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San Diego Asian Film Festival Highlights

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Aired 10/21/10

Most women have probably thought at one point in their lives, wouldn't things be easier as a man? Filmmaker Helie Lee decides to find out in her new documentary "Macho Like Me" screening at this year's San Diego Asian Film Festival. We'll also talk with festival organizers and some student filmmakers.

Most women have probably thought at one point in their lives, wouldn't things be easier as a man? Filmmaker Helie Lee decides to find out in her new documentary "Macho Like Me" screening at this year's San Diego Asian Film Festival. We'll also talk with festival organizers and some student filmmakers.

Guests:

Helie Lee is an author and documentary filmmaker. Her film "Macho Like Me" will be screened at this year's festival.

Lee Ann Kim is the executive director of the San Diego Asian Film Festival.

Calvin Ha is a student filmmaker who participated in the festival's Reel Voices program.

Lauren Lynch is also a student filmmaker from Reel Voices.

The San Diego Asian Film Festival begins tonight and runs through October 28th. All films will be screened at the Mission Valley Ultra Star Cinemas.

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

A film maker fed up on gender stereotypes gets a lesson on how the other half lives. Am I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days, the documentary macho like me presents the six-month journey of Helly Lee, trying to live in the world and inside her own head as a man. It's one of dozens of films premiering in San Diego, as part of the 11th annual Asian film festival. Plus this weekend preview we'll explore how you can expand your healthy appetite for both food and art. That's all lady this hour on These Days. Upon first the news.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Epic action films, comedies, romances, documentaries, all are on schedule of the 11th annual San Diego Asian film festival that begins tonight at the mission valley ultrastar cinemas. And addition to films there will be meet and greets and panel discussions. One of the movies that's sure to generate lots of discussion is about the transformative experience of Helly Lee. In the film, macho like me, Lee documents her experience as living as a man for several months and finds out it's not as easy as it looks.

HELLY LEE: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Leanne Kim is the executive director of the San Diego Asian film festival. Good to see you.

LEANNE KIM: Thank you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And our two studio film makers Calvin ha, good morning, Calvin. And good morning Lauren Lynch also another student film maker.

CALVIN HA: Good morning.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let me start out with you, Leanne, and give us an over view of this 11th year of the Asian film festival here in San Diego. What sets this year apart?

LEANNE KIM: It's just another year. It's like having several children, right? Every child is different and what sets it apart is that this this year we have so many great films from all over the world. 20 countries, we have our very first films from Ireland, Kurdistan, Kazakhstan, ones off the beaten path, then the ones that people would expect, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, and so forth. We do have a wonderful spotlight on adoption in this year. Transracial adoption, that is a big issue in our community, but one that Asian Americans don't tend to talk about.

HELLY LEE: You did a great pitch. I want to go!

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well, I'm gonna give you another one. Because I think you have the most wonderful trailer. It's just fabulous. And I put in epic action film enforce a reason. I mean, the trailer itself is so really gorgeous.

LEANNE KIM: It's edited by mike Watson, and we take clips from films throughout our festival of so that plays before every film to get people excited.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And it does. This year would have been Bruce Lee's 78th birthday. His influences is still apparent in a lot of the films you're screening.

LEANNE KIM: In every martial arts film today, you will see -- legend of the fist, and it stars Donny yen, who is prolific, our opening night film legend of the fist, etman, and tonight's film legend is a west coast premiere, it's a reprisal of a character that was made famous by Bruce Lee. So that's very good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I'd like to if I can, talk about some of the documentaries that you're screening, ask of course, hale, your film is called macho like me, you decide in this film to live for just about over 60 months as a man. Why.

