San Francisco, 1999


I was getting very stressed out at work and in my personal life, and then along came one of the last minute weekend air fare deals from Air Canada. I emailed someone I knew in SF and asked if they were free this weekend, and booked the flight when the answer was affirmative. I was also a bit bitter about not getting a ticket to the Neil Gaiman reading this weekend, and thought getting out of the city altogether, especially somewhere warm, would do me a world of good. I took a ton of pictures, and will hopefully get them scanned in at some point.

Feb 12

My car pool partner gave me a ride from work to the airport in Toronto, singing snatches of "California Dreaming" and getting it lodged firmly in my head. I was able to check in quickly since I only had carry on. A quick threading of the customs and immigration line and I was sitting and waiting for the fight to be called. I popped a gravol to help me sleep on the flight, in anticipation of a late night once I got out west. I barely stayed awake long enough to eat the dinner they served on the plane, and slept the rest of the way. I arrived in San Jose at 10pm, and had to run back onto the plane since I'd forgotten my glasses in the seat pocket, even after hearing the woman behind me complaining about forgetting her coat on her previous flight. It was actually cool enough for me to put on my coat once I was off the plane for good, since we had to walk along the tarmac to the terminal. Robert/Nightbird was waiting for me as I trudged in at the end of the line and handed me a bottle of water, which I gulped down in a couple of seconds - the plane had been very dry.

We made our way to the highway and stopped to call his friend that we were supposed to be picking up to give a ride to SF, but she had already left with her boyfriend. We stopped once more so I could get some US money from the bank machine, then hopped back on the highway for the uneventful drive into SF. We found my hostel fairly easily, but there was no parking - Robert tucked his car in an illegal space and I ran in to check in and drop my stuff off. The industro-punk checking me in was a bit slower than I'd have liked but I got my key eventually, ran up to the room and threw things in the locker. I didn't take the time to change from work, but my little black dress and funky jacket served me well. I jumped back into the car and we drove to his hotel to get him checked in. I picked up a map in the lobby, and we flagged down a taxi, a Jeep, to take us to Maritime Hall for the Shrine of Lillith being held there that night. It was a good space, with a huge wooden dance floor and lots of little rooms for talking in. The lack of cigarette smoke was a wonderful bonus. Robert proceeded to introduce me to almost everyone in there, but I managed to spot Otterly and Kali's boyfriend on my own. She and I talked for a bit but we were both tired and shy. I peeped in at the band, Godhead I think, and observed the dancing style of SF for a while - it's a lot swirlier than Toronto's. It was quite crowded, though I managed to find a seat for a while and had a vamp-girl give me a flyer. I talked with Perki for a bit, he was DJing, and he sent me a pixie stick via Robert as we were leaving. Robert and I took off fairly soon after Kali and Badger, I vetoed food and went back to the hostel to sleep. The top bunk that I got stuck with for coming in so late was really high up. The snoring guy on the other top bunk didn't manage to keep me up at all.

Feb 13

I didn't check my watch when I woke up, figuring the time difference coupled with the late night had turned me all around anyway. I ended up being out of the building by 8:30am, but I was still a bit groggy since when there was no water in the taps where I went in to brush my teeth, I left my belt pouch there. It had all of my US funds, passport and birth certificate in it. I did make sure I had my keys and the map and headed out to walk along Columbus to Fisherman's wharf. I turned on Powell so that I ended up on Pier 39, a large open mall type thing built into the bay. I couldn't resist taking pictures of Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge and the sea lions lounging about. I kept following the waterline and went into the maritime museum. They had some ropes for kids to practice knots on, a ship repair shop that was in use, and a schooner and a cutter that I was able to board and wander around on. A guy was giving an orientation session in the deck house of one of them, I sat down and listened a while with the staff until he started getting into the boring stuff. The boats were rocking enough to make me a bit sea sick while in the holds, plus they were a bit stuffy.

I wandered out of the museum and found I was near the end of the line for the trolley system, so I bought a ticket to ride it back towards the hostel. I then overheard the attendant advertising a 45 minute wait, but the line was moving much slower than that and there wasn't a backup of trolleys waiting to board people. I stayed long enough to see the turn table used to turn the trollies around for their trip back up the hill then started off on foot, following their route. My heart protested the walk up Hyde St, but my eyes appreciated the view back over the bay. I turned on Washington and then along Powell again and walked to Market, where the streets all meet at 45 degree angles. My feet were quite sore at this point so I started hunting for a notebook to start my travel diary in, since my last trip had finished my other notebook. The SF Museum of Modern Art had neat books, but they were uniformly too bloody expensive, so I went out of the gift shop and joined the end of the admission line. I meandered through the exhibit of modern design (tables and chairs mostly), found the women's exhibit a bit disturbing, and was really impressed with the photography exhibit. It was at this point when I discovered that I'd left my belt pouch behind at some point and began to panic. I headed back to the Green Tortoise hostel where I was staying, and of course it started to rain on me. I ducked into FAO Swartz with memories of people having fun at the Boston store during C2, and was amazed at the huge Millennium Falcon and a Walker, and a life sized Han Solo frozen in carbonite. I had to detour around street blockages put up for the Chinese New Year celebrations. I finally made it back to the room and dug through my luggage, backpack and pickets for the belt pouch. I found my passport in my backpack which eased some of my panic. I finally went down to the desk to ask if anyone had turned it in, hoping to get my birth certificate back at least, and found that it had been turned in by a staff member, money intact. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and went back up to the room to get ready to go out that night.

