WT2010 – USA – Day 31/32 – Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 16, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 31/32 Portland, OR to San Francisco, CA
[On the iPOD] The Cribs / The Thermals / Phoenix / Animal Collective / Blur

Driving a short trek from Vancouver, BC in the morning to Portland, OR. Six hours of freeways ugh. Funnily enough I got pulled up at the boarder because the people at LAX (when I arrived initially) hadn’t stapled/stamped my customs declaration (they stamped the passport only) and the guys at boarder control were rather confused with this; they thought I was entering the U.S for the first time. I sorted it out in 5minutes though and was on my way. Not much fun but getting into Portland felt kinda weird, like oddly familiar in a way as if I’d been living there for years some time ago and I needed to catchup on things.

I got a late lunch at Wendy’s. I’ve made it one of my points to try every dodgy fast food place America has to offer. From comparing the major chains to ones back home and new ones serving up generally the same rubbery burgers. Wendy’s was rather dodgier than the rest though. It was also kind of funny being in there as a tour bus or something had formed a queue before me. Nothing like experiencing the American dream; the rush and commotion of orders being yelled in a Wendy’s burger queue.

I was trolling through The Mercury (Portland’s free street-press equivalent of the DrumMedia in Sydney) It’s odd how similar they are actually. Jotting down some things to do on my last night in Portland (the next day would mean a long (10hour) drive to San Francisco, I was only half interested in some of the stuff going on so I decided to call some contacts from the previous visit. Portland know-it-all Noelle (knowelle) gave me directions to a house party where another mate Clint’s band was playing a gig.

The house was in SE Portland and was utterly rad, it had no plasterboard on the walls so it was just timber framing inside but had heaps of character and was very welcoming, I got to talking to one of peeps who lived there about a few things such as the random art on the walls and some of the band equipment in one of the rooms. They apparently just picked up some equipment and jammed when they felt like it, weren’t really in a band or anything. When I got there however “Jackalope Saints” were about to kick off their set to an intimate room of locals swilling IPA brews and the odd home-made concoctions mixed in jam-jars.

Straight from the get-go I noticed that lead singer Clinton Herrick’s vocals are spot on for the vibe of the band; a 4 piece with double-bass / acoustic gtr / with lead mandolin-banjo to boot! For all your Australians think; Xavier Rudd but less beach-bogan with didgeridoo and more Pacific-Northwest American refinement. The set swaggered from slow songs with cool picking to upbeat strumalongs with impressive lead mandolin. With folkrock influences like Paul Simon this relatively new yet fairly tight band has a bright future beyond their native Portland, Oregon.

I tried snapping photos in vain; it was a living room in a house after all and there were no front-facing stage lights but I did snap a few that captured the mood; people dancing along with beverages of choice in hand. After the set I explored the house some more until it was suggested we move on to a cool bar somewhere in the NE, when you’ve essentially got a tour guide you don’t pay much attention to where your going. I then got roped into trying something called a hot-totty (or something) which was hot whisky with lemon and honey and some other stuff. Noelle bet her life on it’s sugary allure but I couldn’t stomach it! Not so much the taste but the hot-ness thing. I have heaps of trouble putting down hot sake also so maybe I’d like the iced variety? After some food and whatnot we headed to meet another pal of Noelle’s and talk shit at another bar. This led to us eventually deciding to hit a strip-club.

Noelle and Brett knew one of the dancers, which Brett tells me isn’t unusual. Have I forgotten to mention that Portland as a city has the most strip clubs (per capita) in the world?! (I thought it was only in the U.S) But Noelle corrects me triumphantly. Fuck Vegas, who needs it? Essentially Portland isn’t anywhere near as seedy as Vegas nor does it have any of the fakeness of diva-esque neon lights haphazardly ram shackled onto anything that will support them. The clubs and scene is there but it’s more understated. It’s there if you want it. Anyway twenty or so $1 bills and a few drinks later and it was closing time. The girls at Sassy’s work pretty damn hard and put on a rad show, Brett/Noelle’s friend was probably the best there and came for a chat later on. She mentioned wanting to travel around and to Australia even but like anyone else, it’s hard to get some savings together. It reminded me how long it’s taken to get mine together to be doing this.

Saying goodbye in the early morning and then driving out of Portland left me with a feeling of sadness, as if I were driving away from well known and loved surroundings/people evan though in reality I’m no local. I haven’t really felt that way at all on this trip so far (apart from leaving Tokyo) A few droning hours on a freeway sorted me out though. Got into San Francisco late again, great.

Saturday night really isn’t the night to be out in SF it seems, It was basically the same deal as last time round. Cheesy club nights. I got dinner and roamed around a bit, random pubs that weren’t playing anything interesting and this was in the Mission district. I don’t know if I’ve somehow unluckily missed all the cool places or something but SF just doesn’t seem to be my kinda town. Which is odd because everyone I’ve talked to has spoken fondly of it. It is the place to be if you like “cutting-edge” hipster electro-dj nights and r&b and soul and the like. It reminds me a lot of Sydney in that it has it’s gorgeous tourist sites (if you take away the two or three half-deascent club nights that is) Ouch, scathing! huh?

As I mentioned before though, a lot of the places I wanted to visit have literally closed in the last month so maybe it’s going through a change of guard in regards to Indie venues or whatnot. Who knows, all I know is I’ve managed to sniff out amazing places in every city I’ve visited thus far including ones where I can’t speak the language and San Francisco wasn’t speaking mine. Not enough time I guess! Roll on New York.




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.