Archive for July, 2008

san francisco tried to tie us to the bed so we couldn’t leave…

Monday, July 28th, 2008

…but she never wears a bra, so seein’ her titties wasn’t quite as nice.

First, the uneventful flight up led to the Expedia Voucher Game with our towncar. Eventually, it showed up, but this is going on the list: NO MORE EXPEDIA BOOKINGS. More on this later.

Checked in to the hotel, no worries; almost immediately back out the door to wander around, and within a couple of blocks, we run into some fire twirlers:

twirl

Lemme start out by saying that this shit is *really* hard to shoot without a tripod. First, the exposures are around 1.5-2 seconds, and the aperture is set funny to get the detail in the flames (I learned all this last year when I encountered a group preparing for Burning Man…). Even so, I got a couple of nice ones:

twirl

twirl

twirl

twirl

twirl

The impression, wandering downtown, is of a mall done urban style, out in the open: big brand name after big brand name–too many to bother listing. Not a lot of small mom-n-pop shops, but a crapload of commerce, and everyone scuttling about, consuming endlessly. We were there to do our part in the orgy of consumption. We eventually wandered into a late-night thai place that was OK on the thai taste, but the service was a little indifferent. Back to the room and we were out for the nite (1/1!).

Friday morning, up and about pretty early–first in line of what was to eventually be a weekend-long miss on getting the new Magic series Eventide on the day of it’s release, where the Gaming Consultants had been dead for at least five years (but still show up on Yahoo!). Meh.

Strolled over to SFMoma, pointedly did *not* go into the Freida Khalo exhibit (I think she is vastly overrated), but still saw some cool stuff–mostly architecture, tho, the art was kinda boring.

pipes

Sunshine casts her own rainbow:

sunshine

But sometimes, even her brilliance is overshadowed, as the rest of the scene competes for her light…this is, of course, San Francisco:

wow what a sweater!

Seriously, the art was boring: they had a whole floor of historical photographs that I could barely stay awake for. Even the more current stuff was mostly execrable. Meh. Mebbe I’m just picky, but it seems like most of it just doesn’t speak to me. Oh well.

We then wandered up the hill to the Transamerica building and it’s dinky little Redwood park (half a block!). These perspective shots give me fits, lining them up correctly (again, without a tripod), but I think this one is balanced correctly to show the hidden lines:

trans perspective

All I have left of photos is the street art–this one is my favorite. Some little fucknut decided to pen it up, which I’m gonna try and edit out, but it’s still cool:

pig flyer

There were some others, pretty pedestrian, but bright enough to shoot:

graf

graf 2

graf 3

Strangely enough, that’s pretty much all I have of photos for the weekend–I shot a lot more, but none of it is very compelling, so it stays aside…

After the Transamerica building, we went up the street to City Lights bookstore (and consumed like good little ‘murricans), and then went into Vesuvio bar right next door (and consumed like good little ‘murricans). Properly buzzing, we wandered up to Chinatown, and played Far East Tourist, wandering down Stockton and then back up Grant…we rolled the dice and wandered into the first place that looked nice. It was pretty good ‘murricanized Chinese, but it fell kinda cold in the end. It was a fairly dense day, a little over four miles plus or minus other random stupidity worth maybe half a mile?

We vegetated in the hotel room–no joke, we laid there and flipped channels on the television for three hours like we never do. There was some book reading. Eventually, we gave up and turned off the lights and were out (altho, apparently, I snored…I got like 20 more pounds to lose and this goes away, I think). Anyway, it was a night not out on the town that was right outside our door. I think it was good…

Up early for room service crab omelet (I like mine better), and a subway ride out to UCSF and the Circus Arts school, where Sunshine was gonna do some drop-in flying. It appears to be set up in a former elementary school, using the gymnasium as the central training location. The trapeze rig only gets put up when there is a class flying, otherwise the room is given over to floor arts and other static items.

This meant all manner of shit was hanging from the ceiling, making any kind of photography almost impossible from the convenient stands. So no pictures there. Sigh.

There were three different guys there, working the lines and helping out the beginners. All of them were friendly, engaging, and welcoming to the student.

As the class went on, several more students showed up–fliers in the intermediate class. Each and every one of them: unfriendly bitches, closed off and inaccessible. Each one of the, classic representatives of the Western Woman that Fred Reed loves so much.

Oh yeah: FEAR THE MUTTONCHOPS. “Nuff said.

After a couple of solid hours of flying and futile photography, we wandered over to Haight street, to find lunch and a couple of shops.

Finally!? A great meal in San Fran. We wandered up and down the first few blocks of the Haight (starting at the park end, of course), looking for food places. Carefully avoided the all-too-thick supposedly new york style pizza of Escape From New York. ? Avoided a couple of earthy-crunchy moss factories, and finally drifted into the Noodle House almost by default. Sunshine got some green noodles, I got some grilled salmon on noodles, and it was simply orgasmic. No joke. A couple of locals spotted us frothing, and asked “How’d you find this place?? It’s a deep local secret.”

I gave my standard answer: “I’m a lucky bastard–more often than not, these things happen this way, largely because I’m open to them happening.” That whole “Be Lucky” thing from Roger Daltrey–so true.

