Koi pool in Marin County, California.
Graffiti on some ruins in the Sutro Baths. The Cliff House restaurant is visible in the back.
You can see one of our previous photos from this Hipstamatic shoot in a previous Wordless Wednesday.
There was a brief period of respite at the beginning of August between the end of the Outsound New Music Summit and the start of a new job. Time was tight, so there wasn’t time for an extended odyssey in the deserts of southeastern California. But the north coast, specifically Humbolt County and the area around Eureka, were well within range for a two-day trip. I have never been that far north on the coast. I got an Airbnb in Eureka. I researched a mixture of industrial and natural spaces for photography and exploration. I even got a new lens for the big camera. And early on Saturday morning (or at least early by CatSynth standards), I was ready to go.
Eureka is a direct shot up US 101 from San Francisco, about a four-hour trip in good conditions. It’s a major freeway up to the border between Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and then a mixture of an expressway and a two-lane road through the redwoods, with spots of freeway near major towns.
I never made it to Eureka.
The beginning of the trip was enjoyable and largely uneventful – and the Russian River gorge section after crossing into Mendocino County is spectacular. North of Ukiah, I felt like I was actually transitioning into exploration, as this was somewhat novel territory (technically, I had been as far north as Legget in 2013, but that was in the evening and rushed). Once CA 20 joins with 101 north of Ukiah, the combined route begins a long, steep grade into the hills. It is here where things started to go a bit wrong. The temperature gauge on the car, usually quite steady, suddenly shot up beyond the red “H”. This is definitely not good. I shut off the air conditioning and things calmed down a bit as we got into the new Willits bypass, a Super-2 limited access highway. North of the bypass, 101 becomes a steep windy road through the woods; the temperature gauge shot up again. This was definitely not good. I limped back to Willits to give the car a break and figure out next steps.
I’ve been through Willits a few times, but never really stopped there. The little downtown has some cute old brick buildings. But I had no time to play – I needed to find a repair shop. Nothing showed up in Yelp as open. I probably should have called AAA at this time, but I did find an open shop in Ukiah, so I limped back. I drove conservatively, with the windows open, the vent fully open, and one eye on the temperature gauge.
I was relieved when I finally pulled into Tony Lopez Automotive. It was out a strange little industrial side-street south of downtown. Tony was clearly not pleased to have someone wander in with car trouble just as he was getting ready to close, but he was also chivalrous and ready to help out a damsel in distress. We got the car cooled down; and after a bit of diagnosis, he identified a small but pernicious radiator leak. The diagnosis took some time, and while I was sitting I noticed a rather interesting pile of old car parts. I snapped an iPhone photo, which became a Wordless Wednesday featured a couple of weeks ago.
I regret not grabbing my better camera out of the car to get a higher-quality image, but it was not my priority at the time. And I do like the abstract quality the pixelation provides. Tony did notice the fancier equipment still in the car, though, and it sparked a conversation about my writing and photography and about this site. I wonder if he has checked it out.
Once things were ready, I left town – I would have loved to stay, but I was eager and anxious to get home. I also left Tony Lopez a glowing Yelp review. If you on 101 in the vicinity of Ukiah and need auto help, please patronize his shop and tell him that Amanda from San Francisco sent you.
The trip back to San Francisco was sad but uneventful, and in this case uneventful was good. I didn’t record the trip back on Highway☆, but here is the exact same trek that I did record on a short but happier trip in July.
The engine temperature stayed within an acceptable range, and it was fine over the next few days in San Francisco, but the radiator definitely needed to repaired ASAP. This experience also cured me of any sort of “fun with highways” wanderlust for a while and I have remained close to home since then (except for μHausen). But the bug is starting to come back, and I might have to start exploring again. I might even make it to Eureka one of these days…
See more of Northern California and many other fascinating places in our Highway☆ app, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
A scene from an auto shop in Ukiah, California.
I-80 towards the Bay Bridge from Kate St.
SQUARED by Charles Gadeken, a 50-foot LED-and-metal sculpture currently on display at Patricia’s Green in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco.
An evocative spot at Mussel Rock Park, which is along the Pacific Ocean south of San Francisco.
I used to stop here periodically eight years ago when I worked at Digidesign/Avid but hadn’t been back in a long time until a couple of weeks ago.
Last Thursday night at the Outsound New Music Summit, musicians and music lovers came together to celebrate the life and legacy of one of our own, Ralph Carney. He was a fixture of the Bay Area new-music scene who could be spotted performing in many groups and venues, and he also enjoyed success and notoriety in popular music with Tom Waits, the B-52s, and others. He is also one of the most infamously colorful characters in the scene. He passed away suddenly at the end of 2017 in an accident, leaving many both shocked and saddened. This tribute concert featured a performance by Rubber City, of which Ralph was a member, and a memorial ensemble featuring local musicians who performed his compositions.
In the week leading up the concert, we had the chance to speak with David Slusser of Rubber City and Phillip Greenlief, who arranged Carney’s music for the memorial ensemble. You can hear from them in these videos.
Rubber City opened the evening with a rendition of Beautiful Ohio, sounding much like they did in the video. It was a fitting opening as Slusser, Carney, and drummer Chris Ackerman were all Ohio expatriates. They were joined by bassist Richard Saunders and reedist Sheldon Brown.
The second piece, a rather bluesy tune, also evoked their Ohio origins and gave Saunders and Brown a chance to shine in solos. The next was much darker and more atonal/arhythmic in nature but still had a very playful quality to it. Another featured Slusser and Brown both playing soprano saxophone at the same time, a rare combination! For the last piece, they set aside the saxophones for bass clarinet and flute.
Even during moments of seriousness, there was a lot of fun and energy in the music, which was fitting for the artists on stage as well as the one they were paying tribute to. It was a tremendous performance overall, and one I am not likely to hear repeated soon.
Slusser, Brown, and Saunders returned in the second set for the memorial “octet” that actually had nine members. They were joined by Phillip Greenlief and Rent Romus on saxophones, Suki O’kane on drums, Myles Boisen on guitar, and Karina Denike and Michael McIntosh from Carney’s “Serious Jass Project.” The performance was dominated by the horns in what I dubbed the “wall of saxophone.”
The group began on a somber note with Carney’s Lament for Charleston, written shortly after the massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. But even this dark piece had exuberance and could not fully contain the energy of the large group. From there, they continued on a rollicking trip through Carney’s compositions, including his oddball marches and an old-timey song about driving down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles that was sung by Greenlief with great effect.
In keeping with Ralph Carney’s wide-ranging musical interests, there were a number of vintage jazz-style and mid-century tunes complete with swaying horn-section choreography. Karina Denike’s singing and vintage presentation added to the overall effect and classic style of the performance.
Many of us were simply caught up in the joy of the music and the celebration. Upon reflection, one realizes how different this was from the typical Outsound set with its references to swing, bebop, and early rock-and-roll. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with that – I have long professed that “new” and “experimental” musicians should not feature traditional idioms and structures in their music. This was an unequivocally great show, and the fact that it was on the Outsound stage was all the better.
Both bands played to a full and very appreciative house. Throughout the evening, on stage and in the audience, people shared their memories of seeing Ralph play or performing with him, and how much he is missed. I am confident that he would have loved our musical tribute and celebration, though he probably would have expressed his appreciation in an appropriately dry and confounding way.
The ruins of the Sutro Baths at Lands End on the western edge of San Francisco.
Quite a few of our recent Wordless Wednesdays have focused on the western parts of the city. Here are some previous posts:
In addition, there is our video and article about Lake Merced.