Archive for the ‘out and about’ Category

San Francisco vol3

In eat drink man woman, out and about, san fran, stateside, west coast on December 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm

My stay in Berkeley will forever be linked to the mournful note of the train horns, as they passed along the tracks to the station close by, late at night, they would flower out, and I’d lie and try to hear the chitterclatter of the trucks rolling across the railings.

That and the sound of skateboards doing their own imitation of trains as they chased their shadows across the creases in the sidewalk. Nothing to remind you that you’re not in Blighty, but the sight and sound of some fresh-faced youths, or not so fresh-faced men pushing themselves along, before the glide begins, hips pushed forwards even as they lean back and bend their knees. Ah California’s love affair with the skateboard, for brief envious moments as I watch them slide past, I want to regress back to my childhood so I could put the hours in getting to a level of competence well above where I am now, which is rolling for a couple of steps before falling off.

Late nights by the water, with the lights reflected in the Bay, lovers whisper of a breeze, fluttering over your flesh. Getting a bit nippy, but just a thin merino jumper (thank you uniqlo) suffices to keep the chill away.

Enjoy a couple of drunken nights out in San Francisco, one when I’m still staying in Berkeley and the BART finishes running at about midnight I think. And I’m immensely glad that I got the number of the bus that runs back from town. Only when I put my bike in the rack on the front and settle back into my seat, drowsy with the alcohol, do I realise I have no idea which way this bus is going to get back to Berkeley and on top of that I have no idea whether I’ll be able to recognise where I’m staying once I get there. 

Bus takes me over the Bay Bridge, so far so good, then heads down the freeway and before you know it we’re in Oakland and apart from my daylight jaunt to Bakesale Betty’s none of this looks familiar, bus is on the fuller side with people sleeping, listening to iPods, chatting amongst themselves, and I’m staring out the window trying to figure out where I am, who knew the bus would roll through Oakland first.

Cue a good half an hour of fretting, and nervous neck twisting,  and finally sight is caught of a landmark I know and I’m sighing withe relief and looking for whatever I have to pull to get this bus to stop.

2nd, I get a call from Sacha, friend of a friend whose out with some friends in the Mission District, and I’m now staying in the Tenderloin, right in the heart of town and its no big leap to head out to see him and drink a couple. Once again I’m seduced by the simple act of riding a bike through the darkened streets. Loving the wide roads, the reminder to look out for the tram lines, and just the general feeling of those late night runs to someplace new, to drink and carouse, and just have fun. Also the knowledge that I won’t have to do anything but ride back to the hostel makes it a whole load more inviting.

So end up in this bar in the Mission, drinking cider, making small talk with the barmaid, over something that seemed really interesting at the time, but which I can’t quite put my finger on. Knocking back shots of rum, and defending the going out side of London from the table of Americans. My only point on that is DO NOT GO OUT DRINKING IN SOHO! Do Not Want! Just go to Shoreditch and Brick Lane and get twisted there, cheaper – relatively – and it’ll go on for longer, and if you want to be a dirty stop out in hopes of performing the walk of shame there are places where you can continue drinking into the wee hours.

After the drinking, I expected to ride straight back to the hostel but got the rumbletums, saw some bright lights and what do you know ended up in the Californian equivalent of the kebab shop, filled with as many drowsily drunken people as you could swing a stick out, as I leant across the counter, and ordered a couple of burritos’ before sitting and waiting like everyone else for the foil wrapped food present to make its way to me. I’m pretty sure I ate it when I got back to the hostel. Ahhh yes I remember now, everyone was in the downstairs kitchen, well six or seven people and drinking games were ensuing, and I just wanted to devour my burritos in peace, though I did drink a beer that someone offered me. Good Times!

On close to my last day in town I decided to ride the cable car, the bike was all bagged up, and where I was staying if you walked up the hill you got to a cable car stop, which then proceeded to take you down the steep ass hill, with a rattle and clank of chains as us tourists hung on the side, taking photo’s and being told not to stand in the entrance/exitway. For such an archaic piece of machinery, it does the job, and its nice to just stand on there and watch the slow descent down to the water, down past the edge of Chinatown, and into the more professional business section, skyscrapers ahoy.. It just feels like one of those things I have to do, and having missed out on the Alcatraz tour, those mothers get booked up early, it makes me feel as if I actually spent time in San Francisco and got a glimpse of how living here on the regular would feel.

