Whatever You Do…

7-footed Fem-o-saur

When I last visited Vermont [in Aug. 2004], I spent 3 crazy days in mud, sadness, and relief at Phish’s last stand, Coventry. Mud season had hit early via three tropical storms that blew over right before the festival opened. All the planned fields of parking were fields of shit-smelling mud. My life-long friend and brother Mark helped me make it to the show, wanting one last goodbye to all our years of Phish shows (and hoping to cheer me up as my life began to unravel). The locals were super nice, the sunsets were amazing, and I promised myself that I’d return to Vermont soon. – HappyFeet Travels entry, from VT, in April 19, 2006.

The Photographer, at Coventry, VT

Once again, I have written a comment about a Phish festival experience (I wrote about the Clifford Ball here). Someone on the Phish subreddit asked if anyone had fun at the Phish Coventry festival. I had to think about that for a minute. Was it actually fun? Two memories vividly popped up; one was spending a few hours near the entrance cheering on the folks walking in from the freeway. Another was seeing my friend Mark’s hilarious photographs of shoe wear (or lack of shoes) from other phans. And a police horse.

Hoofin-it

Getting digital photos back in 2004 wasn’t as easy as it is now (Cloud storage was about a year away from becoming a new and easy way to share). Mark didn’t even use a phone camera to snap the pics. He eventually gave me digital copies, which ended up on a hard drive with other photos. I rediscovered them a few years ago, and frequently look through them for a laugh. Mark had a great time meeting folks and giving their shoes, etc. funny titles. It was a great way to participate during a sad, dreary, shit-smelling weekend.

The Phorgotten

The following is what I wrote for the subreddit post (with a few revisions for clarity). We had a madcap adventure, which swore me off of flying around for music festivals. It was the end of the 2.0 era of Phish, which was thankfully short. I didn’t mention a few other memories on the subreddit post. One that really stands out is of a strung-out young hippie coming up to our car/camp site and asking us if we knew where any “pharmies” were. Before we could ask her what she meant, a neighbor interrupted and furiously told her to piss off. We asked him what she meant, and he explained that it was legal prescription “hillbilly heroin” that was ruining the scene. And Trey’s life. Oooooooh. That’s what Trey is addicted to. Damn.

Latest Mummy Fashion

Coventry was a surreal, exhausting, muddy experience.

My bro and I flew into and met up in Montreal a day before gates opened. We saw on the hostel’s desktop that phish.com had a notice saying that three tropical storms had delayed the gate opening the next day. Wait to drive in, they asked. I looked at my bro and we both agreed to “leave first thing in the morning and get there ASAP!”

Driving into the USA sucked, but were were older phans and intentionally drove in looking clean cut with no contraband. The dogs found nothing, but a few other cars/phans weren’t so lucky.

We bought groceries (and mud boots) in town and a tow truck driver shopping there told us how bad things were on site. He drew us a shortcut to get closer to the gate and it saved us about 8 hours waiting! Driving in was a painful experience (I’ve had worse, but this one was brutal) People kept falling asleep in the car line and we spent 8 hours hopping the sleepers (I’d yell to try to wake them).

Golom in Goth

Finally through the gate, we saw a surreal scene of empty fields of mud with huge-wheeled tractors pulling cars into the middle parts. “Screw that” we said and literally drove into the mud on the edge of the “roads” (where most cars parked) and called it a day. We instantly passed out, and I awoke to hearing the “do not come to Coventry” message and all the buzz over what was going to happen next. Later, we saw an RV alone in a muddy field flying a South Carolina flag (our home state) and we trudged down there to say howdy. They were exhausted, not too happy, and freaked out about how to get out of the field (they paid the huge tractor to tow them in there). Bummer. I saw a beautiful sunset that day and told the person beside me “what an amazing sunset!” She said “I know. I live here!” umm, ok.

Heading to the first show was surreal. After a very long walk from our car, wooden crates literally lined a small path through a pond of deep mud. Cut the line in the mud at your own risk! Kept hearing the “cowbell” SNL skit as we trudged with the masses on the tiny path. I consider it a ring of hell to this day. At the gate to the show, fences were torn down. No one was looking for tickets, and it was a free concert. Too bad the music quality was mixed. Trying to get close meant hitting a river of mud. Huge boulders were in front of the stage, a literal reminder that Trey’s addiction was blocking the whole experience. After a few horrible flubs, I couldn’t take it any more and went back to the car to rest and listen on the radio. I had to turn it off after a while.

