San Francisco, 2005

Cris was heading out to the west coast to visit his parents, and invited me along.

Fri Sept 16/05

I was working at the MGH Charlestown Navy Yard facility, helping with the tutorial that Sonia and I had worked on. I ended up helping a lot more than I thought I would, esp. with the straight Slicer parts, and gave a mini presentation on all the Modules as well. I ended up eating during the break with Sonia and Marianna, and the latter told me that her foot has a similar problem to mine, and she can't go barefoot at all - not encouraging for my healing. We ended up bolting through everything, and even with staying to help a couple of people with their data, I was all done by 3pm. I tried to call Cris to coordinate getting to the airport a bit later, as our flight was delayed to 7pm, but just got voice mail. I had a snack in the cafeteria and then headed out via the shuttle - it was pretty crowded, I ended up getting off at North Station and following another couple all the way to the airport (we all were a bit confused by the signage for the orange line, it was missing an arrow).

I got there quickly, by 4:15 or so, and popped into the hair salon for an eyebrow wax, getting burned yet again. She was pretty chatty, and tried to soothe my skin by putting on lotion, but it didn't help enough - I ended up ducking in to the washroom and putting on foundation to cover the red bits. I got a hold of Cris as I was contemplating getting a chair massage to pass 15 mins, he was on his way. We met up by the check in kiosks for United, and ended up with two separate itineraries that split us up by 7 rows in the plane. The flight was full, so no chance to change, and our seat mates didn't want to shift (I was in economy plus, my stupid frequent flyer card working to split us up again, I fear).

The flight got further delayed, due to boarding 200 people starting at 7, and then one of the air traffic controller programs broke, necessitating shuffling runways while we were taxi-ing. The rain/fog had rolled in while we were waiting for the plane to arrive (I watched the houses on the hill across the bay disappear), and we got a bit of turbulence, but the main bits of Tropical Storm Ophelia didn't hit before we took off (I had been worried that we'd get cancelled and I would miss most of my short trip to California - see shortened Toronto trip for justification).

I popped up to say hi during the flight, but mostly tried to doze. I'd finished my library book and had a seat mate who's hips were so wide that the arm rests sat on her instead of level, so I was bugging her each time I had to adjust the station/volume for the in seat radio. I finally dozed off at about the half way point, ignoring the movies, and starting awake at announcements. The lights of cities below us would come into view beneath the clouds as we moved west, but mostly there was nothing to see beyond the engine right outside my window. We came in over the San Mateo Bridge, had a bit of a wait for Cris's suitcase, and then his dad met us outside. A bit of a drive out to Pleasanton, and his mom welcomed us there. Straight to bed, as it was 12:30 or so by the time we arrived, and my body was insistent that it was really 3:30am and I had to go to sleep now, thanks.

Sat Sept 17/05

Woke up at around 5:30 to use the bathroom, but got back to sleep as the light wasn't too bright then. Then Cris and I both woke up at around 7:30 and decided to get up as there were rustling and coffee making sounds coming from the kitchen. Had 4 Grain cereal for breakfast (must find it in Boston), and some eggs on an english muffin with yellow raspberry jam from Scotland (yummy).

Wrote up the trip so far while Cris cleared off some spy ware from his dad's computer. Sky is blue, it's sunny, we'll leave at 10am or so to explore the city and then meet up with his parents and brother at a Vietnamese restaurant at 5:45.

Cris collected phone numbers and addresses for the places we were going to go and the people that we were going to try and meet, his mom furnished us with maps, and we hit the road in the SUV that his dad let him drive while he was visiting - it was very odd being almost level with the truckers.

First we went over the San Mateo bridge to Atherton to see where Cris spent a couple of years as a pre-teen and when he came home for holidays, and his school and hangouts. He pointed out the arcade/mini golf/entertainment complex that both he and Forest used to hang out in, but without running into each other.

We parked in a small garage and went up the elevator to the first floor to look at the recently closed Kepler's books storefront first, in Menlo Park (I think) - lots of posterboards up with a sharpie clipped onto one for people to leave messages of support for them. Later in the day, in Berkley, we went to Cody's books that an ex employee of Kepler's had started. We walked a bit up the shopping street, grabbing smoothies along the way, and making our way up to a store front where I'd seen a dress (too brown) and then back, stretching our legs from the plane/driving.

