Intuition, who you might know as one of My Favorite Rappers of the Last Decade, rarely plays shows. I always seem to be in another part of the world when he does. So when it was announced that he and Equalibrum would be performing in San Francisco on a weekend I just happened to have free, I knew what I had to do. Mind you, the last time I caught this guy’s live show was at Paid Dues 2011, and he’s since released a slew of material including an official album that’s essentially perfect. Oddly enough, I’d recently gotten the urge to visit San Francisco and had been looking for a reason to do so. This was it.
My plan was simple: I’d wake up at 4am, Uber to the bus station, catch the 5am bus, sit on it for 9 hours, get off in San Francisco at around 2pm, walk a few miles to the venue, drink beer and take photos around the city to kill time, go to the show at 8pm, hangout at the venue until closing time – presumably around 2am, wander the city for another few hours, and finally either walk or Uber back to the bus station in time to catch the 6am bus home. I’d have to pack light since I’d be carrying everything with me the whole time and I figured I could at least persuade the bouncer to let me leave my bag at the door once I got to the show. I called ahead to make sure I’d be allowed to bring my camera into the venue. In my backpack I put an extra shirt, two bananas, a bag of trail-mix, a book, earbuds, and my camera gear. I also brought a pack of gum since I wouldn’t be able to brush my teeth, and a few Xanax because Xanax is fun. My debit card was declined at a liquor store around 10pm the night before my trip. My bank was obviously closed at that time and wouldn’t reopen until a few hours after I would already have left. My wife and I were able to scrounge up $62 in cash between the two of us and it would have to be enough to hold me over if I couldn’t get my card turned back on. I later found out my checking info was used by some poor guy in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who I can only assume was trying to buy a plane ticket to get the fuck out of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was unsuccessful, but probably only due to insufficient funds, making the moral of the story: go ahead and steal from people, just make sure they’re not broke first.
You know those sudden spurts of turbulence you experience on planes? When everything starts shaking and the lights begin flickering and you try to look calm and collected but in your heart you can’t help but wonder if you’re about to die? If you can imagine that same scenario playing out for nine straight hours, only on the ground as opposed to in the air, you’re that much closer to understanding what it’s like to take a Megabus from Anaheim to San Francisco. If you’re not a hipster or Asian then you’ve probably never even heard of Megabus. You have the internet so you can do your own research, but the gist is that you can often get from point A to point B for as little as one dollar, even if the two points are 409 miles apart, as long as you don’t mind sitting next to insane people or putting your safety in the hands of a potentially intoxicated driver. Some of the reviews I’d read prior to my trip even warned of occasional sex acts being carried out in public by young lustful travelers not giving fucks. I didn’t witness any of that, which was obviously very disappointing.
We stopped in San Jose just long enough for me to be grateful I don’t live there. I’d gotten a few hours of sleep that came in 20 minute intervals, every one of which ended abruptly with my huge head slamming against the glass window. It wasn’t much longer before we’d finally reached San Francisco and I was staring out at all of those densely populated hillsides with streets steep enough to lean against. I’d been there several times before but never noticed how similar in appearance those cascading neighborhoods are to the favelas of Brazil, only slightly cleaner, and with more drugs contained within them. The bridge we’d been on began dipping back toward the ground and the scenery soon disappeared behind tall buildings that have probably been abandoned since the Birdman was at Alcatraz (this guy… not this guy). I figured we were taking the back-way through the shittier part of town, still in route to the “nicer” area at which I assumed we’d be let off. That’s when the bus came to a sudden stop in what seemed to be the middle of the street and an unenthused driver mumbled into his microphone, “San Francisco… everyone off,” which might as well have been, “You paid five dollars… go fuck yourselves.”
The bus sped off just seconds after the last passenger had stepped out from it. Everyone else seemed to have a ride waiting for them and in a matter of minutes I was left standing alone with a barbwire fence behind me, a decaying building in front of me, and a long stretch of desolate road to either side. I felt that old familiar “did I fuck up?” feeling start to creep in and thought it best to just start walking in one of the only two directions I could. One might assume I’m even the least bit navigationally inclined given how often I travel, but those closest to me, including my wife and mother, would undoubtedly put money against me in a contest to see who can point north or even locate the checkout counters in a department store. That’s actually not a joke and it’s kind of a big part of my life that I’ve written about in the past.
A little fact of life I recently had to fill my son in on is that when you see tents pitched on the side of roads or under bridges, it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone will be making s’mores later. I’ve had pleasant interactions with homeless people all over the world and a lot of them are genuinely kind people with amazing stories to tell. Most of them just want to bum a cigarette or some spare change. But even I know to avoid the wide-eyed naked guy stumbling through oncoming traffic with his dick in his hand, foaming at the mouth, yelling “I’m gonna fuck you! I’m gonna fuck you and take you to hell!” That’s a real guy, and you may just make his acquaintance should you have the balls to walk through his front yard. I’m trying to think of a clever comparison for how it feels to walk through the Bay’s version of Skid Row by yourself, holding an expensive camera, but there really isn’t one, and there really doesn’t need to be; it’s like walking through 2 miles of discarded, mentally-unsound people physically fighting over which part of the piss-drenched sidewalk is theirs to sleep on, completely alone, dangling a few thousand dollars from a strap. I don’t know what the going rate is for meth, but that probably buys a lot of it. At that point, the only thing I was certain of was that I didn’t want to walk back through this little stretch of the world at 4am to catch the bus home. My initial plan would have to change a bit.
