Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Well that was crazy

So I just got hit by a car, which was nice.

The Setup:

I was in a hurry, riding my bicycle through the parking lot of the women's dorm on my way back to my own. Ironically, I had just been thinking that it would be kind of funny if I got struck by a vehicle.

So I reach the end of a row and begin to cross the aisle, when out of my peripheral I see headlights fast approaching. I grab a handful of brakes, they stomp on their brakes, but their momentum is still great enough to t-bone me and send me off my bike.

I was so stunned that I completely disregarded any common sense of stopping to exchange information with the driver. She opened her door and gave an unconvincing, "I'm really sorry." I gave her the OK sign and assured her that "It was all good. Totally wasn't paying attention..my fault."

In a little shock, and convinced that there was little to no damage, I retrieved my bicycle from underneath her car and rode away.

Come to find out my front wheel was quite bent and my leg was a little bloody.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why I do what I do

I just read something on a blog that nicely explains why I do what I do. About the best you can hope for as a journalist is that what you write reaches people and makes them think. Usually, this kind of an impact is intangible and the journalist will never see the results.

This woman (whom I do not not know) posted on a blog I read in response to the author's comment that she had the book "A Clockwork Orange." She said:

"I hope you're reading Clockwork Orange. I just put the movie on my Netflix list to see what all the [University] hysteria is about, though I see myself siding with [the President] once all is viewed."

Now, I don't know if the person who posted this read my article, but I do know that the series of articles that were published contributed to the awareness on campus (or "hysteria" as she called it).

At a conference I attended recently, a writer told a story about a time he was riding on a subway and looked over to find that the man sitting next to him was reading a story he had written in the newspaper. When he reached the end of the page, the man turned to the jump and elbowed his friend to read the story and do the same.

And that's about the highest compliment you can be given.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The experiment ends

It's March 7, 30 days after the start of my people-meeting experiment.

For all intents and purposes, it went pretty well. Maybe there weren't as many interactions as there could have been, but it wasn't a bad start.

A look back at the people I interacted with:

Austin the hypnotist
Gene with the beer
Brandon and Bob, the golf guys
Rachel at Mizzou
Ruth the photojournalist
Tony at Sheba
Antonio and Fancy at Sheba
Kimberly at Sheba
John at Haight-Ashbury
Mike from SF State at Golden Gate Park
Mike with the dreds at Golden Gate Park

13 people over the course of 30 days. Not bad, but could be better.

So what's the takeaway? It's easy to get to know people. You've just got to find out what the magic word or subject is that will make them spill forth with information about who they are in essence.

And, most people usually like to talk about themselves.

I don't see this as an end, but a beginning instead.

Monday, March 3, 2008



We met Mike while he was smoking weed by the drum circle in Golden Gate Park. He is a Giants fan, and comes to the park every day at some time or another to spend time with his buddies.

When the dancing started, he joined in with wild and crazy antics.

The joint-smoking drummer

Hippie Hill

Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park near Haight-Ashbury.

It's a nucleus of activity, mostly spurred on by the faint memory of the Summer of Love in 1967. But, unfortunately the era that lures everyone to the verdant green hills of the park isn't coming back, and little of it remains.

Keyword: little.

There's a tinge of hippiness that is still present, which was surprising to me because despite the glorification of the 60s and 70s, it's rare that you actually encounter someone who embodies that ideal.

But, there they were.

There were a lot of people, but at the same time not many. On the paved path, someone had created a giant peace sign in dirty chalk and paint.

Because surreal is such a tired word, I think phantasmagorical might be the best way to describe what was happening at Hippie Hill.

We stumbled upon a drum circle that epitomized this scene. It emanated deep but frenzied rhythms as a fever of twirling limbs took place in the center.

Around the outside, people smoked marijuana without fear of punishment. It was a free atmosphere. A sense of acceptance and relaxation. A scene that doesn't occur in the sphere of normal life. It didn't matter why you were there and, except in a few cases, names took secondary importance to the activity ephemeral moment.

Hippies' Choice: Barack Obama

On Saturday afternoon, I found a guy named John who seemed to be holding down the fort for the hippies at Haight-Ashbury. He told me that I’d get a better tourist picture of the street signs from closer to where he was sitting.

