YAY! I’m in San Francisco. Home of lots of tattooed people, anchor steam, awesome bars, fog, cable cars and lots of flippin hills! I step out of the airport and already feel at home. Its been 4 years since I was last here, I’ve been desperate to come back, and was one of the mian reasons why I took this trip. Jump in a cab and get my first proper awesome cabbie of the holiday – one that actually understands what I’m saying and can hold a conversation with me! He gets out of me my “professional bum” story, and he’s impressed. So much so, that when he drops me at the Lombard Motor Inn on Lombard St, he says he’ll wait for me and drop me anywhere in the city FOR FREE. I don’t need to take him up on the offer, as I know where my first stop is.
Dump my stuff (I have no idea where Kelly, Alex and Tim are), and take my first walk up Lombard St (and my first steep hils) to Tattoo City on Lombard and Mason in North Beach to confirm next weeks tattoo appointment. Walk into the shop and am pleased nothing has changed, down to the same flash on the walls and the same tattooers and reception guys working there. I say hi to Kahlil and immediately, Marys head pops up in the window of her room. Result – shes working today! I’d been tattooed by Mary back in 2007, and have wanted to get more work off her ever since. We’d got on well the first time (we have mutual SF friends), had a fun tattoo session, and her work is amazing. Once shes finished her client, we chat about what I want tattooed and generally catch up. Its awesome to catch up with the first of my SF buddies, and once design things are sorted, I leave her to it and off I go to the Wharf to get some food and have an Anchor Steam. Still no sign of Kelly, Alex and Tim though.
Eventually we all meet up at the hotel, and its early evening. Theres various options of things to do – Tims got a gig option, Kellys got a gig option, I’ve got a bar option – but we ignore them all and go for a curry in North Beach instead (at Urban Curry, Tims favourite). A quick beer in Vesuvio afterwards and a walk round City Lights bookstore finishes the evening, and we all go back to the hotel and crash out (although hindsight proves we should have gone to Tims gig option at Benders instead!).
Kelly and Alexs last full day in SF. They go to Alcatraz, I leave Tim in bed and go and get some washing done. We all meet up in the afternoon and head down to the Haight for some lunch at the awesome Askew Grill and the first of three shopping sessions in Amoeba Music! Lunch is incredible. Askew Grill is a place I’ve always wanted to try out, but never got round to it. The menu is wicked – they do a great assortment of burgers and skewers, with some cool sides, like garlic mash.And they have tattooed waitresses. Go for some burger or other and it doesn’t disappoint. Tims tuna skewer looks very tasty. Then its off to Amoeba, where for the first time ever I take it easy, and only buy 5 CDs, as opposed to the 100’s of dollars I usually blow there.
Manage to drag the guys over to Zeitgeist for the evening, and everyone seems pleased. Tim announces its his new favourite bar – I’m happy he likes it. Its good to be back in Zeitgeist, as its always been my fave place over here. However, this would change as the fortnight went on. We have a great evening and get suitably inebriated - as does the head barman, who is a total hoot. By the time we stagger out of there, he hasn’t got a clue what he’s doing.
Kelly and Alex leave for the airport around lunchtime, so we hang around to say goodbye to them. Its been great getting to see these two again after their move to Aus a couple of years ago. I’m not too sad to see them go though, as I know I’ll be seeing them again in 6 weeks time in Perth. Can’t wait!
Tim seems to be in a state of pining for his missing friends, so I leave him on his bed with his laptop and head out to North Beach. Get a wicked Superchunk book at City Lights, then have a few Anchor Steams at Vesuvios happy hour. Have a pizza at Calzones, sitting outside in the sun alongside Columbus Avenue. Then I hear from my friend Suzanne, who I haven’t seen since my last trip. I met Suzanne in 2005 when she was a waitress at Thee Parkside, and we’ve been in touch ever since. In 2007, she got us drunk on a nightly basis, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing her again for ages.
I was already going to go to Hemlock Tavern for the evening, as its their punk rock sideshow night (every Monday), so me and Suzanne arrange to meet up. I arrive before she does and grab a beer and a seat at the bar. I can already hear Suzanne before shes reached the door and hugging the door guy (Suzanne knows everyone in SF!). Its not a late night, but we catch up over a few beers and agree to keep in touch and meet up soon. Its great to see her again, and I’m already feeling more at home in SF.
Get back to the hotel and Tims asleep.
On a recommendation from Suzanne, I head down to Golden Gate Park and check out the Academy Of Sciences. I get up early, leave Tim in bed, and grab a bagel at the corner deli. Then I hop on the 28 bus and go down to the park. Unfortunately its really foggy, so its pretty gloomy down there which is a shame. However, by the time I get to the park the battery on my camera has given up the ghost, so its hardly worth being there as I couldn’t take pictures, and certainly wasn’t gonna pay the door fee for the Academy. So I grab a hotdog and head back to the hotel.
Drag Tim to Zeitgeist for the evening and grab one of their burgers and home fries from the BBQ. While I’m getting beers at the bar, I turn round and bump into some random punk guy, who then ends up sitting at our table with his two friends. Turns out its Sam Rockwell!
Next stop is Bottom Of The Hill to see Danko Jones. Meet up with Tims mate and have a few beers in their beer garden, then watch the gig. BOTH is a great little venue, with a nice high stage and great sound. Can’t take much more than 250 – 300 people, its tiny. Show was ok – I like Danko Jones, they're rocky and riffy enough, but they aren’t one of my faves, plus I should have been seeing The Stooges the same night (who cancelled). They did have Adam Willard from Rocket From The Crypt drumming for them though, and he was incredible, the guys a drum demon.
Determined to see the Academy Of Sciences, I get up early again with a fully charged camera, leave Tim in bed and head back down to Golden Gate Park. Its still foggy. Get some great pictures around Stow Lake and get harassed by squirrels and seagulls for my breakfast sandwich. Pop into the Japanese Tea Garden quickly, and take a few shots round there. I’ve been here lots of times before, and it’s a really peaceful place to hang out for a bit, even if you have to stay away from the kamikaze squirrels (they are so tame in the park!). Head over to the Academy, and its cool to see how the area has been built up over the last 7 years. This part of the park has gone from having nothing here, to now having fountains, picnic tables and food vans, and is surrounded by the Academy Of Sciences and an art gallery (I forget which one). The Academy is awesome! Its made up of three regions – aquarium, rainforest and planetarium – which all join up together (you exit the rain forest in the aquarium etc), and is such a brilliant place to pass the time. All the volunteers there are really helpful and give the place a really upbeat vibe – nothing like the usual museum experiences you get. Took loads of photos of butterflys, lizards and fish, and stood for an hour watching a pendulum swing back and forth listening to a beardy hippyish science dude called Herb explaining how the earth rotation works, and how the pendulum proves this theory!
Once finished here, I took a walk to the edge of the park to head to Haight Street again. Passed all the drug smoking crustys at Hippy Hill and headed straight for Amoeba Music again. Pick up some more CDs, then decided to go back to the hotel to Join Tim for a curry. Took things easy for the rest of the evening, as I was getting tattooed in the morning. The curry was awesome, but i was now getting very excited for my new tattoo, esp as Mary had sent over the artwork that evening. Was gonna be a good one!