BY DEFENDANT:

Q. I think like most women, we have this belief that men have it better across the board. Power, money, privileges not because they earned it, but because they were born with a body part that we women don't have. So being single and a little jaded, okay, a lot jaded, I decided to see how the other half lived. So I cut my hair, changed my clothes, moved out of my home, to a place where I thought I could start Anew. And I have to tell you, during that six-months, completely changed my views my life, my destiny. I realized that men have it a lot harder than I ever thought or gave them credit for.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to talk more about what you discovered during your journey. But 50, I want to talk about the way this documentary is filmed. It's sort of -- you filmed a stage presentation but there are a lot of elements to that stage presentation. You're up there, you're doing a monologue. But also there are lots of film elements in the stage presentation.

HELLY LEE: It actually -- it was supposed to be a memoir that I was gonna write, then everybody wanted to see the footage that I took. Because nobody believed that I would pass. And as I was reading snippets from my memoir, people wanted to see footage, so I showed them footage, so I actually strung together a one woman show. And that was great fun. Then we decided to shoot the show and enter it into film festivals. The reason why it's not totally the whole experience is because I had -- you know, we were all new at this, me living as a guy, then my two camera people, they never shot before. So a lot sometimes they would be so involved in the situation that they wouldn't get the picture. So I was thinking how do I string this together? There's a lot of holes. And I thought, I love the old school way of showing the movie then you had the piano player on the side, or someone narrating. And I thought, I could string this all together with a live narrative and live you footage. Through a power point. And it's opinion quite challenging issue the live show is a whole hour of dialogue with just myself up there. But it's been tremendous fun, and I'm so glad that the San Diego Asian film festival it up. It's been a dream.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have a clip in macho like me, and in this scene, you're on stage, but also, you are taking are why stage audience, and the film audience into the process of how you actually physically transformed yourself to pas as a man.

I pump iron weights to build muscle mass and strength, I sacrifice gloves so my hands will become rough and callous, I work out to every muscle ligament and joint hurt. I also stop shaving, bleaching, exfoliate, performing, dieting, and perfuming, and by the end of the month, I revert back to nature, and I could bench press 90 pounds.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's hale Lee describing how she physically transformed herself to pass as a man in her documentary, macho like me. We don't have the benefit of a camera right here, so people can't see. You really are a very girlie girl.

HELLY LEE: Very girl E. And more so after the experience of I was pretty, I don't know, sortt of bitchy, I was hard. I don't know if I could say that. But it was -- I was a different person. And after the experience, I really embraced my womanhood, my ovaries, my femininity, and I have to tell you, unfortunately it took me to become a better woman after living as a man. Not that everybody has to go through that process.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We see in the film, what you look like in the film, kind of like a boy man.

HELLY LEE: How dare you. I thought I hooked better!

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you find that you passed in certain circumstances, that people accepted you.

HELLY LEE: My evolution, I went from helly to a very butchy looking woman. To a it who had no gender. People could not figure out what I was. Then I went to a gay man. Artistic. Then just a guy. And it took -- it was very humbling because I thought once I cut my hair, put a footy down my pants and did a transformation, voila, but it wasn't that easy. And the key was, ironically enough, the less I smiled, the less I talked, the less physical expression I showed, the less believable I became as a guy.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Were you ever in danger at this experiment.

HELLY LEE: You know, I was actually at a Latino wedding, and I thought how great, here's my opportunity to schmooze with Latin men and learn of they're full of testosterone, you know, machismo men, and sometimes I would forget my character, and my girlieness would come out, and I touched a guy on his thigh at one time, and I thought he was gonna punch me out. And as a woman, I'm so used to embracing, touching, caressing, and it's always received very favorably. But as a guy, they thought I was hitting on them. And it was the first time I actually feared for my safety.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with film maker Helly Lee about her documentary that is premiering at the San Diego Asian film festival. It's called macho like me. I don't want to give away the end of this, because it really is an experience that you take the audience through. But talk to under the circumstances a little bit about what found to be male loneliness. I found that very moving approximate the documentary.

