San Francisco

June 16 - June 18


Friday - Day One

On the way to San Francisco, we leave Ashland bathed in sunshine. Climbing Mount Siskeyou, we marvel at the clarity of the day. 9:32 - we cross the border into California. There is an agricultural station where we have to stop and declare that we have no fresh fruit on board. California road signs are different from other road signs we have passed. Their green is darker, and their lettering is raised, not flat, like others.

Mt Shasta rises snowy and crisp against the hazy paleness of the sky. Ravines, valleys, green slopes are etched in its sides. Its top is wonderfully volcanic, safely dormant.

Mt Shasta, CA

Lake Shasta, CA

We pass all the livestock of Hollywood as we drive: burros, steer. We are in ranchland where on the other side of the border there were farms. These cattle look different from the dairy cattle of BC; they're black & brown, with long horns, just like in the movies. Of course I know in my head that there is a difference, but seeing is, if not believing, then at least persuasion.

Heading for Sacramento: palm trees!

We stop for lunch in Williams, a small town near olive country, and eat in a restaurant/deli/inn that serves food, sells olives and other pickles, and slices bread and meat for sandwiches. a treasure in the heat of California. We are remembering what 'hot' is (nothing in Victoria has ever been 'hot' in my opinion!) Then we head for Frisco.

On the way I notice, in the sunshine, that there are patterns on the back, and sometimes the side, windshields of cars. I've seen them before, driving into Victoria, but only recently, and never before that. They are driving me crazy; I have no idea what they are. So I ask. Something like this follows:

Nico: Philip, what are those things on the back windshield of the cars?
Philip: I don't know.
David: What things?
Nico: I don't know. Some sort of pattern. They look like dots. Polka dots. Wait - look! See? On the back windshield of cars.
David: It's dirt.
Nico: No, it's not dirt. It's a pattern. I know what dirt looks like. It's not dirt.
David: They're cars with dead people in them
Nico: I'm not seeing things! Philip knows what I'm talking about. I told him about it in Victoria. That was the first time I saw them. Victoria.
David: When did you start seeing them?
Nico: About a week ago.
David: Oh. (Big grin)
Nico: No, they're real! I see them! See! (Pointing) That car has them. See, that Intrepid. And that woman has stripes! They're not on all cars. They're not on old ones and they're not on trucks. But look! They're on that car. Wow! Look! Now! (Turning around) OH MY GOD!!!!! Philip!!!!! You have them on your back windshield too! I didn't ever see them before. You have them on your car too!!
Philip: Oh God.
David: You know, I watched a movie one time. It was about this man who saw aliens -
Nico: No they're real. And they're driving me crazy. I want to know what they are.
David: It's cleaning fluid. It's the streaks of dirt that get trapped in the cleaning fluid.
Nico: No, it's not dirt. It's too regular for that. They look like polka dots. Or stripes.
David: It's cleaning fluid.
Nico: OK, but why are the patterns different? And why are they so regular?
David: It's what they use to clean the windshield with. Sometimes it leaves polka dots and sometimes stripes. From when they go like this (Gestures).
Nico: The stripes are gong the other way.

And I give up. But I keep seeing them. And finally I can't stand it any more and I try to describe these patterns again. And then David solves it.

"It's polarization!" he says. "You're wearing polarized glasses, right?"
"Yes," I say.
"It's the polarization," he tells me. "I had polarized sunglasses once, and I had to get rid of them because they were too distracting. I kept seeing things that other people couldn't see without the polarization."
"So the patterns are there?"
"They're probably in the manufacture of the glass. And you only see them when you're wearing your sunglasses, right?"

So there it is.


We drive down the Sacramento valley, getting nearer and nearer to cities, and as we drive we watch lines of traffic in exodus. Going into the cities it is not bad. We cross Oakland, and then we are on the Bay Bridge, the huge spans of it bright in sunshine, while across the bridge, in San Francisco, a low cloud hovers.

Oakland Bay Bridge, SF

Mark Twain: ' The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco'. As we near the city the cloud covers us, but we skirt the city on Highway 101 and drive to South San Francisco, where our hotel waits, not far from the airport. We realize when we get there we only have a double room, as we didn't expect David to be with us by now (though it's nice that he is). We put our stuff down, & drive into the city. It is beautiful. I navigate us into downtown, then Philip, who lived here in 1984 for 6 weeks when working on 'Horse', takes over. We drive around, and then we end up on Fisherman's Wharf, where we find a seafood restaurant and eat dinner. And a good time was had by all. We said goodby to David, who leaves at some ungodly time in the morning to fly home, and looked forward to a San Francisco weekend.

Nico & Philip avoiding the mad papparazzo (David)


 back to ashland
 on to day 2

san francisco
los angeles
new mexico
new york city
quebec city