San Francisco 2004

November 3, 2004

And so it came to be that a man named Thomas found himself driving me to the airport.  Only four days had passed since my return from the South but my thirst for travel still pursued me.  As we pulled to the curb, Thomas and I said our goodbyes in hushed tones.  My destination was San Francisco and after six and a half hours of flight, I made it so.

On the way out, I witnessed George Bush win the 2004 presidential election on my small television monitor right after I watching the philosophical thriller, “Dodge Ball”.  When the plane finally arrived in Oakland, I boarded the bay area’s public transportation vessel known as BART and got off at the Embarcadero station.  It was here that my friend and former college roommate Dara White worked.

You may remember Dara’s parents from the previous journal that covered the fantastic and perfect adventure in Ireland.  Before I met up with Dara, I stopped into a liquor store to purchase a bottle of wine and as my dear friend Bobby Hands would say, “paid through the nose for it.”  I then met up with Dara who I had not seen in six years.  I commented on his gray hairs and he spoke of my receding hairline.

As he had to be involved in a high-powered, most likely diesel-fueled meeting, I dropped my bag in his office and walked around the city for a couple of hours.  I first hit the historic Ferry Building on the waterfront.  A building that was constructed in the late 1800’s to handle the bay area’s busy ferry traffic; it had gone into decay once the dirty bridges had replaced the majesty of ferry travel.  And after a major earthquake forced the removal of a highway that ran in front of this building in 1992, it was decided that the Ferry Building should be restored to its former glory.   My brief tour of its limits proved to answer some previously unknown hunger that existed for large, old ferry buildings.  Well done.

I then continued north along the water and headed westbound up to Coit Tower where I was furnished with professional views of the surrounding area.  Part of the view included the “Rock” which made me reflect on Clint Eastwood’s brilliant escape and Sean Connery’s reluctant assistance in dismantling a domestic terrorist threat with the help of Nicholas Cage.

I left this area and descended down into Chinatown where I watched old men play an assortment of games on the ground.  I don’t know what they were playing but the fact that it was on the ground and performed on pieces of cardboard made it look illegal.

Once back at Dara’s office, the two of us drank a couple of pints of beer at a local bar and made fine work of our recent pasts.  The two of us then drove to Dara’s apartment where I met his girlfriend, Chris.  Chris was a kind and gracious creature and showed me a warm welcome that I had not experienced since before the war.  The three of us then walked to a French restaurant by the name of “Clementine”.  This restaurant had the perfect mix of fine food and a comfortable atmosphere that was void of any pretense.  In a nutshell, I was delighted.

As we ate and spoke, I enjoyed spending time with these two lovers.  Their relationship can be described as fresh and after their multiple years of togetherness, it still contained the playful elements one would see during the initial stages of courtship.  Back at their apartment, we watched a bit of the Knick’s game and went to bed.

November 4, 2004

After breakfast, I spent some time reading on San Francisco.  Adequately educated, I took to Dara’s bike for a couple of hours and made it happen.  I first went through the tree-covered area of Paradiso.  It was amazing to find out that this area had once been barren and that all the trees present were the result of human efforts.  It was here that I chose to stun myself with delicious views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I eventually headed south to Golden Gate Park and back north to Dara’s apartment.  After a quick cleanup, I drove over to Alamo Plaza, home of the “Painted Ladies” and a heart-wrenching scene from “So I Married an Axe Murderer”.  When I refer to the “Painted Ladies”, I speak of the Victorian homes that are so decadently painted; they must be compared to hot, well-dressed, makeup-wearing chicks.  Perhaps it is good these homes were given their nickname long ago since today’s culture may have dubbed them the “Trashy Sluts”.

I whispered goodbye to these ladies and drove to the touristy area around Fisherman’s wharf.  As I walked, I passed a man who obviously had made his companion a general sense of craziness.  He told me that he was the one who stopped the Vietnam War.  If it weren’t for the rags he wore and hands so permanently dirty they looked like black, polished shoes, I may have believed him.

I then drove through some of San Francisco’s streets like Steve McQueen in the movie “Bullitt”.  I made it back to the apartment and left with Dara to conquer the night.  We met with my brother in law’s coworker, Alicia, who works in the Palo Alto office of the company.  We first met Alicia and her friends at the Fly Bar.  She proved to be a social warrior and her friends were cut from similar cloth.  Perhaps the most interesting was Leslie who kept leaving to check on and bring food to her dog in her parked van outside.  Strange but whatever it takes.

Another one of here friends, Keith, looked a lot like Keanu Reeves which is great since I look a lot like Agent Smith.  I told him we should go out in the streets and just kick the crap out of each other like we did in the “Matrix”.  Instead of fighting, we moved on to the “Independent” where we watched some interesting live music that combined blues, fife, drums and funk and a serious cloud of cannabis that defined the odor and tone of the evening.  Folks got drunk, some high, a sloppy entertainment persevered but no one got hurt.

