Sunday, November 08, 2009

San Francsco, Last Gasp Offices and APE-Part 1

San Francisco----or Part 1 of 3.

This will be a long rambling report with lots of photos. I hope. APE (Alternative Press Expo) in San Francisco is probably the largest Small Press and Alternative press show in the world. (I've not been to SPX yet though.) I figured I had to check it out someday. Plus, I love San Francisco. This would mark my third trip there. Frist in 2000, my adoring wife and I went there when she was an adoring girlfriend. We drove down the coast from Seattle, WA. Beautiful trip. The second time I went we met my parents there and stayed a few days then took a cruise to Hawaii! Our best vacation ever. That was in 2005. This time we planned on flying to Seattle again, visiting my three kids that live there, and then recreating that photo-op trip down the coast to San Francisco! Also, an old time friend of mine, who I'd never met in person, only dealt with through the mail, Dan Burke and his wife were to meet us there. They live in Oregon. Dan had recently gotten back in touch with me after about 19 years. He used to contribute to my Slam Bang anthology back in the 80's, and send in some hilarious strips about how my company, Fan-Atic Press, were at war agianst a rival small press anthology. Great stuff. Everyone still talks about that and wants it all collected in a new book someday. Anyway, Dan had contributed to my latest issue of Slam Bang recently, plus he created a comic called Odd Comics (get yours at and my company is putting it out. And it would premiere at APE! How cool is all of this??

Well, most of all of that fell through. So if I whine too much during this report, it is possibly because my wife first decided she was too busy. Sure, too busy doing homework and taking classes for a post Master's degree. Some excuse! OK, a ligitimate excuse, but I'm still very upset. So I cut my trip short and decide to just fly to San Francisco and party with Dan and his wife and have a blast at APE, right? We'd also planned out a very funny video we'd shoot while we were there about the worst comic book artist in the world selling his books at APE, etc....(We even tried to get Dean LeCrone to star in it! But he was also busy. Something about his son having a Birthday party. No, excuse. OK. It was a good excuse.)

No, all of this fell through when Dan decided he couldn't make it. Sure, he had some great excuses and all but, sheeeeeesh. My plans were falling through faster than a sprinter chased by Warewolfs. Or something.

So now I've already booked my flight, bought my table at APE, booked my hotel at the Weston (Swanky!) and a rental car at Dollar. No turning back now.

Also I had gone to great pains to redesign an eye catching business card for Fan-Atic Press and have them delilvered to me before I left on the 15th of October. I wanted to have the 16th of October to just drive around San Fran and see the sights and get lots of photos. Also that was the day that I was to attend the party at Last Gasp Warehouse and get my badge for the show the next weekend.

The cards didn't arrive. I'd paid an extra $17 for 3 day postage but there was a holiday I didn't figure on....sheeeeesh. Anyway, I had found a printer for Odd Comics #1 the new Dan Burke book, since my printer of like three years had decided to stop printing comics right after he sent me the proof copy of Odd Comics. Things were not going well. This new printer promised he have the comics to me before I left on that Thursday (the 15th of Oct.). So at least that was on track.

Ok, you guessed it. The printer never got back to me and Thursday came and I had to leave without the books. So, let's recap: No--- books, new business cards, my wife, or Dan and his wife.

Oh, and I forgot to tell you that I'd been diagnosed with Gout about a month before all this. That is simply a condition where the knuckle of your big toe on your right foot gets so sore, you would pay someone to shoot it off. (Or do it yourself if you knew how to handle a shotgun.) It is basically a seviere form of arthritis. It was to have gone away after a few weeks and now it was like 4 weeks and it was just well enough that I could walk about 15 steps before I'd start walking like a cripple, then start walking like Chester (from the old Gunsmoke show.), then I'd have to sit down and prop up my foot as it would start to throb all over. What made me think I was ready for walking through airports and comic conventions?

