A City of Many Sides

San Francisco is many things, it indeed has many sides, many openly obvious and claims the greatest freedoms. But in reality we have to look at the entire Bay Area to understand the dynamism that is here.

As I write this I’m kicking back in Monterey and heading on back down a day later than originally planned to the land of plastic faces, that one nip-n-tuck too far and on back to Corona; so I’ve had a little time to think about all we’ve seen – albeit, have we even scratched the surface? From what we’ve seen, would we even want to?
This, like all sun kissed lands the world over has seen war and bloodshed, these days it claims to be the area of free thinking, openness and true multiculturality [I think I made that word up]

But what can I say? What can I add to all the usual clichés that brings this city to worldwide attention? I could talk about the millions of people whom suffer the insanity of living in a place that should have and probably will; one day shake itself to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. DSCF0786
Then China Town, The Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Mythbusters, and every conceivable genre of the entertainment industry – especially the world of amateur robotics.

From stunning hills and neighbourhoods of quaint pastel painted timber homes to sky high landmarks and of course – bridges.

As we move south towards Mountain View, there are the stunning, affluent, safe and green lifestyle neighbourhoods of the who’s who of the software world, internet and the world wide heard of tech innovators. Before finally hitting Palo Alto and the of course the businesses of the tech world as we know it. Here are the full blooded companies, the place where Billions are created from minds of imagination and insight; the modern home of the patent lawsuit.

DSCF0814When we arrived in the area we had so many plans and so many people we were looking forward to meeting. However, as all things with the greatest intentions, things just don’t turn out how they should. In fact hardly a thing we planned was achieved. As it turned out Gabby had a couple of good plans that did turn out well, but I thought were going to kill me at the time as we climbed the steepest side of Telegraph Hill and it’s 3, 475, 924 steps.

We hit Down Town San Francisco via the local “BART” (think tube) and headed north onDSCF0815 foot through semi deserted streets towards the University to get there, we rolled past loads of things including the Global headquarters of Levis; this was kinda strange to me because I just didn’t think they were a San Francisco company.

DSCF0820Once at the top of this evil hill of near death we suddenly became amateur photographers as loads of people started asking us to take their pics. Of course under my breath I was screaming “Yeah, I’m David fkin Bailey!” and keeping the British tradition of covert grumpiness as I smiled on politely. Thankfully Gabby avoided taking too many pics of me on the grounds that the “near dead” are notDSCF0865 always the most photogenic.

We headed off the hill stopping to take cross valley shots of that wiggly road with all the cars on it – we wanted to photograph Gabby driving the Snot Rocket down it, but then realised there was a massive queue for people wanting to do that very same thing.

DSCF0904Strolling down the hill we noticed the sheer number of Mini’s parked everywhere making them very much the car of choice in this city and certainly a car of the people (ie: as common as muck).

We headed into Washington Square where I had previously planned a bit of a piss-up with a load of old school buddies a few months ago with the help of awesome twitter buddies Paulo Elias and the brilliant former Journo Layla Bohm ; both of whom we failed to sadly meet 😦

Cutting a piece to video, we turned in for food in little Italy before heading through China Town where I actually saw an old Chinese guy fingering a live crab :-/ furthermore I got it on video!!!DSCF0954

We were happy to leave China Town only to walk into a wedding photo shoot right outside the Ritz Carlton.

DSCF0966Onward and we cut through the hordes of tourists and headed up to the Hayes Valley area, a far more Boho existence with street music and Gabby popped into Lava 9 to seek out a jacket – but failed (haha).

We headed out and back to base thinking about what we had and hadn’t seen, and tried to get our heads around the things we had.

I finally got to check twitter and noticed Andrew Baron of Rocketboom.com was in SF this weekend as well and also suggested meeting up. Irony being what it is, I was going to fly up to NYC see Andrew as soon as we got back home, with a twitter chat in flow he said that we’d be better doing the NYC thing instead – so that is what we agreed.
We crashed out heavily that night, yet there seems to just not be enough time to sleep.

