Friday, September 14, 2007

I arrived in Monterey Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to Cannery Row. I spent the last few months reading a number of John Steinbeck books, two of which took place in this very area, Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. Although the camaraderie obviously isn’t the same as it was in these stories, walking among the shops at dusk as most of them were closing their doors for the day I felt a small sense of community between the shop employees who spend hours a day together, much like you feel at any nine to five job whether you like the people you work with or don’t. Some of the older, weathered looking men running the little carts selling various tourist related items will most likely die here, doing what they love; spending time on the water happy to service folks from all around the world. It was depressing and admirable at the same time. The bittersweet emotions experienced here in my brief pass through will be something I’ll always remember especially as it was the one place I was looking forward to visiting the most on this trip.

Both of my meals on Cannery Row I ate outside, the lunch right on the water overlooking the harbor (the pic above was the view from where I ate), and later on my dinner at an okay barbecue place that overlooked a walkway. An odd mix of bohemian bicyclists, homeless men who weren’t pushy like the ones in bigger areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco gathered on the bricks. You could see some character in these folks by the way they carried themselves, unlike the city versions which are generally guys with funny signs “I need money for beer, I won’t lie”, etc. Good for a laugh, but I’d rather give a cigarette to one of these Monterey guys than a quarter to one of these guys in the city.

I got to San Francisco late afternoon on Wednesday, checked into my hotel and then made my way down to AT & T Park to see a San Francisco Giants game. They were playing the first place Arizona Diamondbacks, and from what I read today they were eliminated from any playoff spot after this loss. The game was good, the park was really nice, and I scored a ticket at the box office for $42 about 25 rows back from home plate.
This would never happen at Fenway Park! It is kind of surreal how much adoration the city has for Barry Bonds (who didn't play!), widely considered someone who cheated his way into the record books, and although I had nothing invested in this game or team
I still cheered for the home team, even though I was sporting my Red Sox hat. It was nice to see
a baseball game, something I didn't do in Boston this year. I stayed until around the eight inning and left as for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to not bring a jacket or sweatshirt with me on this trip to a baseball park that sits on the water in late September. I briefly considered buying a sweatshirt but then realized I would then be the owner of a San Francisco Giants sweatshirt, it would kind of be like if I decided to start buying every Barbra Streisand record from 1985 on. Actually it wouldn't be like that at all.

This afternoon I went to the city, walked around the Fishermans Wharf area, got annoyed at rude tourists who have no idea how to deal with a sidewalk (mostly French people), or saying excuse me. Sure Europeans brought us great art, food and music, when it comes down to general manners and "street knowledge" they make me wish I had a Tazer Gun. Imagine the joy one would receive walking down a narrow sidewalk while a group of braless women and men in sandals stopped and blocked you from walking, ignoring you when you say excuse me if you pulled one of these out and just shocked them in the neck, their bright blue eyes staring at you in horror as they fall to the ground as the contents of their mesh bag spills on the filthy sidewalk!

I had an okay lunch (clam chowder and some fried oysters) at a small cafe off the pier and came to the conclusion that, aside from the delicious lunch I had in Monterey (Sesame crusted Mahi Mahi with a papaya mango salsa), seafood in New England is much better. For those keeping track so far, baseball and seafood are better in Massachusetts than in Northern California. The other thing that sucked in this area was I was trying to get this fucking picture taken but this guy in the bottom left was chatting on his cell so it was kind of ruined. With the awesome zoom on this new camera I have I got a good look at him. I mean he even looks like an asshole. What could be possibly be talking to the person on the other end about? Who has that hairdo?!

After this experience, I decided to get in the car and find something a little less...something. I sat on this beach with an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge for a bit and then made my way to Haight Street to find Amoeba Records. I was in there for maybe seven minutes before leaving, deciding I would wait until I get back to Los Angeles before worrying about buying music. I tried to find a good used book store but the parking meter only allowed one hour so I bailed. The area was a little much for me, definitely one of those areas where you need to have sunglasses on to avoid eye contact with anyone. Once you make eye contact people want something from you, money, cigarettes, to tell you their life story, etc. I'm definitely at a point in my life where filthy looking people need to be avoided at all costs.

This evening my friend Gena came and picked me up and we went to dinner in the city and she game me a great tour of the city. I had absolutely no idea where the hell we were half of the time, and my sense of direction was once again none existent in a foreign city. She was a great tour guide, we saw hookers, transvestites, stood behind the Macy's sign on the roof of a very tall building which was basically the outdoor patio of a restaurant I used the bathroom in, The Mission, Coit Tower and every other thing I didn't see by myself. She has a good sense of humor and isn't easily offended so that was refreshing, especially as for the majority of this trip so far my conversation (aside from talking on the cell phone) was limited to ordering food and checking into hotels.
I took a bunch more pictures, but as it's now 3:29 AM I should probably stop and deal with the rest of the pictures in a couple of days. Back to Los Angeles tomorrow morning. I'm taking the faster route (inland).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

