Friday, 7 November 2014

I left my heart in San Francisco

I just got back of a big bloody holiday in San Francisco and I'm gonna tell you all about it!

Me and Kyle decided we were gonna go on our first big proper holiday well over a year ago. We are both flat out broke and figured it would take us a year of saving in order to do it. I started doing the door at my favourite queer disco, Unskinny Bop, which helped me save some extra money, and even though I am utterly terrible with money, I was dead good and saved up for just over a year until I had the cashola to go on a big adventure.

This year has been long and a bit hard and burnout has made me quite ill this year. In the last few months I've hid away from a lot of responsibilities, ignored emails, and deadlines, and important projects I had committed to, in order to sleep and feel better and also look after Kyle after his surgery. It was time for a holiday!

We flew with Swiss air cuz they were mega cheap and I'm so glad we did cuz not only do they give you all the free gin you want in the world, but they are a company of feeders! I love plane food with all my heart and as well as this delightful meal of gnocci, salad, bread, cheese, and cake, we also got 2 croissants, a tub of ice cream, a turkey roll, a pizza, a bag of pretzels, and some slabs of swiss chocolate. I am all about the food and I wouldn't have cared if our plane had crash landed into the sea, as long as I can stuff my face then it's all good. Actually that's not true, flying FREAKS ME THE FUCK OUT and this time was the worst it's ever been. I found that drinking gin, gripping onto Kyle's arm until I cut off his circulation, and closing my eyes helped a little bit with warding off the panic attacks.

We landed in San Francisco! We found our way to our hotel which is just past the gates to china town. It was noisy as hell and our bed was lopsided and on the first night I thought there was a ghost in our room, but other than that it was utterly perfect. We stole every single mini soap they gave us each day because they smelled like lemon sherbert.

On our first day we went and had breakfast at Dotties where we both got enormous breakfasts. I was preparing to go 2 weeks without proper English breakfast tea because it can be hard to find in America and I can't drink that lipton stuff, so I decided that I would try coffee cuz refills were free and all the cool kids were doing it. I lasted half a cup. It still tastes brown and weird to me. But on the whole my breakfast was pretty wonderful. Breakfast would become my favourite part of everyday during my holiday. I agree with Leslie Knope - breakfast foods are the best, especially when I can eat waffles and fluffy pancakes and American hash browns every single day.

We mooched around Valencia, went down Clarion to see the murals, and went to visit Needles and Pens, a zine shop that had moved premises and seemed to stock more overpriced artsits books rather than diy zines. If you want zines in San Francisco go to Goteblüd, it's open weekends on Valencia. We looked around thrift stores in the Mission, we bought records and  halloween tat. Oh my god so much halloween tat - but why no fake blood, Walgreens? Huh? HUH?

We walked to Castro and visited the GLBT history museum which had a really awesome exhibition of the history of queer youth activism, a local history project discussing historical queer neighbourhoods in San Francisco, and an oral history project documenting the queer Asian Pacific Islander community. It was really fun and interesting and we spent ages in there. The invigilators were really super lovely and talked to us about the exhibitions and then asked us if we were going to see The Julie Ruin play in a few days, it was awesome.

Then after a quick grilled cheese in Orphan Andy's and some more gin while watching the San Francisco Giants play in the World Series in a bar and trying to figure out how baseball works, we headed over to the Castro Theatre to watch a double bill of Ghostbusters and Inner Space.

The Castro Theatre is bloody beautiful and while we were waiting for the films to start we were so bloody excited to see an man and an organ rise up from the floor and onto the stage to play some organ tunes for us before the feature. I've never loved an organ player so much in all my life. Unfortunately I don't remember much after that. The combination of jetlag and gin and sunstroke made me kinda pass out in the cinema and we both ended up falling asleep all the way through Ghostbusters. Hardcore.

The next day we had a big ass breakfast in Lori's, a fake 50s diner chain but actually really nice and my pancakes were the BEST! After breakfast we went record shopping and visited Rasputin's. There's a few Rasputin's dotted over San Francisco and we went to the one on Powell. It's next to a pizza shop and the whole shop smells of pizza and dusty records, it was ace. Kyle cleaned out most of the metal section, and I treated myself to some Limp Wrist and some Slant 6.

