WT2010 – USA – Day 19/20 – L.A to San Francisco

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 30, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 19/20 – L.A to San Francisco
[On the iPOD] Weezer / The Strokes

Off to San Francisco but first a quick favor for a friend. I wanted to drop into a venue to drop some zines off in the city so I headed in there at 10:30am only to find the council had closed off like 6 city blocks exactly where I needed to get to, this caused a traffic disaster and I got stuck for over one hour. Not cool. So then the rush was on to get to San Simeon a pretty big detour to check out a place called “Hearst Castle” basically it’s what it says… A castle built buy a millionaire over decades in the early 20th century.

After leaving L.A too late and then the traffic jam, I decided to throw in a missed turn which left me 30km until the next exit. Basically I was then taking this 300km detour with a chance of the damn castle not being open. Rush rush rush. I got there 4:40pm and all the inside tours were soldout but they luckily had one last ‘self guided’ tour (which is apparently a new thing) which was great because that’s what I would’ve chosen anyway. Words can’t describe how awesome this place is. It was basically built in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain with one side looking towards the ocean and the other the rolling hills of Northern California. All the art/sculpture on the property is the real deal, theres millions of dollars worth of marble there. The views are stunning, check out the flickr photos which is the only way you can really describe the place. The other amazing thing about being able to live there would be the drive up the hill; its basically a winding curving WRC tarmac coarse, its unreal. The bus drive up (they have shuttles) would have been unnerving but for the 1940’s swing music coming through the P.A.

I ended up getting lost taking photos, lost for time that is. I looked at the clock and it was 7pm, oh yeah thats right I STILL HAVE TO DRIVE TO SF! (350km+) So I hopped back in the car, the road approaching San Simeon (the highway on the coast) is regarded as one of the best drives on the Eastern Coast of the USA, it has amazing views. I had no time to stop unfortunately. I started to get seriously tired circa 10pm and I was still 2hours away. I was trying everything to stay awake and then put on some Weezer full blast for a memorable all out singalong which got me into SF close to 12am. I’d missed band gig times so I was on the laptop pronto after a quick shower trying to find some bars or clubs to head to only to find literally everything I’d penned in had closed down or only ran midweek. Literally every club listing was dance or r&b. Hmmm. So I went for a wander.

I found a Pizza place nearby that sold GIANT pizzas, new york slice style or perhaps bigger. I watched a drunk guy repeatedly ask the guy at the counter if he took credit cards only to be ignored so when the guy turned his back the drunk just grabbed a slide of pizza and ran out.

I found a bar nearby playing 1960’s pop/swing/soul which id much rather than all of the dreck listed online (think r&b nights with cheesy cheesy wank flyers, ugh) anyway the place had cheap drinks so I ordered 2 or 3 and just got a chance to sit down and then the place closed, at 2am! With nothing open nearby I headed to sleep. Talk about disappointed.

I fired up the camera with a fresh battery and went walkabout first thing in the morning, A thai place for brunch was good value and then I headed off. Coming from L.A one would think I’d seen it all as far as homeless people and people begging would go, then again I wasn’t in L.A’s “bad” areas but SF is just something else. I started to think if the creators of the South Park episode where they compare homeless people to zombies roaming around crying “change, change” instead of “brains, brains” had used San Francisco for inspiration.

Three people in the first block outside of my hotel and this continued as I walked on; I’d eventually pass a few people having crack ‘footpath sales’ where a scattered array of items are placed on the footpath “for sale” I started to worry about the looks these guys would give my DSLR but didnt really worry that much. If anything it’s kind of more disheartening. What do you do? If you gave everyone change you’d end up walking 10 blocks and have no money in your wallet.

I was on a bit of a downer about it actually, It seems it’s bred this lack of empathy in everyone in town. I later observed this first hand. I was at a park just taking a break and an old guy walked up to the couple next to me (who had a daughter) and he said ‘ain’t that the cutest little girl you’ve ever seen’ and then busted into an old school 1950’s pop/rocknroll song about a cute little girl, he was pretty good. He then did it to the next person and asked for a dollar. And the next person then told him to “go sing your song somewhere else buddy” and later heard him explain the guy asked him for $5 last time he sung it to him.

