Michael Cella

STAND UP COMEDIAN | WRITER

FINDING NUBO • NUBO & MOO MOO OFFER OODLES OF NOODLES AND SWEET, BUBBLY BOBA

**This piece first appeared in print on page 11 of Submerge Magazine issue #272 (Aug. 15 – 29, 2018)**

Pearl Milk Tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and soon spread like wildfire throughout the world, probably because it’s just so damn delightful. You may know this beverage as bubble tea, or boba, which features balls of tapioca with a texture like that first chew of bubble gum, but with the lasting flavor of whatever milk tea they’re swimming in. That’s up to you. Everything is up to you! The milk. The tea. If you want to shake things up, you could also add grass jelly—little ribbons of joy, like gummy worms that don’t stick to your teeth. You should probably stop there, but you could also try adding red beans, mochi, aloe or whatever you’re in the mood to suck through a fat straw.

When I spent a month in Taiwan, there was a boba stand on seemingly every street corner, sometimes right next to or across the street from each other like Starbucks in the United States. Starbucks—or any coffee—was difficult to find.

Boba might have won the turf war in Taiwan, but here in the United States, it’s still a struggle. Google “Sacramento boba,” and you’ll only return about a dozen results. Google “Sacramento Starbucks” and a little animated paperclip will pop up and say, “It looks like you’re writing a blog. Just go outside and look around.”

Ask the owner of Nubo and Moo Moo, a mom-and-pop boba shop/Vietnamese restaurant that was recently forced out of their Elk Grove home by their unfriendly neighbors, Starbucks. An exclusivity clause in Starbucks’ lease with Calvine Crossings, the shopping center Nubo and Starbucks shared, specified that no nearby stores could sell coffee or tea in to-go cups.

Andy Ha, Nubo and Moo Moo’s proprietor, found it increasingly difficult to do business after that, losing more than 40 percent of his revenue. He retained a lawyer, but the coffee chain held firm behind its legal standing, despite the fact that Starbucks does not even serve bubble tea.

Forced to capitulate, Ha packed his boba and left.

Nubo and Moo Moo now sits tucked away in a little strip mall off of Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento. Directly across from them, their new neighbors, Jamba Juice, have so far found the arrangement of selling different kinds of drinks in the same area to be copacetic.

There is a sign for Nubo, and a sign for Moo Moo, depending on which side of the corner you find yourself on. But there’s just one roof, and one counter to order from, no matter which sign you walked in under. There’s wide open seating and board games to play if you get bored waiting on your food.

The Nubo menu offers simple Vietnamese dishes like noodles, the kind of bowl you could see President Obama and Anthony Bourdain sitting down to had they filmed an episode of Parts Unknown in Sacramento.

I ate with our photographer, who despite never having been president was still solid company. Nine to 12 bucks gets you a serving of food in a box, by far my favorite container to eat out of. Choose between vermicelli noodles or rice, and then between shrimp, beef, chicken, pork or vegetarian, and then between fork, chopsticks or eating with your hands. Plus a side salad. If you’re dining alone, go with the garlic noodles, offered with the same options.

After learning they were out of shrimp, I opted for the vermicelli noodles and pork, but then I tried to trick them by ordering the shrimp spring rolls as an appetizer. No luck. They were still out of shrimp, but they gave us vegetarian spring rolls at a discount, my favorite kind of pricing. All in all, a healthy, quick meal option for $10 is always a winner.

But I was still hungry, so I put on my mustache-and-glasses disguise and headed back to the same counter for dessert, where the mile-long Moo Moo menu gave me a chance to digest while I pondered their many options. They offer a dozen or so yogurt-based “Signature Drinks,” slushies, ice cream, mocha, iced tea and coffee (suck it, Starbucks!), but I was there for that sweet, sweet boba. You can choose between powdered milk tea or fresh, an option that not every boba joint offers, plus they give you the choice to go with or without sweetener—also not as prevalent a choice as it should be. I went with the dark roasted oolong milk tea (gimme that caffeine, baby!), pointed two fingers randomly at the myriad mix-in list and landed on grass jelly and bursting boba. The choose-your-own-adventure-style dessert sent me to a new page where there were a full five flavors of bursting boba. I went with lychee and resolved that it would be my last decision of the day.

Oh, and the best part of all? No “grande.” No “venti.” Just say you want a damn large, and walk away holding a big-ass cup. It’s your world now.

DONE IT ALL • BILL BURR’S COMEDY TAKES MANY FORMS AND WILL ALWAYS PUSH YOUR LIMITS

**This piece first appeared in print on pages 18 – 19 of Submerge Magazine issue #272 (Aug. 15 – 29, 2018)**

Bill Burr will tell you, he is a comic first and foremost, though you might know him in any number of ways. Throughout more than a quarter-century in comedy, he’s been the white guy on Chappelle’s Show sketches, a frequent Opie and Anthony guest, the creator and voice of Frank Murphy on the Netflix original F is For Family, and one of Saul Goodman’s henchmen on Breaking Bad. You may have seen him on the couch out-gingering Conan ranting on the controversial topic of the year, using the classic Burr setup: posturing from an ignorant viewpoint, then going off on a tangent until it dawns on you that he’s actually considered all sides, and taken the funniest angle.

