Thursday, 20 September 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, U.S.A.


This is one of the few photos I've got from the time I was in San Francisco, California in April-May 1972. You see the lovely couch I'm sitting on? It would turn into a bed at night where I slept.


At Pepe's apartment on Larkin Street in San Francisco. See the little transistor radio? I used to listen to KCBS-FM on it.


You see, my going to San Francisco in late March 1972 was like pleading for Help! I had been living in Newark since the beginning of Fall 1971. I had no idea Winter could take so long or even if it would end at all. I was deep in a cultural shock living in the New York area. I thought I had to escape from that White Hell somehow. When my friend Nino, who I had met in the Brazilian Army in 1968, arrived from São Paulo and stayed at his friend Jose Luis's apartment in lovely San Francisco he sent me word that I would be welcome in sharing the living-room if I wanted to. I didn't think twice and took an Eastern Airlines jet to California.

Top 5 at Billboard on 25 March 1972

1.  A horse with no name - America
2.  A heart of gold - Neil Young
3.  The lion sleeps tonight - Robert John
4.  Puppy love - Donny Osmond
5.  Mother and child reunion - Paul Simon



Mister, can't you see?  (Buffy Sainte Marie) 


I can hear the rivers flowing and I can see the winds a-blowing
since the endless marching over time.
And if you don't know what I'm feeling, take a look 'cause I'm revealing
everything that's now running through my mind

Telling you the time is coming
you gonna have to start your poor legs running
part of this whole world you refuse to call your own.

Harm is coming and it may be tomorrow
gonna have to beg and to borrow
sanity from a man you've never known.

And if you know what I'm feeling, take a look, 'cause I'm revealing
everything that's now running through my mind


And I can see the rivers flowing, I can hear the wind a-blowing

since the endless marching over time


Mirrors come from every angle

I'm telling you you're gonna have to dangle your mind from living
why you're gonna think so small


I swear the day is coming, honey, soon

the troop is gonna bust a lot of balloons
there's gonna be a lot of people learning to crawl


And if you don't know what I'm feeling

take a look, 'cause I'm revealing everything
that's going through my mind


And I can see the rivers flowing, I can hear the wind a-blowing

since the endless marching all the time. 



Mickey Newberry & Towns Van Zant

from the album 'Moonshot' by Buffy Sainte-Marie

Listen it at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvbaovnOYyg

San Francisco was indeed a totally different world from New York. As soon as I stepped out of the plane I noticed my heavy winter-clothes were utterly out-of-place in the land of milk-and-honey! I had escaped from Hell and was being welcome to Paradise. 

But Paradise had a price too. I soon realized I would not find employment in the Bay Area because my English was not up to scratch. I could not have worked as a busboy because I hardly understood what would be ordered. Working in a factory in San Francisco was out-of-the-question because Frisco is not this sort of town. I would have to work in the hospitality industry! I could have been a cleaner but I was out of sorts. Most of Jose's Mexican friends were bi-lingual. Actually many of them were going to University of California in Berkeley and had a bright future. I felt miserable when I realized I was just 'nobody' who could not even understand the most basic dialogue.

I soon found out I had just got out of one type of depression to get into another one. After a few weeks, with no prospect of improvement, Jose arranged with Carey, an American friend of his who was driving a VW beetle all the way to New York City - to take me East with him! That sounded like salvation to me! I longed to see New York again. Little did I know that NYC in summer is terribly hot and dirty.

Anyway, we left the Bay Area on 22nd May 1972. Carey drove the beetle and Paul, his Native-American friend from Wisconsin would sit on the side of the driver and I & my guitar would ride in the back. It took exactly 8 days for us to reach Newark, N.J.

Top 5 at Billboard on 13 May 1972.

1.  The first time ever I saw your face - Roberta Flack
2.  I'll take you there - Staple Singers
3.  Betcha by Golly wow - The Stylistics
4.  I gotcha - Joe Tex
5.  Oh Girl - Chi-Lites

When Carey and Paul left me on hot and dirty Ferry Street I knew I was in trouble again. No money, no accomodation, no food. I had only a few Brazilian friends to spare me a meal or a roof over my head to sleep at night. Worse off... everyone was leaving town because most of the factories were shutting down for summer and giving collective vacations to their employees. So there I was on Skid Row again.

I tried to collect unemployment benefit but due to my resigning my last job instead of being laid off made me ineligible. I phoned home and my dear Father sent me 300 dollars, which was quite a bit of money in 1972. That tided me over for a while until early September when I finally got to work at the record factory again.


