Ok, so I got through documenting the first three days of my trip to California. Here it is for anyone that cares, likes to read, or is just plan bored. Pictures can be found here, more here, and of course if you click back through my entries on my site you’ll see the posts from my sidekick.
Friday, June 16th, 2006
My California adventure began on Friday, June 16th. I went in to work like any other day, but left early (around 4pm) and headed to the airport in a car, leaving my car behind in the parking lot at work. I hope I remembered to lock it. O’Hare is old hat at this point, as I ran through all the normal things. I got there with an hour to spare, so I spent that time on the sidekick, answering overdue emails, and chatting. La had replied to my email to the GPS list about hanging out in CA, so I chatted with her a bit on the phone too. Then jumped on my plane, scoring an aisle seat in a row without the middle person. The flight from Chicago to Phoenix was long, bordering on too long for my tastes. I spent the time reading a book I had gotten from my dad called “A Whole New Mind” which keep my interest from start to finish and helped the flight go by a little bit quicker. Landed in Phoenix, where it was hotter than hell, and then caught my flight to Oakland, CA.
I landed at Oakland, grabbed my bags, and jumped on the Super Shuttle that I had reserved the day before online. It took me across the Bay Bridge and right up to the front door of George’s apartment building. George and Aaron were already out at the bars drinking, but I had called them and let them know I was on my way, so they showed up a minute or two after I got there. We dropped off the bags and headed right back out to the Arrow Bar. The Arrow Bar was a cool little place, with a cute bartender that we spent some time chatting and drinking with. After we closed down the Arrow Bar around 2, we headed over to The End Up. One of the guy’s that works in George’s building was there and we were going to meet up with him. He had expressed some concern to George about us going to the End Up. We found out as we walked in the door that it was because it was “Fag Friday.” Shirtless guys wandering everywhere in the club, intermixed with some of the hottest asian girls I’ve ever seen. We hung out at the End Up for awhile and then headed back out onto the city streets.
By this point we were starving. The next hour or so was spent wandering around, trying to find a 24 hour diner. After asking a few random people on the street, we finally found the Pinecrest diner and got some food. Surprisingly La was still up, although we were fading and decided we’d get together on Sunday instead of 4am Saturday morning. After some grub, it was back to Chateau de Chu to crash out close to 5am Pacific time, 7am central.
Saturday, June 17th, 2006
Needless to say, we slept in on Saturday. By the time we did gather the energy, we headed out, grabbed some food, and then went out to do an SFZero task. After a bit of confusion as to whether we could get to Treasure Island on a weekend, we finally found the right bus, traveled across the bridge and got dropped off in the middle of nowhere on Treasure Island. Treasure Island is an old abandoned military base. It’s kind of cool yet spooky at the same time. Lots of old abandoned buildings, but still some activity here and there. Apparently there are some residential areas too. The whole island is man-made, which is very impressive given the size of it. The SFZero task was to go to Treasure Island and leave some treasure, so we appropriately did two geocaches out there, wandered around a bit, enjoyed the view onto the Bay and the cool breeze, and then sat and waited for the bus back to San Francisco. Our fellow bus-riders at the bus stop were quite interesting. Definitely big role-playing/video game nerds. Granted, I’m a big geek, but these guys (and one girl) took it to a whole new level. George has got a wonderful audio recording of one of the guys doing his impression of Mario falling and screaming. I wish we had video to accompany it.
On the Bus ride back from Treasure Island we sat and chatted with the people sitting next to us. Of course someon noticed my surface piercing and the typical questions followed. The guy next to me turned out to be good friends with Fakir, and we spent most of the bus ride chatting about Fakir Musafar, his wife, body modification, and more. Quite the cool coincidence to be sitting next to someone like that.
After we got back from Treasure Island, we spent some time goofing around before we headed up to the Ferry Building for the SFZero event, Journey to the End of the Night. We got there a few minutes before 7pm, early enough to catch a glimpse of two silver helmeted guys in a little go cart that was cruising down the street. We walked up to a table that was obviously SFZero, introduced ourselves, spent the typical in-person recognition of online personas, and Ian explained how the game was going to work. Up until this point, we had no idea what to expect, just that we would be running all over the city. As I look back, the description on the evite that we all received was right on the mark. We were given a sheet with 6 checkpoints, starting on the east side of the city, and ending up on the west side at Ocean Beach, where the bonfire party would be. At each checkpoint we were to collect a signature from somebody, but we wouldn’t know who until we got a clue from the checkpoint previously. All while we were doing this there would be “chasers” (distinguished by purple ribbons) whose task was to tag players (wearing blue ribbons). Upon being tagged, the player would become a chaser, and try to tag the other players. The only places you were safe from being tagged were on public transportation, the corresponding stops, and usually a block or so around the checkpoint. We were only to use public transportation and our feet. No cars, bikes, scooters, etc.
