New decade new direction, and so it was in 1990 that I set foot in the USA for the first time! I flew from London to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport, got off the plane, bundled into a mini bus with British folk singer Roger Whittaker, “Oh Hello” says me somewhat dazed. “Hello! Nice to meet you!” says Roger equally surprised at the situation – I’m not sure he expected to be on the mini bus either! Anyway a few minutes later, we parted company and were in the terminal building. I then got taken aside by the airport authorities, and was interviewed for about an hour. I had been to Czechoslovakia a couple years earlier, as regular readers may remember, they left a “USSR” stamp in my passport – I was a young single male, with little luggage. I’d have done the same! Anyway enough time to grab a coffee, I remember a small plane hanging inside the terminal – my memory says it was the Spirit of St Louis, but these days I’m not sure. Soon I was on another plane headed for my destination – San Francisco!
When I was free of SF airport I picked up a phone, booked a room, and a minibus picked me up. I checked in, had a shower and fell sleep on the bed. What a day! Next morning the California sun was out, I was refreshed the world was good. I got myself into the city, sorted out somewhere to stay for the next few nights, and then set off exploring.
I think at this point I had a Cosina CT4 as my main stills camera, backed up with a Kodak compact camera of some sort. I was also shooting movie film in full cinemascope, so had a tripod too. I took both black and white, Tmax 400, and colour neg, mostly Agfa XRG 200 in its white box. Anyone remember that stuff? I can tell you this, not from memory but the imprint on the neg edge. First day I was downtown, decided to go arty, so loaded up the b/w. I soon decided that this was a colourful place and shot only the one first roll, the remainder of the trip was colour. I ran out so the last couple of rolls were good old Gold 200 – happy days when one could just walk into a store and buy some.
I was born and raised in UK, and lived here all my life, but for some strange reason, the USA gave me a feeling that I’ve never experienced anywhere else on my travels. I’ve loved many other places, enjoyed them immensely, but whenever I step foot in USA it just feels right! I feel like I ought to live there – there is something that I am still unable to quantify that just chimes with me. Perhaps it’s all the movies I watched in my formative years, but I think it’s more than that, something deeper. It happens every time I go – even now.
Anyway, back to time travelling, I took in all the sights a tourist does. Tram from outside Woolworths to Hyde Pier. Golden Gate, Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, a boat trip around Alcatraz and under Golden Gate Bridge. Another day I took a trip over the bridge and out to Sausalito, and Muir Woods. Lombard Street, and the Chinese quarter, were also on the list. I had a blast!
Tony Bennett sang about leaving his heart in San Francisco, I certainly left a bit of mine there too. Sadly though, time was up – I had a ticket booked to take me south to L.A. That’s another story – and one for Pt2!