Life in SF on a Broke Student Budget

Hello again! I haven’t updated in awhile because the past week or so because I’ve been busy with my move to Washington DC! I’m participating in the UCDC program at my school which entails working/interning in the capital, as well as taking two classes (one research seminar and one elective class that has to do with the city). I’ve been here for a week and recently started my internship at the Smithsonian Associates where I’m working as a Digital Marketing intern. Essentially, I’ll be helping out with promoting the various events, programs, and classes that the TSA puts on for its members. I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far, and I love that I can walk into one of the numerous museums on my lunch break and explore.

However, that is not the point of this blog post! I could go on and on, but I will save that for a different post and hopefully, have a pop culture spin on it. The point of this post is how broke I feel out here. You’re probably wondering why I’m feeling that here and now when I’ve been a college student for four years, racking up loans and other expenses. Well, it turns out that Washington DC is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the US. It’s especially hard when you’re working as an unpaid intern and paying expensive tuition and living fees to your school. I’ve been trying to find a website that lists cheap and free events in this city but so far have found little, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing as there seem to be free festivals that you stumble upon while walking around (and all of the Smithsonian museums are free!). Because I’ve been trying to find ways of saving money here, I’ve been inspired to write a post about saving money back home in San Francisco. Here are a few of the ways that have worked for me!

1. One of the best websites that list free or cheap events and happenings in San Francisco is FunCheapSF (http://sf.funcheap.com/). You can find events by day, location, and category. It’s a fantastic resource, especially if you’re like me and often times have no idea what’s happening anywhere. The website also lists their own picks, so you can easily find the most recommended events.


2. Go to free movie screenings! Okay, this is one of my favorite ways of saving money. My friends and I have been doing this for the past few years due to our cheapness and being poor students. It takes a little bit of searching, but the payoff is great. There are a few websites out there that give away passes or find passes to movies that will be coming out. However, keep in mind that having a movie pass does not guarantee you a seat in the theater. The catch is that it is first come, first serve which means that you may have to wait in line hours beforehand, depending on how popular the movie is. A few websites that I’ve gotten movie screening passes from are:
gofobo
Fat Wallet (go to the last page for the most recent screenings)
Film Metro
SF Station

Again, you’ll need to do a little hunting and give up a few hours of your day, but if you really want to see a movie before everyone else and NOT pay for it, then give it a go. It can be a lot of fun to tell other people you’ve seen an awesome movie before it’s even come out! Even better is if it’s in IMAX (case in point – when I got to see The Dark Knight in IMAX a few days before it was released).

California Academy of Sciences

3. Go to the museums when it’s FREE. San Francisco has a wide variety of museums and unfortunately, almost all of them charge an admission price. However, you can save several dollars by researching when the museum offers free days.

The Asian Art Museum is free on the first Sunday of the month.
Legion of Honor, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), and de Young Museum are free on the first Tuesday of the
The Exploratorium is free on the first Wednesday of the month.
The Academy of Sciences is free on the third Wednesday of the month.
To find more free museums, click here

Additionally, if you’re a Bank of American customer, you can check out several museums for free on the first full weekend of the month, just be presenting your Bank of America card. More information here: http://museums.bankofamerica.com/


4. Twitter is a great resource for deals/freebies/discounts! I know some people balk at our society’s dependence on social media, but it really can be useful. Most businesses and brands are on Twitter now and many offer freebies or discounts to their Twitter followers. Case in point: just this summer I won a pair of tickets to see “Billy Elliot the Musical” through MyBART and a pair of tickets of Outside Lands through EggCartel. Obviously, I was really lucky, but it is possible to win things through Twitter. Just try to keep an eye out for giveaways and tweet like crazy! You’ll never know unless you try!


5. Research restaurants before you go out to eat! Although it’s nice to be able to say you ate lunch at a really great place that you just happened to find while walking around, it would also be smart to Yelp a couple of places beforehand. You can sort places by neighborhood, type of cuisine, and price. It’s even better if you have a smartphone and can use their mobile app on the go! Typically, I stick to places that have one dollar sign ($) or two dollar signs ($$).


6. Utilize sites like GROUPON or LivingSocial. They both have great coupons and discounts on various businesses or activities throughout the city. The catch is that the offers are usually only up for one day so you should be on top of it if you’re seriously considering purchasing a deal. I’m not a huge fan of using these sites only because once I purchase one, I feel obligated to go to the business or restaurant, but if you’ve been intent on visiting a certain place, than buy it! Occasionally the sites do have pretty awesome deals like 2 movie tickets for $9.

