Wednesday, 25 October 2017

9 Nights in Madrid


Source: La Bobia Laberinto de Pasiones.

On my first night I raced through the city at sunset on a motorbike as the wind lifted the hem of my dress above my bare knees... A few days later, an enchanting Colombian girl took me to an ancient tapas bar with no chairs and the best tortilla in Madrid. Then there was the time my friend Martina, a willowy Austrian with Marc Bolan curls, invited me to watch the cult Super 8 film 'Arrebato' at the Filmoteca, followed by vermouth at a bar where they only played vinyl and everyone had long shiny hair. One evening I strolled through Retiro Park, queasy, yet enjoying the dusk cloaking the trees in shadows. 


A still from 'Arrebato', 1979.
Every night was different, and many were calm (noodles, movies on the sofa) so I'll just tell you about my last night. On Saturday, I put on a long striped dress and met my friend Guillermo at the metro, along with an exciting Mexican girl named Mayra. First we went to a classic nightclub that reminded me of some cruise ship disco from the 80s (not that I've been on any cruise ships or to discos in the 80s - but one can imagine - a James Bond set where Grace Jones appears - in a velvet catsuit, right?)

Grace Jones in Vogue

My friend Will invited us there to see his band play. The audience was loving Flat Worms, dancing, drumming their fingers on lanky thighs, and murmuring excitedly, even though it was only seven o'clock, which is practically the middle of the afternoon in Spain. After the gig we walked to a quiet bar called Picnic, where they serve cheap beers and frozen piña coladas. 


madrileño, source unknown.
Next we fortified ourselves at Aio, a delicious Italian restaurant. My other friend named Guillermo, a fascinating young professor, was waiting for us with a round of Aperol Spritzes. Mayra's tales of wildness had everyone laughing. Everyone was getting along swimmingly. Soon we were calling the guys 'Los Tres Guillermos'.

After the feast of pasta and tiramisu, we stepped into a bar with faded rock posters and old covers of Melody Maker collaged onto the walls and ceilings. Girls were drawing on boys' arms; boys were looking at girls, while others played pool in the corner. I chanced upon an empty barstool and began the tower of coats with my sky-blue raincoat. Mayra and I danced to the 70s rock & roll and soon everyone joined us.

After it got too crowded, we ambled through a parade of debauchery in Malasaña, to a nightclub called Trashcan. We checked out the mostly Mod and psych crowd and found a spot near the dj. He was picking out the best 45s. Every song was fantastic. He put on the Buzzcock's single 'Ever Fallen in Love...' Everybody danced and sang along and swerved into each other with that elation that appears sometime between midnight and dawn. We met new friends, danced and hollered, and continued on our disco safari.

I found some pretty girls on the way to the next little club and invited them to join us. The brisk walk was enormously refreshing. We were ready for more dancing and excitement. Much frolicking later, it was the hour to part. To hunt for taxicabs that would deliver us to different corners of the city. We sauntered into the night, half-dreaming of sleep and tall glasses of water.



MARGO'S GUIDE TO MADRID

DAYTIME FUN

-Check out obscure films at the beautiful Cine Doré. Tickets cost around 3 euros.
-Madrid has some of the best art museums in the world. Modern art fans should check out the Reina Sofia Museum. It's massive and maze-like so bring a snack or have lunch and a coffee first. If you like traditional art (e.g. Velasquez and Goya) visit the Prado. The Fundación Canal usually has interesting shows and it's free. Here are my top picks of exhibitions on now/ this fall:
+Mucha at Palacio de Gaviro. Czech Art Nouveau in a beautiful palace with shell sinks. €12.
+Magnum Photos at Fundación Canal. Famous photographs and their contact sheets. Free.
+Zuolaga en el Paris de la Belle Epoque at Fundación Mapfre. Painted portraits. €3.
+Nicholas Nixon at Fundación Mapfre. American photographer. €3.
+Picasso/ Lautrec at Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. Paintings. €12.

-On Sundays, wander around El Rastro flea market for knickknacks, comic books and sexy magazines from the 70s. It ends around 2 or 3 pm.

-Pop into the bookshops and vintage stores in Malasaña (that's vaguely the Dalston/ Echo Park/ Bushwick of Madrid.)
Madrid in the 80s, source unknown.
THE BEST FOOD (All these are carnivore and vegetarian friendly.)

