Tag Archives: San Francisco

Californication

After the madness that was Vegas and San Fran Part 2, Martin and I flew down to LA and hired a car. We were originally going to drive but discovered that the prettiest part of the coast road had fallen into the sea, so thought better of it.

Just over an hour’s drive from LA, Orange County reminded me a little of Noosa but bigger. It’s a lot more hazy due to the pollution from LA.

We had a lovely room at the Laguna Cliffs Inn and an excellent piece of barbequed fish at RockinFish.

Martin got some beach time. I had my first ever swim in the North Pacific Ocean. A very quick dip in a cool 16 degrees.

It was good to just chill out for a couple of days, where our biggest decision revolved around where we were going to eat.

31 May

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Viva las Vegas

We agreed they should have this song playing full belt as you walk through the airport. Which is the only airport I’ve ever seen with slot machines in the arrivals area. And that’s just the beginning of the crazy.

I met Martin at our hotel which was Bright. Gold. And right by a large pyramid. For aesthetics. I think.

There was a television in our bathroom. And a phone in the ‘restroom’. Perhaps for emergencies. Or ordering room service.

We caught up over lunch, the first of many meals ranging from really fucking ordinary to completely inedible. Then we lazed about by the pool, where they pack ’em in on those sun lounges like sardines. Well, Martin lazed. I fidgeted.

A walk down The Strip proved more stimulating. Each casino seeing the next one’s ridiculous, and raising them one. Each one had their own distinct feel, and in the case of the Excalibur – its own distinct smell (a combination of old pee, cheap perfume and airport antiseptic).

The Bellagio by comparison seemed beautiful. But i can’t be sure, as I do fear I was starting to lose my sense of perspective.

We threw a little money at the roulette table and I played a couple of hands of blackjack. We lost, but that’s to be expected. We had a late shitty dinner and then watched the spectacle that is the fountains out the front of the hotel. Picture this: fountains move like Chinese ribbon dancers, in a choreographed piece to the painful cries of that godawful Celine Dion tune from that godawful film, the Titanic. The fountains spurt, gushing, and explode… growing more & more animated as the song reaches its crescendo.

The next day we hired a car and took off for the Grand Canyon. Martin and I played the old married couple game of “You’re a shit navigator. Well, you’re a dumb driver.” Which is always fun. Especially when driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in a place you have no knowledge of. We got through it, and it was well worth it in the end.

There are many words you could use to describe the Grand Canyon but “breathtaking” does the job for me. Because there were several moments when i literally gasped.

We spent a little bit of time walking around a very small part of the South Rim, and a lot of time wishing we could stay overnight.

I’d been hankering after a helicopter ride (thanks for the heads up Brad George) and Martin had spotted the aerodrome on the way in. We dropped in, not favoring the odds of us getting on board. We completely lucked out, with 2 spots on a chopper in 20mins time. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of amazing things in my life but this was absolutely incredible.

The view from above, had us both nearly in tears. The sheer scale and beauty of this place has to be seen. I could bang on and on – pulling out all sorts of appropriate adjectives and suitable superlatives but, you know what? I just wouldn’t do it justice. I will say this: go.

Quick travel tip: I would highly recommend organizing yourself, as opposed to taking the tours they offer you at all the hotels – we had more ground time, did it all at our own pace and for a lot less money.

Many hours later (it’s at least a 4.5 hour drive each way), we went into the old part of Vegas, which is a lot more down and dirty… The 50s style flat roofed hotels with their mult-colored doors, and old school bulb lit billboards… We passed a lot of quicky-marriage chapels, including the drive-through that Elizabeth Taylor once took advantage of. It made me wonder, are people who get married multiple times, the eternal optimists?

In our own optimistic search for a green vegetable, we stumbled into a very unlovely piano bar with a bunch of youngns who were getting happy and singing for their supper. They were good, so we stayed for a drink.

Don’t even ask about the disaster that was dinner at 2am. It should be noted we had consumed exactly 2.5 alcoholic beverages between us by this point.

Next morning we visited some of the other casinos, including one called the Venetian which featured gondoliers serenading overweight tourists in a man made internal canal, against a Truman Show sky. Yes, seriously.

I was starting to trip out. This version of Fear and Loathing was a lot less fun than Thompson’s. I don’t think I could have handled any LSD. Although maybe it would have resulted in everything looking normal. While it had been a fun, whacky ride- I was glad to be getting off.

