A Musical Pilgrimage to the U.S. 2010
It’s been over sixteen years since I last set foot in California. Arriving at LAX after a fourteen hour flight, plus hours before that getting to the airport, was a shock. It’s one of the ugliest places – where tired passengers are confronted with lines of other tired people waiting to go through customs. I had a seven hour layover, before flying to San Francisco. Enough said.
It was the hottest day all summer, having reached 107 degrees in parts of the Bay Area! Timed my arrival with peak hour traffic and spent the trip watching the fog roll into the bay. Familiar landmarks were everywhere, but the traffic didn’t ease off till Santa Rosa, which feels like a suburb of SF.
Reuniting with longtime friends Marge, Patrick and his brother John, in Sebastopol was a joy. I love that feeling of reconnecting after so long and it feels like yesterday. I spent a lot of time in this area from the early ’80’s to 1996 – so my first wander around the neighbourhood was filled with memories.
Visiting David & Linda Freiberg
David & Linda Freiberg became friends while I worked in the San Francisco Chapter office of NARAS in the early ‘90’s. They were both very active on the Board of Directors and part of a number of different committees I worked on. We became friends almost immediately and over the intervening years, that has not diminished.
I became a fan of Quicksilver Messenger Service in the ‘60’s – David being the bass player – so it was a thrill to be working with him. These days he is a driving force in the current line-up of Jefferson Starship. Linda heads her own Linda Imperial Band.
Spending time with these people was the best way to recover from jetlag. Four days of r’n’r in the most peaceful, picturesque, nurturing setting. I was waited on hand and foot, and included in all their social activities – which naturally included live music!
San Francisco (and other places in the Bay Area – Marin County, Berkeley, Oakland – being the most memorable) was my home from 1982 – 1996. I love this city and knew it intimately, as I have always preferred to walk it’s streets, instead of driving or taking buses and cable cars.
My first destination had to be North Beach and the Roma Café, so I asked my friend Patrick (of Sebastopol fame) if he’d join me for a bowl of coffee Italian style. The place has been refurbished, but the atmosphere and Italian clientele remain the same.
On the corner of Columbus and Broadway, City Lights bookstore is still a shining beacon in this age of digital downloads. I spent hours in the poetry room, reacquainted myself with the huge number of City Lights publications, then found the music book section in the basement. $’s were spent! The Versuvio Bar is across the lane way, where Jack, Neal, Ferlingetti and their cronies spent many an hour imbibing their favourite brews.
Decided to walk around some of my favourite routes, first heading to Market Street down California. Oh my god! I spotted my last American partner still in the same job – he didn’t see me – gulped and took off at high speed, wondering about the odds of that happening? Obviously, I am not wanting a reunion and he, even less so.
Union Square has not changed much – cable cars on Powell Street, tourists lined up for miles. The big department stores and hotels have far less customer service (ie. hardly any employees) these days.
I did find Tiffany perfume in a Chinese hole-in-the-wall for $20US, while it was over $100 in the Tiffany store (which only seemed to have three people serving behind the counters on two floors – lots of security guards though) …SCORE!
Headed through Chinatown on Grant Avenue, avoiding all the hills. My memory did not fail me, as I watched tourists huffing and puffing in the hot afternoon sun. Ended up back at the Versuvio and ordered a pint of Guinness and a pint of cold water. Patrick collected me about an hour later and we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge before the fog rolled into the Bay.