Berkeley, San Francisco, Muir Woods 2/12-2/23/2016

BERKELEY, 2/12-2/13

Friday, February 12
1983: "I shoveled a path from the porch to the garage. The mouth of Kingston Avenue was packed solid by the plows.
People shoveling, one with radio music while his lady made a snowman. Very much a 60s feel to the music and the people."


    Up at 6:50. Motel office closed till 8 so I drove up to Carter Automotive (which Jenny had recommended) but they didn't open till 8:30 so I came back to the motel. At 8 I went to the office to rent the room for another night but the clerk said they were already sold out for the weekend so I loaded the car and went back to the office to give the key to the clerk, who then told me there had been a cancellation. So I drove to Carter, which was already open, made an appointment for 1:00, picked up some pens at the Dollar Tree, and a very large eclair at Happy Donuts, and back to the motel to walk around the area for a while after unloading the car again.
    When I started the car to drive back to Carter, the engine didn't sound right. A long walk around the area while waiting and some time in their waiting area. The car was ready around 2, the engine sounding just fine. I picked up Greg Bear's Dead Lines at the Goodwill and back to the motel.
    Met Jenny at 6 at another place on San Pablo. She is tied down by her cats, which she keeps some of while they recover from being spayed or castrated. It's probably the last time I'll see her.
Saturday, February 13
In 1965, Leah Beth Story and I broke up.
    Got up after 10 and on the road to Muir Wood under a clear blue sky at 10:30, temp 58. A big lineup at the toll booth on the Richmond Bridge. It stayed slow until about halfway over the bridge then suddenly everybody's moving. A big rock out in the bay, a couple of low mountains. Very long pier off to my right. At first I thought it might be a railroad bridge then I realized that it ended. Mount Tamalpais and Tamalpais Valley. It took a while and some help at a convenience store to find it but the road up and then down to it was just as twisting and scary as I remembered, with some trees in bloom. What I didn't remember was the people. There was no place to park. People were parking cars along the road despite the no parking signs right in front of a sheriff who was writing parking tickets. Even if I'd found a parking place, there were just too many people to enjoy it. I left and hope to get back on a weekday.
    In the evening, I walked down the street to Cafe Lelia for an overpriced dish of angel's hair pasta. Not all that much either but it was enough to quell my hunger. Then I bought some stuff at the 99 cent store just up the street. A strange neighborhood, with some very upscale stores mixed with ones for people who are near the bottom of the financial ladder.

The marina at Marin

SAN FRANCISCO, 2/`14-2/22

Sunday, February 14
The director is God. Actors are atheists.
Berkeley to San Francisco

    Another day that was a bit of a disaster. Left the motel at 9:51, temp 56, odometer 122022. $20 of $2.159 (cash) gas at an Arco. At the Shell across the street it was $2.599 and someone was at the pump. Then it was I-580 across the Richmond Bridge ($5.00 toll) to the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to California 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. Apparently there was a bike lane on one side of the bridge and a pedestrian lane on the other. I have no idea what the toll was. Apparently they take a photo of your plate and I will get billed later. (Three large barges, I guess, out in the bay. The marina alongside Sir Francis Drake with what are probably local cruise boats. Since it was early, I checked out Muir Wood but it was still bad. The Arco nearby was $1.959.)
    Then it was try to find a motel room. Everybody was booked solid for the next couple of days but I was able to get a room tonight at the Surf Motel for only one night.
    Then I went to the open mike on Folsom Street only to discover it was a comedy open mike. And the people upstairs at the motel are playing loud music.