I came back down to the desk and tried to pay for another night at the hostel, but they were busy checking people in, so I went out to do a bit of shopping. I found a notebook and some chocolates for Robert. I got thoroughly rained on, walked the wrong way to get to the shops that I recalled seeing earlier. I stopped in a discount book store to escape the rain for a while, but the two books I was looking for weren't in stock (Wicked by McGuire nor Encountered with Kierkgaard). I did find "The House with the Clock in it's Walls" and snapped it up. I walked back to the hostel and paid for the last night. I dried my hair then sat and wrote and read for a while in the common area. I was asked what I was writing by one of the other guests, and he suggested that I should answer that I was working on my next novel when asked, rather than tell the truth that it's just my travel journal. With all the travels I do, it is approaching novel status at that. :) The temperature dropped a bit so I dug out a sweater then came back down to wait for Robert to meet me for supper at 7pm. At 7:30 I left a message at his hotel, at 8:30 I gave up waiting for him and started walking towards the club district. It was a bit hard to find a place to eat since I didn't feel like having Chinese, it was raining on and off and my feet were sore from walking all day. I went into the Virgin Superstore and considered their cafe but decided against it. A jazz bar was a bit too yuppified, but I finally found a sushi place and had the quickest service in my life. The avocado maki and toro nigiri were quite good.

Feeling less cranky due to having eaten, I walked over to Mission St and the club. It wasn't open yet, but they let us wait in the lobby area while they set up. I grabbed a drink and settled in by the dance floor, fending off the attentions of a flirtatious I was in no mood to deal with. I danced to a few songs, feeling quite at home since going out alone was my normal mode of operation in Toronto. But then someone turned on the smoke machine. Apparently the smoke detectors are much more sensitive now that smoking is banned in clubs, and the alarm did not shut off. It became acutely painful, though people were still dancing to the songs played below the noise. I gave up and waited outside a while for it to stop, talking with a few other patrons. It didn't stop. I walked around the block, along 5th St and could still hear the alarm. I went up to Market and down 4th St and heard the alarm again as soon as I turned on 4th. The alarm stopped as soon as I got back to the entrance so I went in and sat near the bar in an effort to avoid the guy who'd been bugging me earlier. He managed to find me and ask if I'd seen his glasses which he'd somehow managed to misplace. He left me alone after that, and I let the TV screens mesmerise me for a while - Nefilim videos, Johnny Mnemonic clips and Aeon Flux episodes flickered by. Robert and T.J. showed up with apologies for being late as well as some earplugs and more maps for me. He'd apparently waited at the hostel from 9-10pm or so, proving once again that I have a different idea of when supper time is, though I swear he said 7. Some of his friends came over and were introduced and I ended up talking quite a bit with Mark, a sometimes DJ who worked for Oracle. I chatted for a bit in the washroom with a fanged woman dressed in Renn faire garb. Robert said his goodbyes and we agreed to get in touch the next day to organise a concert outing and driving back to San Jose. I stayed till closing at 3am, then Mark and I went to Denny's for food where the waitress wished us happy valentines day. *sigh* I'd hoped to avoid the holiday totally. Got to sleep as the sun was rising.

Feb 14

Woke up at around 11am and went shopping on Haight St with Mark. We hit a few book stores, and I found a new copy of Wicked but didn't buy it. Had some pasta at All You Knead. Enjoyed people watching in the Haight-Ashbury district. Mark offered to drive me back to San Jose when he went in to work in the morning, and it turned out to be more convenient than going back with Robert that night, so I called Robert to update him on the plans. I also ditched the Sandra Berndhardt concert since I didn't feel up to much more than a quiet evening watching TV. Caught the Simpsons and the X-files and got to sleep nice and early.

Feb 15

Got on the road at 6:40am the next morning to San Jose and got there in 40 minutes since we beat the bulk of the traffic. I got my boarding pass at the gate, and was a bit worried when my steel toed boots didn't set off the metal detector. I had time for a sandwich before the flight boarded, then had to wait on the tarmac for a while since the flight plan hadn't been filed. We eventually got into the air and I got to see The Red Violin finally. Made it home safe and sound.
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