Leave behind the more refined areas of San Francisco, havens for food bloggers and Instagram influencers, and you find Ocean Beach, a gritty slab of sand with graffiti-stained concrete. Located at the Western-most part of San Francisco, the drive is fifteen miles from the Fillmore McDonalds, and despite endless stop signs, it’s a joy to watch the city shed its formal, tech-centric self, for a more gritty visage. There are colorful houses, rundown cinemas, cheap Bun-Mi sandwiches and vintage stores like Gus’ Discount Fishing Tackle.
Even at the crack of dawn there are usually a handful of cars parked at Ocean Beach. A dusty Camaro, a rundown hybrid, and a gutted van sit with t-shirts strung up to the windows concealing something shuffling inside. Out in the water, a riptide hums, edging unsuspecting surfers towards tankers heading for Japan.
The community around Ocean Beach is strong. Cafe owners call you by name and Bob Wise, a feature in William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days, is eager to talk while he stacks boxes of five millimeter booties. Fishermen set up at the water’s edge, waders hiked up to their chest and a cooler of bait waiting patiently. Their translucent lines disappear into the surf, tugging at invisible fish.
OB is my anecdote to a long work week, or another news story about nuclear war and hell-fire. And for any drive you need a playlist. Some might expect Bangers and Mash (if coffee was a playlist, here’s how it would sound…), but with the windows down and a runway of stop signs, I don’t want fist pumping. I need guitar drenched in sun – apathetic surf tune-age that boils and pops, invoking the psychedelic and the free-wheeling.