California and the first opportunity to put my vinyl-collecting plan into action. The results were disappointing - bringing me into contact with a few dangerous crazies.
If you didn't read my Keeping Record post, the idea is that by buying a record everywhere I go, my souvenir becomes an audio cue for my memory every time I play it and it also forces me to seek out independent stores when I visit somewhere new.
These stores usually have to base themselves in areas with lower rent so their neighbourhoods are less-visited by tourists and often also harbour cool book stores and galleries.
I thought it a solid plan and my first opportunity to use it came in San Francisco last week. By chance, my fiancee was also in town with her work and we'd arranged to meet for lunch.
I had a few hours to kill before then so I fired up Google and found RS94109, a dance music specialist on Larkin Street. The Guitar Store was relatively nearby too so I headed there first to try out a few six-strings. RS94109 was on a nice circular route back to Union Square, where Alice was working, so I trudged down to the Tenderloin district.
San Francisco has a problem with homelessness but last time I was in the city, two years ago, it was a problem on the scale of London's. Which is to say there's too much of it (any amount is too much, of course) but it's not overwhelming. And London's homeless are for the most part people who have gone through some tough times and maybe too much alcohol or a few too many drugs.
This seemed the same in SF back in 2014. Now, though, it seems different in scale and substance. Because a large percentage of those guys are severely mentally ill. These aren't the people asking for change for a cup of tea, keeping a sad-eyed dog to tug the heartstrings a little more. These are the people screaming incomprehensibly at each other, at cars or at nothing at all.
And they smell bad. Really, really bad.
The city authorities are considering declaring a state of emergency over the problem but they didn't help when they bulldozed a homless camp last year, forcing people who had been in tents and under tarps into doorways and bus shelters instead.
The shockwaves are across the city but guess where the epicentre is? That's right, Tenderloin, where I was now quickening my step and trying to avoid the locals most likely to freak out. But they were everywhere. It was such a sad sight to see so many mentally ill people in one place, seemingly abandoned by society.
I found RS94109 with little difficulty and it had closed down. So I left the neighbourhood at full pace and empty handed. I would have liked to have taken a few pictures but it didn't feel safe to do so. Hence the Google montage at the top of this post.
Time to revise the plan. From now on once I find a suitable record store to visit, I'm going to do a quick Google on the neighbourhood too. Just a glance at Wikipedia would have yielded this: "The Tenderloin is a high-crime neighborhood, particularly violent street crime such as robbery and aggravated assault. Seven of the top 10 violent crime plots (out of 665 in the entire city as measured by the San Francisco Police Department) are adjacent plots in the Tenderloin and Sixth and Market area."