San Francisco

From Sequoia I drove northwest to Oakland. The drive was mostly uneventful. Coming out of the mountains though, I'd estimate that I drove about 30-40 miles only having to touch the accelerator twice (although I touched the brake often). From there traffic was pretty indistinguishable from DC traffic.

I stayed with my friend Pat and his wife Thea. Pat and I were good friends in high school, but haven't really kept in touch much after leaving for college. I really enjoyed catching up with him. Sunday night they were able to accommodate my intense craving for Sushi. I normally try to eat sushi once a week, but I hadn't had any since the last week of September. We went to Amasia Hide's Sushi Bar, and ran into some friends of theirs, Paul and Kate. The sushi was great and Paul and Kate were very friendly (Paul gave me travel suggestions for Oregon and Seattle).

After dinner, they tried to take me to the Orbit Room, which apparently puts an interesting twist on cocktails, but they were closed. There was a couple of kids (Ok, I suppose they were in their twenties... am I really getting old enough to call twenty-somethings "kids") who were also disappointed that they were closed, and they recommended that we try Amber.

Amber was a pretty cool laid back lounge. Ordering drinks was way easier than just about any place in the DC area and without negative attitude (Galaxy Hut, and sometimes Beach Shack are excluded from this generalization). The drinks were tasty... my second was a caipiroska, which was about as good as they get outside of Brazil. But the most interesting thing about Amber was how dog friendly the place was, and the dogs who frequented the establishment.

Cory was a pure Akita according to his owner, but he looked part St. Bernard to me. I'm probably wrong about that. Cory basically just lied in the middle of the floor. He seemed completely unfazed by the people who had to step over him to get past. But the real interesting one was Belle. I can't remember what breed she was suppose to be, but she looked like she had a little pit bull in her. She wanted to play fetch with the most disgusting slobber soaked tennis ball I've ever touched. She had rules though. She refused to bring the ball to anybody and she wouldn't let anybody take the ball from her mouth. Instead she would put the ball in the corner of the room, then guilt someone into getting up to "fetch" the ball from the corner. Initially it was me, and I didn't think it would be ok to throw the ball across the bar, so I just gave it a little toss. Eventually Belle's owner came over to show us how it was done. She picked up the ball, and chucked it all the way across the bar and down the hall to the bathrooms. Belle chased after the ball at full speed dodging obstacles along the way. It was really quite incredible, and nobody in the bar seemed to mind. I love how dog friendly San Francisco is in general. Oh, and it is a smoky bar, which I guess is the closest thing to a speak easy for our generation (due to the public smoking ban in California). This annoyed Thea, which is understandable, but as I'm accustomed to dealing with smoky bars, it didn't bother me too much.

Pat and Thea are all-star tour guides. After staying out late Sunday night despite them having to get up early for work, they spent another hour giving me suggestions for what to do on my own Monday. I think if I had a few weeks to spend in San Francisco, they'd make sure I saw everything that is cool to see. Pat really went above and beyond, drawing maps of the Mission district with notable hot spots. He also gave me this very interesting and clever guide called Mundane Journeys that was created by Kate and illustrated by Pat.

Monday I took public transit to the Mission district armed with all Pat's suggestions and maps. I'd have to say the highlights were Paxton Gate and 826 Valencia. Paxton Gate is really only describable as wonderfully weird. It is part taxidermy store, part natural science store, part gardening supply shop, and part landscaping contractor (among other things). I was tempted to buy one of Crispen H. Glover's books, but in the end just didn't get it. Perhaps he should stick to playing weird roles in the movies. And 826 Valencia at first appears to be your every day run of the mill Pirate Shop, but upon closer inspection is actually something much more noble (read this). I was inspired by this place... I'm generally pessimistic, and this place gave me hope.

This post is getting very long. It is a week behind real time, and if I don't get more brief, I'll never get caught up. I must mention that Monday night, Pat and Thea treated me to Zante's Indian Pizza. It was pretty tasty, but I think they over hyped it. Expectations are such a funny thing. You shouldn't set them too high. I think they think I didn't like it, but I did. But Pat insists it is the greatest place on Earth. Well, I'm not sure about that, but it I do suggest you check it out when you're in SF. And I can't forget to mention seeing Sia at The Fillmore, with The Bird and the Bee. Very good show, great venue, lots of fun.

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