We then went on over to the Yerba Buena Center for Arts to check out the Alien She exhibition of riot grrrl which had just opened the night before. It was incredible. You were immediately hit with a gigantic wall of old flyers and posters for riot grrrl gigs from the 90s featuring bands and gigs that I went to as well as amazing shows I missed out on due to living in Dewsbury and being too young at the time. The first part of the exhibition featured shelves and shelves and shelves of riot grrrl + queer + feminist zines from the 90s to current zines. There were seats and benches for you to sit and read and I think I could have stayed in there all day if we didn't have places to be. There was also a short video installation featuring interviews with musicians and clips of riot grrrl bands past and present and cabinets featuring records, fliers, and ephemera that documented regional aspects of riot grrrl. There was even a cabinet dedicated to uk riot grrrl curated by Pete from Slampt records who admitted they had left Kenickie off the playlist provided due to differences between the band and the label at the time which I thought was kinda silly.

The second part of the exhibition features visual artists who have responded to or been part inspired by riot grrrl and feminism. The exhibition featured Allyson Mitchell's Ladies Sasquatch sculpture pieces which are amazing up close, and also Tammy Rae Carland's photography which I loved so much. There was an event that day dedicated to riot grrrl zines at Goteblüd, the zine shop in Valencia, but we didn't have time to go and it's probably my only real regret of the whole holiday, well, that and that I didn't buy myself the amazing halloween duct tape I saw from Walgreens.

That evening we continued the riot grrrl theme and went to the monthly night Riot Grrr at the Lonestar where Brontez from Younger Lovers was also djing. The night was slightly delayed due to the world series and so we watched baseball again trying to figure out the rules and failing. Once the night started it was ace and Brontez played us some Bratmobile and all my favourite riot grrrl hits were being played. It felt so damned strange to have the most amazing riot grrrl playlist and no dancefloor to dance on and I was itching in my seat, but we had a bloody ace time.

The next day was a big lazy day. We got on a cable car up Powell all the way to Fisherman's Wharf to meet up with my friend Anita who lives just out of San Francisco. I met Anita for the first time at Morrisoncon, a convention dedicated to Grant Morrison just a few years ago and we've stayed in touch ever since. She's amazing and she loves comics and Springsteen just like me and I was so excited to see her again. We met at Fisherman's wharf and went for food and cocktails. My cocktail tasted of umbongo and coconut, it was lovely. Anita is also big into magic the gathering and she answered all our newbie questions about building wedge decks in the new block. I was so chuffed to see her and I hope she comes over to the UK to visit soon!

The next day we headed back up to Fisherman's Wharf again. We went to pier 39 to gawp at the sealions who were wailing and cuddling and sleeping and fighting. It was amazing! We headed over to the Musee Mecanique, a penny arcade museum on the pier and played lots of old penny arcade games and got our fortunes read and looked at creepy dolls dancing and singing.

Then for lunch I took Kyle to have his first ever In-N-Out Burger. I'd bigged this up for years and I was worried it would be a let-down, especially now that we were both addicted to Five Guys burgers back home. In-N-Out was perfect, although my animal style fries were stone cold but still delicious. Then we had a genius idea. We had already booked ourselves onto the Alcatraz tour at night that evening and we had the whole afternoon free, so why not head over to Golden Gate bridge, walk across it, head down to Sausilito, then get the ferry back in time for our Alcatraz tour? Sure thing, why it's only a 9 mile journey in 4 hours and blistering heat, what could go wrong?

So we didn't know it was gonna be 9 miles. I have previously biked over the bridge before and it didn't seem that long because I ride quick, I've never actually walked it and just assumed it wouldn't be that far to walk. It was 9 bloody miles. And I mean bloody because by the end of it I suffered the worst chub rub of my life and my thighs were bloody and raw. It was a beautiful walk though and we just kept stopping and looking at stuff and saying 'it's bloody beautiful' over and over like we were hypnotised or summat. The walk up to the bridge is deceptive cuz you can see it so it looks close to you, but it's really really really not. Once we were on the bridge my vertigo kicked in big time and I couldn't bring myself to stand anywhere close to the edge of the bridge, which was bad news for all the cyclists who had to peddle around me as I stuck firmly to the middle of the path in case a gust of wind decided to pick me up and sweep me off the bridge ( I had this vision in my head the entire time I walked across it). It took just over 45 minutes to walk across the bridge. We had to keep stopping so I could convince myself we weren't going to fall off, and Kyle wanted to take billions of photos. Once we got to the other side it's another hour's walk around some hills to get to Sausilito. This was the most painful part as we were knackered and sunburnt and thirsty and cranky and my thighs were RAW. Also Sausilito is mega posh and once we arrived there we immediately felt scruffy and out of place and wanted to leave. We got a ferry back to the ferry building and drank the bestest beer of our entire lives in celebration of our walking achievements.

