ONE YEAR, TWO CELEBRITY SOUND-ALIKES AND LOTS OF COOKIES
Given my need to come up with a nickname for San Francisco, I’ve decided to label it “Cookie City”. Why? Because I had a great cookie about an hour after I got there and a great cookie about an hour before I left. And besides, somewhere should be Cookie City. Doesn’t it feel better knowing that somewhere out there is a place called Cookie City? And it’s not like it’s going to be San Antonio. I had the worst cookie of my life in San Antonio.
Maybe after a second trip to LA’s northern neighbor, I’ll be able to come up with a more appropriate nickname, but from trip #1 (I know, it shouldn’t take ten years in LA to make the one-hour flight to SF), the cookies stuck out. And the chocolate crepe, too. That was yummy. So why not Chocolate Crepe City? Well, that will always be Paris. When I went to Paris, I spoke no French whatsoever. My friend Greg knew only a tiny amount, and he taught me exactly two phrases: “Je suis” (“I am”) and “Je voudrais” (“I would like”). When I nervously placed my order at the crepe cart in the park, what came out was, “Je suis un crepe chocolat.” Somewhere in France, there’s a culinary worker who thinks I have very messed-up identity issues.
Not only was it my first trip to San Francisco, it was my first First Anniversary trip. Yes, hard to believe, but this whirlwind adventure with Drew has lasted only a year so far. Where will it take us in the years ahead? I’m not sure. But I’m hoping Seattle, for starters. I’ve never been there either, and I hear it’s quite nice.
We started off our trip to Cookie City (after a stop at the café where we bought lunch and cookies) with a bus tour. Sure, it was a touristy thing to do, but I make no apologies for that. I was a tourist, proudly wearing my camera case around my belt. (If I ever wear anything around my belt within fifty miles of my home, shoot me.) As a first-timer, it was very important to me to see the whole city in three and a half hours, have lots of photo ops and learn things like what San Francisco’s top industries were (#1 tourism, #2 banking, #3 insurance, #4 shopping) and how to find a good restaurant in Chinatown (look in the windows and see if it’s crowded).
I stupidly forgot to charge my camera before leaving home and didn’t bring my charger along. That meant I either had to spend $40 on a replacement charger at the SonyStyle store at the Sony Metreon (a creepy, deserted high-tech entertainment complex) or take all my pictures really fast. Since I already had two chargers at home, I chose the latter route, which means I now have a memory stick full of poorly-framed, fuzzy-focus shots of me and Drew standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and other scenic landmarks.
The tour bus driver was a colorful character named Greg who spoke in an overly slow, deliberate tone that totally reminded both Drew and me of someone. We struggled to place it, and Drew finally nailed it: it was Adam West. The driver did lots of editorializing along the way. Did you know that San Francisco pays registered homeless people $410 a month each? If you’re outraged by this fact, you may qualify as a San Francisco tour bus driver. Thankfully, the new mayor campaigned on a “Care, not Cash” campaign, so hopefully things will improve. Batman was also quite concerned with the city’s readiness for another earthquake. We heard, among other things, how unsafe the Bay Bridge was, how unsafe the subway system was, and how parts of the city were built on landfill, which was dangerously, dangerously unsafe. Oh, and he hates those stuck-up jerks in “Snob Hill” who won’t let tour buses ride up their street. (He gave them a piece of his mind by parking down the block from the “Full House” house and letting us get out and take pictures. “If you come back and I’m not here, it’s ’cause I saw the cops coming,” he said, totally serious. “But just wait on the corner, and I’ll come back for you.”)
Batman talked at length about the city’s large Chinese-American population and how Chinese people came to America in droves during the gold rush and ended up building our railroads. He also made about 100 references to “hippies”, who live in the Haight, who attended concerts by Grace Slick and the Grateful Dead in that field over there, who painted the tunnels rainbow colors, and who are slowly being pushed aside by “the punks”. I was eagerly anticipating a shout-out to my people, who, from what I’ve heard, are also known to live in San Francisco. But all I learned was that we reside in the Castro, which was out the window to our right at the time, and that San Francisco is the kind of place where “you’re free to live whatever kind of lifestyle you choose.” I was disappointed at the shabby token mention at first, but then I thought to myself… gay marriage first, then a mention on the SF city tour. Eyes on the prize, Jerry, eyes on the prize…
I left it to Drew to plan Friday night dinner, since he’s been to the city before. He came up with a short list of restaurants, then we checked with Koo, our friendly concierge, to narrow down the finalists. There was one place on our list which we seemed predestined to choose, because we each had a friend who’d held their wedding there. Koo told us it was a “supper club”. I wasn’t sure what that meant at first, but when we walked in, I figured it out. The place was full of lots of rich people – not like those hip dot-com millionaires, but the kind who looked like they were in a movie about rich people. And the menu was full of unusual dishes that needed to be explained but weren’t. A supper club is kind of like the math club and the physics club. Demented and sad, but social. We got there a few minutes before our reservation time and were told the table would be ready really soon. Every few minutes, the hostess came by with an update. “We’re just waiting for the people at your table to finish.” “The people at your table are paying their check.” “They should be leaving any minute.” It was fine until we were finishing our dinner, and we were the stragglers. Drew spotted the hostess pointing out our table to a new couple, who were salivating over the impending vacancy before we were quite ready to go.
