It is time to wrap up my five weeks in San Francisco. In this post, I will give a short summary of the people I’ve met, places I’ve visited and things I’ve done.
Mount Tamalpais and John
There was a formal exchange of a Swede on the 12th of September when Don handed me over to John, a friend I met at Burning Man 2009. He lives in a breakaway piece of paradise on Mount Tamalpais. The great thing about couch surfing is that you occasionally get to live in a place that you could never afford yourself! How does a gorgeous wood-decorated house with a hot tub overlooking all of the Bay area sound?
I stayed at this paradise for just over a week, catching up on blog posts and taking long walks around the mountain. John and I also visited a gorgeous Japaneese Garden in San Francisco.
Castro and Mike & Jason
After John, I spent a handful of nights at a friend of mine, Mike, and his husband, Jason. They live in the Castro, an area of San Francisco famous for plotting to declare their independence from the United States of America and create the first country populated exclusively by gays. I didn’t do much here apart from working on my laptop at one of the many coffee shops and indulging in some people-watching. There was also the Castro Street Fair, a festival where gay-oriented businesses market what they do to thousands of people too busy partying to care.
Mill Valley and Jason (and his car)
I met Jason at the rodeo, and I stayed a few nights with him and his boyfriend, Will, in their house in Mill Valley, a town beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. Jason, like every other American, loves to drive, and we went on a couple of car trips to explore the area around San Francisco.
We visited the Napa Valley, famous for the many Californian wines that are produced there. The wineries are generally open to the public where you can walk the grounds (Don’t pick the grapes unless you also want a tour of the Californian prisons.) and taste some of the wines produced there.
My favourite Jason-sponsored road trip was a long drive down Highway 1, which runs all along the coast. This road was cut out of the tall cliffs that rise steeply out of the Pacific Ocean, and the views are amazing. Our drive was masterly timed as we just made sunset at the impressive Bixby Creek Bridge. I could spend a few hours tracking, trapping and employ high-calibre adjectives in order to describe the view satisfactorily, but I will be lazy and instead refer to the picture to the right. (Yes, I know my shoelaces are undone and, yes, I know I am standing inches away from a drop to certain death, but the sun was setting fast and there was no time for overly cautious safety concerns.)
Jason also took me to a country western dance, but I plan to dedicate an entire post to my newfound love for two-stepping, so I will skip this for now.
SoMa and Dan & Rich
I met Dan at Burning Man this year, and after a few minutes of conversation, he cheerfully announced that I could stay with him and his boyfriend, Rich, for as long as I wanted. Sadly, my visa runs out at the end of October or I might have taken him up on the offer.
Dan and Rich lives in the SoMa (South of Market) district which, as I mentioned in my Folsom post, is where all the leather gay bars are located as well as the Folsom Street Fair.
As can be expected from someone who invites total strangers into their home on semi-permanent visits, Dan’s home is a very chilled out place indeed. I spent the days on my laptop and the nights at the bars. I had a good time at the bars, but try as I might, there was no out-partying Dan. As an example, I woke up at 3am on a Monday morning to find 12+ new people in the living room (or my bedroom) that Dan had brought back from a party for an impromptu after party. Fun house!
I moved away from Dan and Rich for two reasons. The first and honourable reason is that I had met someone who I knew would become a great friend if I could hang out with him a bit more, and moving in really makes that happen. The second reason, and the more pressing one, was that a marauding gang of fleas moved from somewhere outdoor, via Dan’s dogs, into my sofa bed and considered me a delicious Swedish Smörgordbord of blood to be feasted upon throughout the night.
Tenderloin and Scott
Making a daring escape from the swarm of monsters in SoMa (which, btw, have now been exterminated), I moved into the Victorian insane asylum that is the Tenderloin. This is the area of San Francisco around the Town Hall and it is – oh how shall I put it – colourful. This is where the crack whores and transsexual prostitutes fight over left over syringes in the street corners. I have also never seen so many clinically insane people aimlessly wandering the streets as I did at the Tenderloin. Walking through this neighbourhood is like falling into a very adult version of Alice’s Wonderland. If ever you want to explore the more humbling states of human life, then the Tenderloin is the place to be!
I was introduced to Scott over dinner with a mutual friend and invited to stay a few nights. We got on like a house on fire, and I had a great time with him. The coolest thing we did together, apart from avoiding being caught in the middle of crack deals spiralling out of control, was to go whale watching.
The ride out to where the whales hang out took three hours. The sea was rough and the boat lurched over the waves like a rollercoaster. I had a great time, but for many others, including Scott, it was an exploration of seasickness. There was only one whale kind enough to make an appearance, but it was still worth it! The closest it got to the boat was about 5 metres, which is freakishly close for an animal of that size.
A special thank you to all of the hosts mentioned above. You all showed me amazing hospitality, and I am very grateful for everything that you did for me. The most precious gift San Francisco gave me was your friendship, and I know I will see you all again, one day.