LA – Burbank – memory bit 1
It’s getting to a while ago now, that trip to California though I never did get round to ending that bit of brain dumping before the space was entirely formatted to make room for nothing that I can inmedidley identify.
Long Island ice tea or some sort of variant upon it, that much I do remember having along with my dinner. The plastic friendliness of the waiter was slightly less and the food though I have no recollection of what it was, was decent.
The Long Island ice tea relative was pretty good and after a couple there was bit of a base layer. We’d attempted a look at what looked like a prospective place of life and populous on our pre-dinner rounds, doing a recon mission just behind it boarders. Whatever it was was up some stairs and that’s about where I had gotten to, enough to hear the unwelcoming hollow echo of a none frequented upstairs. With such unsuccessful memories of our first circuit of the town centre in mind Mitch took up his third or forth favourite thing and began to enquire about local places with the nearest service sector person he could find.
For it is well understood and known in the small circle of familiars that it is the serving up of food or the standing behind of bars than can most entice Mitch, though being by most standards relatively withdrawn and passive in such matters a brief bought of conversation is about the level to which this will generally evidence itself to the world.
This was a male service sector person, who I believe had been doing something on the military previously – so his interest was simply in some generally unnecessary verbal exchanges that resulted in Us getting to know some barest minimum things about a chap we shall almost certainly never come upon again and which can’t be transferred as learnings to any boarder world experiences… These then are the types of things you get to know and clog up limited memory space with, when one of your number feels the need to share and insight back a form of polite acknowledgment response sharing.
He did mention some bars one of which seemed like we probably had missed it on our earlier circuit, somewhere additional to see if it contained the trace elements of life. With that information successfully gleaned and tucked under our arms it was time to head on out, to see what we might see in the night hours in Burbank.
LA – Burbank – memory bit 2
It was not immediately findable this other bar, the others all congregated around two central squares, this as yet undiscovered one had snuck of and located itself on the corner one further horizontal or vertical (depending on ones perspective) street down, not part of the generally accepted huddle.
The karaoke here, for while it was well populated, it was a theme bar from that seemingly much mourned 50s / 60s time of happy days and today it was having its karaoke time, was not up to San Francisco next top pop star standards, remained superior to what is customarily inflicted back home.
If memory serves this place had pints and with all the general to-ing and fro-ing time passed well enough. Groups were clearly in mini competitions with their friends as one got up after another and again sole seemed to put the performance first steering clear of the the types of beverages that would be the very rational for most Brits to be frequenting such a place. Soft drinks are after all for the designated deliver and there should be at least 4 or 5 others for each of these.
The evening had passed into night some time ago, it was enjoyable enough, relaxing, in a diverting but basically uneventful sort of way, until eventually it seemed to make more sense to begin the stretched out largely straight meander back to the safari inn .. Or whatever it was called – shall surely be reminded when it comes time to rifle about in the accompanying photos.
LA – memory bit 3
This was our one full remaining day in the USA and the question, which at some no longer recalled point was answered, what to do with it?
We had our car but hearing bad things about central LA or for whatever other reason, perhaps simply wishing to try for ourselves the U.S. Interpretation of a public service, we opted to head for the train station instead. For that was the day’s intent, to pay a visit to Central LA.
It was quite hot out and although we arrived rushing at the station with only moments to go until the departure time, the train did not.
We could have dumped our tickets and headed back to the car but it was a 15 min walk and the talk was of a 30 min delay. Talk was wrong, the more local people who shared the platform were scarce and though few trains came or went in either direction it became clear from the utterances being expressed that this challenge of operating a functional train service was not an uncommon one in these parts. Disgruntled persons melijgered and we waited it out, regretting not have more swiftly returned for our car because clearly that what people around here are meant to do – take to the overly congested road system and soak it up.
You could argue that the train did eventually come or you could suggest that intact it never arrived and that what we all eventually got onto was in fact the next scheduled service, that had been due to run anyway that considerable time later.
It was so so very hot, the train had been a pleasant temperature controlled escape but now it really was quite something. My brain could barely cope with or without none to fashion statement hat shade, I could feel the heat melting things upon which I felt myself generally reliant. Water, shade
At a cross roads we stood opposite a palatial great monument of a building in opulent splendor that transpires to be the police hq, not quite the prefabricated relic of glorified shed more customarily seen scaring towns throughout the UK with its 50/60s blight. To our right a road ran alongside, shopping trot after shopping trolley some forming an upright support to s modest test of unpleasant looking materials, a vast unedifying row of destitution and homelessness, a mini shanty town before the glass towers that were soon to commence before us.
You could hope that with a fresh start and so much knowledge of our mistakes, that the new world would have been somehow more than what it left behind. Instead the extent to which its stuck in a modern incarnation our past, a dismally disappointing retrograde step, rendering it at best perhaps as a glaring warning to us all, of what can be allowed to happen if you learn only how to do wrong from the wrongs that are done to you. It is not the sight of such warped priorities that is the warning, those can be seen in part wherever you go, it’s not even the unabashed extremes in which it displays itself, it’s the apparent devotion to it all, a blight of the mind with no sign of fading into time. It’s kind of a tragedy for all of us, though less selfishly it’s a more present and less abstract one for the people whose trollies lined that street.
Meanwhile my head was embarking upon an attempted tail spin, lightly steamed and loosing traction with itself and things in general. Never have been wholly stunned to the hotter climate leaving my brain captain looking and trying to wrestl back control from assorted members of his crew who overcome had either downed tools and started running around in circles or were at there post cackling manically to themselves.
We found an underpass, it was shady, cool and had a shop which had among its available produce assorted options of bottled water, most gratefully purchased.
Still we were exploring the city on foot, conducting the now quite familiar exploratory circuit but on the full glare of the midday sun, it went somewhat easier with those bottles, melting was a more gradual process but it was a process beneath the high glassy buildings of the somewhat sterile streets.
After training it back I rather imagine I took once more to the pool, what with the temperatures and all.
As evening fell we headed of to the much recommended universal studios walk way – neither of us could muster the beginnings of an understanding for why anyone would ever recommend a person to venture to these parts. A cheap sort of open air shopping center consisting only of those stores that you would never normally or now venture toward.
