karl the fog
There's a book that I have called "Good Bye to All That" which is filled with short stories about moving to and away from New York. It's filled with stories of rural and suburban upbringings, all with the same dream of moving to a city where one can live unbound in an urban paradise of culture and excitement.
San Francisco has always been one of those "destination cities" for me. In college I dreamed of all the people, the art, a bustling downtown, scenes of getting off of the subway on the way to work, and having my pick of cool events on the way back to my apartment as the sun sets.
That's the allure. Even though you're surrounded with people, you have you're own small piece of the pie. It's cozy knowing that you're one of many. It's comforting to know that you can walk around and just be that guy that has somewhere he needs to be, people he needs to meet, and has something going on that has earned him the right to be there.
"This weekend is going to be nuts" - a Lyft driver says to me as I get in the car to take a short ride to Rickhouse, a whiskey bar near Chinatown. Why? Outside Lands apparently. It's San Francisco's largest music festival, a bit larger than ACL. It will now serve as my yearly anniversary mark for moving to this city, yet I haven't made any effort into attending one.
When I arrived a year ago in San Francisco I was lost and confused, but I had a goal to "find a job." Attend a music festival? I had no time to even think about that.
I'm not going to lie, I've been miserable with most of my time here. I can't really put a finger on what made it so, but it all seemed to add up and leave me almost immobile on most days. Even after being here for almost a year I found myself in an even worse state of mind than when I moved here; attending a music festival was still out of mind.
So many days I would find myself laying in bed, barely able to get up in the afternoon and grab enough food to last me until the next day.
I would find myself visibly angry. Frustrated that things weren't working out as I had hoped.
When things looked like they were hitting rock bottom, I took trips to comfortable places. New York, the city that I still lust for, for my birthday, Austin, the city I left, soon after that, NY again, Austin again.
The feeling of being around old friends, the feeling of being welcomed, the smiles and laughter. It all felt right for a bit, but they were fleeting highs that wouldn't even last the plane ride home.
On the flip side I had friends plan trips to visit me. As I stumbled through a poorly made itinerary filled with the only things I've found remotely fun to do in the city, eventually I'd crack and confess my anxiety, confusion, and loss of place. Why do I know so little about what to do in this city? Is it the city's fault or is it mine?
On a recent trip to Austin, which was a real attempt to run away from it all, I realized that it was too early to return.
Looking at everything, what I've done in the past year is somewhat impressive. I've made it a whole year in a new city. I've made really great friends here, I've found scenes and places to be apart of. I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with myself.
It's funny how adult life feels like an ooze, a stream of consciousness with no clear markings of time or when things need to be done or accomplished. You inevitably feel these "ticks." Oh it's my 1 year work anniversary, oh I'm a year older. But you can largely ignore these and keep doing the exact same thing. Nothing is forcing you to switch or go to the next step.
Last year I bought 2 copies of this calendar of my favorite manga(yotsuba to), and intended to give one as a christmas gift for someone. It's already October of the next year, and it's still sitting in my closet...
Even though my life here has been as melancholy as Karl, the fog that persists in the city, I've been fortunate to have quite a few fond memories these past few months. Let me share them with you:
Sharon and Melissa visited one weekend. We went to the Sunset to get soup dumplings(XLB for short) and on the way back they wanted dessert, ice cream specifically. Luckily Bi-Rite Creamery was open... for another 20 minutes. I drove as fast as I could to the mission with google maps telling me I had a cool 18 minute trip time, pulled up as close as I could, and watched them jump out of the car and run towards the ice cream store. It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. I waited for a while, and they happily returned with ice cream in their possession. They told me that there was actually a bouncer (Bi-Rite has the ropes that you typically see at many clubs) that didn't let them in at first, but eventually caved in after he saw them sadly staring into the window at the last remaining customers of the day getting their ice cream. Afterwards we went to Brass Tack, a cocktail bar, and we ended the night amongst a sparse sunday night crowd we shared our life worries, anxieties, and thoughts. But for that day, the only stressful thing was if there was ice cream to be had or not, and it was had.
We went on a bike trip along with Jessica and Kevin across the golden gate bridge into Sausalito. Jessica didn't have much experience on a bike, so getting started was a bit rough. We eventually made it over, and down into the city where we had a nice oyster and fish and chip lunch. I haven't seen Jessica since that weekend.
