Along with quite a few other things. And actually it was Santa Rosa, AKA the black hole of North America, AKA the giant Star Wars monster-eating-pit of music tours.
Okay, let me back up a bit.
Abby and I weren't originally planning to hit up the Bay Area on this tour, preferring chill towns and open spaces to dense, expensive cities. But, two things changed our minds:
1. A gentle reminder from my friend Helen that she lives in the Bay Area.
2. A gentle reminder from our cultural memory that San Francisco is the place to be, forever and ever Amen. (see Kerouac, Joplin, et al. 1950-1975)
So we moseyed on down to Santa Rosa to see Helen. We hurriedly rearranged the menagerie of instruments and clothing that is our car to make a seat for her. I removed the bright ruby slipper of a floor tom that was doubling as a warm coat/wine bottle holder, and made a mental note to take it in to Helen's apartment.
Then we drove through the bath of mediterranean air, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge precisely at Golden Hour, just as the lights of San Francisco began to twinkle on ahead of us.
I cried. I'm a sucker.
No I'm not, this city is fucking gorgeous.
Crossing that iconic bridge, I felt like a spell was being cast on me. Like fairy dust was raining down onto the streets. Maybe in the sea fog rolling in from the Pacific? Or was it the dusty memories of countless artists, poets, musicians, vagabonds, and waifs, eccentrics and beats and hippies from Janis Joplin to Alan Ginsberg, kicked up by the shoes of passing pedestrians? Who can say.
But all I can say is that as we drove down Haight to Cafe International, the evening's open mic, I was starry eyed.
Abby, who was driving, was not. I don't know if you've been to San Francisco, but parking is a nightmare and a half, traffic sucks, and all I can say is mad props to Ginger Bones.
The open mic kicked off with the evening's emcee, Clyde, the self-proclaimed Bard of the Lower Haight, sang us a ballad about marrying a ukulele. What followed was a rather hit-or-miss array of performers: a folk guitar duo who played with stuffed animal giraffes attached to their instruments, a "local hippie legend" who just banged on an electric guitar with the distortion turned up to 11 for 15 excruciating minutes, and a dude who just fucked around on a drum machine for a while, splitting our eardrums, after earlier providing unsolicited back up dancing and door-frame pull-ups for a hip hop artist. There were some very lovely and talented performers for sure, including a rapper who spur-of-the-moment asked me to back him up on piano (it was so fun, and really sounded great). But there's a delicate line between cerebral, dense, avant-garde artistry and ugliness just for the sake of ugliness. Many acts tended toward the latter.
After Abby and I performed, and Clyde closed the evening with another grandiose story involving hot dog stands, capitalism, a wicked witch and her mystical vacuum, and Mayan ritual sacrifice, we drove home and waxed and waned over the legendary "Frisco". This city is a myth in every sense of the word, romanticized to the nth degree, but that legend built on the accomplishments of cultural giants of the 20th century, the gods and goddesses of Bohemia, is tired, worn, empty. Nostalgia is the most dangerous impulse, John Hodgman says. Yes we only saw the city for a night, and yes we only saw one tiny little location, but I know that Haight-Ashbury may contain the fairy dust of the past, but nothing more substantial. And I do know that the west coast is changing at lightning speed - tech companies, insane wealth, skyrocketing rent. Who can afford to live there anymore?
Okay, also the city is really beautiful, and it's a given that the artistic vibrancy of such a larger-than-life place never goes away, it just changes neighborhoods and metamorphoses into new forms. That metamorphosis is the key, though. As John Craigie sings it:
Let’s get one thing straight:
Bob Dylan never played here
Joni Mitchell never sang here
Dr. King never preached here
This is a new stage
This is a new space
And even if they had
What would it matter anyway?
‘Cause the ghosts of the past cannot bring you any luck
All that matters is tonight
The next morning, we ate steel cut oats and figs with Helen, and talked about her favorite senses of California. Upon packing up, however, we found...
Strewn across the street outside, a trail of coats, sweaters, and jackets.
Our coats, sweaters, and jackets.
And we were inexplicably missing our very gaudy floor tom.
And a bottle of wine.
I can't even be mad about this. Why? Because, first of all, it was my absent mindedness that left these things outside overnight. And second of all, I am consoled by the mental image of a person, half-drunk bottle of Malbec in one hand and about-to-split-in-twain drumstick in the other, banging out some sick beats on the floor tom.
Now, a responsible human would learn from this mistake immediately and not take any more mental notes. I, on the other hand, not 5 minutes later as we were about to leave, took off my glasses so that I could shield my little eyeballs from the California sun with my sunglasses, and set them on top of the car, making a mental note to put them IN the car after saying goodbye to Helen.
And we learned 5 hours later, as the sun passed behind the Sierra Nevada and I reached for my glasses, that once again mental notes don't work.
P.S. Immediately after discovering that my glasses were missing, I wrote a prayer to St. Anthony and dropped it in a Baptist Church's prayer box. Not 10 minutes later, Helen texts me to say she found a pair of glasses in the road, and wondered if they were mine. Damn, St. Anthony works fast.
I also made a mental note that it is folly to follow nostalgia. But I'm a hopelessly romantic musician, so who wants to bet on how that'll go?