I think you kind of have to be kind of old to remember slot cars from the 60’s and 70’s, but our own Playland at the Beach had a famous track built into the original location of Topsy’s Roost that many of us old guys who were kids back then remember.
The Sovereign 220 [The Purple Mile was it’s nickname] was to slot car racers what Mavericks is to surfers. Slot cars were sort of like hot wheels on steroids. They were bigger and had a little pin that stuck down into a slot that received electricity from a hand grip that you squeezed. The tighter you squeezed the more electricity would go to car making it go faster. There were several tracks you could buy for home, but it was never the same as the Sovereign 220. I remember going in their with a friend of mine somewhere between 1965-1969 which was probably towards the end since I would have been about seven when it closed. I remember the smell to this day. Now I know it to be the smell of ozone as the electrons were splitting the oxygen in the air and making it recombine into a not very safe gas.
The track was big. It was the largest slot car track ever built and being a small kid I could barely see the end of it so you’d sort of lose track of where your car was on the track. I can’t remember how much it cost to run your slot cars on the track, but being seven I didn’t really care about money back then. I was still having adults pay for the penny candy I was eating all day long to fuel me up to run around like a madman.
Unfortunately slot cars were starting to be old news by the late 60’s just like Whitney’s Playland at the Beach. It was closed down and the track was sold to someone in Texas and it was sold again and probably again until it wound up being bought by a hobbyist in Ashland, Massachusetts who restored it to it’s former glory. I managed to find a video of the track as it looks and operates today which isn’t much different than it was back in the 60’s now go grab some electrical wire and a 9-volt battery to click the wires together to make sparks so you can get that same smell in your room just like the old days at the slot car track.
I went to my local Walgreen’s today and got a surprise. They had a charging station for electric cars. This was a first for me as I didn’t know that we had any set up yet, but had heard of talk about them being installed. All of these are owned by a company called Chargepoint.net and they charge $3 per hour to charge your electric car. While this is a cool idea, I think that when you charge your car at home and have to pay somewhere around 25¢ per KWh the price is a bit steep.
I’m not sure how many KWh hours a typical car needs to be fully charged, but I’m sure it’s less than the $65 I currently pay to fill my car up every month [we rarely need to drive outside the Sunset District, so most of our trips are short.] I also can’t exactly see why if I’m mostly driving in the Sunset District that I would need to fill up my battery on a trip to Walgreen’s less than a mile from my house when on average electric cars get about 100 miles on a charge [quoting the Nissan Leaf].
I could see if you were driving from SF to someplace outside the city that was at least a 50 mile drive and needed to be there for a couple of hours that a system like this would work well. Say we take the family out in our electric car for a drive down to San Jose for a couple of hours then it would make sense to charge up the car before we drove home, but the way we drive we would be able to do it much cheaper at home.
As you can see from the photo the charging station doesn’t have a solar panel which would make it even more green. The electric car brigade is still in its infancy and needs some fine tuning still. They’ll need to work the bugs out over the next few years, but at least it’s a good start. While people who live in the Sunset know that sun and this part of the city do not go hand in hand solar panels would still be a good addition.
I like the idea that there is a push in this city towards being more green since after watching a show last night on Hong Kong that the breathing the air there is similar to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day that I like our air quality here and if there’s people trying to make it better I’m all for that.
We still have the problem that not all electric cars have the same hook up so just because there’s a charging station there doesn’t mean you can hook your car up to it. Nissan has teamed up with chargepoint.net so that’s great if you buy a Leaf, but not so good if you’ve bought a car that hasn’t teamed up with them. There are still some kinks to be worked out, but I think this is a good start.
It was 1981 and a friend of mine was having her 21st birthday. I was at the party and met the older sister of an old friend of mine I hadn’t seen in a few years. She had too much to drink and I helped her get home in the Mission District. It was late so I crashed there that night. It turns out that this was going to be one of those nights I’d remember for the rest of my life or at least the next day would be the most memorable.
We woke up somewhere around 10 am that Sunday morning and there I was in the Mission. My Mother always told me to be careful and stay away from the Mission because if you looked at someone the wrong way they’d stab you. My Mom was big into playing into stereotypes. My friend wanted to get something to eat so we walked outside and started walking down the street and I see this guy sitting out on the front steps of his house noodling around on a Les Paul guitar. We stopped for a few seconds to listen and then he stopped and looked up at us. It was Carlos Santana.
Things suddenly became very real for me. I usually had only seen him at a free concert in the park, but here I’m standing right in front of him sitting outside his house on a sunny day in the Mission just playing his guitar for no one but himself.
What chu looking at? He said with a smile.
All I could say was that he was one of the people that made me want to learn how to play guitar.
Yeah? Then show me what you can do. As he handed his guitar to me.
Oh crap. I’ve just been asked to play guitar for Carlos Santana, I’m 19 years old and I’ve only been playing guitar for about four years. I took the guitar and pic from his hands and realized that this was the first time I had held a Les Paul in my hands and didn’t realize how heavy they were. Maybe it was nerves, but the guitar felt like it was made out of lead. I sat down and took a deep breath and play the first thing that came into my head. The opening guitar solo of Black Magic Woman. I didn’t really have a style of guitar playing at 19 I was usually just trying to learn other people’s songs. I handed the guitar back to Carlos after I finished and he smiled at me.
OK, you can play the song, but can you write the song?
Not yet, but I’m working on it.
Get back to me when you’re a song writer.
Those few words stuck with me. It got me into expressing myself through music and actually writing my own music. I think I’ve done pretty good at it. I never could get back to Carlos and he doesn’t live in the Mission anymore, but here’s hoping that this will get to him and he’ll hear a bit of his influence in my playing while still having my own sound. This is off my new album Exile In The Sunset and is the eighth track All Alone [album available in iTunes and the CD is available at saundhaus.com.]
Oddly enough, while I’ve always been a big early adopter, I’ve had to cut back of late being married and having a daughter so I was really happy when HD cameras became available, but I actually didn’t even have to use on for this. I had some friends in Hawaii set me up with some footage of them surfing that they recorded in HD. It was really easy for me to put this all together. Why surfers? Well, when I wrote the song it kind of came to me after watching the surfers one day and San Francisco doesn’t have the nicest beaches for surfers. They’re pretty angry waves even if they’re small so they needed some angry music. Unfortunately filming at Ocean Beach gets kind of rare because I don’t surf anymore and the sunny days are pretty hit or miss. My friends had the waterproof cameras and did a great job on what they shot.
For me what’s the most interesting part is that prior to 2000 this wouldn’t have been so easy. We’re only talking a little over 10 years and now, today you can buy a computer that comes with audio recording software that’s decent, but not the best [it’s still better than what you could do 20 years ago] AND you get video editing software that comes with it. It’s only been a few days, but you’ll probably be able to do all this on the new iPad 2. How good it will be I’m not sure yet, but it’s definitely going to be a new wave for multimedia people. So on that note, enjoy the video and leave me some feedback. I know some of the readers are old friends of mine from college who went through broadcasting just like I did, so I’d like to hear what you think for my first time go around.
For those who want the technical specs, the song was recorded in Digital Performer and I played all the instruments. The drums are actually built in touch sensitive samples that I triggered through an external source [i.e. an old electronic drum kit]. The amp for the guitar & base is a podXT Pro which can replicate pretty much any amp out there. Final mixdown and mastering was also done through Digital Performer and then I brought the music into iMovie and basically tapped along with the song to determine where the cuts will come. Total time for getting the video together: 3 hours and mostly that was because I exported it twice and realized I had made a couple of errors. Enjoy!