Before I start gushing about how much I love San Francisco, a few words need to be said about my last few days in LA and the trip up here.
I spent one day walking around Santa Monica and then down to Venice Beach. Being a weekday, I missed out on seeing the freak show that everyone was talking about, but I think I saw the guy from the Blublockers Ad. I found a 1963 Ford bus, with some guy living in it. He said he had been parked there on an off for the past 12 years, occasionally travelling around to do public access television appearances, update his website and get parts for his bus. He said his name was Happy and was working away on his laptop, trawling craigslist for some new tyres for his bus. He told me that the local government had redeveloped the beach around him 3 times, with his bus being factored into the changes. Now that the local government was stacked with assholes, he had to start paying money to be there. The weather was overcast (read: smoggy), and there was a bit of a chill blowing off the ocean so the crowds were thin and the homeless people outnumbered the tourists. It still gets to me that one of the richest countries in the world can have such a turn a blind eye attitude to homelessness. It was one of the thing I saw in London that disturbed me, next to paying $9 AUD for a pint of beer.
That night, a group of us went out to sushi. We were trying to work out if the couple on the table across from us was on a date or just mates. The low cut top on the girl and the nervous fidgeting of the guy firmed up our theory. They ordered an unbelievable amount of food, and we flirted with the idea of asking them for the leftovers. Then Will gave us a lift back to the flat in his Prius. The little screen saying how much energy was coming from what motor and how many miles per gallon the car was getting was as enthralling as a cliff-hanger Lost episode. And when we were standing still, the car is so silent and feels like it's off. I don't think I could actually own one without crashing it or constantly thinking the car had stalled. Driving in that slice of the future made me think about the things humanity will be giving up over the next 50 years. It was a bit like an electric kettle, you know the one that turns itself off when it's done, rather than whisltling to let you know when you need to take it off the stove. Sure, our planet will be cleaner and human kind wont have to go searching other planets to fuck up for a few more centuries, but nothing beats the growl and whine of a twin turbo flat six Porsche engine sitting 2 feet behind you.
The next day, Fabian (the German), and I went looking around Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. Having someone else to bounce ideas off helped me come to the conclusion that unless you're really a part of it, LA is a dive. The Walk of Fame reminded me of my granddad's scalp, having a clump of healthy, well know celebs around the centre (some double parked with one another). But once you walked away from the neon and gift shops towards the boarded up restaurants and crack dens, the "stars" became these no name, no frills people we had never heard of. Fabian was really happy to see David Hasselhoff's star and posed accordingly. For a laugh, we went into the Scientology building for a free stress test. Man those guys are funny. We both took turns on the E-Meter. I watched Fabian get quizzed for 10 minutes or so about what stresses him out in life and then see the magic powers of Scientology being dangled in front of him as the solution to all his woes. When asked to provide a happy and a sad feeling, Fabian said Icecream and Murder. All class from the German. When it came my turn, I grabbed hold of their modified multimeter and took the test. She asked me questions about all the bad things in my life, adjusting the E-meter as she went to factor in the minute muscle tensing the continuity tester picks up on. To fuck with it, I applied pressure on the paddles when talking about good stuff (ice cream), and then relaxed when I spoke about bad stuff (murder), providing contradicting readings to the subject matter. The technique she was using on me felt as if she was trying to back me into a corner of negativity, with Scientology as being the only out. It reminded me of the speech a Herblife friend gave to me once. They're not my friend any more. For the rest of the auditing process, I just relaxed my arms and hands so the metre didn't move at all, answering all of her questions as honestly as possible. Serious brainwashing shit for the unsuspecting and vulnerable. I asked her why negativity and fear was being used to recruit me into their church. She didn't have an answer for that one. I didn't buy their book.
We left, crossed the road and entered an army surplus store. We started chatting with the young guy behind the counter. He said he was from Texas and that when he went to an NRA training meet up, he was really disappointed with their organisational skills and the day of shooting didn't match his expectations. He said that there was no point with joining the NRA, as who wants to have a legally acquired gun when shooting someone? He said if we wanted to get a gun today without all the hassle of cooling off periods and IDs, we should just walk a few blocks east and buy one from the Chinese. The next store we visited was a music shop full of old synths. I chatted with the guy about his store, Stevie Wonder's warehouse of equipment and the pseudo-mythical Yamaha GX-1. Fabian and I then made our way to the Farmers Market and the Grove. The Farmers Market food area was pretty cool, with an entire stall devoted to hot sauces (keep on eye on the letter box Luke). The Grove was just another soulless mall full of credit card fuelled obsessive compulsion stores. There was a big clothing store hosted by semi naked models, and after walking around looking at jeans that cost the GDP of a handful of Pacific islands, we leave. As we are walking away from the area, we run into two people wearing price tag shaped name badges. This could only mean one thing: The Price is Right. Sure enough, around the corner we find the CBS studios where the show is filmed. I get excited about being on a game show and sell the idea to the German. We make our way over to find out about how to get tickets. We have missed out on getting into The Price is Heiß (the German name for the show), but there's a chance we can squeeze into the Late Late show. Nope. No tickets. I convince Fabian that he should sign up for the next day's taping of The Price is Right. I wonder what the deal is if you take home the showcase while you're travelling?
A week or so ago I had organised a ride from LA to SF through Craigslist.org - I was contacted by a few people, but settled on going up with Raymond, the first person to respond with an offer. I'm glad I did, because he was one of the coolest people I've met while travelling. In his 50s, he is now retired living on his pension, helping as many people he can with his time and money. Great guy. If you are ever in need of a ride between LA and San Francisco, I can thoroughly recommend tagging along with Raymond as he does the trip every couple of weeks. Funny part is, the couchsurfers who had stayed with the people I stayed with a couple of weeks ago also travelled with Raymond.
The place I'm staying in is fairly central to everything here in SF. A block or so away is the bit in the Bullitt car chase where the Mustang appears in the rear-view of the bad guy's Charger. Roxanna, the girl I'm staying with, grew up here and knows the city backwards. The night arrived, we went to a friend of hers birthday get together and then on Saturday another friend's going away party. Yesterday, I borrowed her bike and rode over the Golden Gate Bridge and up into the nearby hills. I met a guy from Melbourne and ended up hanging out with him for most of the day. I caught the tail end of the BYOBW (Bring Your Own Big Wheel), race where once a year on Easter Sunday, adults ride kids bikes down Lombard Street.
Today, I'm doing what I did in Prague paying homage to the super V8 styling of cop movies from the 60s, 70s and 80. Man. I'm on Dirty Harry's turf.. This is fucking cool. The one thing that is flipping me out about being in the States, is that most of the places I'm visiting I already kind of know through film and TV. San Diego = Top Gun; Las Vegas = Fear and Loathing, LA = Pulp Fiction, Terminator. Now that I'm here in San Fran, where many of the late night cop movies I watched on Channel 7 as a kid were filmed, I'm a little spun out by the living movie set around me. I'm in a place where so much of the mythology of my youth is set and it's a real mind spinner. A living fiction. I think part of my time here has to be spent chasing bad dudes across roof tops, hanging out with pimps and jumping cars over the ridiculous hills.