Severe Gang-green

Day two was actually quite fun, in a schadenfreude kind of way. We set up chairs at the entrance and cheered on the immigrants from the Interstate. The sun was shining. It was great to see the exhausted shoe-bums finally get into the last-ever Phish show! I recall the most popular item brought into the festival area were coolers. Beer and food! My bro took his camera and photographed muddy feet and shoes. His photo project was hilarious once he developed the film (I have digital copies if anyone is interested). There was food, fresh water access. We had beer and bud. No one really wanted to talk about the quality of last night’s show, but seeing people arriving from the Interstate was all smiles and cheers.

Getting in that night wasn’t as miserable as first night. We tried to get closer, but ended up on the audience-right wall that was officially an open urinal and smelled horrible. Back to the Page side of the stage, where we climbed a hill and watched the scene. Again, the band was barely together. Hearing Page and Trey cry was such a sad moment. We heard the encore at the “gate” of the concert area, ready to leave fast to beat more hell traffic. It was a sad moment to an exhausting weekend, but we did manage to have some fun.

Truffle Probes

We had neighbors help us push our car out before the last show, and we parked in the “day lot” to get a fast exit out of the festival. After that last note, we beat a downtrodden path to the lot. Security blocked us off as we all watched three different buses pull out from backstage. Page actually gave a forlorn wave to us from one of the windows as we gave one final cheer to the boys. We all knew that Trey was probably alone and isolated in his own bus. Damn.

We were probably one of the first cars out. Driving past dozens of cop cars with lights blazing, we wandered Vermont back roads until we found a lodge with a clean bed and – most importantly – a shower! Drove back to Montreal the next day and, after trying poutine for the first time, flew back home.

Convertibles

After all of that, I swore that I’d never travel to see Phish, or go to another festival. I’ve broken that first vow, and may eventually break the second…

Postscript: When I went back to Vermont in 2006 to work for Ben Cohen’s Sensible Priorities art car carnival, I managed to head back to Coventry for a visit. The site was easy to find, especially with no traffic! I parked my van, and walked onto the field. After only two years, the fields had recovered. I recall that the boulders were still there, as well as some infrastructure that had sunk in the mud. As always, the vistas were of beautiful Vermont countryside. During that quiet moment, I tried to visualize the mud and masses, the sadness and exhaustion. Phish was gone. Trey hadn’t been arrested yet. And, in 2004, we all had to take care of our shoes that weekend. Some of the unlucky ones are probably still stuck in the cow field muck. And the others are photographs and memories.

2k Miles, One Band, Three Friends, and a First Festival

Being the ticket maven and willing to fill out the forms and buy the cashiers check (this was before anything could really get purchased over the Internet), I snagged four tickets for The Clifford Ball through the Phish newsletter’s mail order. Mapquest was brand new, so I doubt we used it to find the small New York town of Plattsburgh. Had we kept track, we would’ve seen our 4wd SUV click over 1,000 miles to get to the weekend festival. The event was a wild scene, but totally peaceful and chill. The band drew all types of subcultures to the promise of a good time and some fun music to dance to. When Ryan Randazzo posted about this article, I had a great time trying to recall my feelings and experiences around the weekend. I have a few stories that he didn’t use, and may tell them at a later date.

Flashback: Phish’s Clifford Ball, August 16-18 1996
A beacon of light in the world of flight

By Ryan Randazzo Jul 16, 2018 (LINK to NYS Music page)

In the summer of 1996 an estimated 70,000 to 85,000 Phish fans drove to a former Air Force Base in Plattsburgh, NY to attend an event that would forever change the landscape of modern music festivals and add yet another dimension to Phish’s already polarizing live music experience: The Clifford Ball. Fans camped out from August 16-18 to see Phish performed three sets of music and an encore on each of the two show days, as well as a secret jam, the Flatbed Jam, at 3:30 a.m. on the night of the first show. The audience was four times the size of the county the festival took place in, Clinton County, and for that one weekend Plattsburgh became New York’s ninth largest city.