November 5, 2004

Today I got in the car and drove north to the Muir Woods, home to many brilliant scenes from Return of the Jedi…and some sort of well known redwood trees.  I enjoyed these intense organic structures and the hike that took me out to the ocean.

Once I achieved just the right ocean view, high up on a small mountain, I paused to eat my lunch and write some of the tasty words you’ve read up to this point.  I then worked my way back to the parking lot and drove back to San Francisco.  Before going to Dara’s apartment, I drove to an area known as “Twin Peaks”.  The great thing about this place is that there really are two peaks!  Awesome!

Here I could see the city as if my eyes belonged to a winged creature.  Content with a day of dramatic visuals, I met Dara and we eventually drove to a small town named Truckee.  It was here that Dara’s friend Scott owned a condo that put him 10 minutes from Lake Tahoe.

Paying respect to my rhythm for the past month, Dara and I met Scott at a bar in Truckee.  Along with Scott was another friend of Dara and Scott by the name of Chris who hailed from Ipswich, Ma.  Getting over the mild amusement of our forename and geographic similarities, I began to study my new victims.  It always intrigues me to see the dynamics of friends when they get together.

Dara’s role would be that of the “Cool Mom”.  He would buy the kids beer but kick their ass if they got on his nerves.

Scott was “Clark Kent”.  A mild-mannered professional at first glance but had the super hero ability to party if the situation demanded it.

And then there was Chris.  I dub thee “Risky Disco”.  As we all know, by its precious nature, disco is risky.  To put an adjective before the noun that speaks to the noun’s inherent nature is to emphasize the potency of the one that bears its name.  The role and purpose of Risky Disco is to make it so that no matter what happens, no conversation will be boringly clean, the virtues of sobriety will be placed on the back burner and that at least one poor sap is being gloriously made fun of at all times. In fact these virtues will probably not even make it to the stove.  They’ll most likely be stored in an unmarked Tupperware bin and placed under some eight-month old bag of frozen chicken livers.  Risky Disco will also introduce new and exciting ways to talk about intimate matters.  It is this particular inventive spirit with the spoken word that keeps our words on our public bathroom walls so fresh and stimulating.

My role?  It was to be the guy who in high school could have been voted “Most Likely to Wear Acid-Washed Jeans”.  This was the abstract role I had to fulfill.  The great thing about this role is that you don’t actually have to wear acid-washed jeans.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t.  You just had to have convinced your high school that you had what it took to wear them.

November 6, 2004

After a paltry four hours of sleep, we drove to Alpine Meadows where we would ski for the next few hours.  Although I had not skied, for over four years, I managed to perform.  I even inadvertently went down a double black diamond trail aptly named “Waterfall” and lived to write about it.

When we returned, we literally watched television and slept for the rest of the day.  Crazy.

November 7, 2004

The four of us drove to Lake Tahoe this morning to eat breakfast.  On the way back, a spontaneous decision was made that would have a profound effect on the remainder of the day.  I will tell you that up to this point; it appeared that Chris, Dara and I were going to drive back to San Francisco somewhat soon.

But after a few pitchers of beer were consumed and a general rowdiness ensued, thoughts of homeward bound travel were like dust in the wind.  Since I drank very little, I was elected to navigate our crew to Reno whenever we left the bar.  As the lads continued to increase the intensity of their feedback on the waitress who boasted of ample and interestingly-placed flesh, I realized that the journey and stay in Reno would be stimulating.

For good measure, Chris and Scott punished a couple of innocent shots of Jack Daniels before we left Truckee.  The ride to Reno may have only been 32 miles but it was so saturated with a special kind of inebriation that consistently begged me to stop for beer at every exit.  Dara and I had to refuse these demands and others like, “Ohhh, hey look dudes!  It’s Boomtown!  Ha ha haaa!  Let’s stop here!  Whooohoooo!  Boomtown!!!”

We finally reached the Silver Legacy casino and I watched the boys gamble.  After many heartbreaks, Chris finally had some luck and finished the day ahead $300.  Even more incredible was Dara’s majestical craps performance that earned him a whopping $2100.  While Dara was finishing his game, I pursued one of the skankiest buffet meals I have ever endured.  The food was so void of personality and quality, it was as if they cut out pictures of the actual food, put a despicable gravy on it and let the food warm itself under heat lamps.

The four of us then left the casino and then went to a place where stuff happens.

Tired but determined to get home, Chris, Dara and I left Reno and made it back to San Francisco by 2:00 AM.

November 8, 2004

This morning I performed my normal morning routine.  But this morning included a special caveat that took the shape of a birth announcement.  I called my sister and learned that her new daughter, Audrey Nora Callahan, became a new member of the human race.  The only thing that could compliment such news was a return trip to the Muir Woods.

