Up out of the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport – like the Underground/subway/metro/U- and S-Bahn etc.) onto 24th and Mission, straight into the centre of the Mission district of SF. It was warm, balmy even. A veritable melting pot of Mexican culture, bohemians, graffiti, murals, food stops, dollar stores, colour and noise, but also strangely familiar. It kind of reminded us of Kreuzberg in Berlin but with the Turkish influence replaced by Mexican. Spanish language everywhere, signs, voices, music. Sauntered down Mission past phone shops and enticing eateries, dragging our suitcases behind us, noting the smell of the place – everywhere in the world has such a distinct smell. Here it’s Mexican spices and an underlying funky aroma that popped up every now and then, as yet unidentified – the stench of a city wafting around us.
So our CouchSurfing host Aaron was at the Revolution Café on 22nd St, between Mission and Valencia. We managed to find it thanks to the wonderfully easy grid structure that nearly all US cities and towns share – so hard to get lost, just turn left and left again. So Revolution, on the corner, wouldn’t have looked (or smelt) out of place in Amsterdam… a rag tag assortment of bohos, dudes with dreads, skaters, all drinking, some smoking sport cigarettes, spilling out onto the pavement, jazzy beats in the background, good beer. Almost a cliché ..and we almost believed it was summer.
Aaron was really sweet – hugs all round. He picked us up in his car and took us to his place on 21st St, a typical artist, boho house share on the first floor of a Mission townhouse, painted wooden boards and steep stairs. Inside was a jumble of bikes, throws, incense, the smell of cooking lentils, records, unidentified boxes, half dead plants, cushions, home made artwork, discarded knitting. Turns out that Aaron lives with four girls, all students or artists or performers – could this be anymore typical of SF?! He informs us that one of his housemates is known as Calypso and that apparently it’s common that people have alternative names in SF. Ingo from this moment on is Igloo and Sharmila is Minx.
We dumped our stuff and walked to a Mexican place on Mission called Taquería Cancún. There’re loads of Mexican places to eat but Aaron recommended this place. It’s open late, it’s buzzing, it was packed at 3.30pm on a Saturday, its very yellow and there’s a very low solid door frame to the restrooms, as Igloo discovered when he clonked his head on it heading to the back of the counter queue, which stretched into the back to the restrooms – yes it was that busy.
Confusion at the counter as we had no idea what to order and it was one of those fast, order at the counter and grab a seat on a big bench table places. Despite warnings that even normal US portions are BIG, Igloo in his hungered desire for food ordered a Super Burrito, Minx went for enchiladas and a carrot and fresh squeeze orange juice. Free tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa and sour cream dips while we waited for our number to be called. When it arrived Igloo soon realised that reports of portion sizes were not exaggerated – his Super Burrito turned out to be a Super Jumbo Massive Mega Giga Burrito of which he managed to eat half, just about, with a little help from Aaron and Minx. Food was tasty, spicy, cheap and flavoursome. A bit saltier than we are used to but what the heck it was lip smacking and generous. For all three of us it was around $20. Life stories exchanged, love and politics dipped into along with the guacamole to a soundtrack of tinny Mexican pop and a background of lurid jungle and parrot murals. The carrot juice on top of the jetlag made us hyper.
We wandered back to the flat, gawping at the murals, especially a particularly freaky one on the side of an old people’s home (see above pic of tower block), the congregation of guys hanging out at the fenced basketball court just down the block from Aaron’s place, sitting on old crates and quaffing out of brown paper bagged bottles. Got back to Aaron’s and there it was: Calypso was sitting at the table dressed as a clown.
HELP! THERE’S A CLOWN IN THE ROOM!!!!! (hehehe..)
After a bit of chit chat with the lovely clown and other flatmates, the discovery of mice in the cupboards, Igloo helping to set a trap (that was later at night in an act of mercy removed) with some peanut butter and a nice cup of herbal tea we decided to have a nap before heading out to see Aaron playing with some friends at the aforementioned Revolution Café. We retired to the back workroom, rickety platform bed that our hosts had kindly provided for us and drifted into a slumber… the quick nap turned into a jet lagged 10 hour deep sleep, not even the partying in the adjacent kitchen that went on till 2 in the morning woke us! So we missed the gig : (
Please continue reading here: Road Trip San Fracisco Part 2