Sunday, November 16, 2008
DAY TRIP TO BERKELEY or THE DAY I ALMOST KILLED MYSELF AND THOUSANDS OF OTHER PEOPLE
Day trips are fun. At least that's what I tell myself. So when the opportunity arose to head up north to Berkeley to catch my friends' bands, the Taylor Texas Corrugators and JAMBANG, I said what the hell and made the six-hour trek all by myself.
I'm learning that I need to get out more. It helps keep me sane. Repetition has never been a friend of mine and hitting the open road is a perfect remedy for the Groundhog Day blues. Plus, I hadn't been to Berkeley in years...
I left Long Beach Friday at 11:30. The goal was to leave around 8 or 9 a.m., but we all knew that wasn't happening. I hit no traffic anywhere and was on Telegraph around 6 p.m.
The drive up was fairly uneventful. Highlights include stopping at Taste of India in Buttonwillow for killer samosas and a massive vegetable biryani wrap. Vegetarian food in truckstop towns is the modern day oasis, but this place exists and I make sure to stop there every time I'm on the 5. Sometimes I'm not hungry, but the food is bomb and I like to support them to make sure they're still around for my next trip. The second highlight was the gray skies caused by massive fires in Montecito (Montecito -- isn't that a hotel in Las Vegas?) The first three pictures are of this.
Berkeley was GOING OFF when I arrived. Literally a thousand people walking, talking, having a good time. I found a good parking spot and strolled around, taking in all that the college town has to offer.
It didn't take long before I began to feel strange. Not like I was gonna puke strange, but more like "holy shit, am I old or what?" kinda strange. Kids passing me by talking about the most ridiculous stuff. Two pimple faced punks were singing "I Saw Your Mommy" by Suicidal Tendencies, a group of high-heeled girls were pontificating the merits of Wet Seal, two gay guys were sharing horror stories of their respective hometowns and these three computer nerds were waxing poetic about the good ol' days of the Internet, back when AOL 2.0 was a big deal.
I was invisible to these kids. Maybe that's why I had such a good time. I never thought I'd be 29 years old, but I am and I'm learning to deal with it. It pains me to call college students kids, but for the first time in my life, I see that they are. Stuck between childhood and adulthood, away from mom and dad for the first time and exposed to things they only read about online. What I wouldn't do to be 19 again.
I thought about that last statement and realized I wish I could be in college again, but only because I am older. What I saw was no different than the Berkeley I saw when I was 18. You think I'm angry now? Try me a decade ago. I didn't want the college experience and that's probably why I didn't move away to school. Yes, now I see how this might have changed who I was and who I am, but I wasn't ready to participate in the herd mentality that seems to be ever so popular. The whole thing was a large cliche, the kind that made me feel like I was watching "Felicity" and not living real life.
The homeless punks and hippies are still bumming change. So are all the cleanest crazy people I've ever encountered. And there's the sweet sweet smell of weed EVERYWHERE. In the bookstore -- weed. The vintage store -- weed. The three headshops -- weed. The three guys standing in front of that plot of land that's been empty for 15 years -- weed. Not sure how cool the rest of the town is, but I'm ready to pronounce Telegraph the marijuana capital of the country.
Ate dinner at Blake's on Telegraph, where the show was held downstairs. Got a vegan burger. Usually these are nothing special, but this was really tasty. Highly recommended.
The sound guy was awesome. Not only did he give the obligatory history of the venue speech, he later offered us a bag of weed for sale. He didn't normally sell, he told us, but just this once...Sure dude.
First two bands were what I'd call college bands. Five guys who don't have much in common other than they want to play music. Maybe that's where the expression "the ol' college try" comes from. In any case, these groups had a strong following and girls were screaming for them, so they musta been doing something right.
The Corrugators were first. I've seen them a few times now and this might have been the best show yet. It's heavy, it's mellow, it grooves, it rocks. For a three-piece, they sure sound like a full band to me. Not that three pieces aren't full bands, but you know what I mean.
Luckily for me, the band had fun at some wineries the day before, resulting in drink tickets galore for me. Hooray for other people's hangovers!
