Month: August 2012

Who’s Too Old For a Rap Concert: Part 2

The first act of the night was Brothers From Another and here is where I admit my ignorance: I don’t really know when the group started playing. The DJ was onstage playing records and trying to get the crowd to “put their hands in the air.” He would prance around for a little bit and then grab the mic and give some instructions like he was an aerobics instructor in a bad outfit. I could not get past his hat. It was a blue camouflage canvas hat shaped like the one Gilligan wore on his island. It is the type of hat that I cannot take seriously. Maybe if you live in a retirement home in Arizona you can wear a hat like that, but if you are between the ages of 8-65 you should not wear a hat like this unless it is a joke. Anyway, Gilligan danced around for about two songs and just as I was about to decide he was Brothers From Another (which would be a great name for a solo act) two other guys jumped onstage and started rapping.

How old did I feel at this point? Pretty old. The two kids rapping were probably born last week and everyone else in the crowd was younger than them. They did their best to rhyme  and put on a show, but I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to poetry. I’d take Keats over Vanilla Ice any day. I am certain that the finer points in meter, scansion, and slant rhyme would be lost on the Brothers, but I will admit I was entertained. At one point one of the brothers had a cousin come onstage to rap a charming tune, “You ain’t gonna drink my drank for free,” or something like that. Now, whether this cousin was in fact a biological cousin or not could not be determined, but he did bring the median age of people on stage into double digits.

Brothers? On the left: short brother, on the right: tall brother, in the back: Gilligan. Not the best picture in the world, but I’ll let my words paint the picture.

The Brothers finished their set and I thought they did just fine for an opening act. One of the sad things about being an opening act in a smaller club is that when your part of the show is over there is no place to go. So for the rest of the night I saw Gilligan, short brother, and tall brother wandering around like the Israelites looking for the promised land.

Between acts I watched the man with the worst job in the world: the security guy in charge of keeping the alcohol upstairs and the minors downstairs. He had to watch a door, watch the stairs, and check every person passing by for ID. His job only got harder as the night went on. What’s worse than a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt? How about a self-centered 22 year-old girl in a mini-skirt who has had three umbrella drinks.

The second act was set up and ready to roll by about 10PM. These days 10PM is when I set my book down on my bedside table and go nighty-night, but for some reason I wasn’t really tired yet. Maybe it was the espresso, maybe it was because my brain was being concussed by sound waves. Act number two is still a mystery to me. There was one guy named Prometheus (I hope this is his real name and not a stage name), one guy whose name is still unknown, and then there was DJ InfraRed. The name of the group? I don’t know. After the concert my daughter tried to explain the situation to me, but it was like listening to my mom explain how I was related to some person that lives in Florida.

One of the rappers is from the group Blue Scholars and the other two guys were from other groups, so it was either a rap super group or three guys doing rap karaoke.

Rap Super Group?

These guys were good. Now I don’t know what the hell they were saying, but they had great energy, got the crowd going, and put on a show worthy of my attention post 10PM. There was one moment that confused me. Prometheus said he was going to be taking it on the road to Bremerton. Now if you are in Seattle why would you aspire to go to Bremerton? For those of you outside the Northwest I will try to make a comparison. Let’s say you are in New York City doing a rap concert and then for some reason you say, “I’m going be taking this on the road to Rochester.” Maybe I missed something, but heading to Bremerton isn’t really a move in the right direction career-wise, unless you want to get a job in the ship yard. I imagine those jobs pay well and have better hours than rap star.

The rap trio then asked for requests from the crowd, I almost always request Blue Velvet or Just a Gigolo when called upon in situations like this, but I figured DJ InfraRed probably left those albums at home, so I left it up the youngsters in the crowd to shout out requests. One young lady standing near me started yelling, “Rasheeda Jones, Rasheeda Jones…” like she was Biz Markie‘s sister. She kind of looked like Biz Markie too, except in a skirt. Anyway, the group then busted into Rasheeda Jones. Biz Markie’s sister took full credit for the song and would not shut up about it. Act two came to an end and the +21 year olds headed upstairs to get oiled up for the final act of the night: The Physics.

Between sets one of the security guys went to stand in front of the big fan near me and I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but the dude was not bathed in sweet-smelling nectar. No he smelled like hot dogs. If I smelled like hot dogs I would not stand in front of a fan, unless I was trying to entice people into a life of cannibalism. There are two ways to go when smelling like a hot dog: 1. put on a lot of Old Spice, 2. embrace your inner hot dog and rub a cut onion all over your body.