This is a hallmark of Burr’s stand-up as well. He’s recorded six stand-up specials, four of which can be seen on Netflix—2012’s You People Are All the Same was among the initial crop of comedy Netflix had to offer. Burr has gradually ventured further into social commentary while maintaining his status as one of the most respected comics working today. He’ll admit, he doesn’t actually write jokes. His comedy consists of a unique balancing act he achieves by taking crowds to the edge of their comfort zone on an issue, and his “I’m an idiot, what do I know?” attitude keeps them from completely jumping ship. The “oh wait, he’s not an idiot” moment finally comes after you catch your breath from being battered by punchlines and brilliant act-outs.

I discovered Bill Burr in 2006, when in a now-famous rant directed at a hostile Philadelphia crowd, Burr relentlessly attacked every aspect of the city, punctuating his insults by shouting out exactly how many minutes he had left in his set. By the end of his 12 minutes he’d earned their respect in the most Philly way possible—by roasting the shit out of them. YouTube was barely a year old, and the video quickly went viral. Having grown up in the Philly area, I became a fan the minute I saw it.

Ever since, Bill Burr has been a part of my life every week as the host of The Monday Morning Podcast, which has consisted of Burr alone rambling into a mic about literally anything since 2007. Having had a one-sided conversation with someone for more than a decade, it was an odd feeling when my podcast called me on a Tuesday morning. I was mostly just hoping I’d remember to talk. Here and there, I did, and our conversation ended up feeling like an episode of The Monday Morning Podcast that I got to direct.

Let me get this recorder on. 
Most people just write down what they wanted me to say anyway.

You’re heading into the third season of F is for Family. How many seasons do you see it going?
I don’t know. Somewhere between five and eight?

When does the show go beyond your personal life stories?
That happened on the first episode. There’s little vignettes and shit and even then a lot of them are changed [from my life]. I didn’t want my relatives to watch the show and be mortified. I’m not trying to say that anybody I grew up with was a bad person, it was just different. It’s a funny time compared to the way we live now. Some of the stuff back then was good, some if it was bad. Even take Frank Murphy [F is for Family’s patriarchal character], there are aspects of my dad, there’s certain words and the way I pronounce them. “I’ll put you through the fuckin wall”—that was definitely my dad, but you know, he didn’t work at the airport, he didn’t knock up my mom and have to get married; all of that shit is just as you’re building it you gotta have conflict and all that. Plus it’s some of [series co-creator] Mike Price’s dad, Dave Richardson, Emily Towers, all these people that write on the show.

Will the kids eventually grow up? 
We talked about having the kids age. Each season is basically a semester of their school and summer vacation. So in three seasons you see a year of their life. That way they’re not aging faster than people are. But that gets difficult, because at some point Bill’s gonna hit puberty, his voice has to drop. I don’t know … I feel like if we’re gonna go that real with it it’s fucking impossible. And I wouldn’t do the show if Haley Reinhart wasn’t doing Bill’s voice so yeah—five to eight seasons.

Does writing the show take jokes away from your stand-up act?
No, not at all, because there’s episode arc and the season arc that you’re writing toward and then there’s all these characters that do and say things that I wouldn’t do. My act is more kinda like my philosophy, observations, whatever you wanna call it. There’s 10 people in the writers’ room so it’s not like I have to do the heavy lifting on the jokes. If I get a line in once every couple of pages I’m doing good.

Would you ever direct an episode?
I don’t know. I would just be so afraid the whole time I’m spending all that money and all that time directing something while my road money is going away, and I’d be forgetting who I was. I just feel like I can never go away from stand-up. You gotta be on like Chappelle’s or Chris Rock’s level or Seinfeld—those are like the legends. It’s like the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones could not tour for a couple years and be like [British accent] “Yeah, right, we’re gonna pick up where we left off,” and they go right back to stadiums because they have that body of work. You know all of those guys have at least 10, 20 years experience on me so I just don’t think I’d have the time. But it’s definitely something that does fascinate me.

How does playing theaters and casinos now as opposed to clubs change the dynamic of your album?
I’m a total phony. I don’t interact with other humans anymore [laughing]. No, it’s just subconscious at this point because I’ve been doing it so long, I’m just listening to where the crowd is at, pushing it to the furthest level that’s gonna make them come back. I can’t describe to you what that is, but I know what it sounds like. And when I get off stage, if I don’t feel like I was in that pocket, I definitely sit down and try to think of what I did or didn’t do to create that. That’s what I do, I don’t really look at it like, “Hey I played this venue, last time I played that venue.” That’s for psychos. I don’t do that shit. Competitive fucking lunatics will be like, “How many tickets did this guy sell? Where did he fuckin’ play?” Maybe that drives some people; I shouldn’t say they’re psychos. But I do that a lot—if you don’t do it the way I do it, then you’re a psycho. That’s the level of maturity I’ve achieved. But I just focus on what I’m doing, that’s it.

