Scourge and Transparency

The Rise and Fall of Advanced Social Journalism during the Early Twenty-First Century

Posts Tagged ‘san fran

When In The Bay Area

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I was riding Greyhound up the California coast with a recently released Guatemalan sitting next to me. He could hardly speak any English and was very happy himself after leaving prison over problems with his immigration papers. I had become familiar with various hand signals Latinos use to communicate with gringos. This gentleman made an A-OK/circle with his thumb and finger to describe San Francisco.

The city seemed more downtrodden than I had expected, however, this could have been the neighbourhood I stayed in – for example I saw a man urinate in the middle of a busy street like he was spitting out gum. In other ways San Fran was demographically predictable – everyone and their mother was gay and there was tons of Asians. Only when one comes to town are they overwhelmed with all the media and mythology that has surrounded the area. From Dirty Harry to Full House; from the Beatniks to the Hippies; from Hard-Boiled fiction to Mrs. Doubtfire; from the zodiac killer to Vertigo – the list goes on and on. Another interesting point is that of the six weeks I spent on the road in the summer of 2012 the 4 days in San Francisco were the coldest. This corner of the continent is cut in some kind of separate vortex of romanticism and environment.

When one goes from coast to coast they notice the different ideologies along the way. People have been trekking west for generations and bring populism with them towards the setting sun. One sees this in the flamboyant attitude of those in California. Everyone is happy to express themselves whereas back east people are much more cynical in their old, crowded industrial metropolises.

I spent the next 72 hours on a steady diet of beer and complimentary bagels. Kerouac and HST have both pointed it out: if you’re on an epic binge you have to remember to eat and drink water. On the first day I awoke and felt like I was going to faint the moment I got out of bed. And then after walking along the beach towards the Golden Gate Bridge, past so many residents walking their dogs, I could barely lift a finger once I sat myself down. Nevertheless pure excitement and serendipity kept me going.

I had been laboriously reading Desolation Angels since Texas and just before arriving in town Kerouac was recalling wondering alone half-drunk through Chinatown. A situation I would by chance find myself in – although I wasn’t in the least bit lonely. A new a drinking buddy I made told me there was a plaque dedicated to father of the Beats somewhere in Chinatown. On the scheduled day of departing town I went to look for this commemoration. Quickly I was disillusioned due to the thronging of people and lack of description of what exactly to look for. Finally I gave up and saw a bar down an alley advertising happy hour. As I walked towards the establishment I looked down to find that I was standing right on the very plaque had I been seeking! Not only that, but the street was named after Keroauc and the bar I went to drink at was on old hang out of Jack and Neal Cassady right across from Ginsberg’s book shop! I even talked another enlightened traveller into purchasing On The Road.

The night previous I had met a lovely young German girl in a gay bar and it wasn’t the humping that woke the other hostellers but our hilarity at attempting to recover disarrayed clothes in the dark. She had easily talked me into staying another day in town and that evening we returned to the city’s oldest gay bar for its’ $2.50 beers – little did we know that that evening’s entertainment would come free of charge.

When we entered “the Gangway” the first thing we noticed was a Tranny drunk out of his or her mind in loud argument with an elderly man who seemed to be more-or-less unconscious. The transsexual then stumbled out of the bar shouting obscenities – past an old lady in a wheel chair with curlers in her hair – with no sense of femininity and hardly able to walk in glittery high heels. We ended up paying for maybe one drink each but got completely hammered. A moustached man with a slurred high voice and a constant childish giggle bought us far more intoxicants than we needed. Also surrounding us was a young Asian man with a head the size and shape of a television set and an older gentlemen drunk out his mind on some fruity concoction constantly repeating his astonishment and nostalgic towards my youth. At one point when Queen was being played all the men sang in unison to ‘We Are The Champions’. Based on the fascinating serendipity of my stay in San Fran I half expected Harvey Milk to walk out of the men’s room at any moment.

On my final day in town we toured Height-Asbury and after three days without a hot meal ate the most delicious Thai food that my lips have ever touched. I said a melancholic goodbye to my Fraulein and caught a bus to another town.

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