The final act took the stage around 11:15, and when I say took the stage I mean they filled the stage. The stage was not huge but I estimate there are 12,000 people in The Physics. Okay, maybe not 12,000. The number of Physics falls somewhere between MC Hammer‘s stage act and Public Enemy’s (not counting people dressed in military outfits.) To be more exact: two vocalists, two rappers, one DJ, one guy playing a keyboard, and one guy playing a guitar.

The Physics (and a few members of the crowd).

The Physics were good. I have even listened to their album Tomorrow People and liked it. The show was going along just fine until they had members of the audience join them onstage to dance around. I kept wondering if the stage could hold all that funkiness. It did, but at the end of the song, when everyone was supposed to head back to the floor, one girl stood on the stage texting while everyone else followed the rules. She just kept texting away as the guitarist tried his best to shoo her away, but she would have none of it. She then interrupted the lead rapper to take a picture. I am not a violent person, but I found myself wishing someone would attack this self-centered moron or at least take her phone and throw it into the crowd where it could be stomped on repeatedly.

The show did go on but we left before it was over. We had to catch the 12:45 ferry back home, so we did not see the end of the show. My children reported a Macklemore sighting, so I assume he hopped on stage with The Physics at some point in the evening, but I cannot report this as fact. I can say that Capitol Hill is still busy at 12:30 in the morning and I did enjoy my first rap concert.

Heading back home on the ferry. The Emerald City is just as lovely at night.

Who’s Too Old For a Rap Concert? Part 1

In my family we like to say, “The more you like music, the more music you like.” I love music and have encouraged my children to love music also. Unfortunately this has caused my children to form their own musical tastes and dabble in rap music. We all know that rap music is the gateway music to anarchy, death, destruction, and the end of mankind. I will admit that I dabbled in rap music when I was younger. I listened to the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, and De La Soul; but I didn’t get hooked, I knew better than to try the harder stuff like NWA and Tu Pac. I never wore a hat sideways, bought gold chains, or owned a pair of pants that sagged enough to show off my ass. While friends of mine were learning the lyrics of Cop Killer I took a left turn and immersed myself in reggae. (No, I did not grow dreads, or chant down Babylon.)

My children do like the rap music and apparently there is a vibrant and growing rap scene in Seattle, at least this is what I have been told. So when my children expressed an interest in attending The Physics album drop I was concerned. I am one of those older folks who associate most rap music with misogynistic lyrics and anti-authoritarian attitudes, so I told my children I would chaperone them if they paid for everything: my ticket, the ferry ride, the meals, and all the coffee I could drink. They agreed and that is how I ended up at my first rap concert last Saturday.

Mount Rainier from the Bainbridge ferry deck.

It was a beautiful day to visit Seattle. The sky was clear and from the ferry the entire Cascade Range was visible from Mount Baker to Mount Rainier. There is no other major city in the US that is as lovely as Seattle on a clear day. This is not an opinion; it is fact.

We arrived in Seattle and headed for Neumos (the club where the concert was to be held) on Capitol Hill. We ate lunch, walked around and looked in the shops, and spent about two hours in Elliot Bay Bookstore. By the time 8PM rolled around I was already tired. I rallied by drinking a couple espresso shots and then went to stand in line for the concert. Most of the people in line were about 12 years old (anyone under 25 looks 12 to me these days.)

Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle. Once located downtown in the Pioneer Square area, is now on Capitol Hill.

We entered the venue and I set up camp as far away from the stage as possible, my kids went the opposite direction. Neumos has an upstairs for over 21 drunks and a lower section for the kids. It did not take me long to feel old since I was downstairs with the kiddies, but I did my best to put my cool on and stood next to a large fan hoping it would blow the noise away once the concert started.

The kids pretending not to know the old dude in the back.

The first 30 minutes of the show were taken up with various strange looking dudes walking on stage and fiddling with turntables and cables. Most of the AV crew looked like they had just escaped from the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Eventually they connected all the right cords and the speakers began pumping out chest crushing bass thumping sounds that probably killed whales in the Puget Sound.

(Tomorrow: I learn to put my hands in the air.)

