I miss the Bay Area: in photographs

A picture says a thousand words, and lord knows I can ramble, so here is evidence that speaks (mainly) for itself:

The Mission's grafitti must be some of the most beautiful and creative in the world.

I spent a whole day here. Why not?

If you can find me a view that beats this, I'm yours.

Thinking about it, maybe there are things in this view that would make me even happier.

The vineyard itself isn't too bad either...

Dolores Park: It may be small, but yet again, with a view like that, I'm not complaining.

This is what the California Dream is all about: Highway 1.

Okay, so I shot in the direction with no people. But the white sand arc made up for it just a tiny bit.


When raves go wrong

Apologies for any offence caused to the organisers of Saturday's 'Canal Plus' Rave in Cambridge Heath, but this was a textbook case on how not to throw an event.

It could have been brilliant: the choice of an outdoor car park was brave in British October, but the weather held. Looming semi-complete buildings and industrial monuments added to the atmosphere. A crowd gathered...

...a crowd started to disperse. When you emphasise the need to be there at a certain time and nothing happens for forty five minutes, you're just not going to keep the whole crowd. When the event starts with a mediocre-at-best electro-pop group who repeated at least one song in a set lasting around half an hour, you know things just aren't looking up. And to top things off, the music that followed could hardly be described as appropriate for a rave.

A decent sound system? Dream on.

Did anyone dance? Was anyone going to? Come 145, we weren't sticking around to find out.

(Fun times ensued in an abandoned petrol station and a Dalston function room... but that's another story)


It rained a lot in DC

So after a sojourn in the land of almost-eternal sunshine, I headed to territories new: Washington, DC.

In some ways, DC was what I expected. The Mall is indeed both grand and vast, the Capitol imposing, the downtown area sober and full of political activists, the Washington Monument a huge phallocentric symbol of might and power. But it did hold a few surprises. The Lincoln Memorial, for instance, surprised me by its cleanliness. Perhaps a strange thing to note, but it made me realise that once upon a millennium or two ago, the crumbling temples of Rome and Greece were once gleaming white marble, and not quite so ancient.

But perhaps more worthy of note, and more general, was the fact that outside of downtown, DC is a thriving, vibrant place with a huge population of young people, and a massive selection of bars. Adams Morgan's main drag, just a hop skip and a jump from the yuppiedom of Dupont Circle, has a heady mixture of hip bars, greasy pizza joints, street art and vintage clothing. And H Street North East, close to the home of my friend I was visiting, is undergoing a renaissance from deprived, almost ghetto area into the coolest place to party, with sushi and dancing, indoor mini golf and a clutch of uber-cool cocktail bars that you wouldn't even know were there during the day.

And of special note: E Street cinema - the kind of much-loved arthouse theatre that you wish every filmhouse could be, smelling deliciously of fresh popcorn, in place of the cleaning-liquid sanitisation of your average multiplex.

But above and beyond all of this, the rain. Oh, the rain. Pretty much non-stop from the time I landed until the day of my departure, nothing marked my stay in the federal district more than the deluge of water beneath perpetually grey skies. I hear that the Smithsonian and the Monuments are quite a sight in the sunshine, but when you can barely see across the Mall... the experience just ain't the same.


Is this lycanthropy?

Amongst the treasures in this month's i-D magazine (how much do I want a sheepskin-and-leather Acne jacket now?), is the ever-wonderful Shakira. Not content with being intelligent, philantropic, a multi-million seller and a brilliant singer, she also insists on being ridiculously hot. Awoooo, indeed.


America made me like bad music.

I have no radio, and never listen to it, so for the most part I choose what I want to listen to, and of course like everyone I have my guilty pleasure songs, but I manage usually to avoid getting sucked into the mediocrity of sanitized commercialism spewed forth by 90% of radio stations. Deprived of total control of my musical choices in the US, I found my ears pricking up at the irresistibly perky yet utterly bland strains of Jay Sean's 'Down,' the catchy awfulness of LMFAO's 'I'm in Miami Bitch,' and to round things off with yet another delightfully-titled treat, I ended up succumbing to the pounding beats of David Guetta (who I by and large don't mind anyway), accompanied by possibly my least favourite 'artist' ever, the squaking, misogynistic Akon on the humourous and ultimately brilliant, umm, 'Sexy Bitch.'