I headed into a 4 storey music store “Rasputin Music” which had some pretty cool people but the prices were pretty much the same as Amoeba’s and used vinyl wasn’t a bargain or anything so I moved on without buying anything.

I went to look at a map, and promptly a guy came up to me and asked me where I needed to go, he gave me directions and then said; look buddy I’ll level with you I’m homeless and need cash to get buy, you gotta dollar? So I obliged, he then replied “got another, so I can eat today?”…

The difference between L.A and San Francisco at this point seemed to be that at least L.A was sparse and spread out but SF has everything more concentrated; including it’s social and homelessness issues. Within an hour of being in San Francisco I’d started to notice I was turning into a local for survivals sake. Drop all empathy, ignore people, get witty and be on your guard. I thought, this is bullshit. So I decided to set a goal somewhere far and headed for the ocean. I walked and walked, hills and more hills. At least if you lived around SF you’d be fairly fit. There are some beautiful houses around. I found Lombard st or (the crookedest street around) and then headed to the piers. It’s basically a tourist bonanza in between those two spots. I’ve wanted to minimise that on this trip but in SF it seems almost impossible. I guess you just have sacrifice going to those places if you want to avoid it.

I then bought a cable-car ticket for the ride back. They seem great on first site and add a lot of character to the place. But because of the way the cable system works you literally have to wait 40minutes in a queue to ride one, even then they’re loud and rattley. They’re more a tourist attraction and gimmick rather than a form of transport. Everyone also had to stand and listen to the worst busker I’ve ever heard. Playing electric guitar covers of blues songs really really badly. Everyone around me was saying let’s pay him to stop. We had to put up with it for 40min while waiting for the cable-car!

It took a good 15minutes to get back and by this time it was getting late. I decided to head to The Haight for dinner and found an amazing Greek place, great food and good value! Way too much walking though.

It started to get dark and I had some people start commenting on my camera on the walk home. This is fucked. It was sunday night and there was a long drive tomorrow so I stayed in that night.

Overall I didn’t get to checkout the Mission or SOMA area that well, but driving through them on the way out I’m not sure what the hype is about. I’m going to be stopping back through for a night on the way back down so I should reserve my opinion on San Francisco for then, or at least after I give it a few more days (2 isn’t enough) but on first impressions it seems pretty complicated and I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. Roll on somewhere else.




WT2010 – USA – Day 15/16 – Los Angeles

Posted in Uncategorized by jukeboxparables on March 25, 2010

WT2010 – U.S.A
Day 15/16 – Los Angeles
[On the iPOD] Peter Bjorn & John / Minor Threat / Mission of Burma / Morrissey / Thurston Moore

Naively when I booked my flight to L.A I purposely booked it over night because I could get like 6hours sleep or something and be kinda fresh on arrival, big mistake. It was pretty much 10 hours of no sleep and when I finally landed there was a line 100people long at customs and like two people serving it. 35minutes later I was finally on a shuttle to pickup my car.

Thrown in the deep end here. I was still on Tokyo time; 4am with no sleep and getting into a car on the opposite side and then off driving on the opposite side of the road. Naturally my GPS then sent me onto a freeway to “site-see” some famous L.A traffic. Ugh, didn’t need this. My hotel is much bigger than those in Tokyo but right off the bat I’m noticing if you want something it costs extra.

I took a shower and pretty much crashed out, then awoke kinda dazed and confused and decided to get some food; a highly recommended Mexican place was nearby so I headed straight there starving. It was closed (like 7pm?) but I saw a cool little place nearbye and walked in to find ace service and really good food. I had to laugh actually; my last meal was a tray of 4 dishes in Japan each fairly small but a good balance. Here I’d ordered steak and a side of potatoes, the side dish was like… a full size dinner plate of potatoes! Americans…

It was great food though, the bar tenders also gave me some local tips on bars/venue a few of which I’ve heard of. So I decided to just go driving towards one kind of aimlessly (feeling the jetlag at this point) I drove past a place called Silverlake Lounge, the name struck a light in me. I remember hearing the name as a venue some bands of note had played in the past so I decided to just stop and check it out. $10 entry I was hoping for something good on a Tuesday night.

