18 April, 2007

NoCal Respite! Part Deux

gem number two: we take the muni over to the marina/fort mason area to make our 7:30 reservations at a very exclusive all-vegetarian, 4 course, price fixed restaurant. we walk out to a pier and i tell melissa some scrub's poaching dungeness crabs; and this peon has the nuts to poach crabs in front of the sign that explains how unlawful it is to poach dungeness crabs. we walk over to the piers at the marina and it's one of the most picturesque walks on a military base i've ever taken (hickam afb in hawaii is unreal). it was real lush with old palm trees and wwII architecture flanking our paths. we even cross a devastatingly green, picture postcard meadow/park to get to our destination which is this blog's, entry's picture. the pier to the furthest right is where the restaurant greens is located. the hostess sits us at the corner of the building where we face the glass wall overlooking golden gate bridge. again we imbibe while waiting for our meal(s) and we are lucky enough to view the sunset over looking the bay with marin county situated on the far right of our golden gate bridge view. amazingX3. ever eaten with a group of people and one person is by far the slowest eater of the bunch? well, melissa and i were those people. sitting and eating in our own little space-time continuum sphere of influence. it's like the commercials where one person's moving real time whereas everybody around him/her is going the speed of light. nobody's trying to kick you out for seating because that's why everyone's here: to leisurely enjoy a majestic, organic meal at a snail's pace. for dessert, here goes...espresso!! and the verdict was.........suck!!!! damn you kenny. so $160 and two hours later, we walk towards our oh so boutiquey hotel, making sure we cross lombard street. the most crooked street in the world. april, i guess, is the low season for sf. it was mostly melissa and i, sometimes holding hands, walking and talking in the evening paralleling lombard. nutty that street is with some rather pricey homes on either side. a bunch of tourists were screaming and hollering in their rental minivan as if they were on a roller coaster ride when they passed our pedestrian selves. we actually make it back to our hotel-walking! boy were we pooped-out and our doggies were hoitin' fo' soitin'. i swear some of the grades on these streets have to be close to 17 percent. in the hotel we crash like alec attempting to storm an erosion barrier on his bike at mt falcon (see blog: riding during the weekday).
sunday. last day, gem number three. on tap's the san francisco museum of modern art aka sfmoma. inside they have a picasso, brice marden, henry wessel et al. exhibits. they have the 30G ipods instead of the star trek tricorders for the audio portion of the exhibit. during the henry wessel floor i see lars ullrich, drummer for metallica and his pregnant wife perusing some photos. wow! lars ullrich. cool. he was sporting a straw hat not even attempting the incognito thing. seemed down to earth, skinny too. time's running out due to our return flight. from here we bail to gem number four: the embarcadero-specifically the ferry building located there. inside we see a boat load of independent artists and entrepreneurs hawking their wares. i notice an organic creamery called cowgirl creamery and an artisan bakery next to each other. so, we order some artisan, made from scratch, herb loaf and go next door to purchase some herb goat cheese and pitted black olives drowned in spiced olive oil for lunch over-looking the bay bridge harbor. a classy and touching way to end a three-day couple's vacation sans kids. man. awesome. melissa rocks. i'm afraid to get on a scale...

