Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It has been far too long since I posted here, blogger was being pissy last week with the infrequent access I had, I shrugged off the writing in favor of sunburn, hill-scaling and late-night wonton folding frenzies. I'm afraid I am going to forget it all before I can write it down... having been home all of 3.5 days and I couldn't recall at the end of most days last week what I had done earlier that afternoon, we could be in trouble here. I promise this will be a ridiculously long and rather boring entry, but I need a record of my days and sometimes the photos aren't enough. Can't always capture the richness of your company, especially when some of them will attack with Green Tickle Death if you point a camera at them.

Now then! (This will be filled with spelling and grammatical errors as my mind is still mostly on vacation. I'll fix it when my eyes stop burning)

Day One - Saturday

miss neue
miss neue © Laura Kicey

I arrived last Saturday evening at SFO to be greeted by... nothing... for hours. Gallumping around the airport drinking bad coffee and wandering back and forth down the arrivals pick-up area. Until (trumpets sound and the clouds crack open) Bernie, that is complete stranger, friend-of-friend, Bernie pulls up in red pickup truck and I am given SF-in-the-dark driving tour. Kept awake only by oodles of caffeine and the rumble of pavement beneath the wheels, I was ferried off, first to Thai dinner finery with post-trip K and Eddy. K had mentioned on the phone while they were zipping south from Up Country that Bernie, Hero of the Day, had a Special Destination in mind, should I be functional post-dining.

I decided I would just have to be. Which is how we ended up here:

seal rocks
seal rocks © Laura Kicey

The ruins of the Sutro Baths around midnight. Fortunately the night came equipped with a very bright nearing-full moon, tripods, a sweatshirt and several man hands to help wobblysleepy nightblind me down the hill and hoist me over large holes in skinny walls and deceptive divets. A multitude of long exposures later, held in the quiet company of m'people, we dozed our way back to primary-colored K's palace where I promptly lost consciousness at what Brain was saying was 5am EST.


Day Two - Sunday

First daylight breaths were taken and the four of us reconnected for brunching at Boogaloos, a place as wildly popular as it is colorful and deee-lish, then made a meander around the Mission popping into shops and random buildings for their rooftop views.

rawhide © Laura Kicey

Stopped in a park whose name I cannot recall to play superspy with all the people frolicking on the lawn with my new zoom.

towering © Laura Kicey

We hopped a bus down to the Dogpatch where I was first introduced to that most-coveted photo spot: Tag Cathedral. Oooooh. Ahhhh. An easy squeezy in through the out of the way gate and we were free to cavort until the hungries would move us onward.

scribble © Laura Kicey

Such a place to get photographically lost in. Deep breath. Back of hand to head. Swoon. The building is long and empty, about two city blocks long, row upon row of windows and every rusty reachable surface has been covered by the colorful tags of some (mostly) pretty skilled graffiti artists. Ones who aren't keen on picking up after themselves, as there were empty cans everywhere. The thing I find most appealing about any manmade wreckage is how is it overtaken by nature given the time. This particular spot was consumed with the delicate fragrance of the fennel plants growing in every crevice.

anisette © Laura Kicey

Inside the late afternoon sun hit the windows at a perfect angle, catching the nuances of the golden but dirty, tagged and broken glass in subtle shadows on the floor.

walking on broken glass
walking on broken glass © Laura Kicey

Despite my getting ansty over walking over gaping holes the night before I followed Eddy up a rusty ladder to a raised platform for an amazing view of the broken piers in the water outside.

high priest of tag cathedral
high priest of tag cathedral © Laura Kicey

We played in the thickly painted busted equipment out in the yard, trailed back out the fence, passing the unphased security guard two buildings up the road, made our way through a truckyard and a bayside park and down to The Ramp for some bbq eats and watch the crowd salsa dancing in the cool air coming off the water.

tag, I'm it
Tag, I'm it © Laura Kicey

It was a brilliant day. I think of all the photos I took while I was there, my favorites came from that first Sunday.

Day Three - Monday

K and I headed out to the Embarcadero that afternoon which is an area that went from a bustling port of commerce to poverty-stricken and abandoned and has come round to being a commercial center, brushing up against a high-traffic tourist area. We breezed through the periphery of the downtown, peeking in the Hyatt lobby to exercise the 10-22mm lens a bit.

The waterfront is lined with huge warehouses that are mostly used for or storage areas for the city... trolleys and buses and other random crap or for general parking. K led us down to Pier 27 to a warehouse known to contain the tempting booty of parade floats. It was very out of the way and upon entering the floats are not at all visible. Unless you knew it was there it wouldn't have been immediately distinguishable from any of the other warehouses we passed. There were a few people around but we just acted like we belonged there. A barricade had been erected around the floats, but there was an opening which we slipped in. We hadn't gotten very far when I saw a guy appraoching us out of the corner of my eye. K was lining up a shot and was oblivious to his approach. He catches my eye and puts a finger to his lips to indicate he was going to sneak up on her. Then he jumps down next to her and yells What do you think you are doing in here?!