The Clifford Ball was the first festival Phish had ever thrown, and since then they have kept the tradition going with their upcoming festival, Curveball, as their eleventh installment. Going in, fans had no idea what to expect, and most were completely astonished by the experience they had that weekend. In addition to the music, attendants were treated to flights overhead by bombers, gliders, and other aerial vehicles, carnival rides, wandering jugglers, fireworks, a classical violin quartet, a blues quartet, guitar soloists, a choral quintet, a full orchestra, movies in the camping area, a full village built on a hill, a vast array of food and drink vendors, a general store, trampolinists, a aerialist swinging on ropes, and scattered art installments. The carnival vibe filled fans with glee and wonder, and those who attended still say it was one of the most stupendous experiences of their lives. For those interested in watching the festival in its entirety, Phish released a massive seven DVD box set in March 2009. Below is a look back on experiences had at the festival by friends of NYS Music and Phish.net:

Courtesy of Russell Howze

Anticipation and Arrival:

John Demeter, Contributor to The Phish Companion, Third Edition: “Oddly enough, we didn’t really expect some Dionysian party, beyond what we were accustomed to (see what I did there?). There were literally a million other places we could go camping that are better than a shitty closed airfield in Plattsburgh. We were expecting to hang out during the days, entertain ourselves, and then see Phish outside the construct of a regular venue. The baseline expectation was Sugarbush from the prior year, which was really nothing but rows of tents in the ski area parking lots.

We had no idea what “festival” in that sense meant at the time. We were calling it “the camp out” right up to the show. We didn’t even consider that there’d be vending, art installations, gliders, and trampoline skiers and such.”

courtesy of PhanArt

Todd Wimer: “I was beyond stoked when I opened up my mailbox, took out the latest Doniac Schvice, and saw the Clifford Ball announcement. This was how I got Phish news back then, not months in advance via rumor gurus like Attyaloew. Coming off of the New Year’s ’95 run, with 12/1, 12/15, and 12/31/95 being the most recent shows I had seen, I was obsessed with Phish at the time, so the timing was pretty ideal. My high school crew all felt the same way and it was an understood thing that we’d make it up to the festival no matter what.

[Going in] the enthusiasm everywhere was palpable. Phish felt like this big inside joke at the time, and the festival was astounding in that we all looked around and acknowledged that a lot of people were in on the joke. And that was fine, because I love being around Phish people, so the more the merrier (barring tough-ticket shows and scalpers who have since learned to capitalize on this rabid fandom.) My first few shows in ’93 and ’94, the crowd was a lot of white-cap collegiate dudebrahs and nerdy guys with glasses who looked like they played D&D. The wook element was there at those shows, but not as present until after Jerry died the previous summer.”

Russell Howze: “[My initial] reaction was excitement. I knew it would be large, but it was an incredibly large crowd there. I did not expect the art and creativity that happened when the band was not playing, and was also amazed at how many different subcultures were there for the music/party/scene. I expected a huge police presence (the Grateful Dead’s horrible tour/riots/gate crashing were still fresh), but there were only about four mounted, pot-friendly, Texas sheriffs. The gathering of all those people, with no real authority present made for a laid back good time.”

Courtesy of Russell Howze

Dan Hewins: ”I was in Vermont at a friend’s house about three hours from Plattsburgh. We (three of us) decided to leave on Thursday about 11 o’clock. We thought we’d beat the traffic by arriving at two and that there should be some people there since the gates opened at noon. Well the surprises began immediately upon entry. There were so many people already there, the lots were filling, and the camping areas were already fully inhabited. The place was booming when we got there so we quickly closed up the car and began moving about the masses. We took a walk to get our bearings and see what we could see. All I could think for a while was, Damn. All this for one band? We explored, danced some by the DJ bus, and explored more.”

“I had been seeing Phish for two years at that point (five shows) but wasn’t the “true” fan as many others tried to be. I was there for the party. Really, it could of been a Dave Matthews Band fest and probably would of gone. I don’t remember much of the drive there except the closer we got the more we knew we were in the right place. Getting up to the gates there was a huge line to get in, of course, but not like the lines you see today.”

The Festival Scene:

Marco Esquandolas*: ”The Clifford Ball was also my first show. Honestly one of the biggest memories that sticks out to this day, non-musically speaking, was just the fact that I managed to find everyone I was looking for, in that pre-cell phone era. Near my campsite there was this big corkboard wall where hundreds and hundreds of people had posted things hoping other folks would see their messages and connect. I picked up a paper plate off the ground and wrote a Sharpie message on it telling my best friend where my tent was – magically he saw that note amongst all the others and found me…. nearly miraculous!”

Mark Larezzo: “I remember it as a giant chaotic mess and total 24 hour party. That and it was CROWDED. I saw the first set on the second day from so far away that the only thing I could make out on the stage was a tiny bright green dot that was Mike.”

