Date of Trip: June 2007
Larry King: So you were just in San Francisco?
Wackyheathen: That’s right Larry, the city on the Bay.
Larry: I thought the City on the Bay was Baltimore.
Wacky: No Larry, although technically that is a city on a bay.
Larry: Oh. So what was it like?
W: It was everything I expected Larry. There were hippies, kindly nagging homeless people idling on every corner and asking you for a quarter (“I want to get one those tall Pepsis, man”), hills that made my Heelys-brand skate sneakers completely useless, Victorian architecture, Chinatown, Japantown, Little Italy, Amoeba Records, the Golden Gate Bridge, huge stuffed burritos in the Mission, the delightful microbrews of Magnolia Brewery, etc. It’s a great American city Larry. One of my favorites I’ve been to.
L: What’s your favorite movie?
W: What does that have to do with anything?
W: Well I have several, let’s go with Boogie Nights.
L: So how did you get out there to the West Coast?
W: Continental Airlines, afternoon flight 847 from Newark to SFO. It was a 5.5-hour flight, and because my friend and I are savvy travelers, we both acquired exit-row seats, so we had plenty of room to stretch out. I’m not really a fan of Continental, but I had vouchers from a previous Newark Airport mishap, so I had to use them by the end of 2007. They’re only good for a year.
L: Was there an onboard meal?
W: There sure was, Larry.
L: What was it?
W: Some sort of chicken sandwich. And though I ate it quickly, I can’t recommend it.
L: Then what happened?
W: What happened when? After the onboard meal?
W: Well, after we landed, we took a cab from the airport to our friend Mark and his “partner” Lindsay’s place, located in the Upper Haight on Page Street. The cab ride was about $20 each with tip. The Haight of course is famous for the 60’s “liberation” movement, and great numbers of free spirits migrated there with the noble goal of creating a utopian society. And with this push to create a bohemian commune, you saw artists of all stripes moving to the area to get some of that energy that was flowin’.
So you have famous houses where the Warlocks (the Grateful Dead before they became the Grateful Dead), Janis Joplin, Charlie Manson and the Hell’s Angels all resided harmoniously (for a little while at least). It was a real highlight for me to have my picture taken by Manson’s house. Unfortunately, as the drugs got harder, the people started to lose their collective minds, and the lusty idealism that initially informed the movement turned into something much uglier.
L: Sounds nice. What’s it like nowadays?
W: Today, the Haight seems like there are a lot of 20-somethings who’ve come to enjoy the chic West Coast vibe. There are also a lot of homeless people, some would call them freeloaders, though others would consider them nostalgic types. So you have a mix of the young and hip trendsters and dirty hippy homeless folks. San Francisco is also one of those bizarrely temperate places whose weather never seems to change much, ranging from the mid-50’s to about 70 degrees, so its good if you’re homeless and also if you like consistency in your weather. We really had some fine summer days Larry, perfect for walking. And with the city limits forming a seven by seven mile square, you can pretty much walk anywhere. We did use the bus system for longer stretches and to get up a few of the approximately 50 hills within the city boundaries. It’s $1.50, and good for free transfers for several hours. We also saw kids circumventing the cost by boarding through the central (exit) doors.
L: So what were some of the highlights of the adventure?
W: Great question Larry.
W: My pal and I did several of the touristy things, i.e. went to check out the sea lions on pier 39, walked half way across the Golden Gate Bridge, and zig-zagged our way through the Mission ogling the colorful murals. Our host works in the financial district, which is adjacent to Chinatown, so we were able to have a solid lunch with him on Friday, around noontime.
He said that pretty much any choice you make in Chinatown will be a good one. Of course, it helps to peep where all the Chinese people are eating, if experiencing the genuine article is important to you. Other than the great food, Chinatown appeared relatively kitschy, full of shops selling knick-knacks, bric-a-brac and curio.
Undoubtedly, my favorite stop on the trip was our Thursday visit to Amoeba Records. For a music snob, it’s a place that really invigorates the sanguinary elements of the personality. It’s a warehouse-sized space with millions of new and used CD’s and LP’s in all genres, posters covering the walls and ceilings, and a surprisingly non-threatening staff.
L: The staff threatened you? Why?
W: It’s easy to spend a day picking through the countless stacks, but I restricted myself to 10 CD’s and two hours. They also have a massive DVD section, and my friend purchased a copy of Patton.
L: I heard you saw the band Tortoise at the Independent on Saturday night.
W: How could you possibly know that? That’s true though. San Francisco has a very vibrant music scene, and there are venues all over the place. After all, it is the city where the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and others got their starts. Did you know that Charlie Manson also recorded an album? So we went to the Independent (http://www.theindependentsf.com/index.htm) to see this experimental punk-jazz-fusion-metal outfit called Tortoise. They had two drummers, with seemed kind of like a gimmick, but they were pretty interesting overall. The members of the band were continuously switching intruments too, which was also a bit of gimmick, but it kept things fresh. The issue I did have was that we had to pay $23, even after arriving half way into the set. They should have reduced the cost at a certain point, but oh well.
A great resource for finding out what’s going on art-wise is the free SF Weekly (http://www.sfweekly.com). They are all over the city, and feature full schedules of all the happenings.
L: Regrets, have you had a few?
W: Well Larry, I would have loved to see the Muir Woods, the famous coastal redwood forest. There are some enormously tall trees (though not all that tall compared to some redwoods), and the average age of the trees is between 500 and 800 years old. I also would have liked to visit some vineyards in Napa Valley, but we only had three full days, so there really wasn’t time.