-My favorite restaurant is 80 Grados. Amazing menu del dia (4 dishes & a drink at lunchtime for 12.50). Try the salmorejo with parmesan ice cream, the truffled egg, and the crazy tiramisu. Make a reservation. c/Manuela Malasaña, 10. 914-458-351.
-Bodega de la Ardosa. Casual tapas bar from 1892. Try the croquetas. Veggies can also ask for a salad or salmorejo minus the jamon. Calle de Colón, 13.
-Chan Street. Chinese street food in Chueca/ Gran Via. (Though the menu appears to be non-vegetarian, veggies can ask which noodle dishes can be made with tofu instead of meat.) Try the saucy onion and garlic noodles, and green beans. Calle de Barbieri, 4.
-Casa Lafu. Elegant Sichuan Chinese restaurant. Calle Flor Baja, 1.
-Aio. Sardinian restaurant in Malasaña, open late. Try the saccottino pasta. Calle Corredera Baja de San Pablo, 25.

-Fratelli d'Italia. Tasty, simple takeaway pizza place with a few seats in Lavapies. Try the arancini and Carbonara pizza. Calle del Sombrerete, 1.

-Fit Food. Fantastic salads and cold-pressed juices when you need to detox. Not all have the salads (there are 4) but this one does: Calle Génova 25. I suggest the avocado, edamame, tofu, mozzarella, egg, and quinoa salad with pesto dressing. They have lunch deals too for 10.

THE BEST BARS

-Bar Benteveo. Low-key, 70s vibes. Near Lavapies. c/Santa Isabel, 15.
-La Aguja. They only play vinyl, mostly rock & roll, friendly hip crowd. Calle del Ave María, 25
-Toni 2. Classic bar where everyone, young and old, stands around a grand piano and sings Spanish songs. Calle del Almte., 9.
-Picnic. Quiet cafe and bar with tea, beer, and cocktails. Calle Minas, 1.
-JoséAlfredo. Cocktail bar. A little pricey. Calle de Silva, 22.
-El Palentino. Simple, cheap, old-school locals' bar. Calle del Pez, 8.
-Or just walk around Lavapies and Malasaña and see what you find!

A bar in Malasaña, October 2017.


 SMALL DISCOS & LATE NIGHT SPOTS


-Trashcan Music Club (check for 60s nights), La Vía Láctea (rock/indie scene), Wurlitzer (hit or miss but open very late, usually rock music.)
-Feel free to add more in the comments - I haven't covered the electro scene here...

Monday, 9 October 2017

An Afternoon at Dali's House!


Last night my father appeared again. We haven't seen each other since we wandered around the neon alleys of Athens. I suggest we go to Cadaqués to visit the house of Salvador Dali.


The next morning we dress in sky blue to get into a surrealist mood. I wear a mini-dress from the 60s with shiny black shoes. My father wears a cotton button-down shirt with blue trousers and suede brogues. On the train in Barcelona, we nibble a picnic of focaccia, carrots, and tea. Two trains and a car-ride later we arrive in the seaside town where Dali lived with his wife Gala.


Dali's house consists of several fisherman dwellings combined together, overlooking the Mediterranean. As expected, it's decorated with imaginative touches: local swans preserved for eternity and suspended from the ceiling, a large glass snail clock, the head of a rhinoceros flanked by wings above a matching stone table with white benches, fake books used to disguise a radiator...


Dali's garden is equally intriguing. Several gigantic eggs decorate the landscape. Next to a long swimming pool there is a bright pink vinyl sofa in the shape of lips, where visitors gleefully pose.


We amble down a hill into town in search of food. Most of the restaurants are closed at this hour. Just when crabbiness is closing in I spot one of my favorite words: GALETTES. We sit at a small table facing the sea. My father orders a beer and tuna cooked in vermouth served in a tin with the letters MF on the front. I enjoy a massive crepe filled with the fluffiest cheese soufflé in the world. The texture is light and psychedelic. It's like biting into sea foam, except the flavor is creamy not salty.
Across the road, a tall woman leads a horse to a wooden bench. She hops on the bench, jumps on the horse and rides away.