There was the large universal globe spinning, we took photos of that because we were here and left.
This is going to sound terribly grouchy but we then headed for Hollywood boulevard, because we were here and it seemed like a logical thing to see while we were here. Finding a space was challenge and by then it was dark, the area was properly grim, unclean and aside from some stars embedded in the paving with which to play spot the name of someone famous, there was truly little to see. We took a picture of one those more famous stars that we happened upon, never saw the Harrison ford one and returned to our car.
Getting out of there proved tricky and the return to Burbank, defeated in our aim to find an alternative place of interest to eat and take in the evening, took some time. Late for dinner we dumped the car in a side road close to Burbank center, saving some precious walking time and went to seek out something that met our standards, something that was still serving.
We ended up at a Chinese, I like Thai, I like Japanese, Korean, i like many of these countries foods very much indeed. This was a Chinese restaurant, carefully chosen through the merit of being all but next door to our initial choice who had welcomed us in but then confessed to having supply issues with any number of the theoretically available dishes on their menu.
Still we’d gotten about and seen the sorts of things that ought to be worth taking in, the fact that they weren’t was almost secondary.
What to do after dinner was a problem, the options there were, had been fairly much explored yesterday and now we could repeat or not, if not then what?
We dillied and dalied about the place, one foot in one foot out and turn it all about, eventually returning to the place we’d turned out back on the day before, the place with the echoing upstairs, today the only place with a semblance of life about it.
Upstairs a tribute band that had barley escaped the 80s, but suffering overly from Stockholm syndrome had opted to take a great deal of it with them, they were offering up some of their once favourites now one might suspect painfully familiars. For all that they weren’t bad. Getting served at the bar that was the primary issue.
LA – last day memory bit
On the last day the flight was not until the early evening so there remained much of a day at our disposal.
We took to the car and drove off, first toward the Hollywood sign, the roads were not really overly sign posted and grew into quite narrow mountain side tracks.
Unclear on how close the road got to the thing we would drive along and see where it took us, stopping of once briefly before deciding that if we followed it further we could surely get closer.
So it was, though movies where people loiter or sit upon the signs, this was not, up up there upon a hill there were letters – that is all.
We passed a bunch of congregating people and headed on, perhaps there was a better view of a footpath that bent up to get a person closer.
As we stood taking the look we are here photos two others materialised and wondered up to us, they were young and with an accent that I couldn’t immediately be place. I think they wanted us to take their photos before the famous sign.
It transpired they were German as we transpired to not be American either, one was here to do an internship with a politician somewhere up the coast -around where we’d been earlier in the week and would be out here for a while yet. There is something pleasantly direct often about the Germans a thug about their apparent cultural norm that makes a lot of sense to me.
To my mind the priority was seeing about potential path ways up, as pleasant as these two were the sense that there must be some sort of route up the hillside occupied thoughts, there was not, least not one that was located, merely some signs warning people that patrols were armed in these parts or something to that effect. And why not.
We now took a diverted route back to the coast, via Beverly Hills. It didn’t need a sign, suddenly and out of nothing the roads were pleasant, they had grass verges, the properties set back and looked like they had been build with more than the next 20 years in mind. The thing snot the place were the vivid lines of division and brazen stark contrasts, there was not doubt though, this was aesthetically at least a very nice place to be living. We weren’t stopping and drove on though, onward toward the coast.
This is where LA seemed at its best, mile upon mile of golden sand beeches accompanied by attractive little town/villages. If you wanted a beech holiday and didn’t mind a bit of flying then this was certainly a fine place to come.
Most of the time was spent in leisurely coastal driving though we did stop off briefly on a couple of occasions.
The destination end point at which we were to turn around was to be where we’d started, that first evening with ‘uv gawht it’ waiter and his not so substantially supported general utterances. When we got there or there about and wondered the pier, the realisation that this wasn’t half as nice as some the areas we’d passed through on route was not a hard one to stumble upon.
We took to the speeder highways and headed back toward the airport but first toward one of those pleasant little beech side areas that lay close o it. We would have out last hour or so and out pre flights meal intake there instead.
One rather large burger later time was more than up, the car needed unfortunately (for I’d grown all together to attached to the oversized road blimp) to be returned, fuel filled and the game of guess the top amount played, then bus it back to the terminal and prepare for the Ryan air reject flight that would be the first leg of our return journey – this time via New York.
Arriving into New York we made our way as promptly as possible to our connecting gate…Mitch having studied the time and mentioned it was a close run thing … It was closed, no sign of anyone, we’d missed it.
So of to the United desk with us and a query of what next … Now this was both good news and somewhat oh I c news at the same time – our flight had not gone, it would not be going anywhere for some time, Mitch was very much on California time and had therefore come to a flawed conclusion on the nature of our situation.
There was time for sitting, time for breakfast (it was not the finest, scrambled eggs and bacon-esk offering in a transparent plastic receptacle contact- visually more appealing than digestivley) and pointless drifting wondering about circuits.
Then it was time to head home.
|I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don’t have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down. Daniel Berrigan is in jail-A Catholic priest, a poet who opposes the war-and J. Edgar Hoover is free, you see. David Dellinger, who has opposed war ever since he was this high and who has used all of his energy and passion against it, is in danger of going to jail. The men who are responsible for the My Lai massacre are not on trial; they are in Washington serving various functions, primary and subordinate, that have to do with the unleashing of massacres, which surprise them when they occur. At Kent State University four students were killed by the National Guard and students were indicted. In every city in this country, when demonstrations take place, the protesters, whether they have demonstrated or not, whatever they have done, are assaulted and clubbed by police, and then they are arrested for assaulting a police officer.Now, I have been studying very closely what happens every day in the courts in Boston, Massachusetts. You would be astounded-maybe you wouldn’t, maybe you have been around, maybe you have lived, maybe you have thought, maybe you have been hit-at how the daily rounds of injustice make their way through this marvelous thing that we call due process. Well, that is my premise.