After getting the briefing and our maps, we hung around, meeting people as they came up to register. At one point I looked over and saw a girl holding a Sidekick 3. Of course we instantly ran over to check it out. She was nice enough to let us take a look at it and I finally got my hands on the device I’ve been so invested in with hiptop3.com. She turned out to be a reviewer for CNet, and actually had heard of hiptop3.com. After playing around a bit with the device, we politely gave it back instead of making a run for it device in hand. While everyone was signing up for teams, we thought that maybe we should team up with someone local, not only to meet some new people, but to also supplement the 2-3 months of experience George had in San Francisco. We met Britt, and signed him up for Team Bruce. Before the game started, we had to grab some food. Mom would have been proud of my dinner that night. Pretzels, powerbar, and a Sobe. However, it was enough to keep me going all night long. We spent a few minutes planning out some routes to the different checkpoints, and around 7:45 Ian gathered everyone, counted down, and a large mass of people sprinted for the first checkpoint. I would have loved to see the faces on the people around us that had no idea something was going on. We all headed in the same general direction, some splitting off to try to catch a bus, others heading straight up hill. Everyone was dodging people and cars as they made the climb up California St or a neighboring side street.
The trek up the first hill almost killed us right off the bat. The chasers were ready for us, and being paranoid that anyone running or following us was a chaser, we tended to run a lot. By the time we arrived at checkpoint 1, the Fairmont Hotel, we walked into the lobby all shades of red, and dripping with sweat. We walked in and found a nicely dressed couple sitting in the lobby that turned out to be Ian’s parents. They happily signed our sheets and told us to be on the lookout for a woman in a trench coat at checkpoint 2. We then headed out of the hotel, carefully avoiding the sight of the silver-helmeted chasers in the go-cart. We had to make a stop at a little corner store so George could get some headache meds, and decided we ought to split up and take alternate routes to Checkpoint 2. Britt and Aaron headed off in one direction, and George and I went in another. George and I ended up zigzagging from California St over to Gough St and took that to Market St, carefully walking on the island in the middle of the road so we had some buffer space should a chaser come along. We ended up meeting up with perfect timing on Market St. about a block away from Checkpoint 2. At Checkpoint 2 we found a woman in a trenchcoat in a small diner enjoying her dinner. We interrupted her meal and got our signatures and the clue for Checkpoint 3, a girl with a broken wrist. We made our way outside the diner and walked up the road a bit to get away from the other players, not wanting to share any sorts of ideas or plans. While standing on the corner of Market and Laguna we were suddenly attacked by Eris, one of the purple chasers. She tagged all of us except Aaron, who took off running down Laguna St. After the initial shock and adrenaline rush, we informed Eris that we were technically still in the Demilitarized Zone, where we were safe from being tagged. She groaned, but crossed the street to rejoin the group of chasers eyeing all the players on the other side. A few minutes later, we saw Aaron walking that way and joining the chasers. He had been tagged by one of Eris’s friends while trying to escape.
Cautiously staying west of Laguna St, we sat at a bus stop, thinking wed grab the muni bus to Checkpoint 3, as we were getting pretty tired of walking. Unfortunately the chasers across the street saw multiple teams starting to gather and wait for the bus, so they crossed the street and smiled as they waited at the bus stop with us. Technically they couldnt tag any of us while we were at the stop, as well as riding the bus, but once we got off and stepped away from the bus stop, we were fair game. As we discussed various options (getting on the bus and getting right off through the back door, tricking them into thinking we were getting on the bus, or just plain making a break for it on foot and hoping they wouldnt catch us) the chasers got tired of waiting and dispersed. We snuck away from the bus stop on foot, headed towards Safeway for a much needed bathroom break. Only 15 feet from the door, we saw a known purple chaser turn the corner, and we turned tail and ran, seeking restroom relief elsewhere.