HELLY LEE: Yeah, I didn't know that. I never suspected that. But as a woman who was single, Asian American, over 30, I've experienced racism, sexism, chauvinism all of that stuff but as pie a guy, I truly felt depressed for the first time. Men aren't allowed to be completely free. They can't laugh too much. They can't smile too much. They can't embrace, and mostly, you know, they can't whine or complaint. They have to keep a lot of things in because they're supposed to have this persona being brave and strong and together. And the leader, you know? And not being able to confide in my girlfriends or my sister or my mother, having all that cut off for me is quite lonely. And I felt helpless, and I felt like it was me against the world.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One last thing, it was delightful meeting your patients in this documentary.

DEFENDANT: They're funny! They're great. People ask me, are they actors? I'm like, no, they're really my parents and God bless 'em them, I say.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I want to bring us back to the totality of this festival because you don't only screen documentaries but you actually have a student program that teaches how to make documentaries. Tell us, Leanne, about real voices.

LEANNE KIM: Real voices, here in San Diego, into film makers, and we really believe that very young person has a great story to tell, and we try to teach them to use the media arts to use -- and short films at any film festival is the heart and soul of a film festival because that's where stories and film makers begin. We're real grateful to have -- then they travel all around the world.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Oh, the films and the students or just the films?

LEANNE KIM: Usually just the films, I mean, the students are still in school. But as a result of our program, a lot of students have gotten into film school at USC, Loyola Mary mount, freshman for example. Because of the films they made in our program.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We have two students here. I saw on YouTube, not -- only have you produced a documentary, but I saw your blog as you were getting ready to produce your documentary, and you seemed very excited, but very sort of, I don't know, a little fearful about the whole process. How do you feel about it now?

LAUREN LYNCH: Well, now that it's over, I mean, I'm much more calm now. But because I've always been interested in film but I've never had the opportunity to actually produce a film like this before, so I was really nervous about it. And especially because I was covering kind of, like, a sensitive subject a little bit.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Tell us what the film's about.

LAUREN LYNCH: My film is about how I became and vegetarian after going on a trip to the Philippines. And it's about when I got home how I stopped eating meat, and how my -- 'cause I knew my mother wouldn't want me to be vegetarian, just because I, like, from living with her and stuff. So I decided that if I really wanted to be vegetarian and I wanted to stop eating meat completely, I couldn't tell her of so that's what I did. And I wept for five months without my mother knowing that I was vegetarian.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How did you pull that off.

LAUREN LYNCH: It was really difficult. I think she eventually, like, caught on, but I had to do a lot of, like, you know, like while I was eating at dinner, I was doing a lot of pushing the food around, you know, your plate. Then I would start to take a bite and then distract even by talking a lot. Like, by talking about how great it was, like, oh, God, you know, this burger is so great or whatever. And then by the time I was done, everyone would be so distracted that they the wouldn't notice that I hadn't eaten any meat.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What is your documentary's name by the way.

LAUREN LYNCH: It's called to meat or not to meat. While that was going on, I was deciding is this really worth it, and am I really going to stick with this, so that's also covered a little bit in my documentary.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It sounds as if that five months or so, you had a great deal of tension. Were you trying to make the documentary at the same time you were trying to do this.

HELLY LEE:

LAUREN LYNCH: No, I wasn't, I didn't really think of the idea until I joined real voices. I just knew that if I wanted to be vegetarian, I had to do that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What does your mom think now.

LAUREN LYNCH: My mom's cool with it now. She's used to it. Of course, she'd rather that I did eat meat. But I don't have to hide it anymore. And she knows about the film and so it's good. Yeah. There's no tension between me and my mom.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And she must be very proud of you in the film.

LAUREN LYNCH: I think so she hasn't seen it yet. She'll see it this weekend for the first time. So I hope she likes it because I definitely tried to make her -- because my mom's really great and everything. So I was really making -- trying to to make sure that through the film she wouldn't come out as some sort of villain because that's not what the situation was. So I hope she gets that when she sees it of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you still a vegetarian?

LAUREN LYNCH: Yes, I am.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Calvin, what is your film about.

