Day 13: “Do you know the way to San Jose?”

14/07/2008 //

San Francisco – The Mystery Spot – Carmel

So a sad morning dawned – it was time to leave the Bay Area and head south. I wish I had more time here – I missed some friends, though I suspected I would’ve anyway, and I hadn’t quite the time to really sink back into the rhythm of the place, but who knows: maybe the moment had passed anyway. Still, I can’t say that I packed up without a slight sense of melancholy.

We did have one last thing to do, though: the cable car. You will have seen it on TV, in the movies, and most likely in every photo of San Francisco you’ve seen. Hell, Tony Bennett even sings about them in one of his best songs; the one memorable scene from Metro has a cable car, and overall, it just says SF.

Anyhoo, we showed up early; having been on the car many a time before, I nearly gave it a miss to catch up on some z’s, but thankfully I realized that was a fucking stupid thing to do and got up. It’s easier when you’re not particular about hygiene. Showerless at 8:30, we hit the Powell Street station.

The cable cars are awesome; you get to see a lot of the city, and you won’t suffer weary calfs. We got seats facing out, which was perfect, except for the family who suddenly appeared and jumped the handles to block the otherwise wonderful view. Now, I must say it was temping to give mom a nudge and see her scraped off on some truck, leaving me with an undiminished view of the city (and I should add that she really brought the experience down), but I am too decent for such things. Thus, I merely spent the ride hoping she would fall off or get mauled somehow, but rest assured, gentle reader: Nothing bad happened, but still…a guy can dream, right?

Anyway, we left the Bay and headed southwards. I misread the map and we ended up in suburban Palo Alto; I think Steve Jobs lives in the area; we then made our way past Cupertino where Apple’s impregnable fortress in located at One Infinite Loop. I nearly asked Stig do take the exit, but came to my senses.

Our first stop, therefore, was the Mystery Spot just outside Santa Cruz, another place I’d been to prior. Nearly 21 years earlier, actually. It’s notorious for doing weird things to your senses, like messing with your equilibrium, making you grow or shrink, and generally seeming to have a uncommitted relationship to the laws of physics. It’s difficult to explain; different stories have it that it’s some sort of magnetic pole, or that there’s an alien spaceship buried there and my favorite, that it’s all a mass hallucination. There’s a cabin built on the precise Mystery Spot, and it’s all weird angles and messed-up planes. You can’t quite find your balance in any way that makes sense, and you get dizzy pretty quickly. Maybe it’s a trick, but it’s still wonderfully done. I approached it from the sceptic’s point of view, but damned if I saw the seams.

We got the full tour, replete with terrible jokes from the tour guide, who looked like a scrawnier Shia Le Boeuf. I was alarmed to be surrounded by Frenchmen, but…oh, I can’t be bothered to make a joke here. Anyway, everything worked as announced and it was great fun.

After that, it was an easy ride down to Carmel-by-the-Sea. Clint Eastwood used to be the mayor of this little burgh. As a kid, I had a t-shirt with Clint in full Dirt Harry mode that said “don’t litter, punk” or words to that effect. Street signs are scarce in Carmel, so thank god for GPS. There wasn’t that much to do, so we ended up watching the Home Derby in New York (Josh Hamilton knocked that shit on its ass.), then went to see “Hancock”. It was a mellow way to end the day, but I have to admit that the Mystery Spot had been trippy enough.