It's July, and 80º at night here in LA's San Gabriel valley. I had to get out for a while, and seeing as I only had these past few days to do it, I had to think fast. I needed a road trip. Where to go?
San Francisco was a no-brainer! I had taught at the conservatory from 1989-1993, and came to know and love the city. It's a packed place, something like 7x7 miles square. Each neighbor
hood or district seems to have it's own micro
-climate. Personally, I love the windy cliffs and the fog that rolls in at sunset. It's always hard to leave SF, knowing that I'm coming back to the LA heat.
For a guitarist, SF has been a pilgrimage for the last couple of decades, being the home of Guitar Solo, probably the world's most comprehensive guitar shop. Of course I had to stop in, and a visit which I intended to be quick, lasted over 2 hours. I ran into my old friend Dean Kamei (owner), and Carlos Barbosa-Lima, who happened to be passing through town, stopping by the store to say "hi" to Dean, and get his email while he was at it. Such is the laid-back nature of the store.
I am lucky enough to have good friends in SF, who always offer to take their time to show me around, and just generally hang out. Mark Simons and Marc Teicholz took me on walking tours of their parts of the Bay area. Marc T. guided me through his boyhood neighborhood in Berkeley, showing me an area called "Gourmet Ghetto". There are more top-notch food and beverage vendors in this small area than many entire cities can boast of. I had to make the pilgrimage to the original Peet's Coffee on Vine Street in Berkeley, then walked around the corner past Chez Panisse (book up to a year in advance folks!) and to a gourmet sandwich place called "Gregoire's". This tiny kitchen is basically just that: a kitchen, with a cash register, a 2-person counter, and 2 tables outside. But they have absolutely incredible, yet simple, sandwich creations for down-to-earth prices. Primarily a take-out place. Mmmmm-MAN!
I am a registered espresso addict, but I prefer the terms "coffee geek" , "connoisseur", or "lover". Regardless of what people call me, I have to visit the local best whenever I can, and the Bay area has its local best for sure. Caffe Trieste in North Beach is at the top of my list as the best espresso I've had in SF. Blue Bottle Coffee also roasts some incredible batches of beans. Peet's is still a sentimental favorite of mine, though.
Walked through the Haight-Ashbury part of SF. This place could be Beverly Hills, the Melrose district, or Amsterdam. Depends on your tastes. Regardless, it's a time capsule tribute to the 60's, and a truly fun place to visit.
Finally, I visited Kenny Hill's workshop near Santa Cruz, and picked up a couple of guitars to bring back home to LA for a couple of his clients here. I like his guitars, and I like hanging out with Kenny. I have been playing one of his signature models for a couple of years now, and I have not found any guitar that is easier to play. As I get older, I find I just want to do things I want to do, and playing guitars that are "fun" is one of those things. His guitars make you want to play them.
Overall, an incredible trip that was way too short. How does that song go? "I left my heart in San Francisco..."?
Kenny Hill playing his own guitar.
Marc Teicholz showing me Chez Panisse.
the kitchen at Gregoire's (and 2 customer counter).
the original Peet's Coffee on Vine in Berkeley
the "Trieste" mobile!
. Haight-Ashbury resident