CALVIN HA: My film is about my friend named Devon mag wire, he was trying to get together Mira Mesa's first ever music festival.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now in your documentary, you really see someone who's young at a cross roads in his life, kind of like you, and is committing himself to a large dream. Is that what you wanted to bring across in this?

CALVIN: Definitely, I wanted people to know that kids are still doing things these days, and the youth still has so much potential, and we need things like arts and the real voices and student projects that bring these out within people. Because without that, it's gonna get lost.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how did you find this musician that you've --

CALVIN HA: He was know acquaintance, then which I got to real voices, I pounced that around a couple ideas of documentaries and it just clicked when I met him again, and I'm, like, I have to do it on you, man.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And how did you know that he would make a good documentary subject.

CALVIN HA: It was by luck, I guess. And also, and he was a really nice person and a person who had a story to tell, and I definitely wanted to be the one telling it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: One of the things about your documentary, tell us the name of it again.

CALVIN HA: The seed.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Exactly. He talks about how he's basically not understood. He's not understood at home, and he's -- he gets hassled by, I think, a security patrolman for playing his guitar if a place he shouldn't be playing it. Is that something also that you wanted to depict? And how this constant struggle?

CALVIN HA: Definitely, like, every life -- everyday life things that are different to him because he's a musician, or things that he wants to do because he's a musician of so, yeah.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are there plans for an arts festival in Mira Mesa now?

CALVIN HA: Definitely in the next -- in the future. We definitely want to try to get the whole project started again next year. And hopefully next time it will be a big event but we're pretty happy with everything that happened.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What did you learn from participating in this program?

LAUREN LYNCH: I colorful learned how hard it is to make a real film, one that's gonna be in a film festival, and the ups and downs, can and how everything can change, when you planned it out one way, and you need to adapt to that situation. 1

LAUREN LYNCH: I learned, definitely, because I've always loved film, and, I would always imagine myself, like, making films and stuff. And I never imagined it to be this much work, and this is just, like, an eight-minute film. It took me the whole summer, and the editing was just really strenuous.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: That's really interesting. It's a lot harder than it looks.

LAUREN LYNCH: Yeah.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, I know both of you are so involved with film. I want to ask you, Lauren, is this anything that you're really looking forward to seeing at the Asian film festival?

LAUREN LYNCH: I haven't really gotten to.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You've been so worked up with real voices?

LAUREN LYNCH: I will definitely go and see some of the films and I got one of the programs today. Of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So you're planning it out as we speak. Is that the same Calvin?

CALVIN HA: After today's show I'm definitely looking forward to watching macho like me. Experimental films is an interesting topic.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Leanne, there are always parties, and this are celebrity panels at film festivals. So highlight some of those for us.

LEANNE KIM: Our real celebrities are independent film makers. But for I think, the general public, they want to know when are the big wigs that are coming. Jim from Lost, he's coming 'cause we're awarding him the influential Asian American artist award. So you can meet him in person. For those who like the show glee, harry Shum junior, he's one of the stars of the show, and he will be there as well. A number of others including CS Lee, which is one of the stars of word process of the shows called dex ter. I could name all these names but I would bet that most people don't be who they are. Only 3 to 4 percent of television roles in movies and Hollywood are given to Asian Americans. So that's the reason we're so important. This is a place that you can see emerging artists and film makers that's that you may not be able to see in television or in film.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The idea of the representation of Asian Americans and Asians in general in American cinema being so low as you just mentioned, is that one of the topics that you talk about during this festival? Are there workshops to explore the issue?

LEANNE KIM: Yes. And any time you see -- to be an actor or to be a film maker is very difficult. But to be an actor of color or a film maker of color is extremely difficult. They don't have a chance to get their film seen or be seen. So when they come to our festival, they just feel a lot of love and that energy to keep on doing what they're doing, so it's very important for us too.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Helly, your nodding.