My Love Affair with Lance Armstrong

I fell in love with le Tour de France not when Lance Armstrong won his first, but in 1989 when Greg LeMond came from behind on the last day to beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds. It was one of the most incredible athletic performances I had ever seen. After racing for nearly a month it came down to eight seconds. Fignon was crushed. LeMond had come into the final day time-trial behind by 50 seconds. Most experts said the race was over before the final day began, but somehow LeMond managed to win his second Tour. This is the same Greg LeMond who overcame being shot by his brother-in-law in a hunting accident, the same Geg LeMond who could have won a tour in 1985 but allowed his older and weaker teammate to win, and it is the same Greg LeMond who I now hate.

LeMond is not a Lance Armstrong fan. LeMond believes that Armstrong cheated to win. He is not alone there are lots of Armstrong haters and all of them are celebrating today because Armstrong announced yesterday that he will no longer fight the USADA charges against him. It isn’t an admission of guilt; it is a factual surrender.

I don’t care. I don’t care if he was guilty of cheating or not. I do care that the USADA is going to strip him of his titles. I do care that many people all around the world will have their “I told you so” moment. I do care that the media will use this opportunity to soil his accomplishments further. He did win seven tours and if you have ever watched a tour from beginning to end you know what an accomplishment that is. Get on your bike and ride 120 miles and then get up and do that 25 more days in a row. That’s what Lance did better than anyone else seven times. Seven times…after nearly dying of cancer. Seven years of being tested over and over for using performance-enhancing drugs and never testing positive. Seven years of media speculation and harassment. Seven years of wearing the yellow jersey on final day of the tour. Seven years of being able to give the finger to all his critics as he rode through Paris.

Armstrong critics will say he cheated and there is a growing list of athletes who never tested positive and have since admitted cheating. Some critics have even claimed that doping probably caused Armstrong’s cancer. So what? Does that diminish his accomplishments? If you think so you are naïve.

Great athletes are great for one reason: they are egomaniacs. Is Lance Armstrong an egomaniac? Yep. So is Michael Jordan. So is Tiger Woods. So is Magic Johnson. So is Jim Brown. So is everyone who ever dreamt they could be better than all the people who came before them. To be an egomaniac is to be flawed, to believe the rules of the world do not apply to you. All of the great ones (with the one exception of Wayne Gretzky) have had their moments when they let the world see what it takes to be great: You have to step on some faces. That is why Michael Jordan will always be better than LeBron James. MJ would step on your face to win; he stomped on teammate’s faces. Listen to his Hall of Fame speech; he stomped on a few faces that night.

I was a reasonable athlete when I was younger. I was good enough to play small college basketball and I thought I was pretty good. How good did I think I was? Better than anyone I ever played against. I never stepped on a basketball floor and did not believe I was better than everyone else. I remember thinking I was probably the best player in the state of Washington. Now, I wasn’t even close to the best, but imagine if I had been the best. Imagine if I had been the best in all the US, or the best in the world. It would have taken about 10 seconds for me to become a complete egomaniacal-face-stomper.

Lance Armstrong is a face-stomping-maniac. It is what helped him win seven tours, it is what helped him survive cancer, and it is what I love about him. Armstrong’s unflattering and unfaltering belief in himself is a gift. It is a gift he has given anyone diagnosed with cancer. Armstrong’s survival and comeback is inspirational and cannot be diminished by the USADA.

Even if Armstrong cheated, and I believe there is a very strong chance he blood doped but so did everyone he raced against, it doesn’t matter because drugs do not make an athlete great. Great athletes are made through the internal belief that they are the best.

My lasting memory of Armstrong will be the day in 2003 when he and Jan Ulrichwere racing up a mountainside. Most of the racers had fallen behind and there was just a small pack of top riders remaining. The crowds of people pushed in close to the riders, and a small boy waving a yellow flag was right in front of Armstrong. The flag got caught in Armstrong’s front brake and locked his wheel. Armstrong crashed to the ground. It was a hard crash, the type of crash that breaks bones. It took Armstrong some time to gather himself and check his bike, and then he was off, chasing after Ulrich. Ulrich had done the sporting thing and not pressed the attack once his chief rival had fallen. It took some time for Armstrong to catch back up to the leaders. The untold energy it took to catch up looked like it might cost him the race. He looked cooked. Then he did what the great ones do, he looked directly at Ulrich and took off. He just went away. He rode so hard that no one could keep up. He broke them all. Here is where Armstrong’s critics say, “Cheater. See how no one could keep up.” Here is where I point out that Jan Ulrich admitted to blood doping. Ulrich was cheating and couldn’t keep up with Armstrong. Armstrong might have cheated on that day also, but it wasn’t the drugs that made him pull away, it was because Lance Armstrong believed that he was the best who ever lived and then he stomped on Ulrich’s face to prove it.