Russell Howze: “Folks weren’t really into wearing the costumes back then, but my friend made me a crazy costume to wear (fish-themed fabric, like a Scottish kilt/sash). I also brought a tuxedo and walked around like I was a butler during one of the daytime sets. The stares and drunken drink orders were priceless. The memory I still love is: While chilling under a shade structure on one of the night set breaks (I think it was during a set break), a guy walked in with a flashlight on a tripod. He set it up, turned it on, checked his focus, and then threw a brilliant hand shadow show up on the shade tent’s white-fabric roof. I just had to roll over on my back to watch it, and when he finished, dozens of folks gave him a round of thunderous applause.”

Todd Wimer: “There was a big movie screen in the campground that was showing Simpsons episodes. Drum circles. Many many grasshoppers. Mounties. I’ll tell you some fun that we didn’t have at the campground: the flatbed jam! We were fast asleep and when it passed by, twenty feet away from our tent, we slept right through it. I think there were newspapers being printed daily and circulated on site and we read about the flatbed jam or someone told us about it and we were just confused. ‘Whattaya mean? Where was the stage? Was the truck moving?’ I thought they were trolling us.”

Courtesy of Russell Howze

Dan Hewins: “There was a town square replete with Barber Shop, Ball Court, Ball Diner, some kind of chapel, General Store, and a statue of Clifford Ball himself in the center. On the outskirts was an artist area where people were making, building, painting, and creating. There was another building that contained giant asphalt balls. One was about five feet in diameter and some of the others were a bit smaller, but they were all painted like a street. Outside of that building there was a guy standing in front of a huge log about three feet in diameter. He was chopping at it with a hatchet, a tiny hatchet, he was making very slow progress. There was a theme here and if you can guess what it was you win. It was Clifford Ball. Ball was the theme. Artists were sculpting and decorating balls of all types. Inside on of the buildings in the square there were plaques up on the walls with words: orb, sphere, dance, globe, testis, bullet. I got orb, globe, sphere, and dance but I wasn’t sure what testis was.

Jim Pollock was in a tent signing art that he had done. There was a special deal, if you were wearing a shirt he designed you got a dollar off a purchase. I bought a three dollar sticker for two bucks. There was a music tent too, there was a saxophone quartet, that’s all I remember. There also was a place to “confess to Phish.” It was attached to the chapel. It was a small room with a mic and a podium that you would sit behind and “confess” in front of a camera. Hmmm. The barber that I mentioned before gives haircuts too. He only cuts one hair though. I found him giving a haircut to a camera crew guy’s fuzzy microphone. I chose the hair that he should cut and then presented the cut hair to the guy holding the mic. So basically, Clifford Ball square was cool.”

The Music:

Tela Esquandolas*: “Clearly there were so many musical highlights in retrospect. At the time the Phish I knew best was A Live One and the studio albums up to that point, so a good deal of nuance was lost on me at the time, but what I will never forget is the “Chalkdust Torture” opener. The opening notes sent a wave of goosebumps over my body – the roar of the crowd only increased them… I was there… I had finally arrived… this was it! Still to this day if I play that “Chalkdust” or watch the video of that opener, I get goosebumps – it was the true beginning of my obsession with their music.”

John Demeter: “Seeing Mike’s outfit when he took the stage on day two was among the funniest things in the world. The sound was phenomenal. One hundred bigger and better than anything I could imagine. (Having never experienced the wall of sound. Or heard of it at that point, for that matter. But I had been to plenty of other arena and stadium shows. No comparison.) I can still hear the end “Life On Mars”, the perfect articulation of all those notes across the massive field. I didn’t even know the song at the time, but the sound system permanently etched it in my memory.

Todd Wimer: “Musically, I remember the opener because my best friend and I were up against the rail and had to wait a long-ass time for them to go on, and the bigness of the “Chalkdust Torture” opener made it all worthwhile. The band were obviously thrilled and so were we. It was loud, and everyone was unabashedly pumped. I also remember the sort of acoustic set that they played I think the second set of that night, just because that was when we needed to bail from the rail, so we could go piss and get some water and nourishment, and that the timing for that interlude set seemed perfect as we kicked back and had some chicken fingers.

Other highlights were the 2001, the ferocious “Antelope”  with… the UVM ski team on trampolines? Or the chick swinging around on the rope? And also, the “Harpua” encore on the last night. I recall the band being a little bit miffed at something during this, and ever since then my friends and I had assumed it was a miscue. I think the glider with the sparkling trails was supposed to be doing its thing after Trey’s narration but had gotten the timing wrong and released the luminescent sky writing early so the very end of the festival was kind of …curious. And my impression was that people who had an absolute blast for the whole weekend weren’t thrilled with the ending. We were only slightly confused, but definitely not unappreciative!”