Round the corner from me, hey that’s what happens when your hostel is located right slap bang in the center of town, is a pretty good Diner that has been recommended in my guide-book, so I’m in there like swimwear and eating, the scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries like there’s no tomorrow, sat right up at the counter with the short order cook, working right in front of me. It’s a cosy place and there’s a queue outside, which takes ten/fifteen mins to negotiate as eaters finally relinquish their space. The foods great, you can’t really mess with the all american diner experience and it’s always good to watch your cook sweat over a hot stove, right there in front of you, see the skill with which he works the skillet, and the custom of the never let it run out coffee refills, is manna from heaven for the coffee addict.

San Francisco vol2

In all about the ride, eat drink man woman, out and about, san fran, stateside, travelling, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

So I’m in Berkeley and its nice, got a real laid back charm, probably from it being a university town, the campus itself isn’t far from where I’m staying, right before some hills stop your forward path, all cut lawns and open space, with big old stone buildings.

Berkeley’s more constant inclines than steep ascents, and what you think is just a leisurely rise, soon turns into something a bit more teeth grinding, but the traffic is well-trained and I’m enjoying just tooling around. I get the BART into San Francisco on more than one occasion and let it whisk me into the heart of the city. And as with most buses on the west coast they come rigged with bike racks on the front which you can shove your bike onto and sit back and relax as it takes you back to the wherever you need to be.

Kyle from Trackasaurus Rex/Orange 20, back in LA has told me about this place out in Oakland, called Bakesale Betty’s which does the greatest fried chicken sandwich. Kyle does not stint on his praise of this sandwich and told me that I would be remiss if I didn’t try it. So come the weekend, cometh the jaunt down into Oakland, google directions, written onto a slip of paper, as I try to remember which straight road I’m supposed to ride down.

Crisply, affluent Berkeley slides into more down at heel Oakland, and the road seems to go on forever and I’m counting crossroads, trying to make sure I get the right turning. The sun for once has come out. Its been grey in Berkeley and its been getting to me, the dreariness, just sitting there in a washed out sky, it hasn’t been as warm as LA and I’ve been pondering wearing more than my regulation t-shirts and shorts.  But the sun comes out and it is glorious, pitched against a picture perfect blue sky and soft tremulous fluffy white clouds.

After a small detour round a bit of strip mall, it shouldn’t even be described as a strip mall, it’s on a junction, big car park, set of businesses arranged along the junction. It looks kind of like a smaller version of an industrial estate, just businesses backing onto a shared car park. I ride round it, and see the queue before I see Bakesale Betty’s.

Motherfucker is down the block, and it’s not just long, its two/three/four people deep. There’s a stretch of ironing boards set up as tables, which are all in use as people scoff their sandwiches, and I’m starving just looking at them.

I’m not even going to try and pretend, or extend the suspense, the sandwich was better than advertised with a lovely citrus dressing on the masses of lettuce salad that comes with. It takes a good half an hour to eat, and every bite is glorious. The cookies that I purchase at the same time are something special as well..

The Haight:

To get upto Golden Gate Bridge, I ride upto Haight Ashbury, and the drag of shops and bars and diners and restaurants along that thoroughfare is crowded whenever I make the journey. But I come to like this part of town not for that drag, but the neighbourhood that leads upto it, the lazy Bohemianism, the casual slightly sleazy charm, the record shops that spring up, specialising in funk and soul, and other things, but who cares about those. They are the quintessential record shops of your dreams, and I don’t even collect records. Quiet, crate digging affairs, with quality vintage posters and charisma by the wall load. Just being there made me want to spend money on vinyl that I would never play.

And the bars and the murals that dot the wall along that side of town just add to the feeling of creativity and social rebellion.


One morning I wake up and decide its time to go to the cinema. Toy Story 3’s been out for a while and I’m going to see it, morning screenings are cheapest and I’m donning a pair of 3d glasses in a deliriously empty cinema. It’s as if I’m a VIP and they’ve cleared the room for me.

Now some of you may know I am a big Pixar fan, from way back in the day with Luxo Jr, and Red’s Dream, and where I’m staying in Berkeley is just down the road from Pixar (obviously this is America and just down the road means an entirely new town, but what the hey). But I don’t make the pilgrimage, I’ll tell you the Roni Size fanboy moment that still fills me with embarassment another time, to explain why I don’t.

But Toy Story is a joy, and I’m enraptured immediately, just the whole coming of age thing, and the evilness of the pink bear, and the passing on from one generation the next. Just plain flawless, I’m still not sure whether they’ll ever be able to top the first dialogueless opening to UP, but there isn’t a week film in the Toy Story Trilogy and how often can you say that about a movie trilogy. toy story 3 empty cinema.