Any chance you’ll show up in Better Call Saul?
I have no idea. I can tell you I’m not in this season. At the risk of disappointing all those fans, I’m not in this season. But I will be watching every episode. They were nice enough to ask me to host the panel for Comic-Con in San Diego. I did hear them say that this season we’re gonna see Jimmy McGill turn into Saul Goodman, which I think is fucking awesome. That’s why when you ask if I would think about directing, you watch something like Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul, it’s like fuck, I don’t know if I could do that. I have a belief in myself as a comic that I don’t have as a director. What the fuck is with these goddamn meters? I can’t put my card in. There’s like 21 minutes left. I’m going in to the gym and it won’t let me add any time. What do I gotta do, synchronize my watch? Sorry, what was the question?

Not important. Do you know where you want to tape your next special?
No, I don’t. I don’t really know when I’m gonna do it, either. I’m trying to figure out with all of these specials coming out, how to go about releasing my next hour. Everything changes, it’s constantly changing. You can’t be that older guy being like, “Well they used to do it this way, and unless you do it the way they used to do it then you’re wrong.” You’re just gonna be left behind. Nobody gives a shit about your stupid opinion about how they used to do it.

Are you trying to do something a little more unconventional this time?
Great question. But no. I’m not the guy that’s gonna change comedy. I’m the guy that you can pass the torch to and I will go up there with my fucking sport coat and my Miami Vice T-shirt underneath it. If I could grow a mullet I would. I could do that. But I’m not that guy. I’m a long haul guy. Like Emmitt Smith when everyone was freaking out about Barry Sanders going, “Oh, oh, Barry does this and Eric Dickerson does that.” Emmitt Smith just kept chugging along, getting his 12, 15 hundred yards. Or Hank Aaron. He never hit the most home runs in a season then all of a sudden everyone’s like how’d he hit this many? I just hung around long enough.

Will you do The Monday Morning Podcast forever?
If no one was listening, I’d probably stop at 75, 80. I do think it’s gonna be an interesting thing at the end of my life, that I documented every Monday for the last however many years I lived.

You recently had a baby girl. How long before you’d let your daughter check out your stuff?
I don’t think that’s gonna be a problem. Because kids past a certain age are like, “Ugh, God dad, shut up. You’re not funny. You’re so embarrassing.” I think by the time she actually wants to watch my stuff, she’ll be at a maturity level where she can handle it. I just don’t see a kid at 5 or 6 years old wanting to sit down and watch a stand-up special. Would a 5-year-old be into me talking about the population problem? I think somebody with a more absurd style would appeal to her. I’m really saying I’m probably gonna bomb in front of my kid.

So your show’s coming up at Thunder Valley in Sacramento. Well, Sacramento adjacent.
That’s a great name for a TV show, “Sacramento Adjacent.” That’s a great title for something. Don’t put that in your article, someone will steal that.

OK, I won’t. What was your first show in Sacramento? Did you play Punch Line?
I played Punch Line. I stayed in the comedy condo across the street. I never rented a car, so I never really saw downtown Sacramento. There was a dirty McDonald’s that I would walk to and I remember there was somebody on drugs in there and I was uncomfortable while I was eating my food.

What was your memory of the shows?
I just remember that they were really, really fun. I didn’t draw a lot of people. I just remember the people that showed up were really fun. Sacramento, Oakland—they’re just fun crowds, that’s the only way to put it. Every city has a different vibe, but those cities there’s not a lot of heaviness in the audience. I have a gig coming up outside D.C., and they are so uptight and conservative. Everybody’s uptight there. It’s like the Hollywood of politics, everybody’s trying to get somewhere. It’s a very “watch what you say” sort of vibe, and that affects the laughs. You gotta keep knocking at them, going like, “This isn’t gonna affect your next election. No one can see you laughing. Just enjoy it.“ You have to do that a couple times before you loosen them up.

How do you feel about Nanette, and the sort of anti-comedy aspects of it?
That’s nothing new. There was a lot of that with the alt-scene back in the day. There’s always the time where it has to step back and look at itself, there’s always gonna be that. I always found the anti-comedy ones funny in that you could just say, “Stand-up comedy is this, this and this.” Then it’s like “Alright, well, take it in a new direction.” And they never do. Mocking is one of the easiest things to do. God knows I’ve made a fucking career out of it. But to actually be groundbreaking and take it to a new level is different. And a lot of times “groundbreaking” is just something that a young person has never seen before. The amount of shit that I’ve sat down to write, and then I find out that not only did somebody do it, they did it 40 years ago back when allegedly everybody was a bunch of cornballs. I’m watching this show right now, 77 Sunset Strip, that took place during 1958 to—ah, fuck, I drove over a goddamn nail. Look at that. Son of a bitch. Well, there’s no air coming out. Anyway, so the 1950’s were allegedly this conservative time, and then I’m watching this show and every married woman comes on to this private eye. So people still wanted to go around and fuck people. I don’t know, this is a long-winded way to say that it’s all been done before.

