The InsiderOne Daily Report
Thursday, April 19, 2001
One Hundred Daily Reports
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: "He doesn't want to do anything different," said the man, explaining to a visitor why the shop wasn't doing so well anymore. I was looking around the place, and eavesdropping as a journalist, it's hard not to. "He's not attracting many new customers," the man went on. "And his old ones come by, say hello, but don't buy much anymore. He needs to advertise in some new places." After a little while, the visitor asked, "So is he going to start advertising?" "No," said the man. "He won't change." Later that day, yesterday, I was in San Francisco's Mission District. It was overcast and kinda cold. Walking along Valencia Street past Modern Times bookstore, I felt nostalgic. There were some Last Gasp art books in the store's window: two on Frank Kozik and one on Winston Smith. One of the still-wonderful things about San Francisco is the weather, which is often overcast and cold. A cold, overcast day in San Francisco is like poetry. It's like a cool café. It brings back all that I love about the city. I moved to San Francisco when I was 21. It was in cold, overcast San Francisco, living in a $200-a-month flat in the Mission, not too many blocks from where I was walking yesterday, that I began my writing career. Even then, in 1975, Herb Caen used to periodically lament the changes that had occurred, and continued to occur, in what he once called "Baghdad by the Bay." My wife and I wrote the first piece of journalism we were paid for it was about the New Orleans group the Meters sitting at the kitchen table of our 16th Street flat, the one Howie Klein took over when we moved across town to the upper Haight a year or so later. That article was for Francis Ford Coppola's publication City of San Francisco, which the once-legendary Warren Hinckle of Ramparts magazine was editing at the time. In those days, ridiculous as it now strikes me, I thought of Hinckle and Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner as almost mythic beings. How did one crack the code, I would wonder. How did one become a "Rolling Stone writer"? Breaking into Hinckle's City of San Francisco was misleadingly easy. I was a copy boy at the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, so I asked a couple of writers the late Thomas Albright, an art critic at the Chronicle, and Paul Krassner, editor of The Realist if I could drop their names in a cover letter (written on Chronicle stationery, natch!) that I wanted to include with a completed story about The Meters. Sure, no problem. Sent in the story (and the letter) and less than a week later I was on the phone with the City of San Francisco arts editor who was telling me she was going to run the story. Wow! We'd struck gold! San Francisco felt wide open then. The future lay invitingly ahead. As a writer and photographer, I was on a journey, and the only direction I imagined I could go was up. Anything seemed possible. Passing Modern Times, seeing the Winston Smith book (Smith did cover art for the Dead Kennedys), I thought of 1977 and 1978, when punk swept over San Francisco, and I thought the Nuns were a lousy punk band and Crime looked good but couldn't play. The Avengers, though, they were about as good as it could get. I remember, one cold, overcast San Francisco day, sorting the mail at the Chronicle while listening to the Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles." A lot of people don't seem to want San Francisco to change, but it has changed. Long before the dot-com explosion, it had changed. It was always changing. In 1975, there were no punks, nor any punk clubs in San Francisco. By 1977, it was like the city was overrun with punk musicians and fans. Most of the good punk clubs the Deaf Club, the Mabuhay, the Sound of Music, On Broadway, the back room at the Savoy Tivoli, the Boarding House (not a punk club, but the venue where Television and the B-52's and Jonathan Richman and Patti Smith all played) are long, long gone. Aquarius Records, where I bought an import copy of "Anarchy in the UK," has been in four different locations, under two or possibly three ownerships, since I started buying records there. Howie Klein was doing PR when I first met him in San Francisco; he went on to practically run the S.F. punk scene (helping the Ramones come to the city for the first time, helping out the Clash when they came here to record Give 'Em Enough Rope), DJed some amazing radio shows at KSAN and KUSF, formed 415 Records and released Romeo Void's "Never Say Never." He's currently president of Reprise Records, working with Neil Young and Depeche Mode and Green Day, among others. Talk about changes! Certainly San Francisco was a more hospitable city when I first moved there. Now it seems like the whole city is being torn down and rebuilt. Huge construction is going on, particularly downtown, but in some of the neighborhoods as well. What are they building, and who is going to occupy the new skyscrapers? It's like they started their construction projects before the dot-com bubble burst, and now, even though there's all kinds of office space available, they can't just stop them. "He doesn't want to do anything different," the man had said. But you have to change. If you don't, life will rush on by and leave you behind. I was reflecting on the past on a cold and overcast day as I walked along Valencia Street, but then I got to Aquarius Records and bought the new Unwound album, Leaves Turn Inside You, and all I could think about was what's gonna happen tomorrow.
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Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.