I'm totally crushing on this city. Everyone is super friendly and chilled out. There's plenty of things to see and do. The art/music/interesting stuff scene is alive and well. And the place itself is really pretty. Is it legal to marry a city? I now pronounce you man and municipality and all that guff.. I will first need to divorce the In-N-Out burger I married last week, but maybe we can come to an arrangement involving some really bizarre love triangle. I've spent the last few days riding around getting a feel for the city's layout and working the last few months of not having regular access to a bike out of my system. These hills are great. They're steep enough to be a challenge, but have little flat bits breaking it up along the way that even the worst hills don't have the hellish feeling of hell rides from hell. And when you get to the top, there's a new view and a downward slope to shake your hand on a job well done. I was chatting to an Irish bloke the other day who was telling me that on one of his first nights in the city, he and his girlfriend offered a taxi driver $50 to drive at great speed over a couple of them. Being 2 in the morning, the taxi driver took the challenge and fanged his cab over a couple of hills, getting enough air each time that even Pedro and Napoleon would be proud. He said that they were so buzzed by the experience, they gave the guy $100. If you want to see an entertaining SF car chase involving such jumps, check out the 1988 Dirty Harry movie Dead Pool. The remote control car is my hero, even if it does take out Callahan's partner with a fiery death.
Yesterday, I walked into a print shop to get more cards printed up. Sitting at the computer, I start chatting to the girl who works there. After I say I'm from Australia and have been travelling for about a year she says: "Do you have a blog? The kevin bacon something? I randomly found it a couple of weeks ago while on the net". Small world. After some food, I checked out Golden Gate Park, San Francisco's version of a big city park. It's a pretty place, especially since the weather here is so beautiful. I saw my first gopher, a couple of dogs play fighting and met a nature photographer who's lenses were bigger than my legs. I rode the length of the park all the way to the coast and sat down for a bit, staring out across the peppered sand and choppy waves thinking about the beach I sat on 8,500km away in Hamamatsu, Japan in 2005. So much has happened since then. Some of the more hokey views of San Francisco are visible from around this area, with a nice view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding headland framed by sloping streets and sun-faded wooden Victorian town houses. I took some photos, but they really don't do it justice, so you're just going to have to see it for yourself. I can recommend the corner of 43rd and Fulton for the full effect.
While riding around yesterday I listened to KUSF, San Francisco's University radio station. Plenty of random American music I would never have had heard if I had chosen an iPod for my music playing experience. Sure, they're pretty, have a lot of space and there are entire shops devoted to accessories for them, but there's no radio on it. What's the go there Apple? From what I've heard, Californian radio is pretty decent. I figured you guys would have switched onto this. Anyway.. The great thing about listening to local radio stations is that occasionally they tell you what bands are playing in the area. I heard the magic words "Lightning Bolt" and "Tonight" mentioned in the same sentence, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and made me return to the apartment likity split. Back in 2003, I bought a bunch of DVDs off the net with random clips recorded from TV and submitted from backyard doco makers. One of the clips on there was edited highlights from a 2002 documentary following Lightning Bolt on tour. There was about 5 minutes of frantic, ear blistering, highly energetic live performance shown, and ever since I've wanted more. Jon Dale hooked me up with a copy of the full doco in 2004, but there was one vital piece missing to my own personal Lightning Bolt experience: Seeing them live. Last night I got the chance.
I caught the bus down to the Mission (an area in SF with plenty of great pubs and live music venues), and found the place (12 Galaxies) where they were performing. A little sign on the door politely told the large, disappointed looking cue that the performance was sold out. Crap. I asked a couple of people of if they had spare tickets, eventually finding this one guy who said "how much do you want to see them?". I pointed out the loaded nature of his question and we chatted for a while about the band. A lady asked us for money and showed us a photo of her son Diante, which pushed some valuable names out of my head. He handed over the free ticket details and I was in, with the promise of a beer for him after the show. The night was being held by Club Donuts, a group of girls who organise, manage, DJ, VJ and place doughnuts on tables throughout the night. And they made a sweet job of it too. The support acts were well matched to the headliner, with the in-between bits filled in nicely and the visuals (provided by a Mac running Final Cut connected to 3 projectors), were simple but effective. They also run a pirate radio station on 93.7fm, 3D Radio's frequency.
Lightning Bolt were amazing.
After the show, I caught up with the guy who had helped me out with the ticket. Turns out he's known one of the guys from the band for ages and flatted with one of the bar staff a couple of years ago. Once I had finished bouncing between conversations for an hour, I walked out and my bus was right there waiting for me. Awesome.