Coast road:

So to get to Golden Gate Bridge, I’m riding through Golden Gate Park, where deep in the center is a  fine art gallery/museum, a rusting hulk of deep brown metal and glass atria, with a spectacular view-point at the top of a tower, more about that later, and opposite it San Francisco’s natural history museum, this lovingly crafted steel construction, topped with a green eco roof, attempting to make sure it has a tiny, tiny carbon footprint. you ride past both of these and then take a road which curves and dips, away to the left which brings you out by the water’s edge finally. The road that winds along, though relatively not that windy, runs along the high bluff, with a drop to the blustery beach, to the left and across the road, a slice of greenery snakes along, with a bike path running its length. The further along the road you ride, the further out the green tufted dunes spread, sending a fine then heavier deposit of sand across the road. The breeze isn’t too strong and I’m not trying to pull too hard, and as usual its just nice to roll along, no particular destination in mind, just follow the road for as far as it goes. Attempting to look over the dunes to the ocean that is ever constant on my right side.

When I get to the end of the road, which takes a turn inland, at a boarded off junction, where some road works are being completed. I sit, drink some water and just watch the people walking along on the sand. It’s another grey day in San Francisco and looking out across the waves it feels like the sun’s never going to shine again.

The ride back I make along the bike path, which is higher up than I’d at first thought and allows me a better view of the ocean and a chance to commune with and avoid fellow cyclists, and joggers. To my right, hidden previously from me by the cycle path and the greenery growing on it is a long row of two storey houses, that sit along a smaller arterial road. Each one looks like it’s been drawn by a child, sloped roof, windows and doors making a face. I wonder what its like to live so close to the sea, to smell it and feel it and hear it, but not be able to see it over the dunes. How frustrating would that be? Would it frustrate me.

I eat one of the biggest wrapped sandwiches I’ve ever ordered, several different types of meat, twisted around cheese slices, and sip on a coffee as reward for the ride I’ve just made…

la bomba de tiempo

In Argentina, Buenos Aires, out and about, Sud America, tunnnneeeee! on April 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

How comes afrobeat isn’t more popular here, la bomba de tiempo are rocking the crowd! Maybe it’s the live performance aspect of it, but femi kuti should come and play here he would have a lot of fun
Listening to la bomba de tiempo both during the show and later at the after party when they play with an electric guitar, horn section, a drummer and a xylophone player, it’s amazing how tribal it becomes, a musical exorcism, polyrhythmic, and so fucking loud. The drums roll and roll and roll, and the horns trill, shrill, giving melodic counterpoint to the throbbing drums. It becomes all encompassing, it pushes everything else away and you are connected to the drums, as they switch between one stanza and the next, foot never stopping it’s tapping, as the group finds new ways to make you sweat. Each band leader making throwing signs in their own way, as into the music they are making, that is unfolding under their direction as we are at hearing it unfurl flaglike before us. Stomp and stamp, yell and scream and wait for the drop to come when the thunder rolls deep and full.
Hands pointed, fingers upraised, palms curled, signal shorthand, waiting poised, each member focused, awaiting instruction, a point, a cut, a wave, a circle, line drawn in the air, here it comes, teased with crescendoes that return to solos, waiting, anticipating, here comes the clapping, then the drop, 120bpm. Flooding the air, primal and beyond conscious comprehension, it takes the breath away, sucks it out of you as you dance. Sweat running in rivulets, soaking clothes, shirts, vests, blouses, tops, tees, bras. It defies the descriptions that I try to give it, it pulls you outside of yourself and into the memory that we all hold of fires burning deep into the night, callused hands pounding on animal skin pulled tight across bowed wood.
Man in black vest and baggy pants spinning dervish, unable to stop, girl Afro full and unkempt, hips swirling, feet a blur, crowd pogoing, hands aloft, throats roar, blood flooding their extremities. The ache of the feet, soreness in the hips, thighs, calves. Chest tight as you try to draw breath, and the drums roll on, roll on, tumble and never stumble, never falter. Mama Africa in us all!
The electrification of it halting it’s power not at all, bound to it now as we all are, adding a melodic content on top of the power of the drums. Hands blur as they beat out what their leader commands, bound together by his clenched fists, and his imperious commands, silent but so forceful. He drums and they follow, we follow, we will always follow.

It is in our blood, in  the people our ancestors used to be. Moved from one continent to another, the drums taken from us, hands born to pound the call, forced to do other work, but the drums call, they call and in the end, blood will out. So we shuffle and dance, arms flail, we swirl and the ashes from the fire we circle around pop and crackle and are uplifted to the heavens, and the stars above us are the same ones those who came before saw and danced underneath. Nothing changes except what we do to the place we call home. The drums never change, they still call us home….