After lunch we walk to the shore. Summer has gone but the sun is strong today. I undress and swim in the chilly water, among long silver fish.


We catch a bus through the countryside. As the sun paints the sky rose we pass a small city set on numerous canals. Every house has a boat out front. I imagine on a map the city is shaped like an octopus, each tentacle representing a canal. My father tells me stories about my grandfather, how he was a great dancer, and my grandmother, who met him on a dancefloor in San Francisco. We talk all the way back to Figueres.

Here I am in Figueres

MARGO'S QUICK GUIDE TO CADAQUES

-FOOD: Guer Bakery has delicious little cakes to take on the train. Try the rum cake and the Sacher Torte. For lunch/ dinner enjoy the crepes and tapas at Versatil on Plaça del Passeig, 3.

-Plan your trip several days in advance. You can only get into Dali's house by making a reservation at least 2-3 days before. If for some reason you just turn up, if you're extremely persuasive you can get on the waiting list for that day.

-How to get there: Ideally go by car. Or: from Barcelona you can take a fast train or a cheaper slow train to Figueres. Then you can catch a bus to Cadaqués, which takes 1-2 hours. The bus only goes a few times a day and is often late. Or you can take a taxi in Figueres for 40-60 euros. From the town of Cadaqués it's about a 15 minute walk up a hill to Dali's House. The Dali Museum is in Figueres so if you have time, you might prefer that to Dali's house. Or stay overnight and see both.


Saturday, 1 April 2017

Vienna, The Charmer

Chocolates from Demel

Two hours of sleep, dry sandwiches in the morning, and then we were flying over Swiss mountains. The plane cruised over a sea of clouds lapping at the bottom of the bluish peaks. We changed planes in Zurich and landed in Vienna.


A few hours later, after devouring hot wiener schnitzels with lemon basil sauce at an excellent vegan diner, we stepped into The Purple Cave. It was a small, slightly expensive vintage shop packed to the rafters with 60’s hotpants, 70’s dresses, patterned shirts and collectables including a white mini trench-coat and a leatherette catsuit with cutouts down both sides. I tried on an Ossie Clark-style navy wool dress. My company (El Lobo and Viri the pretty Hungarian) lounged in the tiny bar in the back of the store, surrounded by art books and torn sexy cinema posters. They sipped cold beers and listened to records. I bought the dress.
The Purple Cave

That afternoon we wandered around Vienna’s elegant streets past dapper old couples and horse-drawn carriages. A white-haired gentleman in a plaid three-piece suit put his camel-colored coat around his sweetheart’s shoulders. An Austrian Aphrodite with wavy red hair scurried to the metro in a long coat and stiletto heels. A young man with an angular face and sad eyes clutched a bunch of flowers on the tram. He looked just like an Egon Schiele painting. A car discreetly nearly ran us over…but everything was so calm and quiet we forgot about it moments later.


After investigating the whereabouts of the best Sacher Torte in Vienna, we visited Oberlaa Café. No queues, no obscene prices, just a café filled with locals and a glass case of sweet concoctions. We ate omelettes dusted with chives and oozing with melted cheese. And dessert? Behold the famous chocolate Sacher Torte and a Himbeer-Schaum Schnitte. The second treat was made of a layer of moist sponge cake, cream, tart juicy raspberries, and a thick layer of gooey meringue on top.  I also recommend the Austrian version of a Monte Bianco, a moist chestnut torte. It’s the perfect fuel for a museum marathon.

Industrial Vienna, very different from the rest of the city

 Another day, another thrill for the sartorially inclined: the dirndl outlet, right in the center of town. Imagine a forest of old-fashioned cotton dresses in every color. Viri and I parked the fellas at 1516, the nearby pub, while we tried on pale blue dirndls with cherry red aprons and crisp white blouses. I felt like Liesl in The Sound of Music, running to the gazebo.

We drifted in the frosty sunshine to a crowded restaurant, where El Lobo and I had a dramatic quarrel, the kind where you unearth shards of past arguments and present them with minor disappointments of the day. Tears on eyelashes.  Silence. He smoked a cigarette. I nibbled on a lemon wafer. Apologies. We walked in the fading sun looking forward to ice cream cones and the peace of sleep.