17 April, 2007

NoCal Respite! Part 1

last friday, i rendezvoused with sweet melissa (allman brothers reference) in san francisco. she was attending a national school board association convention, so we decided we needed a vacation without kids to see what it's like to be an adult again with some discretionary funds. we love our kids but it's so consuming that a quick hiatus (however ephemeral) from parenthood is rather refreshing for a relationship worth having.
after school thursday (i also took a personal day, i mean sick day, friday) i bailed as quickly as i could to my father in-law's house so he could take me to the airport. once at the airport the tsa line was so far backed up that it took me 15 mins just to get to the corner were i can see the bordered queue.
once in the air, i started to read, by recommendation from my colleague and friend melissa (not my wife), john nichols' the milagro beanfield war. it's like an anglo's analogy of gabriel marquez. it's otherworldly prose that made me laugh out loud at least once every 20 minutes. simply amazing with great comic touches.
ah yeauh, touchdown in sfo. i feel so adult-like and liberated just walking around with my carry-ons, a backpack and bicycle messenger bag, (the tsa muhfuhs made me surrender my aveda shampoo and aveeno lotion because it exceeded the 3 ounce liquid volume limit--those muhfuhs!!!!) on my way to the airtrain(s) to catch the bart (very similar to the newark airport setup, except i wasn't fearing for my life. ever been to newark, nj at night?). even though i live in hillbilly-ville, it's rather electric moving around a city whose mass transit is quite viable and efficient and the denizens move around with deliberation and in style. so with earbuds in, rocking to my buddy alec's yo-yo ma ipod upload i was ready to meet melissa at the hilton in union square. this will be my third time in san francisco. the first was with my college roommate, grant (where we mt biked mt. tam); the second was with melissa when we first moved to colorado and did a major road trip to visit my other good friend, jay and his wife (in boulder creek), my brother and his family, and melissa's cousin (who lived in emeryville); and now. just like visiting nyc, it's an eye-opening experience. each time and i appreciate it culturally, gastronomically, and megalopolis-ly even more with awe and respect. the bart is america's version of london's underground minus the bowlers (hats). once i meet my sweet melissa we head out to cafe bocce in north beach. we order a bottle of a syrah and something or another blend and proceed to talk, eat, and imbibe at a very leisurely adults-with-wine pace just being under the threshold of gluttony and sobriety. for dessert, i order an espresso. i guess i'm getting spoiled with premium espresso from my dear friend kenny and the way he creates his 5-star espressos at his house with his purist, coffee tastes, but this restaurant didn't even come close to kenny's wee-cup of porter-dark liquid with wee blond, frothy highlights that melt in your mouth with a texture/flavor like a) velvety-smooth motor oil, or b) extra bitter synthetic mobil-one. anyhoo their version suuuucked! damn you kenny! you've made me an espresso elitist (ahh, that's not so bad)! i'm getting blasted and melissa needs to get ready for a 9 a.m. meeting. so we hail a taxi after we walk a bit and check out an independent bookseller called citylights. the smell of books in an intimate, wood-floored, established, intimate location is quite intoxicating (kinda like me after our dinner).
i find it invigorating as well as relaxing to turn on the shower super hot, sit in the tub and let the water hit your body for as long as you can imagine. yeah there's a water shortage and normally i keep my showers under 5 mins (due to us having well water) but sheeyat, i'm on vacation. so that's exactly what i did friday morning... my goal today is to chill in berkeley on the cal campus until dinnertime. for dinner, i'll head back bart-style and meet up with melissa and her ex-colorado colleague joe that night. before i hit berkeley i run into an independent music store called rasputin records not far from the queue to the cable cars and i purchase (used) miles davis' and gil evans' sketches of spain and the flaming lips' soft bulletin (good call alec!) for $4 and $7 respectively. yes, i thought they were a bargain too. in fact, the picture for this blog entry's of rasputin, the russian mystic.
at berkeley i hit the berkeley art museum and pacific film archive. this is owned by cal and is on the campus. it was an extraordinary exhibit. didn't care too much for the archival films but the asian art exhibit was fascinating-especially the han dynasty art. gave me chicken-skin looking at art at least 400 years old by literate, culturally munificent, aspiring, governed, educated people that gave a shi*. saw some original, modern works of art too that was 4 shades better than ite. walked around like a crazed wildebeest around the campus (didn't go up telegraph hill) to check out the student vibe. there's nothing like a college campus to suss the next iteration of adults. future's looking good...i buy the normal touristy stuff at the cal bookstore: a couple of cal shirts and a groovy fitted cal baseball cap...
at dinnertime we hook up with melissa's friend joe who's a federal attorney doing immigration law in the heart of the city. we go to a trendy restaurant called cafe tiramisu. it's like a scene from the sopranos. slicked-back, dark-haired, swarthy goombas were plentiful; but not in a threatening way but in a cool, inviting, euro-dorky, sinatra-playing sort of way. again the food was exceptional whereas the espresso was not! had an enlightening evening with team m plus joe. my time here in san francisco has been so exceptionally surreal at times that i don't believe what i'm witnessing (or eating, or imbibing, or reading, or luxuriating...etc.) walking around, inarguably, the best city in the world.
saturday, the weather's awesome and we check-out of the hilton and walk, luggage in-tow, to our next hotel. melissa describes this as a boutique hotel closeby. sure enough, the lobby has a humongous dream-like, silvery, fireplace (which was lit and roaring-kinda like me after dinner) at the corner of the room where the furniture is plush, steam-cleaned, with eclectic people of all ages occupying its space(s). the name of his badass boutique's called the galleria park hotel. reasonably priced and our room has a slight art deco flair with muted interior walls and a desk for people who need to write. the stereo's an mp3 compatible alarm clock which i plug my ipod into for my tunes. we dump our luggage and explore the western shoreline. we try to walk as far westward as possible before our doggies give out and board the muni (different from the bart, it's deal is the interior of san francisco). we're starving marving and we hit a local, independent restaurant called burmese superstar on recommendation from one of melissa's acquaintences. for those of you who like indian food this place is zagat rated AND they serve chimmay. i've never been to a restaurant that serves chimmay. man (yes alec and grant, chimmay!!)!! what a find and a half me brahs (and most indian restaurants are vegetarian)!!!! have i mentioned that this is turning out to be quite an exceptional trip. melissa in her infinite wisdom peruses an '07 fodor's nocal guide book and picks out some gems. first on the gem-walking-tour is this place called green apple books and records on point lobos. green apple is another independent, new and used book seller with three stories (containing millions of stories, get it?). again their book arsenal is impressive and contains a wide range of books and curios. it's as if twist and shout meets the tattered cover. very hip and decently priced-and this was the book wing. nextdoor was the music annex. i told melissa if there's a place to get used broun fellinis cds, this'd be the place (green apple and san francisco) because the fellinis are from the bay area. the broun fellinis are categorized in jazz and/or acid jazz, sometimes hip/hop sometimes r/b. they have such a visceral, jazzy-jazz, sound it's hard to not be fellini fan. so, i check out the used "b" section and lo and behold the broun fellinis' cd aphrokubic improvisations vol. 9 is telling me to buy her (which i promptly do!). what a great acquisition (because most of their stuff's out of print) on this dream-like vacation. at this point i'm wondering why? kharmically, do i deserve this? i better behave myself even more from this point forward to reap even more benefits. here we go to the cliff house which is in its third reiteration and is a restaurant overlooking the pacific ocean (not the bay). at this point it's windy as all hell. there was a german family out on the overlook with us. their kids were walking backwards at an angle to cancel out the gale forced winds blasting their posteriors. i took the hint and walked backwards too to avoid getting an involuntary mother nature sand facial. the views were spectacular and it was just me and melissa all day enjoying each other's company with an occasional fight just to keep it interesting.