The downside of SF :

In reality, you either live in the good bits or you get persistently and aggressively begged upon… I’ve never come across more beggars in my life as the Bay Area holds – but the worst part is the level of aggression, if this is a badge for which the greater SF wishes to be proud of, then good luck to them – but to hell with ever returning. I dunno, I might be old fashioned, may be too picky in my fat assed forties, but to be aggressively begged at and verbally abused for not giving my money to a man standing by a fresh heap of his own faeces while walking down central Market Street in the heart of San Francisco with my better half has me restraining myself beyond the norm at the very least. In other places groups of young guys hang on “their” bit of the sidewalk seeking to intimidate by their presence.

Yet two streets over on “Hayes” and the world was entirely different, cultural, local and quaint – A place you instantly felt you DSCF0982could spend the next two years simply hanging out.

Such is the maelstrom that is the Bay Area, all it’s sins and all it’s beauty, just bear in mind that they’re not separated by whole blocks, but often simply by a few feet.

Moving on:

The following morning we headed out early to drive around the bay and head south. We tDSCF1024ook in the Golden Gate Bridge and Gabby drove us all through San Francisco However, before we got to the Golden Gate we noticed a sign which took our interest instantly ; The Rosie the Riveter visitors centre! We pulled in to the very place Rosie the Riveter worked and was photographed and artwork made about women’s contribution to the WW2 war effort. The place wasDSCF1031 fascinating and was the site they constructed the Willis Jeep and tanks right on the dock side. The other amazing thing is that this was the very area Gabby’s own grandmother worked as a wiring technician on ships.
DSCF1052We carried on past San Quentin and on to the Bridge and then away south, stopping in Mountain View for a bite before heading through the hills to Monterey.DSCF1062

It was during the drive to Monterey that we decided to pursue some auto safety care for the dogs. Previously I have turned to look over the seats to see two dogs in various states of disarray and bewilderment, even hind legs and butts stuck in the air in unison; but on this journey Gabby took an unexpectedly sharp corner in the car and we heard the inevitable sliding sound of dogs and the rattle of their collars. A moment later Gabby called “you two ok?” – it was then after they heard the reassurance of her voice (giving them their shred of hope) the single, totally in unison, as one, loud THUD!! was heard as both dogs came to the end of their impromptu demonstration and education in Physics.

The following silence was deafening!

Gabby, suddenly concerned for their well being was asking me [who was at this time curled into a ball crying with laughter at the almost slapstick event that just happened – asking if they’re ok before they were pile-driven into the sidewall] to check on them to see if they were ok.

Finally I reached over and switched the lights on to be greeted by two silent and staggering dogs! Ben crawled into his crate not to return anytime soon and Elise just stared at me with ears back, intermittently shaking with a look I understood all too well.

I switched the light off and returned to my uncontrollable laughter.

We head back south now down the coast to Malibu, Fender and then – Vegas!!.

Published in: on 26 January, 2013 at 23:49  Leave a Comment  

I went to Fender USA and it was shut!…. but….

FenderLogo red

Today we have visited the Fender Visitors centre.
DSCF0621Walking in we got strangely eyeballed by a security guard while there were a few people milling about and much talk of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants Expo – the bees knees in music gear).

We went further in, passing the shop and looked at all the displays, but in under 5 minutes I was creating my own guitar.NS13_logo_Black_0
Noticing the place seemed quiet a guy suddenly turned up at the door and said “Sorry, We’re shut Wednesdays, we’re only open as we had a group in from NAMM”.

DSCF0632Noticing I had guitar parts out, he suddenly asked “you looking to build?”, I replied, “yes and I’ve kinda come a long way to do it”.

This changed everything, and that change, while I would have been happy to leave – was about to stun the life out of me.

We had originally set off to Fender in the afternoon because they do all the factory tours in the morning and we’ve had enough of factory tours (no offence to Fender)… But what we were about to do was a bit beyond your average tour.