MARGO’S GUIDE TO VIENNA
(with help from the beautiful Martina)
TO DO
-Visit the museums. There’s a great Egon Schiele exhibit on at the Albertina (until June 18, 2017) but if you miss it the Leopold has a collection of Schiele and Klimt paintings. The upper Belvedere has a surprisingly boring collection, with the exception of Klimt’s ‘The Kiss.’ Skip it if you’re short on time. Vienna’s natural history museum is excellent.
-Take an Art Nouveau tour.
-Hunt for vintage clothes and stop for a beer at The Purple Cave. (Neubaugasse 78.)
-Buy spices, little gifts, and Middle Eastern snacks at the Naschmarkt (market) on Saturday.
-Visit old-fashioned, smoky coffeehouses like Café Bendl (Landesgerichstrasse 6, open late some days.)
-If it’s sunny and warm hang out in the bars by the canal.
-If you like traditional dress buy a dirndl. They’re pretty and usually very expensive…unless you go to an outlet like Original Salzburger Trachen, on Weinburggasse 8, near the metro Stephensplatz. Try on a size smaller than you usually wear. They also have new but vintage style suede shoes, blouses, and bras.

TO EAT
-Try the wiener schnitzel (a flat, breaded cutlet of veal, pork or chicken, often served with potato salad and a slice of lemon.)
-If you’re vegetarian/vegan Vienna has lots of options. I love Swing Kitchen, a cheap, casual vegan diner with fantastic schnitzel, “chicken” nuggets, homemade cola, apple soda and beer. Schottenfeldgasse 3, close to Zieglergasse metro station and The Purple Cave.
-Drink spicy chili beer and sample the apple strudel (a delicious combination) at 7 Stern Braeu, a microbrewery in the 7th district. Seibensterngasse 19. Open 11 am-midnight.
-Snack on dreamy pastries at Kurkonditorei Oberlaa. Neuer Markt 16. Metro: Stephansplatz.
-If you like fancy chocolates in beautiful boxes buy presents at Demel. Kohlmarkt 14.
-Have a drink at Das Moped. They make a tasty curry mango cocktail and it’s open on Sunday. Avoid the cake though. Salmgasse 23, Metro: Rochugasse.

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CITY NOTES: Most shops and many cafes and bars are closed on Sunday, though most museums are open. If you’ll be zipping around town a lot get a 2 or 3-day metro pass. Many cafes and bars allow smoking inside (Das Moped has an awesome though fragrant 60s smoking room in the back.) Dogs are welcome in many restaurants, shops, and on the metro.
The metro in Vienna, March 2017

Thursday, 23 March 2017


I wrote this short story a little while ago…



The Sharper One

I met her in Rome, where she bought me a red wool cape. Then we drove up to a small town in Tuscany, where she was working on a massive house, guarded by monumental rusty gates and a pack of dogs.  She unlocked the gates and the door and showed me into the drafty house with stone floors.

I felt the strange panic approaching, the imprisoned feeling I usually get when I’m in the countryside. There’s no escaping thoughts and solitude in the silence of the country. Without the multitudes of people and things around me I might become someone else.

I unpacked my suitcase, carefully taking out all the clothes I thought my mother would approve of. Stylish combinations to quiet her prickly concern.  If everything was in top condition, unwrinkled, then there would be one less thing for her to comment on.  I wanted to be close to my mother but I didn’t know how to talk to her. She speaks to me as if I am a half-finished painting in need of repair, one that she has been working on for many years that bears the mark of the artist. I try to communicate through my clothes, wearing what might amuse her or please her.

The next day my sister’s boyfriend brought his best friend over for lunch. The two men moved through the room with the relaxed confidence of people who don’t have many things to worry about. My sister’s boyfriend John was a doctor and his friend, William, was a photographer. 

“You’re a photographer? How fascinating!” my mother declared. “Come and see the pictures of Margarita!” She led William to my sister’s photographs of me. She lingered on a large black and white picture of me, half-naked, floating in a lake. A topless Ophelia washed up on Long Island.

“It was very cold that day…” I offered.
“I see, ” he replied, glancing at the photograph.

We resumed our places at the long wooden table. My mother poured more wine in everyone’s glasses. She served homemade cake and told us to have fun on our walk. I gulped two glasses of Campari in the kitchen while the others bundled up.