HELLY LEE: Yeah, absolutely, it gives us a voice, an audience. You know, I started out in the industry, years ago, I'm not gonna say. And also my husband started off around the same time, and I remember being pointed out as, oh, that's the Korean American girl, and he was the Chinese American guy. But now we have a reputation where people know me as the author, and they know him as an executive TV producer, and beeper talking about how it changed so much, and I really believe, it has to do with film festivals like the San Diego American film festival and Leanne Kim, and all they do to just make us part of society.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To present what's out there to people so it becomes part of mainstream. I want to thank you all so much for talking about this. I really appreciate it. Leanne Kim, Helly Lee -- . Oh, geez, let me try it again. Calvin Ha, and Lauren Lynch, thank you all so much. I got a hand on that. The 11th annual San Diego Asian film festival, begins tonight, and it will run through october 28th.

Treats for the eye, and for the stomach are on tap this weekend preview movies, art, you can see and buy, and lots and lots of food from cocktails to truffles. I'd like to introduce my guests, Maya croft is the editor of where San Diego, good morning.

MAYA CROFT: Good morning Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Troy Johnson and the the editor of culinary art and culture for Riviera magazine.

TROY JOHSNON: Good to see you.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's start with some movies because he's still trying to find his food on his --

TROY JOHSNON: Let me get my notes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Labyrinth at pop on Thursdays. The museum of photographic art. Remind us about this film.

MAYA CROFT: Oh, man. If you are between the ages of 45 and 25, and you've not seen labyrinth. Cancel your plans buzz I know what you're doing tonight. This is one of those classic fantasy films of the '80s, starring David bowie, and it was written and directed by a -- she wishes her baby brother would be taken away by the goblins, and so David bowie makes this happens, and holds him hostage at this other end of the labyrinth. Is.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: .

MAYA CROFT: In both the theater and in the atrium. So it sevens both the hard core film nerds and the people who just want to come for a cocktail and just see and be seen. Then they also screen it on the atrium wall, so you can stay nice and close to the bar. And they're having bartenders from Alchemy and south park who are gonna be doing some mixology.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Speaking of muppets, the San Diego guild of puppetry is getting involved.

MAYA CROFT: they're a group of artists that are just passionate about puppets. And mostly with schools doing workshops on the history of puppet earring, then they all participate in events like pop Thursdays where they might do puppet parades or mask makings activities or things like that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If you're there to see labyrinth, and you're milling around, are the galleries open.

MAYA CROFT: The galleries are open. And they just hung a show last weekend called new realities which is just sort of tripe and mind bending as labyrinth is. It's a couple of photographers who work in photo montage.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So labyrinth screens to not at the museum of photographic arts. can you tell us which restaurants are closing?

TROY JOHSNON: Well, this is part of my job, it's so funny because it's kind of schadenfreude too, but people are most fascinated, with this part of my work. Kimosabe, it closed and it used to be the center of food and dining in the 90s. In that space, though, they're gonna put free birds, it's this chicken kind of like which I poet lay, with free range chickens and burritos and healthier food, and things like that. Then the big easy over at hill crest also closed, that was done by a top chef, Franky the bull, and if exhibit thinks about going to that cute little location, word to the warning, don't, it is a cursed location, seven restaurants have closed in there. And chef wok over there in hill crest is closing, . So San Diego's gonna get a quick vegetarian vegan option as well. Really a to know is happening in hill crest. Arrivederci. They just bought the place that used to be called La Vache. And they're gonna open it as a place called au revoir. And then jade feeder, which was a massive club and restaurant on fourth and C, which failed miserably, they're gonna reopen that in the next couple of weeks, it was bought by the same guy that did on Broadway, and the cress in LA, and he's gonna turn it into a . But they're really busy in there.

MAYA CROFT: Now I heard you were gonna be able to order your waitress on line by looking at photos. Any truth to that?

TROY JOHSNON: I have not seen the waitress camp yet. Scandalous. That's awful!

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: A couple more restaurants opening in North County?

