The Great Unwashed

My last night in San Francisco (this time — I definitely want to return, something this Los Angeles native never thought he’d say) and I was abandoned by my work colleagues, and fell asleep in my hotel room in the early evening.

Not knowing a soul in town, and therefore not knowing what cool bars and clubs and cinemas to check out — and, admittedly, not being able to make heads or tails out of the maps I could find (as in, Which way is North? How far is that place?), I chickened out and walked to the Sony Metreon a block from my hotel.

It sounded a cool place on their web site, and maybe it is during the day, but at 10:00 on a Saturday evening it looking like a shopping mall that was winding down (echoes of George Romero and zombies flitted through my mind). Out of the 10 movies showing in the Loew’s Theater complex, I’d already seen five, so I bought one for THE LONGEST YARD, walked back across the street, and found a bar.

Deciding not to pick up any women — yes, I was beating them off with a stick — I had a couple of draft beers (Sierra Nevada and Laginitas) and chicken fingers. I felt very American. Then I strolled back across the street and went upstairs to the theater complex…

…which felt very much NOT a part of San Francisco. Really, it could be located in any part of the country — or perhaps the world — which is part of the reason why multiplexes are so soul-deadening. If you go with friends, as most people do, then you’re distracted, but when you just sit there in an ordinary, not too comfortable seat and look at the ordinary screen and eat overpriced food and drink overpriced iced down drinks — except the bottled water, which isn’t chilled — and anticipate watching a perfectly ordinary piece of entertainment, well, good night, what’s a soul to do but die a little?

The movie was an acceptable way to pass the time, I suppose, and it beat sitting in my hotel room watching the little television with crappy reception, but, man, I gotta make better advance plans next time.

One part of this downtown San Francisco business trip that has been enjoyable is the people watching. Los Angeles gets a bad rap for being completely motorized but, c’mon, do you know how many cars there are in New York City? In San Francisco parking is $20.00 per day if you find it cheap. Why? Cuz there’s too many stinking cars in the city. But it’s fun to watch so many people walking — not in the parks, as in LA, though I’m sure they do that here too — but in the downtown streets. And, since I’m fine tuned as a faux Asian (or at least a genuine fan of the movies, which also makes me a lover of — at least some of — the people), I loved watching so many Asians on the street.

Maybe it’s just the change that’s interesting. Where I live in Los Angeles, it’s entirely a Latino neighborhood, so maybe it’s just the change of pace. Yet it makes me wonder how much cinematic inspiration springs from a desire to see something different from what’s around you, culturally speaking, and how much is a desire to speak directly to your culture and your city.

Enough rambling for one night. Happy movie watching.

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