Once I’d finally located the venue, I went around the corner for something San Franciscans try to pass off as a burrito and called my friend Kevin (Kserious – formerly of the Cloudmakers) who lives in the city. He met me an hour later and the drinking commenced. I’m a loner by nature and it’s only intensified with age, but I was instantly relieved to have company. It’s a weird thing, traveling alone. You’re obviously more vulnerable but you almost feel safer. Not safe in a physical sense, but if you can get past the anxiety that comes with it, you can actually let your guard down for awhile. Everyone’s a complete stranger so there aren’t any expectations. You can either be the purest, most stripped-down version of yourself or you can be someone else entirely. Either way, the chances of anyone even noticing you are miniscule. It’s like you’re invisible, which I enjoy, but it definitely increases your appreciation for a familiar face. The fact that Kevin generally stays on some salt-of-the-Earth shit also helps a lot. By 8pm we’d played several games of pool – all of which I’m pretty sure he won – and we were both a little wobbly. The obligatory weather-and-jobs talk that comes in the first slightly awkward moments of catching up with someone hadn’t outlasted our first pint, and we were well into the meaning of life and comparing daddy-issues. Kevin and I are similar in that we both get emo without warning, whenever the fuck we want to, regardless of whether it even relates to the conversation at hand, and then we’ll tame the discomfort with a rape joke. Those are the makings of a good time, if you ask me. We paid our tab and floated to the show.
The next hour is fuzzy, so I’ll skip ahead to the part where I got to talk with Equalibrum outside the venue.
I got to talk with Equalibrum outside the venue. This is a guy whose music I’ve been listening to consistently for over 8 years – my son even knows a lot of it. We talked very casually about being plagued with the art disease and all the insecurities that come with it. He’d go into details of his life such as where he went to school and how he came to know Lee and I’d just pretend I didn’t already know all of it as to refrain from fanning the fuck out. Not because my ego wouldn’t allow me to, but because I didn’t want to make it awkward for him. He strikes me as the kind of guy who really doesn’t understand why people like him so much, and he hasn’t yet discovered how to deal with it. Intuition, on the other hand, is a lot more like me in that we both love the attention we get from acting as if we don’t love attention. He came over and briefly joined the conversation before going to change clothes. Dude is a piece of work. There’s charm in his rudeness and he’s totally aware of himself. He asked, “Have we ever actually met in person?” When I reminded him of the time he recognized me at Paid Dues, he said, “Oh, was I an asshole? I hope I wasn’t an asshole.” He wasn’t an asshole, but he knows his potential, and I respect that.
The first time I saw him perform was at an event called Hipsters Who Heart Hip Hop, which was in a vacant retail space somewhere in LA. At that show, Dumbfounded and I were the only ones who knew all the words. The second time was the aforementioned Paid Dues performance, and out of the few hundred people there, only three were rapping: him, his homie Verbs, and me. Things have changed. If he didn’t have fans back then, he definitely does now, and it’s made obvious by the room full of people screaming every word to all of his songs in a city 400 miles from his own. He’s worked hard for every one of those people. He commands the stage in a way that’s less physical than it was only a handful of years ago. It’s more psychological now. He has less to prove, and where that’s a common cause for complacency in many performers, he uses it as an opportunity to take a breath and really feel his music. His years in the trenches have taken their toll but have made him more seasoned, and really, that’s the shit we’re all after. We like our artists exhausted and beat down by their craft. It’s how we know they’re genuine. They’re not just riding the wave of a passing craze. Intuition’s music isn’t very cool, and that’s why it’s great. Cool is seasonal. It comes with little risk and is often short-lived. Greatness is the reward for being brave enough to say “fuck what’s cool.”
I decided against my original plan to wander the city all night being as how San Francisco turns into the set of The Walking Dead once the sun retreats. So when the show ended and I’d used up the last of the drink tickets I’d been blessed with, a rather drunk Kevin and I took a cab back to his apartment. Pizza was eaten, more beer guzzled, and I knew that even blinking too long would surely result in my falling asleep and missing my bus home. My new challenge would be staying awake, and it was brutal. One of those times when sheer exhaustion impedes logic and you find yourself desperately making what seem to be perfectly rational decisions. “I guess I don’t need to go back in the morning. I don’t know when the next bus leaves, but there has to be another one within the next month or two. Kevin’s a swell guy… I could just live here. My son doesn’t really need a father…” The next few hours took their sweet ass time rolling by and soon I was saying goodbye to my friend as I prepared to board the Uber he’d called and refused to let me pay for. He truly is the Freddie Mercury of hospitality, and that’s an inside joke, so don’t feel bad about not getting it.
