SF Bay Area trip journal – Days 1 and 2

June 3

Up very early to get to the airport – only occasional sleep on an uneventful flight. We arrive in San Francisco to find unseasonably warm weather, a trend that persisted throughout our visit. After a bit of confusion with signage as we were trying to get from the airport shuttle to the BART and figuring out which way to take BART, we quickly figured it out, and took BART to El Cerrito Plaza, nearish the condo where we were staying.  On the BART, an interesting overheard conversation between an angry homeless or indigent man whose sleeping bag had been stolen, who was vowing vengeance against the thief, and a slightly older, formerly homeless man who was now a social worker or some such, who was counseling the first guy not to get in trouble. It was rhetorically intriguing, in that no one was making ethical arguments per se so much as various appeals to self-interest reinforced with dueling biblical imagery (“an eye for an eye” vs. “turn the other cheek”).

We arrived at our station. We’d earlier Google-mapped our way to the condo, which proved that Google Maps’ “walking” feature is very much in beta: it proved to be a quite out-of-the-way route, obviously just the way you’d go via car. We got a bit hot and sweaty lugging luggage a mile and a quarter (did I mention the unusual heat and humidity?). We finally arrived…to discover our building had a long, steeply sloping walkway as our final leg. Rose was reminded of the bicycle messenger in which William Gibson novel who, approaching one of San Francisco’s many steep hills, would psych herself up with a shout of “SURGE!”

Up the hill – our calves ending up getting quite the workout this weekend – to the condo. That condo was a stroke of good fortune: back at Thanksgiving we were discussing this trip with family, and my brother-in-law mentioned that his family had a place near San Francisco (in Albany, in fact) that no one actually lived in but that the family used if any of them were in the area. So he checked, no one else was using it, and we were able to save loads of money on the cost of housing for our trip. Thanks again, Michael!

The condo is a nice little place, very grandparently – which is to say, few amenities newer than the ’70s or so, so no WiFi, which I expected. (No go bootlegging onto anyone else’s: they were either passworded or too faint to be usable.) As I said, this was not unexpected: we figured we’d just use Rose’s iPhone to access the web, primarily Facebook, so we could communicate with our friends in the area. We hadn’t anticipated Facebook’s latest fuckup: the site has a page noting that you could request notification if another device attempted to access your account…but failed to note that if you did not request such notification, any attempt to access your account from another device (such as Rose’s iPhone) would result in the device being locked out entirely until you approved it on your main computer. Not so easy when that computer’s 2000 miles away.

Fortunately, we discovered a mall full of Chinese and other Asian restaurants a couple blocks away – with WiFi! Yippee. Also a Ranch 99, which allowed Rose to go nuts buying 89 different types of peculiar tofu-based foods. We found a cool bookstore with kitschy J-pop, anime, etc. – Rose bought a fabulous Domo sweatshirt. We now know Domo’s backstory: uh, let’s see, born from an egg, he’s friends with an elderly rabbit who likes to watch TV; he also likes TV, when he gets angry he farts. Makes perfect sense to me.

Settled in, did some reading and relaxing, then to bed.

June 4

We discovered the shortcut through the nearby Pacific East Mall: alongside its parking lot, to a small park next to a creek, across a street, then into El Cerrito Plaza Mall, then through the mall and a parking lot to the BART station. It felt like it cut the Google Maps route nearly in half; in fact it cut out only about 20%, but it felt much more direct. As we expected, since we didn’t rent a car, we’re doing lots of walking! We went into San Francisco – had a bit of a mix-up getting onto a city bus going the wrong way (damned angle streets and our lame-ass sense of direction, especially at midday and especially coming up from the underground BART station). Fortunately we figured it out quickly – but we had no particular schedule anyway. We took the bus to the de Young museum – for Jefferson Airplane fans, we bussed right past their old digs at 2400 Fulton Street (memorialized as the title of a compilation album). From its multihued psychedelic days, it is now entirely beige.

The de Young had some fine items – we spent most time at the Americas exhibit, featuring mostly “folk” art, going back many centuries, from the arctic all the way down into South America. There was some intriguing stuff in the African wing, but we were getting museum’d out.

We returned to the condo and ate dinner at one of the zillion Chinese restaurants in the Pacific East Mall, meeting up with Gil, whom I’d known primarily via Facebook and the web and as the former drummer for one of my favorite bands (okay, the Loud Family). Coincidentally, in a metro area of some four million people, the condo we were at was directly next door to one where a friend lives…which was the same building where some other, mutual friends had lived…and which was next door to another building in which another friend lives (not a mutual acquaintance: sadly, unable to get together with her due to superbusy work days). What are the odds? Anyway: I hadn’t really spoken with Gil before, but he proved to be every bit as friendly and entertaining as everyone says. There’s no truth to the rumors that he pays everyone to say nice things (damn). His wife Stacey had to work late, so we didn’t meet her (we did a few days later). We did get to meet the famous Dexter – good to have some feline company on vacation away from our boys.

(Hey: loads of photos in various sets at my Flickr site.)

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