Happily sated on Thai bliss and buzzing with too many iced teas, we wandered over to Giant Robot. Lots of inspiration there, telling me that I’m OK chasing this screenprinting thing, as there are marginal spaces that do very, very well indeed. And all I want is enough, not the big home run, just a way to stay focused and happy…

Anyway…drifting through the Haight, we find again an overwhelming presence of American Corporate Brand. On top of that, the poster shop I’d bought my oldest Derek Hess piece from had finally packed it in, replaced by a Diesel clothing store. Woohoo. At least the Anarchist Bookstore was still there, and we consumed mightiliy, in order to support the cause (I finally bought the Naomi Klein book The Shock Doctrine, for example). It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, so we plunged into Golden Gate park, dodging the flag waving priders and the dirty hippies peddling “nug-ETS, dood”. The park is awesome, that’s all needs be said. We laid out on our jackets for a while, and the bugged out to Pacific and walked all the way down to Ocean Beach. Cold, windy, generally inhospitable, we staggered down the coast a bit, and grabbed the Muni back to the hotel.

After relaxing for a while in the room, we walked over to Shalimar on Jones and had the second orgasmic meal of the trip. Shalimar is bugout crazy like C&O Trattoria is in Venice: crazy busy, with a really informal notion of service (one orders at the counter and gets your own damn water and soda and silverware and shite). We ordered a mess of beautiful food that we couldn’t finish but couldn’t stop gushing over. Awesome, indeed.

Loped back to the motel room, and laid there wondering why our “down vacation” amount to 12 miles of walking; worse for Sunshine, who’d also done two hours of trapezey…we were out cold pretty quickly after some reading.

Up earlyish Sunday to pack and eat at Mel’s again. Again, the service was indifferent and made the meal a negative experience. The energy in the urban center was pretty aggressive, something I respond to from my childhood. I don’t think it’s a surprise that the general sense was negative–I still had a great time, it was good to get out of dodge, and yes, even though we walked over 12 miles in two days, I feel relaxed.

Getting home was an ordeal born of typical travel stupidity: overbooked flights, weird weather and mutiple-city plane problems. This is what is meant by the title of the post: Sunshine’s observation is that, similarly to Portland flashing us a little titty during our scouting trip there, this trip wasn’t a scout per se (I am committed to the current situation for at least a year), but SF did her best to tie us to the bed and not let us leave.

The best news was that we were in a great position to be bumped, with the dogs at the Turkey House and both of us having taken Monday off, so I went to the counter early and threw ourselves on their tender mercies. The gate agent was very appreciative that we were willing to hop two intervening flights (letting other people go home earlier), and gave us first class upgrades plus two round-trip continental tickets. Damn right, I’ll take the bump. So we sat around in SFO all day Sunday and earned ourselves a couple of free flights.

Unfortunately, it was probably the worst possible thing for my mightily tweaked back: the bed in the Marriot really sucked ass, and my back is thrashed. So mebbe that’s why I’m slightly negative…

Again, it was great getting out of dodge, and I love San Francisco: we had a couple of the typical SF eating experiences I have come to expect, and the park is always the park, but the incursion of corporate America downtown and in the Haight was seriously distracting and offputting. I’m sure I could live in SF and be happy with the vibrant art scene and beautiful landscapes, but it would be a lateral kind of move, requiring a tech job. Meh

* * * * *

Some travel lessons re-learned.

I used to fly, a lot, for business, and I had some hard-won lessons that this trip re-taught me in ways I don’t like to admit I’d forgotten. It’s been a long time since I flew consistently, and it always bears a bit of reminding about things to think about:

– Try to maintain flexibility in how you go to the airport: I had bought a couple of ExecuCar trips to and fro the airport, which required some extra hoop-jumping I hadn’t grokked when I bought the vouchers*

– Find out what’s going on with your flight before you leave: don’t go if your flight is delayed, if you can stay wherever you are, you will be infinitely more comfortable wherever you are. Call the airline and start working for a delayed booking. The more you can do outside the airport, the better, altho the less likely you are to get strong benefit concessions. For those, you’ll have to suffer a bit with the herd.

– If you get to the airport, check your flight’s departure one more time, before you give them your baggage. If you hand over your bags, you’re committed. Let common sense guide you: if you see a flight is delayed, get out your phone and call the service center. You’ll get faster treatment than you will standing in line, but again, you’ll forego any serious concessions. If you want those concessions, hand over your bags and prepare to do some waiting.

– If you’re checking bags, always make sure you have a change of clothes in your carry on, so if you don’t get your bags back, you won’t be in the same clothes for an extended delay.

– Bring books, media, and anything else to keep yourself occupied.

– And aspirin.

* * * * *
* This could veer dangerously into my brewing anti-Expedia rant, except I’m not quite sure which way I would make the argument. All I know is that every time it becomes known that I have booked my travel through Expedia, I am immediately pushed to a second-class guest status, where I’m actually booked through a “Share Partner” who’s supposed to be my service point as well. Bah fucking humbug on that goddamn shit: if it weren’t for Expedia, I typically wouldn’t know about the vendor in question, so I think the message should go to the vendors to close the gaps with Expedia and be glad for the fucking business, but I guess I live in a different reality. So I will stop booking through Expedia; we’re gonna give the vouchers to a travel agent, with a couple parameters, and see what happens.