Ok, so I think we've established that there's an inversely proportional ratio between my level of emotional happiness and the frequency of my written updates. In my defence, the tail end of last year was really friggin' hectic (how hectic, Rodney?), what with work and houses and holidays and girls and such, so throw me a frickin' bone!
Let's try and cover them in order, shall we?
Work was crazy insane in the last few weeks before Xmas. I had two huge projects to finish up and managed to pick up another one on my last 3 days in the office. It's been a thoroughly challenging experience as I work my lily-white arse off to impress everyone whilst on probation, which finishes later this month. There's been so much change in my life in a short period and, even though it's all been for the good, I was really feeling the pressure and craved some time off. It was so nice to get away from it all and have no responsibilities and drink Corona in the hot tub with a beautiful naked American girl and completely lose track of what day it was. Of course, my first day back this week I was signed up for four new projects all due to finish before February, so so much for the break. Still, in this uncertain financial environment when budgets are tightening and some of our competitors have already gone to the wall, it's encouraging to have plenty of billable work on hand.
Not surprisingly, the houseboat idea fell through. What is it about bloody South Africans and boats? Look up 'unreliable' in the dictionary and there's a picture of a South African flipping me off on a houseboat called 'BOHICA'. Not to be deterred by the continual treachery of my Antipodean nemeses, I quickly found a room (or berth) on another boat nearby and went to meet the tenants (crew) one cold and windy night after work. Good thing too, as it turns out...the place was fucking freezing! Even with the heating turned up full bore and all of us wearing our thickest parkas and scalding the skin from our hands with boiling hot tea our teeth were still chattering. Plus it smelled funny. Take a shower, you bloody sea hippies! As if that wasn't enough to put me off (and believe me it was) I then discovered that the driveway (gang plank) ices up like a mother fucker and people have slipped off only to be crushed betwixt the dock and the neighbouring boat. Screw the pirate's life...I'm staying on dry land where, in a pinch, you can pull pieces off your house and burn them without worrying about sinking into the gelid stinky Thames.
Bolstered by my new-found lub of land, I checked out two awesome flats in Hackney (which is fast becoming the new Belco...where else can you get an awesome latte AND stabbed in the guts?). They were both clean and funky, with cool and friendly tenants, and both offered me the room that same weekend. What a dilemma! It was a tough choice but ultimately I went for the newer place with the German guy and Italian girl. The move went swiftly as I have managed to limit my possessions to exactly one hire care full (or HCF on the old scale) and I got it all in the day before both my flatmates and Salette jetted off for their respective intercontinental Xmas festivities, leaving me the entire place to myself for the week. Which was kinda cool in that I got to unpack and settle in and rifle through everyones stuff in my own sweet time, but kind of a bummer in that I missed Salette terribly and was lonely and horny in cold miserable London over Xmas (there's only so much solace New Zealand pinot noir and YouPorn.com can provide). Still, it was nice to relax and be bored for a few days before jetting off on Boxing Day to hook up with my Lady Love in Sand Crab's Disco...
San Francisco is an amazing town! The weather was gorgeous - slightly chilly but great the sun shone bright and warm - and even the two days of rain were refreshing and enjoyable. The quality of life there is fantastic: people are laid-back and friendly, it's clean and safe, the City is going to great lengths to tidy up and beautify the streetscapes and buildings with trees and grass and plants and murals. Due to the strong indian and Mexican populations, there's beautiful street art adorning all manor of public edifice, like the whole town were draped in your funky grandma's quilted blankey. They're very tolerant and progressive culturally and politically, completely different to (and often at odds with) the rest of the US. The anti-Bush vibe is strong and palpable; you can sense people's excitement as Obama's ascension nears. There's a huge gay and hippy population, natch, which goes a long way to explaining why things are so laid-back and friendly (the whole town reeks of doob) and also why there are more registered dogs than children.
Speaking of Obama, did you hear who Bush has booked to stay in the Blair House keeping the Obamas out? John Friggin' Howard! That's right, not content with being the biggest douche bag in Australia, he's determined to take a shot at the world title. As if there weren't enough reasons to hate the guy, now he's going and creating more!