Also I was forced to check only one bag at the cost of $15 at the airport and keep it under 50lbs or else get slapped with a much higher fee. So I packed carefully, just putting in the Slam Bang books mostly and a few of everything else. I had to ship a tall box to my hotel that held my banner and frame that held it, that I sit behind my booth. And the table cover and other table stuff. Don't ask me what all this cost for this trip as I'm in denial over it and have blocked it out. At least till tax time. (The airport actually charges $20 if you don't pre-pay in advance. Hidden cost tip #256.)

I bought a nice midsized carry-on bag to hold my camera, video camera, and all the chargers and batteries and some clothes to stuff in around them to protect them. The carry on bag fit perfectly in the overhead compartment, finally, something went right. I'll skip over all the people putting their seats back so far I almost brusied a lip. And the crying, kicking kids in the back of me. That is a given, and I expect it when I fly.

I forgot to tell you that at the first airport where I took off from which is about 1 hour from my city, I got my tickets and then went to the gate (only two gates in this small place.) and went through the process of security. Now, security for me is a 10 step process. Take off my shoes, take off my cell phone from my belt, take off my little camera I take everywhere from my belt, take my mini-laptop out of my carry-on bag, and I have to take a C-Pap machine everywhere I go (I can't sleep without it.) and I have to take that out of the backpack it comes in and put it in a tray. And take out my wallet, take off my belt, and my hat. Holding up my pants with my hand I walk through the security door, then I have to put all this stuff back on while others are trying to push me out of their way. (OK, more than 10 steps.) Then put my C-Pap back in the backpack and etc.....I've gotten to where I can do all of these things in about four minutes. This is two minutes longer than anyone behind me can wait. They grab the trays that I'm trying to grab....I feel like turning around and saying, "You cannot go anywhere until I'm done first. I'm in line in front of you. You have to wait. Taking the tray I'm to use, holds you up even longer. Enjoy your wait....."

So I do all this and I have to get me a watter bottle since my ears try and plug up on take off and landing (I'm getting old.) and I swallow water to keep them clear. So I pull out my $2 and buy my water and sit down in the gate area, and start to relax. Then after about 10 minutes they annouce that my flight is not in gate B but now in gate A. So I go up to the employee and ask, "Does that mean I have to go through security all over again?" "Yes" is their reply.

I have to throw away my water, do all of the stuff I mentioned another water.....etc.... I'm now hating Evansville, IN airport. I decided to fill out a comment card! That will show them!

I get to the next stop which is Cinncinati airport. This is Delta's way of comedy. Flying a few hundred miles East to get 3000 miles West. That airport makes me walk miles to the next gate. But to my surprise my Gouty toe is not upset. Miracle. I get a huge salad and graze on it till my flight.

After some delays we finally take off and later I get the photo that you saw at the top of this report, of the plane flying over the Sierra Navada Mountains. I arrive about dark in San Francisco. I get my rental car which is a nice midsize car, after I refused to upgrade to a midsize car. So didn't pay extra. I also refused the insurance on the car, something I always take a risk on. Scarry stuff.

Room With a View, of the airport.

I get to my hotel and find out that my $100 a night at this very high class place is due to the fact almost all of the charges are hidden. Like the $18 a night to park right next to the hotel. You get a ticket when you pull in, and use your room card to get out. I do find out that my box did arrive safely at the hotel. So I will have my banner behind the table after all. I'm so tired and want to rest up for the next day (My only day to see San Fran) that I decide to order room service. The cheapest thing on the menu, other than one slice of pizza, on the kid section, is a Panini turkey sandwich for $15.00. It comes with fries. I'm starving, so I order it. I get it and it is fine, cold, but OK. Later I find out there was a 20% gratuity fee, a $3.50 room service fee, and then tax, etc....I paid just under $30 for that sandwich. I'm living the high life! I guess.

