The movie “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is currently on Netflix, so the other night my girlfriend and I decided to stay in and watch. Not only is it a classic, it was also one of my favorite movies in my late teens and early twenties. I was a freshman at UC Santa Cruz the year it came out, so for Halloween I dressed like Hunter S. Thompson, took some LSD and had a perfectly strange night.
If you haven’t seen “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” or read the book, the premise is that Thompson goes to Las Vegas with his “attorney” to cover a motorcycle race for “Sports Illustrated.” They bring enough drugs to make Walgreens blush, take most of them, and then ruminate on the death of the 60s and the American Dream while completely losing their minds.
When we put the movie on earlier this week, I realized I hadn’t seen it in years, and let me tell you, what looked like one hell of a good time when I was in my 20s looks like an absolute nightmare now. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hilarious and even insightful, but good god I don’t know how those lunatics survived.
That aside, one of the things the movie touches on tangentially is what a magical place San Francisco was in the mid to late 60s. I wasn’t even nearly born yet, but Thompson’s ability to write his ass off made me nostalgic for a place and time I never experienced.
That’s the importance of good storytelling. When you’re living through something, it’s hard to make sense of it all because we’re so involved with the little corner of the world that contains our lives. Good storytellers are able to step back and take in more of what’s going on in the peripheries and weave it all together to create a bigger picture of a historical moment.
It’s interesting to view the web series “Don’t Call it Frisco” within this context. The premise of this comedy is a square New Englander named Pat moves to the Bay Area and has a hard time adjusting to weird life S.F. life. Throughout the first season Pat meets overly intense yoga teachers, vegan roommates, glow in the dark flying drones, and of course accidentally eats some edible weed and has a freak out.
Made up of five to eight minute episodes, the show makes fun of the fact that many of the things we take for granted as normal in the Bay Area, are bizarre to people on the outside. By doing this, “Don’t Call it Frisco” is also exploring what it means to San Francisco right now.
In 2018, we live in a city that celebrates the weirdo mavericks and lionizes Hunter S. Thompson’s San Francisco, while also navigating the crushing economic reality of a region that longer supports them. The fact that this newest season was partially funded by cryptocurrency is an amazingly on-the-nose commentary about where and what San Francisco is at this juncture in history.
To give full disclosure, the creator of “Don’t Call it Frisco,” Matt Barkin is a friend of mine. I would’ve told you to check it out regardless though, because of what I mentioned above. But on top of that, I’m excited that we might be entering a new renaissance of Bay Area focused filmmaking. With the incredible successes of “Sorry to Bother You” and “Blindspotting,” we’re seeing Bay Area filmmakers telling Bay Area stories to audiences around the world, while also using Bay Area talent. While I haven’t seen the second season of “Don’t Call it Frisco” yet, I imagine it’ll continue to give tongue-in-cheek insight into what it’s like living through insane times in an insane place, to viewers far beyond the Bay Area.
You can check out “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” on Netflix now and watch the first season of “Don’t Call it Frisco” on DontCallitFrisco.tv now as well. The second season of “Don’t Call it Frisco” will be available on that same site on Sunday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his awesome mailing list to stay up on the work he’s doing: http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.