We got to stay will a bunch of Salette's friends all over town, which was cool. Downtown, as with any other city, is nothing to write home about but the outlying areas are where the real City can be found in all its varied and eclectic and fascinating glory: The Mission, The Haight, The Castro, Bernal Heights. She took me to all her favourite places (ooh err!) and showed me some amazing things. Dave Egger's Pirate Store is brilliant! He's a comedy writer and bought an old shop in order to set up a writing school for kids but the City refused because it was zoned for commercial purposes. So he filled it up with all sorts of weird and hilarious pirate stuff to sell and teaches writing classes out the back. We did a bit of touristy stuff like trudging up the hilly streets (yes, they're really REALLY hilly) to the base of Coit Tower, but regrettably we couldn't find the Falco Stairs (a staircase dedicated to Austrian pop singer Falco of 'Rock Me Amadeus' fame). I wanted to steal a car so we could stage a high-speed police chase ala The Streets of San Francisco but my NOAG (Number One American Girlflen) chickened out. Luckily, Tim (our hippy host and self-appointed tour guide) was a cab driver and he offered to "get it off the ground" for 20 bucks.
For those of you who dig 50's and 60's poetry, you'll know that SF is home to the Beats. One of my first ports of call was City Lights bookstore where I bought a copy of Alan Ginsberg's 'Howl', one of my all-time favourite poems. The store is a landmark in American literature, home of the San Fransisco Renaissance. I also went over to Six Gallery where Ginsberg did his first ever reading of 'Howl' as part of Six Poets (the poetry slam to end all poetry slams) in 1955, but unfortunately they were closed. That reading was a seminal moment in the Beat generation as it brought together the East and West Coast factions of the Beats in a way that Biggie and Tupac could only ever dream of (incidentally, Tupac was from SF).
If ever you were in doubt that SF is different to the rest of the US then simply eat something. The food was awesome! From the kick-arse Mexican at Tres Agaves (best margaritas EVER and it's owned by Sammy Hagar!) to the chocolate eclairs at ? to the 3-course New year's banquet at Foreign Cinema, every meal was a culinary orgy in my mouth. After NY's dinner we went to a party at the converted warehouse apartment of an edgy Mexican performance artist, which was wild. Everyone there was some form of artist or activist or creative folk, and we were asked to go as our Post-Bush persona. Salette was gorgeous as Gross national Happiness and I was debonair and witty as The Full Brazilian (ie. No Bush). Things got pretty wild as the night went on and the mescal and the dutchie got passed around (always on the left hand side), people were laughing and dancing, getting high, falling over, panties were coming off, and at one point a Shaman burned some sage and did the Four Directions ceremony, with the entire room facing all the directions in turn and shaking our hands and cheering and calling Bush a cunt.
And what about all the killer bands that have come out of there? The Melvins, Faith No More, Mr Bungle, Primus, MC Hammer, Green Day, Tom Waits, Dead Kennedys, just to name a few. Metallica is a debatable inclusion as they used to be awesome (like Journey) but now they suck arse (like Huey Lewis and the News).
I had such a great time there, I can't rave about the place nearly enough. For anyone who's lost faith in America, go to San Francisco...there's hope! I was so enamoured of it that even when Salette flew out the day before me (slight mix up with the scheduling) I still found it hard to leave. I didn't get the usual "had enough, ready to go home" blues that usually comes with two weeks away and the experience certainly provided a real contrast with dreary old London.
Salette is wonderful, not at all cold and remote like her mountaintop village namesake. Quite the contrary in fact: she's warm and very very close, both figuratively and literally as my new place is just a few minute's walk from hers. Before I knew where I would be moving we had the 'moving in together' talk but decided it's just a bit soon for that and there's no need to rush it. It's going to happen, not necessarily for any practical or financial reasons, but because we both want it to. I don't want anything to spoil what we've got going as with each passing day I learn more about her and become more and more entranced with her.
Bizarrely, the new place has free calls to Australia on weekends so long as they're less than an hour. So I got to talk to Calvin on his 11th birthday and again on Xmas day. As always, the distance between seems to become greater all the time, but they sound like they're doing well and growing up straight. I hope they're happy. It was a sad and painful revelation that the greatest contribution I can make to my childrens' development is my absence. Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon...
Hey! Harry Chapin! Fuck you!