This time I hiked from Mount Tamalpais to Stinson Beach.  The 4.1 mile descent to the sea brought me through old forests, out on to grass-covered mountain tops and then down through more forests where I finally made it to the small town of Stinson Beach.

At the start of my hike, signs warned me of the possibility of seeing mountain lions, and rattlesnakes.  Amazing, here I am, 15 miles from San Francisco and I have to watch out for dangerous animals.  If I was in a wooded environment 15 miles from Boston, I could only hope to find signs warning me of high school terds drinking in the woods.

For lunch, I grabbed some food at a snack bar and sat by the beach to eat.  As I did, 20 or so seagulls began to close in and beg for food in their silent way.  This caused me to rush my meal and compromise my digestion.  Animals can be such punks sometimes.

On the hike back, I chose a different trail named “Steep Ravine”.  It brought me alongside a river that originated on the top of the mountain I was climbing.  The forest here was so dense and the trees so large that I felt like a tiny piece of lice on the scalp of a rock star’s head.

Back at the apartment, Dara and I enjoyed a salmon dinner of his creation.  While we ate, we watched a movie by the name of “The Power of One”.  The meal and film were both of riveting quality.

November 9, 2004

Today I decided to drive to Napa Valley to investigate the buzz that this region has created.  I’m not usually one for a buzz of this kind but I felt it was the only way to protect myself from people.  For whatever reason, many folks are convinced that Napa Valley is the greatest thing since the invention of the moped (Meaning that they really like Napa Valley.  Come on, who doesn’t like mopeds?  A bicycle that moves itself…brilliant.).  Perhaps if you have lived in the ground your entire life and this was the first thing you saw, the experience would be far more provocative.  I know for a fact that when I return, people will say, “So did you see Napa?  Did you?!  Did you?!  I LOVE NAPA VALLEY!!  Flowers…wine…slacks…ahhhh, I can’t take it anymore!  Napaaaaaaaaa….”

For the record, Napa is a fine place.  I went to Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in Rutherford which proved to be a unique experience.  I tasted wine.  It was nice.  I then ate lunch in the town of St. Helena which was also a lovely experience.  One of the best parts of the lunch for me was my encounter with Mr. Lady Steps.  Sitting at the bar, I heard someone walking behind me.  In my mind, I decided this person to be a woman.  Why?  The sound of the shoes hitting the floor was that of a woman’s shoe.  When I turned around and saw a man producing this delicate patter, I realized it was a man who stepped like a lady, Mr. Lady Steps.  I’m not sure if it was due to his method of walking or because his shoes were so astronomically fancy.  Whatever the reason, he will remain Mr. Lady Steps.

So in any event, don’t get me wrong.  Napa is fine.  I just didn’t feel the emotion for it that others do.  And it may also very well be the case that I do not return.

On my return to San Francisco, I drove along Sea Cliff Drive and witnessed some brilliant ocean side property and parks.  When I returned to Dara’s, we ordered out for Chinese food and watched Gladiator.  All good.

November 10, 2004

Flew home, yo.  What else can I tell you?  One odd side note to share is that before boarding the plane, I stopped in the men’s room.  As I stared at the tiny alleys of grout between the tiles on the wall, I could see words written in the grout.  Some of the finer ones said, “Groutful Dead”, “Jump and Grout” and “The Grout Wall of China”.  I will never feel bad about myself again.

Also, a powerful piece of advice I can give you is to not bring the type of pen that stores a large reservoir of ink in its chamber on to a plane.  It appears the change of pressure causes the pen to explode onto your journal, hands and pants.  Very annoying.  So there I am, eating Terra Blue Chips with blue ink on my hands and pants, trying to wash it off with blue liquid hand cleaner on a Jet Blue airplane.  The irony failed to amuse me.

When I arrived in Boston, I was greeted by the loud diesel engine of Thomas’ big Dodge pickup truck.  Sitting within its limits made me feel intensely masculine.  As Thomas drove, I reviewed the past weeks events.

Before going home, Thomas and I drove to our friends Derik and Mary Ann’s.  Our purpose was to move an exercise bike from their South End apartment to the Back Bay where the original owner of the bike resided.  I was told the bike did not work so that is why we were to move it back to the original owner.  We then were asked to instead bring the bike to Thomas’ basement in South Boston for temporary storage because perhaps the bike worked now or something to that effect.  I really don’t know.  I know there was a woman involved in the process which could have accounted for the sudden shift of plans but since I am such a nonsexist and open-minded lad, I can’t really say for sure.  Besides, Derik isn’t a woman anyways.  Booyah!!

When I finally made it home, I watched “Point of No Return” and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”.  A fitting end to such a ravenous journey.