William drove while I looked at his Ipod, picking out French pop songs from the 90s. The four of us tumbled out for our winter walk over Etruscan trails, past a massive heart made of rocks and a circle of kids smoking by a heap of bikes. My sister and her boyfriend walked behind us, holding hands. We forged forward. The Campari made me more conversational, and lively, though I wondered if I smelled like Marcello Mastroianni on a Sunday morning.  I felt intimidated by William’s beautiful chestnut-coloured suede Chelsea boots, probably one of many pairs since he was wearing these ones on a muddy walk.  I wanted his comfortable life, to travel and take pictures, and beyond that, the rest of it was a mystery, peppered with offhand mentions of Venice in the spring or a wedding in Florence. 

John led us past a waterfall to an ancient chapel carved into a cave. Sunlight filtered in, painting the inside a soft golden colour.  William took pictures of my sister and John dipped in shadows. The afternoon faded away. We walked back to the car. I sat in the front and peeled a clementine and fed a few segments to William while he kept his eyes on the road.

After they dropped us off my mother was quiet and then she said, “Maybe you can marry William.” 

I turned to her and clenched my fists “What are you talking about? I just met him! What makes you think I even like him?”
“Why do you always date those frail destitute gay men?”
“They’re not gay, they’re from London! There’s a difference!” I shouted. I ran to my room, feeling like a teenager, and searched for a notebook to write in.

A few days later, my sister’s boyfriend came by with his friend to take us to dinner.

“Do you want to make your famous negronis?” my mother asked.  A glass beaker was taken down from the shelf and filled with ruby liquid and passed around the room.  My mother suggested we go to the hot springs.  She waved us goodbye.

After a dinner of pasta and red wine and animals for the boys, we parked by the springs around midnight. My sister stripped off all her clothes and bounded in. Her boyfriend disappeared behind her. I unzipped my dress and wished I had worn newer underwear. I waded into the water, a flash of white cotton and winter-pale skin. William cloaked himself under a large blue towel and changed into long swimming trunks. He crept in after us. 

The warm darkness beckoned so I stumbled over the rocks and sat down near a small waterfall. Somewhere in the steam my sister was falling and laughing, her blurry shape colliding into the shadows of her love’s arms. The December air bit at my shoulders as hot water rushed around my waist, pulling me in.  The ravioli and wine acted as sedative. I was making peace with the evening.

Tucked into the springs, wavy hair licking my shoulders, I stared at the stars.  I moved and felt another set of limbs. I tentatively felt the leg – definitely not mine.  There was a moment of stillness, of contemplating whether this was a throne or a man, and then he drifted to the right. William was gone in a few splashes. Did I frighten him? My sister called me. It was growing cold. It was time to drive home. As I dried off I saw William’s car speed away.

“He’s so uptight,” my sister commented, “and ‘Rita, you were really drunk at dinner.”
“I know.  I was nervous.”
We zoomed through the deserted country roads, singing along to the dance music.  After two hours the lights of the house parted the blackness. We were home.

In the morning my mother drove me to see the Etruscan tombs. I scaled the fence and met her by the rocks. We walked along the slippery path in the drizzle, silent except for the soles of our shoes brushing along the rock, the dirt, and the leaves. We have so much in common and yet I didn’t know what to say.

On my last night I was packing my suitcase in my room.
“Are you wearing men’s underwear?” my mother accused, appearing in my room like a phantom.
“This is why you’re still single…” she continued.
“These are my pyjamas: boxer shorts, a shirt – I didn’t think anyone would be seeing them on this trip.”
“Didn’t I give you silk pyjamas for Christmas last year?”
“I have lots of nice pyjamas at home, for when I have an audience. I have Agent Provocateur pyjamas!”
“Then why don’t you throw those away?”
“They’re comfortable.  I didn’t realise there was a dress code for bed around here.”

She picked up the red cape, picked up black thread, and began sewing a velvet ribbon on it, to keep it closed against the wind. She jabbed the needle through in messy, angry stitches.

“You’re so ungrateful. Oh, how I suffered being forced to go to all those excellent schools and ski trips! The torture, the spiders, the injustice! It’s so hard. So, where do you want to live, the ghetto?” she mocked.

