as he drank some of his full glass. He wanted to take the bimbo home, which wouldn’t be too hard as she was getting all smoochy and snuggly. I wanted to scream at her – what the hell are you thinking? The guy has been talking for twenty minutes and hasn’t once asked you a question! (Right at that moment, he says to her, “so what about YOU?”)

He was vile and repulsive. You can’t get much worse than that, unless you are a peeping tom masturbator guy.

Anyway finally they got up to leave, muttering, “I think she wants to go home.” I noticed there was no tip on the bar. I was like, you mean to tell me, I just sat here for half an hour past closing listening to this drivel and he’s not even going to TIP me? I walked over to them and got the empty glasses off the bar, giving the guy a glance I only use on possible pickpocketers and small children who scream in restaurants. “Uh,” he says, stupidly, “did I pay you?” “Yes,” I say. “Did I TIP you?” “NO.” I say.

He fumbles through his wallet. He cannot find the bill he is looking for. Plus he must impress the bimbo who he is going to try to get it up for. So finally, he throws down a twenty. I pick it up. “That’s what you get for being patient,” he says. “Thank you,” I say, and lock the door behind them.

The Pinot Noir Cure

Thursday, October 7th, 2004

Friday night I got home from Venice. Sunday, I went to breakfast with my brother, came home, and got slammed with one of those wonderful “I must have caught it on the plane” bugs. The rest of Sunday, and all day Monday, I totally out of it. Weird how that always seems to happen when you get back, not when you go – as if your body has a built-in travel immunity. (Though I did get really sick in Chicago, in June. Maybe travel immunity doesn’t work for work. Though, the Venice trip was sort of work. Hmmm….)

Tuesday I felt better but of course the past two days I have had that end of the cold mega-mucous and hacking cough thing. How does the body produce all that stuff? Not to be gross, but I am really wondering. Nothing I learned in High School taught me about the human body and mucous.

Anyway, yesterday I had to go up to Huntington Beach for a Pinot Noir tasting and seminar, followed by lunch. I was there to sell a new book on North American Pinot Noir to the attendees, and of course I was invited to the seminar and the lunch. After that I had to drive back to Encinitas and work at the wine bar I work at when the owners are not around. So it was to be a long, long day.

All the way up to Huntington Beach I was coughing. I figured there would be no way for me to do the seminar and lunch, because I would be making a spectacle of myself. It’s the kind of cough where you cough so hard you feel like you are going to puke, the kind where mucous comes out of various orifices and you cannot help it. I’d just have to sell the books and try not to cough all over people’s credit cards. No amount of Halls cough drops was helping.

Then, during the seminar, which was going on in a room with a closed door, thankfully, one of the staff members brought me a glass of Pinot Noir. It was something really good from a small producer in Oregon – the kind of Pinot I never get to taste. And I am telling you – that shit cured my cough!!! It was gone! All of a sudden I felt way better, and I was able to go to the lunch, and drink more Pinot Noir with the people from the seminar who clearly had not been spitting and were all fairly buzzed at 1:00 P.M. No cough, until I got back in the car to go South. Then I was coughing a little again.

Went to the wine bar and opened. Really the cough doesn’t get to the “I am going to puke” stage until I have to speak, which, at the wine bar, I do. I take an order, then run back into the storeroom and cough. Get the wine, then run outside and cough. That is, until I POUR MYSELF A GLASS OF PINOT NOIR. Then, the coughing stops!

I swear this is a true story. I couldn’t sleep last night, because of the coughing. I was wishing I had a Pinot Noir cough drop. I think this could be a revolutionary new medicine for coughs. I want to develop, and market a product like this. Besides coughs, the Pinot Noir drops would be good for Pinot Noir junkies, they could pop one after their morning coffee, on the subway home, whatever.

I was telling a customer about the Pinot Noir cure last night. She said, “do you think Zinfandel would work? Merlot?” I’m not so sure but I have to work at the wine bar again tonight so I will check it out. But it was Pinot Noir that saved me, all day and all night, yesterday.

My Da Fiore

Saturday, October 2nd, 2004

So, I am back from my research trip to Venice. I ate, drank and walked for ten days. It was a fantastic trip, and one of the highlights was the discovery of one of my new favorite places on the entire planet. That place is Il Refolo.

I am a pizza junkie. I really am. The first three nights I ate pizza and probably, all in all, I ate something like eight pizzas in ten days. I can’t even imagine the number of pizzas I’ve eaten in my lifetime. Probably over a thousand pizzas. Maybe even more.

I had sincere intentions to eat at some of the more well-known, expensive restaurants of Venice on this last trip, like Alle Testiere and Al Paradiso. But I didn’t, until the last night when I went to Cantinone Storico in Dorsoduro. Since Ruth goes to all these places I think I will leave those to her, because seriously, I am a cheapskate. Or maybe, I am just value oriented. Plus I am relatively poor since I spend all my money going places all the time. If I am going to blow 18 Euro on a plate of pasta, it had better be pretty orgasmic pasta. But usually it is just pasta, like you would get for 10 Euro somewhere else. Anything over 18 Euro had better have gold flakes sprinkled on the top.

Anyway, back to Il Refolo. Before I left for Venice I entertained thoughts of taking myself to Da Fiore, Venice’s “best” restaurant. After all, I can write it off, now. So I looked at their website and noticed they have another place, Il Refolo, run by the son, Damiano Martin. Well of course I never made a reservation at Da Fiore (I’ll save that should I ever get me a sugar daddy) but on my second night, I found myself walking to Il Refolo.