Here ends my confession.


In the Valley, 75 degrees is a cold spell

I for one can't see why people complain about the weather here. Today, a more typical day for October in the San Fernando Valley, an area that has become synonymous the world over for dull, lifeless, upper-middle class suburban mediocrity, replete with strip malls and sprinkler-systems working over time, the mercury poked at a respectable 85. Lying in my friends' garden, sipping iced water, I've come to the conclusion that even suburban mediocrity can't be that bad under the benevolent rays of the California sun. Especially when there are a lot of good, cheap places to eat nearby. Everywhere has its pros and cons, I guess, but I'd pick here over the Home Counties any day of the year. Who needs winter or old buildings anyway?

My sojourn in the city of Angels has so far been a reasonably eventful one: Los Angeles may not boast the same magic of spirit or physical beauty of the Bay Area, but the chaparral cloaked mountains and endless sunshine certainly have their appeal, not to mention mile after mile of soft white sand lapped by a warmer, dirtier part of the Pacific than San Francisco. My first night here took me to the Hollywood Hills: a friend's friend's party in a luxurious modern mansion that proved upscale living in 21st century L.A. can be far more tasteful than anything you see on 'Cribs'. Sipping on Patron and swimming in the pool may seem like a ridiculous cliché, but for my money (or not, as the case may be), it's also a lot of fun. The slightly surreal experience was rounded off nicely in the morning when I awoke to be warned about the Mountain Lion in the garden, followed by the howls of what we could only imagine was a neighbour's pet meeting an untimely end.

The days that followed have consisted of pure indulgence: sunbathing, foot-high stacks of pancakes, strolling along the beach in Santa Monica, delicious tacos and Don Antonio's (an L.A. institution), and relaxation. The highlight was the Getty Center, worth a visit for its spectacular views of the L.A. basin and Santa Monica Bay and Mountains alone - the city's low density means that despite the noise, traffic, smog and smattering of skyscrapers, a lot of it still resembles a carpet of green. Although, given the arid climate and nearby desert landscapes, this verdant appearance may well have more to do with human intervention and the aforementioned sprinklers than nature's continued triumph over the ultimate postmodern sprawl. However there is much more to the Getty Center than the spectacular view: its design could serve as a model for new cultural attractions the world over - combining high quality architecture, a user-friendly yet spacious and scenic layout, well designed public spaces, gardens and generously proportioned exhibition rooms and galleries. The range of art on offer is large without being intimidating: particular highlights included Irving Penn's photographic portraits of 'Small Trades,' and impressive exhibition documenting the rise of french landscape painting. And did I mention the views?


Feel the Love Evolution

In San Francisco, the spirit of the Summer of Love never truly died. This Saturday saw a series of floats thunder down Market Street to the sound of every type of music worth dancing to blaring out across downtown. The streets were full of revellers decked out in a million kinds of finery or just their own skin, brazen or foolhardy in the public and the strong winds. This was LovEvolution, a spin-off of Berlin's fabled Love Parade that was uniquely San Franciscan in its manifestation.

I doubt there is any other major US city where the grand plaza in front of City Hall would be filled with semi-naked ravers partying, revelling in flouting the law, drinking, dancing, and enjoying all kinds of sensual pleasures in full view of every visible symbol of authority in the city. And there was no violence, no attempt to repress, just a long, sunny day of freedom and joy. A fesitival of love indeed.

Even as the evening came, the winds picked up and temperatures dropped the party kept going, as some of the world's best DJs entertained crowds with electronica, funk, rock and dubstep accompanied by dancers (though it was hard to know if these were official or not) and flame-throwers, until eventually everyone dispersed into the buses, trains and coffee shops of the surrounding area, and the more hard-core waited in line for the nearby after-party.

Maybe my love for the city and my desire to enjoy myself blinded me, but I didn't see a fight, a bottle thrown or an ambulance called at any point. When the biggest problem a festival has is the wait for a portable toilet, I think they're on to a good thing. The Summer of Love might now be a day in October that costs $10, but I think everyone there would agree, it's still most definitely alive and thriving.