I was introduced to Matt through my friend Booger. The first conversation we ever had was on the phone. He offered to have me stay at his house if I needed to. It just so happened that I needed to, and the offer provided me an opportunity to stay in Stinson Beach over the first weekend that I was in San Francisco. Matt is a good cook.
Later that week, Matt met me at the corner of California and Taylor, in front of Grace Cathedral, to take me to his favorite San Francisco place. Matt is a fully bearded, handlebar mustached man of 39, who, one year ago, hit the side mirror of a car on a darkened street off Upper Haight. A near-death incident, Matt has been spending the last year recuperating and sorting out the remainder of his life. Matt was very clear about where he would be taking me.
Several blocks from the Cathedral, Matt and I slide into a small elevator in an old building where he used to live. Matt hits "4", and the creaky elevator starts to ascend. It stops, we step out and round the nearest corner. Matt points out his old apartment down a short and starkly lit narrow hallway.
"That was my apartment right there, number 401. I tore that thing apart and totally rebuilt it. I took out a wall and a bunch of other stuff."
We turn in the other direction and Matt leads me up a narrow flight of stairs to the roof. The sky opens up above us and the sounds from the street rise to meet our ears. We walk toward the ledge and Matt points to the fire escape.
"I would always get locked out, so I would just come up here, crawl down the fire escape, and if I just rattled the window, it would open."
"San Francisco, when I first met it, scared the absolute shit out of me. I am from Wisconsin. I was 19 the first time I came here. I was in the army, and being from a little suburb north of Milwaukee, I had never really seen anything but German people. So me and my buddy pull off into the Mission, and its all Mexicans and Salvadorians and Latin peoples, and it was just overwhelming."
"The traffic, getting here on the freeway, and the difference of all the people was overwhelming to me. Which, frankly, is one of the things that I like about Portland. The lack of diversity. It's totally not challenging there. So I moved from San Francisco, circuitously to Portland. There was a little China in there, a little Wisconsin, but I was overwhelmed by the energy of San Francisco at that point. Back then, I really liked being in situations where you knew what to expect around every corner. In Portland, there's no real surprises."
"When I moved here, specifically, I had spent lots of time in the woods, and I came from this background of not really loving the city, you know, being overwhelmed by it. I would come up here in the 90s to those underground raves to do a bunch of ecstasy and play around at those parties. I never thought San Francisco was where I wanted to live. I wound up moving up to San Francisco because one of my friends from Wisconsin was living here at a crack house I moved into. I thought I would just hang out with him, stop being a carpenter, and go to Academy of Art and do their furniture design program. I figured I would still work with wood, but I wasn't going to be on job sites, living the nine to five, 40 plus hour a week thing."
Matt breathes in deeply. His smile is quiet as he looks up at the early evening sky. Then he looks at me. After he exhales, he tells me about The Bloodhead.
In the streets below, a car's horn honks loudly. Matt listens, and says to the sky, "oh, man the sounds of this place too, I love the sounds of it."
We talk a little bit more about growing up in Wisconsin, the innocent upbringing that provided, and his babysitter, who he had a crush on. He tells me she was "trouble", and that he is attracted to women like her.
"Ive always dated girls who were trouble. I'm a little bit of trouble myself, I guess. So I figure I probably shouldn't impose my insanity on somebody sane."
When I ask Matt why he turned out to be trouble, being raised in Wisconsin and all, his response, after mentioning several bad influences in his youth, comes to this: "Rock and Roll's what made me a bad seed, Rock and Roll's what did it to me, baby!" After the both of us crack up laughing, he says, "oh man, I'm so glad I got to say that."