See Bill Burr live at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort (1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln) on Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. This show is for people 21-and-over; however, people ages 13–20 may attend if they’re accompanied by a person at least 21 years of age. Tickets start at $42.95. For more info, go to Thundervalleyresort.com.

Another draft dud?

*This article was published in the 6/28/18 edition of Sacramento News & Review*

The Kings came into May’s draft lottery with the 6th-best odds at a top-3 pick in this year’s draft. Fortune favored Sacramento for the second year straight year, and they jumped all the way up to the number two spot . Only this year, the pick was theirs to keep - and with it, a chance at the franchise-altering superstar they so desperately need.

The overwhelming favorite among fans and draft experts alike was Luka Doncic. A 19-year-old star from Slovenia, Doncic became the youngest ever Euroleague MVP while leading Real Madrid to the EuroBasket title just two days before the draft.

The Phoenix Suns, holding the first overall pick, chose Arizona center DeAndre Ayton, leaving the door wide open for Sacramento to nab Doncic. But for the most part, the intrigue was already over, as reports had surfaced hours before the draft that the Kings would take Duke big man Marvin Bagley III.

The Dallas Mavericks, at whose expense the Kings had moved up in the lottery, wasted no time trading for the 3rd pick (via Atlanta) to take Doncic. Many pundits pronounced they’d gotten the draft’s best player.

The Kings disagreed. “Marvin for us is better fit, better player, and great talent,” Kings’ GM Vlade Divac said when asked about passing on Doncic. “So, it was an easy choice for us.”

Doncic and Bagley may be forever linked in fans’ minds, but it will be years before either player - and the team’s decision - can be fairly evaluated. What is open for criticism, though, is the Kings’ all-too-familiar bungling of draft strategy and team building.

First: Marvin Bagley is an excellent prospect. An off-the-charts athlete, tenacious rebounder, and efficient low-post scorer, he put together a terrific freshman year at Duke. His defense is a work in progress, and his size precludes him from being an immediate rim protector, but at only 19, Bagley has time to grow mentally and physically into his 6’11”, 235-lb frame. It may have also helped Divac’ decision that Bagley was one of only two prospects to hold a workout with the Kings, while most others refused in hopes of avoiding Sacramento.

But Divac’ claim that Bagley is “a better fit” is debatable. Bagley joins a crowded Kings’ frontcourt alongside recent draftees Skal Labisserie, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Harry Giles, plus veterans  Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos. Some of those players will surely be moved, but Doncic would have filled a position of greater immediate need on the Kings roster. Moreover, Doncic’ skilled shooting, passing, and pick-and-roll play would have provided scarce breathing room for the Kings’ 30th-ranked offense. Though Bagley shot well from 3 in limited attempts at Duke, Doncic’ position and skill-set is particularly suited for an increasingly wing-dominated, pick-and-roll-heavy league.

Despite all that - when you are a franchise without a superstar picking so high in the draft, you don’t draft for fit. If the Kings saw Bagley as the best player available, they were right to take him. But it appears they were once again behind the 8-ball from a strategy standpoint by letting their intention to take Bagley leak. With suitors eager to trade up for Doncic, and many projecting Bagley would be available a few spots later, the chance to trade down, pick up future draft assets, and still get Bagley would have been the best outcome. While it’s impossible to know if that opportunity was ever a reality, Atlanta (this year) and Boston (last year) have shown that creative front offices can make it happen.

For now, the Kings bring in another solid building block in Bagley. They also picked up two future second-round picks in exchange for their own, and signed undrafted rookies Cameron Reynolds and Marcus Foster. They will theoretically be players in free agency, if there are any superstars more willing to join them than the draft prospects who dodged them. So after yet another lottery pick in Sacramento, consider the can officially kicked down the road.

 

 





 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER • LOCAL MAKER TRENT DEAN LOOKS TO BLUR THE LINES BETWEEN ART AND FURNITURE

**This article first appeared on pages 14 – 15 of Submerge Magazine (June 4 – 18, 2018)**

Trent Dean admits that he “floated around” his entire life.

“Didn’t have a degree, didn’t have a direction,” he explains. “I hated the holidays when people would ask, ‘What are you doing with your life?’”

One constant in Dean’s life, though, was making things—whether helping his parents build a deck while growing up in Lodi, or just putting Legos together.

“Legos were the jam,” Dean says. “Every Christmas, every birthday: Legos.”

Now in his ninth year in Sacramento, Dean studied environmental studies briefly at Chico State before dropping out. Five years ago, he realized he needed something different. Specifically, he needed a coat rack. He’d moved back in with his dad, and the place was short on storage space. So he looked up a pattern online, bought some steel pipe and wood and started a DIY project. When it was finished, he thought, “I made something. It’s functional.” People who saw it liked it, and began asking him to make them their own coat racks.

“I thought, this is kinda cool,” he says.

Dean began trying to create more unique coat racks without using the internet as his guide. He soon realized just using wood and steel pipes was too limiting. He needed to learn skills like woodworking and metalworking.

“That’s how I found Hacker Lab,” he explains.

He began taking classes at the 17th and I coworking/making space.

