Tags: I Hotel
Change of Plans
This past weekend I tripped to San Francisco for Porter Robinson's "Second Sky" festival. The festival itself was held over two days; I attended Sunday which was the final day. Both days were essentially the same show, same artists, same music.
|Air to Earth||11:15 — 12:05|
|Wavedash||12:10 — 12:55|
|Knower||1:10 — 1:40|
|Jacob Collier||1:55 — 2:40|
|Jon Hopkins||2:55 — 3:45|
|Toro Y Moi||4:05 — 4:55|
|Jai Wolf||5:15 — 6:15|
|Madeon||6:35 — 7:35|
|Porter Robinson||8:00 — 9:40|
I flew out of RDU on Saturday afternoon wearing a Gundam hoodie, black leggings and some shorts over top. Before getting through the checkpoint the TSA agent stops me and frisks my shoulders, probably because my hoodie was bunched up around my upper arms. He takes a long look over me after patting my shoulders.
"Is that Mobile Suit Gundam?" he says.
"Yeah", I say.
I'd planned my flight so I'd have time to catch any shows in SF on Saturday night since the people who come out for Second Sky normally set up DJ sets at various bars in the area. The first leg of my flight ended at Atlanta airport (ATL) with about an hour layover until the leg to SFO began. I read my physical copies of Black Rock Shooter: Innocent Soul to pass the time and to squeeze some Japanese practice in too.
The fun really began in the airspace over Texas; 2.5 hours into the flight the pilot relayed that some radar-related equipment was malfunctioning thus making landing in the foggy weather at SFO difficult. The flight circled around for 2 hours "burning fuel" to bring the plane's weight down, then the plane spun around the land at Dallas Fort Worth airport. I thought it funny that the abbreviation of this airport has the same initials as David Foster Wallace.
Because of this diversion we were made to stay the night at a very nice hotel accessible by a shuttle from the airport terminals. My fiancé and I dined at the restaurant in the hotel and lingered around the bar to help ease our nerves after a pretty stressful day. While we sat in the hotel lobby I knew the DJ set I planned to attend was happening and that I would not make it to this show, consequently not meeting the good friends I've DJ'd with before who were in attendance; this was one of the more disappointing things about this diversion. One other inconvenience was that we were promised the hotel would be covered by the airline company but the hotel did not accept the voucher provided by the airline. Luckily there were rooms open that we could afford so we footed the bill for the time being. Many people who were also promised a room were still lingering around the lobby, (relatably) refusing to pay for something they were promised would be free.
The hotel room itself was massive and featured a king-sized bed flanked by two faux-mahogany bedside tables. Every switch on the wall, like the ones for lights, blinds, and fans, were all capacitive buttons that lit up after one touched them. This luxury would soon contrast with the 3-star hotel we stayed at in SF; each had its own charm though. The construction of the showers in the marbled bathrooms of this Grand Hyatt were the minimal-, glass-type showers with doors that pivoted either way on the hinge. Already I was laying plans for how I wanted the showers in my future-home to look, and picking out in my head exactly what shade of black I wanted for the floor tiling as well. The glass surrounding the shower was not arranged in a square, but rather in the shape of a quarter of a hexagon. That is to say: two panes of glass orthogonal to the wall and making 45° angles with a middle pane which also functioned as the door.
We wake up, suddenly, the next morning.
It's Sunday, 6:50A in Dallas and 4:50A in San Francisco. We can't walk to the correct terminal because this airport is a fucking nightmare. We catch the shuttle and eventually it lingers to the airport, though the bus took an hour to arrive and drops us off at the correct terminal only at 7:50A. We still need to go through security and we're only 10 minutes away from the flight boarding. The driver's advised me in a west-African accent that "he will unload my bags" and I promptly unload my bags myself because I'm in a mad-dash to get to the metal flying machine and I halfway-run to the security gate, my fiancé in-tow and now he's wearing my stupid Gundam jacket because it's a little warmer than my long-sleeve shirts. I unlace my Nike Air Jordans while walking briskly forward towards the 2-person line that's formed in front of the TSA agents.