Russell Howze: “”Brother” stood out. Ben and Jerry sang horribly on that one and it was hilarious. The “Tweezer” circus spectacle was fun. The flatbed truck jam was amazing, and the highlight of the weekend. I still wish I could’ve kept running along the truck longer than I did (it was a long day and they weren’t stopping).”

John Lockerby: “The “Chalkdust Torture” was the perfect way to open the festival. The energy was indescribable. You can see from Trey’s face how much fun the band was having. I don’t think they knew what they were in for. Whenever I hear the “Chalkdust” riff I think of Jeff and me running down the runway. I think I was pissed at the encore. Not that “Amazing Grace” isn’t a fun tune, it’s just not what I drove all day to see.

We missed the late night set. I guess the truck didn’t drive by us. I didn’t bring a tent, so I slept in my car. (It was a hatchback though so there was plenty of room for me.) Maybe that’s why I missed it.

[The second day was the] best concert of our lives, but once again, we were bummed out by the encore. I mean it was only half the song. Luckily, I didn’t know “Harpua” at the time, so I had no idea what was missing.”

Leaving/Final Thoughts:

John Demeter: “The end of the festival was abrupt and very confusing. I fully expected that some massive cosmic energy had manifested over that spot and some great energetic event would occur. But they didn’t even finish the song, really. I am still confused.

Leaving was disgusting. An absolute embarrassment of waste trash garbage people ditching perfectly good stuff. Gross. Figured more of us knew approximately what “leave no trace” meant.”

Mark Larezzo: “I remember it being a mess in the camping area and musically amazing. I am thankful I was so young because there is no way I would survive it now. The only other festival I have been to is Magnaball and it was 100 times more civilized but not quite as exhilarating as the Clifford Ball.”

Todd Wimer: “I mean, only for a band like Phish can ‘making it big’ be something beyond selling out Madison Square Garden. Yes, that was amazing. But being a sort of indie band and building a tent city from the ground up by luring 70k people all the way up to Plattsburgh, that was awesome. And we all felt it. One of my lasting takeaways from the Ball was that I forever wondered if and when they would release the video footage of the shows. We saw the camera crew on stage for the whole weekend and kept speculating about why they were filming it. Years later (15?) when they announced the 5.1 mix and the DVD set I was almost as excited as when I first heard about the festival.

I saw three festivals during 1.0 and two so far during 3.0 (Can’t wait for Curveball!) I lump together the ’97 and ’98 festivals, I guess because they were held at the same spot; and I do the same with the two previous Watkins fests. But The Clifford Ball was its own thing, and stands out for being so huge, timed perfectly, 100% FOR the fans, and very positive. And now that I read that back, I think those positives apply to ’11 and ’15 as well, but in ’96 we didn’t know what to expect or that it would be as special as it was. “

courtesy of PhanArt

Russell Howze: “Looking back, the Clifford Ball was a fun event. Compared to the disastrous Coventry (the only other festival I’ve attended), it was a perfect slice of rock n roll heaven. Being at the first Phish festival means to me that I really don’t have to go to another Phish festival. I left CB exhausted, but it was worth the effort.”

Nala C. Egapal: “The atmosphere was so incredibly warm and welcoming. I recall such a large amount of vehicles but I feel like traffic (getting in and out) was not a problem. One of my biggest memories was watching Trey on the screen almost lost staring at the “Mr. Sausage” booth and those words coming out…”Mr. Sausage” I had never been to a festival before, but this opened my eyes to how awesome they could be. There was so much to explore, people on shakedown, the giant art pieces, people getting lost within themselves playing devil sticks, etc… The weather was hot and clear from what I remember, and nights were perfect. I did not see the set the band played on the flatbed trailer but remember hearing about it the next day. My favorite set was definitely set 1 just because of the energy level, my but favorite song was either “Makisupa Policeman” or “Chalkdust Torture.” One cannot forget Ben and Jerry singing.”

Darren Barcomb: “I had seen the Grateful Dead in 1994 and 1995 in Highgate, Vermont, and can say that the Clifford Ball definitely established Phsh as the premier festival group in the post-Grateful Dead era. The Plattsburgh airbase was a perfect spot for a 70,000+ person weekend performance but I do recall issues with heavy traffic and high demand for food/water. Overall, it was a well received show by those in attendance and is still discussed in Plattsburgh routinely 22 years later. I’m not sure if the local community loved the event, but those in attendance enjoyed a historic weekend.”