“I gotta be a part of this place,” Dean told himself. “It’s got everything I need. It’s got all the people who know all the things I need to know.”

Not long after joining Hacker Lab, Dean moved in to the Warehouse Artist Lofts, a mixed-income artist community in the R Street District.

“It was my first time living in any kind of community,” Dean says.

Empowered by the neighborhood spirit and connections at WAL and Hacker Lab, he was able to gain the confidence, drive and support he needed to become a designer and start his own company.

Dean began to take on projects, doing work for local bars, hotels and restaurants like Cannon in East Sacramento, where he worked with Clay Nutting, Emily Wilder and Alex McDonald to create the restaurant’s interior. He built them two 10-foot tables as well as several booths and stools.

“That’s the direction I wanna go in,” Dean says. “‘Hey, we’re opening a restaurant and we need chairs, can you make 20 of them?’ That’s what I want my business to be.”

It’s not easy work. Splinters happen at least twice a day, like bee stings to the beekeeper. Meanwhile, Dean’s signature item has migrated from coat racks to stools.

“They’re the only thing I can fit in my apartment,” Dean jokes. “There’s something cool about the versatility of a stool. Could be a plant stand, a table, an ottoman. To me, they’re the most versatile piece of furniture out there, and that’s why I make them.”

Dean may not have finished his environmental studies degree, but he continues to use his educational background in his current line of work. He sources his lumber from local lumber mills, and works with the Sacramento Tree Foundation and their new Urban Wood Rescue program, a grant-funded endeavor that takes urban trees that had to be cut down due to “disease, safety and pests” and “saves these trees from becoming trash by milling the wood into usable lumber,” according to the Sacramento Tree Foundation’s official website (Sactree.com).

A few years into this work, Dean soon found his career beginning to merge with the art world. He’d gotten involved with Portal, his first public art project. That effort, along with making a home at WAL (in close proximity to 1810 Gallery and M5 Arts), had plugged him into a community of artists. He created a piece for Art Hotel and another for ArtStreet.

“Those projects were like summer camp for artists,” says Dean. “You’re there for a month building it all out. You’re hanging out and seeing everyone every day, and then everyone goes their separate ways. And then a year later you see everyone again and go, ‘Hey, we’re all friends again!’”

One of those friends, Dan Tran, had a great idea. Tran also worked at Hacker Lab, where Dean had started teaching welding classes and wood and metal shops. The pair found out about Sacramento’s Creative Economy grant program, and went in together to turn Dan’s concept into a project they’re calling Kaleidoscope, a natural butterfly habitat. The project’s first step is to plant vines, which will then grow using various sculptures that Tran and Dean have made as a trellis. Over the course of the next few years, the vines will grow large enough to support a California pipevine swallowtail butterfly colony. They’ll also install nectar plants and wildflowers and are working with the Sacramento Tree Foundation to plant native trees in order to provide extra shade for the vines. With the grant approved and plans in place, Tran and Dean now only await checks from the city, and will install the habitat at Southside Park by the end of the summer.

“I’m really excited,” says Dean. “It’s my first permanent piece of public art in the city.”

Building mode and art mode can be difficult to maintain at the same time, Dean allows. He’s spent the past 18 months working with West Elm Furniture through their LOCAL program, which supports artisans neighboring their stores.

“It’s one situation where being in Sacramento really helped me,” he points out.

No one else in Sacramento had applied, according to Dean, which likely got him a closer look. After getting accepted, Dean created one small piece, which ended up selling 75 units all across California.

“When I first started, I just thought it would be in Roseville,” Dean concedes.

It’s important to Dean not to put all his eggs in the Sacramento basket, and this is a bridge toward breaking out of the local market.

“There’s a number of reasons why Sacramento is awesome,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be the city that purchases all my work, it can just be the city where I get to create all my work. I want to live here and work here, but also sell outside of here.”

To that end, Dean recently embarked on a cross-country trip to take in New York Design Week. There, he was able to explore new ideas and get a sense of what he needed to bring to the table—besides just a table. But the trip also served to inform the next step in his career: the transition from maker to designer.

“I’m interested in blurring the lines between art and furniture,” says Dean. “To create work that’s so unique that people stop asking me ‘Can you make this table?’ And start saying, ‘We want you to design our stuff because we like your style.’ To achieve that, I need to have an image that is unique and recognizable. Create the brand.”

Dean’s goal for next year is to take his new collection to a show outside of Sacramento. It can be difficult to break in to larger markets, especially as an outsider.

“A lot of people I meet that got their start here, when they go to bigger cities, they always say, ‘Oh, I’m from San Francisco,’” he says. “That’s not what I’m interested in saying. I’m trying to rep Sacramento and show that this is a great place to live and work.”

To make that next leap, all Dean needs is a seat at the table. Fortunately, he can always make one himself.

You can check out some of Trent Dean’s wares at the upcoming R Street Get Down on June 16 at the 1400 block of R Street in Sacramento. For more info, go to Rstreetcorridor.com. On June 23, you can also see Dean’s work at the Our Street Night Market, taking place on R Street in between 11th and 12th Streets. For more on that event, go to Facebook.com/ourstreetnightmarket.