All you have to do is read the Soledad letters of George Jackson, who was sentenced to one year to life, of which he spent ten years, for a seventy-dollar robbery of a filling station. And then there is the U.S. Senator who is alleged to keep 185,000 dollars a year, or something like that, on the oil depletion allowance. One is theft; the other is legislation. something is wrong, something is terribly wrong when we ship 10,000 bombs full of nerve gas across the country, and drop them in somebody else’s swimming pool so as not to trouble our own. So you lose your perspective after a while. If you don’t think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy.
When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than – we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It’s the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That’s why we are always surprised when they get together — they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say. It’s like the Republican and Democratic parties, who claim that it’s going to make a terrible difference if one or the other wins, yet they are all the same. Basically, it is us against them.
Yossarian was right, remember, in Catch-22? He had been accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which nobody should ever be accused of, and Yossarian said to his friend Clevinger: “The enemy is whoever is going to get you killed, whichever side they are on.” But that didn’t sink in, so he said to Clevinger: “Now you remember that, or one of these days you’ll be dead.” And remember? Clevinger, after a while, was dead. And we must remember that our enemies are not divided along national lines, that enemies are not just people who speak different languages and occupy different territories. Enemies are people who want to get us killed.
We are asked, “What if everyone disobeyed the law?” But a better question is, “What if everyone obeyed the law?” And the answer to that question is much easier to come by, because we have a lot of empirical evidence about what happens if everyone obeys the law, or if even most people obey the law. What happens is what has happened, what is happening. Why do people revere the law? And we all do; even I have to fight it, for it was put into my bones at an early age when I was a Cub Scout. One reason we revere the law is its ambivalence. In the modern world we deal with phrases and words that have multiple meanings, like “national security.” Oh, yes, we must do this for national security! Well, what does that mean? Whose national security? Where? When? Why? We don’t bother to answer those questions, or even to ask them.
But there is another part of the law that doesn’t get ballyhooed- the legislation that has gone through month after month, year after year, from the beginning of the Republic, which allocates the resources of the country in such a way as to leave some people very rich and other people very poor, and still others scrambling like mad for what little is left. That is the law. If you go to law school you will see this. You can quantify it by counting the big, heavy law books that people carry around with them and see how many law books you count that say “Constitutional Rights” on them and how many that say “Property,” “Contracts,” “Torts,” “Corporation Law.” That is what the law is mostly about. The law is the oil depletion allowance-although we don’t have Oil Depletion Allowance Day, we don’t have essays written on behalf of the oil depletion allowance. So there are parts of the law that are publicized and played up to us-oh, this is the law, the Bill of Rights. And there are other parts of the law that just do their quiet work, and nobody says anything about them.
It started way back. When the Bill of Rights was first passed, remember, in the first administration of Washington? Great thing. Bill of Rights passed! Big ballyhoo. At the same time Hamilton’s economic pro gram was passed. Nice, quiet, money to the rich-I’m simplifying it a little, but not too much. Hamilton’s economic program started it off. You can draw a straight line from Hamilton’s economic program to the oil depletion allowance to the tax write-offs for corporations. All the way through-that is the history. The Bill of Rights publicized; economic legislation unpublicized.
You know the enforcement of different parts of the law is as important as the publicity attached to the different parts of the law. The Bill of Rights, is it enforced? Not very well. You’ll find that freedom of speech in constitutional law is a very difficult, ambiguous, troubled concept. Nobody really knows when you can get up and speak and when you can’t. Just check all of the Supreme Court decisions. Talk about predictability in a system-you can’t predict what will happen to you when you get up on the street corner and speak. See if you can tell the difference between the Terminiello case and the Feiner case, and see if you can figure out what is going to happen. By the way, there is one part of the law that is not very vague, and that involves the right to distribute leaflets on the street. The Supreme Court has been very clear on that. In decision after decision we are affirmed an absolute right to distribute leaflets on the street. Try it. Just go out on the street and start distributing leaflets. And a policeman comes up to you and he says, “Get out of here.” And you say, “Aha! Do you know Marsh v. Alabama, 1946?” That is the reality of the Bill of Rights. That’s the reality of the Constitution, that part of the law which is portrayed to us as a beautiful and marvelous thing. And seven years after the Bill of Rights was passed, which said that “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech,” Congress made a law abridging the freedom of speech. Remember? The Sedition Act of 1798.
So the Bill of Rights was not enforced. Hamilton’s program was enforced, because when the whisky farmers went out and rebelled you remember, in 1794 in Pennsylvania, Hamilton himself got on his horse and went out there to suppress the rebellion to make sure that the revenue tax was enforced. And you can trace the story right down to the present day, what laws are enforced, what laws are not enforced. So you have to be careful when you say, “I’m for the law, I revere the law.” What part of the law are you talking about? I’m not against all law. But I think we ought to begin to make very important distinctions about what laws do what things to what people.
We all grow up with the notion that the law is holy. They asked Daniel Berrigan’s mother what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. He burned draft records-one of the most violent acts of this century- to protest the war, for which he was sentenced to prison, as criminals should be. They asked his mother who is in her eighties, what she thought of her son’s breaking the law. And she looked straight into the interviewer’s face, and she said, “It’s not God’s law.” Now we forget that. There is nothing sacred about the law. Think of who makes laws. The law is not made by God, it is made by Strom Thurmond. If you nave any notion about the sanctity and loveliness and reverence for the law, look at the legislators around the country who make the laws. Sit in on the sessions of the state legislatures. Sit in on Congress, for these are the people who make the laws which we are then supposed to revere.
The nation then, was founded on disrespect for the law, and then came the Constitution and the notion of stability which Madison and Hamilton liked. But then we found in certain crucial times in our history that the legal framework did not suffice, and in order to end slavery we had to go outside the legal framework, as we had to do at the time of the American Revolution or the Civil War. The union had to go outside the legal framework in order to establish certain rights in the 1930s. And in this time, which may be more critical than the Revolution or the Civil War, the problems are so horrendous as to require us to go outside the legal framework in order to make a statement, to resist, to begin to establish the kind of institutions and relationships which a decent society should have. No, not just tearing things down; building things up. But even if you build things up that you are not supposed to build up-you try to build up a people’s park, that’s not tearing down a system; you are building something up, but you are doing it illegally-the militia comes in and drives you out. That is the form that civil disobedience is going to take more and more, people trying to build a new society in the midst of the old.