K does not flinch. Snaps the photo, puts her camera down to her side and turns on the charm. The guy asks us how on earth we found the floats and some sweet vaguery rolls off her tongue about how we were looking at the circus thing around front and just wondered back. He was actually the owner of the floats and started giving us the grand tour and backstory of all the floats in their many incarnations, showing us their sketches and failures and random oddities. Then he had to get back to work and gave us run of the joint.

year of the dragon
year of the dragon © Laura Kicey

After a couple hours of climbing over the giant styrofoam armatures, we walked down to the Musée Mécanique where we met Eddy and a hundred-odd curious characted under glass that could be brought to life with my precious BART quarters.

mechanique © Laura Kicey

Day Four - Tuesday

Off to a late start, I tried making quickie arrangements to meet up with Eddy and Thomas Hawk for lunch and a photowalk. Thomas is widely known on Flickr and throughout the blogging community... and of late, has been drawing a lot of downtown security guards' unwarranted and violent attentions in the process of legally photographing architecture in public spaces.

street fight
street fight © Laura Kicey

We walked through a Muni station shooting and back then outside. It probably hadn't been twenty minutes since we'd met, when we wound up at 45 Fremont and the security guards started closing in. They demanded we stop taking photographs from the public park space at the base of the building. Thomas did all the talking and we all continued to take photos. Insistence. Thomas said they were free to call the police if they like. He had had a talk with the PR guy for this particular building in past, who actually apologized for past mistreatment by security when he last photographed the building. Out of nowhere this walrus of a man appears and says he *is* a police office, though refuses to tell us his name or show ID, told us to leave the property at once. Grabs Thomas by the arm and starts dragging him off the property. His blog, which goes into far more detail about the incident which was almost immediately picked up by digg.com No surprise that he was in fact not a police officer, but more surprising that even the original guard who approached us didn't even work for the building and that photography is permitted in the public park space where we were. Thomas filed a police report and was told that police officers must show ID upon request and before they are allowed to touch anyone.

Thereafter our walk continued without a snag. I met up with K for lunch and we headed up to North Beach to cruise round the colorful hilly neighborhood with a plot to end the day in Chinatown, gathering ingredients for the DIY wonton dinner party.

lashes © Laura Kicey

The things I love most about San Francisco aesthetically speaking were the combination of ridiculously bright colors and curlicue ironwork paired with the perfect amount of run-downedness, a little peely and rusty bumping up next to the exquisite old signage, handlettering and broken neon at every turn. Unlike NYC where I struggle to find things I want to photograph, I struggled to stop taking photographs of everything.

bad reception
bad reception © Laura Kicey

After we finished gathering we headed home on creaky feets, K played human food processor while I flickred. The boys show up late and we fit in a little sofa-photo play to instigate Merkley to contact me, the wine started to flow and we got down to wrapping wontons. Much silliness, gorging and flashdancing experimentation followed.

EddySwirlyWontonCouch © Laura Kicey

Day Five - Wednesday

A ridiculously late start to the day, K and I leisurely made out way down to Haight Ashbury for thrifting, crepeing, and patchouli inhalation. We sleepy girls pulled up to the De Young Museum at the moment of closing so we crept back to the Japanese Tea Garden for a cuppa, waiting for John Curley and Eddy to get off work come collect us for our plotted Golden Gate Bridge evening walk.

Sidenote to say that John is just an incredible gentleman. I am kinda nervous by nature but he put me at ease immediately, even on the phone, he is just too damn cool. Funny, charming and always up for an adventure.

golden ray
golden ray © Laura Kicey

John drove us down to the Bridge and we walked from the Sausolito side, about a third of the way across, wicked winds shaking us all the way. Then we drove round to a side park and made our way down a hillside as it grew dark. from under the cover of trees below we played with long exposures until our tripods gave out and we under them.

unvoiced wishes
unvoiced wishes © Laura Kicey

Damn nerds. John took us back to the Mission where we had midnight nachos and cantalope frescas and fell asleep on full happy bellies.

curley © Laura Kicey

Day Six - Thursday

My last full day in SF started with an empty box of Cheerios at K's red kitchen table. We knew what we had to do.

percolator © Laura Kicey

Anti-breakfast of Mitchell's Ice Cream and walk around the Mission taking in the richly colored Latino markets and shops... er Hispanic? Oh man. Then we.... uh... kinda forget what happened. Ice Cream clears the slate of everything....


