SF Bay Area journal – days 7 and 8

June 9


BARTed to San Francisco Embarcadero station to take a ferry over to Larkspur, where we met Bob and Susan to go for a hike in Muir Woods. Rose and I aren’t the most seasoned hikers in the world (especially compared to Bob and Susan), so we chose a relatively unchallenging route, which proved to be pretty much exactly as much exertion as we wanted or needed on that day. Muir Woods itself is incredible and beautiful, and although we were simply winding our own way through the park, we happened to come upon a clearing just in time to hear a ranger tell how the park was created. Essentially, it was private property of a man named William Kent, and in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire, a major lumbering corporation had plans to seize the land via eminent domain and chop down all the redwoods for lumber to rebuild the city, then flood and dam the valley to generate power. When Kent caught wind of this, he complained his way all the up to President Theodore Roosevelt. And even though Teddy was an imperialist, macho boor in many ways, his reputation as a founding conservationist is apparently quite well-deserved: within two weeks (so our ranger says) of his hearing Kent’s plea, Roosevelt declared the area a national park, protected from corporate predation. So we have Roosevelt to thank that these amazing redwoods aren’t now graffito’d sidings of some anonymous Tenderloin liquor store.

After our Muir Woods hike, we’d intended to get a late lunch at a sushi place in San Anselmo. This time, given our bad luck with the last planned sushi meal, we’d called ahead to make sure we knew the hours, and we were told they were upon until 4 pm. We arrived at the rather inconspicuous place shortly after 3 pm, after trying to figure out where they’d hidden the place amidst the river-confused street plan of San Anselmo…only to see a CLOSED sign on the unlocked door. Hoping someone had just forgotten to change the sign, we pushed the door open and called out to see if they were open. No, we were informed, they closed at 3…and always close at 3. We were misinformed. Grr. Apparently, Someone doesn’t want us eating sushi anywhere in the Bay Area.

So we wondered around the rather quaint little town of San Anselmo, finding closed restaurant after closed restaurant: even a little Mexican place, which you would think would love to have its patio full of margarita-swilling tourists on a warm weekday afternoon, was closed…even though at the same time we were seeing whether the ABIERTO sign in the window was accurate (no dice, unless my Spanish is way worse than I thought), another group was approaching from the opposite direction, expressing their own disappointment that the place was not abierto. Eventually, starving, we found a diner that was open…and, this being Marin County, it was the sort of diner that had organic food and $7 malteds. But they were good $7 malteds, and we were utterly famished. I ended up shoveling down a large blackened catfish, some maple-glazed baby…carrots (the menu’s line break was thusly amusing), and too many fries before conceding victory to the remainder of my meal. (Again.)

We then drove a short ways to Novato, where Bob’s brother and sister-in-law live. Bob and Susan were more or less housesitting while his brother and sister-in-law were away. We were greeted by two very yappy poodles, and after a short while being mesmerised by dueling windchimes whose combined tuning was rather intriguingly dissonant (you know I was supertired by this point because I actually didn’t geek out enough to figure out exactly what was going on there harmonically), we moved indoors and drifted in and out of catnaps for a bit.

The evening’s plans involved a general get-together for people to meet us, at a downtown San Francisco brewpub called the Thirsty Bear. (Not the Thrusty Bare – that’s another business entirely.) We got there a bit earlier than anticipated, and partly due to the WWDC in town, the place was fairly crowded for a Wednesday night. We’d commandeered a small table, when on my way to the restroom I spotted a slightly familiar looking figure…and lo, behold it was Tom, who’d mentioned he’d get there early to try to hold down a table for our group, and verily had he done so. So after a bit of fiddling about waiting for various drinks, tapas items, and cheese platters to arrive and be paid for at one table, we all eventually moved over to the tables Tom had so graciously saved for us. Over the course of the evening, fellow Robyn Hitchcock listmember Chris arrived, then Tim from the Loud Family list, my cousin Karl, and eventually our old friend Steve. I’d never met Tom, Chris, or Tim in person before, and the last time I saw Karl was at his sister’s wedding roughly a decade ago. (We’d had to miss his own wedding a few years back, unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts.) A couple of other folks had planned on attending but had last-minute conflicts of various types, but we had a great time regardless, even though I’m sure it would have been even more fun with more people.

Bob and Susan had to leave a bit early, so the rest of us stayed until it was time to go, Tom back to his hotel, the rest of us off to our respective BART trains (which were nearly the last ones of the evening). As it turned out, Tim and Steve were going to the same station as we were, so we chatted a bit more until Tim’s train arrived, then Steve’s, then finally ours. Getting off at our now-familiar El Cerrito Plaza, and after one last walk back to the condo on Pierce, we got home about 1 in the morning…tired but very pleased with a fun evening of meeting and visiting with friends. Our only regret was that we didn’t get to meet even more of them – next time, then.

June 10

Up at 6 in the morning or so to get everything together for our trip home. The amusing thing about travel: so, roughly 20-30 minutes to BART, 45 minutes or so on BART, another 10 on the AirTrain to the terminal, a seemingly endless wait for ticketing check-in (which – dammit – we could have done yesterday online, if only we’d overhead-lightbulbed the fact that Bob’s brother did have a computer and printer we could have used), an efficient run through security check (although I won the double-double, getting both the random security patdown – I’ll call it a free massage – and the random wand-the-laptop sweepstakes – and…it’s 10 am, here a bit early for our 12:05 flight…which, with an hour layover in the Most Boring Airport Ever*, Kansas City International, gets us home sometime around 8 pm (6 pm San Francisco time). If you’re keeping track, that’s roughly four hours in the air, and the rest of the time land travel and waiting…which is longer than the air time. In other words, quicker to fly from San Francisco Airport to Milwaukee than to get from our Albany condo to the airport…

So we land at Mitchell, amazingly discover our suitcases were not the very last ones on the baggage carousel (note: why don’t airports play the Hollies “On a Carousel” here?), and went to catch a cab. Bad choice: this cab was run by one guy, who reeked of cigar smoke and grumbled audibly when we told him our destination. He was pissed it was only a couple of miles from the airport. At some point very soon afterwards, he turned off the meter (which, I’m pretty sure, is illegal), and after taking some turns very quickly and flinging us nearly against the walls of the cab, stopped in front of our house…and told us a fare that was about thirty percent higher than the fare we paid cabbing to the airport. He grunted and pointed at a sign that supposedly justified his fare; we gave him the money, he gave us back all our change (not that he’d exactly earned a tip anyway) – then refused to open the door on my side so I had to crawl out the other side, did nothing to assist us with our luggage (not that we really needed any assistance…but one of the items on the fare card he grunted at had to do with luggage), and muttered some sort of bizarre buzzing Russian or Ukrainian curse at his as he drove off. Turns out our neighbor had had a similar encounter with the same cab driver coming back from the airport a month or so back.

Eh – a minor unpleasantness, but it’d been a great trip, and we were happy to be back home with our own house, our own bed, and our cats. Thanks to all our friends, old and new, for helping make this a wonderful vacation.

Plus…tubular photos! (That joke just never gets old for me…)

* How boring is it? Well, Johnny Cash wrote a song about it: “I fell in to a boring ring of flyers…”

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