Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nortec Collective: "I Count The Ways" (2010)

I ride my bike . . .
I shift the gears and let go . . .
Up to Golden Gate Park
On to Ocean Beach

To paraphrase William Cowper (not to mention Bono), 2 or 3 lines moves in mysterious ways.

Sometimes I hear a song and I'm suddenly compelled to write about it -- the song is the sine qua non of the post.  

Sometimes I have a story to tell, and I search for a song that fits the story. 

And sometimes I just have some pictures I don't want to go to waste.

This post started out as a photo-driven one -- I still have a lot of photos from my family's recent San Francisco vacation that I want to share.  (As you know if you're a regular 2 or 3 lines reader, I've recently returned home from a 12-day pleasure-business-pleasure trip.  The first part of that trip was a brief family vacation in San Francisco, where I had lived 30 years ago, before any of my children were born.)

Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park
But when I was searching for a song to feature in the post, I stumbled across one that was utterly unfamiliar . . . but utterly perfect.  So perfect, in fact, that I found it a little disconcerting.  (More about that song a little later.)

After I took my family to the San Francisco Airport for their return flight to Washington, DC, I spent much of the day on a rented bike, riding through Golden Gate Park until I reached Ocean Beach -- and then riding through the Presidio and on to the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of my first stops was Lloyd Lake, which features a portico that is all that remains of a Nob Hill mansion that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

Many occult occurrences supposedly occurred at Lloyd Lake.  It is the place where the Kim Novak character in Hitchcock's 1958 movie, Vertigo, becomes possessed.  (Hitchcock didn't actually show the lake -- but the description of the site is very specific.)

I then rode all the way to Ocean Beach, and remembered the very good meal I had with my family at the Beach Chalet the first night of our San Francisco vacation.

I rode back into the park past some large shrubs with big purple flowers -- Echium candicans, or "pride of Madeira":

Here's a closeup of the pride of Madeira's flowers:

There are two large and once-functional windmills near the western edge of the park.  Together, the two windmills pumped well over a million gallons of water per day.

The Dutch Windmill is surrounded by the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden:

Queen Wilhelmina was the queen regnant of the Netherlands from 1890 until 1948.  She is the longest-reigning monarch in Dutch history, and was a symbol of Dutch resistance to the Nazis during World War II.

Tulips weren't the only flowers that war blooming near the windmill:

I'd never seen a flower that was this shade of blue before.  I think it's a pericallis hybrid:

Next, I headed east and stopped at the bison paddock.  There have been bison in Golden Gate Park since 1891.  Today the paddock holds ten bison:

I continued east until I reached Arguello Boulevard, where I turned north and headed for the Presidio.  The Spanish originally fortified the Presidio in 1776, and it passed to Mexico when that country gained its independence in 1821.  The United States took it over in 1848, and the Presidio was a military base until 1994, when the National Park Service took it over.

The Presidio is about three square miles of primo real estate -- the views of the Golden Gate are truly spectacular:

I made it all the way on to the Golden Gate Bridge itself before turning around and riding back to the park:

After turning in my very nice rental bike, I drove to the Lower Haight (as opposed to the Upper Haight, also known as Haight-Ashbury) and replenished my precious bodily fluids at the Toronado Pub:

The Toronado is a little hole-in-the-wall bar with a spectacular selection of Belgian and other beers on tap.  (It had hundreds of tap handles hanging from the walls, ready for action at a moment's notice.)  Here's just a portion of its menu board that shows some of the Belgian beers that were available when I visited:

I chose a De Koninck, which is brewed in Antwerp:

As the lyrics quoted at the beginning of this post indicate, the singer of "I Count The Ways" is also a biker who rides through Golden Gate Park all the way to Ocean Beach.  The singer then headed east and rode through the Western Addition after leaving the park, ending up in the Mission District.

The Western Addition borders the Lower Haight, so the "I Count The Ways" rider might also have stopped at the Toronado on the way.

The Mission District is directly south of downtown San Francisco, and is home to the oldest building in San Francisco, Mission Dolores (which was built in 1791).

The neighborhood is San Francisco's biggest Latino enclave -- large numbers of Mexican immigrants moved into the Mission after World War II, and many Central and South Americans have subsequently settled there.

"I Count The Ways" was recorded by a group of musicians who formed in Tijuana, Mexico, so it's not surprising that the singer of the song winds up in the Mission.

The Nortec Collective was a musical collective that got together in Tijuana around the turn of the century.  It seems to have broken up into various solo and duo acts.

"I Count The Ways" was recorded by Ramón Amezcua and Pepe Mogt, who are known as Bostich+Fussible.  Amezcua (who studied dentistry -- orthodontics, to be specific -- before becoming a musician) has been called the "Godfather of Nortec."  He has collaborated with a number of film directors, visual artists, authors, and other musicians.  (You fancy, huh?)

"Nortec" is a combination of two very different musical genres -- norteño (a traditional rural Mexican musical genre that features accordion and guitar instrumentation) and electronica.  That sounds like a very odd combination, and it is -- the end result is something that sounds like a combination of disco and bossa nova and a few other things.  It's pretty hypnotic stuff.

Kylee Swenson Gordon
The singer on this track is Kylee Swenson Gordon, who handles vocals for a San Francisco pop/electronica band called the Loquats.  (The loquat is a fruit-bearing evergreen native to China.  It sounds like it should be related to the kumquat, but I don't think the two plants are close relatives.)  I'm not sure if suggested the bike rider's route, or whether Bostich+Fussible are devotees of two-wheeling on the streets of San Francisco.

Here's "I Count The Ways":

Use this link if you'd like to buy the song from Amazon:

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