Opening band “Red Tide”; Animal Collective-esque (at least in their vocals and reverbness) but also more blues and a bit rock driven too. Pretty good. Second band; “Love Like Fire” straight off the bat I was drawing comparisons in my head; Land of Talk, Bertie Blackman, Sarah Blasko. Artists to live up to Love Like Fire impressed me with more than a few songs, hence you’ll find most of my photos of the night are of them. Look out for them.

Headline band was “Kashmir” from Denmark, I was genuinely worried at the name but if the two opening bands were any indication they’d be good. At this point nearly every girl I’d talked to in the place had spoken highly of them. I think I’ve heard them mentioned on JJJ but never really listened to them. Theyre a tight-tight band with almost Pacifc-Northwestish-Punk vocals but the band has a distinct bluesy rock image thrown in with some keyboard/synth action and the odd solo or two. I didn’t like them as much as Love Like Fire but they were pretty hot on some songs and very tight. I also enjoyed standing 3metres from a Vox amp at full-pelt, amazing tone. The crowd clapped and banged on the wooden walls for an encore. One which the band genuinely weren’t going to perform by the looks of them backstage (People were mistaking me for a journo probably due to my camera) but they obliged. The venue was 80% full and it was a rocking time for a Tuesday night, this surprised me in my jet-lagged swagger. Home time.

Eventually got out of my bed circa 11am. This is the devils timezone. Decided to skip breakky and head for lunch once again aiming for a highly recommended place. Closed once again. So again there I was looking for somewhere good to eat. I’d heard anecdotally that L.A and USA in general has really really bad food. So I’m still weary about where I eat. Eyeing a small outdoor seating hamburger place I wasn’t sure of but there were a few people there and I only had 25minutes on my parking meter.

Ordered a teriyaki-steak sandwich and chips. Shockingly quite fricken great. All was going great until I looked to my left to observe an adult (Im assuming) walking down the street in full Spiderman outfit. I’m talking the proper new-movie “darker” spiderman outfit. This guy was strutting. Before I could emit a “WTF” and reach for camera with chilli covered fingers this guy looked over to me with a “What the hell are you looking at weirdo” expression. The guy next me started pissing himself laughing. Saying Awww man you find all sorts here. Spiderman walked straight passed us and on to save a damsel in distress I’m guessing.

And here I was thinking that only people in Tokyo love to dressup. So this guy next to me was named Dale and worked construction in a building just completed across the road, we got talking Punk Rock, Surfing, Travel, Snowboarding and everything else including an upcoming proposition to legalise marijuana in California which he seemed pretty sure would pass. Apparently the story is places selling the stuff are a dime a dozen (that is for ‘medicinal purposes’) and people are faking the cards to get it and so forth. He rekens I could just walk into a place and get ANYTHING I was after, as a pal of his worked in the business. He’d never been to Australia but spoke fondly of it. Californians really do share the same laid-back vibe you find back home. It’s like that silly Internet animation “California should break away from the U.S and join Alaska and Hawaii and hang down there with Australia” or something. He then asked about health-care in Australia and I explained we have something called Medicare and cannot fathom the utter rage at the newly passed American legislation, I mean sure raising taxes is something to get angry about I said but Dale replied “But if it’s about supporting health and welfare than it’s worth it”. Spot on I think.

Anyway I was kinda feeling un-easy about Americans until the chat that morning I don’t know why but It made me feel a little more settled.

I headed to a local music store by the name of Amoeba Music which is 2 levels of awesomeness. You’ll pretty much find anything in there, It’s not a chain-store but a local community run place which also hosts gigs most nights from 7pm. They have new stuff mostly but also a used section where you can find some CD’s for like $4.99 and they have a sticker “CD surface isn’t perfect but disc is guaranteed to work 100% or return it for a refund” Pretty rad considering these were less than half price of other CD’s there. I made some purchases; Mission of Burma, Thurston Moore, Morrissey. $15 total. Sweet.