*not their real name, obviously

Continue reading “2k Miles, One Band, Three Friends, and a First Festival”

7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style

Howdy! I’m Russell and I’m a South Carolina native. My roots are all over the Palmetto State, but I’ve called San Francisco home since 1997. After I moved here, I created this very site, which I called a fake travel agency, as a way to entice my Carolina friends and cousins to come out and see me.

If you’re from South or North Carolina, and were lucky enough to get a rare ticket to the Super Bowl, welcome to San Francisco. I don’t think this city compares to any city back home, and you will certainly see more protesting (and here) than you ever have (we aren’t that happy with our mayor, SFPD chief, and all the apparent corruption that helped build these new, shiny skyscrapers). Once you’ve been to Super Bowl City – which is NOT local SF – I thought I’d give you all a list of San Franciscan-related Carolina tourist sites to visit during all that other time you have on your hands. They’re mostly connected to South Carolina. I’m sorry to say that North Carolina gets the short end of the stick here in the City by the Bay.

First, let me go ahead and warn you that most Californians have NO IDEA that there are even TWO Carolinas. And you’ll have to tell folks you’re from the Southeast, because coming from the South in Northern California means you live in Los Angeles, San Diego, etc. And don’t expect to find any decent sweet iced tea here either. A few places get close, but I make my own if I want the real, teeth-aching deal.

OK. Let’s get to some fun, quirky, out-of-the Super Bowl City/Union Square/Fisherman’s Wharf, Carolina-related places for you to drag your lazy ass around to if you’re here for the Super Bowl:

Continue reading “7 Ways to Get Some Cackalacky, San Francisco Style”

Panopticonic Shrugs in the Snowden-net

Almost March and no posts for the new year. I have felt eyes upon all corners of my privacy so haven’t felt too inspired to spend time staring at a screen and writing. I don’t know what think. My mind is blown. I have become introverted. I deleted email accounts. Changed passwords (so many hacked bank and store sites). Have a 2D avatar. If anything, stencils. Meeting up with friends has become important.

With gentrification comes cameras. Cameras on MUNI buses (at least 4, one pointing out the windshield, with one purpose: get evidence and write tickets for cars that park in bus stops). Cameras on bikes (thanks GoPro). Cameras on sidewalks in front of condos, and people constantly staring at cameras -er – cell phones.

The eye stares far and wide!

I am currently reading Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place to Hide” and the book’s statements make me furious. It’s a hard book to read. Fucking NSA! I never thought I’d feel a generation gap, but I feel one now. The Gen Web young adults have a very different idea of what privacy is. And I guess I like to keep it old school, i.e., “butt out of my private life.” Continue reading “Panopticonic Shrugs in the Snowden-net”

Intersection Watching: Amazed at the Chaos

I’m going to miss bike commuting the first few blocks of Sansome St. in San Francisco’s Financial District. That’s right – the nonprofit that I work for is going to move to downtown Oakland in the next three months. We are fleeing the booming high-rent space ($52/square foot in our current building) in order to grow and have the extra funds to support the growth. I may write more about my first ever desk job in Oakland, but for now – the poetic chaos of Sansome Street.

The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.
The yellow highlighted area marks the main stretch of my commute that fascinates me twice daily.

I frequently discuss traffic with a friend who happens to drive for Lyft (and Uber) and write freelance. During one of these discussions, I shared a story about how an Uber limo driver decided to drive around a Muni bus and the three cars stuck behind it. You may see a driver make this maneuver in other parts of San Francisco. On Sansome St., the Uber driver drove into the oncoming lane, into a gridlocked intersection, and only had an option of turning right (Muni buses can turn left and then zag right onto Market St. while all other traffic must turn right onto Sutter St.). Continue reading “Intersection Watching: Amazed at the Chaos”

An Obituary for CELLspace

Written by Devin Holt (I pitched in with info, editing, and whatnot)

CELLspace, community arts center, closed its doors at the end of 2012.

During the late 90s and early aughts, there was no better place to see the Mission District’s artistic, multicultural vibe than CELLspace. San Francisco prankster Chicken John was known to decorate the 10,000 square foot warehouse as a Las Vegas casino; the Flaming Lotus Girls created their first large scale fire installations in the CELLspace Metal Shop, and during Carnaval, the space would burst at the seams from the ritual drumming, colorful rattling costumes and sheer number of teenagers involved in groups like Loco Bloco and Danza Azteca.

Michael Sturtz was so impressed by CELLspace that he named his industrial arts school, The Crucible, after their art gallery.

