Jan 8, 2013

San Francisco at last...

We only had a three hour drive to San Francisco after stopping at one of those roadside motels where people either collect money for their kidnapped victims, or dump their bodies. That was our reward for braving Grant's Pass and the death-snow the night before.  We were just happy to have made it down the mountain alive.  The idea that many people never made it out of this particular motel alive never swayed us one bit.  We were tired and there was no reason to continue.  I had made the trip from northern Washington to San Francisco before, laying in the back of a truck.  I mean laying, too... not sitting.  I was traveling with C.O.C. and the only room for me was on top of the speaker cabinets.  To put it bluntly, it blew!  Needless to say, I missed the view on that trip. This time I tried to soak it all in.  Just before you get into San Francisco the hills and trees begin to look like miniatures for a movie adaptation of a Dr. Seuss story.  The hills are really pronounced, but perfectly soft and smooth like green gumdrops with an even blanket of grass.  Trees grow in clusters here and there, but there is nothing like it anywhere I have ever been.  It looks like someone from another planet was trying to imagine what things here on Earth might look like.  Very strange, but captivating in a strange and curious way. 

A lot of people from Raleigh have moved to San Francisco over the years.  Everyone knows it's a big city, but people talk about how small it is in overall size.  I was there for over a week with C.O.C. but our van was broken down and we never had a chance to get outside the city and look back at it. We were in a residential section at the end of Haight Street, so I never saw the enormous sprawl that crossed the bay and crept up the hills.  Holy crap!  Driving into San Francisco was pretty dramatic, to say the least!  Seattle had a large port area with oversized cranes to unload the ships when they come in, but it was nothing like the area we passed just before we got onto the Bay Bridge.  The area was monstrous, and something about all the cranes looking the same, like they all belonged to the same giant entity, made it feel like a science fiction scene.  The entire bay looks like a disaster movie set.  Would a fireball streak across the sky or a giant alien ship start firing at anything that moved?  Perhaps the Cloverfield monster would rip up the Golden Gate Bridge and use it like a whip against army helicopters. It was impressive.  That's a lot of movie culture references for two paragraphs, I know.  That is exactly how those vistas hit me, though.  San Francisco is full of views like that.

We pulled into the city after some, "Yeah, we're from out of town!" moments trying to pay the toll on the Bay Bridge.  We found the club first, and then went straight to the hotel.  My dad booked us two rooms with points he had earned traveling for work.  Hell yeah!  A nice, free hotel in one of the most expensive cities on the map...  Thanks, dad!  We checked our bags in at the hotel down at Fisherman's Wharf after the unnerving drive up and down the steepest hills you can imagine.  I did remember that from before.  When you feel that all of the weight of the car has shifted to an area just a little further behind you than you're comfortable with, it'll perk you up!  I'll bet brake mechanics are well paid there.  We unloaded the car and our bags, snagged some pizza across the street and took a cab to the club.  

I was never sure of exactly where the club was in relation to the rest of the city, but we were told we were just two blocks from a really sketchy area.  Tannon and Craig wandered into it separately and can attest to its reputation being well earned.  Where the club was looked like most business and shopping districts, but I'll take their word for it. There is no part of me that is curious about entering regions described by locals offering advice to visitors as, "dangerous".  I know that where we were there were plenty of people offering access to many different drugs along the sidewalk, and though I never actually saw anyone smoking marijuana cigarettes, or "the reefers", I smelled it everywhere we went.  Can you get high just from smelling the smoke?  Am I a drug addict now?  The chips and dip I had last night were better than usual.  Oh no!

We spent all afternoon at the club, but it had a great backstage area that overlooked the stage.  I also stumbled upon a great backdrop for us to take some dreaded "band photos".  I have never once felt comfortable taking band photos, nor have any of the guys I've played with.  It's a "necessary" evil, but they are typically indistinguishable from one band to the next.  I have some ideas for a photo shoot that looks like a bar fight, but out in a field instead of indoors.  It's just so hard to look detached, scary, tough and all of the other things people feel they need from their metal gods.  It's especially difficult when you would never use words like those to describe yourself, but who wants pictures of their favorite cult rockers rolling around with puppies?  The Beatles looked odd enough in that famous pillow fight photo.  How would that have worked for Slayer or Pantera?

We played pretty damn well in San Francisco, if I do say so myself.  We figured we'd get better as the shows went on, especially since we had only ever played two shows before these.  It was impossible for me to make anything out during the set again, but that's more the norm than an exception.  Even if things sound pretty good at sound check, they can sound awful once people are there to soak up sound waves.  It's part of the game.  Once again, there were several people who came up to me after the show who couldn't believe we were actually playing out. Some were very excited to hear that Confessor are writing again, which is always nice to see.  I had the same problem trying to find dinner after our set that I had in Seattle. Everything was closed!  We all ended up settling for cheese wedges at a convenient store down the street from the hotel.  Lame, San Francisco... lame!

We had a day off before heading down to Los Angeles because after lots of back and forth between Sunn's agent and the promoter, our show in Santa Cruz was cancelled.  I hope that not too many hearts were broken, and the guy who put the show together at The Mezzanine said that he expected some of the people from Santa Cruz to come to the show in San Francisco instead.  Maybe the most die hard fans did make the trip to get their heavy on.  I hate feeling like some people had to eat their travel expenses for nothing.  