That's Myself on the left and Kuwenderson Walk on the right.

Kuwenderson was a Brazilian guy from Bahia who was completely different from other Brazilian fellows. He had been a Colllege student in Salvador and was highly politicized. He was into left-wing politics and I could not understand how on earth he was living in the USA the Mecca of capitalism. Actually he was in the US because he had two brothers already established in the New York area and would help him find jobs, accomodation etc. Kuwenderson was partially deaf so he had an extra burden in learning English. He could read English but he would not understand a single word and that made him very irritable.

He was nice but very judgemental. When I most needed a few dollars he would not lend me any because he said I had been irresponsible in having left my job and gone away. I was irked with that but I couldn't say much because he would buy me a meal or two until the money my Dad sent me arrived.

I learned to appreciate Richard Wagner's music with Kuwenderson. He would play 'Thannhäuser' overture and go into an ecstasy! It became one of my favourite classical pieces too.

It was through Kuwenderson that I heard of Violeta Parra for the first time. Actually, he was living in Santigado, Chile when President Allende was deposed and murdered on September 11, 1973Nine-Eleven didn't start in 2001 in NYC but 28 years before in South America.
This was the vynil album Kuwenderson would play constantly.

Kuwenderson lived at Sing Sing too, I mean the Prudential Apartments on Fleming Avenue. So I started hanging around that tenement in the summer of '72. As I was out of work I had a lot of free time on my hands so I met a lot of Brazilian fellows who lived in the neighbourhood. As soon as I got my work back I started sharing an apartment at Sing Sing with Nagib Luiz, a Brazilian fellow of Arab extraction I met at the record factory. Nagib and Guto shared the living room of an apartment rented by Nagib's cousin Leila, her husband and a baby. So, I finally was living at the infamous Sing Sing after all.


 Here's Nagib pretending he's playing Guto's guitar at Sing Sing. 

Guto was a different kind of a young man too. He was a guitar virtuoso. More than this, Guto was highly cultured compared to the rest of us. He'd been living in the USA because he was fed up with Brazil's bureaucratic educational system. His original dream was to have become an architec and he tried hard to get into the University of São Paulo which was the best school in the country. Even though he had been an excellent student and had high marks at the college-entrance-examination he would flunk in the 'artistic examination'. He seemed to have been a victim of the University's 'inside politics'. After taking two exams on two consecutive years and not being accepted he got bitter about the whole business and decided to go into voluntary exile. Guto was very talented and got a better-than-average job working on a lathe at a scissor's factory in Newark's north side away from the Ironbound where most of us were confined.

Damazio had met Guto playing his guitar at someone's apartment earlier in the year 1972, and introduced me to him probably in June-July when I was hanging around Sing Sing. Guto was a big fan of British rock bands especially the Who. As I was familiar with the Who's 'Tommy' opera-rock album I had something to talk about. Guto used to idolize Yes - progressive rock's ultimate heroes. I didn't know much about progressive rock but I sure knew Yes' 'Roundabout' that played a lot on San Francisco's FM radio-stations. Guto was a fan of Led Zeppelin too and I remember distinctly well when we would go for a bite to the Down Neck Diner at the corner of Market Street and Fleming Ave. and Guto would spend a quarter playing Led Zeppelin's 'Black dog'. He also told me about David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars' when Bowie was hardly known in the US.

Guto had plans to share an apartment with Luiz Alberto an old friend of his from Brazil who was visiting him with the intention to stay, but Alberto would not blend in or put up with the Newark crowd and went back to Brazil before the Fall would set in. Alberto was a snob actually. I once made the mistake of trying to play some Bob Dylan or Neil Young song with his guitar. He didn't say a word. After I finished my inglorious task he only took the guitar and played the Beatles' 'Blackbird' with all its splendor and complicated chords as if saying: 'Look, mate, you're no damn good!' I might be wrong there, of course, but that's the impression I had. Guto was not like that.

Guto on a very cold day on Market Street, Newark, N.J. - Winter 1972-1973.
Guto in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Guto and Myself on our way to Philadelphia P.A.; at this time I would not shave or cut my hair anymore.
Philadelphia felt like the Artic Circle... the wind blew like a hammer... and nobody showed up on the streets of Philadelphia.
Myself freezing up on the streets of Philadelphia... winter 1972-1973.



Guto, Nagib and I went to see Grand Funk Railroad playing at the Madison Square Garden on Saturday, 23 December 1972.




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