On a trip to Austin I was working out of Epoch and called Aaron abruptly to see if he had time to hang out. He had dinner plans, but luckily he changed them to accommodate me. We had dinner with Linda and David at Black Star Coop, a brewery located in the same apartment complex that Aaron and David were living at at the time. It was raining, something that has only happened once in the whole past year since I've lived in SF. I only had met Linda once before, and was surprised how friendly she was this time in comparison to the first. When we finished it was seriously pouring, and as Linda was running to her car I asked her to turn around.
Our manager Anna was moving to New York so she could be closer to her homeland - Toronto. Before she left she really wanted to see the reggae artist Chronixx, but couldn't attend his San Francisco show. She asked me and Ben if we wanted to accompany her to Santa Cruz to see his final show in Norcal. We went to Enterprise to rent a car for the weekend, they said the only car they had in the lot was a Ford F150, Anna happily accepted and we rolled off 2 hours South. On the trip I played my middle school hip hop playlist, and reserved a hotel for us using the Hotel Tonight app. I had Hawaiian food for the first time for dinner, and it was amazing. How can you not like all of Asia's comfort foods mixed into one? The concert was interesting, we got smashed, and Anna passed out in the hotel. Ben and I, experienced drinkers, were still wide awake needed a night-cap so went across the street to a dive bar, The Jury Room, a nice place where you could smoke inside and while a war veteran was talking to us forever about the randomest things ever, I caught a photo of this couple dancing, along with the bar's dog in the background.
I went to a Drink and Click on a Thursday with Nicolai and a bunch of folks. I overheard that Jared won a Fuji Instax at their last event and I asked to borrow it. I ended up buying like $150 worth of instant film on Amazon Prime Now, which was delivered in an hour, and that led to quite a few hilarious moments that weekend.
One of my fondest memories of the West coast was when Nicolai, Levi, and I went to the Tomales Bay Oyster Company. So I decided to organize another run, along with Channan and Ricki, who were stopping by during their cross country road trip. I managed to convince Pam and Israel, the cool couple, plus Richard to go with us as well.
It was a nice trip, until Israel realized he didn't have his camera, a Fuji X100t, when we stopped along the coast to take photos. Already almost back to the city, we drove back all the way back to the small town near the oyster farm where we bought snacks along the way. The cafe he parked infront of was closed however, so we came back empty handed. Pam called the cafe the next morning and it turns out they had the camera! Israel rode his motorcycle the next day there to find out that the camera had been smashed by a car and was totalled. Maybe if it was a Leica, it would have survived.
The oysters were delicious though.
I woke up in a 3 story house in Queens that only had 1 bathroom. As the household got ready to start their day, everyone's primary concern was to use the restroom, I had to wait a very long time.
Michelle and I took a train into Flushing to eat spicy wontons at a place called White Bear, which turned out to be a very small hole in the wall. I felt really nervous cause I didn't know how to order in Chinese, but luckily the owner was nice and we got set up with 3 of their most popular items. Those wontons were da bomb.com.
Instagram was filled with photos of all the fashionable attending a book fair at MoMA PS1. As proper insta-groupies, we set off to go to this festival as well. It was a sea of hipsters, tote-bags, and booths from literally every small bookstore in the country. Most rooms didn't have air conditioning. I think I made it about 3/4ths of the way through the entirety of the tables until I caved and called it a day. I ran into Travis from Farewell Books in Austin. I really wanted to take a proper portrait of him, but he was quite the celebrity at the festival.
We went out to karaoke one night. The KTV's in chinatown have by far the worst selection of karaoke songs. But we made do...
The bartender started giving us free shots... and that's when it got really messy.
The next day we went hiking at Breakneck Ridge, about a 1.5 hour drive north of New York. Laurence bought us some amazing pastrami sandwiches from Harry & Ida's when he went to pick up the rental van.
I had fun played my amazing indie playlist on the way. (FOLLOW IT)
The hike itself was amazingly difficult. Most of it involved both arms to slowly climb up the mountain side.
Laurence bought a really nifty cooler backpack from REI, and we stopped several times to eat snacks(brie and salami).
We were pretty exhausted by the end of it. The descent down the mountain was so long, and it put us a mile away from where we started. I still made Madeline pose for some pics though, poor her, lol.
We ended the night at Mu Ramen a new ramen shop in Long Island City. They had some amazing appetizers, but I feel their actual ramen fell short. Solid components, but the overall flavor was misdirected.