“The name was inspired by the Crucible Steel Gallery, which was the CELLspace gallery at the time,” he said. Continue reading “An Obituary for CELLspace”

27 Sep: The Critical Mass Birthday Party

critical-mass-20th-birthday-party

Bikes, Bands, and Brews
The Critical Mass 20th Birthday Party

Live bands – check. Beer – check. Bikes – hell yeah!
Rock your way into Friday and help build the momentum towards the Interstellar Critical Mass.
Got SUV pinatas? Birthday cupcakes? A bike crew? Bring it if you wanna…

PERFORMING LIVE:
Grass Widow (grasswidow.org)
Apogee Sound Club
The Rabbles (therabbles.wordpress.com/)
Future Twin (futuretwin.com)

Thursday, Sep. 27, 2012
7pm to 1am
21+
$10 – $20* sliding scale
*door proceeds cover costs of event; profits go to the bands… please give generously if you can

CELL
2050 Bryant 
(b/t 18th and 19th sts)
SF, CA 94110

also:
bike stencils by Mission legend Scott Williams
DIY culture share… sell your bike-themed wares ($10 extra at door, byo table, while space lasts)

http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/

Hunting for Groucho on the Edge of Gas Town

Found Groucho’s book up in Vancouver. I first went to a used bookstore with books piled to the ceiling. “Now, I don’t put Groucho in the humour section,” the old worker said. “I put him in the Hollywood section.” Wasn’t sure if he was trying to be funny, until he walked me over to the piles of books about movie stars.

They had no copy of the particular book I wanted in either section. This put the number of book stores with no copy to about 6 total (SF and Vancouver combined). I leave the piles, and the aggressive hobo guy with an unlit cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Just up the street was another bookstore. Walking in, I heard two employees discussing something under the rattle of a jack hammer. Just behind the till, on the other side of the shelved wall, a jack hammer vibrated the whole store. It was like having a loud drunk as a third party to the conversation.

Male Employee: “Oh, boy. My neighbors at home are doing construction. Starts early in the morning. I’m getting here and there!”
Female Emp: “This is fucking driving me crazy! We start a bathroom remodel next week so I’m going to get it here and there too!”
They pause. Then she says, “they’ve been pounding the same part of the wall for weeks now. What the hell are they doing over there?”

… all the while, classical music sheepishly peeps through their stereo.

I find the book, the 1993 edition, and pay way too much for it. I don’t mind, since I’m feeding the local economy and not getting the book mailed to me. Cash feels good in the hand, and in the till. A book on a flight home will feel even better.
“I would browse some more, but I think I’ll buy this and flee,” I remark under the metal and concrete racket.
“Wish I could flee,” the guy states. We pause so that the hammer can add emphasis to his point.

I accidentally give the guy an Australian coin that’s mixed in with my Canadian change.
When I pull out the bill, the guy says, “Hope you don’t plan on paying in pesos.”
“No,” I remark, popping the bill out in front of him. “I don’t think Mexico has the Queen on their tender.”

I hastily exit the store, unlock my bike, and take a glance at the building above them. Jack hammers are going in other parts of the building. It will probably be another condo after the remodel. For now it is the din and debris of “progress” above a musty smelling, but neatly organized, (and LOUD) book store. Continue reading “Hunting for Groucho on the Edge of Gas Town”

A Day on MUNI

Devin talked about his plan since early 2012. He initially planned to ride MUNI buses, trains, and cable cars for 24 hours on Friday, March 16. After I told him that that was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, he realized that the drunk and stupid quotient would be up. He postponed the ride to June 8.

I told him I’d love to ride along a bit, so Devin decided to eat lunch, a sandwich he made that morning, in my hood. I sometimes leave my phone off all morning so missed his texts (he had his phone off for most of the ride). He buzzed at the front door, took a quick WC break, and I joined him. We walked down to Divis and spent his break at Cafe Abir. We hopped the 24 and rode it to the end of the line on Fillmore. Caught the 10 and meandered through Pac Heights, Chinatown, North Beach, and then down into the Financial District. I hopped off at Market and caught a Fulton 5 back home to do some work.

He mentions the woman we met on the 10. He does no mention the joke she told us:

Three Italian sons move to the USA to succeed in life. The first one makes money and buys their mother a house in Italy. She replies, “Thanks for the house.” The second son makes his money and buys their mom a car and a driver. “You do too much. I let the driver go,” their mom said. The third son succeeded and wanted to buy their mother the most exotic bird he could find. So he bought her a parrot and shipped it to Italy for her. His mother sent him a note, which read:

“What a lovely gift. The chicken tasted terrific.”