2003 Armstrong fall

My Pretend Interview with Terry Gross

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

GROSS: Why did you want to make this movie, “Moneyball”?

Me: Well, I didn’t want to make the movie. I think that was Brad Pitt, a lot of people get us mixed up though.

GROSS: It’s a very, like, dialogue-driven film, even though there’s a lot of, like, baseball scenes in it. But your performance, even though you’re basically sitting in a chair talking and making phone calls, your performance is very kinetic. You always seem to be moving, you know, chewing ice, eating, moving your hands, throwing something.

Is it challenging to do a kinetic performance in what is basically, you know, a managerial position kind of role?

Me: Again, Terry,  that is Brad Pitt. I don’t even act. It doesn’t look too hard though.

GROSS: Let’s talk about some of your other films. Let’s start with “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s recent film. It’s set during World War II, and you play Lieutenant Aldo Raine, who’s charged with putting together a team of, like, real killers to kill the Nazis.

So here you are explaining the mission to your team.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS”)

GROSS: That’s Brad Pitt in a scene from “Inglourious Basterds.” I like the way you say Nazis.

Me: I think I say Nazi just like everybody else.

GROSS: Did the script say to pronounce Nazis, Nazis?

Me: I’m not sure. I didn’t see the script. You can probably find it online these days. Try Googling “Inglourious Basterds+Script,” I’ll bet you’ll find it there.

GROSS: You have a scar on your neck in the film, and it looks like either you were strangled with a wire and survived, or your throat was slashed and you survived. Do you know what happened to your throat?

Me: Okay, I’ll just pretend from here on out that I am Brad Pitt since you can’t seem to separate the two of us in your mind. I hear there could be a prequel to explain the scar on “my” neck.

GROSS: Oh. And is that a possibility?

Me: Sure, I haven’t seen a script yet, but Quinton and I have talked about making it.

GROSS: Now, you grew up in Oklahoma and in Missouri. And your family was Southern Baptist evangelicals?

Me: Wow, who does your research? I grew up in Montana and California. My dad was a Presbyterian minister though.

GROSS: So what was your Christian background like? What was the emphasis like in church? How was that reflected in your upbringing?

Me: Well, you can expect that I went to church pretty regularly since my dad was the minister. Presbyterians, well most Presbyterians I know, are not the fire and brimstone type of Christians. We are more into the love and forgiveness aspect of Christianity. Since I was a PK [Preacher’s Kid] I did what I could to stay out of trouble, but I also did a lot of crazy things so the other kids would know I was a normal kid. Sometimes PKs have to step out there a bit to make sure other kids don’t think we are going to lead a prayer meeting or something.

GROSS: Now, you studied journalism in college. What did you expect to become?

Me: Finally, your fact checkers got one right. Yep, I have a Journalism degree. I was wanting to do sports reporting, but once I did an internship I decided it wasn’t for me.

GROSS: This is where?

Me: Whitworth College in Spokane.

GROSS: OK.

Me: I just had a bad experience and near the end of the internship I was really disillusioned for about two weeks.

GROSS: Two weeks is such a – it’s the blink of an eye.

Me: It might seem that way sitting in your interview chair, but do two weeks of something where you don’t get paid and you have your soul crushed each day…two weeks is a long time.

GROSS: So you knew your mind.

Me: Yeah, I was done with journalism. I’m glad I made the decision to do something else.

GROSS: So you go to L.A. and then what? You get there, then what?

Me: No, I went to New Zealand for about three months. I worked in a factory for a couple months.

GROSS: In what?

Me: A factory. I made Formica tabletops, the glue made the day go by more quickly. 

GROSS: You were an extra in “Less Than Zero”?

Me: Not that I recall. I don’t even like that movie. James Spader is cool, but I like him better now that he is on The Office.

GROSS: That must have been fun. I mean…

Me: Sure, I’ll bet being in a movie is fun. Better than making Formica tabletops.

BIANCULLI: Brad Pitt, speaking to Terry Gross in 2011. More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BIANCULLI: Let’s get back to Terry’s 2011 interview with Jon Eekhoff.

GROSS: So you start getting in films and you get very famous. What was the strangest thing early on about actually – not only being successful, but being famous?