That night we were almost too exhausted for Alcatraz but the trip was super fun. At night the tour of Alcatraz is slightly longer than during the day and a bit more creepy. Our tour guide was a bit pro-prison which felt a bit uneasy, and I preferred the other tour guide who was a bit more anti-prison and actually talked a bit more about other uses of the island, like the protest occupation by Native Americans in the 60s. We walked round trying to find the supposed haunted cells until we were too exhausted to stand up anymore. At the end of the trip Alcatraz wanted to charge us $25 dollars for this totally authentic photo of us in front of an Alcatraz backdrop, so I nicked it and we went home and I put plasters on my bleeding thighs.

The next day we went on over to Haight and visited Amoeba records where all Pansy Division records were $3 and I got a Rondelles record for $4. I left behind an Excuse 17 record which I will regret until the end of time, and then we headed on over to Rasputin's in Haight and bought more records there. I have a time span of about 15 minutes in record shops before I get bored/need to pee/ need to eat, whereas Kyle's record shopping endurance levels are much higher than mine. So we stayed until once again Kyle cleared out the metal section and then got ready to go see Maria Bamford.

I love Maria Bamford. She's probably my favourite comedian and as well as making me laugh so hard that I pee, she also has brilliant things to say about mental health and I fucking love her weird and funny as hell stand up. It was a total fluke that we were gonna be in San Francisco while she was doing a gig here and we were beyond psyched. The comedy club was like summat you see on telly. I'm used to going to little comedy clubs in the backroom of pubs, or bigger comedy gigs in theatres. But tonight we were seated at tables and were told that it was a 2 drink minimum to stay in the building. I then proceeded to eat the worst  and most overpriced macaranoi cheese bites of my life as we waited for the fun to begin. Lydia Popvitch was the host who did the most brilliant piece about eating brunch and not wanting babies. Then Jackie Kashian was support who was so fucking wonderful it hurt my face. Her material was a mix of new and old and featured magic the gathering and LARPing jokes, as well as super honest and vulnerable bits about dealing with the after effects of sexual assault, It was brilliant and I loved her. Then Maria Fucking Bamford hit the stage and I remember screaming like I was at a Springsteen gig because I was so starstruck to be in the same room as her. Her set was mostly new material that was she was trying out and it was weird and awkward and funny and hard hitting as I've come to expect of Bamford. Her voice work is always so fucking good and I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face and Kyle said he got lock jaw from laughing so hard. After the show we got to meet her! Like she's an actual real person that we can talk to! Imagine!

She gave us amazing hugs and lost her shit when she found out we were from London and apologised for not coming over to our neck of the woods. She called over Jackie Kashian and told her we were from London and introduced us and so we got to meet Jackie too who is a massive Harry Potter fan and loved my hogwarts t-shirt. She signed  her dvd for us 'thanks for not being Voldemort' which is the best thing anyone could ever say to us. We then squeeed our faces off for the whole bus journey home and it was the best.

I should mention at this point that my thighs still hadn't recovered from our epic 9 mile walk at the beginning of the week and my usual trick of shorts and leggings and cut off tights and balm wasn't doing anything to stop the chub rub, so in the end I had to bandage up both my thighs to stop the rubbing and the bleeding and ended up walking with a limp for the rest of the holiday.

So the next day we went back to Haight, but this time spend most of our time on Divasedero on lower Haight checking out all the fun comic and game shops. We hit up Gamescape which was our dream game shop. It was so big compared to our tiny little game shops in London. There was so much space and dedicated table areas for game nights. After our Magic the Gathering talk with Anita, we treated ourselves to the Khans of Tarkir fatpack and a bunch of booster packs. Kyle got some Smash Up expansion packs and we gushed to the owner about how awesome his shop was and how envious we were. We then headed to Comix Experience which was a super awesome comic shop It had the perfect mix of superhero and indie publishers as well as small press stuff. We bought a bunch of books and then headed up to Golden Gate park to have adventures.