My last hour in San Francisco was the most bizarre and still feels like a weird dream I vaguely recall. It was just after 4am and not a soul was out, so naturally I filmed myself laying in the middle of the street. I began thinking up outrageous scenarios and wondering how I’d react in them. “If a large man in a hospital gown appeared underneath that flickering street light and began walking toward me with a smile on his face and a butcher knife in his hand…” Shit like that. And why not? Every door around you is locked. The only car you’ve seen in the last 30 minutes was the one that left you standing here, and the driver almost seemed to wish you luck. Every other street light is broken, almost as if someone wanted it that way. It’s the picture perfect place to commit murder. But more people slowly began to arrive and I felt relieved, even if most of them did look only slightly less psychotic than the imaginary man in the hospital gown. As we stood on the curb waiting for the bus to pull up, a young woman with pretty hair and a Russian accent approached me.
“You have extra teeket?”
“No, I don’t. I’m sorry.”
“I can have yours then?”
“Uh… no, you can’t have mine. Sorry.”
“Then you take me with you. You sneaking me on bus.”
“Oh no. I not take you with me. That’s not going down.”
At this point she was inches from my face and suggestively pressing her thigh into my crotch.
“… You are sure?”
“I’m sure.” (In my head: Is this bitch gonna stab me in the dick right now?)
She gave me the boo-boo lip and walked away unfazed. She didn’t get far. Directly in front of me were two black gentlemen around my age. One carried an odd looking contraption made of three 5 gallon buckets stacked inside one another. A large hole was cut into the bottom of each bucket and a pipe ran through the middle of all three. He called it his drum. The other guy carried only a thick piece of plywood approximately 9 square feet in size. One side was scuffed all to shit from him tap dancing on it. He called it his board. The Russian woman stepped right between the two of them.
“You have extra teeket?”
“Then I can have one of yours?”
“You listen. I don’t give a fuck about anyone or anything in this fucking world. You take me with you, I make you happy.”
The three of them took a moment to strategize. When the bus arrived and the driver began taking tickets, one of the guys created a diversion by asking about the weight of his bag while the other snuck the girl behind him and onto the bus. It was beautifully executed. I found a seat on the upper level and noticed the drummer, the dancer and the Russian stowaway sitting a few rows in front of me. It took a little while longer for all the passengers to board, but the engine finally started and they all high-fived each other victoriously.
The engine stopped.
“Uh, radies and gentlemen, we are have a rittle deray.”
A very Korean bus driver climbed the stairs to the second level, made his way down the aisle, stopped directly in front of the Russian woman and pointed right at her face.
“You! You go and get the fuck off from my bus or I fuck I call the porice!”
The entire second floor erupted with laughter. The woman stood up, looked at the two guys who had snuck her on, gave them the same boo-boo lip she’d given me in line, and walked off the bus. She didn’t get far. It took the bus driver a few minutes to do whatever bus drivers do in this situation, and the Russian woman capitalized on this opportunity to walk into the middle of the street, next to the bus, where she could be seen by all. She proceeded to strip. I don’t mean she removed her sweater, I mean she was really stripping. Naked. It was glorious. Not just because I’m a big fan of naked women – especially sketchy, emotionally unstable naked women – but because the two black guys were now privy to what was happening, and we all know black guys make everything funnier. Once the woman had totally and completely disrobed, danced around a bit (twerking, I believe the kids call it), and had begun slowly putting her clothes back on, she was suddenly in the headlights of a quickly approaching car.
Tires screeched and a taxi came within one foot of slamming into her. She hadn’t stopped dancing for a single second. At this point, it came as no surprise when she climbed onto the hood of the taxi and continued dancing as the bus started to pull off and we all waved goodbye to her. A few minutes later, as I was selecting my soundtrack and preparing to finally get some uncomfortable ass sleep, a horn began blaring. I looked over to see a taxi speeding alongside the bus. The Russian woman was hanging all the way out of the passenger window, screaming and flailing her arms in the air. She’d gotten in the taxi that nearly claimed her life and convinced the driver to follow the bus. And she was naked again. So I’m not exactly puzzled as to how she convinced him.
That’s a true story. And yes, of course I have it on video.
Nine hours later I was back at home doing the whole dad/husband thing, feeling as though I’d been to war. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve sworn it had been almost a week rather than a very eventful 30 hours. It was scary, exciting as it was exhausting, and I lost count of how many times I thought I’d made a mistake, which I was prepared for going into this. I try not to think any more than necessary before taking a trip like this one. I decide I’m going, prepare, and turn my brain off. Traveling anywhere scares the shit out of me, and that’s a big part of why I do it. I don’t have Jesus and I never went to boot camp, so I depend on these types of experiences to keep me grounded and make me stronger as a person. I’m lucky to have a wife who understands that. I didn’t leave my heart San Francisco, but I did leave my beanie on the bus, and I’m still kind of pissed about it.