JAMBANG closed the night with by far the best performance I've seen from them. I should be better at explaining bands' sets, but I'm not. To me, groups are good or bad. I don't see why anyone would ever go on and on about nuances and minutiate. Just believe me when I say JAMBANG was killer.
After the show I eyeballed this group of girls on the street. They were smoking, so I figured they must have been at least 18. But the more I looked, the tattoos and smokes hid nothing. The man in me knew they were attractive, but I was not interested because they were goddamn children. I wondered what I'd do if one of them approached me and wanted to party (this is assuming I didn't have a girlfriend of course) and I gotta say I think I woulda turned them down. Fuck. I'm old.
Went to bed at 3:30 and got up at 9:30 to head home. I wanted to get some work done and a different set of friends were having a shindig that I wanted to attend. For most of the drive home, I was flying around 90mph. There's no one on the 5 on a Saturday afternoon, which made that incredibly dull trip more tolerable. Then all hell broke lose.
Somewhere near Castaic was one of those neon signs telling me to expect a 75-minute delay due to the 5 being closed. I called home and asked the ol' ball and chain to get online and see what was up. "Fires," she said and it was then I knew I was screwed.
I got within ten minutes of Magic Mountain in Valencia when traffic came to a screeching halt. As in dead. No movement. At all. For two hours. I had one drop of water and two stale vegan donuts which tasted like shit. I rolled up the windows. I rolled down the windows. Changed the radio station. Made more phone calls. Anything to break the monotony.
This guy next to me was playing a mandolin. I thought about busting out my harmonica, but this cat could play and I totally suck. So I took some pictures instead. I was officially in hell.
Traffic was diverted onto the 126, a freeway I'd never heard of. False hope sucks even more than honest hope. Everyone thought this shift would get us moving, but it didn't. More traffic. Two hours more in fact.
I began to curse humanity, cars, people, fires, freeways, the strawberry stands we crept past on the 126, my radio, my phone, the heat, idiots who live in these fire-torn areas, the cars driving 80 mph in the opposite direction and life in general.
The 126 is a five-lane road. Two in each direction and one turn lane in between. I said fuck it and drove down the turn lane, which was pretty dangerous considering how fast traffic on the other side was moving. But I wasn't the only one. Lots of us did it only to get shitty looks whenever we had to merge into the regular lane. Yes, it's a shit move, but it was a shit time. Whaddyagonnado?
I'm amazed I didn't get hungry or have to pee, but that's the frustration kicking in. There was nothing but hate and anger. The animal was unleashed. If ever I could have done real bodily harm to a total stranger, it was yesterday on the 126 freeway. Every person glancing over at me was dead if they looked just five more seconds. Then I realized they were just killing time too and I decided to let them live.
The 126 turned into a town with min-malls and Taco Bells all over the place. I got a bean burrito and fries at Green Burrito, which, by the way, was the shiznit before they were converted into Carl's Jrs. Then I got some gas because I was at a quarter tank and had no idea what to expect.
I coulda ate at CJ, but I got it to go because there was no way I was going to wait any longer than I already did. The fries went first to let the burrito cool. One bite and there's beans all over my shirt. Each chomp was more food on me and less in my mouth. Oh, did I mention I was now driving in total darkness on a windy two-lane road that was supposed to take me to the 23?
My car seat was littered with beans and my steering wheel was sticky from all the food dropped on my hands. But I did not care. Like a commando trooper longing for peace, I pushed forward until I hit the 101. Finally, something I recognize.
An hour later and I was home. I dropped my shit at the door, took a shower and was done. Normally I unpack first thing, but my day and night were over. No friends' party. No nothing. Just my bed.
If I had a piece of paper and a pen, I woulda wrote the best shit ever while this was happening, but a day later and I'm afraid to really tap into the details because I am finally in a good mood and don't want to ruin that. So I'll say this: When people ask why I want to leave Southern California for Portland, I'll have one more reason to give them: the fires, terrible asthma conditions and chapped lips caused by a goddamn motherfucking shit ass piss bitch whore cunt called the Santa Ana winds. And you thought Santa Ana was just a terrible place to live and socialize...