We walked through lots of nature and marvelled at how beautiful everything is and how bloody massive the park is that they had to stick roads in the middle of it. We headed down to the De Young Museum. We were unfortunately missing the Keith Haring exhibition by just a few days but managed to see the Anthony Friedkin exhibition, The Gay Essay featuring photographs from the original album of gay culture in LA and including lots of portraits of Divine and The Cockettes. We wandered round the sculpture garden for a bit and saw some of the Juan Munoz Conversation Piece series which we had seen a bit of in Margate last Christmas! It was hot and we were all cultured out so headed back to the rest of the park to explore more nature and walk down by the Aids memorial. The memorial was very peaceful and beautiful and is hidden in some of the shadiest parts of the park which is super quiet and pretty. We sat for a while until we got scared of spiders and took our sunburnt sweaty selves home.

The next day my thighs were at an all time low and so we just managed a big trip back to Mission and Valencia and on the way popped into Isotope Comics off Van Ness. Isotope is run by James Sime who co-organised the Morrisoncon event that I went to a few years previous. It was one of the best weekends of my life and was so inspiring and I was so excited to be in San Francisco to visit his comic shop and tell James in person just how much that weekend meant to me.

Isotope is probably the best comics shop I've ever visited. It's a real mix of superhero and mainstream comics with equal space for indie comics, and even an upstairs room dedicated to small press comix and zines. I introduced myself to James and proceeded to babble on about how much that weekend meant to me. James is a force of nature, his enthusiasm and passion for comics is infectious and unlike some comic shops which continue the negative stereotype of cliquey snobby staff, James is the complete antithesis to this and excudes enthusiasm and positivity for all comic readers regardless of the comics they have read or haven't read. He gave us a tour of his store including the famous toilet seat exhibition, where comic artists have been invited to draw sketches on toilet seats supplied by James which was inspired by Brian Wood drunkenly vandalising Isotope's bathroom years ago at a comic launch.

James also reccommended loads of awesome indie comics to us, especially those created by his friends and was massively passionate about so many titles that we ended up grabbing everything we could and were super surprised when James gave us incredible discounts. I feel like I robbed him. I honestly can't recommend Isotope comics enough. If you ever get a chance to go while in San Francisco then please do, you wont be disappointed and there is something for everyone in there.  Also a massive thanks to James for getting us massively addicted to the Wuvable Oaf series, we can't get enough now!

On Friday is was a BIG day. It was the world series parade, it was Halloween, and we were also seeing our mates Nick and Zak who were also holidaying in San Francisco!

The world series had been frikkin everywhere while we were in San Francisco. During the 3rd game I felt so self concious walking round San Francisco in my outfit that day which was mostly blue, the colours of Kansas City. It pretty much felt like everyone in San Francisco was decked out in orange and black, the colours of the Giants. The Giants won the world series. I know this because I heard the yelling and cheers as we walked through chinatown one night and all the cars starting honking their horns. So we decided to head over to the parade being thrown for the Giants with our $10 jarg Giants t-shirts bought like true tourists. All week we had been watching local tv channels freaking out about the rain due to fall on that friday. I know that California is in a drought and I shouldn't laugh, but oh man, news anchors were freaking the hell out and calling Halloween a 'wash out' as light showers and up to a quarter of an inch of rain was scheduled for Friday morning. Silly San Francisco, I've lived in Manchester, I know what real rain is. It was mega funny being at the parade in our shorts and t-shirts in the super light rain that lasted almost half an hour while everyone else was dressed up in waterproofs, scarves, wellies, rain ponchos and umbrellas as though it was the end of the world. We cheered on all the floats, there was an amazing marching band and a troupe of cheerleaders, and we yelled LETS GO GIANTS over and over and over like we knew what the hell we were talking about. Then out of nowhere the riff from Enter Sandman was blasting out and we saw a float go by with Metallica on it! Kyle started yelling OH MY GOD and put our fists in the air with all the team spirit we had. It was amazing!

As the parade came to an end we made our way to Berkley to check out the comic and game shops there while meeting up with our mates. It was super surreal to see Nick and Zak in Berkely, like it was a totally normal thing for us all to be hanging out in America, as you do. We explored some games shops and went to Fantastic Comics where I'm pretty sure I spotted Heather and Juliette of Brimpception fame. We then ate a tonne of chinese food and attempted to find fake blood and a bar for us to hang out in for pre-Halloween fun. We found no fake blood in all of Berkely so headed straight to the nearest bar which had way OTT Halloween decorations that were amazing.