HEART AND SOUL • PANGAEA’S ROB ARCHIE TEAMS UP WITH VETERAN BREWER PETER HOEY TO CREATE URBAN ROOTS

**This piece first appeared in Submerge Magazine on pages 16 – 17 of issue #265 (May 7 – 21, 2018)**

The airy, high-ceilinged building is not yet open for business, but it’s already bustling. As I walked inside Urban Roots, hip-hop blared from speakers, folks milled about random tasks, trees were being planted, visitors came and went. The atmosphere reminded me of the lead-up to a big summer party, those few favorite family members and close friends arriving early to help set things up.

Co-host of the party Rob Archie, who also owns Sacramento favorite Pangaea Bier Cafe, found me wandering and led me on a tour of the grounds, which sprawl some 15,000 square feet. Out on the 2,400 square-foot patio, a biergarten was taking shape, complete with German chestnut trees, an homage to its Deutsch influence.

“Basically, this project was a promise that we both made to each other that one day, we want to do a brewery together,” Archie explained, referring to his partner, Peter Hoey. “Me at Pangaea traveling and curating beers from all over the world and bringing them back to Sacramento, and Peter being a brewer—my favorite brewer.”

Once inside, you can’t miss the massive, jet-black smoker, which fortunately provides plenty of heat, because it blots out the sun.

“That thing does 1,800 pounds at a time,” Archie boasted like a proud father. “It’s like a ferris wheel of meat. I love Texas-style smokehouse, and this is the heart and soul of the place.”

Archie discovered his inspiration for the beer business in the midst of a season playing professional basketball in Italy.

“I fell in love with beer,” Archie told me. “I started drinking craft beer in college, like Karl Strauss. Then I started going back and forth to Europe. Belgium, Denmark.”

Archie took that knowledge and experience with him into his first business venture.

“Opening Pangaea in 2008, I learned to pay attention to simple quality,” he said. “When the economy collapsed it was like, ‘Dude, fuck this five-bedroom house, extravagant vacation, crazy car … I want a great glass of wine. A good meal, good conversation.’ At the time, beer wasn’t what it is now. A lot of people weren’t introduced to, like, Belgian quads.”

Archie took me past the main bar area: eight wines on tap, as well as mirrored beer taps, a dozen each on either side of the bar, so staff won’t have to cross over. Beyond that: booths, standing tables, a beer gallery, and at the back of the room, an open space for a communal table.

“These projects are all about paying homage to the culture of beer,” Archie went on. “Appreciate the game that was given to you. Put your style on it, but also pay respect.”

We ventured to the bowels of the building, where stacked barrels and beer machines reached up to the arcing ceilings. It was here that Hoey finally emerged from his natural habitat—a large metal vat of some kind.

“What this place has always been is Rob and I getting to take our favorite parts of other breweries we visited, other countries we’ve visited, and bring back all the best things that we found and put them all into one spot,” said Hoey. “We wanted the feel and comfort of a British pub in the restaurant, the feel of a German biergarten on the patio. And beers from Belgium, because that’s what we like to drink.”

Hoey is a respected veteran of the beer industry. He’s been a brewer for decades, notably at Sierra Nevada and Sacramento Brewing Company. He’s also spent a sizable chunk of his beer career with BSG CraftBrewing, which supplies breweries with ingredients.

“Peter’s love and my love both are saisons,” Archie added. “Traditional saison and mixed fermentation, which is why the wine barrels are here.”

Hoey has become known throughout the region as the king of the saison, a farmhouse-style ale that is complex, fruity and spicy. But the experimentation won’t stop there.

“If you’ve been cooking a long time, you know how much salt is too much salt to add to the dish you’re cooking,” Hoey explained. “It’s really similar with brewing. I know which hops taste like what, how much is too much, how much is not enough. It’s something you develop after doing it for a long time. I can write a recipe and know what it’s gonna taste like. That’s why I love talking to our chef, because we speak the same language of flavor.”

I’m no chef, but in talking to Hoey and Archie, you get the sense that the beer and food at Urban Roots are very much intended to complement, give context to, and inspire each other.

“It’s all about inspiration,” Hoey said. “With beer styles and flavors it can be as simple as trying a beer and saying, ‘I’d like to make one like that.’ It can be going to a meal and having a crazy dessert and saying, ‘I want to make a beer that tastes like that.’ It can come from anywhere, and that’s the fun part. The general public is so open to new flavors and, in fact, demanding new flavors.”

It’s that exact mentality of the general public that has Archie so fired up. “I feel like Sacramento has the best fans in the world. Not only in sports, but they’re very supportive. And it’s up to us to bring them some dope shit. Our challenge as a small business is to bring unique experiences. What we want this place to be is a place that welcomes travelers, and inspires travelers.”

As a city surrounded by so much farmland, Sacramento is an ideal location for breweries, which served to influence the Urban Roots name.

