Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Letter from San Francisco # 8

After another epic drive through the Californian country side we finally made it to the express way for San Fran. We could feel we were getting closer, Biffy was blasting on the stereo and we were all looking forward to getting out of the car for the last time. We passed along side some made looking industrial yards with massive cranes which apparently inspired the AT AT's in Star Wars! I can see why. We found some wi-fi, sorted out some beds for the night and made our way to the hostel.

The streets in San Fran are pretty mental, especially the really hilly ones. We came to a stop on a slope that must have been about 45 degree's the rows of parked cars trailing down it were all slumped to one side on the suspension. We saw lots of people taking pics on the other side of the road and realised it was the super winedy road that everyone has to drive down so we joined the que and made our way down the beast! First touristy task achieved! After ditching the car and getting cleaned up we headed out to check out the Mission area, apparently its an up and coming hood but still has an edge. We soon found out after stepping into a real nice looking restaurant and seeing a dude selling vials of crack just out side the window!

We did meet some nice folks inside, a drunk lesbian couple and a friendly chap named George. They were all planning a trip to Scotland so we had some wine and some banter with them. They told us about the hanky in the back pocket and what it means if your gay, they also said I would be fine to get the sub way home as I was a BEAR but Liam & Bobo would need to get a cab for safety reasons. The only thing is I'm not that hairy and I'm not gay. After some more drinks they took us to a cool bar called Blondies a few blocks off Mission and I turned 27 with pints of Stella, a shot of Rum and Lemon Bombs. Within half an hour I was rolling around out side the bar. My new friend started to tell me how cute I was, a strange thing to hear from a man but San Fran is know for having a massive gay community and I'm an open minded guy. But I'm not gay so he didn't get any Jonty action. Instead we jumped a cab to Union Square and Liam paid a hobo $20 to dance like Michael Jackson. Then after some stumbling we met another Hobo who helped us back to the hostel, he was a switched on dude, a bit wired but I guess street life does that too you. He seemed to have friends along the way who helped him get us home with their discrete directions and we paid him some $'s for the help.

The next day was a bit rough but we managed to get up and headed out to Haight Ashbury. Know for being the place where a lot of shit happened, especially with hippies and drugs in the 60's it was nice to see that not much had changed. The first person we met getting off the bus was completely mental and I had a great chat with him about cameras and his wife! We checked out a lot of cool shops included a Stussy shop and the very first RVCA store. They had a super nice cardboard window display, really nice staff and a cool gallery space through the back with some nice prints and an installation in place.

We headed further down the Haight and saw more and more weird looking characters. You could tell it was a bit of a tourist trap but just wen't with it. We did find a really cool old bowling alley that is now a music store but its doubled in size since Liam last visited and now sells cds. We did find one really cool record store that sold only vinyl, rare 60's & 70's stuff for the most part but also some Jazz, Soul and Funk vinyl. After a wee rest we headed out again and found the City Lights Bookstore, famous for helping push the beat movement and its writers and pushing the social & polictical boundaries in the 1950's! His publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl & Other Poems led to his arrest for obscenity charges and later his aquital, an incredible victory for free speech and creativity!

After some more wandering and some tea we headed back to the hostel for a rest up. Seeing the city at night was very different from day time to I headed out to explore the surrounding blocks for a while with my SLR. I stumbled across Union Square again and decided to walk through the plaza. I was stunned to see a group of inline skaters doing a flash mob dance to Michael Jacksons "Thriller"! They were pretty good aswell but looked slightly ridiculous with their skates on!Check a wee video HERE! After finishing another roll of film and walking some steep hills it was time to get back and rest up for our final day in America!

Bobe's decided he wanted to bike across the Golden Gate bridge so we parted company and headed back up to Haight to check out some galleries. I found the Upper Playground store and was amazed to see loads of Sam Flores sketches on all the walls. Also through in the FiftyFirst24 gallery they had a show up by Porous Walker & Kristin Farr. Some pretty wild drawings & paintings and a really cool rainbow cloud skate deck were all on show. It was really cool to visit some of the places I normally only read about in Juxtapoze and the staff were all super friendly too.

San Fran really started to open up to us just as we had to leave to come home, its crazy to think that within a few blocks we saw art work by Sam Flores, Swoon, Skinner & Banksy. It's also crazy that only a few blocks from the financial district you have a 5 block square full of crack addicts. We were told of an area next to us where we shouldn't go, especially at night. We found ourselves walking past an old black man who sat down on the hill against a car and started shooting up heroin. Another guy was merrily puffing on his crack pipe. I'm not a shy person but it was kind of shocking to see such things done so openly on the street. It raised a question of how certain areas can become so ghettoised even though there's no geographical reason for it. There's no line or boundary, its just one minute everyone is friendly and minding there business to everyone is slightly on edge and eyes seem to follow you! I think it's good to see these kind of places because it really helps give an overall view of a city or a place in all its characters! 

And the crazy hobo bums in San Fran were definitely some of the craziest we met. The cat lady with her push basket and her two cats sitting merrily on their pillow as she wheels them around speaking utter nonsense. It's the small unexpected moments that have really made this trip so special and all the people and friends we've seen and made along the way. Its mad to think that I'm back home and in the space of 3 weeks nothing has changed but at the same time everything has. I feel like I know abit more about whats out there and feel like the World is starting to open up to me a bit more, I know I can handle 3 weeks with Liam and I'm looking forward to seeing all the friends and family that I've missed. And there's a lot of very cool projects coming up and its summer time, the future is looking incredibly bright! Its good to be home.