RSD 2020, Part One: Confessions of a Wayward Shopper

I admit that my potential Record Store Day participation today was in doubt from the beginning. While there would be plenty of COVID-19 precautions in place, I was nervous about lining up for RSD festivities in the small space of Santa Cruz’s Streetlight Records outpost. Factor in the smoke and haze from the wildfires, and I grudgingly realized that I’d be staying home. (I stopped by Streetlight yesterday to snap up the new Lemon Twigs and Old 97’s CDs, but I still feel guilty about avoiding the event.) Since Amoeba Music is currently closed for all in-person browsing due to the pandemic, their RSD selections went online this morning. I have no report regarding what’s available, since I’ve been unable to reach the site all day. Rest assured, I feel shame for letting you all down. Since there are three(?!) Record Store Days this year, I’ll try to plan for September. Meanwhile, if anyone had luck online (or braved the lines in person), feel free to let me know what I’m missing…

Check out my new affiliate storefront on Bookshop!

You savvy readers likely have heard of, the new online bookstore that supports independent booksellers. Not only is Bookshop an appealing alternative to Amazon, it has served as a lifeline to many shops forced to close their physical doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t resist joining their affiliate program for authors, so now you can enjoy browsing the Coastal Book Gal online storefront on Bookshop! Right now, the store features my book Going Coastal along with some titles I’ve extolled in past posts. I plan to add plenty of other books: those by writers I’ve interviewed, some by friends of the blog, and others I simply enjoy reading! Don’t see what you want? Search by author, title, or 13-digit ISBN number to find the perfect book. A percentage of each purchase will go to me and to independent bookstores all over the country. Not only will this incur no extra cost to you, many books are offered at a discount! It’s a win-win, and a lot of fun for anyone missing their favorite bookstore’s shelves. (I’m working on updating the “Shop with Coastal Book Gal!” sidebar, but thanks to WordPress editing glitches and my own excitement, I thought a separate post was in order! By the way, I remain a proud affiliate of Bookshop Santa Cruz, so those who prefer that shop’s website are encouraged to use my affiliate link.) As always, I’m grateful for your support! Naturally, I’d love some book recommendations from anyone inclined to comment…

ETA: Not only books! Today I stumbled onto an impressive puzzle selection in the search bar, not to mention 40-plus pages(?!) of Funko Pop vinyl figures for sale. Please explore and have fun!

Romance novelist Jennifer Skully and Pretty Good Advice Chef Matt McNamara featured in Spring 2020 SANTA CRUZ STYLE

While you’re sheltering in place (if you’re able to, you are…right?), you may need something to read. The new Santa Cruz Style features “Romance in the Redwoods,” my profile of Ben Lomond romance novelist Jennifer Skully (who also writes under the pen name Jasmine Haynes). Turn to page 10 (page 12 of the online edition) to learn about her longtime love of the San Lorenzo Valley, as well as her experiences in the ever-shifting world of romance publishing. Then, go to page 46 (page 48 online) to meet Matt McNamara, chef of Soquel’s Pretty Good Advice. In “Enticingly Free” McNamara dishes about what inspired him to leave San Francisco’s fine dining scene, and his switch to an entirely vegetarian (mostly vegan) menu. (By the way, if you feel hungry after reading, never fear! For the duration of the shelter-in-place order, Pretty Good Advice is offering takeout Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.) Read the online version here. In Santa Cruz County, free print copies will be available here.

Take Five: Diversions To Keep You Home!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a Take Five list, and it feels strange to blog in the middle of such uncertain and frightening circumstances. I genuinely hope everyone out there is feeling well, taking care, and staying safe. Social isolation is extremely important right now to slow the spread of coronavirus. Of course, it’s understandable that being cooped up at home can start to test one’s patience. As a public service, here are five diversions I’ve found during this time. May they keep you all contentedly indoors!


It’s been hard to give up live concerts, but musicians’ streams and videos have been an unexpected and welcome silver lining. Joe Pernice just finished a series of reworked Barry Manilow covers on Vimeo, linked through his Twitter page. Apparently an album is coming. Dare I hope for an acoustic deconstruction of “Copacabana”? Fingers crossed…

(P.S. If you’re poking around Vimeo for something peppier once you’re done, Iona Bateman’s 2009 Ash tour mini-documentary is just the thing! If anyone knows any great lost Sloan links, I’d be forever grateful…)


Summer reading programs are time-honored boredom-busters for all ages. This year, summer has come early thanks to San Jose Public Library and its Spring Into Reading program. You can find details (and prize descriptions!) here. Most libraries are relaxing their e-lending card restrictions during these physical closures, so if you’re a wayward borrower, have no fear. (Meanwhile, your local indie bookstore is likely to welcome an online order right now, Bookshop Santa Cruz included.)