I’m in South San Francisco now, too tired last night to do any writing. Yesterday I made my way from San Luis Obispo to Monterey along the Pacific Coast Highway. The drive was just long enough to start to grow tiresome, and short enough to not completely exhaust myself, and still have plenty of daylight to explore Cannery Row as well as some other areas of the beautiful Monterey seaside. After a brief breakfast at a chain restaurant where the hostess told me she “liked my ink”, I asked directions to Morro Bay, presumably forgetting I had my GPS thingy with me. I basically asked “will that road lead me to that big rock?”. The big rock in question was Morro Rock, a “volcanic plug” whatever that is (according to Wikipedia). The town was pretty cool, small and consistent with most of the towns on the water I encountered the last couple of days: fishermen types, surfers, laid back folk with blonde hair that probably know a thing or two about marijuana and Bermuda shorts. Here are some pics I took at the rock:
The rock, and then some surfer guy that looked like some sort of Russian villain from a James Bond film.

I drove a little more and came upon an area that said "elephant seal viewing area". I had no idea what this meant, and assumed there would be these gigantic seals on the beach doing tricks, etc. What I found basically looked like the Jim Jones massacre with a number of what I assumed were dead seals on the sand. After reading the little posts, this is apparently what they do...look dead.

I guess they're cute. Who the fuck knows.
After this area, the drive got real long, a lot of desolate areas, amazing views as one would expect in this area of the country. One thing I noticed after a couple hours and miles and miles of intense cliffs and ocean views was how much you ignore what's going on to your right, mountains stretching up to the sky, vast emptiness where nobody has probably ever walked, and probably never will. The pictures kind of speak for themselves. Spotted that little lizard on the ground by the bridge.

Also, and I definitely don’t condone this kind of thing, but I took some video while driving, as well as at Bixby Bridge, which was kind of scary as I really hate heights. So yeah. The internet connection in this hotel is as useless as anything so I can’t load anymore pictures, I'll do more tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Happy September 11th! Is that what you're supposed to say now? Probably not...

Haven’t been able to get on the internet in Los Angeles, now in the confines of this Days Inn I have a connection.

Got to Los Angeles Saturday afternoon, on my airplane from Dallas to Burbank was Jamie Farr from M.A.S.H. fame; he seemed like a nice guy, talking to some folks while waiting for his luggage, his nose is as big as you would think, so perhaps the camera doesn’t add anything to noses on the television.

It’s early in the morning of the second day of my “trip within a trip”. I’m driving up the coast to San Francisco, and although I haven’t seen much actual coast as a good chunk of the drive yesterday was inland, I did get to see vast vineyards, strawberry fields complete with Mexicans with those hats they wear, etc. I’m staying in San Luis Obispo, arrived here yesterday afternoon. It’s a nice little town with plenty of little shops, college kids with presumably bad ideas in their heads, breathtaking views of mountains surrounding it. Of course by the end of the night last night I end up in some little area with a Starbucks, The Gap, Barnes and Noble, etc. I did find a great used book store where I found a book on the Beach Boys and the Nixon book All the Presidents Men which I’ve wanted to read for a while.

Speaking of reading, last night I went out to the little patio they have here where you can smoke and sit at a little table and started reading this Cormac McCarthy book, No Country for Old Men which started off pretty frighteningly intense. I scare myself easy, so now when I’m driving through any areas that are devoid of humans I am probably going to think of this book and hope I don’t get trapped anywhere in the middle of nowhere.

When I arrived at this hotel yesterday I was walking up to my room and there was an older gentleman outside smoking, probably late 60’s, shorter than me, one of those button-up cowboy shirts, glasses with tinted lenses, kind of a hardened look of someone definitely from the west. We exchanged words, made a joke about not being able to smoke in the rooms and that was that. This morning I was up at 6:30 or so as I presume I’m still on Eastern time, I went outside to check out the Continental Breakfast (which is a scam right? I wonder if anyone has ever left a Continental Breakfast and said to themselves “wow, that coffee was delicious, and fuck, I’m full, I won’t be able to eat for another five hours. Those little muffins and the lukewarm milk really hit the spot” A far cry from the absolutely delicious omelet I had before I left Los Angeles yesterday, which I’ve just remembered was far too expensive. A $17.00 breakfast for one person. I ordered orange juice, and when the bill came it was $3.95. Jesus, come on. I guess I could make a joke about how it was a Jewish deli but I won’t make that joke.) and I’m sitting at the little table outside smoking and I see my little smoker cowboy friend from the previous day. He’s opening the back of a van with tinted windows, pulls out a black trash bag and goes back to his room. I’m thinking he’s either filling that with empty Coors Light cans, or with the parts of the waitress he drugged and mutilated last night. I guess that’s my cue to move along now.

Today, to Monterey, Carmel, Santa Cruz, etc. I’ll obviously take pictures today as this is when it’s supposed to start with the beautiful views, etc. It’s now a bit past 8:00 AM so I’m out.