I was awake and out of the hotel by 8:00 the next day, ready to take advantage of the morning hours before anyone else woke up.  I remembered that there were some impressive views and houses not far from the hotel from our cab ride back and forth the day before, so I decided to knock out my urban mountain climbing first.  I always prefer to knock the most dreaded chore out of the way first, so everything else seems easy.    

I work outside, and I walk nearly all day.  I also play drums, which is about as physical an instrument as there is to play. Were it not for those two things I would probably look a lot more like Meatloaf did in the '70's. I'm in pretty good shape, but I don't exercise anymore.  If you ever do see me running you should probably either duck behind something or join me, because it would mean that someone is chasing me with an axe.  Why run unless you have to?  That's why we have cars, to avoid having to run everywhere.  And if you do ever see me running from someone wielding an axe I'll most likely be running towards a car... or a bigger axe.  Having said that, I am not one to be intimidated by having to walk long distances.  Walking long distances up and down San Francisco's steepest hills is an entirely different thing though!  I was panting by the time I made it up the hill to Lombard Street, which is that famous, curvy, undulating brick road right by the Pacific Heights neighborhood.  The view was amazing, once the purple fireworks stopped going off in my oxygen deprived brain.  It would definitely take some getting used to to live there.  Oh yeah, and tons of cash.  I saw what I needed to see in order to make the most out of the two or three hours I had before anyone else got up.  I doubt I was at the highest point in the city, but I could see for miles and could tell what was within walking distance.  Interestingly, the walk downhill was much easier, and faster!

I went back and forth across many streets seeing what there might be without having to worry about someone else being bored.  It's great taking pictures in other cities because I just couldn't care less what anyone thinks.  I'm clearly a tourist, and people can laugh at me all they want.  I probably have neater shots of their city than ninety percent of the people who would look down on me for having a camera in hand.  I went from the entrance to the really twisted part of Lombard Street down to Fort Mason.  From there I was at least able to get some distant shots of the Golden Gate Bridge.  I didn't have enough time to walk to it, though I would have.  On the way back to the hotel at Fisherman's Wharf I walked out onto the long, curved pier that takes you as close to Alcatraz as you can get.  That's a great place to get some skyline shots of the city as well. This shot of the Golden Gate Bridge was taken on that pier.  Man, I'm so glad I got up early enough to do some sightseeing!  I have wanted to get back to San Francisco ever since I was there the first time.  To put it into perspective, that's where I was when the first space shuttle blew up moments after take off.  Half of you weren't even born yet!  I know, I know... that means San Francisco is old as hell! 

Once I got back to the hotel we grabbed a cab and set out for the famous Mission District. Our first order of business was to grab some lunch.  I was pretty excited about this meal because Mission burritos are pretty well known, and I remembered them from several years back as being huge and fantastic... two things I look for in meals.  Times have changed though, and the burrito did not live up to either of its promises.  In fact this was the most disappointing meal of the trip, because I had let myself get excited about it.  The lady who helped me out with what did or didn't have any lard in it ( typically the same things, but you never know until it's too late ) was certainly nice enough.  The burrito just sucked a little. Okay, maybe more than a little.  The authentic looking relleno was better, but not enough to make up for the disappointment of the famous burrito.  I would give another restaurant a chance next time, but if it isn't any better I'll look for something other than Mexican in the City by the Bay.  

From the Mission we went on foot towards Amoeba Records, which was quite a haul.  I split from the guys for about thirty minutes to check out a park Thomas said offered him a great view of the city when he stayed there for a couple of months. There are several places in San Francisco where you can see for miles, and as you look out you realize there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people in front of you.  The Bay Bridge we came in on is the bridge that collapsed ( partly ) during the earthquake of 1989.  I had that in the back of my mind the whole time I was walking around; trying to imagine what it must have been like to be around so many people while the earth turned to jelly beneath them.  That's when the disaster movie feel of the city really sunk into my thoughts. Mountains, ocean, millions of people all around... Hollywood has created a subconscious phenomenon in which people like me sometimes can't escape the feeling that something awful could happen at any minute.  As a practical person I know the likelihood of a natural, or "man-made disaster" happening where I am is pretty non-existent, but as a fan of horror/sci-fi/apocalyptic movies I also know that on a pretty day like that one with such a view, and millions of victims is precisely when the excrement hits the fan!

I did catch up with the guys after walking for what seemed an eternity down Haight Street. Ladies and gentlemen, if your white teenager has run away and has dreads of any description I suggest you look for him or her there.  It was comical, how uniform the look was for so many "true individuals".  It was a clique, like any other.  There were all of the head shops and vintage clothing stores you could ever imagine, times three.  Amoeba Records was at the end of the parade of Bohemians.  If I had a more extensive knowledge of truly obscure musicians and bands I would have had a field day in there.  As it was, I got there as the guys were losing interest.  I checked their horror DVD's for a few minutes and then we began the slow, tiring journey back to the car so we could hit the road for our last show on this mini-tour.  I had a great time checking out San Francisco.  Even greater because no one had to wait for me or get drug along doing something they had no interest in at all.  I would go back there any time.  It is so visually stimulating and inspiring.  There are too many people there for me, but that comes with the territory.  Soak it up, if you ever get the chance!

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