“We’re making farmhouse beers in an urban environment,” Hoey said. “I worked in selling ingredients for so long, I really got to know farmers and ranchers and people growing the ingredients we use. Brewing itself has always been a marriage of agriculture and industry. If you go to a winery, you’re going to wine country, surrounded by vineyards. It’s clearly an agricultural pursuit. Breweries have always been in the middle of cities in industrial areas. People forget that it’s an agricultural product. We need barley, and wheat, and spelt, and grains, and hops, spices, fruit.”

Once everything is under one roof—ingredients gathered, beer brewed, meat smoked—it’s time for the party to start. And the pair are thrilled to throw it precisely at their 1322 V St. location, according to Archie.

“With this project, this is Sacramento,” he said. “It’s under the trees. It’s on the grid. And the building has character.”

Much work remains, but Archie and Hoey’s goal is to open by the end of Beer Week. They’ll continue to sweat and strategize, but by then they hope the fun of sharing their toil with the people of the city will keep them going.

“That’s why I love Sacramento, because I feel like our audience, our guests, they want us to win. Just like with the arena for the Kings. But it’s up to us to win,” Archie said. “We gotta bring that product.”

Urban Roots is now open in downtown Sacramento at 1322 V St. To learn more, go to Urbanrootsbrewing.com or follow them on various social networking platforms @UrbanRootsBeer.

CRUISE CONTROL • COMEDIAN NICK SWARDSON BRINGS HIS LATEST TOUR TO SACRAMENTO

**This interview first appeared in Submerge Magazine on pages 18 – 19 of issue #262 (March 26 – April 9, 2018)**

Nick Swardson has spent more than half of his life in Hollywood. He began his comedy career at 18 and was discovered shortly thereafter, thrusting him headlong into a world of scriptwriting, film and TV appearances, and national tours. Watch any of his work, and it’s readily apparent—he’s been that 18-year-old kid from Minnesota the whole time.

When Grandma’s Boy (which Swardson co-wrote and starred in) hit theaters in 2006, I was 18, and the competitive outlets du jour included Halo and Texas Hold’em. Inevitably, whoever won anything in my comedy-loving yet highly derivative group of friends would launch into Swardson’s faux-innocent taunt: “What does high score mean? New high score—is that bad? What does that mean? Did I break it?”

I’d bow low enough to nostalgia to call Grandma’s Boy a cult classic. So when I Googled it for a little catch-up, I was surprised to find that Rotten Tomatoes, which didn’t even exist in 2006, had retroactively rated it a paltry 16 percent. I’m not sure how Grandma’s Boy’s approval rating is less than half that of our current president’s, but I’d guess it has something to do with the fact that no movie critic has ever been a teenager.

While critics bemoaned fart jokes, Swardson countered by naming one of his stand-up specials Seriously, Who Farted?—half-asking and half-saying, “Yeah, it was me.” Swardson brought that same boyish mix of exuberance and mischievousness to all his roles, whether as a fixture in Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison film family, or as Terry, the roller-skating gigolo in Reno 911.

Just past the north side of 40, Swardson finds himself still a fan of his hometown Minnesota sports teams, still starstruck by other celebrities and still ready for the road, though maybe a little more comfortably this time.

We recently interrupted each other’s March Madness enjoyment to catch up on his career.

How’s it going?
It’s good man! College basketball’s on, so I’m happy. It’s my favorite time of year.

Me too! I just had to mute Kansas and Clemson when you called.
Yeah, I’m a psychotic sports fan, and my Vikings this year just completely blew my head off.

Oh, well, you might not want to finish this interview, I’m an Eagles fan [the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s NFC Championship game].
Oh my God … Well, a lot of my good friends are from Philly so it’s OK.

The Eagles and Vikings both have a pretty tortured history.
Yeah, I mean, I was happy for you guys. You fought through the shit.

I know. And had the Vikings won, we would have 100 percent been rooting for them in the Super Bowl.
That Saints game was insane. Craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I was at my hotel while I was doing shows in Colorado, and that play happened at the end of the game, and I fell to my knees at the hotel bar and started sobbing. Everyone was staring at me, and I was literally just sobbing. They were like “Oh my God, are you OK?” I’m like, “I’m a Vikings fan!” They’re like, “Oh OK, we thought you were having a fucking heart attack.”

So, you’re about to start your “Too Many Smells” tour … 
Yeah, and I’ll be doing the Crest Theatre, which I love. I did it on my last tour and had a blast.

Such a great building. When did you first play Sacramento?
The Crest is great, I love Sac. I used to do Punch Line back in the day when I was starting out. I drove from Minnesota when I was 19 and doing stand-up across the country, and I drove straight to the Sacramento Punch Line. I was MCing and they didn’t have money to put me up, so I had to sleep in my car. So I just slept in my car every fucking night.

You could have slept in the mattress store next door.
Yeah, right? I was opening for Kevin James. And it’s weird, it’s kind of come full circle. Now, Kevin’s a close friend and I’ve done a ton of movies with him. Recently I asked him, do you remember when I slept in my car?

That’s become the norm now. Clubs don’t really put up features and MCs at all anymore.
No, not at all. I mean, I bring my whole show, so I bring my opening acts, so, you know, I pay for everything. And I make sure they sleep in their car.