Monday, February 15
Richard Feynman died in 1988.
San Francisco
    San Francisco. The fabled city of my youth, when George Wagner and I pretended we were beatniks. In 1963, Norma Fire said, "San Francisco is a city that comes over you like a glove." I finally got to see for myself in November 1966, when I came up that scary Route 1 along the coast (no longer even close to scary) through Malvina Reynolds’' "ticky-tacky houses" of Daly City. I came into San Francisco, grubby and unshaven from the road, and almost ran over a beautiful blonde at a crosswalk, who smiled at me! Nonetheless I hated the town--the most expensive motel I had stayed at and a donut and coffee cost an outrageous 40 cents! I called Eileen, who was apartment-sitting for me, and she suggested I go see her friends Jim and Pam Alvey. (Why is it I can remember the names of two people I have only seen once in my life and I couldn't remember the names of people I'd worked with for years?) They suggested I go to Haight-Ashbury, where I met Irene Kitagawa and Makoto (Mike) Shiota, who suggested I go to Muir Wood, the first of the sacred places in my life.
    I didn’t get back until November 1996, when it was 102 degrees! Haight-Ashbury was full of pseudo-hippie shops and memorabilia. In 2002, I went to the World Science Fiction Convention in San Jose and met John Trumbo about a year before he died and Haight-Ashbury was just like every other part of the city.
    Today I left the Surf Motel at 9:21, temp 64, odometer 122074, for the ridiculously expensive Lombard Plaza (nice room but I’ve stayed in places just as good for nearly half the price). Tomorrow I will leave for the San Francisco Town House (about $40/night cheaper, still much more than I would like) for the next 3 nights, leaving Friday for northern California.
    Because the room wasn't available, I took at 2 hour walk up Lombard to the place where it becomes that wonderful 5 mph curving road going down. A lot of people taking photos of the view. I naturally forgot to bring my camera. Then I walked from one block to another, first left then right, Polk Street (which for some reason reminded me of Toronot), a couple of parks where several women were doing yoga exercises, women of all ages well-dressed without being provocative, past those wonderful old Victorian style houses, the Sherith Israel temple (built in 1905), a huge Catholic church with flying buttresses (one of which buzzed me), and what looked like a more recent Spanish mission. The hills are killers, both going up and going down. I was exhausted when it was over but back in love with San Francisco.
    In the evening I went to the Utah Hotel Bar open mike. I was one of the first people there, then they put names in a hat, getting one song each, and mine was one of the last names chosen. So I left.

Tuesday, February 16
In 1971, I did a "3-song set at the Gaslight, got a good hand."
San Francisco
    Moved from the Lombard Plaza to the San Francisco Town House. 59 degrees at 8:30. In between, I drove down to the Haight.

The Jefferson Airplane house at 2400 Fulton

A lot of psychedelic painted buildings and plenty of Sixties souvenir stores, ridiculously expensive. Stepped into a head shop or whatever they call them today—lots of bongs, the strong smell of incense.

Where the Psychedelic Shop used to be on Haight Street

The nostalgia didn't hit until I started walking back to the car, and the memories hurt bad. San Francisco would be a wonderful place to live if it weren't so damn expensive. I might even learn to drink wine.
    No open mike anywhere tonight. I had 3 HoHos for breakfast and a roast beef sandwich for dinner with gummy worms.

Wednesday, February 17
1965: "If things go right, I will see Nancy Wilson tonight."
San Francisco
    Danish, banana, coffee, and orange juice at the motel. Changed motels. A busy morning and early afternoon, a cool cloudy day, rain scheduled for tonight but right now cool and pleasant. An hour later, the clouds were moving off and overhead there was a blue sky with cirrus. I went to the post office, went to a Walgreen's to have a prescription refilled, tried to find the Safeway and failed, cashed a credit card at the bank, and picked up my prescription. Quite a lot of walking.

    Then I took the car up to Lombard Street for a couple of photos. On the walk back to the car, I bought a Swenson's strawberry sherbet ice cream cone. Dee-licious. Then I picked up some groceries at Safeway.
    I struck out again in the rainy evening. I went to Neck of the Woods on Clement Street and once again they put names in a beer pitcher and I was last so I left.
    In 1963, Norma Fire told me "San Francisco is a city that comes over you like a glove." And once again I have found that true. I came here, as usual, disgruntled, gruntled, and regruntled, and the city said, "Relax, enjoy, look at what there is around the next corner" as I walked the streets. It is, for me, a special city. I would like to live here and explore it. But it is way too expensive.

Thursday, February 18
1971 (33 years old): "I see a fat old man in the mirror . . . or is that Shakespeare?"
San Francisco
    Up around 8:30. Same breakfast at the motel plus one of the yogurts I had bought yesterday. Bright blue sky with medium-sized cumulus.
    Drove down to the Haight again to take pictures of 2400 Fulton (long-ago home of the Jefferson Airplane) and where the Psychedelic Shop had been. I also found where the Blue Unicorn was but it wasn't worth a photo. But the International Coffeehouse was a block away and I learned they have an open mike there tonight.
    Then I went to Chinatown, somehow managing to find a parking place as a guy pulled out, leaving 45 minutes on the parking meter. $3.25 for an hour! Garages were $2.00 for half an hour. I walked around Chinatown a bit then found the Beat Museum, really just a book store about the beats, next to Naked Lunch. Talked to the guy at the so-called museum awhile, learning he came from Baltimore and he had toured the country with Neil Cassidy's son John in a large traveling home, trying to educate the country about the beat movement.
    I had wanted to stop in the coffee shop where the beats used to congregate back in the 50s but I couldn't find it.
    However, on my way to the coffeehouse the car crapped out on a hill on Gough Street and wouldn't restart. Called AAA and the tow truck driver said it was probably the timing belt. Drove me to the motel then drove the car to a place several miles away.

