Sometimes life intervenes and
we have to get to leave the Chelsea for a while. Last week, we were in San Francisco. Since we’re bookworms at heart we were able to hook up with some like minded folks Thursday night. Coincidentally, Kemble Scott, editor of SoMA Literary Review, which published a story by Ed a few years ago, was reading to promote his new book, SoMa. So we headed out to The Rickshaw Shop, a venue primarily known for punk shows. On our way down Market Street—past all the homeless people and crack addicts (reminiscent of the bad ol’ days in New York)--we walked by a crowd of people waiting for tickets to see Iggy Pop & The Stooges. We stopped and debated: should we try to get tickets or not? But God only knows how much they would be—a lot, for sure. Ultimately, we decided to go with the less expensive entertainment option.
While we were trying to figure out which way to turn on Fell Street to get to the bar, we ran into a social worker originally from Philadelphia and she helped us out. When we gave her the address she asked “Are you going to a punk show?” “Do we look like people who go to punk shows?” “No, not really, she replied.” She also warned us that we were not in a safe neighborhood and if the show went too late we should go directly to Market Street and get a cab. Well, we’re from NYC and don’t scare easily.
Once we got to the bar we were surprised to run into Todd Zuniga, editor of Opium Magazine, whom we know from the New York literary scene. Todd told us that he stayed at the Chelsea last fall and he and his friends shot a crazy video here. It's somewhere in the bowels of youtube.com. We also met a young woman, whose parents almost moved into the Chelsea in the mid-1980s, but decided that they could do better. She remembers staying at the Chelsea briefly when she was 9 years old, in a rundown room with an old refrigerator and a hot plate. She likened the experience to something out of “The Shining.”
The readers that night represented an all star line up of the alternative literary scene. Jennifer Blowdryer told about spending the day at the Crematorium, where, apparently, you can rent a little space to display your urn along with mementoes from your life. In choosing a space one must be careful not to get stuck next to the spaces displaying tasteless tchokes (sp) such as porcelain pigs.
Beth Lisick read a story from her book from Manic D Press: back in the 90s, when she lived in a warehouse in the mission district she arrived home from vacation to find that the pipes in the SRO above her had broken and sewage was spilling from above all over her possessions. She freaked out thinking that all of that shit from was from the junkies, etc. living in the SRO—though really, it would have been bad enough if it was Vanderbilt or Whitney shit.
Manuel Jimenez read a story about surfing and getting buffeted around by the waves. To preface his reading he announced that he was the worst reader in the world—generally a mistake to say so even if it’s true—and then self-fulfilled his prophecy by chewing gum as he read, loudly smacking it in the microphone!
Kemble Scott read a story from his book which was about a guy getting his body waxed and trimmed. To illustrate the sound of hair ripping from a body he ripped a file folder in half. Very effective sound effect! We bought Scott’s book so we’d have something read on the plane back to New York. It’s about life among the down and out in San Francisco’s infamous South of Market district, and should be of interest to anyone who is drawn to such sketchy places as the Chelsea Hotel. I was flipping through it and came upon a cool part about a place called the Argent Hotel, with floor-to-ceiling windows to provide the ultimate in voyeuristic pleasure. (Readers of this blog are of course aware of our fascination with the concept of the Peek-a-boo bath, but it seems in this regard the Argent may have us beat! Has anybody else stayed there? Let us know.)
Oh, by the way, as it ended up, we didn’t have to brave the bad neighborhood on the way back to our hotel, as Scott and his friends were nice enough to give us a ride—saving us from death, or a worse fate. Thanks Scott.