But what about voting and elections? Civil disobedience-we don’t need that much of it, we are told, because we can go through the electoral system. And by now we should have learned, but maybe we haven’t, for we grew up with the notion that the voting booth is a sacred place, almost like a confessional. You walk into the voting booth and you come out and they snap your picture and then put it in the papers with a beatific smile on your face. You’ve just voted; that is democracy. But if you even read what the political scientists say-although who can?-about the voting process, you find that the voting process is a sham. Totalitarian states love voting. You get people to the polls and they register their approval. I know there is a difference-they have one party and we have two parties. We have one more party than they have, you see.
What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.
|The Problem is Civil Obedience
by Howard Zinn
Our experience of San Francisco was over, we left as early as access to breakfast at the hotel would allow, so as to hopefully avoid any business rush hour traffic. The Jeep was parked up in the block next door, within one of the many multistorys with the erroneous priced advertisements but within very handy short distance.
We loaded up and headed off, once more at the mercy of the Sat-Nav and its occasionally unusual take upon the concept of point to point navigation.
Leaving San Fransisco never easy – it seemed – having past some familiar sights from the night before some time ago, things kept on going rather from there. Suburbs it seemed or something akin to Suburbs, either way about an hour past, largely unimpeded by any vast traffic build up and we didn’t seem to have left the place, most expansive.
The route we were taking back was quite different to the trip up, a direct and straight line through inland California, no stops were planned just to get ourselves back down to LA in as shorter order as we could, today was dedicated simply to that purpose.
The memorable bit of this journey centered around the main trench of straight upon which we found ourselves. About us there was mostly nothing, though surprisingly in certain patches things that looked like farms appeared, the landscape looked like it was verging on dessert and not particularly well disposed to offering lush vegetation and nutritional bounty, appearance must be deceptive as clearly something was growing among the dust.
The air con was on, windows being open was doing little other than letting the suns rays in unintentionally and a whole load of warm air with them, the air con was not exactly victorious either. It was warm out.
We stopped sometime after midday at the site of some sort of road side stop off place, it wasn’t a town, it didn’t appear to be near very much at all, so I think it was just that, a place for petrol and pause among the hot and the nothing.
There were burritos on offer at the first place we wondered too, it was made up to look like an old western town a bit like you might see in such movies. Mitch in what clearly transpired to be something quite apart from infinite wisdom wanted to go an inspect the Taco Bell. No one should ever go and inspect a Taco Bell or least if they do they should go with one clear though in mind, do not eat the merchandise, never consume the merchandise. We did, that was a fine lesson harshly learnt – those were not beans, they didn’t taste like beans and the brown molten mess did not put me in mind of any sort of bean, at best a superheated bean by-product. I feel though this must be a thing known to all domestic dwellers of taco bell infested lands and is probably something that none domestics should be better apprised off upon arrival.
With my digestive systems and many of my senses stunned it was time to head on, the second part of the day, my turn to drive. It ought to be simple driving in straight line, its not and technically it is but it wasn’t, between the heat and the apparently unending hypnotic straightness of things the concentration has its wobbles. By now the cruise control was familiar and the idea of accelerating and slowing by pushing steering wheel adjacent buttons was a familiar, yet in equal measure, a still intriguing and peculiar approach and one I tended toward abandoning whenever other vehicles were in any kind of proximity. The gears though, they went quite untouched, that lesson it seemed had been learnt along with the Taco Bell, admittedly the second one, never tested but I feel fairly confident that something was learnt this day.
I cant say that I believe there was so very much else to recant about the days travels other they past in reasonably swift order and we arrived at our next stop, a hotel in Burbank LA, at the earliest juncture that we could have expected, late afternoon.
It wasn’t so much a hotel, again more a motel, a collection of rooms no more than two storeys high but it had a pool and it was nowhere near so late as to warrant not using it. Mitch went for a run in the not quite but still altogether very present, midday sun, I being somewhat and ever more all to about the limited excursions, went for a wallow.
We were not in central Burbank, as evening arrived and it became to venture out once more in pursuit of dinner it seemed we were about 20minutes or so away from central Burbank, though it was a simple straight one road walk to get back there. We did a customary lap and settled on a bar/restaurant that lay around the end of that lap. The center was quite small and closely wrapped, laid out like a digital figure eight..
Meanwhile in Zurich I’m attempting to watch some house series 7 – it seems like quite a weak series so far – watching in on the balcony while Grandfathers sleep, to a background of rain and the occasional departing and arriving flight, during such moments its best to pause the DVD, for the aging Fujitsu laptop it compete most poorly with such things and such things they come at relatively regular intervals, during which time I get to look out at the green, the grey and the wet, its still there.
There was a choice, the boats that had been advertised by the other cycle hire places, they went across the bay and back over to San Francisco. On the other hand their was the cycles and the road that brought us here, technically it was a reversible route, only there was the hill, the one that had been so generously downward on the inward leg. The reversal of this hill posed a concern as I reflected on the question, why had I come over quite so peculiar earlier and based on that would it likely return under the strain of such an effort.
Mitch wasn’t about to be put off by a bit of gradient and I was ready to be swayed either way, declaring defeat and boarding a boat was therefore unlikely as the decision of first choice.
I wasn’t expecting success but set to offering it a token cosmetic effort without expectation, the initial part of the hill had seemed steep on the way down, so first id just aim for the top of that bit and then take it from there. To my surprise I was making it up, past that initial hill out of town and on, I wasn’t even loosing ground on Mitch, least not until the top where the gradient had not been the issue id expected the wind was more assured. Toward the top it gusted heftily through the channel dug out for the road and slowed me to a brief stop. My stomach was doing nothing, neither the heat nor the effort had been cause for further issues, all that 1.5leters of cola that must by now be swilling about within seemed to be working out for the best.
