Chapter 7: THE CITY OF LOVE
Tuesday 4th September and as usual on this trip I arose early -- 7.20am, the
earliest yet. I looked out the window at that glorious California sunshine and
once again I marvelled at my good fortune in being here, at the fact that my
picking up a copy of SCIENCE FICTION MONTHLY in 1974 could lead, ten years
later, to what must be the trip of a lifetime. Isn't fandom wonderful? I felt
good -- hell, I felt GREAT -- but I was the only one awake as yet, so I pottered
about quietly, reading some of Allan's comics and thinking deep thoughts about
The Meaning Of It All.
Spike was the next to wake and, being the athletic type (how many other fans
do you know who found fandom through weightlifting?), was keen to go
jogging before breakfast.
"Why don't you join me, Rob?" she suggested looking fit and
tanned, a picture of well-fed Midwestern wholesomeness (I didn't know her as
well then as I do now).
I may have been feeling great but I was also someone whose main form of
exercise was farting, so I said I didn't think I should.
"But Rob, jogging is the quintessential Californian experience. How can
you visit here and not jog?"
Damn! She had me there. I protested feebly that the only trousers I had with
me were a couple of pairs of jeans, and I could barely move in one of those.
"I remember", she grinned, reminding me that she'd seen me in them
at the convention and had commented "cute ass" in that disarmingly
casual way American women have. She offered me a spare pair of running shorts
she had with her and I bowed gracefully to the inevitable. I added my own
T-shirt and brand-new pair of trainers to the shorts and soon we were off.
With the glare of the sun off the pavement dazzling me I began to think that
maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all and hoped I wouldn't fall too far
behind Spike. To my surprise just the opposite happened. I shot ahead of her and
had to slow down a number of times for her to catch up. This left me feeling
understandably smug but that smugness was soon wiped away. First, my feet
started to hurt. The brand-new, unbroken-in trainers were pinching my toes and
raising painful blisters. Second, we got lost. Since our plan to keep taking
left turns should have prevented this we were puzzled. Also a little worried
since neither of us could remember the name of the street Allan and Donya's
house was on, nor knew their phone number, nor even had any money on us to ring
them if we had known it. To add insult to injury the road we got lost on was
Hansen Way. Since there was no other choice we stumbled around trying to find
our way back, Spike offering to carry me piggy-back to relieve my feet and me
being macho and refusing, eventually giving cries of joy as we came upon a
familiar Ford Econoline van parked outside one of many identical houses. We rang
the bell and the door was opened by Allan Baum, who looked deeply alarmed by the
piteous cries of relief with which we greeted him.
After we had showered and breakfasted, Allan drove us to the bus stop where
we caught the 7F to San Francisco. Shortly after pulling away we passed the
British Bankers Club ("The BBC!" -- Spike). As always the roadsigns
pointing to such exotically named places as San Mateo and Burlingame exerted a
powerful fascination, though they probably seem totally ordinary to those who
live in the area. Soon we were back on US 101, the highway that we'd followed
from Los Angeles to Palo Alto yesterday, but from here it was right on the edge
of the Pacific, following a bay that was apparently
the bay that gave the Bay Area its name. High up on a hill was a sign
that advertised the area we were passing through as SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- THE
INDUSTRIAL CITY. As we followed the curving bay road many of the groups of
houses we passed were disturbingly reminiscent of those that can be seen in most
any Victorian seaside town in Britain.
The bus journey took maybe an hour, and eventually we pulled into a bus
terminal on the corner of Mission and Fremont in San Francisco proper. We put in
a phone call to Rich Coad and in no time at all he'd shown up in his VW Beetle
and had driven us back to the apartment he shared with Stacy Scott at 251
Ashbury Street (yes, the Ashbury of Haight-Ashbury fame in the '60s). The
apartment was quite a decent size, certainly larger than my own flat back in
London, and was -- ah -- interestingly decorated. On one wall the framed drawing
of a leather-jacketed, mirror-shade wearing rat loomed over a red plastic Felix
the Cat clock while on another there was the poster for a film called
'Astro-Zombies' ('See Brutal Mutants Menace Beautiful Girls ... See Crazed
Corpse Stealers ... See Beserk Human Transplants!') We pondered the artistic
experience offered by Astro-Zombies while Rich reached up for the Walkman sat on
the mantle next to the propellor-beanie wearing china bulldog -- only it wasn't
a Walkman. Chuckling, Rich showed how it converted into a robot, my first
experience of the Transformer-type Japanese toys that were to flood the market a
year or so later. Another poster read "We don't care because we don't have
to -- The Phone Company". I asked Rich who he worked for.
"The Phone Company", he replied, "And we don't."
Rich & Stacy's apartment building on Ashbury Street
The journey from Palo Alto had hardly been arduous so after drinking a few
beers, fairly palatable beers I might add, we went out and walked along Ashbury
up to Haight Street, where I converted most of the money I was carrying to
travellers checks, and felt a lot better for having done so. We ate at a cafe on
Haight called 'All You Knead' (groan), chatting inconsequentially about this and
that, then returned to the apartment. Rich drove Spike over to John Bartelt's
place -- she was staying with him while in SF -- and on his return he and Stacy
took me for a drive around the city.