Me: You know Terry, when you are pretty tall, like I am, people tend to look at you all the time. I see them trying to guess just how tall I am and some of them even ask, “How tall are you?” It doesn’t bother me, but you don’t find people asking fat people how much they weigh.

GROSS: So did that make you want to be in the limelight any more or less?

Me: I don’t know if limelight is the right term for being tall. What does limelight mean anyway? Limelight…do limes give off light? Maybe there is a lime colored light when people are on stage that makes you look important. But like I was saying being tall gets you ready for people paying attention to you.

GROSS: About how much to share about yourself and…

Me: Yeah, once you feel like a mutant, you always feel like a mutant.

GROSS: So you live in a world where money is so weird. I mean like you were able to sell the first pictures of the first child that Angelina Jolie gave birth to for $4.1 million to People magazine. And then you, you know, you donated the money to charity, put the money to good use. But that’s just like so weird, to get that amount of money for a photograph.

Me: What? Okay, I’m married. My wife is probably going to listen to this interview. I did not have a baby with Angelina Jolie. I haven’t even met her. I don’t think she is my type, not that she’s a bad person…

GROSS: It’s crazy. It’s like values gone nuts. So…

Me: I’m sure there’s lots of pressure on her.

GROSS: Yeah. Especially what you’re trying to do is like at least try to take the values gone nuts and put it to good use, put the money to good use.

Me: Sure, I want to do good things with my money, but I’m a teacher and we aren’t exactly raking in the cash-o-la. I do try to do some good with the limited funds I have.

GROSS: So did it work? Did it head people off at the pass? Did it prevent you from being stalked in the way that you feared you would?

Me: I guess. I don’t really have any stalkers.

GROSS: So at least nobody else could claim that they had the first photo.

Me: Okay. Now I’m lost. What photo?

GROSS: That’s where the big bucks are. Right.

Me: If you say so.

GROSS: You know, I interview people for a living, that’s how I spend my time, you know, and I care what my guests have to say, I’m really interested in hearing how the choices people make when they’re living their lives, why they do what they do, how they do what they do. At the same time I don’t really understand why everybody needs to know the intimate details of your personal life or your children’s lives. And I imagine you don’t really understand that either. But it’s something you probably have to think about a whole lot more than I do. Do you have any answers to that? Like why do people feel that they need to know or that they’re entitled to know personal details like that?

Me: I think many people think other people’s lives are exciting. Most of us live pretty boring lives. I think the whole Hollywood fixation is strange. I like certain actors and actresses, but I don’t understand the thinking that makes those people more interesting than your neighbor.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Me: Maybe I’ll write a short story about that.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Me: A story about a neighbor who gets fired from his paparazzi job and decides to start taking candid shots of his neighbors instead of actors. Maybe the main character has discovered that actors are just boring people also.

GROSS: Are there actors you felt that way about when you first met them?

Me: Well, I haven’t met too many actors. I did meet John Denver once. That was one time I was star-struck. I really like him when I was growing up. He gave me five dollars for carrying his bags.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GROSS: So can I squeeze in one more film clip before we have to end?

Me: If you have to.

GROSS: Great. OK. So this is “Fight Club.” This became a real, like, cult favorite. And you star in this with Edward Norton. And he plays somebody who’s been traveling on business, meets your character on a plane and comes home to find his house has been destroyed. He calls you up and then you meet in a bar, and then you basically make a strange request to him. You say, hit me. Here’s the clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, “FIGHT CLUB”)

GROSS: That’s my guest, Brad Pitt, with Edward Norton in a scene from “Fight Club.” So the character says how much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight. Have you been in fights? I mean you’ve had to be in fights for movies. What about real life?

Me: Not that I can remember.

GROSS: But even when you were young, did you?

Me: Oh, sure, like elementary school age. Boys fight then.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. So did you and Ed Norton end up hurting each other at all during the making of this film?

Me: Ed Norton? Nope, I think you are confusing me with Brad Pitt again. I do think I could take Ed Norton though. He looks like he is in good shape, but I’m betting he is about 5’10” and I’m 6’6”. I would just pick him up and drop him on his head.

GROSS: So how many people walk up to you and say the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club?

Me: Just my son.

GROSS: Really?

Me: Yeah, we really like the movie.

GROSS: It’s one of those like famous lines, which I think I just got a couple of words wrong in, but nevertheless.

