Day 9: San Jose
After crashing for the night in Los Angeles, I got my stuff together and headed up north to see a friend in San Jose. He used to work as a tour guide at the Winchester Mansion, and he’d ranted and raved to me so many times about this strange, fascinating place that I insisted we go and sell our spare limbs to go on the tour. For real: it costs three times as much as going to a movie to see the Winchester Mansion for one hour.
But I rest my case. A brilliantly bizarre place to visit.
So, basically, here’s the story: old lady Winchester loses her daughter, then her husband. Thinking it can’t all be a coincidence, she makes her way to a psychic for advice. Winchester guns have killed a lot of folks, obviously. She figures all that Winchester money is bloody money, and she’s paying the price for it.
“Bad spirits are after you,” the psychic tells her. “You must confuse them. Distract them.”
Somehow, the psychic gives Mrs. Winchester the grand idea to start building a house–and to never finish it. I’m not sure how this protects you from spirits, but what do I know?
Let’s just say that Mrs. Winchester was no architect, and she was probably a few eggs short of a dozen. She had four carpenters on staff and all of them were constantly busy, building things like staircases that lead into ceilings and doors that open to nothing (or a sheer drop, just for kicks). The house contains over 160 rooms, 110 of which we saw on the tour–and that’s not even to mention staircases that wind and double-back on themselves three times because the steps are so tiny, or the fact every fixture and window and carving contains some form of a daisy, or Mrs. Winchester’s odd obsession with the number thirteen, or even that she has a room devoted to seances. Seriously, that lady re-defined what it means to be rich and eccentric.
Day 10 and 11: San Francisco
On the drive north I powered my way through an audiobook of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls (based on an idea by Siobhan Dowd). Be forewarned: this is a book that induces serious tears. Like, be ready to mop up a mess.
Once recovered, I landed at my friend Tim’s San Fran townhome. On top of writing a graphic novel serial, Tim has an immense and invaluable knowledge of superhero comics–the kind of total recollection usually only reserved for idiot savants and Jeopardy contestants. Throughout my visit we jammed on ideas for my next novel, Codename Q. The story arc is starting to come together and it looks crazy promising.
I joined some friends the next day for a birthday party down at Speedway Meadows. They’d concocted a game called “slosh ball,” which is basically just kickball with a beer in one hand. Thus, the sloshing.
Since I wasn’t drinking and had terrible shoes for kicking, I was sent off to the gulags to be a permanent second baseman. When teams rotated, I stayed put. Everyone seemed to have forgotten that I was the only one with two free hands and both my teams went nuts whenever I caught a crappy punt, like I was the Shaq of kickball.
Day 12: Day of the Teen Girl
Tim’s sister was turning sixteen, and who best to cart two teenage girls around downtown San Francisco than me? Well, actually, it’s likely that anyone would have been a better choice than me, but I seized the opportunity to study some subject matter firsthand and off we went.
If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen me going on about the tweenie horror film the girls chose as their late night B-flick, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. If you’ve never seen this movie, it is essentially about the world’s most industrious 8-year-old girl and the world’s stupidest parents–basically, a kid dream movie. My invisible pen was flying over invisible paper as the girls constantly interrupted the film to gossip about school and ruminate on the likelihood of this silly heroine actually existing in real life.
As I left San Fran for the more rural Sonoma County, I tried to think of what I liked best about the city. I think I’ve settled on the architecture. It’s just so strange and bright and exotic, like some kind of mutant parrot–I can’t help but love it.