At Bay

We are back from San Francisco, having enjoyed ourselves immensely. We stayed at the highly recommended Huntington Hotel, on the Matterhorn-like eminence known as Nob Hill, with a delightful view northward over the Bay from the 10th floor. We dined at a succession of splendid restaurants (in particular I recommend Venticello and Rue Lepic), and took long walks all over town, hammering in pitons as needed. We saw some old friends, and took an enchanting stroll through Muir Woods, a redwood forest just a few miles beyond the Golden Gate. The weather was, by my lights, perfect: in the sixties each day, with a fresh and invigorating breeze straight from the cool Pacific.

San Francisco is a beautiful town: playful and lighthearted, but dignified, and focused. Like New York, it is constrained by geography into a small area, and has the feel of a real city — unlike its shallow and distended cousin 400 miles to the south, which seems like a grotesque skin fungus by comparison. Having spent, in the business of making recordings, a great deal of time over the years in that tawdry and frivolous Other Place, it is nice to be reminded that California does indeed have at least one metropolis that is inhabited by, and suitable for, adults. We were sorry to have to go.

But here we are, home again in Gotham, with noses and shoulders dutifully reapplied to grindstone and wheel. And we will get back to business here at waka waka waka as well, after one of our longer fallow intervals.

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  1. I love L.A — there is something very endearing about it — Garrison Keillor voices the same sentiments in today’s

    Posted June 13, 2007 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Thanks Peter, I’ll have a look. I admire Keillor a great deal, though I do occasionally disagree vehemently with his opinions about things. This may be one of those occasions.

    LA is a curious place. Whenever I go there my first impression is a favorable one: everything is colorful, the climate is mild, folks are apparently good-natured, etc. But after a short while the Hawaiian shirts, the relentless and vapid grinning, the obsession with form over substance, and the incapacity both of waiters to take your order without opining that it is “awesome”, and of bubbleheaded barmaids to make a Scotch and water without detailed supervision (I am not making this up), begin to make my flesh crawl, and my eye begins to wander to the airline schedules. The place is superficial to the core, and I imagine that a dour and serious fellow like Garrison Keillor likes it in the same way that he might confess to enjoying a Twinkie, or a tube of Pringle’s, from time to time. I’ve also spent enough time down there to realize that all that unflagging cheeriness is often, in fact, a fragile and rickety facade that conceals an unsavory mixture of existential despair and repressed anger.

    Another thing that makes me gnash my few remaining molars is what is charitably referred to as the “laid-back” attitude that prevails in every place of business, which seems to me not an admirable absence of stress and tension, but rather a goofy, stupefied blindness to the very real fact that life, however sun-drenched and awesome, is finite. I recall an LA recording session that serves as a good example:

    It was a largish setup, involving some very well-known artists, and, being especially concerned that things go smoothly, I had left detailed instructions days in advance for what to set up where, what microphones to use, where to plug them in, and so forth (I was glibly assured by the manager that everything would be “cool”). When we got there, though, all that was in place was a single guitar amplifier and one mike stand. I was shocked, and said as much, but the assistant, a lumbering simpleton with the mental acuity of a manatee, seemed utterly unflappable. Eventually I goaded him through the rest of the setup, but when we finally got the band in the room, hours behind schedule, I realized that he hadn’t even taken the basic step of putting a “talkback” mike in the room so that we could communicate with the players. I swiveled around to flay him for his incompetence, but he had vanished; I soon found him in the hallway, smoking a joint. When I, preferring that he postpone further damage to his low-wattage brain until after he had taken care of his duties, requested that he find a suitable microphone and put it up at once, he replied “oh, yeah, that’s an ideal we can strive toward.” It was all I could manage not to slay him on the spot.

    I have many friends in Los Angeles, and I do realize that there are some intelligent, hardworking people out there, but no, thanks, I’ll take Gotham, where people get on with things, and where you get your psychosis right out in the open.

    Posted June 13, 2007 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  3. While people may get on with things in New York, my guess is that in aggregate, those in LA lead longer, happier, and less stressed lives.

    To quote Neil Simon: “when it is 100 degrees in New York, it’s 72 in LA. When it’s five below zero in New York, it’s 72 in LA. However, there are eight million interesting people in New York, but only 72 in LA.”

    To quote John Stuart Mill: “better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.”

    I’m not so sure about that….

    Posted June 13, 2007 at 6:39 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Not much I can add to that, Peter, other than to point out that those in persistent vegetative states live fairly stress-free lives as well.

    I’m inclined to agree with Mill on this one, but the pig, of course, may differ.

    Posted June 14, 2007 at 12:44 am | Permalink
  5. As the French would say: chacun a son gout.

    Affected? Moi?

    Posted June 14, 2007 at 5:29 pm | Permalink