7. You’re a student! Take advantage of it! Along with the awesome perks of being young and healthy, being a student means you have the occasional privilege of paying discounted prices. Student prices are not at every establishment, but it pays off to research or ask if there is a discount. Some theaters have student rush tickets, in which you can pay lower prices when you present your student ID card. (Side note = many theaters in SF have rush tickets, which are seats with limited view of the stage. You can buy tickets for these seats that are usually in the front at much lower prices, but you’ll need to wait hours before hand to snatch up the small number of them. My friends and I used to rush “Jersey Boys” a bunch of times and we always paid $25. It was sad when the guy sitting next to my friend realized she had paid $25 for her seat and he had paid almost $200). One of the best student discounts that I’ve used this past year is on my MacBook; I saved almost $100 just because I had a .edu email address. StudentUniverse and STA Travel also offer discounts on plane tickets and other travel packages. I also noticed that when I was in Europe and the UK, many museums and places offered lower prices to students. So even if your ID photo is hideous (like mine), keep it with you at all times because you never know when you might save a couple of bucks or more with it!

Edgar Wright Triple Feature @ the Castro Theatre!

Last night I attended the All Night Tribute to Edgar Wright put on by Midnites for Maniacs at the legendary Castro Theatre! It was a triple feature with all three of Edgar Wright’s films – Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead.

I am a massive fan of Edgar Wright and was so excited when I found out it was confirmed that he would be appearing and doing a Q&A! I’ve seen him twice before at Comic-Con when he was there in 2008 to promote the American release of Spaced and in 2011 to promote Scott Pilgrim. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he’s also very charming and kind to his fans. I throw out this story whenever people ask for nice celebrity encounter stories, but back in 2008 I was lucky enough to win a ticket to the Spaced signing and had to chance to briefly meet Edgar, Simon Pegg, and Jessica Hynes. I remember wanting to throw up the entire time because I was so nervous whilst waiting in line and when I finally got to the table, I told Edgar that I was really, really nervous. He grabbed my hands and said there was no need to be nervous and that to calm down, we would count to 10. I know this sounds straight out of some weird fanfiction but it’s totally true! I remember how surreal it all felt to have someone whose work you admire, to hold your hands…and slowly count to 10, while your favorite actor is less than a foot away and watching you both.

Skip to 2:13. I am so thankful my face is offscreen. Although that moment remains one of the best moments of my life, the internet so does not need to see me spazzing out like a complete dork. So in short, Edgar Wright = one of the nicest celebrities/famous people EVER.

And back to last night! I got there a little before 6pm and the line was already wrapping around two corners! It was insane…even though I knew this would be a passionate and dedicated crowd, I had no idea just how passionate. It was like a little bit of Comic-Con in the heart of the Castro!

The marquee!

Once inside, my friends and I discussed possibly napping during some of the movies. They’re three of my favorite films, but sometimes I can barely handle watching two movies back to back (this is why I’m not a very good movie hopper). Sure enough, I napped for about 20 minutes during Hot Fuzz and another 30 minutes during Shaun of the Dead, but managed to wake up in time for my favorite parts.

One of the best things about the Castro Theater - in house organ player!

The Q&As were a lot of fun and Comic-Con style with the audience asking the majority of the questions. What I love about audience questions is that they’re usually really thoughtful and interesting, as opposed to the typical press questions like “What was it like working with blah blah?” or “Tell us about this movie…” Fans are the ones who’ve already seen the films and have analyzed every single bit of the them; their questions are about the details most people gloss over or the filmmakers’ obscure back catalogue and so on. Some of my favorite questions last night where those ones from film geeks who asked about Edgar’s use of long tracking shots or sound. It’s pretty interesting to hear why they chose to film some scenes in a certain way or behind the scenes stories. Here’s one – did you know their director of photography on Shaun of the Dead also worked on Goodfellas? Surprise! He didn’t work on that famous kitchen scene though…surprise again! He didn’t work on that famous Shaun walking to the shop scene either. There was also that awkward moment when a fan prefaced his question with the confession that he’s never read the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, and then decided to ask why the Matthew Patel musical was in the film (silence….someone in the crowd: “it’s in the book!”). Still, Edgar answered the questions quite throughly so the movies were a bit behind schedule, hence, why I had to nap!