Anyway, I snapped a pic of Devin during his travels. And he’s begun to post stories from the 20+ pages of notes he jotted down.
Glad I got to enjoy about two hours of his 24 total.

devin-on-muni Continue reading “A Day on MUNI”

Month of Blog: Learning Points

Here we are, four weeks later and the Month of Blog is complete. What do I have to show for a month of focusing on retro content, even without the daily link to the current networking site(s) of choice?

  • Well, I can optimistically say that my brain thinks less in the framework of “I should post that on Face Book.” Good to know that the billboards of my mind have been cut down by the chainsaws of indy-driven content.
  • I had some moments at the beginning where I was ahead of the daily postings and I had some moments here and there where I missed a day and had to back date a post (this just happened today).
  • I enjoyed taking what interested me and putting it in the context of daily posts rather than Face Book or Flickr’ing the content. There’s liberation in not posting to a feed-driven site, where one can get lost in the chatter. There’s freedom from looking at one’s personal content that is not in the framework of a clean, yet bloated, framework.
  • My brain and social network didn’t implode because of less activity on the corporate social sites.
  • I did have a few instances of not having much to say, but enjoyed posting random content that filled the gaps.
  • I realized that my webstats site is not that user friendly for a moderate blogger. Urchin 6 needs to give me graphs and more dumbed down stats!
  • Photos, thoughts, dreams, lines, stencils, politics, remembrances, music, creations … I hope you enjoyed rattling around my brain for a month straight without distractions from all the other tickers of brain rattlings.

And what about the future?

As I continue to feel ODd on FaceBook, I will continue to go retro and blog. But I doubt I’ll keep up the daily postings. This has been a refreshing exercise in mind and thought liberation.

Thank you for your participation!

Critical Mass:20 … Welcome to San Francisco!

When I moved to SF in August of 1997, I didn’t know anybody or anything. Looking back, I see myself back then as a soft-skinned rube (which I was) who had landed into an alien land of an edgy, left-leaning city full of kooks, freaks, radicals, burners, and all manner of people from all corners of the globe and economic scale. Boom times were happening back then, and not just for the dot coms and investment banks. Burning Man had just had a wild week in the desert and gained national attention exactly a year before my arrival. Back East, it was a blip on the CNN feeds. (here’s a little video taste of the Cacophony Society’s Burning Man 1996). And only a month prior to my landing in SF, an entity called Critical Mass had been harassed and roughed up by Mayor Willie Brown and the SFPD. (see a video of this event here).

I only knew about Critical Mass from picking up the latest copy of the SF Bay Guardian my first ever Wednesday in the City. They had an intense photo of cyclists getting arrest, their bikes impounded, for no real reason than being in a huge bike ride that defied any type of control. Being a cyclist in the Southeast, which meant that I rarely rode on paved roads for fear of being killed by car drivers who felt that they owned ALL of the pavement, I was instantly inspired by Critical Mass.

So, on the last Friday of August 1997, I hopped a MUNI bus down to Justin Herman Plaza to see what the hell this monthly activity was all about. I didn’t have my bike. I didn’t know anyone who would loan me one, and I couldn’t afford to rent one. So I showed up to find thousands of cyclists, piles of riot cops, media and cop helicopters, and a general sense of fun an celebration. I walked through the mass of riders, waiting to wander off into the city to cause mayhem with the Friday car commute home, with amazement. I’d never seen so many bikers in my life. Continue reading “Critical Mass:20 … Welcome to San Francisco!”

The Other 4/20: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

While plums of purple haze drift over the City from Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill, let us not ever forget the unfortunate disaster that is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The human deaths on this day in 2009 were a tragedy, the aftermath is yet another sad example of our capacity to shit where we eat.

Earthjustice Blog posted a great page with news about the spill.

Dead dolphins keep washing up on shore in unprecedented numbers. Oil-coated coral reefs are dying in the deepwater. Eyeless shrimp and crabs with holes in their shells are showing up in relatively empty fishing nets while killifish, a minnow-like fish at the base of the food chain, show signs of chemical poisoning.

And critics say offshore drilling safety and oversight remains woefully lacking.

Meanwhile, coalitions continue to form and grow against fracking, the Alberta Oil Sands (and the Keystone XL pipeline), arctic drilling. In the past two years, fracking has caused earth quakes, the Keystone pipeline as not approved, yet arctic drilling is about to begin. I cannot imagine an oil spill in the rugged Arctic Ocean.

That would be an even worse disaster than in the Gulf, if that can even be calculated in terms of destruction upon the Earth.