“I don’t live in the ghetto! I live near the Central Line. East London is not the ghetto.  I have a great apartment. Why are you always disappointed in me?”

“You’ve become really high-strung. You’ve got to get out of advertising,” she snapped.

“Why do you think I’m in advertising? For the life-affirming deep satisfaction that I’m improving people’s lives? No, I do it for…”

I couldn’t tell her how I wanted to impress her, to get her approval. I thought if I made some money she wouldn’t act so dissatisfied with me. She would notice me, or maybe even praise me.

“It’s your life. What are you going to do?” she asked.

“I don’t know.”

 The next morning we all woke up just before dawn. My sister cooked scrambled eggs and my mother packed snacks for the drive and wrapped up a jar of Nutella for me to take home. My sister and I got in the car; jammed with suitcases and pictures she had to deliver to Sicily. She started the car and fastened her seatbelt. I opened the door and jumped out. I ran back in and gave my mother a hug. I felt like a child. My sister honked. The grass was dewy as I stepped over it, back to the boxy little car that reminded me of a cassette tape.  The car coughed over the rocks. The sun rose over the gate as it closed behind us.

-Margo Fortuny


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Thursday, 21 July 2016

To Wander in Athens


I see him once a year, more if I’m lucky. He meets me at a small hotel near the Acropolis, elegant as always, sporting olive green trousers, a crisp shirt, English suede brogues, and an olive kerchief. His bearded face smiles. He pushes my suitcase into the small, mirrored elevator and I follow him. 

My bag is so heavy it looks like I have bite-marks on my shoulder. Luggage bites. I shouldn’t have brought so many books. Here I am in Athens with my father. I show him the present brought him from Spain: a chunk of manchego cheese. We hear a car stop outside and peer over the balcony. Daisy has arrived.

An hour later we are wandering around the Acropolis. We see a man singing on the street and Daisy stops to talk to him. My father shows us the city with an ice cream cone in one hand. He delights in pointing out the narrow streets, old neon signs, hidden corners, and fashionable bars. We stop in a subterranean spot, The Speakeasy. I order a gin & tonic with white peppercorns and a slice of grapefruit. More drinks, more stories. Dinner follows. We feast at Tzitzikas & Mermingas. After a digestive stroll to the hotel Daisy presents us with chocolates from Fortnum & Mason. My father leaves, manchego in hand.

The next day Daisy and I visit the Acropolis Museum. She marvels at the vertigo-inducing glass floors. We pause in front of a statue of Aphrodite. Her stone face is stained with copper eyelash tears.

I want to visit the Classic Car Museum but there isn’t time. Soon we are on the boat, perusing the 60s pulp paperbacks Daisy brought from London. They are obscene and hilarious. Together we devour the hours.







A QUICK GUIDE TO ATHENS (PART TWO)

Visit The Acropolis, the Acropolis Museum, the classic car museum, and the Benaki Museum.

If you’re exploring the Acropolis, make an evening of it and walk to the fantastic gelateria La Greche, have a cocktail at Speakeasy (address: Lekka 12, Syntagma), then have a bite at Tzitzikas & Mermingas.

According to my Athenian friends here are some fun Athenian areas to walk around in:
Koukaki (artistic, good for nightlife, close to Plaka and the Acropolis.
Mets (hip bars and restaurants. Check out Hotel Chelsea.)
Petralona (cool cafés)

Here are some other semi-secret bars...

There are lots of hipper places to stay but if you want somewhere friendly, basic, and clean, in a convenient neighborhood the Acropolis Select Hotel is good.

You can read about my last trip to Athens here.

The view from the ferry.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Let's Swing by San Francisco

Heading to Twin Peaks.
I couldn’t wait to get on the road again. When my friend John called we decided to go on a spontaneous trip up to San Francisco. Would the city have the same magic I remembered? I feared San Francisco had been taken over by people who find their own reality so lifeless they’ve taken to wearing computers wrapped around their heads, disguised as spectacles…luckily, this was not the case. Not yet.

We left that night, which happened to be dark and stormy. The trouble started in Malibu. Hours of rain, flash flooding, and the endless line for In n’ Out Burger suggested the apocalypse was near. Then I remembered this is what happens when the sun doesn’t shine in Southern California. Fries in our laps, we floated down the highway. Captain Searcy steered through the deluge, past sleepy motorists, half-lit motels, the hours dropping away, until those famous streets unraveled before us. Blue skies unfurled in the Mission.