I've had these Jordans for 4+ years. I've taken them to Tōkyō, Münich, Austria, and with me around the US; I spend a moment to reflect on this history before placing my off-white shoes into the gray bin in front of me. My shoes and personal belongings slide forward into the fat, gray x-ray machine.
Shoe-less, I walk into the metal detector.
Electronics he says. An agent is recalled from the front of the security gate to inspect my phone. He retrieves my Pixel 4a from the gray bin and takes it behind two doors. 30 seconds later it is returned to me. You're good to go he says. I collect my shoes into my arms and stuff my wallet and paper-printed airline tickets and keys indiscriminately into the pockets of my gray sweatpants. Stopping to rest at the single bench with my fiancé seated next to me I put one shoe on one foot and then put the other on the other and begin organizing my pockets and collecting my mind.
We make it to the plane barely before it begins loading. An hour of delays. Then 4 hours in the air and we're there.
The festival's already started but I'm not too mad since I accepted my fate after yesterday's diversion. At least the whole show was live-streamed. We disembark the airplane at something like 1:00PM, well-beyond the beginning of the festival but (thankfully) well-before the end.
We take the BART from SFO to Powell station. I'm well-familiar with the city after working with the General Services Administration in SF for a Summer. That Summer... I actually had no reason to be in Californa except for Porter's 2019 Second Sky. Thankfully I was offered a job there that year, otherwise I would've been miserable and broke and stuck in Berkeley for 3 months but that would've been okay too. I would've found a way to pay the bills, but this paid far above being a barista or a barback and I could actually put it on my resumé.
Oh, it's not alright
That one day we're all out of time
I'll write you another life
I'm sorry for crying....
It's just that I love you...
"One day" can't be far enough
So here we are; 1:30P in San Francisco; the festival's already started; "I'm afraid we won't make Jacob Collier" I say. "Unfortunate" he says. He knows why and it's entirely out of our control.
There's no need to think of time...
We take the BART ("Bay Area Rapid Transit" says the sign) from the end-of-the-line at SFO all the way to Powell station in downtown and disembark at Powell station, walk north for 10 minutes and we're finally at the hotel. We quickly check in and walk up 6 flights of stairs to room #601. It is quite a small room; the queen bed is on the left as we walk in, the bathroom / shower / bath on the right with very little room in between the two. There's a desk at the "far" end of the room and a metal A/C unit jammed out the window.
We collapse on the bed, exhausted. Only four hours of sleep separated by 2 timezones and no time for sleep this afternoon. After dropping our luggage off at the hotel we BART to Oakland arena grounds where the festival is being held; disembarking, we walk fast with a few others and all arive at the ticket-gate. The music is far and quiet still. I was in Dallas only this morning.
We breach the festival grounds during Toro y Moi's set. I meet some friends, it's a good time. It's amazing how many people are here.
The final two sets pass quickly. I stay for all of Madeon's set, though I watch from the back because my fiancé was extremely tired and could not stand being in a crowd. The more he mentioned it the more I, also, did not enjoy being in the crowd. We watched from the back for the rest of the show. Porter Robinson's "Nurture Live" was incredible even from our vantage. Arguably it looked better from back there, away from the crowd and at a comfortable distance where I didn't need earplugs to protect my hearing.
Because it's a Sunday night the BART closes early. I didn't want to navigate the post-concert crowd so we left maybe 30 minutes before the set ended. We board the blue-line and head across the bay again. While we're riding towards the back of one of the train cars, a person behind us offers us a Clif bar; he's got a wholesale box. We politely decline. We disembark at Powell street station and walk north a few minutes to our hotel to collect ourselves for half an hour.
We eat our small 7-11 lunch supper. The fan's spinning violently above and it's quite hot in this tiny room.