All in all, it was a great night for Edgar Wright fans! It’s always fun to see movies with dedicated and passionate fans and I love that the scenes that got big reactions in the theater years ago, still get them today. Edgar chose an IMDB keyword for each film that everyone would cheer for so during Scott Pilgrim we all cheered whenever coins appeared, for Hot Fuzz when a “chin stabbing” occurs, and for Shaun of the Dead when disembowelment happens. I saw the last two films in theaters and it was great to see them on the big screen again and, as the Castro prides itself, in 35mm. I never watched Shaun of the Dead in theaters (I was an uncultured 14 year old when it came out) despite it being my favorite film of all time, so I’m glad I can now say I’ve seen that on the big screen as well. I’m really happy that the Castro Theater/Midnite for Maniacs put on this triple feature! Like I mentioned, I normally have trouble sitting through two movies back to back, so there’s not many triple features I’d be willing to pay for and attend. This, of course, was an exception and I’m glad I attended – definitely a highlight of my summer, if not my year!

@edgarwright: "7Pm to 2.53AM. Castro Theatre. You rock."

For nicer photos of the marquee and his own remarks on the event, check out Edgar Wright’s own blog here.

Concert/Festival Pet Peeves

This past weekend I attended the 4th annual Outside Lands in my very own hometown of San Francisco! This was my third time attending, but my first time obtaining actual tickets. In the past, I’ve volunteered to get in and snuck in (shhhhh….), but I was fortunate to win tickets from one of the many contests I entered. The line-up was insanely good this year, so I was determined to attend this year’s festival.

Winning the 3 day passes! I almost screamed in the office!

However, because I didn’t pay ANYTHING for my tickets, I didn’t feel the need to convince myself that I was having THE BEST TIME EVER! Rather, I could look at everything in an objective manner. That’s not to say that I tried to pick apart every single thing at Outside Lands, but I did note a few things that kind of reinforced my belief that I will never pay $200 for Outside Lands. The ticket price alone is a major turn-off, especially for a poor student like me who isn’t bringing in any income at the moment, but I’ve tried to compile a list of some of the things that bothered me and put me off on paying major bucks to attend a festival.

1. TALL PEOPLE LOVE TO STAND RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.

I’m short. I’ve been the same height since the 6th grade. This doesn’t bode well for me at concerts where the majority of the crowd is taller than me. I’ve been going to shows since I was 14/15 and I can still remember how the girl at the Rooney show rested her armpit on my shoulder. Yes, I have suffered because of my height. Regardless, I still attend shows because they’re fun and I know that I should probably aim to be in the front to get a decent view.

Anyway, back to OSL. So there I was standing and enjoying my decent view of the Sutro Stage right before The Joy Formidable’s set. Right after the band finished soundchecking, this girl walks directly in front of me! All of a sudden, my view of the stage is completely obliterated by her head! My perfect view of the stage was now ruined by a head of blonde hair. Sadly, this was not the first instance in which my view was ruined by a person’s head or back.

After Ok Go’s set on Saturday, I came up with the “brilliant” idea to have my friends move out of the middle of the pit towards the barricade dividing the audience in half. I thought our view would be decent there and we’d at least have the barricade. Unfortunately about 50 other people had the same idea, so about half the people around us pushed forward while the other half pushed alongside us. It failed obviously. I ended up behind this 6 foot old guy and my arm squished between his back and this other girl. At first there was a average height man in front of me so I could at least see the stage if I stood on my tiptoes. Things got worse, though, when the old guy in front me asked the average height man to switch places with his son. Suddenly, a GIANT in a blue hoodie was standing directly in front of me. And if you’ve ever been to a concert, you may be aware of how close people are packed in. I was, essentially, pushed up against him, practically grinding against him. Not by choice! The girl behind me was also complaining about not seeing anything so she decided that she could see better by pushing against me, which pushed me against the giant. It was an awkward, sexy sandwich. Yep.

I could rest my arm on his butt

"What acceptance looks like"

2. PEOPLE WHO BRING THEIR DSLRS INTO THE CROWD/PIT

I’m not going to lie, I’d love to have a DSLR. I’d love to have the ability to take great pictures and just look like I actually know what I’m doing with a camera; having that giant camera slung around your neck definitely adds to that illusion. However, I completely dislike seeing people bring their fancy cameras into the crowd. There’s a reason why most venues stop you from bringing in large cameras. THEY BLOCK EVERYONE’S VIEW OF THE STAGE. Not to mention the fact that sticking your expensive camera up in the air where people may crowdsurf isn’t the smartest idea.

So there I was, enjoying Phantogram’s set on Friday when this girl appeared next to me cradling a fancy DSLR camera. She seemed to be really enjoying the music so I didn’t mind her presence…that is until I saw her lifting her large camera to take photos and thus, completely blocking my view.