TROY JOHSNON: Phil a barbecue just open today up last night. They opened their second location in San Marcos. It's just off the 78 freeway. It's just been crazy, the man has a fleet. He has a fleet of, like, 27 vans and trucks, it's been the most popular barbecue joint. Brett's barbecue gets another vote in there too. But they've never opened two spots in the same city. They just opened their own sauce line in Costco. I think they're about to --

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Starting to go national. Anything else, you want to update us on?

TROY JOHSNON: The belly up tavern is having its best year in ten years, a sure sign that the recession is easing a little bit. They just bought Charley by the sea, which is a huge restaurant that's gone vac act for the last 4 or 5 years they're gonna turn it into Pacific coast grill. And also, San Diego's gonna get another high end bowling alley. The bowling alley where the big labow ski was filmed, the owner is looking at a spot dun town, and they're turning it into a chain of high end bowling alleys. It's called lucky strike.

MAYA CROFT: Can we get the actual dude from the big lebow ski to open? Wasn't he from San Diego?

RIH1: That's gonna happen along with David bowie and some muppets.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Wow, that was a lot of information Troy, thank you for that. The San Diego Italian film festival starts this weekend, Maya. Can you tell us more in.

MAYA CROFT: It's a two-week festival celebrating the cinema of Italy, and why not? This is a country that gave us la dolce vita, Sofia Loren, and showing basically a film a night for two weeks and punctuating it with some events and round table discussions. It's mostly at the museum of photographic arts in Balboa park, but they are having a couple screenings at the landmark la jolla.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know we have the Italian film people in last year, and they like to mix things up, and mix movies with different kinds of events, food events, music events issue what are they doing their year?

MAYA CROFT: For the next two weeks, they are gonna be doing the -- crazy feel, and it's a concert and a film, so they're gonna have a classical music ensemble, then a tango group will be dancing along with them, then they're gonna be screening a film called enRico four.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, are there any films that you're especially excited to see.

MAYA CROFT: There's a film about the designer, valen tinno, that peeked my interest, then they also had a selection of short films which is also good for people like me who are a lot bit ADD.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's get it on here! The San Diego film festival starts tomorrow and runs through November film. Troy, healthy and vegetarian restaurants, as you even mentioned before, becoming more and more popular, are you noticing it elsewhere as well?

TROY JOHSNON: Absolutely, this is the nation's biggest trend right now in terms of restaurants, for years and years and years if you wanted to get a quick or a gourmet sit down dinner, you'd go and get this multigreen thing that tasted like a floorboard in your car. Because there wasn't enough -- we are the fattest nation in the -- we are just -- our diabetes rate is something hydrogen, two thirds of us are over weight or gonna get diabetes. 17 percent of our medical cost goes toward diabetes and being over weight. A hundred and $60 billion a year. That's what's driving this new trend in restaurants, especially with Michelle bam taking on a garden lawn, and taking on the school lunch program. LA is doing certain bans in certain parts of their city. It's driving a massive trend toward vegan, gluten free, anti-inflammatory restaurants where people can go.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's a restaurant called true foods kitchen that's been doing well in Orange County. Is it coming here?

TROY JOHSNON: He's are all prognostications based on insider knowledge. It's T most of the people I know that know the chefs say this is the next place they're looking, is San Diego. True foods has done amazingly well. It's a former San Diego chef he was the owner of region. And he's partner with doctor Andrew wheel. And based the menu on his anti-inflammatory diet, lots of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, you walk out, and your waist doesn't explode in seven different directions within a day and a half. Can and they're doing like 700 covers, a day during lunch. This place is exploding. Peep love it, be and it's headed to San Diego.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There's another one that you're excited about. Season 52.

TROY JOHSNON: This is a Florida based CHAIN that also does olive garden and red Robin. I'm excited about this one, believe it or not, this is the only chain they do that is not not very good. Every item on it contains 470 calories or less, you won't find anything out of season, they to, like, minideserts, they're looking for a San Diego location as well.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And native foods, you say may be coming here.

