Sunday, August 30, 2009

Star Trekking

This city is vivid. It's alive in a way that no other place on Earth can match. San Francisco is a playground for artists, aristocrats, vagabonds, bohemians, refugees, and a wide assortment of only the most interesting people. Oscar Wilde once noted, "It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world" And it's true, even to this day. If you have dream of art and love, sin and fun, culture and history, San Francisco is your final destination.

Intending to only stay a few hours, I was sucked into a wild weekend of adventure and true living, complete with twists and turns and rugged discomfort in true beatnik spirit.

Friday morning I woke, making modest plans of a quiet weekend in my Berkeley dorm, studying and reading Chaucer and Aristotle, and maybe even get started on a short story I've been playing in my head for a while. The day progressed and I planned to have a little jam session with my friend, Travis, and listen to some vinyls. It was shaping up to be a nice, low-key weekend of books and music.

Imagine my surprise when my old friend, Hank, gives me a ring and tells me that, no more that a few hours ago, he moved into his new dorm at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, and wants me to come visit. I'm obliged to ditch out of prior engagements and buy a ticket, round trip (planning on a short stay), for the next BART train to the City.

Once there, we shared a grand ol' huge fitting of reunited friends, and trekked around union square until we got a call from our friend Jenni, demanding we trek on over to the theater for a free screening of Star Trek. Afterward, we trekked (stopping now, by the way) about the city for a while, eventually stumbling into a hole in the wall call Pearl's Diner, which holds the honorary title of "best burger in San Francisco," and, by god, were they not kidding. The mini deluxe with blue cheese put me in a state of savory coma, only to be exacerbated by this original 50s style malt that I chased it with. The meal knocked me on my ass with a charbroiled 1-2 punch. We then headed to Union Square for a smoke; Bali Shags to be precise; damn good rolling tobacco. We smoked our freshly rolled cigarettes and shot electric speech at one another with that hip, young, art student vibe, that we all love so much. All potential and all future, and nothing stopping us; the night was ours. After some time, most of the gang called it quits and retired to their respective apartments, slowly branching off, one by one, from the collective group. Eventually, it was just Hank and me, and we trekked under the starry sky for another hour or so. We talked excitedly of plans for the year now that we were both in this most exciting of places. Finally, after miles of sidewalk passed, we arrived Hank's building. Visiting policy is strict, so I would have to play it smooth to get passed the security booth. I feigned panicked ignorance and naivete of a lowly freshman, confused and frightened by his first night in the city. They asked my floor, I guessed the safe number of three, and I was let pass. I somehow fell asleep despite my meager bed (a blanket and pillow, tossed to me out of pity, on the floor).

The next day, Hank and I woke up to a ringing phone with Jenni on the other end. She made plans to trek (am I still going on with that?) to the coast for a day under the sun. Her friend Anna would be joining us. Now, there are two things you have to know about Anna, the first is that she is here for a month on vacation from Germany, and the second is that she is very beautiful.

We caught a bus and paid two dollars each (for tickets we would use the rest of the day, well after expiration to get from one destination to the next) and we were on our way.

The beach was phenomenal; exponentially more beautiful than even the most pristine beach in southern California, that is, if you don't mind the ball-shrinkingly cold water that will simultaneously rape you of your manhood while dragging you out like a rag doll to the deep blue, all the while crashing wave after wave atop your sub-zero body. It had been quite some time sing I've been t the coast, and even longer (never) since I've been to this particular spot. I had the time of my life splashing around in the waves next to the majestic cliffs and charmingly out-of-place steampunk style windmill. Also, the only bath I had prior was in the sink of Hank's half-bathroom back at his dorm. After a few hours of soaking up the warm San Francisco rays, we trekked back to the street to catch a bus to Haight-Ashbury. We quickly flashed our tickets and hit that sweet spot of time (long enough for the driver to recognize that they were, indeed, tickets, yet short enough to elude his detection of the expiration time.) perfectly.

Once on Haight street, we immediately saw one of the notoriously interesting (hooray euphemisms!) people Haight has to offer. A staggeringly tall and intimidatingly large man emerged from the anarchist haven we like to call Golden Gate park. Oh yeah, and he was wearing body armor, head to toe. Clearly not about to just let such a thing go unquestioned, I held back from the group slightly and asked the gentlemen what exactly he's preparing for. The armored giant brushed his long black hair from his eyes, looked me straight in the eye and said with grave precision, "The end of your world," and then he walked away focused and ready to wage war against the four horsemen when they arrive. Laughing hysterically (mostly to cover that feeling in our gut that the end was nigh) we grabbed a slice from Escape From New York Pizza. Now, if you've never been to Escape From New York Pizza, I can not stress enough how much of a fool this makes you. Afterward we shopped around a bit, tried on ridiculous outfits, and grew bored and caught a bus back to union square.

We eventually reached Jenni's apartment, only after a fabulous dinner of Thai food at some hip place at around midnight, where we had a few friends over and chatted the night away. The best part was smoking on the fire escape watching the city's fog swirl all around me. It was an indescribably beautiful experience that I hope to have again very soon, and often after that. I planned to crash on the floor of the apartment, and ended up scoring a bed. And to make things better, I would rinse off in a shower, one lacking any form of visible soap, but it was nice all the same.

I would return to Berkeley the following morning, but not before grabbing a bagel with lox, and a coffee to drink, from this amazing cafe on Jones street. I would smell of where I've been (body odor), and my hair would shoot off in all directions, gelled by its own grease. I would be exhausted, unkempt, filthy, and in need of several day's sleep and a nice long shower, but it would be the result of an unforgettable weekend.

If this is any indication of how this year will continue, I can only express undying gratitude for the life I have, and all the living, the true living, that is to come.

Bohemian Dandy

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