Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Vortex Room

I had an interesting trip to the Vortex Room when I was in San Fransisco last month. I recently described this for a friend, and thought it worth posting.

I was scanning the local weekly looking for something to do the one night I was in town. There was a small snippet article about these two movies, which were described as "Tomorrow People meets James Bond" and "Time Travel meets James Bond". There was no address for the location, just a note that they were playing at the Vortex room. Some Google - fu later, I found a address 1082 Howard Street (I think) in the SOMA neighborhood. It looked walkable from my hotel, so I headed out. The MySpace page and Yelp entries indicated the place fills up quickly, so best to get there before the 9:00 show time, so I left to be there at 8:30. Howard started fairly upscale with a very nice hotel / restaurant district. There was a Bear Republic brew pub along there that looked nice, but I skipped it in case I was running late. The neighborhood drifted from very nice, to nice, to sketchy, to adult entertainment, to broken windows and no streetlights fairly quickly. When I got to where the place should be, there were no lights, no sign, just a boarded up warehouse looking place. On the wall, there were two chalk arrows pointing to a call box. I was debating pushing the buzzer when a smartly dressed young lady brushed past me and walked through the door. I followed her in. Behind the door there was a maitre ‘d stand with a bud vase, a reservation book and a gentleman with a dark suit, dark shirt and red tie. The lady walked up to him and said in a sotto voice "I'm a friend of Scott's". The gentleman behind the stand waved her through. I walked up, said "I'm not anyone's friend - I'm just Ed". He said "Well, no one's friend gets a special discount . . . $5". I paid the man, and moved to follow the lady. Just around the corner there was a corridor. On one side there were black out drapes, on the other a brick wall. The corridor was fairly narrow. Periodically along the wall there were works of art, impressionist stuff mainly. Strong colors, spot lit to draw the eye. Just before the end, there was a bathroom on the left side. Small, cramped - looked like some one's basement toilet, not a club/theater/art gallery toilet. At this point, I am starting to wonder what exactly I have let myself in for. The corridor dead ended, with a small opening on the left. Moving into the opening, I see a room about the size of my basement. On the wall near me there were psychedelic color wheel images being projected. There were various pop art pieces on the walls, many of them of Charles Bronson. In the back there was a bar, with a bartender attired similar to the maitre ‘d. Scattered across the floor was various seating arrangements, some booths, some pews. The woman I had followed was nowhere to be seen. I ordered a beer. I told the bartender that I must be early; I had aimed to be there at 8:30. "No, you are right on time" he said, as he started the pinball table for me. People trickled in over the next 30 minutes, a very eclectic crowd of art students, patrons of art, movie buffs and stoners. The bartender made me a few different cocktails, all excellent. The movies were original 16 mm prints of obscure films. ESPY was as advertised, a Japanese film about a group of various "talented" / powered people who protect the world from evil spies. Dimension 5 was a rough American James Bond film that featured as its main gadget a time belt, and a strong Asian bent to the villains and love interests.

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