I've got tickets to an after-party at the Midway featuring Porter and "special guests". My fiancé decides to sit this one out as the festival's already tired him out. After promising to be safe around San Francisco after-dark (do you know where I was for three months?) I head to the bus-stop. The M-bus arrives quickly and whisks me away and further east then south.
At first the bus is empty save for two other people and the driver. One of the passengers is at the front and installed in a wheelchair. On a whim he pulls the rope above him, signalling the bus to stop.
"Driver driver, this stop right here. I gotta get some fucking McDonalds" he says; I try my hardest to stare ahead and not laugh at the abruptness of this statement. The bus stops and the wheelchair ramp extends. He exits and we continue.
More people board the bus and they're obviously from the festival. They're talking loudly about the last two shows, Madeon and Porter, and I hear "The City" coming from one of their phone speakers. I sit in silence. I know that talking with the people I've somehow shared a special experience with would be easy but I decide to enjoy myself in silence. Somehow, though shared, I think our experiences are quite different, and we're in distinct places despite being confusingly so near on the same bus. We arrive at the stop closest to the venue we and all walk the common direction to the Midway.
I alight the concrete steps outside and the ticket-taker looks at my paper ticket and announces "damn this guy printed his out!". "I like it better that way," I say. Paper doesn't crash or boot-loop. It's funny that the closer I get to technology the less I trust it; I've felt this same feeling working on my car. The more I take it apart the more I understand the actual fragility of the beast. There's only one cylinder firing-order that makes the car run correctly, so many mechanical pumps involved in the whole operation, and so much tubing that corrodes over the years. It's terrifying. The more I learn of it the less I trust in it. And I especially don't trust anyone to service my car correctly on my behalf. But by learning how it all fits together I feel more attuned to its natural harmonics, it's no longer a magical beast of metal and exploding fuel but a carefully-constructed machine with parts that cooperate to produce a simple effect.
Anyhow that's why I print my tickets out.
Shortly after meeting up with a friend who also managed to get tickets to Midway the "special guest" is introduced as Wavedash. This was a welcome surprise to me, and the music was very fun and high-tempo. We danced a lot to the songs we knew and grooved even to the ones we didn't. It'd been a while since we'd been to such an intimate DJ set. The last venue I'd been to that had the same energy was the Virtual Self show I caught in Akasaka, Tōkyō. Tonight was quite a special experience too: entirely new music (for me at least) and a very fun and lively atmosphere. To give you an idea of the vibe, the four people closest to us were shirtless and extremely sweaty and jumping up, down to the beat.
Air to Earth
After Wavedash was Porter Robinson's Air to Earth project. Air to Earth is a live-only DJ set focused on progressive house and UK garage sounds. Air to Earth reminds me of late-night WKNC, the N.C. State college radio. After midnight typically an auto-DJ takes over and plays music until 6A the next morning. The auto-DJ plays a lot of the same stuff Porter played that night, and many tracks I heard there I had originally heard at 1A on WKNC while studying for tests and exams and grinding out late-night homework. I had aspirations to jockey discs at WKNC but ditched that idea to instead work at Cup a Joe in Mission Valley in between main and Centennial campuses.
The music was awesome. Each song reminded me of a Bushmaster house set and I realized suddenly how long we'd been DJ'ing. I scored my first controller here, in California, when I was working in San Francisco over two years ago. The pumping music washed me over with waves of nostalgia as I remember how uncertain the future was these small two years ago, a small forever in what felt like another life entirely, a school-life "balance" dominated by school and homework and stress and the vague, creeping anxiety that I'd never make it out of that institution.
We're all gonna make it.
The Air to Earth set ends after an hour twenty minutes and we're both fucking parched. We didn't leave our spots from the venue floor because we never could've jockeyed our way back, the crowd was dense and packed tight even in this spike. Luckily there is a spigot of extremely high-pressure water at the end of the bar nearest the exit. We drink five cups each and slowly exit the building quenched and exhausted.
