I knew the drive from the redwoods to San Francisco was one of my longer ones, and I wanted to make good time. I would be staying with Andrew, an old college friend, and I knew he and his Lady Friend (his term) typically had their date night on Wednesdays.
While I know several people in the San Francisco area, I chose to stay with Andrew because of the description of his home. He said he shared a loft with several circus performers. Andrew does what’s often referred to as a Blockhead act, where he performs feats like hammering nails into his nose and eating glass. He originally came down to the Bay Area to participate in a Burning Man Opera, and found what turned out to be a huge circus community in San Francisco. He said in addition to his loft, there are others in the same part of town that go so far as to specialize: a loft for jugglers, another for fire-spinners, one for aerialists, etc.
Which brings me to the part of town Andrew lives in. If I were to make a Hollywood movie about a young kid who moves to the big city and can only afford an apartment in the “bad part” of town, I would dress the set to look exactly like Andrew’s neighborhood in Oakland. There’s graffiti on every wall, trash on the street, eight auto chop shops but no pharmacy, and it’s right next to the railroad tracks. From the upstairs window of his place, you have a perfect view of the subway train going by every few minutes.
My concerns about the neighborhood were not assuaged when I first arrived and right after our hug hello Andrew told me we should take everything out of my car. “Everything?” I asked, knowing I had an awful lot of stuff. “Anything you don’t want to get stolen,” he said.
The loft itself is part of a community of building that used to be an old factory or mill of some kind, and was rezoned to allow both commercial and residential units. Luckily for me and my car full of stuff, they have plenty of room in their building as a result. They also have free reign over what they do with it. Andrew showed me around, pointing out the extra bedrooms they built, the studio dance floor, the aerial hangs, and a few projects in the works. My favorite was the second bathroom, which didn’t have room for a sink. Instead, when you flush the toilet, clean water automatically pours out of the mouth of a plastic dinosaur to allow you to wash your hands. The used water drains directly into a shiny metal drain dish to fill up the toilet tank in preparation for the next flush. Andrew indicated that using the dirty hand washing water to fill the toilet appeals to their hippie sentiments. I think it’s brilliant.
Neither of us had eaten, so Andrew took me to a different building in the complex that hosts a Thai Restaurant. The restaurant in also the home for the family who runs it, so when we walked in, their 8-year-old son was playing in the dinning area. The place was empty and had a TV running “How I Met Your Mother” on mute. We ordered at the counter and sat down. Andrew told me about his life these days, living completely off his freelance work. While he still does circus performance, he gets the bulk of his money by dressing up as a superhero and going to the birthday parties of young, rich children. His Lady Friend does something similar as a Princess. Midway through our meal the young boy asked us in his most official sounding voice, “Is the food delicious?” He has a promising future ahead of him.
Andrew went to a movie with his Lady Friend, and I set up shop in my area, which was the DJ loft that overlooked the dance floor. I was told I could sleep on the couch there, or I could sleep on one of the Crash Pads. In this instance the term Crash Pad is both literal and figurative, as the large cushions are used for aerial practice safety as well as out of town guests.
I loved staying in the circus loft. My car was fine the entire time, I got to watch a man get his mohawk touched up, we talked about The Singularity and the sexual appeal of Peter Dinklage, and I woke up to the sound of juggling pins hitting the floor and a baby crying. No babies live in the loft, so I’m not sure why that baby was there.