One thing I couldn't help noticing was the diamond-shaped roadsigns all over
the place that read 'Ped Xing'. Given San Francisco's large Chinese population
it made sense for there to be signs in that language, though I thought that
making the signs yellow was a little tasteless. I mentioned this to Rich and
asked him what 'Ped Xing' translated as. Rich stared at me in anazement and then
burst out laughing.
"You dickhead!" he said. "It isn't Chinese at all. It's an
abbreviation for 'pedestrian crossing'!" Rich had had his revenge for
As with those of most American cities, the streets of San Francisco are laid
out on a grid pattern, but these grids can get disrupted when they hit the coast
or if the city has many hills. San Francisco has lots of hills, due
mainly to the fact that rising up from the middle of the city is a low,
twin-peaked mountain called -- logically enough -- Twin Peaks. It was to Twin
Peaks that we drove first, the highest point in the city.
"A conceptual artist once constructed a giant bra over the peaks"
said Rich, as we approached them, a boggling concept indeed.
the view from Twin peaks
The view from the top of Twin Peaks was breathtaking. Out on my left was
Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific flowing under it, while further along Alcatraz
could be clearly seen, unlike the Bay Bridge which was partially obscured by the
high buildings of the business district. On the far side of the bridge lay
Oakland, and the bay itself swept away off to the right and was lost in the
"One of the islands the Bay Bridge stands on, Treasure Island, is
man-made," Rich explained, "while the bay itself is about 25 miles long
and the biggest natural harbour in the world. You're lucky to have such a fine
view. It's rarely this clear and often shrouded in fog."
I was glad of my luck as I wouldn't have missed that view for the world.
It's one of those sights you carry with you forever. I took photographs, but
there was no real way they could capture the scale and grandeur of the bay.
Other touristy parts of the trip were the drive down Lombard Street -- that
crooked and winding street that has featured in innumerable car chases filmed in
San Francisco -- and Castro Street.
"Gay capital of the world," explained Rich, putting his foot down
as we pulled onto the top of Castro. We tore along the street at high speed,
only slowing when we reached the end. I rubbed my neck, suspecting whiplash.
After visiting the Sutro bath ruins (don't ask) we parked the car and walked
up Columbus Avenue and past Washington Square Park ("As written about by
Richard Brautigan" -- Coad). We passed a strip joint called The Condor
where Rich decided to get me some postcards from the doorman/bouncer by telling
him I was Welsh.
"You're Welsh?" he said in feigned astonishment, thrusting a dozen
or so postcards into my hand,"then come in and take a free look, no
Before I knew it I'd been ushered inside where a couple were engaging in
simulated sex on a grubby stage. A barman hurried over and tried to hustle me
into a seat at the bar, but I side-stepped him, made hurried excuses, and left.
It was a close shave. A bit further along the road was the famous City Lights
bookshop whose owner, Ferlinghetti, was the first to publish Ginsberg's HOWL.
All this culture was making us thirsty so we ducked into the next bar we came
to, a picturesque little place over whose door was the legend "We're itchy
to get away from Portland, Oregon" -- Lord knows why. Inside, a sign on the
wall announced that "MODERN DANCING and IMMODEST DRESS STIR SEX DESIRES
leading to Lustful Flirting, Fornication, Adultery, Divorce, Destruction and
Judgement". So that's what I was doing wrong. 'Immodest Dress' here
I come! The only sane response to this sort of thing was a few bottles of Dos
Equis, and I've always been a firm believer in sanity. I also took this
opportunity to update my notes, and am now disturbed to discover that at this
point in my notebook there appears the impenetrably cryptic "Naaru --
island in Pacific -- airline to anywhere -- Giant turd". What can it mean?
With early evening already upon us we took in Chinatown, Rich pointing out
the spot where Bridget O'Shaunessy shot Miles Archer in 'The Maltese Falcon'.
Had I seen the film I would have been suitably impressed but that experience,
alas, still lay a couple of years in the future. Where London's Chinatown
consists of no more than a couple of streets behind Leicester Square, San
Francisco's is an entire district and is a whole lot more impressive. Here was a
richness and -- well -- authenticity that put the twee pretentions of
Gerrard Street, with its pagoda-style phone-boxes and disappointingly limited
selection of restaurants, to shame.
We ate at a Hunan restaurant at 853 Kearny (it says here), a Chinese
restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, before returning at last to Ashbury
Street. It had been a day full of new sights, sounds, and experiences, one that
needed to be sorted out and meditated upon, but it was not over yet.
We had not been back long when Lucy Huntzinger turned up with Paul Williams
and Robert Lichtman in tow (known to then me as 'Glen Ellen fandom', but perhaps
better known to you as the editor of the PKDick Society Newsletter and 1989 TAFF
winner, respectively). In the short time we had been back I'd been playing a
tape of Leroy Kettle's Fan Guest of Honour interview from the 1978 Eastercon, a
classic of fan humour that had Rich rolling about with laughter, tears running
down his cheeks, so I ran it for them. Their laughter was somewhat more
restrained, not having had the experience of living in London and hanging out
with Leroy and co, as Rich had done in the early-1970s. Facing a physics test in
college the next day Rich crashed early, but the rest of us stayed up late
talking. This was one of those freewheeling sessions that are so much fun at the
time that you don't take notes and so can't reconstruct them afterwards.