05 April, 2007

Riding during the Weekday

it's always a treat when you get to ride your mountain bike during the work-week; and, it's a super-deluxe treat when you get to ride with your chums. it's the usual suspects again: hez-billy and alec. we were playing lotto with the forecast today. there was a 30 percent chance of a rain/snow mix after 12 o'clock. leaving aurora, the weather was getting cloudy. by the time we arrived at the east access of mount falcon, it was snoop dog's favorite type of precipitation: drizzle (and ehfing cold to boot!). alec and i were parked at the trailhead parking getting our cold weather gear on when billy finally showed up. by then, the rain was falling more steadily with bigger drops. not good.
once we started to climb, we warmed up real fast. alec is pretty athletic but he's on a major learning curve with his bike (i.e. he's still becoming one with his ride). at the start of falcon there are some pretty daunting erosion barriers in the form of heat-treated-pine-fence-post looking things nailed to the ground with re-bar. some are a couple of inches off the ground, where others are at least a foot or so at the middle. alec has decent chameleon technical skills where if he can see someone clean a technical spot, chances are, he can too. for the high-off-the-ground erosion barriers the best way to hit them (and to stay on the trail because it aint cool being a fred and widening the trail) is at the ends. billy's super clean and he rarely dabs so he and i clean the first third of the barriers and we encourage alec to hit this particular one on the far right. per billy aka mr. clean, the technique to clear these things is: once you get the front wheel over, synchronize your dominant foot-pedal at the 12 o'clock position while the front edge of your rear wheel contacts the barrier, simultaneously. you then finessely downstroke the pedal while moving your dic* forward. okay. here goes alec... front wheel goes up-it's looking good-dominant pedal's situated at the 12 and the rear tire's in place. yup. pedal stroke's coming down, rear wheel initially grabs then while the pedal's at bottom dead center, it doesn't clear the top. all inertia to punch over the top's gone and he goes backward. unfortunately, too, his handle bar greets his gravity aided thoracic cavity. basically he's punched on his breadbasket by his handlebar and the wind's knocked out of him. once he gets his breathing back, we're on the saddle. this is billy's second or third hard ride this season and my fourth. we reach the top-the covered picnic spot-close to 45 minutes (not bad) while alec gets it in a respectable sub-hour time (remember he's a newbie). it's snowing once we hit the top. billy and i talk about our lack of fitness, comment on how non-cyclists can't even understand how this ride in particular can be cathartic/spiritual, how un-fun our inaugural ride at falcon was, and how this is going to be a great jumpstart for the upcoming season while we wait for our intrepid alec.
we head out next for the parmalee trail and it's turning surreal. nobody else is up here, snow's coming down and there's this huge hush when it's falling, and we're enjoying each others company on the bike nonetheless. incredible. after descending parmalee, billy and i decide to make the uphills a power workout by keeping it in the middle ring. we're dying on the first, and on the last one billy passes and i'm gassed. for history's sake we check out the walker family ruins and (to make it more of a sensory overload) some poacher askes us if we russled up any grouse on the way up (wtf?). he looked like the unibomber dressed up like the zodiac killer. things were getting too surreal at this point.
by this time some cloud cover's moved in and i'm freezing. incidentally we're all wearing at least two layers up top, have our leg warmers on, and are sporting the closed, full-finger gloves. there's nothing worse than having cold toes and we're facing the descent now. the descent was glorious, no dabs, no flats and i was feeling one with the yeti. everybody made it down without involuntary soil samples and it was close to nightfall. what a righteous ride. if it snows until saturday, hez billy and i don't care because we rode twice, hard, this week between snowfalls. ah yeauh boi!!!! life is pretty grand at this point and tomorrow's friday...!!!!!!!! have i mentioned today was a good day?