This is the point where we got lost. Im not sure how much time we spent walking between Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3, but it was definitely enough. At this point it was just Britt, George, and I. It was getting dark, and we were being too cautious in trying to avoid the chasers. We started taking all sorts of back streets (many of which turned out to be dead-ends), found ourselves stuck between the San Francisco University and our destination, and going up and down various hills. We finally made it to Checkpoint 3, a pool hall, where we found the girl with the broken wrist playing pool. A quick signature and clue (a guy with a broom), a debate on staying for a drink or two and resting, and we decided that we were probably better off just heading to the beach at this point. The original declaration had said that 10:45pm was the cut off point and that if you werent done by then, to go ahead and head to Ocean Beach for the bonfire. It was about 10:15, and we knew we wouldnt be able to make it to the other 2 checkpoints at the rate we were going. So we sat at a bus stop with some other players, waiting on a bus. We caught a bus, but then I think we realized it was going to wrong way. So we got off at another stop and waited on the correct bus. We waited, and waited, and waited, but the bus didnt want to show. We tried the cigarette trick (light a cig and the bus will show up instantly) to no avail. Finally we caved and flagged down two taxis. Of course, as we piled into the taxis we saw the bus pull up. A white-knuckle cab ride down Fulton St, and we found ourselves at Ocean Beach finally. We walked out onto the beach thinking, Oh, well just look for the bonfire to find them in the dark. Little did we know that bonfires on Ocean Beach are a common thing, and we had about 50 bonfires that we could see on the beach. We stumbled through the deep sand, our legs aching and screaming about the added resistance, and found the group circled around a roaring fire. We ended up meeting several people around the fire. A friendly Alice and Christine offered to share some of their wine with us, and then George and I wandered up the road to Safeway to replenish the stock of wine. We snagged 6 bottles of merlot and cabernet, a bottle opener, and enough cups for everyone and returned to the beach. We werent even done with the second bottle when a pair of cops walked up with flashlights. They told us we had glass and alcohol and that it was time to pack up and go. We packed up the alcohol and glass in Sams car, but we didnt go. We all just walked to the parking lot, and then returned to the fire a few minutes later.
While standing around the bonfire we met Nicole and Rubin. Coincidentally enough they knew of skholla.com, had been in #hiptop in the past, and were sidekick users. At some point the topic of conversation turned to Burning Man, and I explained how this would be my first year going. Turns out Nicole had gone last year and had been part of the group (Interpretive Arson) that ran the Dance Dance Immolation camp. I was very familiar with this, being that it was Dance Dance Revolution, but fire when you missed a step, it was kind of hard to forget something like that. Nicole briefly explained her project for this year, 2PiR, to my amazement at visualizing what she was going to bring to the playa. Turns out this year was going to be Rubins first year too. Then Nicole was kind enough to teach me how to spin poi. I had been watching her with wide eyes earlier in the evening, amazed at the fire-lit poi flying around her. After about a 20 minute lesson, I had most of the basics down thanks to Nicoles wonderful teaching. We took a break and wandered down the beach to watch a guy with a staff on fire, as well as someone playing with lit devil sticks. Then we returned to the bonfire and someone suggested I light up the poi and give it a try. I turned to Nicole for approval from the teacher and she said its a lot harder than you think to set yourself on fire. So I soaked the poi in white gas and lamp oil, spun then to shake off the excess, and then dropped one in the bonfire. It obviously lit immediately; I walked away from the crowd, lit the other one and started simply spinning them at my side. I instantly was much more aware of the poi as the fire whooshed around me.
Im sure my eyes were the size of dinner plates, and the smile on my face enormous. I did some of the basic moves that Nicole had taught me, managed to only screw up once where I bounced it off my forearm without catching fire or even significant singing of my arm hair. I was so conscious of what I was doing that, while I could hear the sound of fire, I didnt really get to appreciate the visual of it flying around me. Apparently I wasnt half bad, as I heard people around the fire mumbling This is his first time? as well as clapping and cheering. Luckily I decided to call it quits before I caught a lit poi in the face, and put them out. I have to give a HUGE thank you to Nicole and Rubin for helping me do something Ive wanted to do for a long time, both teaching me and capturing it on camera. Nicole obviously saw my interest, and invited us to come out to NIMBY on Sunday evening for a fire jam.
