Saturday the 22nd, I left Japan and arrived in San Francisco, all on the same day. I even gained an hour or so by crossing the date-line. In reality, however, I must have lost way more than that. At least that's how I felt when I finally arrived at Sakura's place and collapsed on her couch. After only a three-hour nap it was time to start experiencing the music scene of the Bay Area. San Fran is just full of music, and I got to tap into the main vein.
Sakura's boyfriend Kush, a famous DJ, was playing at the Club 6. He makes mainly electronic music and performs with local vocalists. He also adds different elements, ranging from traditional tunes from India to industrial, jungle, dub or the occasional microphone-inside-a-vacuum-cleaner. Take a look at his site: http://www.kusharora.com/ ! Though I had heard his album From Brooklyn To SF, seeing him perform live was way beyond anything. Simply amazing. Of course I could not keep from turning into a zombie before the night was over, so I stumbled back home through the San Francisco night, to pass out into a dreamless state of unawareness...
Sunday morning rise and shine! What better way to cure a jet-lag that to get up early after a night at the club? That's exactly what we did. The strong motivator was the opportunity to stretch my sea legs (pun intended), and go sailing on the Bay with two friends of Kush, Loren and Zubeyir. The day was gorgeous, with a clear sky, and a gentle breeze rolling over the bay. The boat was a 29 foot sloop, and the two sailors were eager to introduce me to the fine art of making use of the wind and waves. Tacking the jib was simple enough, and using the rudder to turn the boat to get the best wind was fun. I decided that I had to do some more sailing in the near future. Unfortunately it was still before the start of sailing season, so I couldn't find any day-races, and so far had no other opportunity to sail... yet.
The next days were filled with rounding up things I would need during the next year, such as camping gear (all of which I managed to fit into my pack), good shoes (that still haven't been broken in yet), optimal clothing (I made sure to get good socks) and other miscellaneous items. At the same time I enjoyed the San Francisco life, with expensive sandwiches, coffee with fancy names, and similar stuff. On Wednesday my friend and former colleague, Dana arrived from Japan, on his way home to Pittsburgh. We spent his few hours of layover doing the San Francisco things: walking around Haight & Ashbury, looking accross at Alcatraz from the docks on the bay, and having some more expensive sandwiches and coffee with fancy names. Only the cable-cars were too touristy... but dude, we totally should have ridden them!
Eventually I left Sakura's place and started surfing people's couches I met on http://www.couchsurfing.com/. Among others a fabulous co-op in Berkeley, a hitchhiking expert in the mission district, and a group of musicians who took me up for a weekend under the redwoods of Sonoma county. The co-op was super friendly. My host and her housemates were a lovely bunch, with interesting conversations and cool outings. We went up to the highest peak in Oakland, and "studied" in a cafe downtown. Back in the mission across the bay, I was taken to a punk show, and got to know my host's roommate, who's also heavily into heavy music. You should definitively check out his band Triclops: www.myspace.com/triclopsband. They rock!
The following day I was invited to a cabin in Sonoma, with my host, James, and two of his friends. We relaxed under the redwoods, drank beer, and engaged in various competitive games, like shooting at Sunkist cans hung up in the trees, or building stick-boats that we sent down the little river that ran by the cabin. The music we listened to ranged from folk, to 1030's Christian music, and tunes from all around the world. What was more, however, back in Berkeley James invited me to an open mike at the local pub, the Starry Plough. And THAT was truly awesome: many musicians with different instruments, most of them very talented. James performed on his ukulele, and his friend Seth on the banjo. I enjoyed it a lot.
During my final days in the Bay Area I was going to start wwoofing (http://www.wwoof.org/ for all those who still don't know what it is I'm doing) at a local co-op called Fort Awesome, but I was too late. Instead I rounded up a few more things, enjoyed a good lunch with James and dinner with Sakura, and on Saturday I headed out to hitch my way to Arizona.
Time to start farming!
With the helpful info from Jon, my host in the mission district, who is also the editor of http://www.digihitch.com/, and a ride towards L.A. I'd found on Craig’s list, I made it to Bakersfield. After accepting a ride into Bakersfield I had to take a bus out of there... I almost felt like I was in Mexico! Seriously, Bakersfield seems to be more Hispanic than anything. Finally, I got a ride on a semi-truck all the way to Arizona. At the junction I-40 and AZ-89 in Ash Fork I was greeted by Cory, on whose farm I would be woofing for the next two-and-a-half-weeks.Whipstone Farm, near Paulden, AZ is a family farm, where many, MANY vegetables make it from seeds to full ripeness, then to the farmers market, or the CSA program. Take a look at their site: http://www.whipstone.com/ ! The people on the Farm are Cory and Shanty, their 1 1/2 year old son Cooper, Cory's daughter Gibson (not in the picture), and the occasional wwoofer. The one in this picture, other than me, is Mike from Switzerland, who had been here for about five weeks before I arrived, and just left a few days ago.
Working on the farm is not too hard. Hmmm... okay, it IS pretty hard. But not back breaking. If anything it's repetitive, but because there is such a variety of things, it never gets boring. So far I have seeded a lot of peppers (many Hungarian varieties), spinach, and eggplant, transplanted tomatoes into bigger trays, tied up strings to growing tomato plants in the greenhouse, laid out irrigation lines and planted lettuce, chard, beets, and kohlrabi around them. Then of course we do a lot of weeding, seeding, and feeding.
As for the fauna part, the farm has sheep, chickens, and guinea birds, as well as the not so welcome gophers and rabbits. The domestic creatures need to be fed and watered, which is all pretty easy. Even when a new baby lamb appeared one day (it was born, but that went pretty much by itself without anyone really noticing), putting it and the mother into a separate pen was rather simple. Now the rabbits and the gophers are a different story. They have been categorized as Enemies of the Farm, and must be shot, trapped, and eliminated. So far Cory showed me how to go about trapping gophers, and I have become a skilled gopher trapper. Shooting rabbits is also fun! They are hard to spot, but once they're detected, a good gun with a better scope does the job (and of course a decent marksman, but who am I to beat my own drum). Once killed, it has to be cleaned inside and out, the fur and the guts removed, and meat cooked. They make a delicious lunch, especially with lots of onions, peppers, rolled into tortillas. Mmmm... taste just like rabbits!