TROY JOHSNON: They're actually going into chef's wok place. They'll be heading there if the next, say, 4 to 6 months.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay, we get a taste of that. We move now momentarily from food back to arts and visual arts. Maya, there's an art exhibit opening at subtext, this Saturday night. Tell us more about it.

MAYA CROFT: Subtext is a hip little gallery, in little Italy. They're known for having some really interesting shows issue a lot of low brow art, prints, up and coming artists, so this is just a one night only show that's opening on Saturday night.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Otis B is the artist being presented there. Of tell us about him.

MAYA CROFT: Better known in San Diego just by the letter O. How to describe O in he's a musician, photographer, artist, legend, he's been around San Diego forever. He was in a couple bands in the 90s, enough, and then reef Oliver more recently. He's the kind of guy who's backstage at every show, whether it's a 200-person show at street -- .

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now his work is very expressionist. It's got its inspiration from Jackson pollack, but he uses it in very different ways, he takes his images and he puts them on various different kinds of fabric and items and so forth. Tell us more.

MAYA CROFT: He told me that he found at a thrift store a box full of, like, 500 transparency slides and a bunch of house paint that he picked up in an alley somewhere. So he devised this method then he presses that image onto various found quote unquote San canvases, a lot of times, it's used grocery bags, sometimes it's wood that he's found, so it's a lot of found objects coming together in this new Meg on the.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And there's going to be music at this event.

MAYA CROFT: There will. That's the best part about the subtext shows, they have live bands, little white teeth is gonna be playing. And he chose this local band because their sound represented the state of mind he was in when he was painting of he said, it sounds like a white family on vacation in Mexico who got lost and they're a little scared.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. Paintings by Otis B will be at subtext this. Tell us.

TROY JOHSNON: The grant grill and Maya is actually quoted on their website as soon as you open it up. The U.S. grant itself is a hundred years. The restaurant has gone through multiple changes but this is the old gran dame of downtown. There's still a plaque on the door that says no women before 4:00 PM. There used to be phones on every single booth at the restaurant so you could call over to member and say, hey, how's the salmon? It looks dry. Or I've got a room upstairs, can we adjourn?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Not before three.

TROY JOHSNON: Not before three. It wouldn't happen. But it's just an old gran dame. And for this -- bartender, did a fantastic project, the hundred die aged Manhattan.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So what is a barrel aged cocktail? Tell us about that.

TROY JOHSNON: This is a new trend that hit the United States. It creates a more well rounded cocktail. If you take a man hat inn, which is whiskey or bourbon and vermouth and bitters then you put it all in the barrel and let it anal for a hundred days or however many days, it becomes an integrated cocktail. . If you integrate it and you let it barrel age, it's like a . It's a more integrated, it's a smoother cocktail of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Smoother cocktail. Is it true that one of their cocktails is gonna be featured on the food network.

TROY JOHSNON: Yes, I am going on the food network, I've started doing a little bit of work with them,ing and on November 17th, I am featured on the Thanksgiving special, it's a pumpkin infused house made saffron simple syrup, this tastes like Indians and pilgrims in a glass.

MAYA CROFT: Troy, you are the king of the weird metaphor.

TROY JOHSNON: It's complete -- it's fall. In a glass.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You want to just fall in a lot bit about the .

TROY JOHSNON: Which shall be over shadowed a little bit because they have been doing so much with cocktail it is. He's doing some really exciting things in there. And it's funny because it's a little bit quartered off from the bar, so not membership people realize it, but if you go in there, and do a three course tasting with him, he caters to your needs, it's fantastic. Of.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, Maya, the pop up store specimen will be having another sale this weekend. First off, what is a pop up store.

MAYA CROFT: It is a store that pops up in various locations. It doesn't have a permanent home.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I see. Okay. And so specimen has some impressive credentials, it's started by mark quint from quint contemporary art.