Sea lions while we waited to board our afternoon ferry to Alcatraz! Barking and stinking! I (I think wisely) opted out of the audio tour in favor of devouring with the camera and moving a little faster than I would otherwise have been able to.

guanorama © Laura Kicey

The grounds are a natural preserve so the place was overrun with birds, eggs, nests, guano and feathers. And all the places that looked most exquisite to get inside of were, naturally barred from public entry.

stairwell © Laura Kicey

I think we made out ok. Monster zoom came in handy, but man, I need to pick up that 10-22mm. Soon.

solitary © Laura Kicey

Afterwards we refueled on clam chowder in the very desirable (panting) sourdough breadbowl, made purchase of several touristy floaty pens featuring escaped inmates being eaten by sharks for my coworkers and then mosied over to the flickr meetup at the Crossroads Cafe.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who showed up... especially in comparison to the numbers showing at Philly meets. I was feeling extremely shy and lurked with k and Eddy on the opposite side of the cafe... that is until the crowd started shifting in our direction and I met half of them including nullboy who is pictured below, deborah lattimore who I was too in awe of to talk to until she came up to me, fetching, lawatt, fotogail, caitlinburke, rigamarole, boundaries, bees, petebeck, paul wicks btezra, pinhole, oldvidhead, george, and probably some others I am forgetting... and a truckload of people, including The Heather Champ of Flickr fame, who I didn't get to speak to.

lonesome © Laura Kicey

Afterwards a posse of about 11 slipped off into the night and headed back to the Tag Cathedral for some more trespassing. I was among the last three people to slip through the gate when we got there and hadn't even gotten half way across the front lawn when a security guard shines his flashlight on us from the other side of the gate, yelling that he 'recommends we come out of there immediately.'

Naturally we carried onward. John was kind enough to go out and speak to the guard, sweet talk him and buy us some time... which he did. Apparently a girl had been murdered there at some point, but the guard wasn't overly bothered by our presence and mentioned that we might be able to get permission to shoot there if we go through the appropriate channels and go through the 'front door,' possibly even getting into other buildings in the area with less easy access. When John returned we made moves to leave. I set up my tripod once for a few minutes but became frustrated with focusing and the broken head almost straight away and since I thought we were leaving I went handheld... which ended up being for quite some time. Some trailed off in the dark shooting down by the water, while most of the group gathered in the best lit spot and we all stood around shooting each other.

I stayed up til nearly 3am while K snored quietly next to me, backing up all my photos on CD and then konking out for a couple of hours.

Day Seven - Friday

Boogaloos served me my last breakfast of biscuit with vegan gravy, eggs over medium and fresh fruit while K, Bernie, and complete deliriousness kept me company.

wonton folding demo
wonton folding demo © Laura Kicey

Teary-eyed I said my goodbyes and hopped on BART towards SFO. Everything seemed in order, even when I dozed off and had a panic-waking spotting a sign for the airport at another BART stop and almost leapt off the train.... We boarded as expeceted and then much later were told they were experiencing some techinical difficulty. Anti-skid upset. Need to see if the 'patch' was up to codes. Two hours later we take off... leaving me missing my connecting flight in Minnesota by 40 minutes. Grrrr.

Northwest in their generous nincompooposity put us up for the night in a hotel and gave us vouchers for dinner and shuttle service back to the airport.

bloomington © Laura Kicey

Had I not been unconscious and slack-jawed on the flight to MN, I might have been a little tired. After devouring fried chicken and taking silly photos of myself and my hotel room antics I laid in bed and watched Boiler Room in a catatonic state.

detergent © Laura Kicey

I passed out for two hours then crawled into the shower and onto the 5am shuttle to catch my flight to Detroit. And another to back to Philly. By which time I was babbling incoherently and drooling.

It is late and I really ought to consider bed, especially as I am now getting a cold and mysterious crawly bug-like spots showed up in my peripheral vision this afternoon. Could be a sign. Before I go, SF, you were beautiful, wonderful, easy and possible, and ever so good to me. You are within reach and one day I should consider you again when this East Coast anxiety has wrung me out... seriously. K you were the bestess hostess ever and your coffee gave me the power to go on every morning. And D, Maggs thanks you for watching over her. I thank you too, but I don't pee on the rug to show you how grateful I am.


Blogger Thomas Hawk said...

Whew! What an adventure! So glad to get to finally meet you in person Laura. Enjoyed shooting with you and getting to know you better. Looking forward to your next visit to SF someday.


5:26 PM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Eugene Feygin said...

Love the photos. I was just browsing around, I just recently started my blog: http://www.eugenefeygin.blogspot.com and I have photography at http://www.efwallpaper.com. Check it out when you get a chance, have a great day :)

10:46 PM, June 14, 2006  
Anonymous Lucy I'm home said...

Sounds like you had a great trip.

Did you ever get a chance to meet Merkley?

11:42 AM, June 15, 2006  
Blogger helveticaneue said...

Great to meet you too Thomas and I would love to get back out that way again, too short a visit.

Lucy... our meeting did not materialize unfortunately, but I was ready for it!

11:46 AM, June 15, 2006  
Anonymous Lucy said...

From the little bit that I know of Merkley, I think that he must be a tough nut to crack.

1:36 PM, June 15, 2006  
Anonymous elliot thomas said...

Nice article. Quite interesting.

1:10 AM, February 20, 2017  

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