Back on the road, we went north through the city, and then over the bridge to Berkley. We parked on Telegraph Ave and went into Amoeba Music first. I got caught up in the world music section, quickly amassing a pile of 7 cds, two on spec, and one random one by Kidjo. We put the Fado one in for driving around, very moving. I almost replaced my missing Boards of Canada disc, but I have hopes it will turn up, and if it doesn't, I'd rather replace it at the store I originally found it in, Atom Heart in Montreal. I checked out and waited outside for Cris to finish, going back in and getting an honesty discount for the one they forgot to charge me for (-$2).

We tried the two Ethiopian places for lunch, but both were closed until 5pm, so we ended up at a Sushi place just off the main drag.

We went to Cody's and wandered around for a bit, I experienced the dingy washroom, but was happy to overlook the dirt due to the blackboard walls and chalk for writing with. Found a book on tea that Cris bought me for my birthday (pictures and writing in two volumes, high concept packaging, really neat to learn about how the Bedouins treat tea).

Then we found another book store with a 20% off sale, and more used books on offer. I found a neat kids book, magical and told from the point of view of a summoned demon.

Comic Relief had moved, we found it a few blocks over from the other record store we went into and browsed there for a bit, then went next door to the SF book store where I found the newest Irene Adler book in soft cover and a copy of Howl's Moving Castle.

We drove for a bit, found another parking spot, and got some cheese at the Cheeseboard Collective (the pizza place was closed while we were tasting cheeses, but opened at the end of our crowded stay to tantalise us with delicious smelling pizzas). I passed on a decent carombola, and got an herby hard cheese, cravot, that the clerks were divided upon the pronunciation of. Got two buns as well, to make sandwiches for the trip home.

I spotted a vintage clothing shop sign in the distance, with a sale flag under it, and we meandered over there. I found a floor length ball gown in black flocked sliver that fit exactly (need to slim my shoulders a tiny bit), and the sale was for 40% off, so I grabbed it. The guy in front of me was joking around with the British clerk about not buying anything for his husband, and she was telling him to send his hubby there to buy for himself.

It was close to 5pm at that point, so Cris skipped the wine store, and we made our way in heavy traffic back over the Bay Bridge, getting an awesome view of the skyline on the top deck, and to the Ferry Building. We grabbed a spot in the parking lot just past the building, and it turned out to be right across from the Slanted Door. His parents were there already, and Miguel arrived soon after. Teresa was a bit later, but just in time for appetisers. The food was quite good, but not really adventurous - the catfish hotpot came with a warning that there were skin and bones included - what, no head? That's the best part! :) They kept refilling my tumbler with lychee iced tea, so they won my heart that way. The decor reminded me of Great Bay in Boston, but the view of the ship docks and the Bay Bridge as the sun set was awesome. We got some pictures of the moon rising behind the bridge as we left. Unisex bathrooms with a long trough sink outside them. The catfish hotpot was really good, but the hierloom tomoto salad didn't let the fruit shine through. Shared a peach tart tatin with Cris, with a bit too much mint in the garnish.

Drove back home, but didn't get in touch with friends until Jordan called us back as we pulled up. Will meet with her for drinks after supper tomorrow. Looked at the tea picture book, started reading the text book, but eyes got very heavy at around 9:30pm. Ready for bed now, just typing up notes so that can be ready quickly in the morning. We plan to leave at around 10am to head up north to the Napa valley and the French Laundry for lunch. I should iron my skirt when Cris does his suit, and I hope that my biking tan doesn't show too badly under the top I plan to wear.

Sunday Sept 18

Woke up at around 7:30 again, and had a light breakfast before ironing my skirt and taking a shower. Was ready to go by 9, we left at 9:30. Cris' dad drove us and Mrs. C. in the car, switching between the radio and the cd player. The day was bright and warm, and got warmer as we went north and into the Napa Valley. It was a pretty long drive, we arrived at around 11, and after we found the French Laundry on the main street in Yountville, we parked and walked around for a while, browsing the shops in a quaint mini mall up the street. The kitchen/gormet food store had some gadgets that I'd never seen before, but we escaped without buying anything. The reservation was for 11:30, Cris and I made it back first, and sat outside in their courtyard with glasses of water that the woman at the front desk got us. A group of four casually dressed people were turned away, apparently we'd had our reservations made 2 months ago when the trip was first settled.

After Teresa and Miguel and their parents arrived, the staff brought us into our table, a round one in the middle of the quiet room. We settled in with our first round of drinks (sparkling wine) and contemplated the menu.