Il Refolo is behind the church of San Giacomo dell’ Orio, with a bunch of outdoor tables next to a canal. I walked up and asked for a table, and one of the servers went and fetched Damiano Martin who told me he’d seat me in a minute. Damiano Martin, who owns the place. He sat me and asked me if I wanted an aperitif, so I ordered a Spritz. It came out and it was a fairly large Spritz, one that would take me at least twenty minutes to drink. I didn’t want to order food and have it come out while I was having my Spritz. One server came to take my order, I told her, uno momento, then Damiano Martin came and tried to take my order. I told him I really wanted to finish my Spritz first.

“I tell you what,” he says. “I’ll let no one bother you until you are finished with your Spritz.”

OK – this guy doesn’t know me, but he KNOWS me. I am already in love with him, and his place. This is what great service is all about.

I study the menu. It’s a pizzeria, but there are some other interesting things on the menu. A couple of pastas, some kind of Irish beef thing, and even a chicken curry. Nothing is over 15 or 16 Euro. The only thing that seems high to me is the wine – 8.50 for a half liter of house – gulp.

There was really no doubt, from the beginning, as to what I would order. They had a pizza, with FIGS. Fresh figs and Prosciutto. How could I not go for it?

There was a large table of Venetians next to me, with a little girl who was kind of a brat. Funny how Italian brats seem less obnoxious than American brats. Nearby, a table with two Italian guys and what appeared to be two Polish hookers (or mail order brides? They were pretty hot.) Candlelight flickered and gondolas glided by and I sipped on red wine and breathed Venice.

Then the pizza came. I still can’t get over how good that pizza was. How totally sensuous and absorbing it was. The first few bites were surprising, because it seemed the figs had lost some of their sweetness by being cooked. But as I ate (and became more and more enraptured) the figs started to vary in sweetness and texture so that each bite was different. Squishy, sweet; salt and crunch. I even broke my rule of always eating the crust – I wasn’t about to waste valuable stomach space on crust when figs were involved.

An Irish couple was eating at the next table. Eventually, we would become friends, but before we did, I watched, and listened, as the Irish girl ate her chicken curry. After each bite she would make a little noise of pleasure. Damiano and his staff were all running around, making sure everyone was happy, replacing candles, pouring wine. Four star service in a pizzeria. I didn’t want to go, so I ordered a Sgroppino.

I was very curious about Damiano Martin. With his pedigree, why open a pizzeria? In one of the least touristy areas of Venice? Because he wanted to do something for the Venetians? Because he loves pizza? Eventually I called him over because I wanted to ask him, Why?

He told me. He wanted a traditional pizzeria, but also to have some interesting things on the menu. He just wanted to have a good restaurant. He spoke with no pretense and he was so young and sweet that I wanted to stand up and kiss him right there. He grows the figs, for the pizza, in his backyard. That pizza, a pizza I, THE pizza freak, will never forget.

A few nights later I went back – Il Refolo is definitely going in the 2nd edition of Chow! Venice, so I have to investigate further. Alle Testiere can wait for Ruth to come back in December. It was a Saturday night, and the place was full. I asked for a table, and Damiano, again there overseeing everything, told me to wait a minute. Then he and a waiter rolled a table out of the inside dining room and set it up.

This time I tried a lasagna special with blueberries on top, and a salad. It was a good, basic lasagna – the blueberries added an interesting twist. While it was a tasty meal, it was nothing like that fig pizza. The service was again exceptional, with Damiano Martin running around doing just about everything, backed by a smiling staff.

I went one more time. Two nights before I left, I brought my friends Cheryl and Sue with me. We started with a bowl of a smooth pumpkin soup with pieces of fresh porcini mushroom in it. Three women and a bowl of soup – we managed to share equally, but it was tough. I got whatever was in the bottom of the bowl onto a piece of bread. Sue ordered the chicken curry and Cheryl and I ordered the fig and prosciutto pizza. The chicken curry was something like half a chicken with a good, spicy green curry sauce and basmati rice on the side. Accompanying it was an intensely hot yogurt sauce. As in, mangiafuoco hot. The kind of dish someone who lives in Venice and is sick of pizza would die for. And the pizza? Cheryl kept saying, “this is the BEST pizza I have ever had.” I wanted Sgroppino again, and Sue and Cheryl both got Panna Cotta. At Il Refolo, you can have your Panna Cotta with strawberries, chocolate sauce, vanilla sauce, Zabaglione, Frutto di Bosco – Sue got the Zabaglione, Cheryl the Frutta di Bosco – all kinds of berries, including the hugest blackberry I have ever seen. Cheryl kept saying, “this is the BEST Panna Cotta I have ever had.”

On average, each meal was somewhere around 25 Euro a person – this with everything you could possibly want. The night after this, I ate with Sue at Cantinone Storico where we had one antipasto to split, two plates of risotto, and a crap bottle of wine for 50 Euro per person. And the service? LAME. (Homie tried to tell me bresaola was the same as prosciutto. Dickhead.)

So, I guess I am a convert. Not to the four-star Da Fiore, but to Il Refolo, where the service is four-star, where the fig pizza is a slice of heaven, and where Damiano Martin will fix that, if it slips.