Queenstown Cartel

In Kiwi, out and about, travelling, tunnnneeeee! on April 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Standing watching another covers band, this one is called the cartel, they occasionally play their own songs in between the kings of leon and the clash – did the clash do I fought the law, if so the clash, if not someone else who did do that song. But they take so long between songs, there’s the obligatory sip of drink, move to the amp, fiddle with guitar, speak to crowd before they play the next song. Where’s the seemless blurring of one song and the next? Have I been spoiled by the breakestra and will no other band live upto their well oiled skill and musicianship. Maybe it’s too much to ask for a local band to be better than average. Maybe they need more rehearsal time? I on the other hand need to stop being in bars where they are playing rock on the real… It’s just depressing, no offense Allan, Rich, Lucy, Vikki and my other rock loving friends.

And this place called world bar, which is usually a euphemism for black music, just like urban has become, is playing host to the aforementioned rock covers band.

So I bounce, too old to stand around watching chunky, square girls flirting hard in their too tight short red dresses, and their knock knees. And head to a place called tardis, which is at the end of cow lane, when I arrive they are playing brickhouse by the commodores, followed in short order by a dangerdoom track which has Talib kweli on and then a mash up of welcome to jamrock and hip hop by dead prez which I find extremely exciting…

But it is populated by the dj, barman, and two mans dem sitting at the bar, plus me when i join them. But despite the lack of eye candy I find myself happier straight away…

The dj is a young guy called ned, who dj’s under the name mr feet, he’s good, nice smooth mixes, a knowledge of tunes before his birth, working off a laptop so i’m assuming he’s using ableton or some other equivalent, but I’m not being a purist, I don’t even dj so what can I say, but he makes my evening/morning a happy one and puts me in a good frame of mind for the jaunt across the pacific and my month in new York when it’ll be all good music all the time and not a hint of rock at fucking t’all…

So I head out from tardis to another place called subculture downstairs from a bar called monty’s, as head down the stairs he’s playing brickhouse as well, is this song following me. I lean over the bar to get served and the dreadlocked bar man gives me a bottle of monteiths cider for free. Result! Subculture has more bods in it, more people playing at hip hop, and as the dj mashes up i know you got soul and I don’t love reggae I’m thinking I should bail. How comes those songs that I believe have been confined to cultural obscurity inevitably come back to haunt me around the world, where they are revered as floor fillers. The dj isn’t as good as ned, his tune selection is about keeping the crowd involved rather than serving the cognoscenti, ned was pretty much playing to himself and me and the barman, this dj has the responsibility of keeping a crowd dancing, whether they know what they are dancing to or not. Got to love how about to be lovers will bump and grind to any song at any tempo! Doesn’t that make a mockery of the club your in and the music your listening to? Just dry hump on your seat, this also relates to those who feel the need to salsa to all music’s outside of Latin, yeah I can see you can salsa, and your girl is excited to be wriggling her hips in a rhythmic fashion but your dancing to electric relaxation, nod your head and two step like the rest of us. Taking up too much space for no good reason, find a room for your extended foreplay you muppets!

So the dj has managed to empty the dancefloor with his electro stylings and I’m sitting here waiting to see what he plays to bring the people back into the fold, is he a good shepherd or will he let his flock wander away to an interesting night somewhere else? I’m giving him ten minutes to play something interesting then I’m bailing…

He’s playing some non descript drum and bass, I nod my head because I love drum and bass, but it’s not a big tune, I should note that I haven’t listened to drum and bass properly for like five years and I have no idea what the prevailing sound is, but this just sounds like identikit drum and bass, nothing original about it, and just like one of the dragons I’m out!!!

I step from left to right there’s nothing that he’s playing that surpasses the big tunes from ten years previous, nothing that touches, Leviticus, or warhead, or share the fall, it feels like dnb has stood still.

I head back to tardis and become adopted by the drunk man at the bar who plays rugby, not sure whether it’s professional, he looks a bit chunky round the middle to me, or is a happy amateur, more than likely, who is drinking in this bar and enjoys being here because no one knows who he is, he regales me with how he can dance and has rhythm except when he’s drunk, this is all good as tardis has now captured a lively late night crowd and it’s two going on three. Drunk rugby man has a conversation with the manager of the bar, to ascertain how drunk he is, as in New Zealand as in Australia, your not allowed to serve anyone who is visibly drunk, drunk man does a passable impression of someone sober and is given a pass, however when a police car rolls down twenty mins later and there are long conversations between barman whose from Rochdale and is mightily happy they are top of division two (anyone know who their manager is by the way) and policewoman about drunk man. Finally after much communication police woman rolls away and drunk man who has been absent makes an appearance, gives me some money to buy him a drink and is promptly thrown out, and I am accused of being his friend. I feel aggrieved for all of a minute then drink the rum and coke that drunk rugby man had purchased me and wind my way the five mins back to my hostel. Good first night in Queenstown.