However, from notes I made later I see that apart from learning that Rich and
Stacy's budgies were called Molar and Bicuspid there was the fascinating
revelation that Stacy's parents were Beats and she got to meet Ginsberg when she
was ten. Then there was her maternal grandfather, who'd been a member of Al
Capone's gang. My own claim to fame, a maternal great-uncle who'd once been
Mayor of Kidwelly, paled in comparison. So it goes.
I was awoken the next morning at 7.45am by the phone ringing. It was someone
called Kent responding to the RSVP on the invitation to tonight's party in my
"Let them know I rang, OK?"
"Are you Rob?"
"Then I'll see you tonight."
Having impressed Kent with my witty ripostes I fumbled the phone back on to
its cradle and tried in vain to get back to sleep. It was no use so I got up,
once again the only one awake, and caught up on my note-taking and
Rob, Jack Herman, Lucy, Sharee
Things didn't actually come to life until the early afternoon when local
fans Sharee Carton, Allyn Cadogan, Lucy Huntzinger, and DUFF winner Jack Herman
turned up and the five of us went for a walk up the Haight. I got Lucy to take a
shot of me standing on the corner with the Haight-Ashbury street sign behind me.
Rob Hansen on corner of Haight-Ashbury
Back in 1967 this had been the Hippies' Mecca, but the summer of love lay almost
20 years in the past now and most of the Hippies were long gone. I imagine that
the majority of them cut their hair, traded in their love-beads for filofaxes,
and became advertising executives, realtors, and the like. Still, vestiges of
that long-ago summer, that long-lost innocence, still remained and could be
detected in the dress of the buskers and derelicts, and in shops on the Haight
that bore names such as 'The Anxious Asp' and 'Mommie Fortuna's'.
Haight Street is one of those long, straight, and seemingly endless
thoroughfares that are a natural and inevitable consequence of grid-pattern
planning, but like most things it has its end, and where it ends is at Golden
Gate Park. We spent a few hours here, taking many silly photos of each other,
marvelling at the detail on the horses on the closed carousel and marvelling
even more at what looked like a three-masted ship floating in the clouds. This
was in fact the Sutro Tower, some sort of communications mast, which produces
this remarkable effect when its lower portions are wreathed in mist. Weird.
Rob in fight to the death with a lion
Lucy Huntzinger, Sharee Carton
Rob Hansen, Jack Herman
Sharee, Lucy, Jack, Allyn
Sharee Carton, Rob Hansen
afternoon rapidly giving way to early evening we headed back via the California
Academy of Sciences. It was time to party!
How to capture a party? How indeed? Well first a listing of those present,
which according to my notebook included Rich and Stacy, Allan and Donya, Spike,
Lucy, Allyn, Grant Canfield, Gary Farber, Steve and Elaine Stiles, Bill
Brieding, Gary Mattingley, John Bartelt, Jack Herman and doubtless many others
besides including, presumably, the mysterious Kent. Dancing started when Spike
discovered an album in Coad's collection consisting of nothing but cover
versions of 'Louie, Louie' and I, displaying my usual good taste, put the
Kingsmen's version on and took to the floor (I'm used to being the one who gets
the dancing going). In one of those strange silences that happen occasionally
when everyone finishes talking simultaneously I heard Spike say "...
cucumbers, wrapped in aluminum foil." I never did get to ask what she'd
At one point Allyn Cadogan decided to reveal her dark secret to me:
"Before I changed it my name used to be Laverne, but don't tell anyone,
I promised that I wouldn't. Rich, who was standing in the next TAFF race,
complained to me about the way his rivals in that race, Patrick and Teresa
Nielsen Hayden, were conducting their campaign.
"P and T are using dirty tactics -- they're publishing wonderful
We then got talking about this and that -- a very popular topic, I usually
find -- and I decided to ask him about the rivalry I had noticed between San
Franciscans and Los Angelenos.
"We hate 'em," he explained. "Their uncool mellowspeak and
laid back image gets Californians a bad name. I mean, San Franciscans are sharp!"
He then went on to tell the doubtless apocryphal tale of a fellow citizen
who had tried to buy a compass while visiting the City of the Angels. The owner
of the first shop the man asked at sneered at him and said:
"Why would I sell something which only points north?"
So now, explained Rich, most San Franciscans carried a compass with them
when they visited L.A., so they'd always know where home and sanity lay.
Jerry Kaufman rang, to assure his place in this report, and the party wound
down in a haze of dancing, drinking, talking, and good times had. With all the
people staying over I had to share a bed with Gary Farber but I was too tired to
care. With a cheerily tasteless comment to Gary, I climbed under the covers and
was soon dead to the world. I'd enjoyed San Francisco, one of the most beautiful
cities I've ever been in, but tomorrow I was setting off for the Big Apple
itself -- New York.