Did you meet Adam Sandler through Kevin James?
No, Sandler saw my special [on Comedy Central Presents] and he wrote my name down and was like, “I like this guy.” And he had this movie Grandma’s Boy, and he brought me in to meet with him and was like, “Will you rewrite this movie? You can write yourself a part. It’s kind of PG right now and we want it to be a hard R.” And I was a writer, so I was like, “Yeah, I’ll do that.” So I rewrote it, and now it’s Grandma’s Boy.

That movie hit me at the perfect time in my life.
I love that movie.

What movies are you working on now?
I just finished The Buddy Games with Josh Duhamel, Dax Shepard and Olivia Munn that’s awaiting a release date. I’m developing another movie with the director of Grandma’s Boy. And a new TV show. But right now I just gotta get through this fucking tour.

When was the last time you were actively doing stand-up?
I did a gnarly tour three years ago for my last special that was called Taste It, it’s on Comedy Central. And I did 55 cities on a bus. And I remember I was super excited because I’d never done a tour bus. So I called my agent and told him, “Keep adding cities. Let’s do this!” And I got on the tour bus with my buddy who was opening for me, and we got a week into the tour. And I was like, “This was a horrible idea.” And we were a week into a three-month tour. I didn’t realize on a tour bus you can’t really sleep because it’s really loud, especially in the back where my bed was. So I’m completely sleep deprived, and I remember I was just terrified that the driver was going to fall asleep and kill everyone. It was just a complete anxiety attack. Me and my buddies got bottles of wine and would just chug wine until we passed out. So I’m not doing a tour bus this time.

Do you feel like you’ll always continue to do stand-up?
I’ll try. I’ve been in Hollywood for 20 years and developed a million TV shows, a million movies, and you always have executives and people telling you what to do, telling you what’s funny. Trying to control the project, giving you notes, making you rewrite stuff. And stand-up’s the only thing that you control. I control that, I control what I say, I control what I do. Nobody can tell me what to do when I go on stage. Nobody can go, “Don’t do that.” I’ll be like, “Fuck you, I can do whatever the fuck I want.” That control factor is just priceless.

You got into stand-up at 18. How soon after that did you know it was what you wanted to do?
I knew right away. The first time I did an open mic I got off stage and was like, “Holy shit.” It’s such a rush. It takes a toll on you, because it’s such a weird thing. It’s not natural for your body to do that. Even at this time, I’ve done it 21 years now, and it’s exhausting. It really takes a lot out of you. All the travel, trying to eat healthy, have energy for the show, dealing with tickets, everyone’s asking you for tickets, dealing with lists, the tour manager. Oh my God.

The physical toll of comedy is something that’s not often talked about. 
It’s all eating healthy and getting sleep. People think [because of my character] that I just go out and rage. You have to dial it down when you turn 40.

I saw you tell a drinking story on This Is Not Happening.
I was also shitfaced when I was telling the story.

Do you usually drink before you perform?
Not really, maybe a couple at the most. You have to be a professional. I do remember one time, I was at the Hollywood Improv, and I was just drinking at the bar. I didn’t have a set that night, but I used to drink there all the time. And whoever was running the show came over to me and goes, “Hey, the headliner just canceled. Will you go on?” And I was like, “No, I’m shitfaced.” And they were like, “Well, we really need you to go on.” And I’m like “No, I’m in a blackout.” And he says, “You’d really be doing us a favor.” And I’m like, “Alright, fine.” So I got a napkin, I wrote my jokes down. I go up on stage. The second I got on stage, I realized, I should NOT be on stage. I was REALLY drunk. So I tell the first joke, totally butchered it. Try to tell it again. Butcher it again. And then I just go, “I’m too fucking drunk.” And I dropped the mic and walked off and I got a standing ovation.

Do you have a favorite Sacramento story?
This is one of my favorite moments. We’re on a press tour for the movie Just Go With It. Me, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. We’re in Dallas. Sandler plays a lot of basketball. So [Dallas Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban goes, “Hey do you wanna play in our practice facility?” Sandler says yeah. So we show up, and Peja Stojakovic, who used to be on the Kings, is one of my favorite players. I loved that Kings team. I loved J-Will [Jason Williams], all those guys. So we’re standing there and Peja is doing shooting practice. So Mark Cuban’s like, “Hey, just wait a minute, Peja’s almost done.” So we’re waiting and then Peja sees us and walks over, and he goes, “Hey, Sandler, I’m a huge fan, pleasure to meet you.” And he turns to me, and he goes “Hey, what’s going on?” And I literally went into a weird brain fart because I was so excited because I fucking love that guy. Sandler goes, “This is my friend.” And I go, “My name’s Peja.” And he goes, “Your name’s Peja too?” And I go, “No. What? No. Sorry. My name’s Nick.”

He was probably so excited to finally meet another Peja.
And I was just starstruck.

Nick Swardson’s stand-up tour, Too Many Smells, will be at the Crest Theatre (1013 K St.) on April 29. You can buy tickets at Crestsacramento.com.