Skip to content

San Francisco Diary II

“Might I suggest checking out the rainbow to the east?” an interviewee texted, on his way to meet me in the Castro. Looking up from my phone, I indeed saw a rainbow to the east. Glancing around, I saw the even more compelling sight of everyone on the street pulling out their iPhones, iPads, Droids, and what have you to take pictures of it. “You only see people staring at the sky like this in disaster movies,” my guest pointed out when he arrived. That, I added, is where so many films of futuristic apocalypse got it wrong: they failed to foresee how we’d all point mobile devices at the source of our destruction. (And yes, unwarranted chants of “double rainbow” began immediately. Here we have a difference between San Francisco and Los Angeles: San Francisco’s pedestrians have been on the internet.)

In the north of the city, Google Transit often recommends I ride a cable car to reach my next destination, but I no longer listen. Only on this trip have I finally accepted that cable cars, while quaint — because quaint — do not count as a viable means of conveyance. Every few years comes a motion to dismantle the system, but the forces defending San Francisco’s beloved historic identity always swoop in to defeat it. (Besides, the cable cars must shake considerable revenue out of European pockets.) The first time I tried to catch one, it passed me right by. “Car’s full,” insisted the conductor, though how they determine capacity on vehicles nearly always laden with excess side-hangers I fail to understand. The second time, the car I waited for never turned up. The third time, I did manage to hop aboard, though the car ground to a halt almost immediately due to another broken down on the track ahead. I disembarked, amid a throng of formerly thrilled Germans.

“Man knows how to sit,” muttered a bum after a few minutes of hanging out in my peripheral vision, staring at me. He then approached the cafe’s cashier, demanded to use the “loo” without purchase, and flew into a psychotic rage when she said no. I want to turn this into a humblebrag but can’t quite figure out how. Still, a highly agreeable place to work. Notes from Underground. Green and Van Ness.

Whether you come from Los Angeles and visit San Francisco or come from San Francisco and visit Los Angeles, your brain will automatically and frequently make direct comparisons between the cities. The instinct of the urban Californian demands this, but I don’t endorse it. You can only hope to minimize the invidiousness of these comparisons. Half the time, in any case, I feel as if San Francisco represents the incomparable apple to Los Angeles’ incomparable orange; the other half, I find the cities so basically similar that any contrast seems born of minor-difference narcissism. But I admit that San Francisco retains, at least for the moment, absolute superiority as regards the allure of the ladies riding its public transit. One day, Los Angeles will attain parity in this most vital metropolitan indicator. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but one day — and tears of joy shall fill my eyes.

“Everybody in New York is a little bit Jewish. Everybody in San Francisco is a little bit gay. everybody in Los Angeles is a little bit Mexican.” – a friend theorizing, correctly, about American cities.

Of all the overtly San Franciscan musicians in my collection, I listen to Bart Davenport the most. Three years ago, he put out an album called Palaces that took me by surprise — have a listen to its first two cuts, the title track and “Jon Jon”, and get an idea of his range — and I’ve kept an ear on his career ever since. Walking west on the Embarcadero, I decided to enjoy a geographically relevant earbud soundtrack and fired up Davenport’s new song “Cheap Words”. In its Los Angeles-set video, he drives past the chrome head of Vladimir Lenin on La Brea and 4th, which thrills me. I thought I might invite him to record an interview while in town, but looking up his contact information, I found that he had actually relocated to Los Angeles. Perhaps this explains, or is explained by, his sonically apparent decision to participate in the early-eighties revival now underway. I’ll make him a “home” interview.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *