January 24, 2008 I’d had a rough night at a cheap motel in Oakland. As I'd arrived several police cars were hauling away guys in handcuffs. “Well, at least it’s well monitored,” I figured as I slid my credit card through a slit in the bulletproof glass. Throughout the night my neighbors fought, sirens and car alarms raged, and I waited for the sun to rise through a little hole in the curtain.
And it did! (Well, as much as it does in the Bay Area.) At first gray I departed as rain trickled down the windshield and Leonard sang, “rain falls down on last year’s man.” I stopped in Berkeley to poke around Amoeba, sell clothes at Buffalo Exchange, and split a wolverine (chocolate pastry from Cheeseboard Collective - RIP gluten) with a sleepy girl on a stoop off Shattuck. I reached the coast just in time for a foggy sunset.
Sky, sea, and road melted into a wet glob of cobalt as I snaked up Highway 1. Redwoods thickened, huddling like skeletons before my headlights. "Where the hell am I?" Just north of San Francisco I felt like I was taking the backroad to Hogwarts.
Having missed my turn I stopped for directions in Olema, where the bartender explained that locals took down road signs because they didn’t want outsiders in their town. (RIP pre-GPS/smartphone mysteries.) Within minutes I’d found Bolinas - essentially a café, a gas station, a market, a hippie shop, and the hotel/bar where I’d be playing. And a lot of vibes.
Bird preservationists from the nearby estuary drank beer and listened politely while I sang. Oddly, they all looked like birds. The woman who booked me (through Myspace, RIP) had coke-bottle glasses and frizzed-out hair, the Professor Trelawney of my Hogwarts experience. Frazzled old men and golden retrievers wandered in and out of the rainy night. With $85 in my pocket and a free room to sleep in, things were looking up.
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