What will you choose to fulfill the four hours of reading needed to complete the program? I’ve just started book one of Hikaru Nakamura’s delightfully original Saint Young Men manga series. San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture has announced John Lescroart’s The Rule of Law as the first pick for his upcoming book club, so I’m curious about that one. What do you recommend? Please leave a comment!


Any regular reader knows my love for Muppets and Sesame Street, so this page of advice, videos, activities, and book links has been as helpful to me as it will be to anxious parents…


Local museums such as SFMOMA and institutions worldwide are presenting virtual tours and exhibitions during their physical closures. These aren’t always easy to spot on their websites, so check your favorite’s social media pages. Search engines such as Google Arts & Culture are a useful source, too. Stanford recently made some programs available here.


The Aquarium is not open to visitors right now, but its inhabitants are going strong (and camera-friendly to boot)! Whether you like penguins, birds, jellyfish, or those incorrigibly cute sea otters, watch them all here in real time.

If anyone has additions to suggest, please drop a line! In the meantime, wash your hands frequently, consult a reputable source for your health information, and be kind to yourself and others! We’ll get through this.

Congratulations and good luck, Dr. Harry J. Elam, Jr.!

Harry Elam, Stanford’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Vice President for the Arts, has been appointed the 16th President of Occidental College in Los Angeles. Dr. Elam advised many Stanford drama students over the years, including Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown (and, er, me). Elam famously encouraged Brown to audition for his production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, leading the former economics major to find his life’s calling. Before the announcement, I hadn’t known the full extent of Elam’s imprint on Stanford, which President Marc Tessier-Lavigne detailed here. I’m sorry to see Dr. Elam leave, but I know he’ll do amazing things for Occidental College!

They’ve high-sticked my heart…

Ugh, some days I wish I followed a sport other than hockey. Take today, for instance.

Patrick Marleau was just dispatched to the Pittsburgh Penguins at the trade deadline. Marleau’s return to the San Jose Sharks was one of the few comforts fans could take in a bafflingly torturous season, so this development seems especially cruel. (Yes, of course I’m sorry to see Barclay Goodrow go, too. Nevertheless, I think even Goodrow would understand that it’s not quite the same.)

Bear in mind, I’d already spent most of the day trying to comprehend this news item. All I will say is: Miracle on Ice guys, what the hell?

Perhaps I will feel more eloquent regarding these subjects at another time (probably not). Hope your day is better…

Report on San Francisco Sketchfest, Weekend Two!

The 19th Annual SF Sketchfest lineup tempted me mightily, and last weekend I decided to check out a few shows. Saturday night brought me to Cafe du Nord, where Jonah Ray was set to perform “Weird Al” Yankovic covers with a full band. As a lifelong “Weird Al” fan I was pretty excited, but had no idea what to expect. When the (excellent) backing band lurched into “Eat It,” Ray turned the tale of mealtime fussiness into a surprisingly affecting screamo dirge. Yankovic’s songs worked well as hardcore punk, especially “Happy Birthday” from his self-titled debut. I plan to nab a copy of Ray’s You Can’t Call Me Al, but I admit I liked the set’s bonus songs best. The deconstructed version of Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety” sounded great, and I adored the “Fox On The Run” nods in the glam-rock version of Yankovic’s “Yoda.” Since those aren’t posted anywhere, try “Welcome To (Amish) Paradise”:

On Sunday I headed next door to the Swedish American Hall (home of a few beloved past shows) to watch Old 97’s singer-songwriter Rhett Miller present his Wheels Off variety show. The evening overflowed with unexpected delights. I knew comedian Dave Hill could play guitar, but I was quite unprepared for his virtuosic shredding as he accompanied Miller’s alt-country cover of the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Likewise, Sketchfest co-founder Janet Varney knocked me out during her beautiful duet with Miller. (She evoked the best of Neko Case and Maria McKee at once, I’m not kidding!) Not to be outdone, self-proclaimed Sketchfest fanatic Miller has plenty of witty material himself. This version of the Old 97’s song “Jesus Loves You” may be more reserved than Sunday’s, but you’ll get the picture…