Three piece on Cuba st

In Kiwi, out and about, tunnnneeeee! on April 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Please note this was written during the evening, as I got progressively drunker. Apologies for the hating at the end.

Whilst walking away from awful hostel bar up cuba st came across this great funky jazzy three piece drums double bass and guitar, they were all kinds of awesome, melding their own compositions into a long freaking jam of a jimi hendrix tune, which I can’t quite put my finger on, no got it now voodoo chile. Fucking superb. I mean like out of this world kind of superb, if I hadn’t given my last pieces of change to the band up the street who were busking to get to Manila, they would have had it. I’m seriously thinking about breaking a note to give them some dollar. Only thing is, as always, I’m amongst a group of sitters and watchers rather than interacters, no head nodders or foot tappers, apart from the odd hippy and me. It’s like they can’t find the center of the bass or if they can they aren’t willing to show it. I’m supposed to be on a mission to find a bar playing good tunes but I might just stay here all night or at least until I find out what they are called, cause the are all sorts of super dope and ms bickerstaff you would love them….

If they are not influenced by the breakestra and the bad plus I will eat my hat…

And it is a nice hat as well.

Street beats they are called, awful name, good band.

I then adjourn to the southern cross where a four piece band are murdering “it’s your thing”, sucking all the grit and soul out of that beautiful song and turning it into something that a couple can happily jive to, and they do. Plus cider costs nine bucks and I’m out looking for someplace better to be…

Then it’s a long walk along the seafront looking for someplace else to drink. I’ve passed the Matterhorn which has been recommended on Cuba st as well as Good Luck. But it’s early and there’s no harm in taking a quick fifteen min jaunt down the road. Imagine soho and bricklane joined at a t junction and you’ve pretty much got Wellington covered, one street cool and interesting, one just out to get the out of towners.

I roll back to Matterhorn and get involved with one of the barmen about why cachaca is classed as a rum when it is cane spirit, and he says it’s down to the Americans. Damn Americans! It seems rum is made from the molasses and cachaca is made from the sugar cane juice, the by product of heating sugar cane. And the Americans call it Brazilian rum rather than rum, though my barman informs me that an expensive rum by Zacapa, which is the good stuff that made me miss my flight to sydney is made the same way it’s classed as cane juice but let me tell you the Zacapa is a great fucking rum. Get it if you can.

Scottish bar girl Claire whose been here two years, but hasn’t seen the beauty of New Zealand and is off to Cuba courtesy of Havana club for four days, then gives me a shot of Appleton estate 8yr old as a gift for this being my 1st night in Wellington, it is beautiful… She also has a very nice sleeve tattoo.

So after Matterhorn I end up in Good Luck which is just down the way and down a set of stairs amongst a load of young bods playing at hip hop, as jay z’s New York or Empire State of Mind as its officially called blares out of the speakers, making shapes and stepping from side to side. Want to tell them that shit won’t fly amongst black people until the dj plays “dreams of fucking a rnb bitch” by biggie and I lose my goddamned mind…

Then watch the dancefloor empty as the infamous, original queensbridge murderers rolls forth. Fucking lightweights. What do you know about hip hop? I want to shake each and every one of them. But what would be the point. They only know what’s played to them on the radio, they don’t feel hip hop deep down in their soul, feel it like it’s their skin being shook and shaken. It’s a shirt or a pair of jeans they can put on or take off. Fuck that it’s my skin the only way you can get it off me is by skinning me and killing me in the process. Fuck you and your I can choose this or that. I didn’t choose it, hip hop chose me. In it till I die…

The dj plays a composite of hip hop by dead prez with some other song, after blister in the sun by violent femmes, no vocal just the beats and I wonder if he knows how disrespectful that is to those who know what hip hop is about, it casts a shadow across my soul. I love that song so much, properly, not even lying, and this dj denigrates it by mashing it up with something else and not even playing it properly, why fucking bother! I’m starting to hate him a little bit, actually a lot, bastardising the music I love for the know nothings filled with alcohol who’ll dance to whatever rnb nonsense has been played on the radio that morning. I spit on you, or better, I shit on you….

Sitting in rakino’s

In Kiwi, out and about, travelling on April 14, 2010 at 3:39 am

Fortuitously have found a lovely bar called Rakino’s whose address on their flyer is upstairs on high…

I think this is now the highest accolade I can give to a bar is that it feels like a Melbourne bar, cosy and distinctive, and idiosyncratic, and as individual as you or me, it doesn’t hurt it that it’s played nothing but good tunes since I’ve been here without a Dj in sight, and they have a night labelling itself the funk affair, as well as one called platform biz which has j dilla as it’s poster child.

