In September of 2011, I traded my hometown of NYC for San Francisco in order to work at a punk magazine, which would become a more-than-full-time job helping to distribute the last vestiges of international DIY zine culture. The magazine gig would provide me with free housing in exchange for this labor of punk rock love. I made the cross-country journey in a rented SUV filled with records, books, black clothes, and leather jackets. I drove because I was too scared to ship my precious vinyl, fearing that they could get lost or damaged in transit. I also had a preference of exploring America via the road, making stops along the way to see dear friends I knew from having toured in bands.
When I transitioned from the overtime job there to a less active role, I went from pretty swank punk house conditions near SF’s renowned Haight district (we had the world’s largest punk record collection, a garage, two-stories, and a courtyard) to the garage rocker version of Animal House in the Excelsior district. There was even a vintage Honda motorcycle on the roof (we lived up a serious flight of stairs) and no one remembered how it got there. Sometimes a band would be practicing in the room next to mine, full amps and all, and I’d often get up to go to work early in the morning to find last night’s party still raging in my kitchen. I’d be making my morning smoothie with kale as bleary rock ’n’ rollers in the kitschy 60s kitchen did lines. For $250 a month though, it was well worth it.
I really had to hustle in my early 20s. I managed to keep my living expenses low in Brooklyn and continued this lifestyle in the Bay so that I could prioritize punk and creativity. That place in the Excelsior had members of the band No Bunny living in two large, walk-in closets. One closet resident said that he had moved to San Francisco to live in the closet - a stupid joke, but it always stuck with me. The apartment had a typical old-school San Francisco Mission layout, with wood built-ins everywhere, French doors, glass doorknobs, gorgeous moldings, and my room was complete with a bay window.
It was fun living in garage rocker hell with those bands and the frequently ensuing chaos. I tend to listen to mostly older music from the 1970s and 80s. The bands that came in and out of that apartment played modern versions of those earlier genres, retaining that vintage “fuck you” sound. I adore that “fuck society” brand of rock ‘n’ roll guitar. Living in a place that was all about loud guitars and breaking the rules was a regular source for memorable experiences, up until we got evicted that is. Ah, the memories!
I’ve been reminiscing recently about my humble early days in 2011, living paycheck to paycheck in communal chaos, heading out to the West Coast, and the process I went through leading me to eventually leave the Bay seven years later. I arrived with very little and left as a home-owner with an 805-credit score- what a journey the past few years in California have been!
One of the first things I did when I got back to New York in April was to go my beloved Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they currently have an exhibit called Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll. This was a perfect welcome-home experience for this rock ‘n’ roll lover. I wanted to share with you a few adventures from my move out to San Francisco, a taste of the raucous times I had there, and my eventual return home to my roots. My life will always revolve around loud music and sex. Ever since first hearing the Rolling Stones, and catching my first crush on the minister’s son at Sunday School, I’ve lived a rebellious and sensual life.
I named my private dungeon in-call in the Bay “Electric Ladyland” as a homage to one of my many bad boy crushes and musical loves, Jimi Hendrix. Those who visited me there enjoyed post-coital bliss under ceiling mirrors whilst listening to the Rolling Stones and probably reminiscing about our first concerts. I share with you some images of my favorite guitars from the Met exhibit, especially Jimi’s electric guitar fragment from Monterey Pop and Joan Jett’s Gibson, in addition to some shots of me fooling around on the acoustic guitar during my last Hollywood photoshoot.
I had to be true to myself and trade the acoustic vibes of the Bay for the electric streets of New York City. For me, being back in New York City is like that moment that Dylan plugged in at Newport; he may have electrocuted some fans who weren’t ready for change, but he continued to positively electrify most others. Dylan never fully left his acoustic past and I promise that I’ll visit the Bay Area often.
All guitars are good guitars- let’s turn it up to 11 wherever our paths may cross.
xx Ramona Ryder