Jeff, an East-Coast musician who had journeyed west years ago, was standing on his porch. He wore a sweatshirt from the 80s with tight, faded blue jeans. Tall, smiling, happily familiar, he led us inside. We left our suitcases in a cozy room filled with instruments.
Jeff in the sunshine.

After lunch at the oldest soda fountain in San Francisco, Jeff showed us around his neighborhood. We walked up Valencia Street, stopping into most of the vintage shops. The best one was called Wallflower, where I bought a foxy baby-blue 1970s A-line coat. We had dinner, Eton Mess-flavor ice cream, and went home. Lights on, shoes off, Jeff gave in to sleep.

John, probably deciding what to wear tonight.


John and I prepared for the evening ahead, encouraged by glasses of Margoritas. John, ever straight and not feeling sartorially adventurous, disagreed with my suggestion of pairing his narrow Alexander McQueen suit with his high-top converse, and my 1960s polka-dot kerchief. I wore a long, backless 70s dress. Hands filled with brushes, powders, and clips, like some glamorous octopus, I teased my hair up as if my last name was Bardot.
Our taxi careened over to Rickshaw Stop, where The Chocolate Watchband was playing. My favorite part of the concert was the old man in the Greek fisherman cap who made all the psychedelic visuals by hand. He arranged his colorful sorcery with glass screens, plastic wrap, pipettes of vivid liquid, and a projector. The crowd was young, dancing, enchanted. Willowy girls smiled at handsome faces. Long hair brushed against long hair. They were all clad in bright patterned clothes made before they were born. It was exciting to see my new friends I had met in Austin and older friends made on previous trips. 
Afterwards, six of us squeezed into a little car. It was all hands and jostling knees in the backseat, soundtracked by Jacques Dutronc. Je suis content. Everyone tumbled out to a friendly party in one of those classic San Francisco houses with big bay windows. Cold beers appeared. Two pretty blonds melted into a large cushion shaped like a deflated brioche. Lanky pairs kissed in the corridors. We danced all night.
The next day Jeff, John, and Justin, (a favorite neighbor from my Echo Park days, now a local) drove up to Twin Peaks. The city stretched out all around us, framed by the Pacific Ocean. Afterwards, we strolled around Golden Gate Park and the Palace of Fine Arts. 
A few burritos later it was time to go. I said my goodbyes and we drove across the famous bridge, listening to the Beach Boys. Next stop, Los Angeles.
The Palace of Fine Arts.

Walking around The Palace of Fine Arts...

MARGO’S QUICK GUIDE TO SAN FRANCISCO
TO DO:
Get to the De Young Museum early – the temporary exhibitions tend to sell out.  50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, 94118.
Get lost in the newly-revamped SFMOMA. This massive modern art museum has an excellent Gerhard Richter collection and the kind of gift store you can pick up all your birthday/ Christmas presents in one swoop. 151 3rd St, 94103.
Admire the wonderful view from Twin Peaks. (No relation to David Lynch’s world of cherry pie and murder.) 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, 94114.
Have a lazy wander around the Palace of Fine Arts. It’s a picturesque building from 1915, (not a museum) bordered by a pond where swans loll about. 3301 Lyon St, 94123.
Check out the vintage shops on Valencia Street in the Mission. I loved ‘Wallflower’ at 1176 Valencia.
If you have time, explore Oakland. (When the tech boom led to the current over-priced housing market, that’s where most of the cool people without rent-controlled apartments moved.)

TO EAT:
Have brunch at the charming Saint Francis Soda Fountain, funded in 1918. Order the nebulous potato thing with eggs and cornbread, trust me. 2801 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Pig & Pie, also in the Mission, also has delicious bunch/ lunch. Not for vegans though there is a great baked egg dish if you’re vegetarian. 2962 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110.
Ice cream fans, check out the imaginative flavors at Humphry Slocombe in the Mission. ‘Secret Breakfast’ is a big hit. 2790A Harrison St.

This city is also famous for burritos so ask around. Actually there are hundreds of fantastic restaurants there – feel free to comment.
I confess, I took this one on my previous trip to San Francisco.