At the heart of it is a long elliptical bar, coffee machine at one end, circular stand for the spirits behind the bar at the other, Chesterfields are dotted around, as are various palms and large ferns, lighting is low and intimate, and a wide balcony looks out onto a fountain set in the center of curved circular open space.

First impressions of Auckland and bear in mind I’m tired, didn’t get much sleep last night, had to be up early for the shuttle bus from the hostel, which spectacularly failed to be on time, leaving me waiting for another twenty five mins for the next one, and the controller saying he didn’t want to have an argument with me. Can someone have an argument when they are in the wrong and don’t have a leg to stand on? And I wasn’t arguing I was putting out there the fact that no shuttle bus showed up as I’d been waiting out in front of the hostel ten mins before required as the bus hadn’t come to pick up Erin the day before and I wanted to make sure I was there if it did roll up early and then speed away.

The nights sleep was spectacularly unrestful, it felt like I was awake for all of it, even though I was asleep. Not what you need before you head out to a new country. Did manage to have a shower this time round so didn’t honk of sweat and fermented alcohol.

From what I can see Auckland is the smallest and quietest capital city I’ve ever known, walking down queen st on Tuesday night and the streets are practically empty, whaddup with that. It’s night and there are steep hills all around, Auckland’s a tinier version of Sydney. Can’t people just build on flat bits of land ferfuckssakes.

Should be interesting tomorrow, footing it tonight, the town didn’t seem big enough on the map to bother with breaking out the bike, so I left it all bagged and packaged up in my windowless dorm room and headed out before I succumbed to sleep and slept this first night away.

Read the latest of Cog magazine on the flight over, it was good, interesting, gave me some interesting people to possibly contact when I hit the states, need to hit the streets and ride with as many people as possible. Thanks to Kat at sable and argent in Sydney for the magazine as well.

For some reason as sleepy and empty as Auckland is, I’ve already found two or three nice spots, I may have found all the good ones early, but there is something quite endearing about this place, the compactness, the narrow streets, the hills. I think I want a city as bustling and big as London or Tokyo with that intimate lanes of discovery of places like Melbourne or Berlin, where something surprising is around every corner or in every doorway. But this is something that needs to be legislated in, laws need to be freed up so that these places can flourish, and London will never fall hard enough or far enough for that to happen I’m afraid

Partner in crime

In out and about, ozstraylia, travelling on April 14, 2010 at 2:42 am

This journey is taking me to places that I haven’t been, but always wanted to go to, warm places, iconic places. I’m filling my head with experiences and memories, trying to capture them on the camera (two and a half thousand photo’s and counting), but the experiences are diminished if you don’t get to share them, which is why travellers always seem to spend a lot of time regaling each other with what they’ve seen and what they’ve done. To keep the memory fresh and warm, to make it live again in the retelling.

But there is nothing better than sharing the experience with others, of them being there to see the delight/dismay ripple across tour face, and to remind you with the memory for as long as you know each other. There have been many times when I’ve seen something and wanted to turn and tell someone WTF, but there has been no one there, so I take a note on the iPhone, take a snap with the Ricoh and add it to things to blog about when I get to an Internet connection.

So I was delighted when Erin announced she’d be in oz during my travels and that we’d try to meet up one weekend, which eventually ended up being my last weekend in Sydney, actually my last weekend in ozstraylia.

Erin is the sister of Lori who is the girlfriend/other half/old lady of Joe, a senior member of south beers, one of the regulars and a man who I’m glad to call a friend, I’ve cadged many a rollie from him so we’ve been joined at the hip pretty much since south beers started two years ago. Joes also the architect of THE forum track days down at Herne hill velodrome, last remaining venue from the 1948 olympics which is still in use today.

So I’ve l known Erin for a year and seen the change from cycling ingenue to card carrying n+1 member, where n is the number of bikes you already own.


Erin flies in bike in tow, big hair tied up and after breakfast, needed on my part I’d had a big night the night before and needed the sustenance, bike built up it was off for a quick pootle round town, to show Erin what I’d seen and knew about Sydney. Joey of the brazilian drum band had invited us out to Manley to try kangaroo burger (gamey and tender) and hang by the beach and I hadn’t been on the ferry, so decided to head over, and we rode over and down, via a stop at the opera house, which I’d taken a tour through earlier that week. We passed the afternoon, rolling along the beach front of Manley, down the dedicated bike paths, enjoying the scenery, before riding back the way we’d come and sit on the beach to enjoy the weather, which though slightly overcast was still warm, well hot enough for Brisbane raised Erin. Rolling back through central Sydney we headed over to Robocog, to talk bikes with the boys over there. The geezers faces light up when they spy Erin’s Giro, NJS track porn is lusted after over here, and the bike gets looks wherever it goes, a bit like David’s Bridgestone, not for the first time I wish I had a better, sexier bike.