On Monday I went to work in our New York office. Afterwards I managed to convince Tim Dornon, who now works at 11 Madison Park, to come out and hang out with us. We got drinks and went to eat at Turntable Chicken, formally known as Mad for Chicken. We ate sooo much food, and went to a soju bar across the street to play ping pong and eat more. SO MUCH FOOD. I really hope to eat at his restaurant one day.
On my last afternoon in New York I decided to walk from my office, 2 miles down Broadway to go eat at Ivan Ramen. The streets were lovely, full of energy and interesting characters. I really want to move there eventually.
How was Ivan Ramen? Amazing. I got their basic shoyu ramen, which was wonderful with the sharp, intense, acidity of the sundried tomatos, the creamyness of the eggs and pork belly, and liveliness of the chives on top.
So happy I got to spend a week with these 2.
Mary, my photography idol, messaged me and said she was in town. I took her to my favorite bar, odd Job. I tried to setup more time with her during her visit, but she said she was baby sitting for this Korean couple she met at a cafe. I asked her if the cafe was Joy's Place, the one random cafe in the middle of downtown where everyone is Korean, and it was. In fact the couple were the owners, who gave her a VIP-card, a very elusive card that grants you 10% off there and at a Korean fried chicken place they also own around the corner. Mary promised me this card, but I haven't received it yet.
I was eating at Ramen Tatsu-ya's weekly pop-up dinner, which features new dishes that they're experimenting with. Afterwards Tatsu asked if I could come by and take some photos for their new website. Of course I took him up on this offer a few days later and took an expensive Uber through Austin's horrible rush-hour traffic.
The photos turned out pretty nice.
It's weird how I'm finding myself in a familiar position. People, even here in SF, are asking me to take photos and do website work for them. Having not done it in a while, I hesitatingly agree. The familiar feeling of having to meet expectations hit me, but not as hard as it used to. I hated taking photos for money in the past since they always left me with a sense of fear, shame even. It's even ruined good friendships. While the photos I take now do have monetary worth, the pressure is less for some reason.
Jenn visited from LA. We went to Nopa, an upscale late night spot that I've been wanting to go to for the past year, but haven't had anyone to go with. Nicolai was also in town that weekend, and we did a lot of San Franciscan things.
I have a new friend Matt, who is an amazing skateboarder. We met playing street fighter at the Foundry. I think our friendship is pretty awesome cause he just "gets it." The grunge, the obscurity of life, and he has the ability to just "let go" and roll away on his skateboard.
I arrived at the Eyeem office, and as I was waiting for the event to begin this guy caught my eye with his cool tote bag. I took several photos of him from different angles, he finally noticed and said "Street photography is fair game." Quite the profound statement... as he walked into the start up office. Turns out he was one of the main guys in a very high level talk on how photography plays a role in society today and how photographers can make a living off of it.
When Kevin lived 2 blocks away from me we would go on beach bike trips on the weekend. On one of them I remember just laying down on the sand, watching several people try to fish. The Asian guy right in front of me, who was wearing yellow fishing pants, kept pulling in fish after fish, which made all the other fishers on the beach jealous. Eventually his crew reeled in a sting ray, they proceeded to slice off it's tail immediately as it continued to struggle in the sand. flop flop flop
I'm a predominant member of the norcal fighting game community now. Look out for pesto88 on random twitch streams!
A fun night of Brew & Brew => Gelato => Shangrila.
I'm also taking photos of cocktails for Oddjob, my favorite bar.
I've grown quite fond of the people who work here, I feel right at home everytime I go.
Ashlee. She's pretty cool.
Karaoke at Festa, Yessss.
So what's my current relationship with photography? It's so easy to get caught up on people in the lime light, how their photos are getting likes, how they're hanging out with attractive people and traveling all the time. I feel as if I can't compete, so I'm going to opt out of doing that. I'll use my photography passively, as a tool that helps me guide and record my life.
It gives me a visible representation of my desires. It makes me feel drawn to light, it helps me hold onto moments I don't want to lose.
Actually, if you were to ask me how I'm doing right now... I'd say that I'm doing absolutely great. I've realized that I've made wonderful friends here in all sorts of scenes. I've just moved into a wonderful apartment in Oakland, and I couldn't love my daily subway commute anymore. The growing pains of nuzzling myself into this new life have began to wear off.