I fell asleep on the flight for San Fran even before take-off, having vivid dreams of broccoli falling out of slot machines in a major pay-out.

26 May

If you’re going to San Francisco…

First observations are that it’s far more spacious & sunny than NY.
There’s hills. and homelessness. Amazing architecture. Pretty parklands. Cable cars. And finally decent coffee!
I noticed more gays, Asians and surprisingly, a lot of people in wheelchairs.
It’s the perfect place for a livid lesbian or an aging activist. If you want a soapbox, you’ll find one here, complete with an audience… I witnessed a few mini protests.
I was relieved to see they take their recycling seriously here. Not like NYC where, as Angie pointed out you’ll buy a coke and they’ll give you a straw wrapped in paper, then throw it that into a plastic bag with a dozen napkins. None of which you need. Except maybe the can of coke. And even then, thats dubious.

So, I ended up in San Fran twice, the weekend before meeting up with Martin and then again, after Vegas.

It turns out it’s the sort of place I could return to again and again. The deeper you dig, the more you’ll find. It’s colorful, diverse, rich with historical moments & strong linkages to famous people. Harvey Milk, Joe DiMaggio, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Keraouc, and the beat goes on. It’s a pretty city, people are friendly and food is good.

Part 1

The first weekend I stayed at Faith’s beautiful house close to the Mission. She has two lovely flatmates who very generous in letting me stay in her room. Faith unfortunately, was in New York. I met Matt at Mojo Cafe and we shared a bit of banter. He shouted me a lovely beer by the name of Death & Taxes, made by a local couple.

Next day I did the hop on hop off bus. I wouldn’t normally, but SF is quite spread out and rather hilly. There are also 4 different types of transport not including the cable car, so it was just an easy way to get my bearings, see a bit of the city and get some interesting insights into the history.

I went down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a seafood lunch (touristy) and then linked up with Matt for a couple of cocktails and my first ever furnet at a cool lil dig called Davla.

Next day, a nice Russian brekky and the perfect coffee at a place called Bluebottle.

I spent some time ambling through the Beat Museum, and was fortunate enough to stumble into a room where some journalist students were interviewing an 83 year old woman by the name of ruth weiss who was part of the whole scene back in the day. I shared a beer with an old hippie, Hal and made my way to Oakland.

I’d been invited to a barbie by a girl I’d met in Turkey. Maya and I had stayed in touch the old fashioned way and I was seeing her and meeting her husband and kids (she’d just given birth to their second the week before!) for the first time since 1998. It was just super to catch up.

On Monday, I finally got to see Faith over The Best French Toast I’ve ever had. I later did the Alcatraz tour (this is a must do even if you’re not into tours) and then caught the cable car up the hill to meet up with Faith & her sister and friends for dinner. This form of transport makes you feel transported…hanging off the sides, imagined I was a philosophy student back in the 60s, with flowers in her hair.

On Tuesday I flew to Las Vegas to meet Martin for a bit of fear and loathing. But that’s a whole ‘nother story…

Part 2

We arrived back in SF quite late on Thurs evening and were absolutely desperate for food that was fresh, included nutrients of any description and didn’t involve cheese, sour cream, heavy sauce or fries. Or a packet of crisps as a non-specified, no requested side (WTF). We were lucky to happen upon a late night ramen noodle place with a small queue of Japanese people. Always a good sign. Some melt in your mouth sashimi, green soya beans, and clean spicy soup hit the spot.

Next day, the weather was a bit dodgy, so we treated ourselves to a luxurious massage in a beautiful old hotel at the top of Nob Hill. The pool (not snooker) room had glorious views over the city, and it started fining up.

We decided to bike over the Golden Gate bridge (thanks for the tip, jendowd). I was all like, a bridge is just a bridge is just a bridge… but up close, I realized not all bridges are created equal. It’s a gorgeous piece of modern architecture. I stopped many times to take in the scenery and photos of the bridge itself.

A short ferry ride from Sausalito afforded us a different view of Alcatraz, and the pretty cityscape. It was almost ruined by a godawful ugly snogging couple sitting opposite us. Why ugly people feel the need to engage in PDAs is completely beyond me. We moved seats.

We met up with Faith and her friends for cocktails (mixology is a very serious business in this city and I’ve developed a taste for smoky tequila cocktails.)

