The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent: A Guide to San Francisco Summertime
Summer is upon us, not that we always have the traditional indicators of it in our fair city. Though we don’t have the 100 degree heat and thunderstorm sunsets of our East Coast friends (I was just there, it’s pretty nice…sigh), there’s still that indescribable essence of summer that has us wanting to leave work early, wear cute dresses, fall in love and wile away the hours with aimlessness and leisure. Here are just some of the most anticipated ways I will be wiling away my hours this summer.
This can include true adventuring far and wide of course. Thailand. Brooklyn. The Outer Banks. Belize. But what I want to talk about is Reno. Though you can certainly go to Reno year round, there is something extra special about going in the summer when this gem of a city rises up out of the desert heat to embrace you in all its grimy glamour. With some of the best thrift shopping around, really good restaurants and one wine/beer bar complete with cute bartenders, there’s also the go-go dancing delight that is Club Aura and the hidden Italian restaurant serving cold red wine in carafes, whose name I will not write here because it feels like a secret. But that’s the beauty of Reno. You will always discover something secret. A cut-throat karaoke competition with Dolly Parton look-alikes. An art piece of everyone’s life dreams written on a chalkboard in an empty parking lot. A beer festival with a rock band comprised of all the local cops. The fact that you have a dormant gambling addiction. There is of course also the thrill of sipping free watered down cocktails in an evening gown while traipsing over a carpet from the ’70s with your nearest and dearest, and practicing the zen of penny slots so as to only lose approximately $5 in 48 hours. Reno never gets old and is the best, cheapest summer getaway.
Austra’s new album is out and ever so good. Wailing and plaintive but still too-cool, fraught but composed, with lyrics seeking forgiveness and bemoaning being wronged, there’s everything to love about these girls. They will be playing at the Independent on June 26 and I will be there with bells on. The awesomely weirdo uber-hipster sisters of Prince Rama will be at The Chapel on July 1. On their website, they explain that they “invented ten different pop bands that died during the apocalypse, channeling the ghosts of each one to perform the various songs.” It sort of sounds like that, even if they are elaborately kidding. And then Soft Metals is at the Rickshaw on July 24 (with a new album out July 16). I saw them play last fall and they were AH-MAZING, louder and more layered and intense than I would have guessed. Not to mention Washed Out’s new album arrives on August 13. Amping up the anticipation is the dreamy, kaleidoscopic little teaser above. Oh Ernest, I cannot wait!
Rebecca Solnit’s newest, The Faraway Nearby, is just out. In preparation, I’m getting caught up by reading Wanderlust, her freakishly incredible and beyond well-researched book that makes one of my favorite pastimes, taking walks, seem like a transcendent activity that embodies history, philosophy, religion, art and a few other little things. Solnit writes essays that are somehow, always, about everything. If you haven’t read A Field Guide to Getting Lost (Beyonce has…which kind of blows my mind!), then get on that. The title alone should have you swooning. Bonus low brow book: Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations, is out this summer too. I read an excerpt in Vanity Fair on the plane (see #1) and, despite myself, was riveted. I don’t think it’s just because I was trying to forget I was thousands of feet above the earth, but it might have been. Summer is also a good time to catch up on winter and spring books you might not have gotten to yet like James Salter’s newest, All That Is and the lovely Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove.
I saw The Bling Ring last night, and despite some critiques I don’t have space for here, overall I found it to be scathing and sad and it garnered one beer’s worth of post-movie analysis (not bad!). Only God Forgives has me excited for reasons other than red-lit hallways occupied by Ryan Gosling (I swear). Bangkok, one of my favorite cities, as imagined by Nicolas Winding Refn, seems sinister and intriguing. In the preview, Ryan has only one line and the mood certainly brings to mind the last collaboration between this director-actor duo, Drive, which I feel like I mention too much, but what can you do? In a world where summer movies usually mean blockbusters, there is Elysium, the second offering from District 9 director, Neill Blomkamp, which looks like the right combo of blockbustery and not, an unsettling and smart science fiction, if his previous efforts are any indicator. I’m also waiting patiently for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, with a moody 1970s Texas as its backdrop, complete with dusty roads and clotheslines, cops and outlaws. The Princess Bride is playing in Dolores Park on August 3. Watching movies in Dolores is truly one of my favorite things. The only way to make this even better is by ordering Pizzeria Delfina beforehand and getting a bottle of wine. Then just sit outside in the dark of your beautiful city to watch a classic with bad sound, get cozy under a blanket and feel as if life is insanely good if somehow it has led you to this night and this place (not to be dramatic about it or anything).
You can wander Sunday Streets (on the Great Highway and in the Mission and Tenderloin respectively), or go buy that cute summer dress at No Shop. And make sure to see John Chiara’s awesome photography when it’s up at Pier 24 in July (get a sneak peek in the latest issue of Harper’s). He uses hand-built cameras that manipulate the exposure as the image appears. My favorites are glowy and faded, capturing oceans, deserts, refracted sunlight and pale blue sky, evoking the nostalgic-for-what’s-happening-right-this-second feeling of summer itself.Related