Posted by: TomA | 21 May 2007

Days 21 – 23: San Francisco

This all happened several days ago, I’m writing this in Austin, still a bit foggy after the bus. So here goes…

Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge [Tourist cliche #1]. We followed the inevitable flow of tourists from North Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf along the seafront (seriously cold and windy) and over the bridge. The hairy bit came as you realised the cycle lane had only a rather low (waist high) railing between you and a watery death. There’s also a total lack of the usual signs to try and prevent people committing suicide from bridges…

Trip on the cable car [Tourist cliche #2]. Bit of a disappointment really, as we weren’t allowed to hang off the side because people kept getting on. Seriously, what’s the point if you can’t dangerously hang from the side? May as well have taken the bus. The dusty smoke from the brakes is good though, as is the constant cable rattling across the city.

The Haight [hippie central]. It was a really fun part of town actually, still totally in homage to the Grateful Dead and the rest of the swinging 60s scene in SF (i.e. lots of shops selling tie-die owned by woman in floaty flowery dresses, only partially coherent – though in the best possible way). Most of the shops were shut when we walked through but there were plenty of fun bars and restaurants.

The Tenderloin [Hobo central]. Our hostel was right by Tenderloin, the favoured hang out of the down and outs in San Francisco. Not that it was an issue at all, they were generally rather polite and friendly (to us and one another), although the two blocks from the hostel seemed to be the centre of SF drug dealing. Strong smell of wee too. Had character though, which is more than can be said for the whole of Los Angeles.

Glide Methodist Chapel. Erin, my boss at CREB, had told me to come down to Glide on Sunday morning for their church service, promising it’d be like no church service I’d ever been to before. She was right. The first hour or so of the service consisted of gospel songs (to Becky’s delight) with a full on gospel choir. The pastor gave a genuinely interesting, moving and non-religious sermon, cracking jokes throughout (to which the drummer and the keyboardist would follow with a quick blast of something). The only religious aspect of the whole service was probably a 10 second bible reading, before a bad joke about smoking cannabis and more songs. Refreshing to say the least. The congregation was as eclectic as you might expect, and there was plenty of holding hands. Good fun (though we could have done without the raging hangovers from the night before seeing…)

Lavender Diamond. Played out near the Haight. The first band were thoroughly entertaining, coming across as a mixture of Lindisfarne and Slade and thankfully sounding nothing like either. The Watson Twins were stunningly awful. I’m normally a sucker for female harmonising but couldn’t stand their whining. As bad as you’d expect the backing band for the side project of a girl from a band originally famous for being a child actor. Lavender Diamond were much, much better. Good songs, funny stories and a stunning voice.

The Mission. There were so many great, exciting and diverse things to see and do in The Mission, I’m not sure where to start. So I’ll just tell you about two in particular. They have the best burritos ever, anywhere, like totally. Huge, fat doughy tortillas slobbered in absolutely everything: rice, beans, salsa, beef, peppers and onions, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes and god knows what else. Two shops, side-by-side, stood out – possibly the two best shops ever. The former was a pirate shop, selling a very small range of pirate related t-shirts, maps and treasure. But most of the fun/intrigue was to be found rummaging through the sand to find the buried treasure, trying to work out what was in the hidden drawers, the fun pirate themed stuff on the walls. Sounds crap now I’ve written it down, but trust me, it was awesome. Next door was Paxton Gate. First off, they have free daily tea brewed to drink as you browse. Brownie points for that. Secondly, they sell the most amazing stuff (mainly dead things). Stuffed raccoons, gopher skulls, mink penis bones, spiders, crazy and carnivorous plants, fun gardening implements and more. I really wanted to buy something… but I’m not sure bringing dead things back through UK customs is a good idea really. Shame. I don’t have any pictures, but you have to look through their website for more pictures of rodents dressed up as clergy and the like…



Patrick Wolf. First time Becky or I had seen him do a club date, made even weirder by the strong presence of hysterical teenage girls. Perhaps all the thrusting and crotch grabbing was unnecessary; though the West Country accent telling tales of Vegas and Death Valley from earlier in the week was rather fun.


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