Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A night in San Francisco

"Its a long drive but what the heck ... I'm here after more than 2 years and I'm going to make the best use of my time after work. Shut up - Clean up and leave ... its always fun to see San Francisco at night."
The pep-talk I gave myself ... the evening of July 20. It'd been a long day at work and I had to take the early morning flight back to Houston - I'd already spent the previous two evenings in the whereabouts of San Francisco - nevermind the 60+ min drive to SF from San Ramon! Something was dragging me back to the city - was it the convertible? nah - the Mustang was a "strictly OK" car ... a far cry from my TL! this was something else ...

So I hopped in the car ... vroom vroom (the Mustang does make a lot of noise - compensating for the lack of power?) ... drove into the setting sun
It was after 10 when I reached the Palace of Fine Arts at San Francisco ... the structure looked stunning at night (as always) but wait - tonight I had my camera with me ... heh heh.
The palace was really quiet (what do you expect after 10pm) - and not a soul in sight - kinda scary too - but I set about - finding trash cans and other resting places for the camera as I had OBVIOUSLY forgotten to get my tripod! (hey - I did buy one! honest.)
pretty pretty pretty ...







I know!
And then I noticed the drumming and the moving lights ... something or someone was moving inside the palace ... the sounds of the drums ... flash flash - thats sounds like the opening of the "Remember the Time" video (Michael Jackson's Dangerous album, in case you're struggling) ... but why are the lights moving ... and then I heard what sounded like laughter and clapping!
gulp.

I looked around ... expensive cars ... really really expensive houses ... boats in the distance What the heck! I'm sure this place is safe! So I mustered all my courage (and I mean all of it) and tiptoed towards the entrance of the palace ... now this side of the Palace is really dark but the drumming kept getting louder and faster (maybe the faster part I imagined but definitely louder!) Of course this walk was peppered with glances over my shoulder and my ready to run posture (hey - my camera looks expensive - nevermind that its 4 years old! ... and I'm red-blooded - watch movies and read the news!!)
Nothing happened ... I kept on ... and Now I was in the light of the Palace - I was breathing slower - the music was echoing everywhere and my mind was racing like crazy, trying to imagine what I might see at the turn - under the rotunda ... rituals maybe? (a la da-vinci code), illegal "stuff"? (too many movies!), a movie shoot(this is california for cryin' out loud!) ... Will they allow me in? Will they let me leave? Will I ever see daylight again? ...

I finally made the turn ... and froze!

From what my brain could process ... my eyes were transmitting images of about 20 people ... dancing - in a circle ... around a group of men in the centre ... the men in the centre were chanting something - no wait a minute - they're saying something - no they are laughing - they are playing drums ... and these dancing people - they are dancing with fire!!
what the ?!!?





Oh my god - they are dancing with fire ... they see me walk in with my camera - they're not stopping ... no cops ... no security guards approaching me either ... looks like I'm permitted to be here - hmm - so much for all that creative thinking!

The first few minutes were awkward - you know that feeling - when you accompany your friend to an unknown "friend of your friend's" party - the feeling that maybe you should not have come to the party uninvited - and heck you don't know anybody out here! But a couple of warm smiles and nods later I felt comfortable - these people didn't care - they were focused on having fun!

These people were having a ball (you'll see what I mean) - it was almost like a fire-dancer's casual meeting ... they were showing off their skills - and having so much fun. They were holding some kind of metallic ball and chain assembly - only the metallic ball was on fire! This one dude standing next to me - so unassuming and nonchalant - smiling and watching everyone else ... normal ... but once he picked up a couple of those fiery thingies - he transformed into one of the star performers!



Truly amazing experience. California is such a lovely place ... full of wonderful crazy stuff ... had the choice to move there but I guess without the friends, the bay would not have been any fun.
Getting back to the dance :) - I captured ((tried to)) some of the dances on video - but I must warn you - the video is a far far really far cry from the visual experience that night.



Buzzing with excitement and all wired up I bid adieu to the dancers and drummers who seemed like they were getting ready to wrap up themselves ... and continued my journey ...
On my way out I had to lie down on the ground with my face a few inches from the grass to take this picture - the tripod would have been perfect but well ... thats life! The Palace of Fine Arts is really a very pretty place to be ... definitely during the day and after this experience - at night too :)



dusted myself - made the walk back to the car - this time it was not so scary - I was still abuzz with all the excitement and fun that I had witnessed.

and then I caught her as a fleeting glimpse in the distance ... how could I come this close and not pay homage to the golden beauty herself!

decided to picture her from a different angle this time.

By now it was almost midnight and my senses (cmon - I'm sure theres at least one sensible one!) were beginning to prevail - It was a long drive back to the hotel and a long flight too ...
got in my car slamed on the gas
bumper to bumper the avenue's packed

Thanks Vanilla
Kept the rag-top down BTW ... so the hair can blow ... ... ...

Have always wanted to picture this bldg ... still don't know what it is - I'm guessing its the court-house in Frisco - pretty bldg - never got a chance before to pull over for a pic...

The music was playing really loud ... there was a nip in the air ... the rag top was pulled down ... and I was driving - and smiling ... at the whole experience - I may never know who those people were or our paths might cross again ... but I'd like to believe in the former ...

a special night in San Francisco - with the fire dancers!

Sweet.

8 comments:

brijwhiz said...

Very Beautiful!!!
Serendipity at it's best:)
Really cracked up at the "Great Balls of Fire" :D

Sib said...

Great images/video dude...

Sarat said...

Nice. Very very nice.

Venky said...

thx guys.
I must agree with you Brij - it was serendipity at its best! I just hope I don't cause any problems for te dancers by publishing their images online!

-Venky

Raoul said...

Are you sure it was just a dance? Seems suspiciously like a soul sacrifice ritual in honor of Cthulhu to me.

Venky said...

@Raoul - and how would *you* know that J? hmmm ...

Charukesi said...

tripodless shots, he says... gurruuuu :)

Venky said...

@Charu - well ... like I said I had to use the help of trash cans, fences, poles and the likes to compensate for a tripod! I wish that they install fixed tripod like standa at every scenic place for forgetful ppl like me!