Really loving this view of her arm

She didn’t do it too often, thankfully, but it was still annoying. I remember reading this article from my Alternative Press magazine from 2003 (yes I used to read that magazine) in which they asked photographers for their tips. One that kept popping up in my mind throughout the weekend was, basically, “Get to the show early if you’re going to take photos…no one likes having to deal with the photographer carrying a bunch of gear and blocking the view.”

Not to say that the photographers in the front weren’t annoying as well. I was loving Foster the People’s set when I suddenly noticed a giant DSLR camera bobbing up and down in front.

Really.....really?

It was funny, but definitely distracting. I couldn’t focus on the music because all I could see was a camera moving around near the band’s faces.

3. DUMB SECURITY POLICIES

One of the other things that bugged over the course of the weekend was the policy that you couldn’t bring in open containers, including refillable water bottles. I understand the goal of this rule is to prevent people from smuggling in alcohol and other “substances” (LOL) but it seemed stupid, considering the fact that this festival preached green tactics and such. They encouraged festival goers to bring in re-useable bottles, but then we all had to empty them at security check? Luckily, I realized that I could just pour out a few drops of my water and security wouldn’t notice. Honestly, though it was, as I overheard one girl complain, “…a complete waste…”

4.WHY DOES EVERYONE DRESS THE SAME?!

I live in the Sunset, which is fairly close to Golden Gate Park, so I think I’m pretty good at being able to differentiate the Sunset locals from out-of-towners. Since OSL began four years ago, Irving Street, typically filled with Asians, senior citizens, and mothers, get overrun with, for lack of a better word, hipsters. Usually, people who look like Tumblr threw up on them.

It gets worse once you’re inside where you may be stuck in a sea of people who are all sporting the same sunglasses (Ray-Bans or knock-offs) and headbands. I looked around and I could count at least 10 girls near me wearing headbands and many more (guys and girls) wearing identical sunglasses. I’m not quite sure what it is about festivals, but people come out in droves wearing their best faux/”hipster” garb.

I’m not gonna front though, I wore my AA blue hoodie just like thousands of other people and some guy ran up to me and said, “Nice hoodie!” and then I realized he was wearing the same thing.

5. CROWDSURFING

Luckily, this was not as ubiquitous at OSL as it is at emo/punk shows (Warped Tour, I’m looking at you), but it definitely happened during the Arctic Monkeys set on Saturday. My friends and I were, once again, packed in and practically grinding against one another and various strangers when we could feel a strong push behind us. All of a sudden, there was a body above our heads and because none of us are strong enough (or care enough) to carry another human beings above us, he felt directly in front/top of us. The guy also happened to be the guy who pushed past us earlier, claiming he had to “find his friend”, so he somehow made his way behind us and tried to crowdsurf back to the front. Great.

The crowd for Arctic Monkeys

I’ve never crowdsurfed, nor do I want to. I’m scared of heights as it is and to have to trust other people to successfully carry me around makes me want to die. I suppose I can see how it’s fun, especially when the mood and music are right, but my God is it annoying when you expect ME to carry your bony (or not so bony) bod to the front of the stage. Plus, it’s never fun getting kicked in the head.

Still, one of the best things I saw this weekend came courtesy of a crowdsurfer. A girl also standing near the crowd dividing barricade decided that she would partake in the fun and had her friend lift her up. Her “Yeaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!” scream announced to those of us around her that she would be crowdsurfing, so immediately hands went up to try to carry her across. Unfortunately for her, a security guard right on the other side of the barricade also heard her and grabbed her ankle and began pulling her back towards the barricade. The result was a tug-of-war between security guard and audience members, with the girl as the rope. It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in awhile and taught me that if I ever wanted to crowdsurf, doing it right near the barricade and security guards isn’t the best idea.

I think those are all the pet peeves I can think of right now. There are more, but most of those come with attending any type of concert, so I usually just brush them off. Overall, Outside Lands was a ton of fun and definitely a highlight of my summer. Thanks again to EggDrop app for giving me free tickets and to all of my friends who went with me. I can’t wait till next year and depending on the line-up, maybe I’ll pay for tickets. Maybe. 🙂

The Joy Formidable

Phantogram

Foster the People

Hanging back for MGMT

Best Coast

Chocolands at night!

The Vaccines

Ok Go's Damian coming into the crowd!

Arctic Monkeys

The sun came out on Saturday!

So many people...

The Black Keys

Muse

Girl Talk

Intel Cube!

!!!

People everywhere!!!

The Decembrists

Arcade Fire