Sitting on the sidewalk outside the venue we have a chance to breathe freely finally. The music's long-over but conversation lingers on, beyond the concrete reality around us, and slowly back again. The time is 2:40A and I decide to head to the bus stop alone as I need to get up in less than 4 hours.
I've timed the bus well; five minutes after arriving at the stop I watch a bus-shaped set headlights tumble down the road from a quarter-mile away down this straight stretch of road. But I'm standing at the wrong stop and it blows by me.
This is a familiar feeling. I've gotten comfortable with public transit and these are just the rules of the game. In my defense, the sign for the stop I wanted was only painted on the side of a pole 50 meters from where I was waiting, and I only thought to look around some more after being skipped over.
After another half-hour I was heading back to the hotel, finally arriving a little after 4:00A. I ring the bell next to the door to be buzzed in and a sleepy-eyed girl emerges from a dark room and speaks into a microphone at the front-desk, clearly visible behind the hotel's glass doors.
"What is it?"
"I need to come in."
"Come in then."
The door was unlocked already and I felt silly for not trying the door; I laugh slowly like someone's who's been awake for a full day; I walk in and up and right then right and collapse in bed, trying my best to not wake my sleeping fiancé. He doesn't notice at all and I slip under the covers, set my alarm for 7:15A and doze off.
My Casio watch rings 3 hours later and I rush to shut it off. I get out of bed, put on my best attempt at an outfit and walk out the door, scrolling through my calendar while briskly descending down the twisty hotel stairway.
Because of a time-zone difference I needed to schedule this call for 7:30A PST which was 5:30P there. The other end of the phone was kind enough to talk to me a half-hour before a multi-day holiday began there. On the East-coast doing a phone call at the same time would not be much of a problem but here in California, especially after that incredible night, such a call was only warranted by its importance to me.
Before we get into the real discussion the other end of the video call asks:
"Is that a Gundam hoodie?"
"Yep", I say.
The content of the call was exciting enough that any exhaustion left my body for the time I sat in Union Square chatting. After the call I reclined on the bench, scooting deeper into the wood and metal. I breathed deeply and admired the Dewey Monument in the middle of the square painting a rough black against the blue sky over its head. The exhaustion slowly creeps back into frame, though it's a tinge more rosy this time around. The same bed I left an hour ago awaits me to crawl back in again; I slowly make my way back.
That afternoon we walk to Telegraph Hill, one of my favorite outdoor spots in San Francisco. The walk up the hilly streets is brutal and lasts forever but the view is so worth it. We stop to eat at a Korean-Mexican restaurant called "Tacorea;" the name is enough to entice us. I have a bowl of spicy pork and rice; we sit outside on the street in a make-shift covered area fashioned from reinforced panels of wood with a window of glass going all the way around the box. It has three walls and sits literally on the street: parked cars are in front and behind of this thing. The food was filling and leaves me thinking that Korean and Mexican food may not be so far apart after all.
Later that night we take the yellow-line to SFO. It amazes me that we were here only a day ago and in much more of a rush than we are now. Security is lazy and it's nearly 8PM. We eat a bit in the airport and grab a cup of coffee.
Transferring again at ATL we take the final leg home and arrive at 8:30AM. I barely slept on the flight home, so effectively I've slept only for 8 hours in the past 72 hours. The exhaustion is a little too much for me to even do trivial things on a Tuesday so I call in sick to my work, sending a note to my manager who is interestingly only a car-ride south of the city I left just 6 hours ago.
I leave my suitcase by the door, lock the apartment behind me, resume the air-conditioning and fold myself into the thick blankets on the bed. I sleep for 15 hours, eat a bite of Panera that my fiancé's picked up on his way home (he worked 4P — 8P) and resume sleeping through the night only to finally leave the bed Wednesday morning.
When I woke up that Wednesday morning I felt far, far better than I had the day before. As a matter of fact, I hadn't had such an abnormal sleep schedule since the week before.
I know that it will all be okay in the end. It's only a light change of plans after all.
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