On Saturday we had decent enough yum cha (although nothing like the Golden Unicorn in Maroubra).

We visited Martin’s old stomping ground in the colorful Castro, sunned ourselves in Mission Delores park and strolled thru a Latin American festival before hitting up an old bikers bar with Melissa, one of Faith’s flatmates.

Early evening, Martin’s old uni friend, Nicola met us downtown, and Martin shouted us all a beautiful steak & a nice glass of red at a a cute little French restaurant.

Our last day we had a traditional American breakfast in an old 50s style diner complete with checkered floors, red leather barstools and a waitress who looked like she just stepped out of a scene from Happy Days.

And then we started off for the southern Californian leg of our holiday together…

29 May

Dirty Boulevard

The streets are orderly but that’s about the only thing about NYC that is. Chaos Theory lives here. And She’s not even trying to hide her crazy. In fact, She and the whole goddam city is gunna shake it all about.

I spent my first day walking around laughing at all the nutbags, only to resemble one myself. I swear I was standing next to Woody Allen on a street corner, who was urging the pedestrian lights to turn white with an emphatic Brooklyn accent, “oh-Kay, oh-Kay!”

So, here are a few random observations about this vivacious city, which had me at hello.

You can appear in an interactive billboard ad in Times Square. However, there would be zero brand recall due to the bigger, brighter, more badass billboards that are EVERYWHERE.

There’s a lot of booty in NYC. Some of it – good, some of it – frankly alarming. And you can buy jeans that in that shape.

There are more delis than you can poke a pickle at. There are more pharmacies than you can poke a Panadol at. And what’s more, you can buy a 6 pack with your Zanax. (crib note: I find it disconcerting that my iPad knew that’s what I wanted to spell.)

New Yorkers are super polite, super friendly and super helpful. Expect to be blessed by pretty much everyone around you if you sneeze.

Male to female ratio in pubs, bars, clubs, parties, etc: much better than in Sydney. If you’re outnumbered in Sydney, you are in a gay bar. Or at the Commercial at Liverpool, near Campbelltown. If you are in the Commercial at Liverpool, and are still alive, you need to leave NOW.

Toilets and paper towels are for the most part very confusing.

If you so much as look sideways at a man, he will shower you in compliments. (The following must be read in any variation of a New York accent): “You got a gorgeous smile, sweetheart!”; “mmmhmm, nice ass’ girrrl”, etc etc.

All homeless people have got a story.

You can’t get a decent feed midtown. The coffee all over town is mostly rubbish, average at best. And they want to intravenously fill you with that shit.

Bartenders know their trade.

So, I managed to cram quite a bit in, in just one week:

Sunk beers with a Sergeant from the NYPD.
Had brekky with Naomi in a proper diner.
Walked the streets. Yes, almost all of them.
Cruised around Chelsea Markets. Saw a free short film in a pop up cinema.
Strolled around Central Park with Lea, we visited Strawberry Fields.
Did the Met (later i did the MoMa – my kind of museum).
That night, Charlotte took us to a warehouse party in Brooklyn.
Saw the Statue of Liberty (she’s purdy). On Statten Island, we fell into in a tiny jazz jam in someone’s house.
Saw the WTC site.
Got a massage in Chinatown.
Had an appletini in a salsa bar.
Bummed around Brooklyn. It’s gritty urban colorful cool. Had an amazing wood smoked salmon BLT.
I made my own muppet in the toy store where Tom Hanks danced on the floor piano in Big. I’ve named her Sassy and she’s staying with Angie while I travel.
I had emergency root canal.
Did the Top of the Rock, and then
last night Angie & Dave took me to some cool lil digs around the Lower East Side & surrounds. I was shuffle board queen in a studenty jazz bar, where you can get a $1 massage (!) On Naomi’s recommendation we went to a place that specializes in Mac&Cheese. We then rung a phone to get into an old prohibition bar called PDT. Gorgeous cocktails, lots of stuffed animals. And a no phone rule. Dave’s Old Fashioned had a bacon smoked ice cube.
Today I’ve been dodging the rain in Greenwich where Bob Dylan & Kerouac hung out…and finally I’ve found a decent cup of cawfee.

So, yes I’ve fallen in love. With a whole goddamn city. New York – I’ll see you soon x

PS, I’m now on the flight to San Francisco from New Jersey. Can I just say, I love the joisoy accyent.

20 May