Northern California Tourette
FOUR CARS TO SAN FRANCISCO
It’s summer, time of the hippie festival circuit. We’re Carter Ranch Festival bound, 5 to 99 to 41 to 140 to Triangle Road, currently coming down out of the Grapevine with lack of coffee on our minds. And freedom. Paul L’s longstanding job has come to an end, as Actuality Productions, maker of such shows as Modern Marvels and documentaries of both higher and lower brow, crumbles into the corporate earth. Rob’s unshackled from USC till September. Freedom. No responsibilities. No need for sobriety, decency, shared values. We’re on the road. With much time to muse. Muse we do.
Have the Hawks been coasting on their tried and true point of view? Is it time to shake our psyches, muddle our minds, focus on distant horizons, the future for to see? Is the sky blue? Does the new Pope sleep in the genetically modified woods? On the 5 north, of courthe, in the flat San Joaquin Valley, for the hundredth time, we truly feel home. Puffy clouds spare us the sun’s almost summer wrath. The air is mysteriously hard to describe. It’s a dry kind of humid.
We pass the Tulare city sign, and 50 feet behind it is an old primered fighter jet displayed in a brown field. If you are bedraggled, you display your fist first.
Later that evening. Bug.
We drop down through the hills, the evergreens melt away, then the oaks, now we’re in agro fields, now we’re on the 99 north.
Whoa! Speak of the corporate devil! Starbucks sign to the right, beacon in desolation! We make exit 195, over the 99, we pull in to the Atwater Arco/Carls/ISC Tractor Supply/Starbucks empire, black asphalt sulking in hot sun.
We stayed at our central California home away from home, the Tyson mini-estate in the fields and marshes near Winters, chief subject of aforementioned “Yolo County.” Kathryn and Carlos are very generous people, and even more interesting. Kathryn has lived a cat’s nine lives and then some, including teen queen hoodlum in reservation country in North Dakota, and flight attendant on a sketchy and perhaps CIA owned airline servicing Vietnam at the height of the war. Now she and Carlos do land preservation work, and their marshy surroundings are indeed a hotbed of wildlife activity. We saw a Swenson’s hawk divebomb a huge wild turkey that was encroaching on nesting territory. Better than Animal Kingdom, and commercial free.
San Francisco is wrong. Who first said this? Was it Marc Doten? Was it Anthony Lacques? Dear reader, you are perhaps concerned: where is this going? Surely the Hawks aren’t going to bash an entire city. Surely their anonymous but acerbic scribes are not going to unleash their full verbal vitriolosity in broad stroke broadside against what some, the more shallow among us, consider one of the shining gems of urbs Americanus?
A little background is in order. We have given San Francisco its due, and every opportunity to charm and inspire us. Paul L hitchhiked to SF in 1972, almost desperate to drink the dregs of a hippie culture already pronounced dead. He wandered Market Street and Golden Gate Park on a bitter cold and icy clear November day, looking for peace, love, and the Furry Freak Brothers. There was nothing. Just the ordinary citizens that R. Crumb drew as foils to the counterculture. This destroyed a teenage dream and blew a psychic hole in our young guitar player’s San Francisco dream. To this day Paul L can’t navigate San Francisco, despite hundreds of visits and stays. A paralysis of the mind and a chill in the diaphragm kicks in as the gleaming spires loom closer on Bay or Golden Gate bridge. It’s become psychic DNA.
After hearty cups of strong milkless coffee that galvanize our spirits to nearly a state of ambition, we make our way down the hill and board a ferry to Angel Island. The weather is cool and partly cloudy, a lovely day to hike on the historic island.
“That he is a slave . . . no fit competitor for an American freeman . . . That American men, women and children cannot be what free people should be, and compete with such degraded creatures in the labor market . . . the health, wealth and prosperity and happiness of our State demand their expulsion from our shores.”
Instead of remaining a citizen of China, I willingly became an ox.
Leaving behind my writing brush and removing my sword, I came to America . . .
[to attain] my ambition and become successful.
I will certainly behead the barbarians and spare not a single blade of grass.
But we soldier through and it all turns out fine. Steve, our host, is a nice guy and very professional, with a rich classic DJ baritone. He knows what to do. We follow his lead, play Slash From Guns N’ Roses, everything is cool. We even talk to some callers about tea bagging. So there you go.
The cavernous Aubergine is a warehouse thrift store by day, bar restaurant by night. They even have wi fi and very good French onion soup. We meet our drummer from the night, Chip Trombley (he’s great). We get to reconnect with our brother Hawk and long time steel player Dave Zirbel and his lovely wife Jeanine. It’s a fun night in the rural northern California scene. Dave Z is the Missing Hawk, the sound we hear in our heads when we think of the complete sound. He sounds great tonight, Chip rocks the grooves gently, and we make a solid connection with the crowd. We’ll definitely make our way here again.