I get some good sleep, since the bed is wonderful. Really makes a difference to old folks like me. I wake up at noon the next day and feak out. This was my one day to see San Francisco. I'm very comfortable, and could sleep all day....but my photo adventure calls to me, and I get up and out.
I keep lots of Mapquest print-outs all around me. I've memorized a good deal of the city, at least the main roads. I get to the Bay and see tons of tourists running around taking in the sites. It's a 70+ degree, sunny day. Perfect.
I see a sign Lumbard St. I remember that the Coit Tower is on that street along with that crazy downhill road that ever one takes photos of. I pull over and put in enough change for 1 hour. The max it will take. Then I see that I'm to climb hundreds of stairs to get to that tower. I'm at the base of the hill that is sits on. What the heck? I've got a bum toe, but this is for the sake of photography! People have climbed much higer for shots above the city or mountain range in worse conditions for a photo. Don't be a woose. Just do it! It doesn't even look that hard. So I start up the stairs with my large camera around my neck. (I was smart enough not to take my camcorder also.) I quickly realize that the steps are quite steep. I'm lucky that they are mostly in shade but the temperature was a nice 74 or something feels more like 84 when you are climbing stairs, are overweight, have a 10lb camera, and haven't done any exercise whatever for over a month due to a very sore toe. But the toe is still not upset over all this. I stop now and then to look around and see some fantastic views of the Bay Bridge and some sailboats. The stairs are going streight up and some lead off to small porches where people are living in apartments and houses with super awesome views of the bay. Not sure where they park as this is one step hill. Guess they walk down the steps to the level ground or up to some level ground I don't see yet.

I stop now and then to get photos of the bay and the houses around me. Sometimes I just pretent to stop and take photos so people can't tell I'm really stopping because I'm toally out of breath. My thighs are like jelly now. I'm starting to wonder why I'm doing this. Oh, yeah, for the photos. I have climbed so many stairs I can't begin to guess how many. I turn a curve and can see up about 5 more flights of stairs all at once. This lady in the red top, is near the top of that batch of stairs. I get a shot of her. I can't begin to show all the steps I'm to climb. I'm crazy, no doubt about it now. I finally, after many stops for air, see a landing, or level area above with no more stairs. I'm about 10 more steps from that area. A guy is coming down and must see how hard I'm working to get up these...he says, "You are only about 1/2 way now." I laugh and figure he is quite the jokester.....I get to the top of those last few steps and they just lead over to a house that looks like a yellow castle with a flag on top. Pretty fancy. But next to that are stairs leading up, up and up.

He wasn't joking.

I push ahead and just keep stopping more and more often. Not sure how, but I make it to the top! It has been 40 minutes. No way I'm going to make it back to my car before that hour on the meter is up.

So I make it to the top and see a concrete base with about 30 more steps. So I wonder around this circle at the top with a statue in the center of it. I get shots of other tourists looking at the view is very high up. And I'm catching my breath. My heart is starting to beat at least half as fast as it was. That's a good sign.

I go up the 30 steps and enter a very small, quicky mart, sort of, store. There was to be some murals and other things to see but all that seems to be ropped off. And you have to pay to take the elevator up to the top. No problem, I'm starting to really appreciate elevators. I pay my $6 for a ticket, and get 2 bottles of water. I'm more than a little dehydrated at this point. I can still almost focus my eyes and my thighs have turned from jelly to more of a strong rubber substance. I get in line with about 5 other folks and we hand over our ticket and get in this very small (heated?) elevator. This teenage kid is working the doors. He gets in and works the elevator. As we go up this lady in her mid 50's (About my age) says outloud, "Look theres a tip-box on the wall, can you imagine, paying a tip for someone to just work the elevator?" No one says a word. This is clearly something you keep in your head and don't release to the outside public. Especially with the person you are talking about working the very elevator that you are using. She doesn't seem to think that this guy is doing a "real" job. This tells everyone else in the elevator at least 2 things. One: This lady has never had to work a day in her life for the public or in any "job" that's not a "career". And Two: This lady says everything that pops into her head, right or wrong. Meaning she hasn't learned much in her 50+ years about social customs in public...etc.... The guy working the elevator, after a long pause....says,

"That's not for old ladies."