MAYA CROFT: This is, I think Quint's vision of a museum store. And it's filled with quirky or notable objects that he's come across in his travels across the art world that he says deserve a second look and a good home.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What kinds of stuff will be up for sale?

MAYA CROFT: This, the theme of this pop up shop is deals on wheels, so the merchandise of all has something to do with transportation or mobility. So there's gonna be skate board decks that have been painted by some big name artists, then vicinity annual kids' vehicles, scooters, tricycles, race cars that kind of thing.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where will this pop up shop be this time.

MAYA CROFT: They're gonna be-- it's at a studio in bay park off Napier street. The former studio of the late Italio Scanga. And some of his works and belongings have popped up in specimen stores before.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So if you possibly have works by Scanga, and as you said, Damian herst. Is this stuff expensive?

MAYA CROFT: It can be, but it's from 15 to $5,000 really.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: For 15.

MAYA CROFT: Yeah, not necessarily by those artists, but there is some stuff all over the spectrum.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay. So specimen's deals on wheels, to sale, takes place this Saturday and Sunday. And we made it to truffles! I didn't know that we were gonna be able to. But we did. This is white truffle season Troy what is a white truffle.

TROY JOHSNON: A white truffle. It's so funny because it's kind of an antiquated higher echelon mark of dining and people said that the white truffle was gonna be dead because everybody didn't want to pay that much for this food. But it's a mushroom. You find it in Italy, especially in the Piedmont area, alba region of Italy, it's a mushroom that tastes so musky and of the real, you know, soil that it was grown in, the oak tree that it grew by. And it's so prized and they're in such short supply that they go for $2,000 a pound. Tasting menu at John George in no, will cost you over a thousand dollars. Of it only happens for a month and a half. But it's so prized because people -- every chef in America and the world will tell you nothing tastes lick it, some people say it tastes like previously worn under garments, it's really really musky and intense.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is it possible because this is such a fashionable kind of a food to like that some people pretend that they really really prize the white truffle just like a really aged and perhaps slightly off bottle of wine? Is there some bit of fraud going on here?

TROY JOHSNON: Well, there can be for sure. It's all individual taste. I personally love it. I don't like truffle oil, which is kind of like a really concentrated aroma of a truffle. But truffles them are so -- it is an intoxicating taste. But it be a little bit of fraud. But $350 a meal, absolutely. It's funny I just went to the Rancho Beranardo Inn, there's a new chef, Ryan Grant, he's crazy, and really innovative, and it was $350 for this meal that I had. And people were like, really? And I was -- some people would. And some people just choose to use that discretionary income on one of the most fantastic meals they'll have, and one that's only available for like a month out of the year.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How is it served?

TROY JOHSNON: It's so funny because these things are so prized, they're like gem stones, the chef Ryan grant actually brought it out in this little box, it looked like it was held for some beloved relative's ashes or something like that. And he brings it out, and it's in this little royal satin, and he starts shaving it over the dish, and each shaving that comes off is worth, like, $20 of it's just a show. But it tastes so dang good.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: If somebody has a little extra cash and they want to find a nice white truffle, where should they go? U. I would say go to el vascoccio. He's absolutely crazy. He might actually spill some liquid nitrogen on you in the middle of your tasting of the guy is dangerous, if he doesn't burn down that entire he's gonna resonate it in terms of culinary goodness.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I have to tell people, if they would like, if they're looking for a lavish meal this weekend, white truffles are in season. I want to thank Maya cross and Troy Johnson, thank you so much for coming in. Giving us all of this great information. Thank you.

MAYA CROFT: Thanks Maureen.

TROY JOHSNON: Thank you so much, Maureen.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I want to let everyone know, I misspoke. The Italian film festival concert is Sunday at seven, not Saturday.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: production manager, curt conan, Hillary Andrews and Jocelyn maggard, I'm Maureen Cavanaugh hope you enjoy the rest of the week. You're listening to These Days on KPBS.

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