Me: My son has the rules on a poster in his room. I’ll look later and give you a call.

GROSS: What do people say when they meet you?

Me: Do you want fries with that?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Do you have to worry about that?

Me: Eating French fries? Yeah, I shouldn’t do it but you know…they are good.

GROSS: Well, thank you so much for talking with us.

Me: Thank you Terry. I really enjoyed talking with you. 

A Few Days in San Francisco

What can I write about San Francisco that hasn’t already been written? Not much, but I will not let that stop me.

The Golden Gate in all its splendor.

The World’s Top Seven Cities (that I have visited):

1. Paris   2. London   3. Copenhagen   4. Berlin   5. San Francisco   6. Chicago   7. Fresno (Number 7 is obviously a joke. Fresno would appear on lists like: Possible Armpits of California, Best Places to Melt Candles, Flattest Cities in the World, Don’t Eat Sushi in these Cities, Most Dangerous Downtowns in America, and Cities That Look Like They Have Already Survived the Zombie Apocalypse.)

San Francisco is a city that has whatever a traveler is looking for? Landmarks (check), Distinctive Neighborhoods (check), Fantastic Food (check), Museums (check), Public Transportation (half-check), History (check), Weird Stuff (check plus).

The past two summers my family has exchanged homes with a couple in Point Richmond (near Berkeley) and spent time in the city by the bay. If you are new to San Francisco here are a few pointers.

Don’t call San Francisco Frisco. Don’t even do it as a joke. Frisco is the name of a dog and if you named your dog Frisco, you are a bad person.

Do the typical touristy things. Should you ride a cable car? Yes, and stand on the outside. Allow the ugly tourist in you to live. If you have to push some Italian tourist out of the way to stand on the running board, do it. Do you think those Italians are going to be nice to you when you visit Rome? Hell no! They are going to cut in line, they are going to walk five abreast blocking the street. Take your big American elbows and cut a space for yourself on the cable car and don’t apologize.

Next, go to Alcatraz. Yeah, it is a big tourist trap, but it is also a pretty cool tourist trap. (The one exception to visiting Alcatraz would be for those of you that have actually been locked up before. You might not want to “visit” a prison on vacation and I think it is okay to take a pass on this one.)

Go to Chinatown and gawk. My kids hate Chinatown. It is dirty. It is loud. It is crowded. Old people using walkers block the streets. Strange things hang in store windows. It really is like traveling to a new country. The nice thing is that you don’t need a passport to visit this weird mini-country.

If you have kids go to the Science Museums. The Exploratorium (downtownish) is really fun. It is a museum of hands on experiments built by nerds who are trying to make science cool. They accomplished the task.

The California Academy of Sciences Museum (Golden Gate Park) is also super cool. There is a planetarium, aquarium, and a tropical forest all in one stop. The DeYoungMuseum right next door has a pretty good collection of art. The building itself is worth looking at and don’t forget to go up in the tower for great views of the park and sections of the city.

Alley next to City Lights Bookstore.

North Beach has one of the most important literary sites in America: City Lights Books. The Beats hung out here. The bookstore published Alan Ginsberg’s poem Howl and was charged with obscenity by the US government. The trial set a precedent for free speech and the First Amendment. The bookstore is small, dense, creaky, and old like all good bookstores. Go in, buy a book, a t-shirt, a bumper-sticker and keep this bookstore alive. North Beach also has some good food, but if you don’t buy a book you are a bad person who probably owns a dog named Frisco.

Fighting over poetry is my kind of fight.

The two most over-rated locations in San Francisco are the wharf and Haight-Ashbery. If you have never been to these places I suppose there might be something to see, but today the wharf is too crowded and too annoying for me, and Haight-Ashbery makes me sad. The plight of the mentally ill is on display where hippies once hoped for a world of peace and love. I’m sure some of the homeless are still attracted to the idea of living on these streets, but whatever they came looking for doesn’t exist any longer (if it ever did.) If you are still looking for the summer of love and the center of the hippie universe I would suggest taking BARTacross the bay to Berkeley.

Center of the Universe, 1968.

The best place to see the Golden Gate Bridge is? I don’t know. I have traveled to San Francisco many times but I don’t know if I have ever seen the entire bridge on a clear day. I went to the Marin Headlands this year on what I thought was a clear day. It was not clear at the headlands.

The fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco has all of this and much more. I did not mention the Castro district, little Japan, Palo Alto… just go, and wear some flowers in your hair.

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