Teresa went with the lunch menu, I did the vegetable tasting (with one subst so that the walnut nougat in one course wouldn't set off my allergies), and the rest of them got the chef's tasting menu. Service was impeccable, with all plates hitting the table at the same time, someone always there to push in your seat when you came back from a break (walking out to the restroom in a building off the courtyard was a nice warm sunny break from the airconditioned dimness of the dining room), and the water and wine were constantly kept topped up (women served first). We ended up with 13 courses, with extra amuse bouches added to the 9 on the menu (a cheesepuff and some pate in cornichons to start, and macarrons, petit fours and creme brulee to end (the guys got fig on the bottom yoghurt). The bread and butter were even amazing, with two organic butters on the table in ramekins, one from Vermont. The chef's tasting had 2 fish and 2 meat courses, and my vegetables mostly followed those cues of heaviness (mushroom tartin, and a lovely roasted sweet yam with creme fraiche and truffles to top, assembled at the table). I had a corn soup as an appetizer, a blue cheese as my cheese course, rasberry sorbet for dessert, the melon salad was lovely and juicy, and more. Cris let me try his lobster tail, quite good. We had both a white and a red with the meal, but the sparkling and the white were enough for me, the one sip of the good cab sauv unfortunately inspired a bit of a headache. The tea choices at the end were limited to herbal, green, or black, but were served in nice iron pots. It was close to 3pm by the time we finished up, and took a quick peek in the kitchen, and Mr. C was too sleepy to drive so Cris took the wheel for the drive back to the movie theatre at Walnut Creek.

Teresa mailed me a copy of the menus, here's the official description of what I had: (I have no idea why they put every non english word in quotes)
Tasting of Vegetables

We got movie tickets at the window outside and went into the megaplex to find our theatre. We found pretty good seats and watched "The Constant Gardener" with Ralph Fiennes. The scenes in Africa had their colours over saturated, and it was an interesting ride to get to see the mystery revealed at the end.

Back to the house in Pleasanton after that, and Cris and I had some time to sit down and get in touch with people. No one ended up being available to meet us for diner at the Zuni Cafe, so we headed into SF for a dinner for two. After we were seated and ordered, I popped outside to call and wish my parents a happy anniversary, but ended up leaving voice mail while being spare changed by someone.

Cris and I were still pretty full (at 9pm) from lunch, and so we split a cesear salad and dessert as well (pear tart and creme fraiche ice cream). Our table was right next to the wood oven, which was nice as the night had become nippy. I had a very good seared tuna steak for my main course, barely able to finish it, but it was good enough to be worth the effort.

Then we drove over to Channing's apartment and picked up him and Jordan for after dinner drinks. We had a bit of a hard time finding any place open at 10pm on a Sunday night (next time I hope to check out Fritz's, as Jordan mentioned that they have a good tea selection. We ended up at Absinthe, near both Jordan's apartment and Zuni, and she had I had tea while the guys had port and Channing had a cheese plate. I started fading around 11:30, so we dropped them off and started the drive back to Pleasanton, getting there aroun 12:30, with me half asleep.

Monday Sept 19

I woke up at 8, had breakfast in pjs this time, and then showered and started packing. Cris' aunt Rosa (?) stopped in with her partner to do some business with Mrs. C. so I got to meet them and chat for a while - though I was feeling a bit woozy and out of it, possibly from stressing out about getting everything into my pack (my rollaway suitcase broke it's zipper), and from holding my head down while stuffing things in. Cris agreed to carry back one book for me, the tea one, as I couldn't fit it in.

I finished up, made sandwhiches from my Cheeseboard Collective purchases, said good bye to Cris' parents, and he drove me to the airport for my 1pm flight. I checked in at a kiosk outside, passed through the snaky security line, and found my gate no problem. I broke out a book and the food and ate lunch while waiting for the flight to board. Everything went fine until we pushed back and they had trouble starting the right engine. They got it going and take off was fine. They're re-playing the movie from the flight out, Longest Yard, so I'm taking refuge in a book and these notes so I don't have to ignore it again. I've got an empty seat next to me this time. a nice break, though the woman on the end didn't make a good first impression, by pestering and then tipping the flight attendant. The second movie ended up being Mr. and Mrs. Smith, so I watched that to pass the time. On arrival in Boston, I took the new Silver Line direct from the airport to South Station and then from there I was able to get the Red Line to Harvard and a bus home, much easier conceptually than shuttle to the Blue Line to the Green Line to the Red Line, but not all that much quicker.

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