David from Fender was wanting to go for his lunch, so I said it wasn’t a problem and we’dDSCF0635 come back next Monday.
He wasn’t having any of this and together we went through the selections of guitar parts and I explained that one of the coolest looking Stratocasters was the one Bonnie Raitt plays, it has no paint or varnish, but had aged in a rustic style that is frankly awesome. The problem is that I wanted a Telecaster.

“Right” David proclaimed, “lets go and see what is laying about in final assembly”.
Moments later we were in the factory and walking through all the places normally DSCF0645prohibited. We searched through hundreds of guitar bodies (and I mean hundreds!) Finally we found a Telecaster body made of Birdseye Maple, but it had a slight defect in the polish and while it hadn’t been buffed up yet – the thing was – I wanted a matte satin finish…

Next the body shop guy, David, Gabby and me looked on as a guy with an evil sander set about making the guitar how I wanted it!!

So… there we were, in a factory and visitors centre that was closed to the public standingDSCF0642 over these guys who were bending over backwards for us to make my guitar of choice.
I was humbled!! Because what they were doing wasn’t really any extra cost to a normal guitar and they were really getting behind making me what I wanted..

DSCF0641While looking around I clapped eyes on something strange, a Stratocaster with a body of Burnt Ash and a Walnut neck.
“What is that?!” I exclaimed. “It’s a special limited edition of 100 guitars” said David.DSCF0644

Sometime later I’m playing the Proof of Concept version and while I choked over vast sums… the deal was done.

FS2With a swapping out of the tweed case for a TSA approved SKB case, all that’s left is for the actual guitar to register on theFS1 Fender system so money can change hands and for it to arrive in Arkansas in a few days time or be picked up next Monday when we find out if the intensive effort on the Telecaster body can be completed.

It was full on 110% top quality and outstanding customer service from start to finish!!
Of Gibson, Taylor and Fender for quality of customer service, care and attention
1st is Fender (with no official factory tour)
2nd Taylor, purely for the factory tour and absolutely NO wish to go any distance AT ALL to aid, sell or offer any level of customer service face to face.
3rd is Gibson in Memphis who were so useless and S**te I don’t want to talk about them or my time there.

For the very first time in the USA, one company has come forward and offered me exactly what I wanted and more, everyone else has always found one or more issues or not even bothered.

Fender USA was that company and I am a proud and happy customer!

So the only thing left : learn to play the guitar!!

Down Day N Haggle

Down Day N Haggle

I woke today feeling like I’d been out on a well known British past time of binge drinking, which we class as normal – but today felt like I’d been at it for a week.
4 pints of water, 4 x 16oz mugs of coffee later and enough Ibuprofen to surgically remove my stomach lining like a cheese grater – I started to feel near normal [for me that is]DSCF0608

Gabby on the other hand took off to have her finger and toe nails turned into M&M’s.

I sat around and took pictures of the place we’re staying and by mid afternoon everyone was home and everyone feeling near normal, so the quest for food followed and was DSCF0574sorted out about 50 yrds away – nevertheless we are in LA, so we took the car anyway.

Over lunch plans for the afternoon were made; Gabby was going off to the Mall to find some comfortable “run-recovery” footwear and I was going to get the Snot Rocket washed.

Now ALL men know the following : If a lady knows exactly what she wants to shop for and knows where it is – she will get it (but only after comparing the exact same thing in every shop that carries it). However, if she knows what she wants but is going to search for it – she will NOT get it… But, she will buy things totally unrelated – as such the said shoes weren’t purchased.

We went off down into Pasadena to drop Gabby off and I headed to the local Mexican car wash…

Now, I don’t how things work in this regard here, but soon felt that I being taken for a fool, especially when I was being told what needed cleaning and why… heck when testing Land Rovers we’d drown them in mud, then fix them up like new and send them on to the customer and I was now being told various things the obviously some people in LA believe.
So I told them exactly what I wanted and nothing more. For this he wanted to charge me $65.00 carwash

That wasn’t going to happen!!