Friday, February 19
In 1965, I drove Nancy home from an American Light Opera Company performance, stopping off for coffee and a long goodnight kiss.
San Francisco
    Got up at 7:30, called All American Automotive and finally learned that it is the timing belt. Several more calls and nothing by the end of the day. In the evening I walked to Safeway and had a cup of coffee at Peet's.

Saturday, February 20
In 1965, I spent the night in Nancy Wilson's apartment
as the long George Washington Birthday (it wasn't called President's Day back then) weekend began.

San Francisco
    Took a long walk (about 3 hours) up Lombard, down the ess curves, then down Columbus Boulevard to North Beach (the Hotel Boheme and the Cafe Puccini) and Chinatown, where Grant Street was closed off as the Chinese New Year began, a lot of little booths, many of them games of chance, very few of them selling food, mostly good fortune tokens. Saw a dragon dance, with two guys, one bent over most of the time except when he was hoisting the other one onto his shoulders so that the dragon stood up on its hind legs, accompanied by cymbals and a drum. I had a cup of coffee at Happy Donuts and walked past the Malt and Dagger Tattoo Parlor and wen into the Citylights Bookstore and was not exhausted when I got back so I walked down a couple of blocks to have another cup of coffee at Peet's. A very cool breezy day, on the edge of being chilly. I was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable in a light jacket.

Sunday, February 21
1964: "I'm in my old old bigsmall room (is it really so small, this room that once was so huge, so vast in fact that it contained a universe?)"
San Francisco
    Another walk around town, about 2 hours. A lot of people walking dogs on the streets of San Francisco. One thing I don't like about this town is that there are no trash barrels. Strawberry shake at Tony's Cable Car Restaurant on Geary Street. This time I was exhausted when it was over. In the evening I had a mediocre salmon sandwich at Barney's Burgers on Steiner Street.
Monday, February 22
In 1962, I rented my first apartment.
San Francisco
    I walked down to the American Automotive today. It took about an hour and a half. Then I walked around the area (Hung Phat Bakery and Coffee). I had the camera taken out of the car and somehow lost it, which I found out when I went into a camera store and bought another camera. The car cost $1234 and sounds great now.
    In the evening I went to 69 Broadway in Fairfax and it was another disaster. I got there at 8:30, the open mike began at 9, and there was already a long list. A guy was playing in front of a microphone in the main bar (small), pretty good guitar player, adequate voice, zero stage presence. Then a group of women, a woman's chorus, sang on the main stage in back while their director passed back and forth in front of them, drawing all the attention to him. Then they dismantled the sound equipment on the main stage and went back to the small area in front of the bar. I left.
    San Francisco was in many ways a disaster. I went to 4 open mikes and performed at none. It doesn't seem to have much of a music scene any more. Then my timing belt broke and I had to spend a weekend there. If the people in Berkley had told me how important it was, I might have got it fixed (though probably at the same price) and been able to make the International Cafe open mike on Thursday night.
    Nonetheless, I love the city itself despite its expensiveness. And the extra days allowed me to walk around it more, including North Beach and Chinatown.


Tuesday, February 23
John Quincy Adams died in 1848.

    Another clear blue sky day. On the road at 8:38, temp 55, odometer 122159, traffic backed up on 101 coming into San Francisco as I headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge, hardly golden, painted in rust red. Looking back, that is one hell of a view, water, a couple of islands, the tower of the city. To Muir Woods at 9:09. The dirt paths through the big trees (more impressive than those of Sequoia) have been replaced by wooden boardwalks and railings. Not many people but still not alone for very long. Took the Canopy View Trail going up from the valley then turned around and went back, trees more impressive than those of Sequoia, perhaps because I'm walking in them instead of driving from one place to another. The melody of some kind of warbler probably, but Muir Wood is no longer one of my sacred places, partly because of the walks and the people but also because I'm 50 years older, but it's still semi-sacred.