In San Francisco, people are making things. All roads lead here. Andrew, a very nice guy who's good friends with friends and acquaintances of mine, drives me and a photographer who's a mutual friend out to the coast to take pictures. I have another prose/photo book in mind.
Dan Das Mann Studios makes industrial art, metal art, call it what you will. They cut metal with fire until it is pretty. A girl with orange hair and a cigarette she's not giving up on is blasting the hell out of a piece of steel. The photographer shifts in her leather trousers and comments quietly: "Girls who weld are hot."
Andrew's in publishing right now. He's trying to make the collectible card game into something richer and more interesting, moulding the form with his bare hands until it's something he wants to be in.
He used to live in the studio. He takes us down the road to show us the massive-scale steel version of the "Mouse Trap" game that a bunch of freaks hammered and welded together a while ago while in the grip of amphetamine psychosis. They finished it, stopped taking speed while pausing to admire it - and crashed before they could load it up and transport it to the playa for Burning Man.
A few days later, I'm shooting texture again, at the launch party for Kitchen Sink magazine. Kitchen Sink is really bloody good. I've spent the week going through it. The Ego Park gallery in Oakland is packed out. A few hundred people spill into the alley out back where the bands are performing. I'm quite taken with Young People, who throw out a slew of Velvet Undergroundy little artbombs. Authentic Cale violin howls. Someone violates a guitar with a drumstick. They came up here from LA to perform with headline band Erase Errata. They just needed gas money and food in return for going on. Making sound in the same place as Erase Errata was all they wanted.
Kitchen Sink editor Jen Loy is going to anchor the magazine here and in the coffee shop on the corner, which she's in the process of buying. It'll become an actual hub, a centre for creativity and energy. For making things.
Next night, I'm at Isotope Comics, a comics store on Noriega, gunfire distance from the ocean. Talking with Tristan Crane, one of the most promising new writers of this year, co-creator of HOW LOATHSOME, which is due to be published in book form by NBM next year. This city, served by several excellent stores, has a way of bringing new people into the medium with their own unique voices intact. Like Tristan, like Judd Winick (here with his wife Pam, who tells me she loved the end of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, which made me smile), like Lawrence Marvit (I don't think story is ever out of his head - he's building a new graphic novel up in there, reassembling all the pieces from a new angle every minute), like everyone in the whole crackling minicomics scene supported by Isotope and Comic Relief in Berkeley and all the rest.
Making things. Dragging reason and wildness and beauty out of the world, this place constantly lit like a warm easy English summer evening, and making it go down on the page so that other people can read it and discover everything with new eyes.
All roads lead here. I don't want to leave.