Yer see, there were these things called “signs” about with all the prices on them and while I didn’t go to Oxford University – I can (amazingly) count due to the number of fingers and toes I own. I didn’t want a machine auto wash because of issues with the rear door, I wanted a thorough handwash and wipe down. This is $39. But I also wanted the wheels cleaning, body waxing and Rain-X on the windshield/screen… AND the interior windows cleaning.

The haggling started…

As this was going on, two guys had started vacuuming out the interior who I had to stop.
The figures from the guy were all over the place… so finally I said “look $45 the lot and you’re doing very well out of it”… He stopped, looked at me and said “you a businessman!” – I said, no mate, You are.

Finally he accepted the $45 and while I still felt I was getting ripped off – this was soon belayed with what followed; 3 guys spent 1hr 45mins working like mad on the car, meticulously taking time on the wheels, the wheel arches, the roof and roof rails. All plastics were cleaned and treated properly and every single mark and dead bug remains removed. They did a frankly stunning job and the Snot Rocket now looks good enough for the two big white strips that I feel it needs on its centreline from front to rear, along with police siren and flashing grill lights.

Even Gabby was impressed as she hauled her shopping bags in (containing nothing she had gone shopping for). And as the day drew to a close Gabby took to taking pics on the return to the hotel.

Tomorrow – Fender USA

Published in: on 22 January, 2013 at 22:41  Leave a Comment  
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Road Warrior and the Cave

Today’s journey (followed live by quite a lot of people) was not at the speed of the Santa Monica terror train – BUT!!! You would not believe the stuff I/we witnessed… Thankfully I wasn’t the driva – but Lady Stirling Moss behind the steering wheel was having none of it!

I honestly think it’s actually the only time I wished we weren’t in the SUV (better known as Snot Rocket) but a fast (as in s**t off a shiny shovel) muscle car with carbon fibre brakes and a twin set of anchors for that touch of added superior stopping power would have been just the ticket today.

Having set off in good time, scary driving behaviour I haven’t witnessed since living in Riyadh took a massive toll on our progress, nerves, spine, eyes and tongue swallowing. All of which paled when we got into L.A. proper – here fear of sudden involuntary prolapse followed by limb removal and sudden death soon followed. That said, for the most part, driving the streets of LA, while busy, was ok compared to the freeways.

CBSFinally we arrived at CBS Television City all but a few minutes later than our book in time to be told our tickets for the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson were no longer worth anything and that we pretty much had no chance of getting in as we’d be sent to the back of the “off the street walk-in crowd”.
We turned around and headed back out… [we were later told the security guard had been over-zealous]

We slipped into the traffic and away toward Hollywood Blvd, passing a dog shop onbark n bitches the way going by the name “Bark N’ Bitches”. It was actually Gabby who pointed out it was a dog shop as I thought “hey, that must be a bar” lol.

chinaTurning down Hollywood we soon came across the Chinese theatre where there was obvious preparation at hand for some kind of location shoot – this I later found out (once back at the hotel) that is was for an all night filming for Iron Man 3!!

Gabby asked where should we go? So I was suggesting the Rainbow Bar & Grill to meet Lemmy from Motorhead… however, a darker place came to mind as we passed the Church of Scientologyscient (aka Cult!!) International Celebrity (read: nobhead) Welcome Centre : A Cave… Sorry, I mean my idea was a cave.

Yes a place I knew of that wasn’t part of the usual tourist stuff, infact people of the area call it a secret location -seriously? Are there any secrets in this city? Even the Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza is really 20th Century Fox’s HQ and strangely enough called Fox Plaza

Any way this place has been the set for more TV shows than I can write and more B movies you’d ever thought existed – BUT!! Above all you will know it for one thing and one thing only – Batman!!

