Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Tales of the City

So, in the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee, "I'm back." It was a great trip! Sadly for me it only confirmed my suspicions that New York is just a "phase" in my life, and that I need to get out west on a more permanent basis, and soon.

I have downloaded all my photos, but it will be a while before I finish processing them. I'll post the best ones here, but for now I'll just summarize the highlights of the trip.

The flight out last Tuesday was great...the plane was pretty empty so I had the row to myself, and it was very uneventful. Not a cloud in the sky between New York and California...I easily recognized Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City from the air and took some great pictures of Manhattan as we flew over as well as some interesting ground formations from the air. We landed in San Francisco a few minutes early...it was very foggy, we didn't see the runway until we were on it. The air off the bay is pretty cool! I'm glad I brought a light coat and a sweatshirt.

I hopped on BART and was at my hotel by 11:30 a.m. I had intended to just leave my bag there and officially check in later, but they had a room available, so I took it so I could hang up the wedding clothes, etc. The room was okay. Nothing fancy, but it was clean and quiet and I had a private bathroom, which is all I cared about. The TV had CNN, which is more than I can say for the Comfort Inn in Santa Rosa. The only "bad" thing about the hotel was the view out my window: a cinder-block wall topped by razor wire. I felt like Martha Stewart. But, you know, I didn't go to San Francisco to stare out the window of my hotel room. I would totally stay there again sometime.

So after that I took a walking tour of the SoMa area and visited the temporary headquarters of the Academy of Sciences and the Steinhart Aquarium. Then a nap was necessary. I woke up in time to see the Cheney/Edwards debate. Personally, I call it a draw. Edwards of course had his facts more right than Cheney and was very energetic, but Cheney was calmer, more eloquent and more professional. He just lied through his teeth. I also credit him during the exchange about his daughter, which Senator Edwards unnecessarily brought up. Frankly, I thought that was a very cheap shot by Edwards, and Cheney handled it with extreme class. On the other hand, I heard a commentator say it was effective because it showed that social conservatives, when faced with gay issues in their own family, act like liberals.

I went out for a drink in the Castro area that night, but not surprisingly, there wasn't a lot going on on a Tuesday night. Yay for the cheap strong drinks at Badlands!

I started Wednesday off with a walking tour of the North Beach area, and had my morning coffee at Cafe Trieste. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I had wonderful views of the bay from Telegraph Hill, though I did not climb Coit Tower. Am I the only one who did not know there were wild parrots there? Then I trudged down the hill toward Pier 39 and went to the aquarium there, which was pretty cool. Maybe a tad expensive at $13 for a small place, but the acrylic tunnels were great. I also took some great shots of the sea lions out there...what a show they put on! And...what a smell! Then I rode the streetcar along the waterfront back to the Embarcadero and trudged up the hill to my hotel, where I rested for a little bit.

My plan for the afternoon was to take this walking tour of Chinatown and then have dinner there. I enjoyed walking around, but I poked my head in a few markets on Stockton and totally lost my appetite. In addition to great piles of things dried beyond recognition which now reeked like vomit, I saw buckets of dazed live fish, butcher counters that were open to the public -- with shoppers handling all the meat -- and a box of live frogs that a woman was sorting through. She would pick up a frog and handle it, the way I inspect an apple. Then she'd toss it back in the box. I wondered why the frogs didn't try to escape, like the overflowing box of crabs next to it, where a lazy guardian kept them from getting too far away, even though they wouldn't get far on the street. Someone later explained to me that the frogs' legs are broken. Also in a window I saw a tray full of eels covered with fish guts, and next to it a tray that contained...I'm not sure. They looked like small, smooth tennis balls, covered with bloody, wet string. It was for sale, whatever it was. There was also 3/4 of a turtle available. Someone had purchased the rear right leg, I guess.

I ended up going back up to North Beach, where I had a fantastic Italian dinner at Franchino's, on Columbus Avenue just north of Grant. I highly recommend it...it's a real mom and pop operation. I had planned to go out this night, too, but when I got back to the hotel I collapsed.