After a momentary pause I remounted, it was all but flat by now and was shortly back by the bridge. The weather had changed, clouds had drawn in from somewhere and now capped round the bridge struts. Some more photos, for quite unnecessary reasons and onward, a return leg of greater pace than had been achieved earlier and uninterrupted. I couldn’t quite recall where we’d picked up the bikes and stopped with a view to returning mine at what wasn’t quite the right store. I’d simply opted for the first store to appear, that’s how I remembered things, its not how things were, as Mitch rolled past and onward an additional but important few meters.
Apparently we’d only been gone a couple of hours, a cause for further price reductions, always welcome. The fish market was close by and Mitch’s mind had turned to retrieving something from its assorted marine offerings. Seldom in mind for particular delights of the fluddery and salty things, today was not such a day when the stomach would be calling for bravery or exceptions … nor was in any particular hurry to sample that which was so duly fried. I opted out.
We headed back, taking in a café as we headed away from the bay and encountered the San Francisco cable car, then a fair bit of cross town hill wondering on the way back to the hotel.
For the evening we made a second and more successful effort and using the underground to head to a different part of town, we’d hear that somewhere around 24 and 18th street .. there was options and out going points of interest.
The underground was externally ropey but came with a level of seating and space unfamiliar to those accustomed to the tube. Emerging at the other end, we were underwhelmed by some more developing economy style dilapidation, hoping for something in the way of improvement we started walking, it was after all a stretch of road that we’d been pointed at and this was only one end of that.
The road was in no kind of hurry toward improving, a mixture of grime and discarded rubbish, while the shops looks like temporary buildings in need of a touch of paint and possibly a spot of demolishing and stating again with a less DIY, left over materials from the back of the shed theme. Seldom has a city so underwhelmed, the advise to anyone intending to go would be don’t believe the hype, set you expectations low and the city wont disappoint as shortly shy of average, its hard to believe this was one of the worlds wealthiest nations. Mind Birmingham isn’t entirely all that, aesthetically speaking but then I’m not sure we have too many tourist campaigns espousing its delights. It does a fine line in congestion, as easy to escape as a mythical Greek maze.
Still not working now, not in Birmingham on these days – San Francisco and just as we were commencing the process of wondering what exactly to settle uncomfortably on, we did come upon a slightly richer vein of options. Discovering a bring your own, limited menu options curry house which we reasonably quickly settled on.
Drinks sourced from off license shop, conveniently located opposite we returned to what was clearly a popular spot, filling most quickly and it was good. Better than many Curry restaurants back home with their far more extensive menus, here it might have been simple and the options limited but what does that matter if its good and it really was.
After dinner we made a passing effort, burdened by a lack of belief forged of the impressions formed during our earlier wonderings, to find somewhere else to go to. Unready to head back just yet we settled on the nearest thing we could find to meet the criteria of being open, none disconcerting and somewhere to go.
The bar tender put in quite the performance, a lesson in profession bar manning, taking orders from one while serving up assorted types of beverages to others. We could do with a few of these types back home, where getter served is a war of attrition that is doing untold damage to the British reputation for queuing, not even polite pretense is given to such notions in most domestic bars these days. Only ten years ago such behaviour was notable though not exceptional, now it’s customary. Here there was no such need, so swiftly this lone bar tender operated, taking orders committing them to memory, most impressive. The bar on the other hand was a little lacking in charm, perfectly pleasant but with too little about it to warrant any sort of longer visit than the time taken for those couple of post dinner drinks to be supped down, as we perched upon our bar side stools.
We’d wondered around the ocean front and as with many things on US maps, with their scales, it was further than immediate perceptions of the doodle had suggested. The further distance created by taking some faulty turns on the way toward the water had also had an effect.
We were about half way around, perhaps a little more, when the cartel pricing of the various cycle rental places was clear. By now we could have been cycling for some time having encountered the first ocean from hire place quite early on.
Having been no immediately drawn toward the premium tourist fund relinquishing bike hire schemes, with those earlier options, the later options now fell under that recently established common law not quite judgement but reticent pondering. So we remained meandering along, options were running out, heading toward the end of the commercial town center part of the promenade.
Small ships were docked with members of their crews loudly and repeatedly alerting those who passed by as to their departure times. One was heading off, quite soon, on a trip out and past the bridge, Mitch seemed inclined we could after all get quite a good view from that sort of vantage point and with the price of the two cartel backed bikes, why not.
Occasionally I may be guilty of some degree of mental inflexibility and having had bikes in mind was open if not wholly persuaded by this boat idea, so without a vigorous sponsor to lead the case for the boats we mooched on, it was not late, we could always come back after all.
The assorted fish market stands & boat trip touting boats behind us we drifted up against the end of the commercial stretch.
The bike rentals weren’t done yet mind, perhaps we weren’t the first visitors to these shores to hatch such a plan.
There were not so many bikes left as a small bike place attendant popped up. They had all been most friendly, all the way along, I guess you’d have to be all those dithering tourists humming their uncertain holiday brain tunes about them all day. We didn’t know anything about all that.
This one though seemed less sales friendly somehow, more I like bikes and outdoor things so I’m doing this, it’s alright relaxed sort of friendly.
The price was also a bit better at this one, though it then transpired once inside, they didn’t actually have two of the cheaper bikes available anymore. It could have been a most cunning manoeuvre only it probably wasn’t, either way after unleashing the great countermeasure, befuddlement empowered procrastination, into proceedings it was settled. We had one higher grade bike instead for the same price.
Somehow we also seemed to end up on some pay as you go style deal, which worked out fine, shed told us roughly how long the roundtrip tends to take, with the proviso that not all cycle speeds are equal and there were different places we could cycle to. If memory serves we’d pay for the hours we used up to the maximum of the 1/2 day and whatever that might be it would be less than the rather familiar standardised charges offered by all the others.
The bikes came with little storage bags which was handy for things like cameras, the multitudes and their shares habits – while the more general clobber was left behind at the bike shop for retrieval at that unspecified juncture of our return.
Heading off, it was a broad well maintained path that bowed over hillocks and arout grasy parkland bits.It was all going pretty well until really quite suddenly it wasn’t. It was warm out, there was a moderate incline and yes I was out of practice but this seemed unfounded, my stomach contracted and convulsed making every sign that it had intention to relinquish that which lay within.