After the thrill of fire spinning, we spent the rest of the evening around the bonfire, chatting about anything and everything. Piratey Monkey continually expressed her distrust of Aaron as he was from Minnesota, Vlad teased everyone with the knowledge of OliverX‘s real name, people chatted about Chicago, different tasks, ideas and opinions on sf0.org, and everything else in between. Someone brought out a mini accordion, and that was passed around. The beef jerky I forgot I had bought for dinner was rediscovered and enjoyed by everyone. At one point Ian said something along the lines of I really like the group that is left sitting around the fire. I silently agreed with him and thought to myself how I had met so many really refreshing, interesting, unique, intelligent, and all-around good people in only the 24 hours I had been in San Francisco. At this point my decision about moving to San Francisco took a very hard turn towards the positive. I knew that I needed to be out there, that it was a place I would be comfortable and thrive. Besides, who wouldnt want the chance to play sf0 IN San Francisco everyday? Chicago no longer became home, but rather a temporary residence for the next 5 months. San Francisco was to be my home very soon.
A little after 4:00 am, we all decided that it was time to head home. It had been a long evening for everyone whether they were running around the city playing, or running around trying to organize things. We bid our farewells, watched everyone else head out, and then called a taxi to meet us at Fullerton St to take Aaron, George, Britt, and I home. There was a bus we could have taken, but who knows when that would have shown up at 4:30am? Sure enough, it showed up right as the cab pulled up. We hopped in the cab and headed back to the east side of town. Cabbie: Was my daughter at the party? Aaron: how old is your daughter? Cabbie: Seventeen Aaron: Definitely not..
We finally crashed out a little after 5am, our legs aching, but smiles on our faces.
Sunday, June 18th, 2006
Sunday was a pretty easy day for us. We woke up late, walked down the street to Lori’s Diner for some lunch, and hung out on laptops at Georges place for awhile. We also got a chance to chat via iChat with the Kale that we have lost to WoW. After a bit of time to catch up on the geek work (picture uploading, blogging, etc) that we needed to do, we headed out to grab drinks with La and Chris, two of the people going to Burning Man with the Genital Portrait Studio camp. We had the wonderful idea of seeing whether muni or BART was faster, since George and I had unlimited pass for muni, and Aaron still had money left on his BART card. After waiting way too long for a bus, while Aaron arrived and met up with La and Chris, we caved and went down to take the BART the 2 or 3 stops we needed. We met up at Kilowatt, had a few drinks, chatted about Burning Man, San Francisco, and whatnot. Then they headed out to grab burritos and get home since they had to work tomorrow, and we headed over to NIMBY to hang out with Nicole and Rubin.
We took the BART over to West Oakland, where Nicole was nice enough to pick us up. We safely made it through West Oakland and arrived at NIMBY, a large warehouse from the outside, a warehouse full of fun and interesting things inside. Nicole gave me a brief tour of the facility, and there were quite a few large projects that I recognized from pictures I had seen taken at Burning Man: a large human hamster wheel and a hearse art car to name a few. Of course she also showed me the parts of Dance Dance Immolation, as well as part of her 2PiR project. I met Ian, who was working hard on some Fire Fingers, gloves that shoot large amounts of fire from tubes in your fingers. We hung out in the outdoor courtyard area, watching people spin fire, and the rest of us remembering (and learning) how to spin unlit poi. I finally figured out how to do a turn, and spent some time practicing that. Hopefully my muscles will remember the next time I pick up some poi. I also spent some time passing what Nicole had taught me on to Aaron. And of course, being the sf0 addicts we were this weekend, someone noticed that there was an owl that needed to be killed/replaced up on the roof of NIMBY. That will have to wait for another day. Nicole gave the three of us a ride back to BART, but as I was going to get out of the car, she offered to drive me back to Georges place is I wanted to stay and hang out a bit. George and Aaron didnt mind, so they hopped on the BART, and Nicole and I headed back to NIMBY. While we were there, Nicole was convinced to set up one of her flame throwers and give a little show to some other visitors. We set it up indoors, and marveled at the 20-30 foot high fireballs that were produced with the flick of a switch. I even got to make a few myself. I cant wait to see this project in action at the playa. Ian also pointed out the container where the device responsible for SimNuke was stored. Amazing how much stuff I was already familiar with that was all in this one building. After hanging out and chatting a bit more, we dropped Ian off, and Nicole and I enjoyed some good conversation as we drove across the Bay Bridge back to San Francisco.
Looks like everyone is getting into this blog thing. Even MC Hammer has his own blog! He even does some photo moblogging from his sidekick which gets him some coolness points. I wonder if he’s on the celebrity list to get a Sidekick III?