The next morning fog covered the city, but I had reserved the day for a hike. I rode the Hyde-Powell cable car to Fisherman's Wharf, and then walked along the Pacific Coast trail toward the Golden Gate Bridge. I took some dramatic photos there. I also stopped at a fantastic little coffee house/gift shop near the bridge called the Warming Hut. That would be a fun place to work, I bet! I took the trail up to the western side of the bridge, and hiked through the forest in the fog...it was very beautiful and quiet except for the crashing waves, which could only barely be seen. I kept hiking all the way until I got to the Sutro Gardens...which took about 6 hours or so from the time I left Fisherman's Wharf. I had planned to go even further so I could ride a Muni streetcar back into town, but my legs gave out so I took a bus down Geary. I got off at Japantown and found a copy of a favorite Japanese movie, "Ten to Chi to," on video -- apparently it's not yet available on DVD. It was released while I was in Japan back in 1990.

Back at the hotel, I rested a bit before meeting up with my old pal Brian for dinner and drinks, and then we went to a club called the Powerhouse, because his friend was the DJ that night. Um...that was an interesting experience. It was amateur wrestling night. Not exactly my crowd, but I guess it's good to expand your horizons occasionally. People were friendly, just not flirty.

The next morning was bright and sunny. I checked out of the hotel and spent the first half of the day "shopping," though I didn't really buy anything. I don't like "shopping," but I couldn't really think of what else I could do in just a couple of hours. Then I boarded a commuter bus up to Santa Rosa and met my parents. The rehearsal dinner for the wedding was at a restaurant called "An Italian Affair." The food was great, and it was so nice to see everyone again. The owner was "three sheets to the wind," as they say, and he gave my mom and I a guided tour of the fucking basement. (Fucking was his favorite adjective...probably a favorite verb, too.) Then he showed us a fucking portrait of his father dressed up as a fucking rabbi, by an artist whose works apparently sell for as much as forty fucking thousand dollars. At least that's what this man said.

The wedding was nice and simple, though when we went around to take pictures of the bride and groom coming out of the church my stepfather thought we had abandoned him so he drove to the reception without us. Oops. The reception was at a beautiful old estate in Healdsburg...the food was great, and everyone had a good time. My cousin Greg found a real peach in Adriana.

After all that several of us went to a Mexican restaurant in Santa Rosa for dinner, if you can believe it. I was stuffed to bursting and though I tried to stay awake a bit longer once we got back to the hotel, I was asleep by 9:45.

I did nothing, really, on Sunday. I had wanted to do something -- anything -- rather than sit around at the Comfort Inn, but everyone else was tired, too, so we got a late start. I had a pizza lunch with my cousin Karen and her family, and then we went to see Greg's new home in Cloverdale/burg/ville, I can't remember what the place was called. It's a beautiful home, but I reached saturation point for family stuff. My mother and stepfather and I had a nice dinner at a restaurant back in Santa Rosa, then I went back to the hotel and packed up my stuff.

Got up early the next morning, and caught the 7:30 airporter. Phew! The area of Santa Rosa where the bus picks up smells like COW, and roosters were crowing. I was not in Manhattan! I slept most of the bus ride, but woke up as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge...no fog! It was a beautiful view. We got to SFO 30 minutes early, and I just sat and read the NY Times until it was time to go. This flight was packed, but I sat next to a pleasant young woman, and I slept most of the way. Boring, uneventful flight.

New York welcomed me home in its special way. Several flights arrived at once, and the filthy, poorly lit baggage claim area at JFK was jampacked with angry looking people. They never did post which carousel our flight was coming in on, so I had to wander around until I found it. It took frickin' forever for the bags to arrive. Then when I got outside, there must have been a hundred people (or more) at the taxi stand, and NO CABS. I mean, none. It was ridiculous. I stood there for probably half an hour, fending off illegal cabbies and listening to all these people shout and moan over the din of squealing tires, breaks, blaring horns, and other airport noise.

Despite all my napping, I was tired, so I slept well last night...it was good, at least, to be back in my own bed.

No comments: