San Francisco, 2003

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Arrival Day & Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 & Departure

Day 3

A new day brings new weather. Gone is the slate-gray, spitting fog. Itís back to sunny and high 70ís. Iíll be damned if Iím going to sit through a PowerPoint presentation on a day like this.
So itís off to the Mission, a little arty, funky neighborhood with a large Hispanic community. Used book stores and voodoo spiritualism, Italian delis and coffee shops with internet access.
I donít even check my email.
Hell, thereís free lunch at the conference and I ainít even going back for that. There are pretty girls sitting in sidewalk cafťs and perfect spots to perch. Put the feet up, suck down an iced coffee and a chicken salad sandwich with the required-by-the-state-of-California fresh avocado.
Beach Boysí California Girls comes to mind, but in my head itís impossible to keep David Lee Roth from butting in, all spandex and karate kicks.
I chatted with a random girl at the cafť and got a few tips on good bars and clubs, but like many Iíve met sheís only been in town for a few weeks. San Fran has more newbies that anywhere Iíve ever visited, so she doesnít really know the city too well. But she does point me to a park with a wonderful panoramic view of town. The sun warms my pale skin while I snack on organic nectarines.
Another trend alert Ė yoga and sushi are the new coffees of San Fran. You canít go two blocks without seeing someone toting their yoga mat, frequently in front of or into a sushi shop - Sushi Rock, We Be Sushi, Voodoo SushiÖ if someone could just figure out how to combine yoga and sushi theyíd make millions. I can hear it now, ďOK, now shift into Downward Dog. Good. Lean forward, palms flat on the floor, and take a bite of Uncooked Dog. Good.Ē
I got yer chakra right here and it ainít served cold, ya trend-hopping wanker!
Meh. A week of care-free fun can make one bitter. I have got to win the lottery.
After a swing by the hotel to freshen up, I returned to Nob Hill and Polk Street. Iím becoming so familiar with these neighborhoods Iím tempted to give misdirections to lost tourists. One of the many advantages of foot and cable car transit - you actually get to know the areas through which you travel.

Iíd intended to eat some Mexican food, but Myconos Fine Greek Cuisine caught my eye instead. I opted for Pastitsio, the Greek equivalent of lasagna, with a salad and, as if I need more bread and carbs, a side of pita. Not bad. Not spectacular, but not bad.
A journey through the kitchen to the bathroom reveals that, like 99.9% of any food prepared in America, the cook is Hispanic. It might be Greek music piped through the speakers in the dining room with a big Greek man guiding you to your seat, but in the kitchen itís Salsa music and EspaŮol.

I rolled on in search of somewhere to waste a couple of hours before the nightís show and ended up at Royal Ground Coffee, a pleasant shop with sidewalk seats and an odd but tasty mocha chai tea.
Now whoís being trendy, you ask?

The sign out front of Red Devil Lounge said ďArnold Ė First California, Then Mars.Ē Iíd found a review of one of the acts on the bill and it sounded ok, and the ads for the venue looked good, so I headed there for the evening. Itís just another wonderful little neighborhood bar with slightly better dťcor, all red lights and wrought iron, a stage at one end and a balcony running the length of the place so they can add a few more patrons (max 200, according to the certificate behind the bar.)
The place is crowded, a nice crowd for a Wednesday night. It turns out most of them are friends and/or fans of the opening act, Goodbye Brian. They do simple stuff with percussive guitar, letting the bass carry the tune, sort of geek rockish with catchy hooks. A cute girl on bass backs up the lead singer, making that wonderful sandwich of male/female vocals that too few modern acts employ.

Their friends/fans are the young, hip crowd thatís considered pretty these days.

ďI used to be with it, but then they changed what 'it' was. Now, what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me.Ē
Abe Simpson

I donít wear my belt buckle off to the side, it gets in the way of getting into my pocket, and those plastic mesh baseball caps are uncomfortable, even more so when worn off-kilter. Somehow the look that screamed ďdorkĒ in the 70ís and early 80ís Ė cheap jeans and plaid shirts - has become fashionable. Makes me wish Iíd kept all the clothes I hated in high school when I couldnít afford cool clothes.

Next on stage, Shiver, a 5-piece with a lead singer that reminds me of the singer, Lorenzo St.DuBois, aka L.S.D. played by Dick Shawn, in Mel Brooksí The Producers. Incredibly overwrought, overdramatic presentation of vaguely 70ís stuff with sort of a loungey feel, swinging from funk to ska to groovy 70ís fusion. Musically, itís not bad, but the lead singer is comically distracting when I donít think thatís his intention. It chased off some of the cool kids, especially when Shiver cranked out a cheesy ballad a la Stairway to Freebird.

Third out of an ambitious 4-act Wednesday night show, Drag the River, rootsy country twangy stuff frequently called ďAmericanaĒ by others but Iím going with ďAbout as exciting as cold oatmeal.Ē

It made for a very eclectic lineup, but, crap, Iím sleepy enough with the whole time difference, a long day of walking, and a couple of drinks. I donít need nearly-monotone, introspective stuff, I need some goddamn rock and/or roll! And some of this quaint, heartfelt stuff really should be kept to yourself.
But then again, I guess Normal Rockwell and Hallmark would be out of business.
So fucking dull Iím out on the sidewalk getting some smoky air with the nicotine addicts. Then I realized it was about time for the last cable car up the mountain so I hobbled off and caught the last car up the mountain but missed the connection, as always, and had to march down the other side.

Arrival Day & Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 & Departure

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