After a brief period of chewing and further faltering effort I pulled up and went to crouch by a bush.. There was reaching but unproductive, this was odd and not really acceptable, there was no call for that sort of reaction.
I gave up on that idea and with the benefit of the break continued on to the top of the hill with one thing in mind, the nuclear strike remedy that was coke and its stomach nuking powers.
There was a tourist shop and refreshment store up there, near enough to where the bridge began, neither sold coke they had silver canned cola, full of organic wholesome things… Normally fair enough right now I doubted it’s capacity for destruction was up to the only artificial ingredients and sugar destroyer we all know so well, all trusty, red and corrosive.
Still it was chilled, sugary, water based and there. This the angelic white cola really did help, though there was no more hill to contend with and I did wonder if I had maybe sunk that low a little bit.
Tourist deeds must be done.
On the other side of the bridge and despite the great good done by the silver cola thought of coke remained very much at the forefront of hopes, aspirations and general thoughts for what might be.
Photos don’t seem to do gradient, a lesson from skiing holidays pasts and clearly just as applicable without the presence of snow, something about dimensions and its good to know that even the google has not mustered dominion over this particular law.
Though to be fair to them, not the most narrow of restraints, “profoundly immoral and wicked”, profoundly .. it does leave a fair bit of scope for well quite the array. On the other hand maybe they were going for the noun …. “when regarded as a supernatural force” … ,great spell checker, much better than word with its mangled phonetics decoder – no clue how it recognises some of those offers, very impressive. We were on bikes heading down the hill to Sausalito, it was not the most arduous of efforts, gravity was much in our favour, which was nice as we could spend quite a bit of time just skooshing along taking in the scenery.
As we came into town another shop appeared, a more traditional general sort of store, swinging around we came to a halt and took it in turns to venture in. The need was not longer so great but i headed of to hunt down a drink, before eventually settling back on that familiar red label, a big old bottle it was too, i made off with it.
By the time Mitch had returned from his explorations within, much of the cola had been take care off, a uprising amount given the issue of absorbing such a frothy fizzing sweetness has somewhere found itself a home.
For the day then, we were aiming for bikes, a means to reach the Golden Gate Bridge and to fill up a reasonable chunk of a day. With that in mind we started walking, though again the grid that should confound no man did for us and we wound up heading somewhat overly eastward. Through the banking finance bit on our way to the ocean front.
It was on this wonder that the uglyness of San Francisco was revealed in a way that has seen it live with me so long after, not the homeless, the drug addicted or even the abandoned disabled but here in the finally clean streets, the smart glass high rises and the even paving stones. This was the striking thing, here within no great amount of walking distance at all there was no poverty, no living symptom of poverty had migrated here and why not.. that was the first question that came to mind, the later and more enduring one that came to be formed – this was a city with money, it had the means to look after this bit of town, it had means to keep it clean, it had the taxes these glass towers must support, it kept the tourist walkways along the promenade pretty darn pristine and it didn’t sully these areas with the presence of the poor. It had the means. This city, it wasn’t just looking the other way, the only conclusion that made any sense, deliberate pruning and kettling was at play. They acknowledged their tired, their poor, their huddled masses yearning to breathe free – so that they might shut them into their own little quarter, to dwell openly among their own and not impose the undesirable sight of their existence upon the suits and travelers.
Still there were nice bridges and this ocean front bit was really quite nice.
We were aiming for bikes, a means to reach the Golden Gate Bridge and to fill up a reasonable chunk of a day. First breakfast and we’d opted to go out, the hotel charged for its offering so why not see what else was about, the reception chap pointed us in the direction of some cafe diner places.
After wondering some way to the recommended cafe we found a very small and unfriendly waiter waiting for us. Listening to this greeting the people on the table behind shared with us there view that they would not stay if spoken to that way… i was just rather hoping for breakfast to make its way in my direction at some point not too much more distant. The menu was unusual, not that appealing and though running on morning speed a certain amount of thought had turned to exactly what that was all about and whether being spoken to quite like that was really ok – settling albeit belatedly on the conclusion it was not. This was a bit of a pain, breakfast being so tantalisingly possible, so minded toward being appreciated and the meander to get here so notably unshort.
The waitress who’d come along after and from whom, during that mental pause, we’d ordered drinks had been more then pleasant. So with that in mind, i’d wondered in to cancel our order, it seemed better than just leaving. I have no recollection of what this place was called, i think it had an odd modern sort of a name.. like not Lou’s or Chip’s Cafe more like Zero’s or Zinc … probably nether of these but orange.
The little waiter man appeared traveling at some speed, zipping in from around the corner, he almost collided with me, i scowled down past my shoulder at him a bit, well he had that air about him, either having a very bad start to the day or particularly ill suited to the service sector. More accustomed to fopping and bumbling about in a Curtis caricature fashion, here i sought instead to channel my inner Guy Richie creation, i cant imagine it was overly successful, he was a very small chap mind and everything is perhaps, hopefully, relative.
Having approached the waitress i requested to cancel our drinks order and left. We headed on, though by now Mitch needed a coffee so we didn’t get very far before stopping off, i had some sort of fresh iced tea, drinks were going round, it wasn’t cold out, so why not..
We ended up quite close to our hotel for the eventual diner of choice or rather convenience, it looked a little less modern and pretentious than the last one and while touristy in nature appeared similar to those we’d encountered years before in New York.
It was quite greasy but lacking in quality and flavour.. really not like the New York ones, the sausage was superior to the one on the United Flight, the percentage of play-dough that had gone into its creation was much reduced, fat, saw dust and salt had been brought in and the benefits were there in the eating.
The intention was to use the close proximity underground station to head of to a different corner of the town for dinner. An intention which did not play out. Rather like the petrol stations the approach to coaxing a ticket from the machines was an acquired knowledge, i cant recall exactly what it was about it that was hard to grasp but i believe the money being put in came before the ticket selection or something like that.. it was the petrol station all over again, entirely backwards and the wrong way round. Least the advantages of toppling the more familiar process and reconstructing it on its head were lost on us, to the point where in the few seconds we were granted to consider what was we were expected to do, we were instead stupefied. We had only moment in that state before being approached, a person with local knowledge, large and less than entirely fresh scented had zeroed in and was suggesting we give him our money so he might buy the ticket for us.