Decided to play tourist and head up Mulholland Drive to try and get a shot of the Hollywood sign (not too far from where I’m staying really) The view to it not the sign itself. So parked up there and went for a wander, was parked in the wrong spot naturally and just happened to walk passed as a film crew was shooting something or other. I then could’ve sworn I saw Sophie Monk or someone who looked a bit like her. Meh I wasn’t there for celebrity spotting so I got the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Eventually found a quiet spot further down the road. Hollywood signage victory.

From Mulholland Dr I headed to a music store which has a ‘rock walk of fame’ thing. Like handprints of the stars but musicians instead. The Ramones, Johnny Cash, The Cure. Johnny Ramone had a really large gait between forefinger and thumb. Had to stretch my hand to fit, odd. Checked out some prices of amps in the store. Eeeap I shouldn’t have spent so much on my last amp :s they were pretty cheap here and brand new.

Next stop was The Petersen Automotive Museum. I wasn’t expecting much for $10 entry but the place is rather amazing. Two large levels of pretty much everything starting from the first handbuilt carriage-cars powered by steam through the evolution of the automobile 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and so on. Also some special cars of note such as the actual car used in the Herbie movies, Speed Racer and some other classic movie cars. Also modified the ‘best of’ hot rods over the years a Hotwheels section and even some areas on Motorbikes. It also had a ‘What were they thinking’ area which was rather amusing (highlighting the design gimmick-laden cars over the years)

Getting back to my hotel to shower and decide what to do. A pretty good lineup of bands at The Echo a well-known venue in Echo Park. I got dinner beforehand at an amazing gourmet pizza place nearby, I was wanting pasta of some sort but the waiter talked me into the pizza special of the day which included organic ingredients including goats cheese in the centre amongst others. It was totally amazing. People who serve you here really like to crack on about the specials of the day. So far it’s been welcomed cause they’ve been just that.

I scoffed down the entire pizza and then headed to The Echo for a night of Indie bands but the damn the gig was sold out! So pretty dismayed and having already checked the line-up of other venues close by and not being happy with the music on I just went for a drive around Echo Park and found a neat road with some opportunity for night-time city-scape photos.

I suppose at this point, a mere two days in I should address the whole “L.A is a hole” debacle because I’m actually back at my hotel with not much to do (too late to see any bands) Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that L.A is utter crap and I should steer clear. To be honest on first impressions I kind of started to believe them. The city has the look of; how should I put this. Have you ever seen that ‘so bad its good’ movie Escape From L.A starring Kurt Russell? It’s set in a dystopian future of some-sort where filth covers the streets and the place is generally one big hell hole. Or hell would be a good vacation destination from it.

I can see where they got inspiration for the movie, present day L.A. There ARE gems in this town, but they’re so vastly spread out. You pretty much have to drive everywhere. Even in the ‘suburbs of cool’ you find a good spot here and there but then you have to drive 3km to find another point of Interest. Los Angeles just seems so spread out, It’s like suburbia spread out over miles and miles with the occasional hotspot of radness. You kind of have to filter out the dullness and be prepared to ignore the travel factor to get to the next cool spot.

The people have generally been rad though, helpful and nice. I think where in other Cities you’ll find a certain community of people huddled together in a certain suburb and everything in that suburb is easily accessible so you could aim for what you want and hang out there and there only. L.A has those people, those shops and those ideas it’s just that they’re spread out of endless boulevards of broken dreams. Which makes the city seem dispersed and soulless.

I drove past CBS and Paramount Pictures today (totally randomly) and saw a queue of people 200m long bidding to be the next stars of some future sitcom no doubt. Paramounts grounds are the size of a few football fields, or at least it looked that way. They just had that aura of an industry ready to take people in and spit them out just as quickly.

Anyway I’ve got way too many photos to sort of the Petersen Auto Museum so that wraps up today for now.