John is “not quite homeless” and lives over by the civic “hotel,” I think. Most of what he said wasn’t exactly easy to understand.

John came out to San Francisco in the 60s to find his dad. He told me how the hippies that used to crowd were dynamic because they all had homes but chose to be out there standing for an ideal they believed in and protesting the war. It was a great time then, but after a while it fell into decay and turned into a slum until the city took an interest and renovated it. He said that everyone goes there now because of that one era that will never be back.

While we were sitting and talking, an old, hippie-looking guy dressed in buckskins walked up with his younger friend and started plastering up a poster of Barack Obama on the wall of a nearby building. The style of the poster was reminiscent of the types you see commemorating dictators in third-world countries.

John was telling me about famous spots close to where we were like where the Beatles went when they came and the Grateful Dead house. He pointed to the old man with the posters.

“There’s one now,” John said.
“Fucking right, maaannn,” the guy said. “The Dead-Heads are still here!”

He looked furtive and a little jumpy.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sheba Piano Lounge

We met Tony playing his congas on the street near Pier 39 thanks to Emily’s unique people skills.

“Oh man I gotta take a walk,” he said after an especially fiery series of thumps. “Naw, I’m only serious.”

When we asked him his name, he gave told us about his dad instead, the famous Curtis Mayfield. Which maaaay or may not be true. (More on the not true side). As he went on about the clubs he plays in on the weekends and offered to get us into any of them for free.

Immediately interested, Emily got his phone number after which Tony put his phone back in his pocket and said, “Call me about 15 times; I’ma put it on vibrate.”

Followed by his catchphrase, “Aw, I’m only serious.”

Three of us met up with Tony later on that evening at the Sheba Piano Lounge near Geary and Fillmore. Apparently, we picked the right night to go to that lounge, because a bunch of purportedly famous musicians showed up.

The “best piano player in northern California” (according to Tony), Ricardo Still was there, as well as the “best dancer in northern California,” Cash. Pete Escovedo came by after his show across the street was over, and there were other musical luminaries that I didn’t recognize.

That was an intense night. The crowd there was mainly older; late 30s to early 40s, I’d say. But they were hopping. There were, however, a couple of younger people there: specifically the talented Antonio, a Mexican who's trying to make it as a musician but works at a restaurant called the Grubsteak to pay the bills, and his Caucasian girlfriend, Fancy.

They were both very drunk.

I had my ACP press pass on to get into the club, and eventually Ricardo Still’s publicist came over and asked if I would be willing to send her some pictures. We exchanged contact info, and I’m going to see if I get some mullah in exchange for my images. Unfortunately, most turned out to be sub-par.

After things wound down, Tony walked us to the bus stop, and we talked until the bus came to pick us up. He’s a pretty lonely guy; 47 years old and never married. If the recent movie-biographies about older musicians (e.g. Ray or Walk the Line) are any indicator, he didn’t exactly have an easy time of it as one of Curtis Mayfield’s supposed 14 children.

He was a cool guy; it’d be interesting to spend more time with him and find out what his daily life is like.

Baggage will be confiscated and maybe destroyed

At 4 a.m. on Thursday, we began the arduous journey to the multicultural city of cities, San Francisco. I didn’t sleep Wednesday night; just stayed up taking care of some last-minute preparation as I am wont to do.

This, coupled with the traveling made for a rather long day. By the afternoon, I was falling asleep on my feet while we went searching for Union Square without result.

The running list of people I may or may not have seen while here in San Francisco:

John Krasinski (On the street right after we got off the BART)
Bob Sagett (It makes sense that ol’ Bob would show up in the city that hosted Full House)
Seth Green (At the In-N-Out Burger, which by the way, we frequented for lunch every day)
Tracy Chapman (Multiple times)
And lastly, Willem Dafoe, whom we spotted on the bus before we got off in front of the Full House. Two of us convinced a couple of our other friends that he must have been preparing for a role and getting to know the city.

Real people I did encounter:

Tony, Antonio and Fancy at Sheba
John at Haight Ashbury
Becky, Mike W., and Mike D. at Golden Gate Park

But more about them later.