On Saturday, we went to Pier 39, which our tour bus driver told us was the #2 most visited attraction in all of California, after some theme park in Anaheim. It seemed unlikely to me. I guess I always figured this would be higher up the list. Nonetheless, the pier turned out to be a fun place, where we got the aforementioned chocolate crepe and saw some seals. I wondered why the seals were all crowded together on the floaters furthest from the pier, then I realized it probably had something to do with the signs telling people not to feed, yell at or throw things at the animals. The coolest thing about Pier 39 was that it was the basis for a level in one of the Tony Hawk games, so I already knew how to find my way around and even some cool places to trick off.
Drew and I even braved the local public transportation system. We took a cable car (and learned that the only thing more touristy than riding one is calling it a “trolley”), and our driver had a brusque, gravelly voice that reminded us both of someone we couldn’t quite place at first. I was the one who finally figured this one out: Rupert from Survivor. Now I think of San Francisco as a city where everybody sounds like someone you know, or at least all the tourist vehicle drivers do. “Next stop, Chinatown!” the Rupert-like guy said. “Just turn down that street and keep walking until you can’t read the signs anymore.” One of the other passengers slid down the bench to talk to him. “I enjoy your banter,” he said. “It keeps things entertaining!”
After our seaside exploits, we headed to Chinatown for lunch. (It was my idea. Drew knew better.) Remembering Batman’s advice, I kept peeking in windows until I found a place that was jam packed. It had a nice Western-friendly name, the ABC Café, and there wasn’t a free table in the joint. Drew and I quickly realized we were the only non-Asian-Americans in the joint, which made it seem very authentic and very intimidating. I’m sure all the white people who’ve ever stopped by Chinatown have stories about a waitress misunderstanding them and serving them ground rooster testicles and sautéed octopus spleen, but let’s face it, that’s why we go – for the stories. My lunch was gross, but I almost wish it had been grosser. The worst I can complain about was undercooked chicken on the bone with marrow seeping out of it. It would’ve been fun to have my lunch crawling away from me as I tried to nab it with my fork, but as stories go, this will have to do.
On Saturday night, we stopped by Drew’s friend Joel’s bookstore, and I got to meet Joel and his boyfriend Gary. Joel looked and acted just like the main character from “Rent”, and Gary was wearing a beret. After that, we met up with Drew’s friends Kirsten and Daniel. Kirsten and Daniel were both really nice and friendly, and they had an adorable one-year-old son and an almost-equally-adorable six-week-old puppy. We told them we had just come from Joel and Gary’s bookstore. They hadn’t seen Joel in a while, and Daniel had only met Gary once. “When I met him,” Daniel said, “he was wearing a beret”. I guess Gary likes berets. Daniel had the whole house rigged up with ceiling speakers and a multi-channel audio system that you could access via a control box in the kitchen. Plus, they had multi-room DirecTV with TiVo that he hooked up himself. I was jealous. It sucks being the handy one in a relationship and knowing the limit of your tech savvy is hooking your stereo up to the computer so you can convert old cassettes to mp3.
After dinner, we said goodbye to Drew’s friends and decided to hit the town. But first Drew had to pee. Five martinis will do that to you, I guess. *Anticipating the comment where Drew disputes this charge… ready to counter with the evidence…* We ducked into a coffee shop, and Drew made me sit down and pretend like I was going to order, while he went to the bathroom. We almost got out clean, but just as Drew appeared again, the busboy dropped off a couple of waters. So Drew left five dollars on the table out of guilt, then we grabbed our stuff, hid our faces and ran out of there as fast as we could. That was enough adventure for the night, so then we went back to our hotel and called it a day.
On Sunday, there wasn’t much time before our flight, so we went to Ghirardelli Square to get brunch. If you’re looking for somewhere good to have brunch in San Francisco, let me give you some advice: Ghirardelli Square is not a good place to look. Luckily, though, it was a good place to get cookies, which was even better. As we headed to the airport, I realized I still had a few minutes of battery power left on my camera. All that worry for nothing. And then we headed home for a little anniversary present that was waiting for us from Mark Burnett.
It was a great weekend. It’s been a great year.
Happy anniversary, Drew.