House and the boys at Robocog invite us out for drinks for the birthday of another guy in their group. It’s over in New Town, and it sounds like fun. So that fills  a hole for the Saturday night. The rain which has been coming down intermittently, since we returned to central Sydney stops long enough for us to make a run for it upto the Cricketers Arms, which I’d been taken to by Tui and Adam, friends of Gus’ from old London town, the night before.

I like the Cricketers arms it’s where the Wednesday Night rides start off from, and it feels like a Melbourne bar, quirky, with a nice music selection, and a décor which makes it feel like no place else that I’ve been to here. We swap stories, catch up and generally just bask in not doing anything, whilst beer is consumed, and then head back to the hostel. We get caught in the intermittent rain, but this time it thunders down just after we head uphill. We manage to duck into another bar and wait it out.  With another drink of course.

Later on that evening, we head over to Newtown, and I take Erin to my new favourite hang out in Sydney, Eating World. Where we have don kashiage, gorgeous, and hook up with William, a guy from Taiwan who makes little custom bits and bobs which remind me of Sam’s little furry animals. I’ve seen him at Robocog and he’ was out on the Sunday afternoon ride, that I was on last weekend. He’s going to the same party and takes us on a shorter route than I had planned. But as we ride, it starts to rain, lightly at first, then heavier and heavier, and heavier. I’m not dressed for rain, and neither is Erin and as the rain continues to fall, I’m convinced it won’t stop until its soaked me completely. So I head for an awning, as William keeps on riding through the rain.

The rain slows and after twenty or so minutes stops, enough time to change tops, and wipe the water off my face, and bitch and moan about the weather we’ve been having. I didn’t come to Australia to spend time in the rain.

Finally we head to Newtown, and see William on the way and after much toing and froing, and asking of directions we find the party.

Later we ride back to kings cross. The place is heaving, the streets clogged with people and cars, hands on horns, bodies in the roads, shouting, voices, raised, just mayhem. Imagine all of Soho lumped into one street, one long street, and everyone is trying to get into the same places, and the mixture of sleaze and sex shops, tourists and party goers, drunkards and exhibitionists is an overwhelming one. The  bars are big, and the overflow just gets in the way and I want to take Erin to the place I’ve found round the corner. Tonic. As I want to see what its like on a Saturday night.

It is better than I expected and we dance and drink into the small wee hours. Bikes locked up outside.


We wake late, but it doesn’t matter, today is a lazy day, lots of hanging out, plus the Sunday afternoon ride. We’ve made some friends yesterday and one of them Sophie has told us about the café she works at which we’re going to roll past before stopping in at Robocog, and then over to Polo, and then taking in the Sunday Arvo ride, wherever that decides to take us.

We ride down to the café, but I’ve got the name wrong in my head and as I find out later and am told by Erin, the address as well. Finally we find it. And sit down for coffee and breakfast, well more like lunch. As we sit and chat, Brad, Faz and a couple of other bods who went out on a long run early that morning to a national park, eventually end up at the café as well. Sweating and red faced after their exertions, the lunch turns lazy and extended and before you know it, we’re way behind schedule for our encounter with the polo bods. But its an enjoyable way to spend several hours, so its not something that I’m wanting to cut short.

After a quick drop in on House and the Robocog boys, we spin down to Polo which is out at a court in Redfearn. Find them, which is pretty easy, then it’s a run for beer, which proves to be surprisingly difficult, despite the directions I’ve been given, and a leisurely afternoon of watching polo for me, whilst drinking good cider, and playing polo for Erin.

The sun beats down, and I want to laze around in it forever, no desire to leave the warm embrace of the grass. I’ve got the floor and everything’s just peachy. I’m roused from my lethargy and say goodbye to the polo bods I’ve met as I won’t see them again before I leave, then we roll over to Martin Place for the start of the Sunday Arvo ride. The ride which was long the last time round is short this time, over the iconic harbour bridge to a trick spot on the other side, some lounging around before we’re heading back the way we came and over to Eating World, where the food is oh so good once again, and then its over to Mr B’s for an evening full of drinking, and chatting, and laughing.


We wake late, I make breakfast. We roll round to see Sophie, at her café, and as we head down towards Oxford St, we come across Kat a woman we met on Sunday whose managing a bike shop Sable and Argent which is just round the corner from the hostel and knows some of the bods I hung out with in Melbourne.