Cv1A short walk off the beaten path find you in a place that is both a little odd, kinda medieval and something I think Gabby thought would make a great place to keep the wine, well I think that’s what she meant when she said this is a great place for a full sized rack :/

Only then to notice the Hollywood sign above us and pics ensued…g hlywd sign

Heading back and the street level traffic was max’d out and now taking a toll on mind, body and definitely soul… we, turned away shattered and sadly having to re-organise the plans for the next few days. But with rest needed badly, you have to know when to stop for a day or two.

Here’s the list of TV shows shot at the Caves:

The A-Team
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin
Alias Smith and Jones
Bat Masterson
Beauty and the Geek
The Dukes of Hazzard (“Hazzard Connection”)
Falcon Crest
Have Gun, Will Travel
Little House on the Prairie
The Lone Ranger
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Mission: Impossible (1960s)
The Monkees
The Outer Limits (1960s)
Salute Your Shorts (The Cursed Skull)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Enterprise
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: Voyager
Twin Peaks
The Virginian
Wonder Woman

Yeah, Yeah “and the sun came up over Santa Monica”

Yes… as the Cock crows – the Sparrow Farts… and at Sparrow Fart we hauled ourselves out of bed and headed (at unbelievable speed) north to a coastal area between Beverly Hills and Los Angeles  known as Santa Monica.
“Why?”  I can’t hear you ask…
Well the female version of Sherpa Tenzing aka this morning’s driver of the car now known as the Snot Rocket (the car is known as that, not Gabby) was to make her Hollywood debut in the Santa Monica Half Marathon.
DSCF0279So, in the freezing (when I say freezing I mean cool) sun kissed morning on the location of Baywatch, Gabby slumped from the steering wheel to pry my embedded white fingers from the dash, and wipe the remains of my face from the windshield.
Strangely, this is a place so laid back even cop cars carry surf boards, I noticed this as IDSCF0307 tried to explain to a south asian guy that hanging around there any longer, he’d be able to smell the mornings early showing of napalm.
On and the freezing contestants all stood about trying understand the organizer who was saying things like “well you go up there a bit and then come back around and it’s a race yer know”.
And off they all went while famous sweaty faces plodded, cycled or unicycled past oblivious to the incredible tense Santa Monica beach race now in full swing. DSCF0303
Gabby I have always found responds well to a more direct method of encouragement, and I would love to claim that after Gabby set a personal best/record of 1hr 46min 09sec in completing this half marathon, that it was all down to me chasing her around the 13.1miles – however I can’t… She did it all by herself and frankly – good on her!!
Gabby snatched her medal up and as I write this  the Results for Gabby’s Santa Monica Half Marathon have come in:
Gabby was 3rd overall and came in 2nd place for the women.Rocking!!!

We headed on back down the actual pacific highway looking for a place to pimp out the Snot-Rocket. Tomorrow we move on to LA… then away to the north for more fun.

Need Coffee


Published in: on 20 January, 2013 at 18:20  Leave a Comment  
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Oh GOOD GRIEF…. on vacation and Gabby decides to start sucking dust out of the carpet!! WTF???

Gabby Dust Sucking

Published in: on 19 January, 2013 at 08:43  Leave a Comment  

The Big Texan

DSCF0060So you know, I’m in Amarillo Texas and sitting in The Big Texan – famous for its 72 oz Steak.. which is free “IF” you can eat it!! The present record is under 9 minutes… this needs an animal to complete – wonder where I could find one of them?

Well one thing is for sure – I’ve never been to a restaurant with an open gun range on one side…

So.. The Big Texan and it’s famous 72 oz steak… Now the guy on the right in the pic below inDSCF0061 an Aussie (along with the other 80 Aussies there) and the guy on the left? A Kiwi… but then two other guys started the eating challenge next to them – meaning that between them there was over 18 lbs of dripping bloody meat – it looked like a butchers shop!! [where they eat babies]

72oz steaks

Published in: on 16 January, 2013 at 21:54  Leave a Comment  
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