Tuesday, April 07, 2009

San Francisco. Friday: Recapturing My Lost Youth

I am a few days behind with my California adventures: most of the places in which I stay do not have Wi-Fi or Blackberry coverage, which means I am playing catch up with writing & posting most days.

So, San Francisco. Friday.
I first visited the city when I was nineteen with my best friend Caz. We landed from Hawaii on the last leg of our round the world GAP year trip, and spent several days here before embarking on a Greyhound odyssey which would see us finally end up in New York before flying home. I remember a little of that stay: vintage shopping in the Haight & buying a Technicolor striped top that I wore with black cycling shorts and which made me look like an angry wasp on acid (but which I thought the absolute dernier cri), the obligatory walk over the Golden Gate Bridge and a particularly grotty hostel somewhere Downtown.

I came back again a few years later in 1994 for an extended summer under the auspices of BUNAC, who arranged a J-1 working visa for me. I got my first bylines writing about the San Francisco music scene on a long since defunct arts newspaper, & maitre d’ed extremely badly at Ariana, a very upmarket fine dining restaurant which promptly folded owing me all my wages. It probably didn’t help that the barman slipped me a shot of tequila every time I walked back from seating guests. I loved it here so much that I considered sacking my final year of university and staying here permanently.

My father talked sense into me, and I returned to England. Fifteen years later, I’m back in San Francisco again and, within eight hours of my arrival on Friday afternoon, I find myself rapidly cycling back through the years at a warehouse party on Potrero Hill. From the sheets of cardboard gaffer taped over the concrete floors and the slightly ropey visuals projected on the walls, to the thump thump of the techno and the slightly glazed look on the shuffling dancers’ faces I might as well be in 1994 again.

Four cocktails to the good, I bounce straight onto the dance floor with unabashed glee. And then burst into tears. It just all feels so heartbreakingly, unbearably nostalgic. Every time I look around the room I expect to see the faces of all my friends, not just those I hung out with here in San Francisco fifteen years ago, but all my beloved English friends, with whom I have danced at parties, raves, weddings and festivals, in clubs, squats, fields, warehouses, forest clearings, beaches and hangars from Newcastle and Leeds to Berlin and Barcelona. I realise those days are long, long behind me. Fortunately my swishing hair hides my face as I continue to dance and to cry.

Then I find myself kissing D$, one of L’s rather good-looking male friends and am cheered up immensely.

I do not feel very well the next day. At all. It becomes abundantly clear that the main difference between me in 1994 and me in 2009 is a lack of party stamina. My legs ache from toe to thigh from dancing in platform wedges on a concrete floor, rather in than the Ellesse trainers which were standard party gear back in the day, and just four or five drinks is enough to have induced a whole tribe of pixie blacksmiths to have taken up residence in my cranium.