Its hard to gauge how to be in such situations, embrace the warmth of man and his desire to assist those caught in unfamiliar territory or risking being paranoid through the tainted view of skepticism toward their motives. Had he been dressed in different attire, less eager, more fresh of scent or perhaps had we not be so recoiled from this whole area, then perhaps we might have opted for showing this random our tourist wallets and money but not today. Instead and i cant recall exactly in what way, we extracted ourselves from this conversation, headed away from the ticket dispensing machines and eventually opted to head back out onto the street.
Either now or on the way back, perhaps it was later as we headed home one of the abiding memories of San Francisco was formed, it summed this city up in many ways. As we walked along there were many destitute, dispossessed and excluded people, abandoned by their society, the extent of this was frankly what made it stand out for all places seem to have some aspect of this. Among the many was a chap in a wheel chair, presumably trying to sleep, a rankly unpleasant sleeping bag was draped over him. Ive never seen this before, it was a new low, a disgraceful low, the people of this town, of this state and country, i was ashamed for them, what kind of place with any sort of means to prevent it allows itself to fall so low? Not even in developing countries were the excuses for allowing it would be rich and ample to choose, had i seen something such as this, San Francisco was not a great bridge, it was not the steep rolling hills, it was an remains this – the utter and clearly deliberate, unapologetic neglect of so many and those so clearly in need of better. Shame and sadness, what have we allowed our selves to become that we can fall so low. But not all of these thoughts occurred there and then, some came later as the contrast and ketteling became clear and the systematic deliberacy of this was revealed. For now then there was just this chap, his chair and sleeping back that was cast over him, it was a horribly sad thing to see reflecting back at the abundance around us.
There was much of San Francisco that had more in common with developing world places than developed, the aged look of the public transport, the grime and dirt of the streets, the disrepair of many quarters and the streets lined with the disadvantaged.
The nearest thing i had seen to this before now was probably Glasgow, it too was a place of great shame though it was also a poor city by the standards of such things, there was no justification for it. I would go there on Family visits, head into half way – the not city center but nearest cluster of shops and commercial things and there would always be too many people, wondering about. These were working days and working hours but instead the pasty white faces with sunken eyes wondered about, the streets were never that clean with packets of fried chicken or the remnants of chips scattering some corner or another. The metal railings of the parks had once been green but the paint now fell away in slices of green, while the metal rusted. It was a city in need of quite a lot, the politics of the area were socialist yet nothing got any better. The Labour party had been in power unchallenged for so very long, the common view was you could stick a red rosette on a jobby and it would likely win. The place needed a freshen up, it needed money and a deliberate and concerted effort to move it past the loss of its industries, it received none of those things and like a times lapse video my visits to Glasgow witnessed further decline.
Yet this, San Francisco it had all places beat and it wore no hint of its shame.
We were headed to the north bit, past the China town area to see what we could see in the way of places to go out and first to have dinner. Some walking and some ups, downs and ups again later we had emerged roughly where we had been headed and a flourish of Italian inspired restaurants greeted us.
Dinner was a kind of little more bar snack like than a full meal, the service was friendly though I’m somewhat short on detail about all this. In leaving Mitch as is customary at this juncture queried the waiting staff for information on places or areas worth a visit.
There were apparently some places just around the corner, though between left and right turn instructions and first vs not first corners, something was clearly not entirely as it should be. The road had grown notably smaller, the open places had grown decidedly closeder .. and for legitimate reasons, they were residential and more broadly there was little sign of very much in terms of out options.
Corners were revisited, lefts were righted until the inexplicably taxing challenge of the grid system were overcome and the lights of prospective watering holes located. Initially we hesitated on the the Tupelo bar, it has Karaoke, always a particular treat that.
While in the Tupelo bar we came upon a conclusion.
The conclusion sprung from whatever was going on in here, it was not Karaoke as we knew it, the mic was not being gripped in catatonic fear, strangled like a security blanket pulled in real close, the mic stand was serving no purpose as the walking stick remaining standing upright aid for which it was clearly intended..
The performances were not fueled by alcohols own bravery, the blinker of the tenth pint, a good four pints later than when the ears had last had any track of tone and the tongue any notion of enunciating anything in its mouth. As we looked on, struck by what was going on, people were doing multiple performances and these people were drinking water, they were all using the Mic as a sort of performance prop, looking out at the audience, busting moves and giving it large. It was impressive stuff, entertaining, disconcertingly so, people are meant to be roundly a bit shit, a bit volunteer circus freak, persuaded by intoxication to get over their well founded inhibitions enough to get them to the stage but not always through the performance. Then there was this… Either there was something very odd going on in San Francisco, the world outside the UK was awash with any number of people looking and sounding like the pop icons of tomorrow or…. and this was the conclusion, somewhere around here there was some sort of drama school and this lot, they were its spores.
The other bar we ended up at was either next door or pretty much next door, which may convey something of the selection criteria … it was there, it was open and we didn’t what else there was or where it might be.. that’s not to say these were not fine bars, its merely that neither reputation nor amazing magnetism neon lights were at play in our considerations.
They had a band on.. The audience was dancing about, the two or three of them, they were really into it and had something about them which suggested they were perhaps, part of the bands of stage social circle.
This pub had cider though, the same little mini bottles you get when in continental Europe… before 2000 cider had been a bit of a side issue, 5L bottles of diamond white consumed in park land..then came the Alcho-Pop and all that changed and Cider discovered a new market niche as the summer refreshment of choice.. Being a beer none appreciator this flourish of Cider choices was gratefully received but it seemed reticent to spread overseas, aside from these, the mini magners.
Before leaving Id herd more than once about how great San Francisco was and myself I had any seen that as the main visit of the trip, originally having it down as a three night stay, the longest of the trip.
Already I was feeling happy for the decision not to do that, Mitch already did not much care for San Francisco and while I was trying to keep an open mind, basically I felt the same way.