More silence. Then the same lady, still proving that she can't control that thin line between her brain and her mouth...., "Well, I'm not that old, I guess that was meant to hurt me." No more words are spoken. We get to what we think is the top, at long last, only to discover there are two more curving rows of stairs! Sheeesh. I make it up these and the last step is like an extra 4" of metal sticking up....just to test me, but I make it. The windows are sort of scratched and some have foggy areas. I somehow find some clear areas to shoot out of. Here are some of the shots I get at the top:

Once I think I've got as many shots as I can, I take the elevator back down.
Time for the decent. Going down all the stairs I thought would be a breeze. What I didn't figure on was the chance of falling to my death. One slip on the slightly wet stairs and I'd do a head first drop 30 feet before I'd even bounce down more stairs.....So I pretty much go down granny style. Screw the haters, and critics watching me, or jogging up or down like it was level. I held onto both rails and went down one step at a time.So be it. It only took me about 10 minutes to go down, but it was a harrowing 10 mintues. I kept pictureing me on the 6th page of the next days newspaper with a one-half inch column stating how some dumbass from KY, flew all the way to CA, to fall to his death for a handful of photos of the top of the city. Well, that didn't happen, I'm pretty sure. I got down to the bottom and found the car and didn't get a parking ticket. Life was still sort-of on my side! (The year before I'd gone up in the Space Needle in Seattle to later discover I'd gotten a parking ticket. Cost me $45.00 if I remember correctly.)

I drove around some more and decided to find my next destination. I'd plotted out how to find this Thai resturant that had Chicken Phai Thai......Hey, I deserved it!

I parked near the place and it was right next to JapanTown. Saw some interesting achitecture. The Thai place was to be closed from 3:00 till 4:30 or so. I was in a rush. I went in and the place was open but no one was there. I asked a nice lady if they were open, she said yes. It was right before 3:00. She could have turned me out. I sat near the window so I could keep my eyes peeled for an interesting shot if people walked by. I called my wife and gave her an update of everything. I'd already ordered my Chicken Phai Thai. It was a perfect day. Sunny but not too hot, and I'd just survived my first extensive exercise since I'd hit the gym back over a month ago. My toe was still not yelling at me. Everything was fine. I had two hours before the party at Last Gasp was to start, where they'd give me my badge to get into the show Sat and Sun.
I asked the lady at the resturant if I could use their restroom. It was in the back. I was sent through the kitchen and out a back alley to some restrooms in some hallway. Shared by other businesses I assume. Got this shot as I was going back to my table. Rushed it a bit so it's not totally in focus. Wasn't sure what they'd do if they noticed me taking the shot..The lady that was helping me was also eating and another older lady was with her. They asked me how I'd come to their resturant. Was I from the hotel accross the street? I said I'd looked them up on the internet, printed out the directions and found them. They were surprised at this. They thanked me for coming and said, "Tell all your friends to visit us."I saw a lady working on paying a parking meter outside my window. She was there for what seemed like 10 minutes. She came into the resturant and asked about the meter. She was told it only took quarters, and went back out to work with it some more.
I really enjoyed my meal, the small salad and about 5 glasses of water....and started my way back to my car. I saw a Japanese food store and went in. I wasn't able to read anything in the store except for this bottle of sweat. So I had to buy it and try it. I bought two bottles of regular water, two extremely good apples and the sweat . It was their version of Gateraid, and was pretty good, actually.

I got a few more shots around that area then headed on to my car. I got out my MapQuest maps and made my way to the Last Gasp Warehouse

UPDATE: I totally forgot that after I went to the Japanese Grocery that I rushed to The Cartoon Art Museum! It was closing soon so I had to rush. I got there 40 minutes before they closes so the girl gave me a big discount on the admission. It wasn't all that much anyway, like $6 I think for full price. I loved that place! (Christina Wald suggested it to me, thanks CW.) I saw some original Peanuts strips and so much more. I rushed into their store and bought a book with pencil art of Gene Colan. I'd tried to meet him twice at San Diego Comic Con but both times couldn't find his area in the Artists Alley. Great book. Here is a shot I took near The Cartoon Art Museum: They wouldn't let me take any photos in the museum, of course. Every time I go to San Francisco I'll be sure and go back and see it again.

Jump to Part II:

Last Gasp Warehouse and Party