Then it was time for Total Trash Fest! A super awesome show featuring bands performing as covers bands for the night including Cumstain as Weezer, Yoghurt Brain as Smashing Pumpkins, Hunx as Gayracula, and Shannon and the Clams as freaking Metallica aka CLAMTALLICA! It was super fun seeing a Weezer set without any of the shit songs and we danced and sang along. Clamtallica was bananas though. That moshpit was crazy and I got so bruised and battered. I also fell out massively with the guy next to me who attempted to push me onto the floor all night long for the lolz. But other than that it was amazing. Shannon was rocking a blonde curly Hetfield wig and 'tache and looked scary. She was incredible. I didnt know whether they would be kind of making fun of Metallica and whether their set was going to be funny, but it was amazing and technically brilliant. Everything was hard and heavy and loud and sweaty and better than anything I could have ever done on Halloween. A 2 hour bart journey home and we were wiped.

The next day we did nothing other than eat and sleep. I don't really drink usually and so the few drinks I'd had at Halloween had destroyed me and I had to spend the day in bed. By the evening we were craving dim sum and filled our bellies before heading on over to see The Julie Ruin and Younger Lovers play at the Fillmore.

Younger Lovers were amazing and totally won over their crowd by slagging off anyone who likes Modest Mouse and Brontez telling the story about how writing to Kathleen Hanna during high school saved his life. It was so much fun and Brontez came over to say hi afterwards which was dead lovely. I have to admit I don't totally love The Julie Ruin as much as I wanted to. I love Julie Ruin as in the original solo project by Kathleen in the 90s and that album means the world to me, but the new band doing versions of old Julie Ruin songs leaves me a bit cold. I feel horrible saying it especially as we encountered so many excited people at the gig and I don't want to piss on anyone's parade because I totally get the excitement. I got so excited when they came out on stage though, I'd completely forgotten I would be in the same room as Kathi Wilcox! We stayed for a few songs and it was fun, but I got a bit sad when they played Friendship Station by Le Tigre because it felt a bit too much like a Kathleen Hanna greatest hits show rather than a gig by a new band. I dunno, I can't explain it and I sound like a knob but I think I would have stayed if it had been a full set of new songs by The Julie Ruin rather than cover versions of songs from Kathleen's old bands and I know that sounds silly and ungrateful. But also we were hungover as hell because it turns out that more than 2 drinks is enough to destroy me these days, so we left before the end like losers.

Then before you know it, our adventure was coming to an end! On our last day we were running out of money and we wanted to do lots of free things in the little time we had. So we headed out to Presidio to see the famous Pet Cemetry there. It took us an hour to get there and 3 buses and in the end it was all cordoned off for building works. But we still managed to look through the fence and see some super cute and super sad headstones for people's beloved pets. 

We then walked down by the bay for an hour to gawp at all the fucking ridiculous beautiful scenery some more before heading off to Alta Plaza Park where on the first Sunday of every month, Pug owners from all over SF bring their pugs out to play the park and pug enthusiasts cant hang out and play with the dogs. For non dog owners like me it was a bloody dream come true. Hundreds of pugs running around, some dressed up as bumble bees or mermaids or football players, sniffing each others bums, cuddling, peeing, and barking their heads off. It was a delight. I got to pet so many amazing pugs and gawp at how lovely they all were. My face actually hurt from smiling, it was the best day ever.

After an exhausting day we headed out for more chinese food then headed over to Mission to meet Nick, Zak, and Koala and co for dia de los muertos parade. We promptly lost everyone as the parade started but gawped at all the dancers and marvelled at everyone's painted faces. It was dead good to see a whole float dedicated to affordable housing in the mission dance past us, as well as everyone else. It was the best way to end our totally unreal holiday adventures and as the parade started to thin out I had the best pizza of my entire life from Escape from NY pizza. I had potato and garlic pesto, Kyle had some posh pizza with figs on that he is still raving about today, and we walked back home dead happy and full and not wanting to leave.

It was the best holiday ever. The end.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great write up! What an adventure! I am so glad you visited SF and got to hang with James at Isotope! Rock On!


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