We’d driven through, parked, visited our hotel and walked up from the center to the golden gate park by this point and topography aside only one bit of road had seemed remotely pleasant or interesting with a Camden alternative vibe about it.
The park which had been very sympathetically covered in the guide books was most underwhelming. Yes it was probably an bit nicer than your average park but only a bit, the lake was more an over sized pond, shallow and green in appearance now a whole lot more than the murky goose turd offering in St Albans.
It was no Regent’s Park that was for sure and modestly concerning that it could earn such substantive billing in the guide books.
Mitch was up here for his daily running about, as he jogged off I sat myself down by the lake to deal with maps, bag and possibly food.
As I sat and rummaged a chap came flustering up to me, asking about whether Id seen a bag. He was a tourist, him and his fellow tourists had parked up only to return to find a back window smashed and a bag withdrawn, the bag he was now looking for. I believe he was hoping that were it’s not so valuable contents discovered then it might be discarded.
I had nor seen any dis guarded bags and apologised that Id been unable to help, offering some most un-useful sympathy for his circumstance.
More generally I was trying to work out what I might fit into the time between now and the approximate meeting time we’d agreed to meet back up, back at the hotel.
Back in New York walking the place made a big difference. After arriving in the dark, rain falling around the taxi to some not entirely flattering first impressions, it had been the walk down through the city to the financial district and back that had started to turn that around in what went on to be one of my favourite trips.
What a holiday spirit deflating experience that must have been, smashed window stolen bag – I headed off on my still largely to be defined walk. All I’d managed to decide is Id head across (North in actuality) from here so as not to repeat the route taken on the outbound leg.
There was the customary grid system in effect, least there was back here in the less Central more residential bit of the city. I fear I can’t claim to know exactly which I traveled down so in going to go with 18th & will check a map later to see if indeed the roads go by a numeric naming system and if so where abouts the 18th one can be found.
I left the park crossed the road and wondered the residential corridor known here as 18th.
2 days later, attemp to continue them trip notes … 18th .. Revisiting the map .. actually in this area, go the probably still not entirety accurate memory
Big old residential sprawl back here and a lot more pleasant, it reminded me of Mrs doubtfire scenes, not that that adds a lot to the experience but it was painting a more movie suitable scene.
By the not so very long time later, when I reached the end of that particular vertical stretch, there seemed some fair time left and then there was the golden gste bridge. It was up this way somewhere, on the other side of a different park or hill or something, either way it wasn’t here. I wasn’t expecting it to be – I had the map / city plan – the question I had was do I see about trying to find it abit or apply good reason and head to something more like the center.
Thing was heading back presented little of interest and would leave me vacant time, while looking for the bridge seemed like an optimistic shot at fitting comfortably in between now and the meeting up time…. Pragmatism lost out as in retrospect it was always likely to, would have been disappointed with myself if I’d just seeped back without making an effort.
There were park trails over this way with maps and occasional signs. First there was another hill and a path into a golf course before dropping back down on the far side within a stretch of woodland.
There were a number of routes crossing and heading off in slightly different directions, I still had no particular plan but my reason for heading over had yet to be achieved, roads and trees all that had come into view.
There was quite a big old road a little further down, concrete struts holding it aloft, not particularly attractive visual addition to the woodland foreground. In the background, the backish background in a not immedialty close way, objective sort of achieved, depending on how you define thingd… I could see it, or least s top sticking out bit of it..
Back here in the wonder pathways where people could wounded, cycle and jog near very streight and uneven residential streets my impression of the place had indeed improved, the residential appeal was understandable, it was quirky, the dirtyness had subsided & the properties were a fair old size, though how many occupancies wasn’t of course certain, whole franciscite families may occupy a sine room, sleeping in jenga inspiring piles, though they didn’t look like they were those kind of areas.
The route Id been on dissolved, a wrong turn perhaps or just a sudden sign gap into which there were choices, junctions, options or more simply different ways to go. I never reconnected with my original route, though having passed relatively high along the coastal ridge, on a road side, I also got a distant view of Alcatraz Island, visually it was reasonably clear though in an undetailed way, the camera really had to strain at its zoom to bring it in.
After the photographic bought I picked up the pace but struggled for a time to refind any trail, having resorted to wondering through an odd sort of estate with large colonial style buildings following roads not trails i was unable to find route Id previously been following. Eventually i did stumble upon a new trail though the exact nature of its direction was not exactly how it might be, a noticeable slice of time had now elapsed and so getting back over to the hotel had become very much the fixed target i had in mind, what energy remained was applied to retaining as much pace in the wondering as possible. It was a most straight and gradient wise, generally upward heading trail.
Emerging back into residential San Francisco my sense of heading was compromised by not being where i had initially intended to emerge and equally being uncertain where exactly it was that i had emerged.
What i presume was a local, most tall chap, approached me as i gazed at my map, pointing out where i was and on explaining to where i was headed, providing a handy correction to the direction i was likely to have wondered off in. He also explained that it was quite far and that buses could be found in the proximity to help with getting back, though a change or two would be needed. With a mind to time and the news of distance i thought upon the buses as i thanked him and headed off with my course correction to help me.
I seemed to be reasonably high upon the crest of one of the cities larger rolling hills, stood upon the north-western side. The view took in much of the city scape from up here, and there was mini-parklet which provided the requisite space to appreciate this view and despite the intentions to head back, to pause, take it in and capture some small snapshots within the camera.
The route was a diagonal one from here, the city planners they didnt hold much with notions of matter none perpendicular, though they had chucked in a couple of cheeky exceptions to this rule, just to through a person of the scent of things. It was a step like journey of zigging and zagging, with half an eye on California Street.. for their according to the map where the cable cars, the ones from the films, as yet unseen but with the opportunity to encounter them on route …
I was not on time, hadn’t been for some time, my face was almost certainly a little pink with the lack of natural of fitness currently allowed to shroud all efforts and the lack of close proximity that the hotel had opted for. Progress was alright though, it wasn’t that far, not bus requiring far, giving up and getting a lift sort of distance. Eventually a more familiar feel to the surrounds emerged about me, the streets lined with that bit more grimmyness and that unbridled poverty that was the detritus in this forest of high rises.