We drink coffee and chat with Kat and Sophie, before we drop by the skate store 99 degrees that Faz works at, House is there as well. And we shoot the breeze and say our goodbyes, I buy some stickers, and then we head off to the shop, Supply, where t-shirts are bought, for ourselves and friends.

It’s a quiet day, a soft, blurred at the edges day. We ride, we talk, we take things easy. Erin’s flight is in the early evening, and there’s no point in trying to stuff too much into the day.

We head down to Sable and Argent and marvel at the bikes on display, Kat is super excited because they has been a delivery of the latest issue of Cog magazine, and as we look around the pristineness of the shop floor, and the Rapha on display, some Volume Cutters are delivered as well. Which makes Kat very happy.

We say our goodbyes, grab some stickers and mooch back to the hostel. Erin is fiending for sushi, and I grab a burrito from next door and we break down the bike into its constituent components and bag it up.

And just like that the weekend’s over, and I’m getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye.

But the memory remains, and this one is not just held in my mind, but shared with Erin and that makes it all the sweeter.

Chinese New Year Melbourne

In out and about, ozstraylia, travelling on March 28, 2010 at 2:21 am

The thunderous rattle of firecrackers, spitting and crackling away as the lion dancers wheel and turn in front of the shop entrance and the drums beat harder and faster building to a crescendo as the fireworks hit the looped mass at the top and the noise increases exponentially and the fingers you thought about sticking in your ears to block out some of the noise, you definitely plug in now.

They firecrackers sound like rain on a tin roof, tapping out a relentless rhythm, that echoes around you.

And the ceremony goes on, as the sun curves overhead the long street of restaurants is visited by the lion and the fireworks all blend into one.

Sitting eating fried dumplings facing the street watching the teams of Chinese societies march up and down, technicolor lion at the front, drummer hauled along on a carriage and the flag bearers of all nationalities at the rear, waiting for the crackle and rattle of the fireworks to begin again, flooding the sun drenched street with grey sulphurous smoke…

Bar thoughts

In out and about, ozstraylia, writing on February 22, 2010 at 8:56 am

Southpaw, Gertrude St, Fitzroy

I sit in a bar the air conditioning cooling me as much as the chilled bottle placed on the back of my neck moments previously. Held there for deliciously long seconds. Watching the people pass by framed by the window, dressed up, dressed down, hardly dressed at all.

Women pass a bounce in their stride, eyes dark lensed, hair up, neck exposed, wonder if they’ve cooled themselves with a cold bottle to the back of the neck as well. Arms bare, legs bare, resolutely untanned, black vest and pants? in this weather, desire to appear thinner, stronger than being cool? Even see an appearance from the dreaded sun dress over trousers – is not thirty degrees hot enough to show the flesh that you stand upon.

The sun makes long shadows as it settles lower in the sky, cyclists pass by helmets worn like berets, seats too low, knees by their ears, chains rusty and brown, a dirty sanchez across their ankles.

Empty bottles litter the bar, music, female voice and a twanging guitar mix with the burble of predominently female voices, laughter sprinkled intermittently into it. Voices raised as a plate is lost to gravity, ratttling across the tiled floor.

Smell my own sweat, honest toil of cycling exertion, set into the fabric. Wonder at the amount of moisture a body can produce, will I keep producing it indefinitely?

Rub hand through non existent hair and know it’s time to cut it, trim it until the rest of my scalp shows through, irritated by the wisps on my upper lip, and know they will have to go as well.

Turn back to the window and wait for someone else to pass by who will pique my interest…

Where have all the house parties gone???

In out and about, ozstraylia, tunnnneeeee! on February 22, 2010 at 8:44 am

Never believe when someone tells you there’s a slamming house party later, after really good club/festival/lane party which you’ve been too during the evening, the ensuing after party is inevitably a let down. Then you get into the thorny issue of when to leave, because the people who invited you haven’t even rolled up yet!

Bail and go home or bail and go someplace else these are questions that need answering….

I think I was spoiled by house parties when I was younger the effort that went into sorting out decks, dj’s, a pa, nobody bothers with that shit anymore it’s just an iPod attached to a speaker and some really random tunes which no one dances to but provides an atmosphere that the party itself lacks. I prefer the old school version less talking more big tunes coming, more people dancing why have a party otherwise because the conversations kinda banal and shit ain’t gonna change, but through the redemptive power of dance and sweat and exertion we are purged of our sins….

And we allow space for joy to uplift us.

Believe when I get back to London, I will host an old school house party, decks, big speakers and some moody bod to man the bar nee kitchen area, plastic cups for everybody and one rum and coke to last you the night.

Obviously this will be done before I get all of my shit out of storage…

And you are obviously all cordially invited, just as long as you don’t start asking for bullshit tunes…